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Theresa sighed, swiping left for approximately the fiftieth time in a row. “I will never, ever find a man,” she announced to her roommate, Becca, who was cooking them a healthy dinner of macaroni and cheese. Theresa down the rest of her wine, and Becca swiftly arrived with the bottle, pouring the rest into Theresa’s glass. “It is completely and totally hopeless.” Becca rolled her eyes in agreement. “I know what you mean, but honestly, just stop trying! You might be surprised!” She strolled back into the kitchen and popped another bottle open; it was a Friday night, after all. Why not? They were both postgraduate students working in the same lab at the local university, studying hereditary diseases and biology. They could both go into more specific, scientific detail, but that’s not the point of this story.
Two boxes of mac and cheese and two more bottles of wine later, Theresa and Becca were swiping through on Theresa’s account, saying no to basically every man who showed up. “Oh god, another one with a fish!” Becca yelped. “If I see another man holding a fish or next to a tiger, I will scream!” Theresa squealed as she swiped left onto the next guy, who was indeed posing next to a tiger. Becca screamed. “WHY?!” and they both laughed so hard Theresa had to run to the bathroom to avoid an accident. She came back in, crying from laughter. “Why can’t I find a man who makes me laugh the way you do, Becs?” Becca just smiled and raised her glass. “There is no man like me, Theresa. My brain is too powerful.” Theresa laughed. “Oh, that’s so true. If I could just build a man like that toy shop where you can make your own stuffed animals, I’d be all set.” Becca laughed so hard she started crying, and she spilled her wine all over the table. “Okay, this is the sign I have to go to bed now,” she said, running to the kitchen to grab some paper towels. After cleaning up, she said goodnight, and headed to bed, leaving Theresa alone with her wine, the overhead light casting her in an odd glow.
The next morning, Becca awoke with a massive headache and wine-stained teeth. She opened her bleary eyes and chugged from the glass of water by her bedside. She got up and put on her favorite curry-stained robe, and headed to the kitchen. To her utter surprise, she found Theresa in the kitchen, fully dressed, prepping coffee for them both. “Morning!” she said, looking like the very definition of the phrase bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It was a little eerie; they’d both been up far too late and had far too much wine, and Theresa was the opposite of a morning person.
“Well, at least one of us feels good today,” Becca grumbled, filling a cup with water from the faucet. Theresa ignored that and turned the coffee pot on, then went to put on her shoes. “I’m just excited! I was up late thinking after our talk last night, and I have a new project I’m going to start on, and I just couldn’t sleep so I’m heading to the lab to get started. I’ll tell you more about it later, gotta run!” Theresa headed out the door before Becca could say a word. What had they even talked about last night? She couldn’t remember anything; the wine fog was too dense to think through. Whatever, Becca thought, pouring herself some coffee. It’s the weekend, and I’m going to enjoy myself.
The weekend passed quickly, as it always did, and while showering on Monday morning, Becca realized she hadn’t seen Theresa since Saturday morning. She made a mental note to swing by her room tonight if she didn’t see her on campus. But the day passed with no sign of Theresa. Becca sent her a few texts, which were answered quickly. “Hey girl, sorry, I’m fine! I’ll see you at home!” Becca waited up for her; no sign. She sent Theresa another text. “Where the hell are you? Are you okay?” Theresa answered: “Yeah, I’m amazing, I met a guy! I’ll introduce you soon, we’re just busy ;)” Why didn’t she just say that?, Becca thought, but replied with a cheeky, “Oooooohhhh it all makes sense now! Alright, have fun, be safe! Come home soon!”
They continued to text each other over the next few days. Becca was assisting in an undergraduate seminar and a separate graduate lab, who both had tests that week, so she didn’t see Theresa at home for the rest of the week. She was dragging herself through the door at 8pm after working on campus all day, grading and advising and doing grunt work, and passing out usually within an hour of getting home, if she didn’t have to stay up to an ungodly hour answering emails. She’d kept texting Theresa to make sure she was okay, and Theresa was quick to respond and have a good excuse. Becca legitimately wondered if she was just missing her by minutes every day. Theresa said things hadn’t worked out with the guy, “though he was super, crazy hot,” and now she was busy working at the lab, though she had her eye on another guy from the app. Wow, whatever we said that night, she really took it to heart, Becca thought.
