Alienated

by

Andrew Beatty




Prologue

The thirteen grey-clad elders moved as one through dust-strewn corridors that had been carved in the side of a mountain.

They worked together, dismantling DNA and reconstructing the foundations, until they were satisfied. The blastema they created was sent off, into deep space, far from their home planet. They gathered, as one, gazing at the large screen in the largest cavern, and waited.

Part one

That Wyclef was an alien was a surprise even to him. Oh, sure, he had noticed he was a little different from other people. But he had never really entertained notions that he was from another planet. Not serious ones, certainly.

It was a suicide attempt that first made him suspicious that something was physiologically different with him...

Sitting in the shower, naked, with blood pouring down his arms, he felt his first true moments of peace. Warm water drizzled from the spout above him, making his heart pump faster, allowing the blood to flow quicker. As it left his body, he watched it rinse down the drain and out to the ocean. Wyclef allowed himself a small smile, imagining sharks going into a blood frenzy. Sorry, sharks, he thought to himself. Iím afraid that the carcass is safely up here, far away from your many teeth.

The blood stopped flowing. He had run out of blood. There was nothing left in his body, except a small amount that had collected in his feet, judging by the way the veins still stood out. Attempting to be nonchalant, Wyclef did a handstand, a remarkable feat considering the slipperiness of the shower and the long gashes along the length of his arms. A small trickle of scarlet fluid dribbled down his wrist, to wash away alongside the rest of his life-giving plasma.

"Now this isnít right at all." Wyclef slid down to a seated position, and slashed at his legs, trying to coax some more blood out. But there was nothing left, no blood to let.

He wasnít, by any accounting, dead. Experimentally Wyclef pressed his index finger against his jugular. He could still feel a throbbing, matched in rhythm to his heartbeat. There was just no blood to be pumped.

####

The grey-cloaked Elders had designed Wyclef with great care. He had to 'fit in' -- but he must not succumb to illness or injury before his mission could be completed.

"He must look like one of them. Biped, two eyes, one mouth," they wailed in a terrible chorus.

"Beyond that, he must appear to be constructed internally like one of them. All systems must seem to function like theirs," they chanted.

"But stronger, with slight modifications. We cannot have him dying at a young age. Slight improvements are needed," they continued, still talking in a chorus, of one mind.


The genetic manipulation of the Elders had spared Wyclef from the mumps, rubella, chicken pox, colds, influenza, food poisoning, tooth decay, and infections of any kind. He had never broken an arm or a leg, never suffered a bruise or cut that had not healed quickly and cleanly. This would also explain why, contrary to all logic, he was busily toweling himself off while utterly drained of blood.

####

To understand what had driven Wyclef to attempt suicide, it would probably be helpful to note some details of his life. Itís not that he was typically a melancholy person. Most people that knew Wyclef would consider him happy, or at least less unhappy than the general population, but there had always been problems.

Highlight age eleven. Most children Wyclef grew up with were beginning to experience the heady excitement of the opposite sex. Wyclef, being a strong and healthy child, was eyeballed by the fairer sex as a suitable partner. Focus in on this exchange. The situation is a school dance, perhaps one of the most terrifying of all rituals for children of any age.

Young Wyclef was indulging himself by guzzling down a bottle of his greatest weakness, cherry soda, while attempting to get the attention of the D.J. Most of the other children wanted to hear the latest dance tunes. Not Wyclef, his tastes were a little different. He wanted to hear something by Kate Bush, and no one else was likely to request 'Wuthering Heights', so ...

Enter Melanie Christoff, who was one full year older than Wyclef, and thus more experienced in such situations.

"Do you want to dance with me, Wyclef?" she asked. It was spoken as more of a command than a question. There was doubtless not a single boy at the dance that would have turned Melanie down (except perhaps Jerome Turner, who had other issues, unrelated to being of alien parentage).

"Well, I want to get the Disk Jockey to play Kate Bush. Maybe later." Melanie knew a brush-off when she heard it. It wasnít that Wyclef didnít want to dance with her; he just had other things on his mind.

Unfortunately, several of Wyclefís peers had heard him reject Melanie and had drawn certain conclusions. Afterwards, Wyclef found that they other boys treated him in much the same manner that they treated Jerome Turner. Unjustly, as it turned out.

