Featured Review on this writing by AdamCarlton

Genome

Reads: 143  | Likes: 3  | Shelves: 2  | Comments: 2

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a story about how altering our genes can affect human behaviour and sexual preferences, in a doom-laden scenario, in a pub and, secondarily, by a fishing lake. This story was originally published in book format. Now easy-to-read in one. One of the lead characters is arguably SEXIST!

WARNING: contains Tench and a Sexist!

Submitted: July 05, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 05, 2019

A A A

A A A


Genome

 

‘Every pair has its own personality, Hayley. Did you know that?’

‘No, I didn’t, Elliot. That’s amazing! What brings you to that conclusion?’

Elliot sets down his pint of real ale and stares at Hayley thru his black-rimmed readers. He wears tremendous glasses for £99. He rubs his grey-bristled chin.

‘My beautifully designed and expertly crafted genetic regulation programme utilizes CRISPR-Cas9 genomic alterations to remove, add or alter sections of the DNA sequence, thus altering the organism’s complete set of genetic instructions – the vital information needed to build that organism and allow it to grow and develop.’

Hayley, a world authority on human behaviour, feigns a heart attack, clutches her breastplate with her pudgy hand and rubs her sternum with her thick wrist.

‘You mean you’ve perfected the transgressive DNA implant system, Osiris III, that allows you to control human emotional behaviour and alter lifespan through strand interference and essential cell protein substitution?’

Elliot wears a sexy black satin shirt, unbuttoned to reveal his hairless chest to Hayley, smart charcoal grey jacket, matching trousers, brogues, the eligible bachelor.

‘The very same! Putting it in layman’s terms, the Nordic and Italian genetic imprints used in Osiris III enable DNA strands to be replicated to comply with modern behavioural patterns and facilitate termination.’

Hayley’s face splits up into an ear-to-ear grin, baring a mouth that’s over-filled with brilliant white teeth, nearly as many plaque-free gums. She wears a simple, scoop-necked, short-sleeved dress in navy, teak contacts, shoulder-length chestnut hair, no rings or ear studs. She interjects:

‘Meet the requirement for German craftsmanship?’

‘No, no, no, no, no!’ Elliot chuffs.

‘Ensure that modern DNA strands are available in timeless tortoiseshell, classic sleek black and vibrant dashes of colour that hit the right notes from a genetic modification perspective?’

Elliot winces, ‘Hell, no! What’s eating you today, Hails? You feeling ok?’

‘I’m fine, absolutely fine?’

Elliot can see that Hayley is not fine. Her teak-slit eyes are narrow, her pug nose is running, thick tears stream down her cheeks.

‘What is it, Hails? Hell! What did they do to you at Contract Reduction?’

‘They shut me down?’

Elliot feigns surprise. He’d heard rumours of research funding cuts in Contracts but nothing as intriguingly reductive as this scientific gem, ‘What, all of you?’

‘Every part of me, except my essential body systems? You know, my biological imprints?’

Elliot shakes his head violently,’ No! I have no interpretation of your functionals which are readily comprehensible to me? Can you extrapolate those precise connotations and revert?’

Hayley scoffs, haughtily, ‘Elliot, you know! The fundamental tenets of human procreation, ingestion of digestible energy sources, removal of toxins, bodily insulation, social interaction?’

‘Oh! I’m sorry. Is that why your crying with a frozen smile?’ he asks her, wrapping his arm round her sloping shoulder until it rolls off.

‘Mm,’ she sniffs, ‘Look Ellie, I get it? The need to defunctionalize my higher cerebral nodes to mitigate unnecessary funding appropriations? Plus, it’s easier to buy human contacts online now? But it’s just as important in my professorial opinion to have someone like me check your body systems are functionally appropriate, and modify any tissues or organs you’re unsure of?’

‘Like a kinda intermediary body systems consultant, you mean?’

‘Mm! That’s why, as part of my easy-care package, I come with aftercare from our specialist team in lab? I just worry where I’m going to crowd-fund the money for Clay’s private tuition fees?’

Elliot takes another sip of lukewarm beer, hiding behind his glass, as if to say, ‘Well, good luck with that, Hails, but don’t look to me for funding because my department’s cash-starved?’ She looks down proudly at her illegitimate love-child by Beaton Jackman Jnr II, the half- cast Clayton Jackman III, world-renowned child genius.

Ellie ruffles his liquorice-candyfloss quiff, sorry for the boy’s new poverty. One of the lenses has fallen out of his tangerine-rimmed sun shades, the top button’s missing on his grey polo shirt, and his pink jumper’s a size too big. The kid reaches up for his mum’s hand, smiling a mouthful of milk teeth. He’s got mums pug?

‘Don’t cry Mum,’ he enthuses, ‘Vision is involved in everything we learn, making it vitally important to keep kid’s genes in tip-top condition? That’s why I teamed up with Elliot to deliver free-genetic screening and modification software to every primary and secondary school in the EU?’

Hayley has concerns. ‘Are you so sure that’s a good idea, given the uncertainty over Brexit?’

‘Oh, Mu-um! Why do you have to go and spoiler-alert everything I generate creatively?’

‘Because, Hun!’ she teases in perfect Germanic.

‘Because your mum loves you to death and doesn’t want to see you hurt in the commercials? Hey, kid!’ Elliot produces a candy-pink, plastic dog-bone with neon flashing lights either end. ‘Why don’t you go outside and let Jack out of the Merc, set him free by the lakeside, let your mum and I study human behaviour? We’ll come outside to enact some terminations in a while?’

