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The implant behind my left ear has been vibrating for the past five months. It gets more intense and head-splitting at times, nearly forcing me to lay down with a migraine, but I know I can’t stop for long. If I dared to stop, he would get me. From time to time, the vibrating grows less impatient, but it is currently buzzing with the force of a thousand hornets whose nest I disturbed. He is close, and he is coming for me.
When I first started this project, I had no idea where it would end up. All I knew was that I had a research grant that would fund my genetic modifications for another two years. The project seemed daunting at first: bring back a legendary creature from its extinction over 9,000 years ago, but when I started looking into Smilodon Fatalis, it seemed more possible. After all, the Smilodon had a lot of similarities to the modern lion and bobcat, with its body shorter and double the weight of a lion, a spotted coat, and a bobbed tail.
The first few iterations were more experimental, to see what errors would occur, but once I got into the twenties, my main concern was the fangs. It took a few more iterations to get them right, and then, with the 24th iteration, I began rigorous testing of the musculature.
I tweaked its DNA a little bit to remove whatever instincts it had, then hooked up an implant in its brain with one behind my ear. This allowed me to control the subject’s movements as I pleased. The next iterations were dedicated to perfecting its movement until it moved fluidly without severe nerve damage.
Iteration 36 was labeled as Subject_JJ`-B.|q in my research notes, but I affectionately dubbed him Jabe. When I had hooked my implant up to him, and simulated the movement pattern of a modern lion, his nerves and muscles didn’t decay, even after multiple trials. Perhaps that was why I decided to program and upload artificial intelligence and instincts to his implant. I unlinked our implants and shut down Jabe’s systems while I set to work creating a brain based off behavior speculations.
I based a lot of his behavior off of the behaviors of lions. Evidence suggested that smilodon was a social creature and would often hang out in some packs. I added some leopard behavior for the stealthy attacks relying on their patterned coat. A little splash of Komodo Dragon was added for the pattern of ambushing prey, attacking soft spots, and waiting for the victim to die of blood loss. When I finished the program, I pressed a button on my tablet and remotely uploaded the behavior files to his implant while I backed away in case something went South.
When the program had finished uploading, I looked at Jabe, the cumulative of about 20 months of work, and held my breath. I saw the slightest of movements- the rise and fall of a chest, the ripple of muscles, and the blink of an eye. The implant behind my ear buzzed as he turned to look at me. I stared back, separated by a single pane of bulletproof glass. Jabe shifted and wiggled his hindquarters. I dropped my tablet and ran as he sprang towards the glass. I heard it shatter behind me but didn’t bother to look back. I hit the emergency button I carried on me in case something went bad as I reached the garage. I ran, and never came back for my research.
That was five months ago. Jabe had hunted me ever since I gave him a brain of his own. Wherever I went, he would follow. When he got closer, my implant vibrated harder, and when he fell behind, my implant vibrated less. Based off how vigorously it was vibrating now, I could probably see him if I looked around. As proud as I was of him, I couldn’t help but shake in my shoes.
I press the jet pack trigger in my right hand, desperately hoping I have some fuel left to escape him. I hear the ignition click twice but the engines don’t start. Damn! I’ve got to escape him on my own. I take my backpack of supplies off my shoulders and look through it to find something, anything, I could use to survive. I pick up the revolver, remember I used the last bullets a couple weeks ago, and put it back. A knife isn’t much help against an ancient 750-pound carnivore, so I set that back down as well. I dig deeper into the pack, pushing aside some packets of water and food.
I hear some rustling leaves behind me and stand up, looking around for the source of the noise. I near a clump of bushes and feel a warm wind tickle my feet. I focus on it, adjusting my vision to look for heat signatures. A glowing orange-red creature stood out against the cooler leaves. I stumble and scoop up my backpack to make my getaway when he hits me. Subject_JJ`-B.|q, my greatest creation, erupts from the bush and slamming me to the ground. I struggle, knowing how futile they are.
His hot breath stinks of rotten meat. His fangs, as large as my hand, hover over my face. His claws sink into my shoulders and I feel them tear apart. Between the buzzing in my head and his claws in my shoulder, it’s hard to feel or see anything. A blank haze hovers at the edge of my vision. I’m faintly aware that he is moving, although I don’t know what he’s doing. I am going to die. It’s a simple thought, one that fills me with dread. I see him open his jaws, 120 degrees, comments my mind, and lower his head.
An excruciating pain fills my head. I open my mouth to scream but hear nothing. The pain, the pain, the pain! It’s worse than the time I shattered my arm in a lab accident. It hurts worse than I could ever imagine. The only consolation the pain provides is driving out the pain from my shoulders and in my head. Please, if you have any mercy left, do it now. I raised you, Jabe, and this is how you repay me?
I feel his weight shift off of me. My shirt is wet. My arms are covered in something warm and sticky. Blood. I move my arms and find where the blood is coming from. My stomach hurts worse when I touch it. I tried to find something to staunch the bleeding but it hurts so much to move at all. I watch as Subject_JJ`-B.|q sits down and watches me, like he’s waiting for something.
Smilodon Fatalis, commonly known as the Saber-Toothed Cat, had two long fangs that it used to attack prey. It likely stabbed them in the throat or abdomen, leaving their prey to bleed out before feeding, since its skull is unable to handle the force of breaking bones.
Subject_JJ`-B.|q creeps closer, staring at me and waiting for me to bleed out and die. I estimate I have mere minutes, if not seconds, left before I lose too much blood. I reach over to my bag and pull out a voice recorder, hoping there is some chance that someone will find my body and listen to a recording.
“If you can hear this, I’m probably dead. My name is Dr. Jordan Aitken, and I am, or was, a geneticist. I was funded by an unnamed sponsor who wanted me to bring back the Saber-Tooth Cat. After much testing, I created one, and gave him instincts to mimic what he would have had ten thousand years ago. The cat, Subject Unnamed 37, turned on me and hunted me down. As I lay here recording this, I have a gaping wound and am losing blood fast. If you see him, run. Use whatever weapons you have to disarm him and take him out. Once he locks on to his prey, he will not stop until you are dead. Be careful,” I say. I press the button and feel the recorder fall out of my shaking hands, all the strength flowing out of me.
Subject_JJ`-B.|q continues to move closer. He stares dead into my eyes, the same way he looked at me when I gave him intelligence. He is the hunter and I am his prey, soon to be his dinner. The implant screams as he prowls towards me, hovers over me. My eyelids grow heavy and I break sight with him. The implant screeches, drowning out all sound, and it feels like it’ about to explode. Will I bleed out or will the implant explode first? I wince as it gets higher pitched, as my stomach bleeds, as I die.
I open my eyes. The dead body of the person I saw in the mirror lays beneath my paws. My brain feels pulled in two directions and is fighting itself. Must...eat. So hungry! says one part, while the other screams, but I should be dead! I died there, so why am I still alive? The implant buzzes as I approach the body and feed, but stops buzzing as I turn tail and slink back into the shadows, back into the bush where I ambushed my prey, no, was ambushed by Subject_JJ`-B.|q.
My walking cycle is familiar and clumsy. I feel like I’m moving through molasses as I clamber down towards a stream to wash the blood off of my large fangs and face. As I sit down to drink, I tuck my short tail beneath me. My paws give red highlights to the water, but I pay no attention. The cycle has been completed. Life has found a way.