What’s Going On In There?
By Harrison Bae Wein
You tell yourself you probably never should have gone into apartment 311.
But that’s stupid.
You definitely shouldn’t have gone into apartment 311.
Your brain’s not working at a hundred percent right now.
Everything’s gone blurry,
and you seem to be fading in and out.
Which is probably a good thing.
You don’t want to see what’s coming.
You wonder if that sob was yours or someone else’s.
You never would have gotten yourself into this situation if you hadn’t drank so much.
you’ve regretted some of the things that happened the night before.
You really shouldn’t have tested that unshut door,
the one to apartment 311.
You should have known from the strange mechanical sounds at all hours of the night.
The humming, whirring, buzzing,
sometimes banging and clanging.
There were always hints of machine oil, anise, and sweat.
When you passed, you’d say, “There’s some weird shit going on in there.”
That was your joke about it.
Once, you inadvertently said it to your mother when she was visiting.
It was a joke made better by precise repetition.
You thought you were being clever.
But you really didn’t know shit until tonight.
Why is it that you always seem to learn your lesson after the damage is done?
You had to fail a big test before you buckled down to study.
You had to lose a lover before you figured out you cared for her.
You almost let out a moan, but stop it before it reached your swollen lips.
Why bother, though?
There’s nothing left to do but accept.
There really is some weird shit going on in here, you think,
your raw cheek pressed against the rough jute rug.
It’s soaked with your bodily fluids, but the fibers still dig into your tender skin.
You wonder if there are people passing by outside right now,
hearing the gentle putter of that machine,
smelling the faint odor of its exhaust mixed with your slowly evaporating bodily fluids.
They might say,
“There’s some weird shit going on in there.”
They’d say it without a second thought, thinking they were being clever.
It was a joke with no meaning, a quickly forgotten punchline.
A casual observation that made for a witty remark.
But it was true; there really is some weird shit going on in here.
And the scary thing is, it might not even be over.
About The Author
Harrison Bae Wein has had fiction published in several literary journals. His tongue-in-cheek short stories about laboratory life were the first ever published at LabLit.com, where they helped to establish fiction as a regular feature. He’s also been a finalist in the Glimmer Train Family Matters short story contest. He published his first novel, The Life and Opinions of the Housecat Hastings, under his own imprint, Derwood Press. He’s currently in the final editing stages of No Minute Warning, a literary novel about a nuclear terror attack in Washington, D.C.
By day, Harrison is a writer and editor at the National Institutes of Health, where he founded and edited two publications that together have more than 380,000 subscribers. His health and science writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and many other publications. He’s won numerous awards for his work, both from the Federal government and other organizations, including the Virginia Press Association.