Eldrich stared intently, his fingers interlaced in front of his face and glasses slipping slowly down his nose towards them. He ignored, through sheer force of will, the itch in his right nostril. He couldn’t be distracted by the most intense itch he had ever felt in his life. He had a finite amount of energy and it all needed to be directed towards the conundrum directly in front of him. So he did everything he could to ignore the painful tickle at the opening of his respiratory system, sweat beading on his forehead through the effort, so that he could direct his energy towards the problem at hand. The irony was lost on him.

In front of Eldrich sat a small white orb. It rested behind glass, under a light, and beneath a hood which sucked up air and shot it out of the top of his home. Even though it didn’t appear to be outgassing anything noxious, he knew it was better safe than sorry. The small orb had been in his possession for four days now and had been confounding Eldrich at every turn. One day it was absorbing sunlight and turning it into energy as though it was photosynthetic, the next it was consuming dead crickets and using them for fuel. Other days it took light and amplified it without using any observable energy or changing in temperature at all. The weight and size of the object never changed, no matter how much output it had or how much it consumed. It always sat at a constant 3.5489 kilograms and had a radius of 7.874 centimeters. It didn’t eat, it only absorbed, as though it was osmotic, but with compounds besides water. It had no face nor any sort of communicative output, yet was mocking him. His anger grew until he spoke for the first time in hours.

“Damn it, why aren’t you obeying the laws of physics?”

His wife entered the lab, a hand towel being swirled around her phalanges as she dried water from them. Her name was Gina and she was forty-one years old. She was conventionally extremely attractive with kind brown eyes and jet black her, and she loved Eldrich more than anything in the world. At least, that is what she professed in her wedding vows. Eldrich always had his doubts, yet lived his life as though it were true.

“This thing still giving you trouble?” she asked as she threw the towel on to her shoulder. Eldrich took a deep breath and separated his hands. He pushed his glasses back up his nose then exhaled.

“It taunts me!” he exclaimed. “Do you see this? It exerts no energy yet lives, consumes anything yet causes no chemical or physical reactions, exists on all planes and none-” This was all a rant that Gina had heard many times before over the days that Eldrich had kept the orb, but she allowed him to vent each time and gave him her kindest smile each time that he poured his heart out to her. “-and down again, as if I don’t see what it’s doing!” Eldrich said, finishing his outpouring after several minutes.

“How long do you have it for still?” Gina asked, cocking her head to the side as she looked at the thing.

“Another three days,” Eldrich replied. “Then my week is up and it goes to Ishida.” He said the man’s name with a deliberate loathing. “He’s practically salivating at the prospect of showing me up. Wants my job, my acclaim. Everything I have, he wants. He probably even wants you.”

“No need to be crude,” said Gina as she walked towards the orb. “What have you been doing with it?” she asked as she leaned over, hands on her hips.

“Exposing it to extreme temperatures, radiation, poisonous gas, acids and bases, whatever I can get my hands on that others haven’t tried. But I can’t do any real research in a week. It’s a joke, the amount of time I have access to it. But politics are at play and there’s nothing to be done about it. So I’m taking my crack at it, see if anything sticks to the proverbial wall.”

Gina stared at the thing as it changed color from white to blue. She arched an eyebrow. “Is that normal?” she asked.

“Happens at regular intervals. I have to log it, send the information to Cambridge,” sighed Eldrich as he took a photo with his phone and dug out a notebook to make a not.

“So everybody’s been doing all this science stuff” said Gina, “but has anyone just picked up the dumb thing and held it?”

“Not without proper lab equipment,” Eldrich said.

“Would it eat you if you weren’t?” asked Gina.

“It does consume organic matter, I don’t see why it wouldn’t, at the very least, attempt to absorb a person. It absorbs all other organic matter. Alive or dead.”

“I’d pick it up with my bare hand,” said Gina, “I don’t think it would eat me.” The orb changed color again to a deep red. Eldrich stood, his eyes wide. “What is it?” asked Gina.

“That is unusual,” Eldrich replied. “It changes at interval. Regular intervals. Always has. Every 28 minutes and 12.743 seconds it will shift in color.”

“It hasn’t been that long since last time,” Gina said.

“Precisely. This is very unusual. Highly irregular and significant.” Eldrich took a dozen pictures of the orb and wrote furiously in the notebook.

“I guess it likes the idea of being held,” said Gina.

“Or it registered one of a million unseen stimuli and was responding to it,” said Eldrich as he read through the scans of the orb that was constantly happening. “I will not taint this new incident with a preconceived notion that it wants- wants- cuddles.” Gina shrugged and walked over to her husband.

“Or it wants to be picked up,” she said as she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “The Samahas are going to be here at seven-thirty. Love you.” She then exited the lab, leaving Eldrich alone with the orb.

“Ridiculous,” he said as he noted the exact hue of the orb’s color, registered the weight (which was the same) and the size (unchanged). “Something affected it. Something I missed. Something that the scans picked up and I missed. But what?” he said to himself as he poured over the readings. Nothing was out of the ordinary, nothing had changed, nothing indicated anything had happened at all.

Except for his wife’s suggestion.

It was madness, he knew. Touching the orb was extremely dangerous. It might consume him, it might poison him, it might absorb into his own body, it might irradiate him, it might teleport him or dissolve him, it might tell him the secrets of the universe, it might detonate and destroy the Solar system. With this thing, anything was possible and that was extremely dangerous.

Yet he found himself unable to fight the urge to open the protective glass. He flicked a switch and slide the glass to the side. He stared at the orb. Was it mocking him? Was it inviting him? Was it friendly after all? He wiggled his fingers nervously, feeling himself breathing faster and fast, try as he might to slow down. But his endocrine system would not cooperate, pumping adrenaline into every part of his body. He wondered if his eyes were dilated and felt grateful that he didn’t have to urinate or it may have flowed into his pants. He made a decision, and that sealed his fate. He reached forward and clutched the orb within his fingertips.

He loved his wife more than anything in the world.

This story started from a writing prompt, simply “Damn it, why aren’t you obeying the laws of physics?” which was found here:

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