Walking Subtly

by

J. J. Sherman




Smoke clogged the minuscule coffee house, obscuring the corners of a dining area already made foggy by what must have been gallons of spirits that he had consumed a scant few hours earlier. The warm espresso between his hands had begun to eat away at those cobwebs, or so he thought. Rodney Peppers attempted again to concentrate on the conversation proceeding at his table, his thoughts congealing. His colleagues, Cory and Dianne, were engaged in the hottest campus topic at the moment.

"Why is it that people simply cannot accept the fact that there is no life in the universe except here on earth?" The failure of others to grasp the obvious annoyed Dianne to her very core, penetrating every fiber of her being. "Itís practically unbelievable that people could have such faith in the existence of extraterrestrials that they would commit suicide."

Dianneís face had begun to take on a pinkish tint, and, though she was a bit too skinny and short to make too many people take notice, Rodney had begun to find that an angry Dianne was positively attractive.

"Faith, unshaken, is stronger than the most viable theory." Cory, a philosophy major, felt obligated to contribute profound statements to their conversations. At least, he thought his observations to be profound. "Besides, their faith was more invested in their leader herself than in their beliefs. In fact, if she had told them at the top of a mountain that they possessed the power of flight, they all would have jumped. Even as the others plummeted to their death, one-by-one, they all -- would -- have -- jumped." Then, quite proud of himself, he reclined deep into his chair and smiled. "What would you say, Pep?"

Although the conversation was at a snailís pace, Rodney still could not focus. He silently cursed the muddling effect of the beer and had a sudden urge to take a long sip of coffee. "Well..." he stammered. His two companions were staring at him intently.

"So, Dianne, this is where y'all hang out after class," a voice broke in above Rodney. A thin man in his early thirties greeted them. The manís wispy mustache and sideburns were overshadowed by the toothy grin that he offered, eyes fixed steadfastly at Dianne.

"Please sit and join us, Alex," she invited. Her eyes, suddenly brightening, invited more. He took his seat as awkwardly as two teenagers with braces French-kissing for the first time.

Rodney observed that the manís breath reeked distinctly of scotch.

"Alex, these are my two friends," Dianne said, pausing as if she had forgotten their names. Then, regrouping after a moment, she continued, "Rodney and Cory, I would like you to meet Dr. Alex Emory, Professor of Biology." Her eyes had not left the thin man during the introduction.

The biologist cleared his throat. "Iím only a post-doc, actually. He glanced around, embarrassed that he would be introduced mistakenly with such an advanced status. "I received my Ph.D. from the University of Magnolia just last year, so donít even think of calling me ĎSirí." He smiled at the others now and chuckled at his own subtle joke.

Addressing the stranger as ĎSirí had not even entered Rodneyís mind. In fact, the manís southern charm had made him slightly defensive, though he could not find a reason why. Not wishing to allow him into the conversation, Rodney sank back into his wooden chair, away from the newcomerís smile and breath. The cobwebs had completely vanished.

Dianne, suddenly aware of the abruptness with which the conversation had stopped, attempted to regroup. "Uh, Alex, we were just discussing how insane it is for people to believe that extraterrestrials could exist. You know, the media is hyping the deaths of those misguided souls way out of proportion." She stared at her companions pleadingly, but Coryís attention was on a conversation between two valley girls at a nearby table. Rodney seemed involved with the intricacies of the tread on his tennis shoe.

"Actually, my research has led me to form some definite opinions on the subject," the post-doc offered enthusiastically. "My research for the past year has been under Dr. Vincent Kushing," he said, glancing around for name recognition. "Vince has spent the better part of twenty years studying the process of natural selection."

Dr. Emory was about to launch into a long-winded speech concerning the biological topic when Cory interjected, "What does that have to do with our conversation about aliens?" Rodney had sat up half-attentively, with his head cocked toward the professor. Dianne continued to stare at the professor, wide-eyed and intrigued.