####

You must understand, Wyclef's lack of interest in Melanie's charms was part of his programming. The Elders did not want him distracted from his job, his quest.

"He must not be inattentive to his true purpose. He must not allow the base instincts of human copulation to lead him from his path."

Oh, yes, the Elders were exacting in the detail when it came to designing his psychic profile. They had tinkered endlessly with the DNA, establishing patterns they believed to be ideal for their purposes.

####

Highlight age seventeen. A new city and a fresh start had not been able to shake the rumors of Wyclef's tendencies. He still kept up a correspondence with Jerome Turner, which lead to locker bound discussions of Wyclefís secret lover in another town. Those who knew him knew the truth. He was not gay, just not particularly interested in girls. Or boys. Nor animals, corpses, fruit, or any of the different usual substitutions that often replaced sexual human contact for most people. He simply wasnít interested. However, this is not intended as a story about sex. Nor shall it be. Focus on this exchange between Wyclef, and his friend Calypso.

"How big do you think a large muffin is?" They were sitting in a coffee shop. Wyclef was eyeing the menu board, interestedly.

"What are you talking about?" Calypso shifted in his seat, following Wyclefís gaze at the menu board. It had been poorly designed. A horizontal list included such objects as coffee, tea, pop, and muffins. Vertically the list outlined prices for small, medium and large for each of the selections.

"That would have to be one large muffin, for four dollars. Like, maybe the size of a basketball." He held his hands out in front of him, as though grasping a basketball. "Yeah, I guess I would spend four dollars on that." He took a drag from his cigarette.

Calypso looked at him incredulously. "I think they mean if you want to buy more than one muffin. Like thatís probably the price for a half-dozen muffins."

"Oh. Well, it doesnít say that."

"You know, Wyclef, you are probably the only person I know that would have noticed that, let alone commented on it. You notice the weirdest, smallest things."

Wyclef reached for another cigarette, getting defensive. "Iím just observant, thatís all. I notice the little things in life, and glory in it all." This was familiar territory for Wyclef. He was often commenting on incidental things that most people never noticed.

"I know, youíve told me this before. But itís in the way you process the information you notice. Itís just different. Thatís all." Calypso lit Wyclefís smoke for him.

"Itís not a bad thing," Calypso added, noticing that Wyclef had retracted into sullen silence. "A muffin the size of a basketball, really." Calypso broke into a smile. "Maybe they could have Michael Jordan do a sponsorship deal. ĎItís the giant muffin of champions!í"

Laughing, Wyclef tossed a used napkin at Calypsoís head.

####

Wyclef's unusual perception of and interest in small details was another result of the adjustments made by the Elders.

"All things must he observe, for the truth of humanity is in the details."

"He will see all that others do not. Noting all, he will understand more than the average human."

####

Highlight age twenty-two. At university, living with his friends K.D. (Kathy Dawn to her parents and almost no one else) and Matt, Wyclef had gone downhill.

The elders had not prepared for this. Years of living a sexless existence, combined with his penchant for saying unusual things, had slowly forced him further and further away from society. He was under the impression he was going insane. Really, he wasnít too far off.

It was subtle; to those around him it seemed that he was simply having trouble handling the pressure of university life. It was not that he had problems with his classes; he was just restless. Bored. Sick of the way the world looked at him.

He had felt this way for some time. In first year, he had tried sex to get over this restlessness. Neither male nor female companionship had any effect. Jerome Turner was briefly thrilled, assuming his longtime friend had finally discovered his true sexual calling. Alas, it was not to be. There was nothing about the sexual act, from the courtship rituals to the consummation that interested him. It had been a valiant effort, but ultimately useless.

During his second year at college, Wyclef had attempted to find solace at the bottom of a bottle, in particular a bottle of beer. Then another bottle, and another, and another ... This only furthered the problems. While under the influence of alcohol, his unusual mannerisms were exaggerated. He made more comments, and received more quizzical looks and responses, frustrating him.

Third year Wyclef tried drugs as a means to escaping his feelings of isolation, starting with marijuana, moving on to mushrooms, and finally acid. He avoided speed and ecstasy. He found it better to be wrapped up in his own thoughts, rather than become hyperactive and extroverted.

