The Experiment

September 23rd, 2022


Someone left this mason jar of water on a file cabinet in the corridor of the building where I have an office. A while back I noticed it sitting on the cabinet on one of my routine trips back and forth to the bathroom. I noticed it because I often drink water out of large mason jars, and thought, “Did I put that down and forget about it?”

But I knew it was not one of my jars, because I only have the coordination to drink water out of wide-mouthed mason jars, and this one is a narrow-mouth. It was some other mason-jar-water-drinker in the building. Someone with more hand-mouth coordination.

The days went by, then the weeks. I noticed the jar again and again in my travels. “Someone really needs to collect that jar,” I would think. Then, sometimes I would think, “Maybe I should get rid of that jar?”

But I never did. I don’t know why. It started out as laziness, perhaps, but I was also half thinking someone else missing it. Lots of people work in this building; some people even have apartments here. Perhaps the person who left it would realize their mistake. But no one ever did.

As the weeks turned into months, I watched the water in the jar get slightly murky, then quite cloudy. The bad lighting in the corridor turned the water an eerie shade of yellowish-green.

“No one is coming back for that jar,” I would think. “I should really throw it out.”

But what if the entire thing was a giant social experiment? What if I was on camera, bound to end up in some sort of weird water snuff film if I touched it? 

What if it were NOT in fact water in the jar, but poison elaborately rigged to explode upon touch and burn/mame/murder me? What if it were the work of a very patient and sick terrorist?

Also, why did it bother me so much, this left-behind mason jar of no-longer-clear water? Was I being a crazy virgo to let it get under my skin so badly?

I left the jar alone.

Gradually the jar took on a milky appearance, the liquid darkened to the finest shade of maple syrup, and some sort of gruesome, foreboding sediment began to collect along the bottom. It reminded me of Kombucha or apple cider left unstirred. Like sand clouded by scurrying crabs on the ocean floor.

The jar remains. At this point, I am too curious about this science experiment to change a thing. I can’t help but wonder if anyone else even notices.

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