If you, unfortunately, live in International House, as I do, you have become familiar with the constant onslaught of construction workers descending into the basement of the Lab School (our benevolent neighbors) through the grates in the schoolyard. You may have even befriended one of them, while they waited for their shift in the hole to begin. The traditional uniform of an orange vest and a low-hanging hard hat may now even be a comfort, a sign that the University of Chicago remembers we exist. But what if I told you that the work they are doing is much more nefarious than electrical engineering, military bunker training for the child geniuses, or even a secret nuclear reactor site? On a recent journey down to the basement, I myself saw the horror that is the Aidan Gallagher clones.
I recently applied for a research assistant position at the Lab School, through Handshake, of course, thinking I would simply be monitoring the known freaks of nature that dwell in the upper halls of the establishment. I was wrong. Over winter break, I received a package in the mail — my uniform — that looked identical to those of the men I had seen crawl into the abyss only weeks before. When my first shift was set to begin, I stood by the gate that separates the hallowed halls of I-House from the abomination below. A tall, shadowy figure approached me. He looked almost identical to Nickelodeon child actor, Aidan Gallagher, except older, wiser, and with a receding hairline. Without a word, he opened the gate.
Looking down at the entrance to the basement, the darkness was comforting. As I grabbed onto the rungs of the ladder that would accompany my descent, the man who had greeted me simply jumped down what seemed a never-ending rabbit hole. I heard a light chuckle — no, cackle — as I decided to follow the strange man in a free fall.
To my surprise, mere seconds later, I was surrounded by human-sized test tubes that lined the walls of the lab. I finally understood why the Lab School was called the Lab School. The lighting was low, changing between green and red LEDs that were probably coming from the e-boy type lighting strips that lined the room. Unsure of my duty, I turned to what I thought was the strange man. Just as I tapped his shoulder, to my surprise, the actual Aidan Gallagher turned around with his signature nefarious grin. “Hello,” he whispered into my ear. “It seems you have been chosen to meet the clones…”
Suddenly the lights turned on completely. The test tubes were all housing various forms, all of which resembled the short teenage boy dressed in his Umbrella Academy costume (alas, he studies the Method) in front of me. I felt completely surrounded by the figures, all of which were now pressing eagerly against the glass of their tubes. Aidan was manning the control board, simultaneously trying to prepare dinner and DJ. “I’m trying to wake them up so that they can meet you,” he said in between “mm-bpps” and “chka-chka-pows.”
All I could muster out of fear and reverence for the UN Climate Ambassador was a resounding “Why?” in which he responded, “Why not?” and smiled as he returned to waking up the clones.
He gestured for me to sit in an armchair that had somehow instantly appeared in the middle of the circular lab. As I sat down, wires came jutting out from the ceiling, finding their way into my ears. Worried that he would start playing some of his original music, I twitched back in forth in the alarmingly comfortable chair. Instead of that horror, however, almost as quickly as the wires were inserted, they exited, covered in more ear wax than I have ever seen. Think the opening scene of Shrek, when he makes candles out of his ear wax, but twice as bad.
“That’ll be enough DNA needed for the next generation of clones, thank you so much!” He smirked as the bodies in their tubes started writhing. “Your next quarter’s tuition is half off, thank you!”
Personally, I know that I probably could press charges for whatever crime against humanity I was witness and victim to, but half off of a quarter seems like a decent amount to be compensated for mothering a generation of Aidan Gallaghers. I am warning you, though, in the event that the intrigue of knowing the Lab School’s secrets becomes all-encompassing, ignorance is bliss.