"Cory, someone who was knowledgeable regarding natural selection would understand that it is inconceivable that extraterrestrials could even remotely resemble our body style," began Dr. Emory. He cocked his head toward Cory as he said this, raising one eyebrow for exaggerated effect. Then, he persisted with his speech despite Coryís question. "Every facet of the human body, from gross morphology all the way down to molecular structure, is the result of adaptation to the environment and natural selection."

"Explain what you mean," said Rodney, who had unconsciously moved to the edge of his chair. When he and Cory were freshmen, they had declared philosophy as their major. However, the conversation had begun to stir something within Rodney. He listened to the wiry academician as his whole universe took a small step in another direction.

Encouraged, Dr. Emory continued. "Even the simplest layman knows that mankind has developed a larger brain, better tool making ability, and more advanced abstract thought than his evolutionary counterparts. However, few people realize that adaptations are emerging continuously. For example, our entire immune systems have evolved in such a way that each generation passes immunities they develop to certain diseases or environmental contaminants down to the next generation, either through genetics or through a motherís milk to her infant. A newborn gains some of its first antibodies from antigens that are delivered from the mother along with milk. And so this is with all of the bodyís systems. Your heart pumps the way it does because it is the most efficient way to do so. Lungs have originated because we need a mechanism to leech oxygen into our bodies, transporting oxygen to literally every cell in the body. Each detail of the human body has adapted to take advantage of the environment. Even our genetic structure itself is a self-preserving mechanism of the adaptations that humans have achieved at this point in our evolution."

"And folks," the doctor added with a slight grimace, as if to emphasize a statement that none at the table had ever heard before, "we are not the apex of evolution."

However, Cory was not listening and had no patience for the eveningís interloper. "SoÖjust what does that mean? How does this fit with what we were discussing before your intrusion?" Cory interrupted, exasperated and unable to contain himself. Obviously frustrated with being a captive audience to this speech, he glared at Dr. Emory. "My next class is not for another twelve hours. I didn't come here to listen to another lecture!"

The professor did not look at any of them, staring forward, trance-like. He spoke as though an interruption had never happened. "Any extraterrestrial would have a completely different physical structure than humans, since they theoretically would have had to undergo non-analogous adaptations. The thought that any other life form in the universe could have similar organs, appendages, or even bilateral symmetry is absurd." The professor-turned-evangelist, now half-standing, had attracted an audience from the surrounding tables in response to the emphatic escalation in decibels toward the end of the impromptu speech.

Rodney sat transfixed throughout the soliloquy, his knuckles white from pressing tightly against the table. With his mouth slightly agape, Rodney could utter no response. He could actually feel the earth slowly moving under his feet, spinning on its axis. Inspired, he knew that his life now had something that it had been lacking -- meaning and direction.

####

Years later, Rodneyís career revealed that he had a real aptitude for science, after all. Although he now held a post-doc position and was a brilliant researcher in his own right, he could never come to grips with the monotonous lectures that were a part of his daily life. His chin had been resting on his hand for at least twenty minutes -- a position most conducive in convincing a lecturer of oneís attention -- before Rodney realized that he actually had been asleep. In an attempt to hide the sudden jerk of his head as he awoke, he slowly veered his head, first to one side, then to the other. Two graduate students a few chairs over attempted to stifle their snickers, entertained at their mentorís slumber. The lecturer, one of Dr. Jerome Carmichaelís graduate students, continued to drone on with her dissertation defense without any awareness of the action.

Late that afternoon Rodney sat, as he usually had for quite a few months now, at his desk in the lab. His lab door held a nameplate with the inscription, Rodney Peppers, Ph.D., but he felt more like an overworked pack-mule than a brilliant researcher. Stacks of biochemistry journals and bits of equipment surrounded him, like waste from an ocean-side metropolis devastated by a hurricane. Rodney had allowed the four students that share his lab and equipment to go home hours ago. An antiquated electrophoresis gel steadily whirred on a table nearby.

