The laboratory technician blinked forlornly as the smoke cleared around him.
The explosion had been as loud as it had been unexpected. The technician was convinced that he had been following the experiment's instructions carefully - he glanced over at his notebook to be sure - so he couldn't understand how the reaction had been as violent as this.
He became aware of an alarm ringing somewhere in the building. The force of the explosion appeared to have broken some nearby windows, no doubt setting off the security system in the process. Help was coming soon. The technician tried to block the sound from his brain while he looked around.
The damage was pretty bad. There was a small crater in the middle of the laboratory bench. It was a good job, the technician thought, that the bench was an old one made of solid wood, rather than one of the newer, flimsier metal ones built from a kit.
The wooden crater was scorched and a whisp of smoke curled up from it. Following the smoke with his eyes, the technician noticed that the apparatus he had been using - several test tubes and connectors, a bunsen burner - had disappeared. There were fragments of glass all over the place, but not enough of them. It seemed that most of the glass equipment had been simply vaporized.
The metal stands that had held all the glassware in place were blackened and also smoking slightly. Leaning closer, the technician could see that the ends of the clamps, the bits closest to the chemical reaction, had also disappeared into thin air.
Clearly, the reaction had been extremely powerful, but extremely localised. The technician momentarily considered himself lucky. If the force of the reaction had been greater, he himself could have been blown to smithereens.
He suddenly realised that he might have been injured, and put a hand up to feel his face. It felt normal - the right shape, at any rate. There was a warmth to his skin that was different, as though he had been out in the sun for too long.
He gingerly pulled off his protective eye goggles, and noticed that everything now looked sharper and there was considerably more light in the room. He looked down at the outward-facing side of the goggles and saw that the plastic there was warped and darkened. A lucky, lucky escape indeed.
The technician steadied himself by putting one hand on the edge of the work bench, and slowly got down from his stool.
He looked around once more. The laboratory was in a complete mess. There was smoke hanging in the air, pieces of paper and fragments of glass scattered all over every surface, and a particularly distasteful smell.
When the doctor arrived and saw what a mess the place was, he'd go mad. The technician gulped as he realised exactly how much trouble he was in.
A whimper of self-pity escaped his throat as he heard footsteps coming down the hallway outside.
"Me me me me me me me ..."