Clay’s albino eyes light up like the bone, ‘Oh wow! A robo-bone! Is this really for me, Ell? Can I keep it? Please say yes!’

‘Course you can, kiddo! Happy Birthday!’ Elliot chuckles, ‘Throw it at Jack to chase, then, when he gets it stuck in his jaws, the bone will drag him back to you. The lights flash when it’s dark?’

Clay runs into the car park and frees Jack who is busy steaming up the Merc.

Hayley looks all starry-eyed at Elliot, says, ‘You’re a kind, loving man to me and my kid, Elliot. Know that?’

He doffs his head, humbled, stares at the timber roof, feels good, ‘Try to be! Shall we start?’

Hayley’s face creases into wonderful smiles, all teeth. ‘Yes, let’s! I’m baited breath! Which pair first?’

Elliot checks his electronic genetic register: ‘How’s about Karen and Liam McNeil?’

Hayley juts out a fake two-finger salute. ‘Sounds bumper smackers to me, Skipper!’

‘I’ll just let them know, we’re studying their behaviour. ‘Kar…!’

Hayley clamps her hand over Elliot’s mouth and stays his hand, ‘No! Don’t tell them!’

He spits her soft fingertips out of his mouth tasting her acetone, so’s to mumble, ‘Why not?’

‘Because,’ she deigns, ‘If you tell them you’re studying their behaviour, they’ll misbehave?’

Elliot baulks. ‘You make a valid point, Hails.’

They sit and drink and study the pair’s behaviour. Elliot is 62 in the Fall. Hayley is 32, which accounts for an ageist issue between them. Clayton’s one-tenth the age of Hayley, one-sixth the age of his biological sperm donor, Beaton Jackman Jnr II. Elliot ‘backgrounds’ the pairing.

‘Karen has taken out a lawsuit for sexual harassment against her employers and been awarded substantial damages. By way of celebration, she has invited her friends Suzie McNair, Paula McVeigh, Fleur McPherson, Marnie McTavish and Debi McIntyre to an informal symposium in the wine bar. To discuss how women can exert more power over their male pairings at home and dispense with them when they’re past their use by dates.’

‘Call me a thick-head, Einstein,’ Hayley thrusts, ‘But I can only see Liam McNeil, who’s dead as a stuffed jacket potato? And Delmont McVeigh, the prat with the starched hazel quiff?

Elliot temples his hands, as if in atheist prayer, before his smug grin breaks:

‘That’s because,’ he states, ‘I genetically re-programmed the other males to stay at home and do the housework.’

‘Pinot Grigio, anyone?’

‘Yes, please, Karen!’

‘Nobby’s Nuts?’

‘Now you’re talking!’

Elliot and Hayley watch with interest as Karen McNeil sets up a tab on the bar, fetches the drinks and nuts, then asks who’d like to go first. Karen, 46, is wearing a cheap pink carnation-on-mint-leaf scoop-necked blouse that says: ‘You’ll find this blouse on page 2’, blackcurrant cotton-stretch casuals that say: ‘These are the best stretch trousers I have found for a long time’, and ‘Koussin deair’ super soft leather sandals with added cushioning that say, ‘Sorry fellas, I’m off sex at the moment?’

The faded teak roots spawning her thinned blonde bob, bloodshot sapphire eyes, and squashed flat pug nose are a dead giveaway: she has lost all interest in her husband since her fertilisation.

Liam is silent, with black welts under his glazed, inverted eyeballs, and a five o’clock shadow. Liam is secretly playing away from home at night.

‘Watch McNair’s behaviour, Hails! She’s a failed pairing! Like us!’

‘Who says we failed?’ Hayley slides her smooth hand inside his shirt. ‘I’ve barely begun?’

‘Shush! Listen!’

Suzie tosses her shock of bronze hair, dribbling a run of Pinot down her chin. Suzie’s hair has split ends. She is run down, shattered, can barely keep her heavy eyelids open. Her snout has that: ‘Sorry my hooter’s so big, I just got over a cold?’ look. Her copper lips are cracked- sore and she has a tell-tale dark neck.

Other than that Suzie is slim and pretty in a pink velvet coat, black sweater and tight drainpipe jeans. She stands up to gain attention, sticks her hands in her pockets and bawls: ‘Can I go first? I’ve just kondo-ed Alex.’ 

‘Kondo-ed?’ Paula and Delmont McVeigh cup fistfuls of nuts into their mouths and choke.

‘Mm! I decided to ditch Alex as my partner because he doesn’t spark joy in me anymore.’

‘Spark joy?’ Fleur McPherson just loves those words? ‘Really? Do tell!’

Suzie explains that the flame first flickered when she accused Alex of cheating on her. That she began to mistrust him. He annoyed her, ignoring her whenever she spoke to him? It got so bad in the end that they would sit at opposite ends of the couch and refuse to talk to one another.

Karen is appalled, ‘Oh, how awful for you, Suzie! What did you do?’

‘I suggested a relationship of physical convenience?’

‘You mean sex?’ Marnie registered eagerly.

‘Mm!’

‘How was he for you, Suzie, good?’

‘He was shocking! Alex had the audacity to sit on the end of the bed in his t-shirt and boxers? I sat up and gave him a hug, only to find him checking texts from ‘her’ behind my back?’