Dr. Carmichael thundered into the room, the door shuddering as it popped open. He stood patiently with his thick arms folded over a protruding stomach, beaming with delight at the slowly waking researcher. As Rodney turned, his mentor said enthusiastically, "Kylieís presentation was outstanding, Pep. She is going to give a similar speech in Morton next month. And maybe, if I can pull some strings, to the ethics committee in D.C. later this year. And, just between you and me, I can pull some strings."

"She presented excellently," Rodney offered. If he had sounded flat, it was because his heart was not in it. Kylie Samon had shone brighter than any of Jeromeís students for the past three-and-a-half years, taking less time to finish her doctorate than any other previous student at the school. Kylie, a fourth generation Asian immigrant, had obtained much benefit from her background. Since the immigration termination law had been passed several years prior, offspring were pushed by their parents to excel at everything they did. As a result, all of Dr. Carmichaelís other students resented her. Jealousy abounded in the ivory tower.

Dr. Carmichael abruptly changed the subject, his smile shifting into a grimace. "We need to send off some results soon, Rodney, to show what progress we have made with the anti-cloning experiments. They are putting pressure on me to demonstrate tangible results for the five million dollar grant our lab was awarded."

"I will finish this last set of experiments and give you the data by the end of the week," Rodney said, nodding toward the still-running gel.

"Splendid, Pep." Dr. Carmichael said cheerily. "As always, your work sets the standard for the students. You have consistently shown good data since you came on board back -- what? Fifteen years ago?"

Rodney gently corrected him. "Sixteen. It was the same year I received my doctorate."

"Right. Anyway, leave the data on my desk." He was notorious among the faculty for sudden mood fluctuation, and he seemed to change from gleeful to angry in seconds. Turning and without another word, Rodneyís mentor walked out the door.

Rodney watched the door slam behind his mentor and continued to stare in that direction, amazed at his mentorís sudden appearance in the lab. For the past several months, Jerome had been noticeably absent from both the lab and his office. Although Dr. Carmichael took an active interest in his lab assistants, he never actually operated any of the laboratory equipment. However, his mentor was a theoretical genius. He had carefully mapped out a set of experiments based on the hypothesis that cloning could be effective for sheep and other lower life forms but nothing short of impossible for humans. Human cloning experiments had been banned worldwide since the early post-century years. After submitting a sketchy outline of experiments for Rodney to complete, Jerome Carmichael disappeared -- that is, until Kylieís dissertation defense.

Almost immediately, Rodney had had problems with his project. The experiments required proficiency in molecular biology techniques that he had not performed since undergrad. Calling his mentor at home was futile, because Dr. Carmichael was just as notorious for not answering his phone messages or e-mail as he was about mood fluctuations. Not that he could have solved Rodneyís technical problems anyway, but two pairs of eyes looking at the project in different ways could fix the problem faster than just with one pair. But, as any adequate technician could -- and he was much more than simply an excellent technician -- he solved every problem that he encountered himself. Now, Dr. Carmichael strode into the lab after months of work and expected Rodneyís data to fall into his lap. Although Rodney held a doctorate, the pecking order was entrenched firmly. The ability to conduct independent research eluded Rodney, and a pit bull biting him on his derriere would have been less painful than that realization.

After finishing his experiment, Rodney drove to Saint George Hospital to visit Eve Peppers, his ailing mother. His father had died of leukemia while Rodney was in his early teens, and he had leaned on his mother for the entire nurturing process. She had provided for and supported him with stunning success. As the Rock of Gibraltar had protected the Spanish Moors from certain conquest by its North African neighbors, she had likewise protected her son.

As Rodney approached the intensive care unit bed where his mother rested, the countless intravenous lines radiating from her disheartened him. The shallow rising and falling of her chest -- along with the blinking lights illuminated on the monitor over her bed -- were the only indications that the matronly figure still fought deathís sweet, blissful peace. Funny how the ordinary, rhythmic movements of his momís breathing was more comforting than all of the lights and gadgets that modern medicine could provide.

