He no longer bumped into anything as he made his way towards the far side of the room. Whoever worked here when it was lit must be extraordinarily neat, because there was never a chair, a waste basket, or a table out of place. It had never occurred to Conrad to turn on the light. Perhaps it was his sense of being where he shouldn't be that kept him from it, but more likely it was that he refused to disturb the singular beauty of her glowing eye beckoning him across the dark space.
Tonight will be different, Conrad told himself. The bashful boy inside him was growing emboldened by the desire, the yearning to own this love. He didn't know the meaning of the word any more than any other man, but the threads of his being told him it was his right, his human destiny to make it his own. He forced himself to turn his face toward her, his eyes following the movement in sluggish concert. The red glow shown first on his sweaty forehead, then his hot cheeks. As his eyes swiveled uncertainly to face the same direction, they too reflected the burning red and yellow flare before him. As he had feared, ...and hoped, he fell endlessly into the black pit at the center of the yellow maelstrom surrounded by the scarlet, lightning filled sky.
When Conrad hadn't checked back out at the security station after a hour and a half, the guard went looking. With his first glance from his first step inside the digi-locked door the guard knew it had happened again. There was no sign of the janitor himself, but the wet mop leaning against the door frame at lab D-32 was a dead give away. Opening the door and flicking on the lights, he saw Conrad, chin resting on his cocked wrist, gazing into the red light of Dr. Vogel's tiny fusion reactor cell. God knows the technology is the Holy Grail of modern science, but what will happen if Vogel ever manages to develop a production scale model? Everyone will fall in love with it.
Conrad was the third custodian in two years that had been carted away on a gurney. His brains were fried, but he had a smile on his face. Same as the time before and the time before that.