‘Oh my God! What did you do?’

‘I kondo-ed him. I told Alex I was reorganising my life to set free those who don’t spark joy in me anymore, so that I could find a special lover in my life this spring? I kicked him out.’

The other women clap Suzie, slurp wine and spit nuts, cheering her up, ‘Well done you!’

Elliot and Hayley are in deep discussion.

‘If, and it’s a big if,’ Elliot asks, rubbing her bare thigh, ‘we fell in love, procreated multiple offspring, I lived to seventy, developed erectile dysfunction, sag, jelly-belly, dementia, penile shrinkage, halitosis and warts...’

Hayley sucks maraschino cherries off her Baby Cham cocktail stick and murmurs, ‘Mm?’

‘Would you kondo me?’

‘For another man, you mean, or a cyber-husband? Robosapiens’s Solution?’

Elliot’s head is spinning. Why did he even go there? ‘Yes, in a manner of speaking!’

Hayley removes the geneticist’s hand from her bare thigh. ‘Absolutely! Of course, I would! Anyways your question is totally hypothetical, Professor…’

Elliot is intrigued by his colleague’s assertion: Robosapiens’s Solution? ‘How so?’

Hayley smiles, pinches his belly flab. ‘Because if you think I want to copulate with a dull old snail like you when I can rut with a young stag half your age you’ve got another thing coming?’

*****

The Strictly Private paradise is situated a good fifteen to twenty minutes’ walk from the wine bar. The disused public footpath is off the beaten track, little more than a pitted rut in the ground separating a vast golden field of barley from the long-overgrown scrubby banks of a barely trickling brook.

Eventually the brook widens to form a long-neglected farm reservoir, a lake that was once a prolific coarse fishery - in its distant heyday. Now it lies hidden from the wayfarer: peaceful, serene, flat-calm, lily-lined and undisturbed. Fully enclosed by a breezy mantle, a wind-break of clustered shady willow and hazel trees.

The far end of the lake, reached by wading through waist-high stinging nettles and gloopy mosquito-ridden methane mini-bogs, boasts a redundant bird-spotting hide, a well-rotted oak-beam boating platform and the half-submerged wreck of a red-hulled rowing boat.

There are several dangerous-looking collapsed fishing platforms scattered hither and thither around the water’s edge. The flat, grassy, reed-lined banks look made for sunbathing and the shallow, weedy water is warm, tempting the casual swimmer.

Even at two o’clock on a hot summer afternoon, some fish are in evidence. Every few seconds the surface calm is broken by the golden splash of a shoal of rare red-finned Rudd or the bow-wave of a fat Carp traversing the lake like an underwater submarine.

The tell-tale swathes of fizzy bubbles are a sure sign of the olive-green Tench and deep-bellied Crucian Carp that grub around on the silty bottom for worms and larvae, the slithery slimy Eels and rotten subterranean vegetation. A Grass Snake occasionally slides into the cool water and crosses to the other side and a flotilla of Pond Skaters scud endlessly around the reed-line.

Clay spots a man fishing. He lives in Harlow in Essex. One of his ears has been bitten off by a dog. He wears a check country shirt, red kipper tie with swans flying across it, brown corduroys and green waders. He carries a glass of Scotch in his hairy hand. He was genetically re-programmed as an embryo by Elliot. And his name is Doug.

Clayton Jackman III throws the neon-robo bone over his terrier’s head. Driving Jack scatty. Frustrated, in a fit of pique, the enraged hound scurries off in the direction of the lake, and Doug’s carbon fibre float rod.

‘Don’t you let him near my gentles,’ he cautions, ‘He’ll create merry havoc with my lines.’

‘Jack! Jack! Come back, Jack!’ Clay pleads, in a scene reminiscent of Titanic.

*****

Karen orders a fresh round of Pinot. She shouldn’t really drink. Oh, well one can’t hurt, can it?

‘Paula,’ she asks, ‘Where are you on Brexit?’

‘Well hello there, Paula!’ Elliot cries.

‘Elliot!’ his escort gasps.

‘What?’

‘Will you stop wolf-whistling, waving your arms at, and hankering after Paula McVeigh?’ she chides, ‘Your, excrementally embarrassing, sexist attitude, coarse behaviour and crude body language don’t become you as a geneticist, a sexagenarian, friend, mate, or man for that matter.’

‘What’s more I find you physically, emotionally and sexually repulsive when you act like this. So, cut it out! Where are your manners? Why do you so blatantly insist on not adhering to the politically correct guidelines for attracting a mate in the 21st Century, you jerk!’

Hayley feigns a heart attack, clutches her breastplate and rubs her sternum with her wrist.

Elliot rubs his grey-bristled chin.

‘My beautifully designed and expertly crafted genetic programme, the transgressive DNA implant system, Osiris III, allows me to control human emotional behaviour and alter lifespan through strand interference and essential cell protein substitution?’

‘Don’t give me that spin!’ Hayley spurts, ‘You fancy the pants off her!’

Elliot protests, ‘I don’t fancy her, Hails. I just find her fascinating.’

Hayley is appalled. ‘Huh! And what’s that supposed to mean?’

‘If you must know, I was referring to her buttery blonde hair, petite breasts, and solid thighs?’

‘I can’t believe you just said that, you, chauvinist pig!’

