T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 33: Operation
By now (whenever now is) they've taken Rabbit off the project. That "project" is me. How would you like it being someone else's experiment? I can tell you I don't. They've taken away everything ... down to my glasses, tabs, and underwear! I have to kneel here eternally ... bleeding, dehydrated, starving, getting weaker by the day, totally naked in a box of a room.
To keep myself sane I think of better things and places... friends, Ruth, a clear sky, swimming ... anything but here. Anything but this.
How long has it been since I was free?
Too long ...
Before I knew what I was and what happened I used to imagine my father was the one who ran away scared, not Ruth. He was confused by me (that was it!). He couldn't He couldn't deal with me and so had to go be around one hundred percent humans to feel comfortable again. She was waiting until I was 18 (adequately adult) so I could talk to him MAN TO MAN and show him aside from my body, I wasn't so different. I would hold a bit of a grudge but eventually I might find a way to forgive him ... maybe even start a new parent-child relationship.
But not now. Not with HIM.
I tell Will about this. He laughs at "MAN TO MAN."
So I say, "Look at me. Really look at me." His blood is in my blood. You can tell we are related. "How can you treat your own son this way?" I can't say 'only' or 'first.' From what I know he could have fathered other children. The little girl I saw the day I met Palmer, the one called Elizabeth, apparently is my half-sister. Who knows what happened to her poor mother.
Then Will starts in on me, "You use words like 'son' and 'man'. I have no son. You are no man. For that you would have to have been born a male. You were born an IT. You remain an IT. You will never develop into anything uniquely human."
"I may be an IT but I'm still a human. and a man! I thought a man was measured by his character, heart, actions and mind. Not his anatomy. I know what I believe. I know what I stand for."
"Do you?" is all he asks.
"Well I ...” and I can't think of anything. So much time to mull it over and I still don't know what I believe in except that, "I believe what you are doing is wrong."
"You had an obligation to go under testing. You were the first humanoid Xilvrin being." Why is he talking about me in past tense? I hate that about him (among many other qualities!). He talks over your head as if you are not there. "You have done nothing to prove you would cooperate willingly and so you had to be restrained and tranquillized."
I give him the most evil look I can muster.
"My talk with you this morning ...” It’s morning? "...has a purpose. Would you like to become human? We would like to try to undo the Xilvrin-fication process. We invite you on behalf of Sunsand. If what is done can be undone it will be a great leap in the technology. You are our valued prototype."
Don't make it sound so formal. I'm still a product to you.
Yet, "I accept." If only to be out of this cell ...
For the next few days (there are clocks and calendars in this infirmary) I am in and out of anesthesia. This is heavenly compared to where I was. Being hooked up to tubes is a moderate improvement over being tied in wires. Here I have a bed and a pillow and am covered by a flimsy hospital gown and blanket. Here I can sleep rather than needing drugs to knock me out.
The Sunsand’s doctors’ idea is to cut out the Xilvrin organs and replace them with human ones in a series of operations.
Within 24 hours the organ is rejected by my body. It refuses to be re-arranged. Within days it is eaten by Xilvrin to form what was previously there. Though like Ruth they call Xilvrin a cancer causing agent, I see this as a sign. A Xilvrin being is what I am meant to be.
“Failure!” announces my father’s booming voice, interrupting me from sleeping my life away and startling a nurse who’s been tending to me. Is he referring to the experiment … or me?
He grabs me by the hair, looping a choke chain around my neck. He then tugs on the chain, causing me to fall of the hospital bed. The nurse hurries to disconnect the tubes before they were ripped out of me. I had been through so much pain I wasn’t sure if I felt it anymore.
He hauls me through the halls. Tracks of blood are left behind on the carpet. Sunsand workers turn their heads in dismay. Even they see this as an act of madness. However, no one comes to my aid. They are more apprehensive of my father than I am.
Our destination is the kennels. Here dozens of dogs bark each time the door is opened. They are of various large breeds but have one thing in common: they are Xilvrin benigs. I gather that although human-Xilvrin fusion was in developmental stages, canine-Xilvrin fusion had been perfected. This is not the only room of them. A door with a glass window shows another set of pens.
“This is where you belong. With the ANIMALS!” He shoved me in the cage.
With how weak I was, I hit the back wall. Brittle bones in my back cracked. I fell to my knees. I wouldn’t be able to use my legs for a while. I’m not human. If I was, I’d be permanently crippled. I will heal … if I’m given opportunity to heal.
