6 August, 2005
Another short story to enterain my readers. I’ll be out of town for the next few weeks, so updates will be slow. I should be checking my email, so feel free to contact me if you want to talk about working on the book.
This story was written a few years ago. It was something I wrote to see if I could carry on two threads of activity in one short story. It’s a little rough, but still enteraining, I think.
Henry cowered between the worktables in the laboratory. He heard the angry voices in the next room, angry voices of angry soldiers barking orders at each other. He heard the frantic crash of glass hitting the floor as the soldiers thrashed around in the other room.
The door to the room opened and light shone brightly into the dark laboratory.
She had surprised him when she first spoke. Even though he knew it was about time for her to start speaking, her voice startled him.
“Why am I here?” she asked, innocently enough.
After the shock wore off, he contemplated the words she had spoken. Each was clear and crisp, perfectly enunciated with a neutral midwestern accent just like the evening news anchors have.
“Because I love you,” he replied after his short contemplation. He assumed she would ask that question eventually, and Henry thought that would be the best response.
“Oh,” she replied, seemingly satisfied with the answer. She went back to playing with the building blocks.
The angry voices in the next room became more agitated, but his fear prevented him from making out what they were saying.
“Oh, please God, no,” he thought frantically.
He heard more glass being pushed off tables and onto the floor. The sound of shattering glass flowed in from the other room through the now open door.
“Do you really love me?” she asked one morning as they were leaving for the laboratory. Her words still held the perfect neutral accent he preferred.
“Of course, dearest Elise! Why would you ask me that?” The slight southern twang in his own words irritated him. People always thought of him as a backwards hillbilly, not the respected scientist he should be.
“I do not know, father.” Her perfect words clashed with her childlike naivety.
“Well, you should know that I will always love you.”
“I will, father. I will,” she replied as she got into the car.
He heard the harsh sound of a boot striking against the linoleum of the floor near the door. That sound irritated him, distracting him from the sounds he wanted to hear. He strained to hear the noises in the other room despite his fear.
The voices had calmed down a bit, which gave him a bit of relief.
“Why do I know so much?” she asked during dinner one night. He lingered on her words, the perfection of her diction. Her voice was like music to him.
“What do you mean, my dearest Elise?” Henry asked her. Her inquisitive nature excited him as a scientist but frustrated him as a father.
“Why do I know so much? I have had to learn how to be polite, yet I know mathematics without having to study.”
“What’s twelve times twelve?”
“One hundred and forty-four,” she said with a measure of pride.
“It’s called instinctive learning. I gave you the tools you would need to survive, such as knowledge of mathematics. That is why you know your multiplication without having to study it.”
“Oh,” she said. She chewed a steamed carrot while she thought about his response.
“Is that why I know a lot about genetics?” she asked after a pause.
The sound of that one word struck him immediately. The way she said “genetics” with an obvious influence of a Southern accent surrounded by words with an otherwise neutral accent. It shook him; no, it revolted him.
“I don’t want to talk about it!” he snapped more harshly than he liked.
They ate the rest of the dinner in sullen silence.
He held is breath, sitting as silently as he could. A sharp yell in the other room preceded the sound of gunfire and more crashing of glass. A small, involuntary groan escaped from Henry’s lips and caused the nearby bootsteps to stop.
She opened her eyes as soon as the fluid had drained down to her waist. The simple shift she dressed in for the therapy sessions clung to her in uneven, moist shapes. As the rest of the fluid drained out of the tank, she watched him move around the lab.
When the fluid had drained, Henry pressed a button on the console that released the seal on the therapy tank. He grabbed the robe hanging nearby and held it open for her to put her arms into when she left the tank.
She took the breathing apparatus away from her face and waited a moment for more of the fluid to drain off her clothes. She knew that it made him uncomfortable when she took off her therapy clothes in the middle of the lab, in the view of all the gawking scientists her father worked with. She let a few more drops fall from her clothes before she left the tank.
“Everything seems to have gone well. How do you feel, dearest Elise?”