She stirred with a frightened jerk, and her eyes flickered open momentarily. As if stung by the bright light, they closed again. Her lips quivered, and her son instinctively leaned closer to prepare himself for the whispered words.

"That you, Rodney?" She spoke in a bolder tone than he had thought possible in her condition. He almost believed that she was going to lecture him, because she was using the "Itís-time-for-you-to-marry-and-continue-the-lineage" voice.

"Yes, mom." Tears clung to his eyes like an infant to its motherís breast. Swallowing deliberately, he fought the tears back. Never would she allow him to succumb to such a womanly display of emotion. She could have educated John Wayne on the fine art of toughness.

"Stop your blubbering," she scolded, sensing the emotion swelling within him like a newly formed rain cloud about to downpour.

The cancer had begun its journey through her body within the lungs, though she had not smoked one pack of cigarettes in her life. Five years hence it had crawled into her lymph nodes, then proceeded to the pancreas, kidneys, liver, and even her reproductive organs. Through it all his mother had not yielded to death of her emotions. That was her strength. Her eyes remained closed.

"Still trying to save the world?" She inquired quite sincerely.

"I would give it all up to have one chance to cure you." Rodney responded.

"Hush, child." Silence ensued, except for the slow whistle of air rushing in and out of her slightly parted lips. Crust covered her mouth. He stared at the rhythmical movement of his motherís chest for almost an hour.

"How is your boss?" Eve asked as if she had not skipped a beat in the conversation.

"Fine, mom."

"He seems to be an excellent researcher, from what you have told me. You would do well to follow him, learn from him."

"I will."

"You really like research, donít you, son?" She asked tenderly.

"Yes." He hesitated for a second. "Yes, I really do."

"Do you still like women, also?" She asked in an accusatory tone. He visibly flinched.

"Mom, I date. A little more than I used to, at least." She could extract the truth from him with merely a look into his eyes, so he avoided hers. Seeking companionship in his early forties was difficult, especially when one labored long hours as Rodney did. Dating and other equally amorous activities were completely out of the question for now. However, Rodney could never convince his mother of that. "Besides, you should not concern yourself with such matters right now. Try to get some rest." He chided his mom in the steadiest voice that he could muster.

The corners of her encrusted lips curved into a wavering smile at this hint of sternness from her son. He was taking charge of the situation and that was good.

"I will talk to your oncologist tomorrow when he starts rounds." Rodney offered.

"He canít help me son. No one can," she said in a wavering voice. She was drifting away again. The seesaw movements of her chest continued, but Rodney noticed a slight hesitation between breaths, as if she had to decide to fill her lungs one more time. Her lips were slightly parted. Rodney observed her for another hour -- her almost-bald head with tiny, white sprigs of hair sticking out, her emaciated figure, and the sweat and saliva that enshrouded her like a cocoon. He wept silently.

When the nurseís station was devoid of nurses, he swiftly stole his motherís chart. The smell of hot, buttered popcorn wafted from a room nearby, along with hushed whispers and giggling emanating from several nurses on break. The on-duty nurses were too busy responding to their patients to notice him. The latest medical order in the file submitted by the physician requested numerous chemotherapy drugs, the names of which he scribbled on a paper scrap. The last entry on the physicianís communication notes indicated that Eveís condition was not stable, and the plethora of side effects from the grocery list of drugs was slowly dissipating her constitution. His mother was dying, and he knew there was not a thing he could do about it. Rodney snapped the file closed, promised himself to research the drugs that she was taking, and walked to her bedside to kiss her perspiring forehead before he left.

