The experiment was ready and the weather was just right.
Although Aubrey could have wired the tank up to the mains, powering it using the awesome force of a violent electrical storm appealed to his sense of tradition. A long line of Waldegraves had tried to harness nature’s power and dissect its secrets, and now Aubrey stood on the brink of breathing life itself into his creature.
The laboratory took up a wing of Aubrey’s house, a rambling place that had been added to over the years by successive generations of Waldegraves. There were corridors that headed nowhere, stairs that seemed to lead upwards but only went down, and grand doors that had once led into ornate rooms that now only opened onto cupboards. The house’s stone exterior was decorated with a lively collection of gargoyles who, when they were in the right mood, would wink and stretch out their wings as Aubrey passed them.
But it was the laboratory where Aubrey spent most of his time, the house’s other rooms mostly mouldering under dustsheets. In some respects, it was more like a museum of science than anything resembling a modern laboratory. But it suited Aubrey. He happily spent all his hours among his copper pipes and rubber tubes, his pulleys and steam generators, his wooden benches and elegantly-carved test-tube racks. Various biological samples collected or created by his ancestors were suspended in glowing fluids inside jars in a cabinet—a foot here, an eye there, two-headed wonders and five-legged marvels.
The roof was fashioned from glass, inspired by the vast greenhouses at Kew Gardens. An extensive library of leather-bound books covered one wall of the laboratory. The shelves were three-storeys high, with a cast-iron spiral staircase that wound up to the top. Each step bore a curlicued rendering of the initials of Aubrey’s great-great-grandfather, and his family’s crest appeared in stained glass at each leaded window. At least, in the windows that had survived Aubrey’s ill-advised, youthful experiments with compressed gasses.
But Aubrey was a callow youth no longer. He had plumbed nature’s secrets, and now his toil and research would bear fruit.
The figure lay inside a large glass tank in the middle of Aubrey’s laboratory. The water it contained was cloudy and white, luminous from the brightness of the lightning that filled the room at intervals. Aubrey leaned against the side of the tank and peered fondly at his creation.
Aubrey had put so much work into his creature, and soon—soon—he would have a man, fashioned by his own hands, as beautiful as Aubrey had power to imagine.
As the rain beat ever harder against the glass panes of his laboratory’s roof, Aubrey looked over at a fluttering dial that told him the lightning was at just the right intensity for his man to breathe at last.
He stepped back from the tank, then grabbed the handle of a huge brass switch. Still watching the dial fidget in its glass case, the needle advanced just enough, and Aubrey pulled down the handle.
A great sizzling tore the air, and Aubrey had to squint behind his green-lensed goggles. A bolt of lightning shot down from the inverted conductor that hung from the ceiling and arced into the machinery that stood next to the tank.
The tank’s glass sides cracked apart and the cloudy water burst across the floor. There, twitching on a wooden platform inside what was left of the tank, was Aubrey’s man.
Aubrey yanked off his goggles and stared in awe at the figure.
“It lives!” Aubrey cried. I’ve always wanted to say that. He took a step closer, clutching his hands, unable to tear his gaze away from the man before him. The man Aubrey had created. “He lives! Hurrah, I have a date for the party!”
He had never seen a creature like him. A bronzed god, his muscular frame shuddering as he drew in his first breath. The long-lashed eyelids opened and his creation parted his perfect, full lips. A moment passed before the Adonis said, “Woah… Dude. What a wild freakin’ ride!”
Aubrey tipped his head to one side. Had he really heard that properly? Had the thunder banging overhead dimmed his hearing?
But no. His Adonis had just addressed him as dude. Surely it was only a temporary glitch.
“G-good evening,” Aubrey stammered. “Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? A cup of tea, perhaps?”
The creature sat up, surprisingly nimble for someone who had just been brought to life by a lightning strike. He looked down at his naked body, his eyes alighting on his own impressive manhood.
“Dude, I’m seriously hench. And hung!” He lifted his hand and waited, offering Aubrey a nod. “Hit me, bro! Yeah!”
Aubrey lifted his hand in response and waved, slowly. The man would have to learn how to greet people properly, but a raised hand was halfway to a wave. And physically, Aubrey had got it just right. The toned figure was perfect.
“Hello, my name’s Aubrey. And I’m calling you Adam.”
“Who’s Adam?” He slapped his palm against Aubrey’s. “I’m Kai, bro, good to know you. Woo! Yeah!”
“Kai? No, no…” Aubrey shuddered. What nonsense was this, interfering with his newfound Godlike powers of creation? “No! I’m your creator, and I’m calling you Adam!”
Kai—Adam—frowned then laughed, showing off his perfect white teeth. He slapped Aubrey’s shoulder as, outside, Aubrey heard the throaty purr of a familiar engine .
“Yeah, right. Adam!”
“But…but…” Aubrey pouted. Oh bloody blast it, it’s gone to pot again. And after I’d told Tris I almost definitely had a date for the party. “I’ve got you something to wear.”
He took a pile of clothes from a box and held them out to Adam. Commodious briefs, a comfortable Aran jumper, a checked shirt, corduroy slacks, Argyle socks and lace-up brogues. All from the same gentlemen’s outfitters Aubrey shopped at himself.
“Dude.” Adam shook his head. He hopped down to stand before Aubrey, his hands on his hips. “Like, it works for you, but you got nothing a bit more…y’know…me?”
Aubrey glanced from the clothes to Adam. How could he convince him to get dressed before his visitor made his presence known?
“And what is more you? I don’t own flip-flops.”
“So, I’ll kick it just like I am, yeah?” He shrugged his sculpted shoulders and tossed his beachy blond locks. “I’m cool with that. Hanging with the boys, letting it all loose. Let’s hit the waves.”