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"And what, sir, is back there?" The old Doctor acted as if he hadn't heard the officer behind him. "Doctor! What, I say, is back there?"
"Oh, nothing. Just more equipment and some chemicals. Nothing much, my good man. Would you like a cup of tea, or should I show you out?" he replied.
"I am fine, thank you. And I am afraid I don't believe you, Doctor. You see, I heard a noise erupt from behind your draft curtain. Now please, reveal to me what is back there, or I shall require support."
He frowned, and mumbled, "Very well." He pushed back the dark, velvet curtain from behind which the officer had heard the uncertain noise. The Doctor pulled a lantern off of the cobble wall, and walked into the now revealed corridor. Nervously, the officer followed. And when he saw what was before him, what the curtains had tried to hide, he cried in fear.
It was on January 24th, 1865, when Officer Winston Townshend, lead health commissioner for the Queen's Ministry of Health, set off to 34 Apple Bottom Lane, the home of the good Doctor Clarence Hollowbrick. It was to be a routine visitation, as one was necessary every year to ensure safety of practice, cleanliness of tools and work station, and other minute details a health commissioner may worry about.
Townshend had arrived at the Doctor's practice at eight o'clock sharp on a cold Monday morning. After rapping on the door with his tonfa, and being let into the cobble house with the big wooden door, Townshend was lead through the house. A clean, metal operating table looked to be in good order. Well washed and sanitized scalpels and saws were placed in their proper boxes, and hooked onto their proper wall spaces, respectively. A large firelight lamp overhead provided ample lighting for even the most precise of operations. Townshend had been to this home before, and everything looked just as it had before.
He was inspecting a certain washrag when he heard it. A small snapping noise, followed by the faintest waft of smoke. It had come from behind a dark, velvet curtain, a draft curtain. Used primarily to cover an open doorway to stop the cold winter winds from entering a specific sector of a home, this one had originally appeared to be doing the same; however, now Townshend believed it covered up something else. Something much darker.
When the Doctor pushed aside the curtain, and entered with his lantern, with Townshend shortly behind, Townshend shrieked. What stood before him, in the corridor, were 4 identical wrought iron cages, 2 on either side of the walkway, and one on the opposing end of the hallway. Inside each stood or sat a male child, around the age of 12, weeping, or staring at the Doctor, and the officer. And then the Doctor spoke:
"And here it is. This, my good officer, is my...magnum opus, if it were. You see, several years ago, I thought to myself, I should die soon, being nearly 70 years old, and what shall I leave behind? A few bloody tools and an old house? No, I thought, no. That shall not do. I shall do something grand. I shall do something...Legendary. And so I went to Witchaven's Orphanage for Unwanted Children, down on Pavilion Street, and I adopted 5 of their strongest, healthiest young men. I took them back here, and here I have raised them. And changed them."
"Good god! What have you done to them?" The Officer demanded.
"Ah, well let me explain. I have been fascinated by Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species' since its publication. In it, Darwin said that no evolution has been seen in our lifetime. No natural selection. Dumb, I thought. I could procure evolution in my own house. Assist it, even. And so I did. I began with Timothy, here." The Doctor pointed to a boy in the first cage on the left. He was muscular and strong, and was weeping, silently. He looked up with a scowl, when the Doctor said his name. "I wanted to see if humans could evolve to be more aware, strong...fearless. So I enlarged his adrenal gland and increased his adrenaline production. However, adrenaline is adrenaline, so it only functions when Timothy is under high amounts of stress. I have done some tests, and it appears that the primary increases of stress for Timothy are pain, and anger. And so I tested him. On a pain scale I created myself, I found that the amount of pain he feels in a hot coal burn, or a gunshot, are about identical, and this is his minimum for releasing the flood of adrenaline. When this occurs, he becomes fearless, efficient, and volatile. One time, I shot him with a small pistol, and he had the strength to break through the thick wooden bars that once barred the cells. It was only after I shot his legs that he stopped running. That is why I have switched to wrought iron. He has attempted, but as of yet, cannot break though these." The Doctor smiled, tapping the bars of the cell.
"But what about anger?" The officer said.
"Ah yes. Well, it seems that anger is a bit different for Timothy. Sometimes he will be completely enraged, and will not have any power whatsoever, and other times, even the slightest cause, such as not feeding him one night, will cause him to release. Because of his irrationality and dependability on stimulus, I have named him a failure, and keep him around merely for the heavy lifting."
The Doctor walked on, with the officer following.