Focus on one evening in third year. Wyclef, Matt and K.D. were sprawled out on a large couch, THC levels high in their blood.

"No, really, I donít think Iím going to die, ever," Wyclef said, though a mouthful of chips.

"What are you talking about?" K.D. asked from her position in the corner of the couch.

"Itís simple. Think about it. The human life span has been getting longer ever since the middle ages, right? So I figure that my life span should be about ninety years or so. Just think about the medical advances that are going to happen over the next seventy years. I mean, seventy years ago was 1924. Think about what people were dying of back then. Think about the technological advances that have happened since then. The way we are going, I think our generation will be kicking around for a hundred years or more, on average."

Matt scratched his jaw quizzically, nibbled fingernails rasping over five-o-clock shadow. "Yeah, but your bodyís going to wear out eventually. What will you do then?"

"I donít know; store myself as computer memory, something like that. Iíve got a hundred years to figure it out. Maybe more."

"You are so fucked up, Wyclef. You know that?" K.D. pushed herself up to a seated position in order to face Wyclef. "You think this way even when you're straight, donít you?"

Wyclef looked abashed. "Well, yeah, Iíve thought this through for a while now. Itís become my ontology."

"I have two considerations for you, Wyclef," K.D. said. "You do not have a normal human mind. You do not think the same way normal humans do. You do not act the same way we do. Something is wrong with you. Also, I still donít think you are using the word ontology correctly. Think about it."

They settled back into uncomfortable, hallucinogen-tinged silence.

The next day Wyclef found himself in the shower, considering the things K.D. had said. Mattís rarely used razor was sitting on the counter, easily within arms reach. Gently at first, and then with increasing forcefulness he dug into his own flesh, feeling a sight shock as the cold blade entered his warm skin. But, as we have already discovered, it was to no avail.

Wyclef stood outside the shower, adjusting the nozzle to clean all the blood out of the bottom of the tub. K.D. knocked at the door, insistently.

"Would you hurry up? I have to go to work. What are you doing in there?"

"Sorry," called Wyclef. "Iím just about finished." He threw his bathrobe across his shoulders, grateful that its length concealed his fresh wounds. He moved past K.D. hurriedly, muttering his apologies.

"He is endangering himself and his mission," wailed the elders. "We must intervene, before he destroys himself."

"Yet any intervention would taint the mission. What to do? What to do?"

"We must send a message. It is the only way."


The Elders had already proven to be remarkably clueless in their selection of physical and mental traits for Wyclef. His perfect physical camouflage had been rendered worthless by psychological quirks that made him stand out more than, say, green skin or pointed ears. You wouldn't think they could make things worse, but --

Entering his room, Wyclef collapsed into his bed, shivering uncontrollably. He examined the gouges that ran along his arms and legs, as though these could give his an answer. They told him nothing. Despite their resemblance to gaping, toothless mouths, they were mute, voiceless.

Suddenly, his computer, sitting lifeless on his desk, fired to life. Wyclef got up with a start, moving to sit in front of the now glowing screen.

"That was a very foolish action," came the chorus tinnily from the small speakers that flanked the screen. "You could have hurt yourself." An image appeared on the screen; a collection of grey cloaks gazed steadily at Wyclef. "Itís lucky that you were designed to be so durable. You could have cost us a great deal of time and effort."

Wyclef stared at this screen, incredulous. His hand sought his mouse and began randomly clicking, futilely. He hit the escape key repeatedly.

"Stop that! You canít just close me. Iím not some simple application. We have a message for you. Stop fucking around! You are displeasing to us, to the Elders. That is all." The image disappeared, to be replaced by the Film Theory essay on which Wyclef had been working before his -- shower.

"Wait, what are you talking about? What Elders?" Wyclef sat in front of the computer screen for a few moments, hoping for greater clarification, but none came.

It was going to be one of those wake and bake sort of days for Wyclef.

####

Two days later Wyclef discovered he could take his brain out of his head.

Once again, he was in the shower. While washing his hair he began probing the small lump that had appeared of his head during puberty. He had no idea what it was, but since it had never bothered him, he felt no need to investigate it. It was simply part of his skull. Until today.

