Corrected

“Mrs. Wright, there’s someone here to see you.”

Kimberly sighed at the voice on the intercom. It was nearly time for lunch and she had been looking forward to the break before her afternoon appointments, which she knew would be excruciating. But Chase had let the visitor know she was in; he always did, no matter how many times she asked him to be more discrete. She would have to let him go – next week, when her busy season lulled.

“Send them in,” she replied, trying not to sound bothered by the circumstances.

Benny strode through the doorway, confident in a way that bordered on arrogance. He wore a deep blue suit better suited to the 1960s, but somehow, he was pulling it off. Kimberly forced herself to look into his eyes, straighten her spine, and hold a steady voice despite the quiver intent on taking over.

“Make it quick. I have a Nyctophobic at one, and a patient who believes he has found a portal to Jotunheim at three. And I’d like to eat at some point, if that’s not too much to ask for.”

“Why Ms. Wright, such a busy bee.”

“Mrs. It’s Mrs. Now.”

Benny let one side of his upper lip curl, forming a malevolent smirk that made Kimberly even more uncomfortable. He pulled out the chair at her desk and sat facing her, never letting his glare waiver. After a moment of vexatious silence, Kimberly cleared her throat, racking her brain for something clever to say. Before she could speak, Benny interrupted.

“We have another one for you.”

Kimberly’s heart fell into her stomach, nestled itself between her organs, and tugged at her intestines. She averted eye contact, unable to falsify her bravery any longer.

“His name is Avery, Avery Johnson. Thirty-two years old, lives in –“

“No. Please. I’ve been cooperative for longer than necessary and I believe –“

Lives in New Haven.” He bared his teeth, a reminder that his charm was a mere cover for the depths of his evil.

Her breathing became laborious now as she tried to stop herself short of begging.

The Correctional Program had been such a naïve dream. Back when she first met Benny and the others, they had all been youthful idealists, too intellectually inclined for their own good. The notion was simple, stop cramming people into the violent and deprecating environment of prison, and start addressing the real issues.

The mind was such a finicky thing; it could be manipulated by nature, or by science. The latter, they presumed, could do some real good. So they set out on a mission, one messed-up brain at a time. But over the years, and through the failures, Kimberly grew. And with that growth came the realization that just because a theory is beautiful and beloved by a group of like-minded peers, does not mean it’s worth pursuing. The ramifications had startled Kimberly into a new person. Well, as new as a person could become of their own free will.

“I’ll be sending him in on Monday afternoon. If you don’t want the details, I’ll spare you.” He spat, “so sensitive you’ve become.”

“Please,” Kimberly whispered desperately but it was too late. Benny had risen, and crossed the room towards the door.

Yes, she would indeed have to fire Chase.

Duplicitous

Someone else lives inside my head now. Or, I am a shell for someone else’s mind. I can’t decide; but I prefer the former. It implies I still exist, however true or untrue that may be.

“No big deal,” I was told after the accident. “Just a snip here, a snip there. A replacement or two inside there. Good as new.”

And here I am, a shared space.

In all fairness though, I’m mostly me; but every once in a while – like a switch – I’m incalculable.

Dangerous, mysterious, out of my mind.

And here I am, blood on my face.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

The Antidote

Johnny entered the pub through the side door and looked around. The atmosphere was exactly what he had been expecting. The room was dimly lit by low hanging chandeliers that were caked with dust, most of the stools at the bar were occupied by middle-aged men sitting in silence and sipping aggressively, and in the back corner a booth was enlivened by two drunkards carrying on a desultory conversation. Johnny took a deep breath and strode over to an empty booth near the back door. He was close enough to the drunkards now to see their spit flying back and forth and wished he could settle in elsewhere. It was too risky though; the instructions for this meeting had specified this booth, and he did not want to get it off to a rough start.

“What’ll it be?” the waitress asked. She was the type of woman who Johnny guessed was much younger than she appeared. Chronic exhaustion seemed to be taking its toll.

“Um, just a water please.” The waitress sighed, dropping her hands to her side, still lazily gripping the pen and pad.

Johnny tried to smile politely but she took off without a glance back. Only a little scathed by her rudeness, Johnny slumped down in his booth and began tapping his fingers impatiently on the poorly wiped down table.

It was nearly an hour after their agreed upon meeting time when Oliver finally entered. Johnny perked up at the sight of him and gulped the remainder of his second coffee. It was tepid and strong; too strong in Johnny’s opinion but he kept ordering them to keep from further upsetting his waitress.

Oliver gracefully took the chair opposite Johnny, and it was not until they were eye level with one another that Johnny saw how much the other man was sweating.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Oliver whispered. “It’s been a difficult morning.”

Johnny nodded sympathetically, but said nothing.

“Look doc,” Oliver continued, leaning in now, eyes wide. “This needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.”

Stunned, Johnny began to stammer in opposition but was abruptly cut off by more of Oliver’s urgent whispers. Johnny shifted in his seat, discomforted by the intensity.

“I’m not messing around here. It’s serious. You gotta help me.”

Johnny nodded. Panic was obviously taking Oliver over. Johnny had hoped he would be able to convince him to come back to the lab with him for a proper assessment; a night of observation, even. But Oliver was intent on meeting in this very spot, which should have been a red flag that no amount of common sense was going to change his mind.

“I want the cure. I want it now.”

“It’s not like that Oliver. Like I said, we need to evaluate the circumstance surrounding the -”

“Doc!”

He raised his voice nearly, leaping out of his seat. Immediately afterwards, he became aware of the attention he had drawn, slunk back down, and glanced around nervously. Lycanthropy in such early stages had many possible symptoms which depended upon the infected person’s own genetic makeup. But no matter how you analyzed the data, aggression and the inability to control oneself were always at the top of the list.

