I apologize that I missed my last bi-weekly post. My new daughter Symphony was born last week and has been keeping me a little busy as my wife and I adjust. Fortunately, I'm back in the swing of things right now and am excited to bring you my newest short story.
I'm also excited to announce that this story was a winning story in W.S.S. Online Magazine for their weekly competition and was posted on their website. Here is the link for anyone interested:
So I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear any feedback.
"The Final Panacea"
James J Meadows III
Scaly hands gripped each of Carrie’s arms as the two reptilian creatures, slithering along on their snake-like bodies, guided her toward the large podium in the middle of the room. Glistening in the slimy hand of the beast on her right, was her carefully designed dart gun, it’s lethal contents and the mission for which they had been compiled beyond her reach, for now.
Inside the room, numerous metal platforms, elevated high above the underground complex below, wove around towering columns of blinking lights and sparkling gems, stretching beyond sight into the dark abyss. Standing along the rails and edges of the various platforms, gazing at her from above, below and everywhere in between stood a host of creatures, each as hideous as her captors.
Some possessed grotesque bull-like heads resting atop human bodies, while others possessed monkey like bodies with human heads, and still others, like the octopoids, had no discernable shape whatever, besides what they chose to have. There were other creatures, too, far too numerous to list.
Above them, mounted to a control panel, stood a massive crystal, its light rays shooting outward, connecting all the smaller power stations dotting the tiny moon her people called home. Below it, in the center of the platforms, leaning back in his chair, his arm resting lazily upon the central control panel, sat the man she once thought would be the salvation of her people.
The beasts led her forward until she stood only a few yards from him. There, they released her, one advancing past her to place the gun on the control panel beside the man, before retreating back to join his companion. The man glanced at the gun then at her.
“So, you are the one they sent to kill me?” He asked. “Wow! I’ve heard of audacity before but this takes the cake; you of all people.”
Carrie thought fast, trying to come up with some way out of this predicament.
“They didn’t send me,” she said. “I volunteered.”
She brushed her long black hair behind her head in a flirtatious gesture.
“I wanted to see you again,” she said, casting him a playful smile that she hoped would hide her anxiety. “I’ve missed you.”
“Pathetic,” he snapped, rising from his chair. “As much practice as your race has telling lies, one would think you’d be better at it.”
“It’s not my race,” she said, indignation evident in her voice. “It’s your race too! You are one of us, not one of these monsters!”
Loud sounds filled the room as the various creatures howled, growled, or shouted in response to her words.
“You better watch who you’re calling monsters,” he said. “They don’t like being called that.”
She fidgeted nervously, feeling beads of sweat form on her forehead as her breathing grew faster.
“Look, Garland, listen to me,” she said, taking a step forward.
“Garland?” he repeated, in mock confusion. “Who is Garland?”
“You are Garland,” she replied, fighting to restrain her annoyance.
“I have a name,” he exclaimed in mock surprise. “How exciting! And here, I always thought I was simply, ‘Subject X13-05CR’!”
He spoke the last words with a furious shout, taking an aggressive step toward her, from which she backed away.
“It was just an identifier,” she said. “We needed a way to…to…”
“Dehumanize me?” he answered. “To turn me into a reference number, like I was just another random genetic creation, bred and grown in a vat, like the rest of them - unworthy of having a future; unworthy of having a life; unworthy of having love.”
He turned away from her, staring over the rail into the flashing lights and darkness beyond. There was a long moment of silence, during which, Carrie could hear the sounds of battle and chaos outside. Soldiers, intending to provide a distraction for her and the team of Special Forces soldiers, had attacked the facility’s near impregnable defenses. From the sound of things, they weren’t having much better luck than she and her now deceased team found.
“Garland, please, listen to me,” she said. “It wasn’t like that, you weren’t like them.”
“Really?” he asked, turning around and taking another aggressive step toward her. “What was I then? Tell me!”
“You were my success,” she said, extending her hands like a beggar, pleading with him. “You were the pinnacle of my creations! You were everything!”
“And what were they?” he asked, gesturing at the others.
