Chicken Dinner

In which a wand that turns an egg into a chicken dinner is experimented with, and the Mad Science Students' faculty advisor makes an appearance.

Published . 1093 words.

During the early 1990s, single-use magic wands began appearing in dollar stores throughout America. For the most part, these were simply hollow, black tubes of polystyrene filled with a light dusting of powdered aether. Each contained just enough mystical potency to help with a single household task, whether that be washing the dishes, grilling burgers, or cleaning stains from the carpet. No incantations or prior initiation were required; after a few seconds of vigorous shaking, the wand’s plastic tip would pop off, allowing the pressurized magic to escape as a jet of violet smoke.

Despite their remarkable impact on the quality of life in the neighborhoods in which they were sold, these wands disappeared from shelves almost as quickly as they arrived due to public safety concerns. There were around forty-eight varieties of these wands available, and of these, thirty-four proved to be viable as weapons. Those used for cooking were the most popular among criminals, though none were deadlier than the laundry wand, which could wring out a human brain like a towel. Imports ceased, causing the factories which produced them to vanish in a matter of months, along with the engineers who designed them.

Of all the convenience spells available, however, none were so mysterious as the “chicken dinner wand.” When pointed at a generic, store-bought egg, a complete rotisserie chicken would burst forth from its shell, hot and freshly steaming. The roast was anatomically correct, with wings, legs, and bones manifesting in all of their expected places. There was just one problem- there seemed to have been no live chicken, nor could there ever possibly have been. Cartons of eggs from the grocery store were sterile, and thus lacked the essential ingredients to produce a complete organism. Even so, the presence of the roast brought with it a great deal of philosophical baggage; did the presence of a dead creature imply the existence of one that once lived? Which came first: the chicken, or its corpse?

This mystery has never been solved. Whatever secret allowed for this transmutation to take place disappeared along with the industry that made it possible, and any and all records regarding the matter went missing from patent offices. While most just remember this spell as a fun party trick, some who witnessed it firsthand are still losing sleep over having watched death emerge directly from an egg.

A coven of grad students decided to test the “chicken dinner wand” without their advisor’s knowledge or the participation of an IRB. They were going to be doing human experimentation, and didn’t want to deal with the oversight requirements.

They created a list of hypothetical results to the experiment, and determined that they really didn’t have a good way to dispose of a dressed, roasted human corpse. So they went back to their advisor, who told them that they had done the right thing by asking him, and together they sought IRB approval. The IRB immediately shat itself.

The IRB called the FDA; the FDA called the FBI; the FBI called DHS. At this point the students realized that their joke project had spun out of control, and told their advisor this. Their advisor smiled and said: That’s a good sign you’re doing mad science. Slog through this and you will have learned at least 85% more than your peers who didn’t submit a joke project to their advisor.

Eventually the government finished having its cow - the vet assured the government that the calf was healthy and that the dam was too - and set about generating expense reports and safety protocols. The grad students drew straws, and one finally found himself locked inside a large animal pen in a BSL3-Ag lab in a cornfield in Ohio, decked out in a positive-pressure biohazard suit, standing behind a bulletproof shield, aiming the wand through a hole in the shield at a thawing human egg sitting in a petri dish. A veritable forest of cameras were aimed at the wand, the tray, the room in general. One of the feds had mentioned radar when they put the large black box in the corner. None of the machines went ping.

The egg had been donated by a willing volunteer (and a prisoner of a conveniently-nearby institution), who was herself being thoroughly monitored in a state penitentiary hospital up the road. Her medical history indicated she was a virgin, which hadn’t been deemed necessary (because the wand had worked on unfertilized eggs from hens who had lain fertilized eggs and reared them) but was deemed a useful control on the experiment, and was therefore necessary. She had no next of kin, either, which was useful. And her entire cell block was under lockdown and monitoring, because when the Bureau of Prisons got involved, things tended to get out of hand. Or into hand.

Finally, the word was given to use the wand. The grad student made the proper motion.

And nothing happened.

Months of subsequent testing revealed that an essential part of the wand’s function was the presence of a hard shell for the cooked product to burst forth from.

The shell could even be artificial, as it was discovered when a chicken egg was carefully decanted into a plastic Easter egg.

The shell couldn’t have holes, but holes made in the shell could be patched and the wand would function.

An egg that had been drained of its yolk and white and carefully patched still produced a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken.

A never-used Easter egg produced nothing.

An Easter egg into which an egg had been decanted, and then had been emptied, would disappear but not produce the roast. The respective yolk and white would no longer respond to the wand, even when put back into the carefully-reconstructed original shell.

The IRB would not endorse putting a hard shell around a human egg.

And then the wand supply dried up.

The advisor asked the grad students to prepare their papers, and to write a separate paper - not for publication, no need to be formal with the formatting - about what they had learned. That separate paper was fundamentally an abstract of their research.

The advisor said: Now, write me a paper about what you learned.