‘Oh, really? You didn’t seem to mind when your hand was stuffed inside my shirt?’

Elliot wears a sexy black satin shirt, unbuttoned to reveal his hairless chest to Paula, a smart charcoal grey jacket, matching trousers, brogues; an eligible bachelor. Paula stands up, her left wrist barely rubbing the creased elbow of her numbskull husband, Delmont, pouts her pink lips, lets her cutaneous membrane adhere a little, so that a glint of pre-molar ekes out, mouths:

‘Hello, Doctor, can I interest you in my heated outdoor jacuzzi?’

Elliot takes that as a statement of consent. ‘Meet you lakeside after closing time,’ he suggests.

Paula is wearing trendy dark shades with silver rims and a short-sleeved, blue-and-white-striped cheesecloth dress, slashed to the middle of her thighs. The dress is much too tight and accentuates her belly.

Elliot knows, from his confidential NHS data records, McVeigh is not pregnant. Well, certainly not by the deadhead slouched next to her. He puts her biological age at 32, same as bore-face, squatting next to him, staring into her empty glass. Elliot is still virile. What difference does 30 years make between adulterers?

He flicks a hand, annoying the bartender, orders Hails two Babiche’s, 2 Cherries, and a pint of Speckled Hen.

Paula mouths: ‘What about the dead clown standing next to me?’

Elliot spins round, hissing: ‘Don’t worry about it, Osiris III will take care of him, you’ll see!’

Hayley plucks his beard, hard, drawing blood, ‘Elliot! Stop it! She’s a married woman!’

‘He’s dead meat look at him.’

Hayley conducts a quick independent assessment of Delmont McVeigh. She concludes that Delmont is genetically disabled. Dehumanized by genetical reprogramming possibly, Elliot?

Either that or the man is stoned. One of his boss-eyes is half-closed, two strain lines separate his bushy brows, glue-sniffer sores infest his nostrils, cold-sores rash his lips, his hazel quiff is morgue-stiff and he carries three days facial swarth. Nice cut of suit though: M&S navy cotton, size 15 collar-faded, blue-striped, reusable M&S shirt, too-tight trousers, Matching Tye, silk hankie, chunky cast-alloy watch.

Such a pity the bulldog’s a zombie, Hails muses. Another night? Breaking reedmace together in a lake by moonlight? Her mind returns to Elliot.

‘As Professor of Genetics at Toot Hill College,’ she reminds him, ‘You agreed to adhere to the Government’s official definitions of potential mate status.’

‘Oh really, did I. Well, being a boring old fart, a past-it sexagenarian, I wouldn’t recall that illustrious piece of loo paper, would I?’

Hayley flinches. So, this is Elliot in the dark! She loves it when he gets riled! ‘Don’t huff!’

He’s affronted. ‘I’m not huffed, ok? Just pretending to be huffed? Go on then, remind me!’

‘The rules state that males can only use the following terms when assessing mates: 1: bio-radiant; 2: sexually receptive; 3: potentially reproductive; 4: consensually available; -1: dour; -2: barren; -3: deceased.’ She slips her hand inside Elliot’s shirt, takes his hand and rests it on her bare thigh. ‘Well? How do I rate compared to that tart in the slit slip and sunglasses?’

‘They’re not sunglasses!’ Elliot storms, ‘McVeigh is blind, can’t you see that!’

‘Sorry for her loss of sight.’

‘I should damn well think so!’

‘Well?’

‘Well, what?’

‘How do you rate me? Receptive? Radiant?’

‘In that dress?’

‘Mm!’

‘Barren?’

‘How dare you say that…’

‘Shush! Listen! Look! See? Paula’s behaviour has changed!’

The girls all swing their arms around, swearing, sloshing wine about, singing ‘Brexit!’

Paula wipes her nude lips, laughs, ‘I threatened to leave Del unless he improved his thrust?’

Shocked gasps all round. ‘And?’

‘Guess what, girls?! I renegotiated our relationship on favourable terms at the last minute?’

‘You’re not… sleeping with Delmont again are you Paula?’ Fleur asks, tentatively.

‘I am! I am!’

Tipsy Karen sweep-gestures at Delmont, ‘Not saying much is he, your pairing?’

‘I had him stuffed!’ Paula screams to shrieks of hysterical laughter, ‘I had him stuffed!’

She fluffs her man’s glued-up quiff, makes his head bob, ‘Ah, love you really Del, don’t I?’

‘Uh? Yeah.’

*****

Doug looks down at Clayton Jackman III, as he walks alongside him, the other way, avoiding the stinging nettles, to the swim at the far end of the lake. Clay throws the neon-robo bone for his terrier Jack but, unlike a boomerang, he doesn’t come back.

Presently, they reach a swim, neatly laid out with: a nine-foot retractable carbon-fibre float rod resting on forked twigs; a battered black plastic creel boasting a faded Myrtlesham District AC sticker, a grubby mustard hand-towel, various tackles (hook-lengths on winders, tungsten weights, floats, forceps, tubular disgorger, priest, trowel) and a 2019/ 20 fishing licence with a gaugeon on it. Beside the creel sits a battered deckchair.

Doug bows politely at a church tussock next to his chair and ruffles the boy’s liquorice-candyfloss quiff. The child reaches up for Doug’s hand, smiling a mouthful of milk teeth, as the man says:

‘Come, sit with me, watch me fish, son.’ Doug ushers the boy towards the church tussock.