Late that night Rodney sped toward home. The air was surprisingly crisp and dry. Dark clouds obscured an otherwise starry night and hung like thick, soaked sponges waiting to release their contents upon the first gust of wind. His hair flapped brazenly in the air, as Rodney maneuvered his antique 1996 corvette convertible along the silent avenues. One of the scientific journals from his lab lay open on the seat next to him. He read the title again, perhaps for the millionth time in his career. Pouch Divergence of Australian Marsupials was inscribed at the top of the paper, and Jerome Carmichael was listed as first author.

Sometimes, even successful career scientists have to take stock of what they have done, what they aspire to accomplish, and calculate exactly the steps needed to achieve their goals. Self-actualization, the psychologists called it, but Rodney preferred to think that it was simply the ghouls within him talking. The ghouls were beginning to tell him that his career was in jeopardy.

That article written by Dr. Carmichael, who was then an evolutionary biologist, represented the inception of Rodneyís career. After reading the paper, Rodney attended a symposium given by the scientist since he was enthralled in the elder scientistís work. The symposium had covered the topic of the "marsupial disaster," as dubbed by the press. Dr. Carmichael had been one of the first investigators where several thousand kangaroos and koalas had died abruptly in the Northern Territory of Australia. He revealed during his lecture this exciting discovery: the marsupials had become victims of a dangerous pathogen of unknown origin. The pathogens were later dubbed privirions by the press, and it was found that they attacked cellular mitochondria rather than the cell nucleus, as viruses do. Also, a rather peculiar finding of Dr. Carmichaelís was that the privirions had no means of replication because they were devoid of both DNA and RNA. All living creatures up to that point in history, including viruses, had to have a means of replication to be considered "living". By attacking the mitochondria of the animals, the privirions terminated the supply of oxygen generated by the mitochondria, thereby suffocating the host organisms. Dr. Carmichael was the first to discover that the dead marsupials and the privirions were linked. Rodney mused that this method of extermination had been more effective than the millions of human hunters that had had a crack at them over the centuries.

After the symposium, Rodney questioned Dr. Carmichael about his Australian findings and about evolutionary biology in general. Impressed with the studentís enthusiasm, the elder scientist offered him a post-doctoral position with a considerable stipend. Rodney accepted the position even though he had not completed his doctoral dissertation. He returned to the university where he was finishing his dissertation, and, with the patience of a child five minutes before school was dismissed for the summer, completed his dissertation and received his Ph.D.

By the time Rodney had moved to the post-doc position at his new mentorís university, however, the deal had changed. Jerome Carmichael was no longer an evolutionary biologist. He had switched his research focus to medical ethics, specifically, the ethics of stem cell research. As a consequence, he had lost all funding. In order to compensate for the financial loss, the scientist dismissed his entourage of technicians and grad students and hired Rodney as the sole investigator of his lab. Like a chasm was the extent of the young scientistís disappointment in his mentorís change of research interest. However, he had traveled several thousand miles with no other immediate prospects of gainful employment, at least not in evolutionary biology. Loyalty persevered over his other emotions, and Rodney decided to stay.

During the ensuing years, Rodney harbored a desire to work with the privirions, a subject almost entirely forgotten by his mentor. His mentor wanted the labís experiments to focus on proving that stem cell research was not as viable a platform for eliminating many diseases as other scientists believed. Wanting to please his mentor, Rodney skillfully devised and conducted the actual experiments that were proposed by his mentor, and his efforts were virtually solo. It took long hours and absolute dedication. And through it all, Rodney was utterly miserable.

The carís visonaud, which Rodney had installed a few years before, had been beeping wildly on the dashboard for a while before it finally filtered through his subconscious. When Rodney flipped the monitor on, a haggard but excited face appeared and urgently pleaded for him to drop everything and drive to a certain address. Neither the voice nor the face appeared at first to be Jeromeís, but they were. The intoxicated giddiness was unmistakable.