Perhaps emboldened by his blood-draining experience (it is perhaps important to note that his blood volume had almost returned to normal in the past two days), he decided to probe this lump. It was a small protrusion, not much larger than a mole, but solid, as though made of bone. He attempted to twist and turn it, with no tangible results. Applying pressure on it, now that was a different story. It resisted for a moment, but Wyclef thought he could feel some movement. He pressed with a great amount of force, attempting to force the lump towards his brain.

With a small hiss, as though of hydraulics pumping, the small bump retracted into the interior of Wyclefís head. The top of his skull started opening slowly, exposing the brain within. Wyclef felt the top of his brain, tentatively at first, but then with further aggression. No amount of pressure would penetrate it. However, Wyclef was suffering no ill effects. Curiously, Wyclef reached into his skull, and grasping his cerebral cortex, began to pull.

With a disturbing sucking noise, Wyclef's brain, intact, popped loose. He looked down at the brain, wondering vaguely how he could process visual information (or breathe, or move) while holding both his occipital lobe and his thalamus in his hands. A small amount of his spinal cord hung from beneath his cerebellum; finer threads dangling from other areas must have been the optic and auditory nerves. Looking closely he thought he could see tiny wires crisscrossing the surface of his forebrain.

Unsure of what to do next, he replaced his brain, his skull closing neatly over the exposed tissue. Either the nerves and blood vessels automatically reconnected themselves, or they had never needed to be connected in the first place. Wyclef was pretty sure that this was even less 'normal' than surviving near-total exsanguination.

"What the fuck was that? Is this more of that 'Elder' bullshit?" He considered the various possibilities:

a) someone was playing a very elaborate joke on him;

b) he was going insane, or something he labeled in his (recently replaced) mind as

c) Other.

'Other' seemed to be the most accurate out of all his suppositions. Now he needed to define what Other was.

Sitting once again at his computer, he began to compile a list of strange observations and occurrences.

1. Never fit comfortably into society.

2. Can live without blood.

3. Can remove brain at will.

4. Grey-cloaked assholes talk to me from my computer.

This seemed to be a problem beyond therapy. Maybe a good shrink could help him. But probably not.

Part Two

"Mom, Iím not adopted, am I?" Wyclef was on the couch in the living room, although this time he was not stoned.

"No, why? I would think it would be obvious to you. I mean, you have a pretty strong family resemblance to your brother and sisters."

Wyclef thought of his of his older siblings. Unfortunately, it was true that he shared a very definite similarity with all of them. Adoption, while not likely to explain a great deal of what was occurring, would at least have given him a lead to follow.

"Did anything weird happen at the hospital when I was born?"

"Like what? What is this all about?"

"Oh, I donít know. Like an electrical storm, maybe, or radioactive spider attacks, anything like that?"

"Do you want to come home for the weekend? Do you need to take some time off from school?"

Wyclef exhaled cigarette smoke through his nostrils, exasperated. "No mom, Iím just doing research for, uh, my biology class, thatís all. No problem."

"Okay. Do you need money?"

"No mom, Iíll call you next week, Iíve got to go to class now." Frustrated, Wyclef placed the telephone back on the cradle and reached for a joint. K.D. and Matt walked in through the front door as Wyclef was just lighting it.

"Hey, you guys are just in time. I didnít want to smoke this alone." He smiled up at them.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Wyclef?" K.D. demanded, walking over to crush the smoke in the ashtray. "All you do anymore is sit around smoking dope."

"Well if that isnít the pot calling the hash a hallucinogen."

K.D. crossed her arms aver her chest. "I still go to work. I still leave the house. When was the last time you went to school?"

"I was there yesterday." This was true. Wyclef had gone into the library to try to research accounts of people living without blood, or self-brain removal techniques. Not surprisingly, he had found nothing. "Besides, I donít think you really want to try to help me deal with my problems." Remembering K.D.ís words from a few nights ago, he said: "I think itís beyond mere human comprehension."

"Sorry weíre just 'mere humans', then," Matt said spitefully. "I guess we will just leave you to your problems. Sorry for trying to help, oh Homo superiorus."

"Fine, then, do you want to see whatís going on?"