“Same as always. A bit of a tingling sensation all over my skin, but it’s not uncomfortable at all.”
“Excellent,” he replied, helping her into the thick terrycloth robe. “Can you solve the problem on the board over there?”
“The limit as x approaches negative infinity is three,” Elise responded after glancing at the problem.
“Excellent,” Henry repeated, noting that yesterday it took her two minutes to solve a similar problem.
The clunking of the boot’s thick sole on linoleum was muted now. The intruder was moving cautiously.
Henry closed his eyes and listened. He felt his heart rise up in his throat as he strained to hear the sounds from the other room.
“I found it!” came a clear cry from the other room. The jarring sound of gunfire filled the area and the sound of shattered glass was followed by the splash of several gallons of liquid emptying onto the floor.
“And as you see in this photo, the subject has appears to be in the fourteenth year of development, even though she is only four years old chronologically. Most of that time was spent in intense genetic therapy growing the subject. Due to the genetic modification, she will now develop appropriate to a child of her apparent age.”
He clicked his controller and a new slide came on.
“Here you see some of the results of testing her intelligence. Due to our work in instinctive learning, we have been able to encode this knowledge on the genetic level. Even for her relatively young chronological age, the subject has all the knowledge, if not more, of a child of her apparent age. Since this knowledge is encoded on an instinctive level, she can more readily access this information in her learning. For example, her ability to perform complex mathematics has been greatly enhanced by her instinctive knowledge of basic mathematics.”
He clicked the controller again and yet another slide came on.
“Here are more test results comparing the subject’s learning to the learning of average and advanced students of her apparent age. Her learning curve is closer to advanced students in many areas, even surpassing the advanced students in certain circumstances.”
He clicked the controller again.
“You will notice on these results that as she learned subjects more removed from her instinctive knowledge, her learning curve begins to approach that of the average students, while still remaining slightly above it.”
He clicked the controller again.
“But, here is what is perhaps the most exciting discovery for us. As we had her undergo additional genetic therapy, we have been able to expand her instinctive knowledge. Compared to her previous learning curve, shown in blue on this slide, you can see that her new learning curve is closer to what she demonstrated previously.
“This gives us hope that instinctive learning could be used on average people to enhance their learning curve. Imagine if you will, your research proceeding at double the pace as you and your genetically modified assistants no longer have to remember basic facts.”
He clicked the controller again.
“In this photo, you can see the subject in the therapy tank. Typical therapy sessions last about 2 hours for the equivalent of a year’s worth of knowledge in a particular field. Of course, the subject has been conditioned to accept the therapy, which affects the results.
“In this session, if I remember, the subject went from instinctive knowledge of first year calculus to second year.
“Could someone bring up the lights?”
The thousands of scientists and journalists filling the hall paid rapt attention to the speaker’s podium as the lights fully illuminated the conference hall.
“And, now, I have a surprise for the crowd. Of course, with the number of journalists in the room, I hardly think this will be a surprise.
A polite chuckle rose from the crowd. Several cameras flashed as those journalists recorded the events.
“Anyway, I present Elise.”
With the introduction, Elise walked in from the side door. The crowd erupted into a frenzy of applause at her appearance. The flashes from the cameras become almost constant. She walked slowly to the podium where Henry stood with his laptop computer. She looked over the crowd, gave a small wave, and joined her father near the podium.
“Do we have some time for questions?” Henry asked politely. “Yes, the gentleman in the dark sports coat in the back?”
“Joe Vaughan, San Francisco Examiner. You mention that your research could be applied to normal people. How long before we can expect to see your research in instinctive learning applied to normal people?”
Henry cleared his throat. “Well, there are tests that have to be approved, finished, and evaluated before we know for sure, but I think I can say that we might see this technology able to be applied to average people within 10 years pending FDA approval and other similar requirements.”
Journalists waved their hands to be called on as Henry scanned the crowd for the next person to call on. His eyes came to rest on a young man with a severe haircut dressed in a perfectly presented suit. The man stood up and introduced himself as if Henry’s attention were his cue.
