Writing Wednesdays | Dinner Date Cut Concept | 8/2/2023

There was a hot second where I was considering trying to expand Dinner Date beyond the self-contained, complete novelette form that it’s currently in. I was concerned that I’d need to either cut down or expand the word count in order for it to be viable (it is currently at roughly 17k). And, while it would probably be easier to publish if I did either of those things, I’ve found a few places I would like to pitch it to that allow for stories at that length and will try to press forward with it as-is. I am currently in the process of heavily editing it so I can move forward with that process.

Regardless, a lot of scrapped content came as a result of me playing with events pre- and post- the canon of the story. This excerpt falls into the former category, discussing how Diederick (aka experiment 987) came to be. I actually made a deliberate point of not including any of Diederick’s backstory in Dinner Date proper and having him rebuff Angela’s questions related to it.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what led him to be the way that he is or even what he is. Whether he’s an alien, cursed, or an experiment gone wrong (which is, in fact, what he is in the context of this draft), the truly important thing is that he’s a selfish jerk who manipulates, murders, and mansplains. There’s no amount of backstorying that can justify his actions and he knows it.

AND YET, despite it being at odds with the themes of DD, I still think that this little tidbit is interesting and may end up being recycled for a different story. On the other hand, maybe I’ll use this material to expand it into a novel after all. Who’s to say?

All experiment 987 needs is a little bit of DNA to transform. Anything will do. Skin and hair are the most easily attainable, and with just that scrap it can imitate a human being from head to toe. Dr. Hunt will tell anyone who will listen about her brainchild and many who won’t.

“987 doesn’t like ingesting fur or scales,” Hunt says the moment that the elevator door closes and gives her a captive audience. “Or anything nonhuman, for that matter. I tried grinding up samples, but it can still taste the difference.”

“Good morning to you, too,” Dr. DeValle murmurs around the rim of his coffee mug.

The mug has LIQUID PATIENCE printed on it, though several washes have worn the letters mostly away and the ceramic is starting to look matte instead of shiny. Like DeValle himself, it’s been in the facility many years and has begun to show how used-up it is. The displays on his body are mostly in the form of his curls going gray and his dark skin sagging with age beyond his years. He’s thirty-something going on sixty-something.

Hunt wonders when she’ll start to deteriorate. For the moment she still maintains a skin, hair, and gym routine, but she slacked on all of them hard in the throes of working on 987. Then again, the same applied to how her self-care dropped when she worked on the long-lost siblings that came before it. The prototypes sapped all of her concern for herself. She poured it into them instead, a hen choosing to sit and starve in the interest of keeping her eggs warm. Except instead of sitting she tinkered and tested.

“I’d say good morning, but it’s–” She glances at her watch. “–evening, actually.”

“Does it matter down here?” He takes a swallow of his coffee. “So what do you mean, ‘doesn’t like?’ Why did you give your experiment the ability to have preferences?”

The elevator moves downward at a pace not dissimilar to an insect sinking into honey, slow and torturous. It should give Dr. Hunt plenty of time to think, but she never does, instead saying the first thing thing that comes to mind.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Let me count the ways.” DeValle counts off with the fingers on his free hand, but Hunt stops listening almost at once.

DeValle is a roboticist. He doesn’t have the head for her work. There’s too much tenderness wrapped up in the synthetic flesh she produces. He doesn’t understand; he can’t.

Once there’s a lull in his criticism, she interjects, “In any case, it doesn’t like it. It says that it feels wrong to be an animal. It doesn’t understand the potential to repopulate endangered and extinct species.”

DeValle lowers his mug to reveal that it’s only a quarter full now. “That’s not what you made it for, is it?”

“Well, no… but think of the possibilities!”

“They don’t need it to lay passenger pigeon eggs, Hunt.” With those words, the elevator chimes with their arrival at DeValle’s floor. “Good luck.”

987 sits perched on the back of the couch, just like she always tells it not to. Unsurprising. What does surprise her is that 987 appears to be a mixture of several of the appearances today: the freckles from the first sample she gave it, the heavyset frame of the third, and the strawberry blonde of the third. Hunt gives herself a second to marvel. 987 is groundbreaking. It’s incredible. It’s her life’s work.

“What disgusting clump of cells is on the menu today, doctor?” Her experiment asks, kicking its feet.

It also has an attitude problem.

“Nothing too gross.” She smiles at it reassuringly.


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