“They were failures,” she said. “All science has experiments that go wrong! But I had to keep trying. Don’t you understand? I did it for science!”
This was what she always told herself. From the very first day at her father’s lab, when she was just a teen, to the day she resumed her deceased father’s work, this was her mantra. She was a scientist. The knowledge and the end always justified the means.
“So you locked them up,” he shouted. “You imprisoned them in cages, running endless experiments on them, like animals.”
“They are animals!” She protested. “They are made from animal genes.”
“They are also made from human genes,” he responded. “They can read, think, speak, and feel!”
“Only because we taught them those things,” she said.
“And why do that?” he asked. “If they are nothing but animals, why even bother?”
“It was for science,” she said. “It was an experiment. We needed to know what they were capable of. It’s the same reason we taught you!”
“Of course, it was,” he said. “Because I was just an experiment too, wasn’t I? I was just another test tube baby to poke and prod; another creature to pump full of diseases.”
“We had to,” she argued, pleading for him to understand, tears filling her eyes. “You were special: the experiment that was the culmination of all experiments, with the best genes of every animal and human, a human capable of regeneration.”
“Exactly,” he snapped. “Someone you could pump full of every disease, virus and bacteria until I developed an immunity. Then you could pump out my blood to make a cure for every disease: a panacea to fund your ambitions and further your experiments.”
“It was for science,” she said. “We were trying to create something amazing, something capable of saving lives.”
“But not entitled to one of my own,” he said. “You just wanted to keep me locked up in a small room, attached to hundreds of machines, pumping out my blood while forcing enough liquid and food down my throat to keep me alive.”
“Please, Garland,” she pleaded. “Try to understand. You were unique, a prize creation, the poster boy for our government’s years of endless studies. We had to protect our result, keep it in a safe environment! It was for science! We tried to be fair to you. We gave you videos to watch, books to read; heck, we gave you access to the whole central electronic library of the planet.”
“For science?” he asked, “Because you wanted to see what I was capable of, right?”
“Well, yes,” she said. “We needed to know the limits of our experiment’s capabilities.”
“I’m not an experiment,” he roared. “I’m a man!”
She backed away, fresh beads of sweat forming on her face, tears flowing from her frightened eyes.
“Garland, please,” she pleaded, stepping forward, reaching her hands toward him.
“Get away from me,” he roared, causing her to stumble backwards, into the guards.
“You want to know what we’re capable of?” he hissed. “Let me satiate you ‘scientific curiosity’! Look around at what we’re capable of. We are capable of infiltrating and taking control of the most important and well defending power station on the entire planet! That is what we are capable of!”
“Garland, please!” she pleaded. “Listen to me.”
“Listen to you?” he asked. “Why? So you can tell me more lies?”
He turned away from her again, staring into the abyss.
“I used to listen to you,” he said, his voice growing soft. “You used to come visit me, tell me things. I believed you. I believed the things you told me, the things you said to me; I believed in the things we shared together. I thought they were more than just another lie, more than just another experiment. But that was all they were. You wanted to see what I was capable of. Could a simple experiment, like me, truly feel desire; feel passion; feel love?”
He looked back at her over his shoulders.
“Garland, I…I’m so sorry,” she said, tears glistening in her eyes. “Please.”
“No,” he said. “I won’t listen anymore. You wanted to know what I’m capable of. Well, now you know! Now everyone knows. The whole world can at last see the results of their science!”
“Garland, I beg of you,” she shouted.
She tried to race toward him, but two sets of scaly arms seized her, holding her back.
“I wrote a song, to express my feelings toward your science,” Garland continued, sitting back down beside the control panel. “Want to hear it?”
He began pressing buttons on the control panel in rapid succession. Each button made a different boop, beep, or chime to confirm the key press. They did form a sort of melody, but it wasn’t one Carrie wanted to hear.
“Garland, no, stop!” she screamed, straining against the guards.
“But why?” he asked, assuming a mocking, innocent tone.
“You’ll flood the system,” she shouted. “The power grid in this station…”
“Is connected to the crystal grid powering the entire planet,” he interrupted his tone cold and cruel. “I know. I had lots of time to read while imprisoned in my cage.”
