The Monster We've Created

February 13, 2018
By Olivia_Rose BRONZE, Berkeley, California
Olivia_Rose BRONZE, Berkeley, California
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Dr.  Kim Asola and Dr. David Growsworth were confident in this combination. After years of working in secrecy and constantly running from the law, it seemed like their lives’ work was going to be a success.

“All systems are a go,” Dr. Asola said, as she flipped switches and scanned system diagnostics, “Do you have all the components ready?” Dr. Growsworth nodded and grabbed the last cylinder.

After a few more minutes of rushed preparation, Dr. Growsworth stepped back and wiped his hands. Before him stood their contraption, built with 20th century technology, and designed to mix chemicals in a quarantined area so that nothing dangerous could harm outside participants. “You do the honors,” said Dr. Growsworth, never taking his eyes off the box in front of him. Dr. Asola pulled down the last lever, and the cylinders released their contents, allowing the chemicals to start mixing. His shoulders sagged with relief, and he allowed himself a small smile.

Then the lab sirens started going off. He turned, dumbfounded, and saw Dr. Asola desperately flipping switches and pressing buttons. “Help me,” she yelled, “something’s wrong!”

“-with the latest news. Reports say that 8 more people have turned themselves into the authorities, but there are many more people out there who might be experiencing changes alone. Again, if you notice any physical or behavioral changes in yourself, don’t hesitate to turn t-” She clicks the TV off almost as soon as she turns it on. These days, the news never has anything new to report. Of course Kalina would know long before these overly-excited reporters did - she is one of the lead scientists on the project. But the only thing they know for sure is that whatever it is that is causing such rapid and drastic changes in humans had been released into the environment decades ago. Any exact details are missing from the larger picture. Even more frustrating is the lack of evidence: The mutated DNA in each changed person is different, and no computer or person could find any constant patterns to the mayhem. It seemed like every discovery pushed them right back to square one, instead of spurring advancement in their understanding.

Kalina tiredly rubs at her eyes. Maybe she’s looking at this all wrong. When she was younger and couldn’t get her head around a problem, her father would always tell her to look at it from a different angle. Obviously the science wasn’t taking them anywhere. Maybe it was time to find the root of the epidemic. In all this hurry to find a cure for the changes that are spreading worldwide, no one had thought to look for the cause. Even with her select team of scientists, she saw it everyday - they were putting too much faith in the latest technology to produce results. They should know more than anyone that turning back the clock might be the answer. Whoever it was that created this formula couldn’t have had access to 22nd century technology. If they had, things wouldn’t have gone south so fast.

“David, help me! I need to shut it down,” Dr. Asola was near tears. The machinery that they had been so confident in to contain the chemicals they produced was failing. And if it did, they would be the first ones affected. And she was well aware of the effects. Dr. Growsworth rushed over, and they worked together to shut off the system. There were needles of doubt in Kim’s mind, but she focused her attention to the task at hand. Even in her rushing panic, she was removed from herself, in a haze of sorts. She could see herself and David trying to shut off the beast, so to speak. But she also saw something they couldn’t. Even when everything was shut down, the chemicals would still be in the bottom of the box - together. And it seemed like they were eating away at the 10 inch plastic that was guaranteed to hold any chemical substance. As the realization started to dawn on her, she was slammed back into her body, and as lights and monitors started powering down, the two of them fearfully turned. Dr. Growsworth then saw what Kim had discovered moments before: they were completely and utterly trapped.

  When their research had begun in earnest, around 1935, and they needed to find a permanent place to run tests, Kim and David found an underground warehouse, originally designed to hold weaponry for the state. It had been years since it was used, so with fake identities, they made a down payment in cash and bought the place. For years after that, they continued to improve the living conditions until they could live underground with their lab and never be caught. But it was coming back to bite them. While it proved an effective hiding spot, wherever it is hard to get into, it is also hard to get out. Right then, they had nowhere to run, and their deadly chemical pursuer was fast approaching.