"This here is Rosario." He pointed to a tanned, dark haired lad who was tending to a small bed of flowers in his cell. "For him, I went on the basis that natural selection often occurs to those species that are not well camouflaged, so what if humans had the ultimate camouflage...invisibility! We would be an unstoppable species! So, after months of experimentation, I created a synthetic that, when injected, should create translucence of every cell in the human body, effectively making the subject invisible. When Rosario was injected, however, he did not gain invisibility. All he gained was an upset stomach and a knack for flowering plants. Since the original injection, I have questioned and provoked Rosario enough, however, that I have learned that only he can access the invisibility, and he rarely does so for me. The only time I have seen it, however, was when he was near death after I punctured one of his lungs to see the effects of a lack of oxygen on him. He is deemed useless, for he will end up dying rather than being tested, which is necessary for the publication of this research. I keep him alive purely because he tends my garden, and is good at cooking vegetables."
The officer, in shock from the horrific crimes, followed the Doctor onto the next cage, the first on the right.
"This is Joseph." In the cage he pointed to sat a very short , blonde haired boy who lay on a small cot, shivering and shaking, but sweating, at the same time. "I thought of how the human body would be different if humans had control over their homeostasis, their metabolism; being able to be extremely warm in the dire cold of winter, to even comfortably cool in the heat of summer. And metabolism, we would be able to eat once a year, or constantly! Complete control over the entire body. So after extensive research, and essentially rewiring young Joseph's entire nervous system, he can now control every aspect of his body. For some unexplainable reason, however, Joseph's homeostasis remains on purely the extremes. He either becomes so warm that flames erupt around him, because the air itself burns. On the other extreme, he can cool himself so much, that he freezes the air around him, as well as all living beings, and water. And as for his metabolism, that too is very different. The night after the initial operation, I fed Joseph, and he continued to eat, continuously, for the next three weeks. And, since then, he has not eaten since. That was 4 years ago. He no longer needs to eat! His body is so sporadic, however, so he is too a failure. He cannot remain in a stable homeostasis, he consistently has cold and hot flashes, meaning he constantly appears as if he is in a serious fever. His only use to me is to keep the house warm, or cold, depending on the season."
They continued to the third of the 5 cages. Inside sat a boy with hair on end, and singes on his fingers, with slight sparks jumping between them. Occasionally, a larger spark would erupt, and the air would smell of smoke; the original noise Officer Townshend heard that led to the investigation.
"This is Adam. I believe you heard him earlier from behind the curtain." The Doctor chuckled. "I was curious as to what would occur if I polarized the atoms inside the human body to create a positive side, and a positive side. Well, Officer, Adam occurred. You see, his right side is positively charged, while his left side is negatively, so he can consistently draw an electric current. This has given him the power to cause electric bolts to erupt out of him at his own discernment, and can put an electric current in nearly every inanimate object by merely touching it on opposite sides with his hands. He is essentially an electric battery, and can move magnetized objects around to his choosing. On several occasions he attempted escape when the bars were wrought iron, so now it is of a hard rubber material. The power of electricity has not yet revealed to me his advanced purpose, so he too is a failure, but he powers many of my machines by touch, so he is worthwhile."
The Doctor and Officer Townshend continued to walk until they reached the final cage. It was nearly 3 times in length as the previous 4 cages, yet inside was the smallest boy. Covered in scars and tattoos that crossed his entire body, he sat hunched in one of the corners, with his eyes turned down.
"Ah, yes -the piece de resistance. Percival. My work in progress. I have always thought, what if humans could fly? Would we not be superior beings on our own earth? Would we not have reached a new standard in evolution? And so I began work on young Perry. I hollowed out every single bone in his feeble frame, much like in a bird's; except for the bones in his feet, as when he lands, and the bones in his feet are hollow, they tend to break and fracture. I then made a couple additions to Percival, in the way of wings, each approximately 8 feet wide, however, they grow each day. And with his lighter frame, and wings, he can now fly. And oh, when he flies, it is a beauteous thing. Like a bird, he is free. I always keep him on a length of rope though, so he doesn't fly away from me. He is, in a way, a son to me. My pride and joy. Let me get him to show you his wings. Percival?"
The boy looked up briefly, and then put his head back down. "Percival, show the man your wings," the Doctor asked. Percival shook his head and turned away. "Ah well, perhaps another time."
"Doctor, I am afraid there will be no other time. This is torture and malpractice for these young men. You are insane, trying to instigate evolution yourself. I am afraid I will have to place you under arrest," Townshend said, pulling out a pair of hand cuffs, making the motion to close them on the Doctor's wrists.