Clay has concerns. Doug lives in Harlow. One of his ears has been bitten off by a dog. He wears a check country shirt, a red kipper tie with swans flying across it, brown corduroys and green waders. He carries a glass of Scotch in his other hand. He was genetically re-programmed as an embryo by Elliot…

Clay pigeons, ‘I really don’t think I should. My mum told me never to talk to strangers.’

Doug digs in, picks out three squiggly red maggots, and baits his size 12 barbless hook, ‘I’m not one of those paedophiles, you know.’

Clay sticks, ‘My mum told me that, in her personal opinion, which is not legally binding, and without prejudice, she thought that all paedos should be chemically-castrated, or reconditioned, like the anti-hero in A Clockwork Orange, imprisoned for a minimum of ten years, then assimilated back into society in secured accommodation at the centre of Dartmoor.’

Doug looks away, concealing his surprise with a deft forward swing cast into the murky margins. ‘Is that so?’

Clay nods. Doug sprinkles a smattering of squiggly maggots around his float. Float dips, goes under, he strikes, too slow, misses it, damn, re-baits, redworms, re-casts, and continues.

‘And what does Mummy do for a living, may I ask?’ 

‘My mum,’ Clay prides, ‘Is Professor Hayley Colorado, the redundant worldwide authority on Human Behaviour. She’s studying a group now in a wine bar with an old man.’

‘Really?’

Clay nods. Doug sprinkles more maggots around his float. Float dips, goes under, he strikes, too slow, misses it, damn, re-baits, red-dyed sweetcorn, re-casts, and continues.

‘You say, your mum let you watch Clockwork Orange, son, with all that rape and murder?’

‘Oh yuzu!’ Clay pipes. ‘My mum’s very broad-minded. She let me watch Dixie’s Chainsaw Massacre, Youth Hostel XXIV, Under the Dermis, Red Sparrer…’

‘Red Sparrer?’ Clay nods. ‘Isn’t that the one where the actor liberated herself in the cause of stardom?’

‘Mm!’

‘And what kind of mother would let her kid watch that stuff then, eh?’

‘Don’t say that! You don’t understand! Mum’s a professional. She’s never there for me!’

‘Who takes care of you when she’s at work?’

Clay’s eyes are seeping, ‘No-one!’

‘Home alone, eh?’

Clay nods, sadly. Doug sprinkles corn around his float. Float dips, goes under, he strikes, too slow, misses it, damn, re-baits, luncheon meat, re-casts, and says, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’

Clay greys, sits down heavily on the church tussock, next to the old man, and blubs.

*****

The party is in full swing. Debi orders more wine. Karen shouldn’t drink. Hayley and Elliot study the effect of the transgressive DNA implant system, Osiris III, on human emotional behaviour, watching Karen as she contemplates downing her third 250ml glass of Pinot Grigio.

Hails remarks, ‘I worry about the pairing between Karen and McNeil.’

Elliot gets agitated by her emotional involvement in his experiments. ‘Why?’

‘Because the male isn’t responding to the female?’ She points a finger, ‘What did you do to him when you tampered with his DNA strands at the embryonic stage of his development?’

Elliot spins, ‘Well, I might have interfered with his emotional traits,’ then cowers in the corner of the black leather booth, covering his head as his protege rains punches down on him.

‘Interfered with him?!’ she shrieks, pummelling his back, ‘The man’s a complete zombie!’

‘Hayley! Hayley! Look at me!’

She falls quiet, ‘What?’

‘Are you of religious conviction?’

‘I’m an atheist, why?

Elliot begins to preach, ‘A sower went forth to sow…’

Hails looks mystified. ‘How am I meant to interpret that?’

‘…and some seed fell on stony ground,’ he prattles, ‘Don’t you see?’

‘You’ve lost me, Ellie, see what?

‘Liam and Delmont are bad genetic seeds.’

Hayley shakes her head in disbelief as Elliot explains bad seeds: as microbial dark matter.

‘Hails,’ he gushes, ‘biology is full of surprises?! Men’s bodies are home to microbes unlike anything science has discovered before, some so alien that they are re-writing the tree of life.

What’s more, this microbial dark matter is having a profound effect on the male genes. Male bodies are home to 39 trillion microbes, exceeding our 30 trillion cells. Did you know, my skin has a billion bacteria per square centimetre?’

‘There you go, proves my point,’ the female interjects.

‘What point?’

‘Always said you were a dirty old man, Ellie.’

‘Don’t be facetious!’ the male drones, ‘As many as 2,000 different species inhabit my gut…’

‘Piggy, your gut has nothing to do with pairing. I’m speaking to McNeil. She is heavily pregnant, shouldn’t be drinking at all. She’ll kill herself and her unborn baby, if she gets drunk.’

‘Hayley, you can’t!’

‘Why not?’

‘Because our role is to assess, not to interfere in the subject’s behaviour.’

‘I don’t care about your pathetic experiments. I’m going to talk to her,’ Hails tones, walking over to the next table to sit next to the alcoholic.

‘Are you Mrs Karen McNeil?’ she asks her.

‘Yes, why?’

‘I’m a professor. You’re to stop drinking immediately before you harm your unborn baby.’

Karen’s face turns puce with rage. ‘Who the hell do you think you are speaking to me like that? How dare you tell me what I can and cannot do!’

