I’m sick; probably radiation. Don’t have much time.
As I throw up in the bushes, I want to blame someone else but it was really MY hubris which brought this to pass.
I remember the campus looking just like it did that night; we thought we were doing the right thing. We would rid the world of sickness, disease and disfigurement. Our process would erase junk DNA in the human genome improving the human race.
I thought no government could be trusted to use this technology for good, so I figured the best way to ensure everyone had access was to give it away over the internet. The genome manipulator wasn’t that hard to create, it was the software; the algorithms for re-sequencing that were the secret of our discovery.
After the mice and cats, we needed human trials but we knew no government would allow it. We became our own test subjects. How arrogant is youth? How could we know?
If we had been more patient we would have learned of the toxic genomic introduction as genes were removed which buffered evolutionary benefits, ensuring their slow release into the gene pool. Nature was smarter than we were; she knew some genes shouldn’t be together too often. We thought we could do better.
We bred stronger, faster, smarter mice. We expanded the intelligence of cats, altering and improving their neurology. We made the world’s most adaptable killing machine, smarter. It seems stupid in hindsight.
Darryl was the first to die. He was the first of us to believe we should embrace our technology. He had configured the device to rewrite him, removing his failing flesh, dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, to rewrite him with a body of superhuman perfection. He entered the recombination chamber, alone. He didn’t tell us. He thought we would say no.
He climbed out of his chair and into the recombinator. We found him next morning, lying next to his chair, physically beautiful; his body strong, muscular, still. He died as beautiful as his mind was amazing.
We were not deterred. We had to know what happened. We studied him down to his bones. His work was perfect and fatally flawed. He removed the disease or so he thought. He removed the genetic markers which limited the disease allowing it to overcome his nervous system, even as his body was being recreated, it was being ravaged. It was a matter of timing.
His cure killed him.
We were more determined than ever. But we knew we needed more caution, move slower, watch the changes. Pam went next. She changed aspects of herself, slowly, carefully, making only physical changes one at a time.
On the last day we saw her, she had begun making modifications on her brain increasing neural density. As we watched her in the tank, her modifications complete, we turned to pull her out and found the tank empty. No recombinant fluid, no Pam. She was in the tank and then she wasn’t. No remains, only the data to study.
We didn’t know what happened to Pam but working alone had proven to be a detriment we could ill afford. The local police had begun poking around our lab as both of our friends became missing persons and we became people of interest. We were relentless and careless. The cats and mice were accidentally released by the police and escaped into the wild. It seemed such a tiny thing at the time.
We realized this was a problem of mental capacity; somehow, a barrier was broken, so Charlotte decided she was next. Strong-willed, highly intelligent, physically fit, she thought she would be best to document the experience.
After altering her brain and its chemistry first as a model then in vivo, for a week, she created and conceived of dozens of patents, things never thought of before, and like not since. On day eight, she stopped talking. She typed furiously, over three hundred words per minute. She wrote for five more days. She wrote until her ears bled, her eyes exploded and she still wrote. She wrote dispassionately until the very end, nothing mattered but putting the information on the page. And in those last minutes when she could neither see nor hear, did I learn what happened, what happened to all of us.
I had to know, I had to see it for myself. I set her notes in an archive to mail to my father. He would know best what to do with them.
After thirteen days of transformation, I left the lab. I strode away through Time. For the first year, subjectively, nothing moved. I felt neither hunger, nor thirst, for me only seconds appeared to pass. I was a blur, a whisper of wind, an echo in a silent room. Then something went wrong.
I could not move. The world sped up and blurred by. I stood in the middle of a field as days blurred together, the sun a single band of light overhead, moving back and forth with the flow of the seasons.
She said this would happen, we were disconnected from Time. We were moving through probabilities, we were seeing possible futures. Events would form around our decisions. I still didn’t understand. I didn’t dare expand my consciousness as much as she did.
I wasn’t that brave. Then I saw the flashes of light all around me. Familiar, a pattern I should recognize. She said to breathe, concentrate, focus, and stop Time. I understood now. Years had passed since I last thought about it.
As time slows, a city appears around me. A silent, ruined city, overrun by scrawny plants, blast damaged buildings. I felt a strong sense of dread and dropped into the grass; cats, big cats, with glittering eyes. The pride turned and targeted a group of bipeds who appeared to be feeding at the edge of the grass.
They saw the pride but they were too late. The pride was fast, cheetah fast, and when I saw them again, they were tearing into their targets, feasting, gorging. The bipeds fought in vain but were able to kill one of the cats before being overrun. When the pride finally left their meal, I moved in to study the remains.
They were vaguely human, huge heads, twice my size, powerful skeletons. I looked closer and saw unique carbon deposits enhancing the skeletons. This was our work, degraded by time and mutation.
The last thing she typed before she died. “Stop this.” She knew.
That’s when I heard them. A howl and I could see them returning to me, kicking up dust behind them. I thought of Charlotte. I thought of Pam, and Darryl in his stupid wheelchair.
The cats; God! They’re so big and coming right at me. I change the flow of Time. Reverse it. It’s like drinking from a fire hose.
There we go, celebrating, drinking; arrogant.
I don’t have long… vision blurring.
I shuffle into our lab, everything so shiny, so new. I do what has to be done. I kill the cats, the mice, I burn down the lab.
Most importantly, my friends and I become missing persons.
Redux © Thaddeus Howze 2012. All Rights Reserved
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. Since they insist on constant entertainment and can’t subscribe to cable, Thaddeus writes a variety of forms of speculative fiction to appease their hunger for new entertainment.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies:Awesome Allshorts: Last Days and Lost Ways (Australia, 2014), The Future is Short (2014), Visions of Leaving Earth (2014), Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond (2014), Genesis Science Fiction (2013), Scraps (UK, 2012), and Possibilities (2012).