"It would probably be easier to know whatís the matter with you, than watch you screw yourself up like this."

"Okay. Hold on to your lunch." Wyclef found the small knob on his head and pushed. Once again, there was the sound of a small hydraulic motor running. His skull opened, revealing his brain to a rather shocked K.D. and Matt.

"What do you think of that? Think you can help me with this!" Wyclef yelled, pointing at his cortex. "Here, catch." He reached in and once again removed his brain, tossing it diffidently to K.D.. "Do you have any platitudes or words of wisdom to help me deal with this?" K.D. examined the brain for a second, before passing it back, silently.

"What the fuck is going on, Wyclef?" Matt asked, pale with shock, and perhaps somewhat nauseous. "When did you start doing that?"

"A couple of days ago. I also donít need blood to survive. Just another interesting fact for you." Wyclef reached into the ashtray and relit the joint, inhaling deeply. "Now do you see why Iím a little fucked up?" He blew smoke out through his nostrils. Some of it leaked out through the top of his still-empty and wide-open skull. "Hey, do you think Walter has any acid?"

"I donít think acid is something I need right now." K.D. sat next to Wyclef on the couch. "I will take part of that joint, though." Wyclef inhaled again. "Hey, donít bogart the joint, man."

"How can you just sit there and smoke pot right now?" Matt was pacing across the living room floor. "Wyclef just took out his brain! Donít you think we should do something about this?"

"What are we going to do, Matt?" Wyclef asked through the gathering smoke. "Send me to the hospital? Maybe see a neurosurgeon? What are they going to tell me? ĎOh, this is common, actuallyí, or ĎWe see this all the time, no problem.í I doubt it. They will probably want to do bad things to me. Test me, study me, things like that. No, Iíll figure something out on my own. I just have to find out who the Elders are."

"Who are the Elders?" K.D. asked, passing the joint back to Wyclef.

"Go get a bag of chips and some cherry soda, and Iíll tell you."

"Oh, Iím already so comfortable. Matt?"

"Iím going, Iím going." Matt was already halfway out the door.

Minutes passed.

The door swung open. Matt tossed a convenience store bag on the couch. K.D. and Wyclef dug though the bounty, tearing at wrappers. Matt sat and started rolling another joint.

"So, who are the Elders?"

"I donít know, but some guys in grey came to me on my computer and told me the Elders were mad at me for trying to kill myself. They said they had invested a lot of time and energy on me, and I shouldnít screw around."

####

The Elders were in a state of panic.

"We have failed," they cried together. "We are undone. He is ruining everything."

"He cannot monitor objectively anymore. He is ruined."

One voice arose from the others, as though singing a solo. "But wait," it cried, alone. "There might still be hope."

All other voices were shocked into silence. No one had ever spoken singly before. A grey robe broke itself from the gathering, who was huddled in front of a large screen that was projecting Wyclefís every action. This loner turned to face the other elders.

"We created him to understand what life is like for our brothers on Earth, these humans. But we created him differently from others. We gave him different skills, different perceptions from most people on earth. We made him more durable than a human ..." The loner paused. "The removable-brain thing puzzles us -- er, me, however. What possible use could that be?"

His question was followed by a long silence. Finally, one of the younger Elders shuffled forward.

"Actually, that was me. I though it might be useful for us to scan his brain for information if anything were to happen to him. He wasnít supposed to find out about that. Although I must say, I think I did a nice job hiding his backup system, so he could get along nicely without his brain for a while. Donít you think?" He looked hopefully at the gathered congregation of Elders, some of whom quietly muttered acknowledgment of a job reasonably well done, if not perfectly.

"Itís not like we were ever going to have a chance to touch his brain, stupid. Do you have any idea how far away he is? What sort of stupid plan was that?"

"Listen to yourselves," cried another of the Elders. "I, um, I mean it literally. Listen to yourselves. For how many years has the group of Elders spoken as though with one voice? Now weíre all apparently a bunch of, of Chatty Cathys." It was a phrase he had once heard Wyclefís mother use. "What are we doing? This is tearing us apart!"

####

"So who do you think these Elders are?" Matt asked.

"I donít know. They looked like monks or something, you know, all old, wearing habits."