She splashes the wine in Hayley’s face. Reeling with shock, Hayley goes to sit with Elliot who is busy assessing Karen’s reaction.

‘Well done Hayley!’ he gloats.

‘Oh, shut up, won’t you! At least, she didn’t drink it!’

*****

‘Shush! Listen! Look at that genetic mutant! She’s some specimen!’

‘I concede,’ Hails sighs, ‘She is a tad abnormal?’

Fleur is a giraffe girl, a true genetic mutant, as evidenced by her gormless, vacant stare, and bizarre limb-to-torso ratios. Her torso is slim, flat and compact, like the torso on a monkey spider. Her spindly arms are twizzled, twice as long as her torso, and reach down as far as her swollen, water-on-the-knees, joints. And her giraffe legs are three times the length of her torso.

She accentuates her dimensional disparity by wearing a salmon pink tee-shirt, emblazoned with a primrose smiley emoticon over-printed with the words: thank you, thank you, thank you, have a nice day; and satsuma, cerise and pineapple, bell-bottom flares. Her razor-thin gold hair is parted centrally. Like her husband, Liam McPherson, she is weirder than a garden gnome and twice as interesting.

McPherson, who was genetically re-engineered as a foetus by Elliot to be a house husband, is hypersensitive (orange-squashed) and conditioned to play indoor sports. He spends his time in their kitchen, dressed in a mint green football shirt, black shorts, socks, and football boots, dribbling, constantly watching the ball, and crying, ‘Own Your Goals!’

As a result, most of the pair’s John Lewis blue-castellated china and crystal glasses from their wedding list have been shattered, the dirty laundry hasn’t been washed for weeks, the green compostable food waste bag has a fur coat, and Fleur has left Liam for another man.

Karen, suppressing a giggle, asks, ‘What’re you doing for the Bank Holiday, Fleur?’

‘Going Easter-Ex hunting in Wales, aren’t I?’

‘You’re not!’ the girls chant.

‘I am!’ she declares.

‘Go on, say it!’

‘Not telling you! He’s my little secret.’

‘Spoilsport! Go on, tell us!’

‘I’m going camping with Liam!’

Karen’s jaw hits her chest, ‘What?! Not my Liam!?’

Fleur blooms, ‘The very same!’

Elliot grins smugly at Hayley, as if to say, ‘Told you so!’

Karen reaches out for Fleur in a concerted attempt to throttle her. ‘Why, you little minx!’

She ogles her husband who is busy shrinking into the black leather booth, ‘Is this true, Liam?’ There is no immediate reply. ‘Well, is it?’

‘Uh? Yeah?’

*****

The lake is 20 minutes’ walk from the bar, enclosed by trees. The far end is reached by wading through nettles, bogs, other ways. There are swims. At 2pm on a hot day Tench are in evidence.

Doug consoles Clay as he blubs beside him. He threw a neon-robo bone for his terrier Jack who didn’t come back. Clay has concerns. Doug was genetically re-programmed as an embryo.

He says, ‘Do you want to talk about it, son?’

Clay ducks. Doug stares at his float. The float goes under, he strikes: a fish, the line goes taut, the fish tears off towards the lilies!

‘Fish on!’ Doug stand up, the rod bends, expertly he guides the fish away from the lilies! ‘It’s a big Tench! Respect! Grab the landing net, Clay!’

‘What’s a landing net?’

Bubbles of sweat break out on Doug’s brow. His face purples with exertion. He’s fat, middle-aged, divorced (from Anna), six kids. He drops the rod which scuds slowly towards the lake!

A pain strikes him in the chest, a hammer-blow, like no pain he has ever felt before. Doug collapses on the bank. Clayton Jackman III looks at the rod as it skids into the lake, then regards Doug, dying on the bank.

What would you do? Reel in the Tench? Or save the man’s life?

Clayton decides to reel in the Tench! Why? The fish bores down in the water! For that, readers, is what Tench do when they’ve been hooked! They bore down in the water! Doug lies croaking like a dying toad, waving his arms excitedly, clutching his chest, waving his arms…

‘Respect! Apply sideways pressure! That’s it, son! Turn his head. That’s it! Aaargh! Bloody hell! Aaargh!’

Clay watches Doug die on the bank. ‘What is it? What’s the matter?’

‘I’m dying.’

Clay starts to cry, ‘Please don’t die, you’re the only friend I have in all the world. Please…’

‘Respect! He’s heading for them lilies! Sideways pressure! Sideways. Aaargh!’

Clay glances over his shoulder at the inspirational sight of his terrier, standing proudly on a convenient hillock, silhouetted by the blazing sun. The Tench applies linear torsion, pulling Clay’s arm half out of his socket!

Doug lies unconscious on the bank. The gentles have escaped. The gentles squiggle across the sun-baked mud towards their angler. Respect! Jack turns to go.

What would you do? Reel in the Tench? Save Doug’s life? Scoop up gentles? Or call Jack?

Clay decides to reel in the Tench! Why? The fish bores down in the water! Clay decides to call Jack. Why? Jack tumbles down the hillock, dusts itself off, and bolts off down the footpath. To play with weird gnomes? To find his neon-robo bone? To cock his leg up like a poodle?

To Boldly Go Where No Jack Russell Terrier Has Ever Gone Before?!

‘Come back, Jack!’ Clay cries, ‘Come back!’