Sometimes ideas come when you least expect them. Kalina is showering when it hits her. This disease or virus: whatever it is that they are working with had to be passed into the human genome somehow. The ironic part was that many problems were fixed from the cause: you know the cause, you can start to minimize the effects. In their panic of this growing epidemic, they had forgotten all about common sense. Immediately, she turns off the faucet. Until more investigations are made, she has to assume that anything and everything might be the carrier for this mutant gene. Although this will make eating and drinking hard, it sure beats the alternative.

Quickly Kalina gets dressed, and she is still pulling on her shirt as she runs out the door and jumps in her car. It seems like every stoplight she gets to is red, and every thoroughfare backed up. Tears of frustration well up in her eyes, she doesn’t have time for this. There are tests to be run; this might be the first actual breakthrough her team has, and there’s traffic.

While she waits at yet another red light, Kalina makes use of the time she has. On a napkin she starts writing the list of things she will need: bottles of water, various pieces of produce, tap water, over the counter drugs, anything and everything that humans consume. All of it will need to be tested for abnormalities. She is so buried in her thoughts that she barely notices when the light turns green.

David and Kim looked at each other. They had to accept that there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from the beast they created. Kim was still turning the problem over in her mind, hopelessly trying to find a solution. She looked over at the box to guess how much time they had.

“It’s eating away at the plastic, but slowly. I’d guess we still have a few hours at least.” David nodded, and Dr. Asola continued, every part of her composure regained. “We know what we expected to happen. Let’s start there. This was supposed to make a crucial change in humans, supposed to prolong our lives, perhaps by centuries. Obviously, something went wrong, and we need to fix it. For now, we have a short term solution,” As she said this, she picked up the ziploc bag containing two pills from the table. “We made these in case anything went wrong. Whatever we’ve created will have possibly lethal effects. These pills will reverse that. Let’s just hope they work.”

Vaguely, she hears the cars honking around her. When she looks up, Kalina realizes the light is green, and wastes no time peeling out of the intersection. When she gets to the lab, her team is testing different antidotes. When she rushes in, they all look up, recognizing the all too familiar frenzy in her eyes. Without instruction, they all drop what they are doing and rush over to her. “What do you need?” one of them asks.

“I need one person to make a trip to the store. Ted, here’s the list, go,” Still in his lab coat and goggles, Ted takes off with the list. “Gemma, I need you to prep purification modules.” She hurriedly explains what her theory is, and everyone prepares the lab for when Ted gets back with the food.

Not an hour later, Ted bangs the door open, and starts distributing the products: Advil, bottled water, Cheetos, apples. Everyone takes something and starts testing. The room gets eerily silent, so when Gemma whispers, “Boss? I think I’ve got something,” Everyone hears it.

Without any hesitation, Dr. David Growsworth tipped his head back and took the pill. Kim was quick to follow. Even empowered by the thought that their mystery pill would save them, they saw that the sludge in the bottom of the box was eating away at it more quickly now - they were really running out of time. At that point, there was nothing to do but sit and wait.

  When the glass finally broke, and and awful smell was released into the room, Dr. Asola squeezed her eyes shut. “You know what we have to do,” she said, with a look of pure terror on her face. Both, in turn, leaned down and took a sip of the awful tasting stuff, wincing as it burned down their throats. The only way to put the antidote into effect was to fully expose themselves to the virus, and that meant putting complete faith in their cure.

The whole room is silent for a second as they notice what Gemma is testing. Bottled water. This is much worse than they expected; there is no way to ban or restrict water.

Soon all the lab personnel have bottled water, and are separating out the added chemical that shouldn’t normally be found there. When she has a large enough sample, Kalina is the one who tests it on a mouse. They know that whatever happens to the mouse will be more rapid than to humans, because they give it a much larger concentration. A few minutes pass and nothing happens, but then the mouse starts changing. Ridges grow on its back, and talons on its feet. Normally the lifespan of a mouse is two years. Within the hour it’s dead. This is the same for the next ten that they test, each with different mutations.