"Never!" The Doctor slid out of the way and pulled a small revolver out of his pants pocket, firing it at Townshend, hitting him in the stomach. Townshend cried, and collapsed to the ground, a pool of blood forming around his gut.
"This is not evolution! This never was!" Townshend screamed, swinging his tonfa about, managing to clip the old Doctor on the ankle, causing him to falter, but quickly regain his footing.
"Oh, but it is! And you, my friend, are not the fittest species. This is natural selection at its finest!" The Doctor screeched, firing another bullet into the officer's leg, The officer grunted, and struggled to gather words, yelling, "Please! Stop! You are deranged!"
The Doctor cocked his revolver and aimed to hit the officer in the head, but before his finger hit the trigger, the first boy that the officer had seen, Timothy, screamed and, in a fit of adrenaline fueled rage, tore apart the wrought iron bars, blocking his cage, and slammed into the Doctor, crushing him into the wall, hitting the gun out of his hand.
"Timothy! Do you want me to have to hurt you?" the Doctor yelled. "You will never hurt me or my brothers ever again!" Timothy yelled, rushing over to the Officer.
The other boys in the cages did their best to help one another escape. Timothy tore apart the bars blocking Rosario's cage, who picked up his flowers, and leapt out. He, in the blink of an eye, disappeared, and all that was seen was a moving box of flowers that stopped near the head of the collapsed Doctor, and then fell on his head, cutting it the slightest bit open, blood seeping onto the floor. Joseph, in an instant, erupted into a bright red flame, and, at the slightest touch, melted the wrought bars, which dripped in a pool that singed the edge of the Doctor's clothing, causing him to howl in pain. Before Joseph put himself out, however, he leapt up to the dark, wooden ceiling, which erupted into a bright flame. At this, Adam put either hand on the rubber bars which kept him in his prison, and he yelled. After a loud boom, the bars were blasted apart, with energy arcing between them, and Adam promptly walked out. As he walked out, he casually threw the deformed bars at the Doctor, who winced.
Timothy made his way over to Percival's cage, but before he could rip them apart to make an exit, Percival shook his head. "No, Timothy. No. I won't leave."
"Percival, he has hurt you. You must leave, with us," Timothy told him. "No, Timothy. I do not want to leave," Percival said to Timothy. Timothy, turned around, and picked up the dying Officer Townshend. "Brothers, let us go." As he exited, he picked up the Doctor's old top hat that sat hooked onto the wall, and placed it onto his head with a smile.
"Thank you, my dear Percival," Doctor Hollowbrick said, after the others had left, a bloody trail leading out the door where the officer been carried. "I have always loved you more than those others. No, Percival, can you help me out of here? That b****rd Joseph set my beautiful home on fire...Please?" Percival stood, with his eyes turned down. "You have always been one of my most beautiful creations, Percival. In a way, I am proud I chose you to evolve."
A tear fell from Percival's blue eye, as he said, "You hurt me. I hate these wings." He turned and faced the old Doctor. "And I hate you."
The Doctor shrieked as Percival expanded his glorious wings, each nearing the edges of the cage, and, in the fire light that now surrounded the entire house, Percival looked like a fallen angel; glorious, yet enraged. Percival leapt off the ground and flapped his wings, rocketing through the burning roof, leaving the old Doctor for dead.
Percival shot through the night sky, high above the house, and the glided down, beside his brethren, and the dying Townshend. They all watched the house burn, and crumble, some of them smiling as their dark past left them, others crying, as it was all they ever knew. "Now where shall we live?" Rosario asked.
"Well, um...we shall find a place, don't worry," said Timothy, looking to Townshend. "May we stay with you?"
"Boys..." the officer coughed up blood as he said the words. "I would love you all to...but...I'm afraid I...won't be here with you all...very much longer." He reached into his pocket, and handed a single key to Timothy. "234 Westbank Road. Please, take care of the dog though. His name is Peter. He is...a good dog."
"Officer, you'll be alright, don't worry, we'll take you to a doctor or something, get you fixed up," Timothy said.
"No, I...am dying...but please, always remember, boys: you all are...very special...use your strengths only to help one...another, never....for personal benefit. You all are a greater...breed of human...be brave...be strong...and believe..." And with those final words, Officer Townshend uttered a final breath, and shut his eyes.
"Well then, brothers....shall we?" Timothy said with a wistful smile. He stood, and carried Townshend's body with him as he walked down the street to a graveyard for a suitable burial, with his 4 brothers, his 4 very special brothers, following closely behind.