  *****

The women slump in their booths. Debi orders wine. Karen doesn’t drink.

‘Hel-lo! Marnie!’ she cries.

All eyes turn on Marnie. This is because Marnie, who wants the perfect child, is unable to conceive with her current pairing, Ewen, since he suffers from erectile dysfunction.

Scientists have established a link between riding a stolen Boris-Bike up and down the bumpy life walk track, which runs through Epping Forest, and male reproductive issues. Ewen’s issue isn’t helped by his insistence on cycling through hazardous terrain without wearing a hard hat or a cyclist’s support garment. The house husband compounds his issue by cycling in a check-blue shirt, navy velvet jacket, soft olive chinos and moleskins.

Marnie has gone astray, in search of a mate:

‘Tonight, I’m going to have myself a real good time, I feel ali-i-i-ive! And the bar’s turning upside down, yeah! I’m floating around on Ecstasy. So, don’t stop me now…’

‘What?’

‘Marnie is dressed to mate,’ Elliot observes.

Hayley doesn’t know where to look, ‘For once, I’m inclined to agree?’

Marnie has had her willowy fair hair dyed blonde and cut short, her wispy bob parted on the left and slicked back over one ear to reveal her drippy silver earrings. Her nickel eyes are bright and shiny under their contact lenses, her tell-tale plucked brown brows are raised, her cheeks are flushed and high, her strawberry lips are pursed.

The sheer black cotton dress she wears is slashed, broadly, down each side, revealing her bare arms, baring the cusps of her breasts and boasting the multitude of sexy moles and freckles that infest her milky white skin, like chocolaty flecks on a PC screen. Marnie is literally held together, bound, by heavy chains. She might as well admit that she’s addicted to love.

‘How’re you spend in’ Easter?’ Fleur slurs.

‘Daffa-dilling! Do it every year, with Debs, only till Summer, mind.’

‘Shush!’ Debi slurs, ‘They’re not supposed to know?’

‘Why not?’

‘They might tell Ewen or Dex! You are married, you know!’

‘What difference does that make?’

‘It’s okay,’ Chloe interjects, ‘your secret’s safe with us.’

‘I think, at our age, beauty secrets are about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Not that I’m not still young!’ Debi suggests.

‘You are as young as you feel, Debs.’

‘Look at me!’ Debi, who has caramel brown skin, dyed black hair (golden brown with lemon extensions) bitter chocolate eyes, a flat pug nose, crimson lips, tiny breasts, and Greco-Roman thighs, stands up and props herself against the bar. The bartender stops polishing glasses, the drug-infused haze clears, to reveal Debi in all her glory.

‘Shouldn’t be allowed!’ Hayley shouts, ‘Sacrilege!’

Debi raises a two-finger salute, accentuating the copper-studded leather wrist band, love beads and thick diamond eternity ring (she’s 45, 3 kids, married, Calvin, nice guy, loves her dearly, doesn’t realize she’s bi, is busy putting their kids to bed, reading fairy tales), on her right hand. She balls a fist with her left hand, shaking her solid silver bangle and 25th wedding anniversary present from Calvin: a gold wristwatch.

Debi is paralytic. She hoists back her shimmery satin turquoise ball gown and flashes the full extent of her bare thigh at Hails…

‘Put it away, I don’t want to see it!’

‘See these!’ Debi roars, ripping open her dress to reveal her matching turquoise bra.

‘Happy with my own thanks,’ Hails sarks, ‘Tuck them away.’

*****

The girls slump under the table. Debi orders wine. Karen hurts, inside?

All eyes are on Karen. Karen is blossoming. As the cuffing season comes to an end, she holds onto her partner, reaching the final stage of her relationship, like her best friend, Suzie. It’s late at night, nearly home-time, a drink-up bell rings, the women’s taxis arrive.

‘What’s up, Karen?’ Suzie slurs.

Karen hurts inside…?

‘Karen. Karen. Karen? Karen!’

Karen hurts… inside…?

‘Karen?’

Debi, Suzie, Fleur, Marnie, Chloe shake Karen by the shoulders. Karen doesn’t respond.

Hayley has concerns, ‘Someone, call an ambulance!’

Karen’s last memory is affectionately holding hands with Ewen on the living room sofa like two teenagers on their first date.

Suddenly, Jack bounds into the bar!

The bartender intervenes, tries for the hound’s red collar, ‘Sorry no dogs allowed!’

Hayley leaps from her designated slot in the black leather booth, leaving Elliot bewildered, dashes over to the wine bar exit, lifts her beloved second child up in her arms, squeezes his legs, stares him in the rheumy eyes and listens to him bark.

A voice from the bar, Ernst, the bartender, our hero, waddling expediently up to Hayley. ‘Went to the office, found this? Trained first-aider, any good?’

Hayley’s heart leaps into her mouth, telling her eyes it’s time to cry, crying time is here. She could eat him! The smashing bartender with barbecue sauce! She loves him so much, her hero!

Even Elliot flushes with emotion, chewing his nails, tearing at his grey hair, urging him on: ‘Come on Ernst, you can do this! Come on, for the baby! You can do this!’

Ernst applies the defibrillator to dead Karen’s chest, ‘Okay, on the count of 5; 1-2-3-4-5!’

Karen’s breasts jump like two frog’s legs on an electric fence. Hails, tearful gives Karen her gift of life, feels for a pulse. Karen is dead. Ernst, tearful, bows his head, in homage to the dead mother and her baby. Hails reaches across, consoles him, tells him to try once more, for mum, for the baby.

