Note: this is a piece of fiction that I wrote for a project.
Every few days the brewery received complaints from the tenants next door. One day it was the ants all over the floor, seeping out from under the shared wall and disturbing the frightened third grade teachers and her squeamish students. As the evening wore on, a few fifth grade boys thought it would be funny to leave squashed ants all over the floor, hoping to hear the childish screams of the next class of sixth graders as they walked down the almost painfully bright hallway towards the packed waiting room.
Almost seven, it was just past rush hour. A line of cars backed out into the parking lot of the brewery next door, adding fuel to the daily battle between the two tenants. The setting sun streamed through the glass walls of the waiting room, and the students bustled about trying to get a good view out the windows to look for their parents’ cars.
One of the fifth graders opened the door to the waiting room and stood aside to let the others through. She looked outside, but the hard glare made it difficult to see easily. She glanced at her phone, hoping to see an unread notification from her mom who was supposed to pick her up. Alas, nothing. And so, her mind wandered, her gaze flitted about from face to face at her peers laughing at each other’s jokes, discussing their antics from the class. Two friends stood in the corner near the sign in window, intently discussing a problem that stumped them earlier in the day. She noticed a small ant, crawling near their feet. It wandered, looking for something to eat. A few others followed, making a distinct line.
Even more followed, and she noticed that they seemed to be coming from a small gap between the wall and the tiled linoleum floor. Amidst the commotion of the waiting room, she barely noticed the sweet smell from the brewery. It seemed that everyone had gotten used to it, but looking at the ants made her more aware of its particular odor. It seemed familiar to her, reminding her of the small gatherings her parents often held with friends, often late into the night.
Next door, the sweetness was far more pungent. The warm glow of the brewery lights spilled over onto the sidewalk right outside, complementing the rapidly waning sun and the deep purple sky. The glass walls overlooking the same parking lot were covered in condensation. A result of the brewery keeping their humidity and temperature just high enough for the yeast to be comfortable. The distilleries hummed in the background, so the employee giving the tour spoke loudly at the visitors. As the tour made their way towards the distilleries, a couple towards the back whispered to one another.
The husband seemed meek at first glance, his hands placed firmly in his pockets. His dress was odd, with well-worn jeans, but a collared shirt neatly tucked in. His appearance belied his deep expertise in the brewing process. As he joked with the others in the group, his wife smiled, and though quiet, she had an air of mischievousness about her. In the heat of the brewery, she unzipped her company jacket, clearly emblazoned with the logo of the pharmaceutical company with offices and labs just up the street. They both had just arrived after work, passing by the bridge and a Starbucks that had recently opened up.
Earlier that day, both were working in the lab on an experimental biologic that could degrade membrane-spanning receptors. It was accidentally discovered a few years ago in the adjacent building by a group of chemical engineers working on increasing production rates of the company’s bioreactors. The engineered yeast cells expressed a chimeric antigen on their surface, patented by the company. This was used to help degrade the yeast quickly and extract the biologic, but without adding surfactants or other contaminating chemicals. Their system used hijacked chimpanzee macrophages to quickly destroy the yeast cells by phagocytosis, but it seemed that it was working too well. . . .