"I think only nuns wear habits," K.D. mumbled.

"Whatever. Iím so stoned. I donít want to think about it right now."

####

The Elders were in a state of frenzy. They were all talking at the same time again, but they were all saying different things. It was as though they had never really been of One Mind at all.

"I knew this was a bad idea!" shouted one.

"It was your idea in the first place," cried another.

"No it wasnít. Shut up!"

"If everybody could just start talking, I mean stop talking for a minute, maybe we could sort this out."

"But what are we going to do? What are we going to do?" Moaned a voice plaintively.

"People, people, we are elected officials. Our society depends on us to work for them. Now we have to get our acts together here."

"Why is it our society wanted us to watch events on Earth for the past twenty-two years?" This question was greeted by the first moment of silence since the chaos had begun.

"It was a special task force, wasnít it? Some form of commission, or something."

"I donít really remember."

"Well, donít look at me."

"It doesnít really make sense, does it? To spend all that time genetically engineering the blastema, sending it light years across the galaxy to find a host, and then watch what happens to it for twenty-two years."

"Well, it was a fact-finding mission."

"But weíll never actually visit planet earth. And I doubt they will ever come here. I mean really, this was all a great deal of navel gazing, wasnít it?"


As the Elders continued this argument, circling back and forth as to the reason for the mission in the first place, one of the grey robed figures separated himself from the group, settling down in front of, for lack of a more accurate, earthly description, a computer terminal.

He entered information rapidly, reworking DNA codes, implanting information, revising physiological profiles, and tampering with mission profiles. He hit the general equivalent of the enter key. Information passed through many matrixes, first electrical, then chemical, and finally it was discharged from the planet as a powerful burst of energy. Minutes later, the "You have Mail" message started flashing on Wyclefís computer screen, and the tinny speakers that flanked his computer screen started to beep.

####

Wyclef lay motionless on the couch, flanked by K.D. and Matt. Dully, he could hear the insistent beep of his computer, and realized that someone had sent him something. Cursing himself for not remembering to turn off his speakers, he slowly forced himself erect.

"Iíll be back in a minute. Just want to check my email." In a daze, he trudged up the stairs to his room, idly stroking the small extrusion on the side of his head. He logged onto his computer, and with gathering excitement and curiosity, opened the file called ELDER427 that was waiting for him.

A burst of light exploded from the screen, enveloping him. He shut his eyes to stop them from hurting, but the force that came with the light forced them open. He heard a voice.

"Wyclef, I am sorry for what we did to you. You were an observer, sent by us to watch the life on planet Earth." Wyclef could feel his body, down to the cellular level. Changes were taking place, executed by this divine light. "You were meant to be human in every respect," the voice continued. "But in our foolishness we made slight changes, modifications, to make you more efficient. We did not realize that these changes would affect you so." Wyclef could hear his skull singing at an atomic level. He could hear his tissue reforming, itching in his ears. "The experiment ends now. You will remember this, but the changes we have rendered in you will no longer bother you. Lead your life, now, as it was meant to be." Nervous tissue was dying in his brain, only to be born anew, following different pathways, creating new circuits. "Good luck." The light faded. Wyclef blinked tears from his eyes. He itched all over, but that too, was fading. Smiling, he went down to join K.D. and Matt.

"Was the message important?" asked K.D.

"Yeah, I guess it was. I think Iím all right now." He felt for the bump on his head. It was no longer there. "Yeah, Iím pretty sure things are all right." He settled in between K.D. and Matt, smiling.

####

The giant screen in the cavern of the Elders faded to black. There was no longer an image to transmit. Twelve of them stood silently, horrified, unable to believe their eyes. Elder 427 walked across the floor, opened the doorway, and crossed out into the light. The others, one by one, left the cave, blinking at the bright sunlight on the other side of the portal.

THE END



© 2005 by Andrew Beatty

Bio: Andrew Beatty didn't provide a bio paragraph, but he DID provide a url, which led indirectly to a blog, from which ye editor has deduced that he lives in Toronto (well, North York) with his wife, Maureen, and son Tarquin (born on or around June 11?). To learn more about his life in a new (to him, at least) house with a new (to everybody) baby, visit Fractual Blog

E-mail: Andrew Beatty

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