By C I Lopez
‘Humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, have finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.’ – Noam Chomsky
* * *
“Loretta, we are working with a cutting edge project for the survival of the human race on this planet. You should be proud to be part of this project.”
“Did you say human race, Jon? Well, you’d better think again, and I am not proud. I think the project is evil.”
“The airtight compound where we live and work is kept closed for our protection. The dome within which we live is made of a thermal titanium alloy. The material is similar to that used in the Space capsules, and the dome is hermetically sealed to control the temperature here. It’s not to keep us prisoners as you think, Loretta.”
“Like Hell, it isn’t,” my mother said, and although she lowered her voice I overheard her question. “If it isn’t to keep us prisoners, why are The Strangers on the outside surviving?”
“You know we tried to convince everybody to come inside, but some refused.”
“Yes, Jon. Those people out there shouldn’t be referred to as The Strangers – they should be referred to as The Sensible Ones.”
As usual their argument ended with mother throwing something. I heard something crashing, and then there was silence.
* * *
This place is all I remember, since moving here when I was six. I’m now fifteen, and I’ve become used to my parents’ constant arguments. Life here is pretty cool, or so I’m supposed to think. Following yet another of their arguments Mom sat at the kitchen table with a drink in her hand. Sometimes she cries, and other times she simply sits there.
“Verlee,” she has often told me. “I wish you could remember how the world used to be. Everything was real, and it was beautiful.” She tells me this between drinks and sobs, but honestly, she is right, I don’t remember, but I have a secret.
I never even go see Dad. He would be sitting at his computer with his head bent over the screen, the light shining through his ears, probably in some computer bliss world of his own.
My mother refuses to take her bliss pills which are manufactured in the compound by the laboratory workers of The Corporation.
It is very easy to be happy here. If I want to go shopping in the mall, all I need is a go-on-a-shopping-spree-bliss-pill and for the next two hours I am blissed-out getting all the hottest clothes in the mall.
There is a bliss pill for dressing up to go to a fancy restaurant, a bliss pill to go to the game arcade, even a bliss pill to spend the day feeling as if you are having sex in whichever way, or with whoever you wish. I am only fifteen and I am already allowed to take it. We are blissed-out all day long. There is no more need for school or for building expensive places for entertainment.
* * *
One day recently, my father took me to see the latest project he is working on. Mother insisted that I wear a hazmat suit complete with breathing apparatus, before I entered the lab, even though none of the workers wear them. She thinks they all should.
Father showed me the vats where they are growing a new generation of heat resistant people to survive the intense global warming that is already evident. They looked like regular human embryos to me, but I really hadn’t seen a lot of embryos except in pictures. There were hundreds of them floating in huge vats filled with chemicals and fluids, moving slowly up and down and bouncing like bubbles in a lava lamp, their eyes still closed.
It gave me the willies to see so many of them floating there without belly buttons. I was glad my mother made me wear the hazmat suit with the breathing device, because I have a feeling that the smell would have made me vomit. I wanted to get out of there.
“There will be changes in their appearance and behavior as a by-product of genetic engineering,” my father explained. “When proteins are introduced with the specific genes that we want to change, other proteins are produced with unexpected results. It’s a very complicated process, Verlee,” he assured me. “This is the best batch we’ve made so far.”
I stood listening to my father, talking about these creatures as if it was acceptable and normal to conduct such a production line. While I remained wide-eyed and silent he continued.
“Just imagine. This new generation won’t need to drink water, or any other liquids, because they will have a super-efficient system built in. We feed them special disks of food made to be recycled again and again inside their very special digestive systems so that they produce no waste, and they only need to eat once every six months.”
“You mean they won’t need diapers either,” I said, smiling, because nobody likes changing diapers. I was trying to sound as if the idea was acceptable to me. He believed my pretense.
“That’s right,” he said. “We’ve had some unexpected results, some of which are beneficial. Having no genitalia is one we hadn’t counted on, but it will be a good way to control over-population in the future.”
“How will they make more then?” I asked.
“They are hybrids,’” my father explained. “They are not able to reproduce on their own, so the lab will make more as it deems necessary. Population will be controlled by The Corporation. The growth period of these samples has been accelerated so they become adults in two years. Too much time is wasted in child rearing.” He looked at me with some disdain.
“Who will operate the lab?” I asked, having spotted a loophole in the master-plan.
“We will teach some of them to operate the lab,” he said.
My father was excited. I felt nauseated.
I asked, “Are they going to be released to the outside world?”
“The entire dome is scheduled to open in five years when the Earth reaches the temperature of 460 degrees Celsius. That’s when the world will belong to them … a new species for a burning world, Verlee.”
“What’s going to happen to us, Dad?”
“We will all die when the dome opens. No human being can survive in a planet that will be as hot as the planet Venus is now. There is a bliss-out-death-pill waiting for each of us to take on that day.”
It was at that point on the lab visit I decided I would not be taking one of those bliss-out-death-pills.
* * *
Unknown to either of my parents I’ve seen outside the dome. In recent times there has been a five-second power-cut when the system is switched over between one power plant and the other. One day several weeks ago I was out walking the perimeter alone and observed the pause in power. The continual low buzzing we have learned to live with suddenly stopped.
I asked an engineer why the power might be cut, and he explained that they had the issue resolved. He said within days the power would pause three times rapidly in one day, and then it would remain constant with no more breaks. He was even kind enough to tell me the date of this occurrence.
When there were power breaks, the dome surface became transparent, and I had a view of trees, and mountains and a river, which are all things I’ve seen on my edu-tablet. I experimented on the second occasion by throwing a small pebble, and it went through the dome boundary.
Since my discovery, I’ve spent many hours learning how to build shelters and which vegetation I can eat to survive. Apart from the flora and fauna, I have twice seen people on the other side. The Strangers. They didn’t look strange to me, they looked normal and content, and the only real difference between us I noticed was that their skin was a little darker than mine.
On both occasions I smiled and waved in greeting, and The Strangers smiled and waved back. I saw several adults and at least ten boys and girls of my age group. They all appeared healthy, but importantly, they also looked happy.
My parents may disagree with each other, but neither of them has asked my opinion. I’m leaving, because I’d rather die in a beautiful, natural world with natural people, than live an artificial life for five more years.
About CI Lopez
Carmen is a Microbiologist, and although she is an American citizen, she lives and works in Central America, on Panama’s Pacific coast. She began writing after a career in Microbiology and Chemistry, specializing in water quality, which brought her to live by the Pacific, in Central America.
Most of her life, Carmen lived in the USA, where she attended the University of Syracuse and worked for the State of Michigan as a Chemist and Microbiologist. She lived in South Bend, Indiana, where she taught at Notre Dame University.
Previously she had trained as a Registered Nurse, working in the Emergency Room at Centro Asturiano Hospital and as a surgery nurse at Saint Joseph Hospital in Tampa, Florida.
Carmen traveled the waters of the Black River from the Brazilian Amazon to Paraguay and Bolivia. The mother of four grown children who live in the USA, she now lives in Panama as an ex-pat with her significant other by the Pacific.
She has published a novel, ‘Beware The Fury‘, and two anthologies, ‘Alone: and other short stories’, and ‘Lisa: and other short stories’.
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2tdzY4x
Facebook page: https://bit.ly/2suTNE0 Writing From Eight Degrees North