“My name is Robert Childs. Dr. Shelley, I have a question for you. How does it feel to have created a monster?”
“Par-pardon me?” Henry stammered.
“You heard me. A monster. An abomination to both God and nature?” the man repeated in a strong voice.
“I-I-I don’t…. How dare you say that!” Henry yelled in a quick burst of anger.
“What motivated you to start this project, Dr. Shelley? Do you plan to grow children without genetic defects? Or, perhaps replace young ones that God has taken into his care? Or, maybe you plan on profiting on your research by creating fully-developed soldiers with instinctive knowledge to become perfect killing machines for the military?”
The crowd became started to murmur and become restless. Henry was at a loss for words as this man continued his diatribe.
“That freak up there doesn’t deserve the same protection as us humans. That monster was not created in the perfect image of God Almighty, the true source of life. Dr. Shelley, you have created a soulless monster!” the young man spat angrily.
Events caught up to Elise and she broke down in tears.
Elise’s tears jarred Henry into action. He pulled her close and protected her with his embrace. “You are the monster here,” Henry retorted. “You bastard! Can’t you see what you are doing to her?” Henry was obviously on the verge of losing his temper. “Someone get him out of here!” Henry yelled at no one in particular.
Elise sobbed violently, her face pressed into his shirt leaving a wet stain where the tears soaked in.
“You can’t silence the truth! God hates your genetic abominations!” the young man yelled as a group pushed him out of the conference hall.
In the other room, he heard her sobbing. They had found her!
The voices in the other room were yelling at her as her sobs became louder and more panicked. Henry strained, hoping against hope that these monsters would spare her.
Elise’s screaming pierced the air. A voice rose above the noise, shouting, “You must die, monster!”
Gunfire silenced Elise’s screams and broke Henry’s heart.
“Who am I?” she demanded as she entered his office. It was piled high with the debris common to research scientists.
“Wha…?” Henry started as he looked up from the journal he was reading.
“Who am I?” Elise demanded once again.
“You are my dearest Elise. You are my daughter. Why…?”
“No, I was your daughter,” she interrupted, tossing the picture on his desk.
One glance at the picture was enough to rend his heart. His darling wife and daughter, his former daughter, were pictured with him. The smiles of his dead wife and daughter were too much misery for him to handle. He had thrown himself into his work to put the awful reality out of his mind. It wasn’t right!
“No, no. You are my daughter. You know how much I love you,” Henry reassured her.
“Why am I a nearly perfect genetic match for her, then? I checked. I’m just some vat grown replacement for her, aren’t I?” Elise demanded.
“No!” Henry said sternly. “You are no replacement. You know you are more than just a test subject to me. Yes, I used genetic information from my daughter as a pattern for you, but that does not make you a replacement. You know from the past fifteen months that you are very important to me.”
She looked at him with her big brown eyes, with his dead daughter’s soulful brown eyes. Her eyes went blurry with tears as a few teardrops escaped and poured down her cheek. “I don’t want to be a monster, daddy,” she cried.
He stood up and engulfed her in a strong embrace. He stroked her long, blonde hair with his hand as he held her close to him.
“You are not a monster, my dearest Elise. Do not let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”
Fourteen is simply too young to be taken from the world, he thought to himself.
He could no longer take it; Henry broke down sobbing. Everything he had come to love had been destroyed by these fanatics tonight. His lab was destroyed, his Elise was murdered, and he knew he was next. Standing up, he and looked over the table at the man dressed in dark clothes on the other side.
The man stood there, half in shock and half in disgust. The ski mask over his face didn’t hide these obvious emotions. The visible portions of the face contorted into an additional mask of hate as the man leveled the gun at Henry.
“You must pay for your crimes, Shelley,” the man growled.
“I already have,” Henry breathed through his tears.
The intruder opened fire.
Henry’s body hit the floor as the last few thoughts ran through his mind: he really did hope that these fanatics were wrong and that Elise had a soul. He decided he would really like to see her in the afterlife along with his wife and daughter.