Kalina feels the knot of worry in her stomach grow exponentially when she checks the records. Those who are affected by the chemical die faster - much faster. If everyone is affected, the human population will die, in the very foreseeable future.

“Ok,” Kalina says, “We know this chemical deteriorates the human genome, causing us to age very rapidly. When our bodies try to fight it off, it causes mutations. These mutations appear in various forms, but all of them resemble characteristics that we would normally associate with monsters. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it, because we won’t be able to live long enough to find a cure. Either we die by the chemical, or by thirst.”

“David, There’s a water source below us. The chemical is eating away at the ground, it will get into the water, and once it does, there’s nothing we can do to stop it. And people out there won’t have the pill. Look at what it did to the ground, the supposedly unbreakable confinement box. Even diluted by the water, what will that do to humans?” She trailed off, already burdened by the millions of deaths she knew she would eventually cause.

“Maybe we don’t have to sit around and do nothing. We just took an extremely large and concentrated dose of the drug, and we are breathing in the fumes. I think it’s safe to say that our pill worked. Who knows to what end. We have it within our power to fix this. I have a few ideas.”

“What do you mean?” David crossed the room and pulled out a file. As he got nearer to her, she saw the label, and before he opened his mouth, she was shaking her head. “David, that was a dream. Something we naively thought was possible when we were young and had the energy to dream. It’s not possible. I haven’t looked at that in years, and unless you figured out the part where we went wrong, it won’t work. Time travel is not possible.”

“But it is! Think about it. We aren’t decomposing. That can only mean one thing. Our genome is frozen. We aren’t affected by the chemical because our body is frozen in time, as a way to preserve our being against the chemical. This also means that we won’t age. At least not until the pill wears off. And if it is protecting us from this extremely powerful substance, that could be centuries. Face it - we’re practically immortal!”

“Okay, it will take decades, perhaps centuries for the chemical to spread. Once it does, we’re out of time. But until then, let’s try to fix the time travel formula. Once we get it, we can have as many tries as we want to fix this.” With a ruined lab, they set to work, undaunted by the seemingly impossible task ahead of them.

“But Kalina, couldn’t we just mass purify the water? We don’t have to die. No one does,” a young scientist says from the corner.

“That’s the problem. We know next to nothing about the properties of this substance. We were able to strain some of it out of the water, but I bet that if you tested the purified water, you’d still find traces of the chemical. That’s top of the line equipment. If it can’t strain out every last drop, nothing can. Sooner or later, we’ll be screwed.” The girl scurries over to her station and starts testing. In five minutes, she has the news no one wants to hear.

“There is a considerable amount still in the water, but it won’t come out. I’m sorry,” She says, tears in her eyes. “What do we do now?”

“Nothing. We’ve been working on this for how long? 10 months? If we haven’t found a cure, or even a lead, there’s no way we will in the next week.”

Everyone in the room looks like they want to argue, to say that nothing is impossible, but one by one, defeat crosses their faces. It would take a miracle to fix this.

At first decades pass, and then centuries. All the while Dr. Asola and Dr. Growsworth work furiously on a successful formula to take them back.

They are alive when the first mutations occur. Then when it becomes an epidemic. They are alive when the young scientist known as Kalina Swansey takes control of the project launched to find a cure. They are alive when she gives up hope and tells the world that there is no solution. That you might as well call your loved ones and then wait for the inevitable. The world erupts, but they work, tirelessly trying to undo the damage they created.

Amid the chaos, they find the solution.

Dr. Kim Asola and Dr.  David Growsworth were confident in this combination. After years of working in secrecy and constantly running from the law, it seemed like their lives’ work was going to be a success.

“All systems are a go,” Dr. Asola said…

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

Parkland Book

Parkland Speaks

Smith Summer