Ernst applies the defibrillator to dead Karen’s chest, ‘Okay, on the count of 5; 1-2-3-4-5!’

Karen coughs.

Ernst pumps his fist in the air and cheers, ‘Yes!’

Hails turns Karen’s head to the left, lets her sick up all the badness from her stomach, breathes deep, tries to speak. The whole wine bar erupts in raptures of joy. Ernst announces drinks on the house. The proposal falls on deaf ears. Elliot vows never to tamper with genes again. This is humanity, true humanity, Elliot, Hayley, let’s celebrate it!

He turns to the redundant worldwide authority on Human Behaviour, takes her hand, lifts her slim finger, slips on the shiny diamond engagement ring, stares into her sparkling, teary eyes and says:

‘Professor Hayley Colorado, will you marry me?’

Her face lights from ear to ear, crown to chin, cheek to cheek,’ Might do, if your nice to me?’

Hayley hugs barking Jack, ‘What is it Jack? Clay?? Elliot! Jack’s trying to tell us something?’

Jack leaps off his mistress’s lap, jerks his head, and dashes from the bar.

Elliot says, ‘I think we should go?’

Together they rush towards the lake.

*****

‘I think it’s time we left, don’t you, Liam?’

‘Uh?’

‘I said: ‘I think it’s time we left, don’t you?’

‘Uh? Yeah?’

Karen notices that Liam’s head has swollen, veins stand out on his brow, his eyes bulge in their sockets, his mouth drools, like Jack with rabies when it reaches the UK. And it will!

‘Are you feeling okay, Liam? You haven’t said a full word all night?’

‘Uh?’

‘Mine’s looking rather pasty, too, aren’t you Del?’ Paula interjects.

‘Uh? Yeah?’

‘Probably the dodgy beer?’ Suzie smirks, ‘Nasty bugs, bacterial bloat, and all that?’

Delmont and Liam’s bodies swell in tandem like human balloons. The girls are dismayed. The males swell, puff up pink like pigs in inflatable blankets, occupy the saloon bar. Realising, something traumatic is about to happen, Karen asserts herself over her admirers, grabs Paula’s elbow, back-peddles, and guides her flock of sheep hastily towards the exit.

Other drinkers: yokels, shove ha’penny fanatics, skittles freaks, village idiots, adulterers, real beer appreciators, card sharps; scatter and scamper across the sawdust-laden floor, to the car park.

‘Evacuate the bar immediately,’ Paula and Karen cry in unison, ‘Get out of the bar! Leave!’

Liam and Delmont stare at each other’s neon heads, their bursting veins and scream: ‘Uh?’

*****

Jack races ahead of Hayley and her fiancé as they run down the permissive footpath as fast as their short, fat, hairy legs can carry them.

‘Jack! Come back, Oh, God, Ellie, if I could talk to the animals,’ Hayley puffs, then sings, ‘If I could talk to the animals, learn their languages, what a great professor I would be!’

Elliot spins the same record with his bass voice, ‘If I could talk to the animals, walk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals…’

Hayley beams lovingly at her fiancé, puffing, eyes shining, ‘And they could talk to me!’

She glances across at Elliot as they chase Jack, as he bolts off to the swim at the far end of the lake. He looks guilty. They pass the blue algal-coated margins. Puffing, panting, riddled with guilt, he sees the tip of a fishing rod arc and bend in the distance, hears a man cry, ‘Respect!’

Hails stonewalls Elliot, leaps in front of him, pulls him up by his black lapels. ‘What is it?’

‘I, err, I!’

‘Come on, spit it out!’ she roars.

‘I, err, have a small confession to make…’

*****

Clay glances over his shoulder at the inspirational sight of his terrier, standing proudly on a convenient hillock, silhouetted by the blazing sun. The Tench applies linear torsion, pulling Clay’s arm half out of his socket!

Doug lies unconscious on the bank, swelling up in the heat. The gentles have escaped. The gentles squiggle across the sun-baked mud towards their angler.

Hayley, standing beside Jack, on the outskirts of Elliot, stares down at the illegitimate love-child of Beaton Jackman Jnr II; the half-cast Clayton Jackman III. Seeing Doug swell and redden, Jack bolts, the terrier doesn’t come back.

Very slowly, without wishing to alarm Clay, Hails tells him to lay down his rod, that’s it, lay it down, never mind the fish, now, giving the nice fisherman as wide a berth as possible, climb up the hillock and join me and Elliot, atta-boy!

‘No!’

‘What did you just say to me, Clayton darling?’

‘No! I’m not leaving without Doug! Look at him, Mum. He needs urgent medial attention. My best friend has had a heart attack. He’s dying! What’s the matter with you, Mum, Elliott? Why are you staring at him like that?’ Clay cries, ‘Please, help him!’

Doug lies prostrate on the bank, his biological clock ticking the final moments of his life away; his time in this world fading, muting, like a clock on silent sweep. His veins stick out on his brow. He bloats and swells.

‘It’s much too late to be of any help,’ Hayley eyeballs Elliot and hisses, ‘Isn’t it, Professor?’

‘I’m afraid it is rather,’ he concedes, ‘I, err, tampered with the poor man’s DNA strands, I doctored his genomes, I reconfigured his life expectancy, I err. