Working steadfast into the night, Professor Friday hunched over an ornate lab table riddled with devices. His lab coat was stained with butter and salt from his weekly binges after hours. Glasses hung from his neck while he watched a thin strand of black fiber weave itself into a bigger band. A computer printer fed a near-endless stream of paper with zeros and ones to the white laminate tile floor below.
“That's right... That's it... You just keep spinning my thread little one. You have no idea how important you will be to the future of humanity!”
He cackled lightly to himself as he sat hunched over the table. A knocking on the full pane window behind startled him and he sat up straight. Looking behind him, a red haired boy about fourteen was waving a movie in the air.
“Hey, since you're here can I return this now so I don't get the late fee?”
Mike instantly put his glasses up on his face and blushed. Nodding, he pointed towards the main door of the video store he owned. He had simply hoped that no one caught him turning it into a lab at night.
Opening the door for the boy, Mike grabbed the VCR tape from him and looked at the rental code on it.
“Ah, yes, Total Recall. I'll be sure to put a note on this one. Thanks for bringing it back.”
Mike and the boy stood there awkwardly for a moment, until finally the boy spoke up.
“So what were you doing in here?” he glared over at the counter's plethora of strange instruments. “You own the place I'm assuming?”
Mike cocked an eyebrow and opened the door a bit for him.
“What are you kid, a cop? Yeah I own the place.” motioning inside the store If you really wanna know I'll show ya. You like movies I take it?”
Straightening his light brown and balding hair, Mike cleared his throat. He had been itching to tell someone about his experiment. Goodness knows his ex-wife isn't going to give a hoot.
The boy seemed reluctant to enter the corner blockbuster store at eleven-thirty at night with a strange man. Despite what was likely his better judgment, he entered the store. It reeked of popcorn and fresh printer paper. Mike walked him over to the counter and opened the small door for employees only. Beckoning him over, the boy walked over to the black thread weaving back and forth.
His jaw was dropping at how quickly the thread was being so precisely woven.
“Beautiful isn't it?”
Mike smirked as the boy looked up in wonder at him.
“Wow! My Mom would love one of these! She always talks about how it'd be so much cheaper if she could weave her own fabric and-”
Placing a hand lightly on the boy's shoulder, Mike chuckled.
“No no, kid. You don't understand. This isn't your typical fabric. It's a DNA storage fabric!”
The boy hit him in the leg lightly.
“Don't touch me!” Mike immediately withdrew his hand and cleared his throat.
“Sorry, didn't mean anything by it. Anyway, this fabric has every movie ever made recorded into the very DNA of the fabric! Right now it's weaving the tape I'll need to put it inside a special VCR and I can watch every movie ever made!”
He looked at the weaving with a renewed curiosity. It clearly intrigued him.
Mike looked at his watch and realized he should probably get the boy home. He likely was sent on a short run to drop it off to avoid the fee.
“Neat huh? Listen, you should probably get going. I don't imagine your parents want you out for too long this time of night huh?”
The boy's face grew grim with fear.
“Crap! My Mom is gonna be pissed!”
Mike watched as the boy started for the door, and shouted to offer another idea.
“Hey hold on buddy! I can walk ya home and just explain we got caught up with you insisting on the fee being waived. It'll earn you brownie points trust me.”
The boy stopped and thought for a moment.
“Well, then I wouldn't have to run twelve blocks...”
Mike was amazed his parents let him walk that this far this late. He may not be in downtown proper, but he's close enough. Especially with all of the Condiment Killer commotion at the Unleaded Zeppelin across the street.
“That just tells me I should be walking you home. Cmon, this'll be fine by itself.”
Tossing off his lab coat on the counter, he locked up the store behind him. The night was warm in the late summer, if a bit muggy. Still, he was glad at least the weather wasn't a danger to the boy. Now it was just getting through the city without the very wrong person around.
They walked in relative quiet the first five blocks, until the boy finally opened up to him.
“So, you're telling me once that thing is finished and a full tape, you can just pick which movie you want to watch?”
Mike nodded with a smile.
“That's right. It's amazing what technology can do kid.”
Their steps echoed in the quiet night as they passed beneath the street lights. Small apartments and a couple houses between them, he led them to a small older house in the nicer neighborhood.
“So, what are you going to do when they make new movies?” asked the boy as he went to put his hand on the door.
“I guess I'll just make new tapes. New editions with each genre on them. They'll be huge kid I'm telling ya!”
Opening the door, the boy shouted to his Mom that he was home. Mike heard her begin to yell at him for taking so long, until she walked up to the door and saw Mike standing there.
“Hi, ma'am. I own the Blockbuster, my name is Mike Friday. I wanted to walk him home to make sure he got here safe.”
The sounds of sirens began blaring and she looked up in fear. Turning his head around, a massive stack of black smoke billowed into the sky amid a bright orange glow. A building close by was burning. At that moment Mike remembered a critical piece of information he had forgotten before leaving the store.
He had originally been making another batch of popcorn in the maker upstairs while he checked on his VCR experiment.
“No! No No no!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.
Mike ran the full twelve blocks faster than he ever thought he could. As he approached the main street where his store lay, he knew by then it was already too late. The whole store and building was up in flames, including the apartments next to his shop. A crowd of people stood on the opposite street, most of them in their pajamas.
He was thankful to see that at least it appeared his neighbors made it out of the building. Sadly, the building was ablaze in a way he'd never seen before. It burned so bright and hot it was almost taunting him. Somewhere in his heart he knew this was his fault.
Not only had he managed to burn down his home and all of his neighbor's homes, he also burned the only device capable of creating the DNA thread that took his entire retirement fund to specially fabricate. That device was the reason he now lived above a Blockbuster while managing it.
“Well... Crap.” was all he could manage to say as his heart broke in two.