After a tiring week at the office, I felt like going out to the lake and having a break. I packed some food and took my sample collector to collect new specimens for research. It was a cloudy weekend and the lake was filled with lush green grasses after the rain. As I was searching for something interesting and new, I walked across the lake only to find the same old plants and insects. I did not lose hope and kept looking around. Suddenly, I found few mushrooms that have risen from the new rain. To my surprise, it was pink in color, something that I've never seen all my life. I wondered who on earth created it in such a color and why that color even exists (no doubt Mother Nature is a woman). In spite of my aversion to pink, it still looked pretty attractive. I sat down on the ground and took a closer look at it. Colored mushrooms are usually dangerous and might be poisonous. Hence I took my glove to collect a sample of it. As I was about to curb one of them, I heard a voice screaming "Hey hold on, do not try to steal my mushrooms!!”.
I looked above and wasn't surprised to see a girl. As I walked towards her she looked me into my eyes and I was mesmerized over it. She stood there with a cute dimple on her cheeks and a well combed curly hair; as if she was posing for a photograph. I explained her that I had never seen a pink colored mushroom and I was only collecting a small sample for research. She smiled at me and said that she had invented them in her lab through genetic engineering. I felt amazed and told her that I was a researcher as well. I saw an element of surprise on her face and her sharp eyes that would throb any man’s heart. She introduced herself as Neha and told me that she was also happy to meet a fellow researcher and invited me to her lab. I accepted her invitation and walked down the street for a few minutes before reaching an old garage. The inside of the garage was simple. She then opened a door on the floor that led us downstairs. Everything after that was just fascinating. She had a new technology in place to scan her identity. The system scanned her skin for chemicals and microbes to identify her. It was so huge with many researchers working there. I told her how amazing it was and I would love to have a lab like this. She told me that there was a competition going on and I could come work in the lab if I wished to. I asked her for more details.
She was interested in genetic engineering and protein expression. Pink was her favorite color and she had created these pink mushrooms in her college lab by accident. However it was not possible to recreate the mushrooms for some reason. She took this up with several researchers but they were of no use and only made her more depressed. Her father who was worried looking at his daughter like this decided to hold up a competition. He had given advertisements stating that whosoever shall create pink mushrooms will be awarded with 1 million rupees. That is why he built this huge lab where researchers could come and work. A lot of researchers tried and failed. She asked me if I was up for the challenge. I agreed for it and had to sign an agreement for non-disclosure. I told her that I would come there during the weekends and work on this. The first weekend arrived; I entered the lab and was shocked to see that there were 50 other fellow researchers (competitors) along with me. All of them were ahead of me by weeks, some by months and a few by years. Everyone had a separate locker to keep their protocols and samples safely. We hardly spoke with each other as everyone saw the other as their competitor. For me, it was the girl more than the money. A few months passed by and I came to know that one of the guys gave up. After a few months two more left the lab while a few more joined the competition. Months passed by and I was nowhere near the pink mushrooms. But I managed to get near to her heart. She too liked me and helped me with research at times. A lot of jealousy spread across the lab among others because of this.
One fine day while at office, I received a forward message in WhatsApp group. It was the picture of a guy who was missing. It’s not so unusual that I receive such forward messages but I felt that I had seen him somewhere. I realized he was one of my fellow researchers working in the lab. I called the other guys and asked if they knew any details about him. We tried calling his number but to no avail. We never heard back from him and neither did his parents. A few months later, there was news on the TV that a guy was found dead in the lake where I use to go for the weekend. Shockingly he happened to be another guy working in the lab who just left recently. I grew suspicious that something might be happening to those who leave the lab. I knew a guy who was about to give up on his challenge. I managed to steal his spectacles and placed a micro GPS tracker in it. With this I was able to track his whereabouts. A few days later, the device tracked him to a region under the lake. I tried calling him but his number was not reachable. My suspicions grew bigger and I analyzed his tracking data. As I followed his footsteps and walked a few meters, I stood ahead of a huge building. From there, I tracked him to the middle of the lake. I also found that the building belonged to the girl’s father. I asked Neha if the guy came to her house and she told no.
As my suspicions grew bigger, it was time to take things on my own hand. I didn’t want to tell her about all this. The next day, I told Neha that I was occupied with other things during the weekend, so I would not be able to continue with this challenge. She tried her best to convince me to stay back in the lab but I stood on my word. Her face grew pale and so did my heart. I knew she too was in love with me. With a broken heart she took me to her father and told him that I had to withdraw from the competition. Their house was huge and had many servants to take care of it. He was happy that people were working hard in the lab to create those mushrooms for her daughter. He looked very kind and polite too. She told me that her father was a great man and had recently donated a huge sum for the school in their neighborhood. As we were speaking, she received a call from one of her friend. She left me with her father and told that she will be back soon. After few hours of talking, he invited me for a dinner at their house next week. A week passed by and I went to their home for dinner. One of the servants invited me to the dining room but Neha was nowhere to be found. Her father saw me looking out for her and told me that she had gone out on an important work and asked us to continue without her. The dinner was a feast to my eyes and stomach. I ate so much that I felt dizzy, a few minutes after the dinner. It was like I fell asleep after that.
When I opened my eyes, I was back in the lab and could see everyone working. I started wondering what had happened. I went ahead to one of the researchers to ask them how I came here again. As I went near them, I couldn’t believe my eyes. All of them were once working in the lab earlier and had already moved out of the lab. They told me that this was a trap. The girl’s father had built an identical lab underneath the lake. Anyone who decided to withdraw from the competition was brought here and made to work on the same for the rest of their lives. Anyone who tried to escape was killed by her father. Upon hearing this my suspicions proved to be true and everything came into picture. But it was too late since I got trapped in here and there was only one way out; the locked escalator. I went all around the lab to check if my phone was able to locate any network. There was no luck with that. I was exhausted after a while and started thinking about her. I felt bad that she didn’t know that her father was a devil inside. I heard someone opening the escalator door and badly wished that it was Neha but it wasn’t her; it was her father. As I ran towards him, he stopped me and said that he would do anything for his daughter’s dream to become true. As I was losing hope of escaping from here, Neha opened the escalator door and stood ahead of us. She had followed him and couldn’t believe her father was into this. After an hour of argument she told him how much she loved me and begged him to let me free along with others. He said that there were only two options for me to leave this place, either to recreate the pink mushrooms or escape dead. He was not ready to change his mind whatsoever.
As Neha and I stood helpless, she looked at my eyes and said “Don’t you have any intentions to get married? Why don’t you recreate them for me so that we could get married?”. I loved her so much but I did not want to get trapped in this lab. She asked it over and over again. Her voice kept raising as she came closer. I felt that my life was doomed forever. I felt a sudden jerk and opened my eyes. "Don’t you have any intentions to get married? I asked you to check this girl's profile an hour ago and you are day dreaming with your laptop. What's wrong with you? She looks cute with those dimples just like yours. Isn't her dress so pretty, especially with those gorgeous pink colored mushrooms?" As my mom woke me up, I was happy to realize it was just a dream. “Mom, let me better search for a girl who is not fond of pink. I don’t want my life to be doomed forever”. My aversion towards pink had grown a lot bigger now.