Another week passed without any sign of Theresa in the apartment, and with increasingly delayed, or just outright ignored, messages from Becca to Theresa. She went into the lab one day and talked to some of her peers. Yes, Theresa had been in sporadically, and her station was an absolute mess, but nobody had seen her for several days. Becca started to freak out. She sent Theresa a text: “If you’re not home tonight I’m calling the cops because I’m terrified. Please tell me you’re okay and I’ll see you tonight? I’ll make mac and cheese?” Surprisingly, Theresa responded immediately: “Sounds great. I’ll let you know when I’m done at the lab!”
So, Becca sat at home and waited. She made the mac and cheese. She opened the wine. She drank the first bottle, and opened a second, when her phone started vibrating, and she saw Theresa was calling her. “Theresa!” she gasped, slurring only slightly. “Becca! I need your help!” Theresa sounded freaked out, and Becca’s blood ran cold. “B, seriously, can you come to the lab, like, right now? I need you. Please, please come. Please help me!” “I will be there in ten minutes, sit tight,” Becca said as she hung up. She really shouldn’t be driving, but this was an emergency. She grabbed her keys and hopped into her car, thankful that it was late enough and their town was quiet enough that the roads were mostly empty. She had to get to Theresa; something was seriously wrong. Maybe there was a fire and she freaked out? Maybe some piece of equipment broke? Oh no, I hope one of the app dudes didn’t do something gr-
It was in the middle of that thought that a man ran out of nowhere and straight in front of her car. She was on the edge of campus, along a bare, tree-lined road with nothing around. “HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” she screamed as she slammed on her brakes. She opened her door and yelled for help, when all of a sudden, there was Theresa, running towards her. “Oh my god, Becca, are you okay? Are you okay? Calm down; I saw it happen! He ran out in front of you!” Becca stood and stared. “Where the fuck did you come from? Do you know this guy?” Theresa didn’t answer, just hugged her friend tightly. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she murmured, unwrapping her right arm from the hug and suddenly smothering Becca’s mouth and nose with a cloth. “I’m. I’m just so glad,” she said, as Becca lost consciousness. Theresa laughed, and half-dragged her friend into the backseat of the car, propping her up against the side so it looked like she was sleeping. “So very glad,” she said, closing the door.
Becca awoke to the sound of bone being snapped. She was in what looked like a very old lab room, long abandoned: dirty, dingy, freezing cold. Her mouth was firmly gagged; her body bound and secured to an examination table. She tried to scream and kick herself loose, but all she did was get the attention of Theresa, who stopped what she was doing and came over. “Silly little B, it’s okay! It’s just me! I’m working; don’t, like, freak out,” she said casually, as if she wasn’t covered in blood and holding a bloody bone saw. Becca’s eyes widened, and she looked past Theresa. On another table was the man she’d run over, only his left arm was gone, and his right one was in the middle of being dismembered. Becca tried to scream again, and Theresa slapped her. “Come on, girl, you know what’s going on! It’s okay! We talked about this.” Becca shook her head feverishly; if she could have spoken, she’d have said that they most certainly had NOT. Then the stench of decay hit Becca’s nostrils, and she turned her head to the left. On the counter next to her there was a body. A dead body. Not just a dead body, but a dead body that looked to be sewn together: legs that didn’t match the torso, the missing left arm of her accidental victim sewn on the side of the body, and the stump where the right arm would shortly join its new owner. Becca tried to scream again. Theresa rolled her eyes. “Bitch, that’s obviously not going to do anything now, is it?” She shook her head.
“Don’t you remember our big talk? I said I should make a man, and then I thought about it, and I decided to go for it. I’ve been going on dates with dudes from the app and just, oops, they keep dying of these weird accidents, so I’m taking advantage of it. I found this old lab space that nobody seems to know about, and I’m building my dream man.” She looked down at Becca and smiled grimly. “There’s just one last thing I’ll need. You said it yourself: there is no man like you.” She waved the saw in Becca’s face, and made a gentle sawing motion in the air above her scalp. “But thanks to that powerful brain, there will be, soon.”
Scent notes: A bubbling concoction of thick, resinous elimi brewed in a cauldron in the stone cellars of an old, forgotten manor house. Candles light the walls and have dripped for hundreds of years. Cardamom and sweet oud, and an unexpected touch of bright sassafras