He continued slamming on buttons, sending bolts of electricity across the machinery on the walls. Multicolored lights, inside the central crystal, swam and swirled, bolts of electricity shooting through them, like the clouds of some rainbow colored lightning storm.
“Garland, stop it, please!” She screamed. “You’ll destroy everything we’ve build! The whole world will be plunged into a dark age! All the knowledge, creations, and science of centuries will be lost forever! The whole planet will be decimated!”
“That’s a good thing!” Garland screamed back, still slamming buttons. “For thousands of years your science has treated the world and its creatures, creatures like us, as pawns to abuse, create and destroy at will, mere experiments for your games! Well, no more! You wanted to create someone capable of curing all the illnesses in the world, of purging disease, of healing all creation! Well, congratulations! You have! I’ve found the disease corrupting this world, and it’s about to get cured!”
The room was practically glowing with the excess energy flooding the defense grids. On the control panel, warning lights flashed danger, while computerized voices announced that the safety switches, designed to prevent overload, had been overridden. Smoke rose from the machinery and creaking noises issued from the crystal. The pressure was building. An explosion was imminent.
“No, Garland, please,” she screamed, tears pouring down her face as she pleaded and struggled. “I beg you, stop! I’ll do anything! I swear, anything! I don’t want to die! Garland, please! They’ll all die too!”
She screamed the last sentence in one desperate attempt to get him to see reason, gesturing at all of her former experiments. Garland paused, his eyes sweeping over the hundreds of half-human creatures watching him from their various posts. His eyes came to rest on Carrie.
“They are like me,” he said, in a calm, sad voice. “We never had lives to begin with. We were just experiments.”
With the last word, he slammed his hand against a lever, smashing it up to the very top. Sounds like a thousand mirrors breaking filled the room as cracks formed on the massive crystal, shooting light in all directions. Tremors, greater and more powerful than anything Carrie had every felt or imagined, rocked the facility, sending creatures staggering against walls, crashing into comrades, and plummeting off railing into the depths below. Even Garland, was shaken out of his seat and hurled onto the floor.
The sentries, holding Carrie’s arms, lost their grips and fell, sending her crashing forward. The fall nearly tossed her off the platform. Fortunately, she managed to catch herself and, with a burst of strength, born of terror, she raced to the controls.
She had to do something. She scanned the board, looking for anything to press, anything to do. The problem was: she didn’t know the least thing about engineering, electrical working, or any of the controls managing the facility. Maybe the engineer, who had been part of the Special Forces team, might have known something, yet it wasn’t going to do her any good now.
Pulling various controls and levers, she tried desperately to find anything to stop the escalating cycle, probably only making the situation worse. More lights shot from the crystal, going all directions, causing explosions as they touched the equipment around them.
She spotted the gun sitting on the desk near the controls. Grabbing it, she spun around and pointed it at Garland, who had now risen to his feet.
“Stop it,” she screamed. “Make it stop!”
Garland stared at her, saying nothing. He took a step toward her. She retreated from him, her back pressing against the control panel. All her emotion, fear, and terror burst from her in a wave of tears.
“Please stop it,” she sobbed. “Garland, please!”
He took another step toward her. His fist shot up, seizing the gun in her hand and directing it straight toward his heart.
“Why couldn’t you love me?” He asked. “Why couldn’t you have cared?”
“I wanted to,” she said, still weeping, tears racing down her cheeks. “I wanted to so badly. But I couldn’t. You were just an experiment!”
Pow! The gun sounded as Garland squeezed her hand, firing the dart into his chest. His face went still as her poison interacted with his body. Then, he fell to the floor, dead.
“No!” She screamed. Dropping the gun and falling to the floor, she cradled the body of her greatest creation. For a second she stared into his lifeless eyes, her voice breaking with her sobs. “I’m sorry. I never meant it to be like this. It was all for science!”
She screamed the last sentence into the sky. It was her lifelong mantra. Now, it would be her final words to the world. The power station exploded. She knew no more.