Rodney arrived at the address without incident. However, when he crossed over the threshold into the spacious mansion, it was as if he had stepped into another plane of existence. The entryway and living room were strewn haphazardly with newspapers, journals, and bits of food. The sparse furniture, dusty, tattered, and hopelessly out of style, resembled throwbacks from twenty years prior to the turn of the century. Rats might have had more use of them than humans. Either a shut-in or an eccentric lived here -- or both, thought Rodney.

Rodney threw open a door at the far end of the corridor to investigate. Jerome Carmichael was bent over a broken beaker, possibly the largest that Rodney had ever seen. Jerome straightened as Rodney entered.

"Very prompt, Pep." Jerome said, pleased. He had become even more bloated since earlier, if that were possible. His limbs moved awkwardly, and he was sweating profusely. Rodney felt a cool chill from the drafty room shoot through him like a dart.

The young scientistís eyes were fixated on the beaker, where reddish liquid had spilled. It was viscous and poignant, reeking of iron. Hundreds of intravenous bags filled with the liquid lay in untidy piles on the elongated counters placed on all sides of the room. A desk lamp illuminated each pile, and Rodney nearly fainted from the overpowering smell of blood.

"Tired of performing unexciting experiments?" Jerome asked ominously. "So am I. If you are interested, we can progress together to a more superior project." Uncharacteristically, he paused and searched Rodneyís face for an answer.

The all-too-familiar fire smoldered inside of Rodney. The thought of all his labor being trivialized while his mentor invested his time here, working on some secret, enigmatic project, maddened him. Infuriated him. "What ... what are you doing?" He asked.

"It is time to let you into the fold. Our task for the past decade, young Pep, has been more than a mere crusade against the development of stem cell technology. My fellow scientists and I have successfully hampered much of the countryís research progress. Had the development of the technology continued, it could have been a powerful weapon against us. Luckily, legislators are completely unaware of the scientific ramifications of new research. My colleagues and I, with our feigned disgust with regards to new technology, easily influenced them. By outlawing stem cell research, your lawmakers may have possibly changed the course of scientific discovery.

Dr. Carmichael continued, "One of us switched to engineering technology. Another was promoted to CEO of the most influential pharmaceutical company in the nation. Others began a myriad of medical research, all to snuff out the progress in budding technologies at their sources." Stepping in front of the beaker, Jerome deliberately cut off Rodneyís incessant gaze at the spilled blood. "We are finally on target to take our next step -- global convergence. And, whatís more," he paused for effect, "I would like your help, Pep."

"Hold on," Rodney said, regaining his voice. "What about the drug company that is currently funding our research? Are you telling me that the head of that company and you are in some kind of scheme to stop the progress of research?"

"Now you are catching on," Jerome said, clenching his fists with delight.

"But when did this all start?"

"During the marsupial disaster. When all the marsupials expired violently, it was because the privirions were attempting their first convergence. They had assaulted the animals too powerfully. The privirions adapted, learning that the convergence needed to develop in stages to allow our bodies, and those of other animals, time to adapt to the symbiotes."

"Symbiotes?" Rodney inquired, still not quite getting the full picture. A quiver of fear shot through him like the first lightning strike during an evening electrical storm.

"Humans are only too ready to believe in bipedal green men that come from other planets. The alien image in the common personís mind conforms to human standards and perceptions. Not reality. Humans think in a box. When the other scientists and I discovered the privirions, which we now know are symbiotes, our lives took a leap into another whole world." Dr. Carmichael paused again to allow Rodney a second to absorb his incredible story.

"Have you ever been interested in stories of science fiction, son?"

"Yes," Rodney declared. "Iíve liked those kind of stories ever since undergrad. Actually, ever since I was a kid. But, all of those stories were just fiction for children. This is different. This ... this is amazing."

"The symbiotes are amazing, Pep. They did not need spacecraft or laser guns, like our pre-conceived notions and simplistic thinking told us that that was how they were supposed to arrive. No, not hardly as dramatic as that. They just drifted through space as they had for millennia, until they sensed the presence of life here. Automatically, they knew who we were and what they could do for us. And what we could do for them. Our structural makeup allowed them to converge with us and colonize our bodies."