Johnny tensed, trying not to let Oliver sense his building fear. The scent, as far as Johnny’s own studies showed, could enhance the potential for sudden onset rage in the infected.

“Okay,” Johnny whispered. “Order a drink.”

Relief overcame Oliver. It was visible, especially in his demeanor which lightened significantly. Oliver hailed over the waitress and had her bring him a tequila. No salt, no lemon. After a deep breath, and a slight smile, Oliver shot the liquor back and rubbed his eyes as if just waking up. Johnny could see how happy he was in that moment; it was a moment he had dreamt of for weeks on end now. The stress of the change had been an unbearable burden, but it would be over now. Johnny discretely passed him the vial under the table, and as it exchanged hands he felt a thankful squeeze of his own.

With that, Johnny rose from the table and nodded a friendly goodbye. As he made his way back to the side door he could hear Oliver order a second tequila; the one he’d poor the vial contents into. It ached Johnny to know he would not get the chance to study this one. All the same, the fallacy of the so-called antidote would be taken willingly, which was to Johnny’s benefit. Yes, they needed to die; but he always preferred it not be directly by his hand. He slept better that way.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Creating Genesis

“The implantation process was simple. I’m just not sure it’s going to take. She’s heavily sedated.”

Lewis nodded to acknowledge his colleague’s concerns, then entered the adjoining room. The two-way mirror that now separated the two doctors served only to represent the dissolving border between theoretical science, and the monstrosity of creation.

“What’s Lewis doing in there?”

Sierra looked up at Charlie, who seemed to materialize from thin air. Since he had launched the Genesis project he had lost several pounds, become irritable and, at times, unresponsive. He was approaching his 50th year now, and the result of his stress was sunken cheeks and drooping eyes, which only served to age him quicker. Together, he and Sierra watched Lewis curiously lean over their test subject. She seemed not to notice he was there, even when he stroked her hair, and then her stomach. It was only starting to protrude. Sweat rolled down her forehead, and shoulders. Her chest heaved, and her limbs twitched. The doctors had resorted to sedation when they caught her trying to escape. Now, she was only a shell of a person – no will; no desire.

“He’s pleading with her, I suppose,” Sierra whispered.

Charlie grunted his approval. All three of them knew this was their last shot. No other test subject had ever carried to term, but Marcy had come the furthest. This fourth try might very well be all her body would take. The anticipation filled the lab like a thick fog of impending doom.

“Fourteen more weeks to go,” Charlie sighed. With that, he disappeared into the back room.

*****

“How are you feeling today, Marcy?”

Marcy heard the voice, but it seemed so distant she feared her reply would not reach it. She mumbled incoherently and tried to raise her arms. She could not.

“We had to tie you down, I’m afraid. You got a little out of control, but you’re going to be fine.”

The voice was calm, and although she identified it as male, there was something inherently feminine about it. Marcy pulled her head up as high as she could, hoping to catch a glimpse of her surroundings. All she saw was her own belly, high and mountainous. Her cries were muffled by her own lack of energy, but Lewis could see the fear in her eyes.

“Shh, it’s okay,” he speciously reassured her. “You’re going to have a daughter, Marcy. I really believe so. If you can just hold on a little longer.” He smiled, nodding frantically – his nerves having finally got the best of him. His eyes were beginning to flood. “She’ll be our little Genesis.”

Lewis stroked Marcy’s head paternally as she struggled to remove herself from his touch. The air smelled repugnant to her, and she associated it with the mysterious man who had strapped her down and put a person inside of her without her permission. Quickly, Marcy surveyed her memories to assess her whereabouts, and the date. Most of it came back in flashes:

There had been a raid in her sector.

All the women wearing numbers were identified as fertile and taken away.

She had kicked and screamed.

She saw men in riot gear beat her father when he tried to pull them off of her.

She had been so hot, secluded in a bare, metal, space.

There had been blood tests; they had taken blood. But they had also injected something… what was it?

A cage.

Women caged.

Women bleeding.

Women losing consciousness while having monsters ripped from their bodies.

Herself in pain. So much pain she could not think, swallow, or fight.

There had been so many needles.

The doctors all had fire in their eyes.

As the flashes converged, Marcy tried to process what had happened to her body. Her thoughts still lacked linearity, and the more she forced it, the weaker she became. Eventually, Lewis’ sobbing faded to black with the rest of it.

*****

“They’ve discontinued the research on cloning in Sector 8,” Sierra offered as small talk as she and Lewis prepped for surgery.

“I know,” he replied solemnly.

“It’s a good thing. It means there’s more funding for us. More faith.”

“Faith? We’re creating monsters, here.”

Sierra’s glare manifested a gravitational pull that kept Lewis’ eyes glued to hers. “We’re creating people. A population,” she exacted. “There are no monsters in science.”

Lewis frowned, not knowing what he believed anymore. It had been eleven years since he had agreed to Genesis, motivated by a sense of supremacy. It had been naïve to think three scientists could save the world. The world had been relinquished long ago. Still, he couldn’t let go of the feeling that something big was going to happen; that Marcy was the key. It would be foolish to give up just yet.

*****

Screeching; whimpering; gurgling.

The sounds were nearly incomprehensible.

They were certainly undecipherable.

Marcy coerced her eyes open, unsure that she even wanted to see anything. The room was in utter commotion. Everyone seemed to be in hysterics. Finally, Marcy saw what all the fuss was about: a baby lie sprawled on a metal table beside her own. It was swaddled only in wires and tubes; liquids pumped in and out of her tiny body. It was a grotesque and morbid picture. And yet, all Marcy could think was that she had somehow done it.

An easy wave of calm fell over her. Yes, she had done it. Tomorrow, she might awaken to a whole new world. That is, if she were to awaken at all.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©