Brandon Riederer is an Adjunct Professor of English at Bryant & Stratton College. He has a M.A. in English from National University.
An aspiring microbiologist—a brilliant graduate student by the name of Stella Cortese—
was on the verge of a groundbreaking scientific discovery. However, what this discovery was exactly
remains completely mysterious to her and the international community.
She simply cannot rationalize the existence of her findings, nor the strange occurrences in her life recently.
She thinks she may be losing it—going mad, obsessing over it—and things have not been the same since.
Even the small things in life—the for sure, always there things—have seemed to have vanished into thin air.
This was odd considering Stella’s hard-lined approach to the scientific method and keen eye for detail
inside the trenches of her university’s lab also applied to life beyond the white coats and microscopes.
At home, Stella was regimented and clean: shoes off before entering, spotless countertops, streakless mirrors and
windows, not a single dirty dish in the sink, not a single magazine, book, candle, coin, crumb, or
miscellaneous tidbit lying astray on her tables. Bed was made, blankets folded, and everything was just so.
Stella also abided by a strict daily itinerary: alarm went off at 5 a.m., morning run from 5:15 a.m. to 6 a.m.,
She would eat breakfast, shower, and give last night’s dinner leftovers to the friendly neighborhood dog—
Some think he is stray but in reality he belongs to all of us.
7 a.m. coffee run to Starbucks. Spare 20 minutes to speak with Patrick—a retired biology professor whose
morning ritual also involves black coffee, a newspaper, and juicy scoops of university gossip.
8 a.m. classes start and occur periodically until 3:30 p.m. consisting of physiology and biochemistry,
ecology and evolution, host-microbe interactions, and genetics and development.
After classes, Stella catches lunch and sits outside the university commons.
She enjoys the company of the birds and she even speaks with them on occasion.
One particular finch is fond of her—meeting her daily to protect her from angry bees and hungry bugs.
Then from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday night, Stella works on her thesis in the lab with her undergraduate
assistant, Joey: an intelligent and well-intended boy but as geeky and socially awkward as they come;
And as flattering as Stella finds his interest in her, they were never going to be more than friends.
In and out of the lab, this was Stella’s life before her groundbreaking discovery. On the surface, nothing seemed
to change at all. However, the little things—the for sure, always there things seemed to be driving her mad.
The friendly dog ran away, Patrick has been absent from her morning Starbucks routine, Joey has abandoned
his position as her assistant, and even her finch has left her to eat lunch outside the commons alone.
When she reflects on the day everything happened, she cannot seem to figure out where everything went wrong.
She was in the lab studying a peculiar strand of DNA—unlike anything she had ever seen or heard about
This strand of DNA had a genetic similarity index of 98% with almost every known mammal, several hundred
variations of birds, fish, reptiles, and insects. Astonishingly, this strand of DNA was also 96% human.
Upon closer inspection, the chromosomes had the ability to morph to emphasize certain genetic traits.
Stella could not believe what she was had discovered—she thought she made some sort of mistake.
She asked Joey to double check her work; he peered under the microscope, and raised his head in disbelief.
Joey’s face turned scarlet—he looked frightened—“There must be some sort of… contamination.”
Stella refuted and attempted to rationalize with him; she looked back down at the specimen through the lens.
“This hair was plucked from the head of God himself. I can’t believe I am seeing this. Joey, this is real.”
Stella lifted her head and found herself standing alone in her university’s laboratory. Her only companion was a
small spider that scurried towards the small crack at the bottom of the door.