Oenophilia

Image credit: dverro.com

Image credit: dverro.com

I’ve often been told that making wine is just farming and chemistry.  As we creep up on Halloween, let’s explore the more terrifying aspects of wine creation… from a mad scientist’s perspective!

This story was originally written by Megan Vogel and published by Mad Scientist Journal on May 6, 2013, appearing in the Spring 2013 quarterly issue.

 


 

I gazed thoughtfully at the dark emerald beaker, turning its smooth surface in my gloved hands. The dim light in my laboratory gave it an eerie, dull glow.

How important this simple tool would be in my plan–the results of today’s trials would be sealed inside, until I was ready to release its devastating tonic.

The wooden door at the entrance of the room groaned open, as the key component of the mixture was hauled in. Devious amethyst devils grinned up at me from their clusters, prepared to commit themselves to the greater cause and bursting with vitality. I gave an approving nod as they were carried past me to the huge, stainless steel tank.

In short order and without a sound, they jumped to their demise, their fat bodies plummeting into the dark, cold void. One on top of the other, their skin burst open as they slammed against one another. The pile was growing higher and the crushing weight of additional bodies obliterated those at the bottom. A gurgling noise began to rise from the depths, as the vital fluids oozed out of the corpses, and a thick, pungent aroma filled the small room.

Photo credit: Megan Vogel

I motioned for my powerful optical microscope and one of my assistants shuffled over, handing the viewing device to me as she positioned the other end toward the tank. I wanted to watch the next moments closely, to ensure everything proceeded according to plan. As I focused the lens into the mess of gore, I watched as a flurry of life spurted forth. The small egg-shaped creatures had already begun devouring their crystallized surroundings floating in the deep red plasma. A gas was seeping from the tank now, generated by these small organisms, with a bubbly froth rising to the top, making it seem as though it had spontaneously begun to boil.

I waved the microscope away, and motioned for the ventilation. A loud whoosh of the fan followed by a light hum, and the deadly gas was sucked out of the room.

In the hours and days that followed, I knew it would be crucial to monitor the progress. I had two of my staff on watch at all times, ensuring that the robotic arms continued to churn the concoction. The machine’s metal limbs created a constant crimson whirlpool in the tank, and the bodies that floated upward were pulled back down by the suction. Finding it hard to rest, I haunted the route between my office and the laboratory. I scrutinized the progress, as well as the temperature, acidity, and rate at which the compound was changing.

After nearly two weeks of careful observation and perfectly calculated care for my creation, the small creatures had exhausted themselves and were beginning to die.

I knew it was ready to be moved into transportable containers. After all, it would still be another twelve months before the next phase of my plan would be arranged–if we were discovered in the interim and needed to flee with the concoction, the smaller containers would make for a swift departure. I vowed that I would not let the project be compromised this time. And so we drained the liquid into seemingly commonplace wooden casks, and pressed the carcasses to extract every drop of precious essence from the remains. Two assistants hid the drums in the basement storage facility under the lab. Next my team proceeded to clean and disinfect the rest of the laboratory, removing any trace of the experiment.

The unrecognizable, mangled bodies were discarded.

In the months that passed, my thoughts often wandered to the liquid that lay in the barrels.  If my calculations were correct, then I knew what destructive power it could have on humanity:  First it begin mildly–-loss of control of the central nervous system, shortened attention span–then become more acute–-nausea, dehydration, blurred vision, and throbbing headaches–and finally lead to more severe consequences–-unconsciousness, damage to organs, cardiac arrest, and death.

In the twelfth month after that fateful day in the lab, it was time to prepare the mixture for the final phase of the plan. Over the time it had spent in incubation, the liquid had turned into ruby-colored venom.

Each vat was moved from the storage area into the special room in the lab. The workers wore protective gear and goggles, and the room was sterilized. Dark glass containers lined the walls. The process began as the workers injected the dark liquid into the vessels, and then sealed each one with an impermeable material. I reached down and grabbed the full beaker by the neck, which brought a fleeting memory of the first day in the lab. Walking toward the door with it in hand, I stopped at a shelf and grabbed two empty jars.

Outside the air was still and cool, with the September sun sinking behind the steel buildings on my compound. I called out to my assistant standing across the grounds, and instructed her to come to me. She did, and I handed her both of the smaller vessels.

With my free hand I reached into my lab coat pocket and pulled out a silver tool, with a tightly coiled spiral. As I began to remove the seal from the larger glass container, I noticed the glint of fear in my assistant’s eye. I smiled wryly at her, and continued to work the plug free. I put the tool back into my pocket, and reached for the jars she held. Pouring an ounce of liquid into both, I handed one back to her and sat down on the stone retaining wall with the other jar still in my hand.

We stared at each other for a few moments, and I asked her to take a sip. She shook her head. Again, I insisted that she try it. She didn’t move. I remained composed, and suggested we try it at the same time, bringing the container to my lips as if I were about to drink from it. She did the same cautiously, never taking her eyes off me. She sniffed the liquid. Suddenly her eyes darted to the crimson solution in the glass, and then … she took a small taste.

Her eyes rolled back and closed, and she stood frozen for a moment. I held my breath, waiting for the next reaction. She whispered something inaudible, and I asked her to repeat. She opened her eyes wide and said, “It’s… it’s a perfect Cabernet.”


Megan VogelAuthor
Megan Vogel is a bubbly marketing professional in Atlanta, GA.  She has a passion for wine and humor – hence this fantastic blog.  To learn more about Megan, visit www.meganvogel.com.

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