"But why did you allow it to happen?"

Dr. Carmichael straightened, cocking his head to one side as if to say, "How could you be so naïve? The answer is obvious, just horribly obvious." Instead, the elder researcher let out a gentle sigh and said, "Power is a universal concept, Pep. They are symbiotic, and we give them a different form in which to take. But they give us much more, such as enhanced thought and the ability to avert death. Now, our tissues do not deteriorate. We are immune to disease and even the aging process itself. Nobody will have to suffer the inconvenience that those two forces currently ravage upon us as a species. Never again will people have to slowly die from diseases that take our mind and functional capacity away, bit-by-bit. No more rotting and drooling and lying in feces during our last days at some uncaring hospital or retirement home. No more..."

As Rodney remained enthralled in Jeromeís frenetic discourse, he allowed the syringe needle to plunge into his arm before pulling away. Instinctively grabbing the point at which the needle had penetrated his arm, he spun to face his attacker. It was Kylie. She too, was perspiring profusely, grinning with insanely large, wild eyes. He could almost see her heart practically beat out of her chest with the rush of adrenalin. During the stunned moment with which Rodney assessed her, she lunged again. He dodged and hastily sped through the door.

Rodney had run for a mile through Jeromeís neighborhood before running out of breath. Unfortunately, Rodneyís idea of exercise consisted of transporting as many journals as possible from the library to his laboratory and was unprepared for the swiftness with which he had to depart from the scene. After walking several more miles, he had become fully disoriented. The familiar yet unsettling feeling of the earth rotating recklessly under his feet overcame him. He sat on a curbside, trying to steady himself.

An old man, leathery with thick stubble on his face, approached Rodney from behind, surprising him. "Got some money for a drink, son?" He asked.

Rodney shook his head and watched the beggar shuffle slowly along the sidewalk. Then, Rodney began to think back about the biggest turning point in his life. Although the young professor with the heart of an evangelical preacher who had changed his life long ago had been inebriated, he had been correct on all counts. Too correct. Rodney knew unequivocally that the aliens were already here, walking subtly among us. But could he not make a difference, a real, tangible difference for his fellow humans? And what about his mom? She, perhaps more than most people, deserved life. The woman lying on the hospital bed back in St. Georgeís, wasting away in misery, was not the woman that he had known all his life. Yes, he could help her, he realized; the privirions could remake her, stop the uncontrolled replication of flawed cells ...

With tremendous satisfaction, he considered what impact his research could have on the world. After years of conducting what he now considered inconsequential experiments, it would be remarkable to cause changes that would propel mankind into the species that it could be. Humans are surely not the apex of evolution in their present state. However, we do not have to resemble the misguided Dr. Carmichael, Rodney thought. Instead, an image was forming in his mind of how the world could be. Of how the world would be. This sudden leap of faith in himself caused his entire body to shudder violently. Much work lay ahead, and it was his turn to take the lead. After gazing at the tired old bum disappearing into the distance, Rodney stood and walked quickly in the opposite direction.

THE END



© 2006-2007 by J. J. Sherman

Bio: Mr. Sherman says "Since I am married to a direct descendant of the family that was haunted by the Bell Witch (yes, the story is true!), I have been naturally inclined to cast aside my pharmacist cloak at night and read pretty much any kind of horror or science fiction that I can get my hands on. My recent and upcoming publications include Hadrosaur Tales (February 2005), Seasons in the Night (February 2005), and Lost in the Dark (online, October 2004). I also have stories slated for publication in Nova SF and Down in the Cellar in the Fall of 2006. Most of my stories touch on the medical arts or research in some way. My exposure to hospitals and medicine has proven to be helpful in completing the storylines that have been swirling around in my head for some time now. If only they had a medicine that could cure that...".

E-mail: J. J. Sherman

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