I began to realize my father is running a different experiment.
“How long is this to go on? What do you want?”
“Another loyal dog,” he put it simply and I understood.
“NEVER!” I crawl towards him, bars and thick walls keeping me from him. “If you think for one minute I’m going to do what you say like Rabbit, without right or wrong, do awful things just because you say … I won’t.”
“If you think you are anything more than a tool … a gear in the machine to move the future … you have no vision! You can’t see yourself for what you are and what you can do.”
“And you’ll be the one to guide me? No thank you.”
Politeness. He was breaking me down. I was falling into the personality type he molded all of his workers to be.
No! David, Resist, RESIST!
I’m too tired to resist.
I’m losing it. I’m talking to myself in my head.
“You meals will be served by Elizabeth from now on. She likes to play with the animals.”
Oh you’re so witty, you jerkwad. Go away.
And he did.
Hours later a slot in the cage slid open. Kibbles and a bowl of water were shoved under my nose. The slot then slid shut.
“This is some kind of mistake. Where’s my food?”
“That is your food,” smiled that evil little girl. “When you’re hungry, you’ll eat it.”
No. There was no way I was going to lower myself that far. I won’t give him the satisfaction. Or her. Not for them. Not for myself. I have some shred of dignity left. I am a person!
I bent down to the water dish first. It couldn’t be lifted from the tray. I put out my tongue and lapped up the gratifying drink. That wasn’t so bad. If I closed my eyes it was like drinking from a stream. I could picture the robins and chickadees and cardinals singing in the raspberry bushes. Wild raspberries ... I could taste them on the tip of my tongue, plucked out from under a thorny leaf, savored and …
Not a raspberry. Not even close.
Just crusty dry dog food. With all the flavor of low grade stale crackers.
No one was looking. If I wanted to stay alive I didn’t have much choice. I drowned each bite with a gulp of water after. I emptied a third of the food bowl. Maybe they wouldn’t notice I ate anything. Maybe I could hold onto my pride.
I pulled myself to the back of the kennel to sleep.
That night I dreamed of Palmer. He gently stroked his fingers along the white feathers of my long neck, telling me it would be ok. He would take care of me. He would be my friend. I wouldn’t be alone. He’d visit me whenever he could.
Oh, yes. I was Anthony, his swan, in the dream.
If I had to be an animal I would rather be that than my father’s hound.
A coyote pounced on me. I feared for my life. But it didn’t bite… it licked?
I woke up. The cement blocks separating my cell from the one to my left had been pushed aside. I hadn’t heard them. It must have taken tremendous strength and intelligence (the latter to have cut through the mortar over time instead of smashing it down). A coyote-like thing did stare down at me from a long crooked black snout.
The breed was German Shepard ... not just any German Shepard, one with silver eyes.
Not just any Xilvrin-canine … the licensee dangling from the collar around its neck identified it as X-1.
X-1 … as in the first earthen Xilvrin being in existence.
It was still alive? Dogs lived that long? He would be older than me! In his 20’s in human years … hundreds in dog years.
It continued to lick my face and whine at me, happy to see me. Me? Did it know? Could it smell the Xilvrin on me? Was it thinking: A human, with silver eyes … not just any human … but the very first human-Xilvrin being?
I put my arm around its thick, course furred neck.
“I’m happy to see you too, buddy,” I told it, “I always wanted a puppy. I can’t call you X-1 though. That’s just a number. You need a name. Hmm … If you turn that charm upside down it looks like I-X … ix … how about Felix?”
It wagged his tail so I took that as a ‘yes’. Like me, it wasn’t really a ‘he’, but people tend to call dogs ‘he’ if they don’t know what it is.
Felix lay down so I used his shoulder as a pillow. He didn’t seem to mind. I told him a bedtime story.
“One Christmas when I was a kid I asked for a puppy. We didn’t celebrate Christmas as anything but a holiday with decorations and presents … Mom wasn’t big on religion. She’s an atheist. I don’t know what I am, religion wise. She didn’t want to give me false hopes. So anyway … I asked for a boy puppy I was going to name Rex. She didn’t think I was responsible enough so she got me a lower maintenance pet. She got me a cactus. I still named him Rex. I gave him to some people to take care of until I got back.”
If I ever get back ....
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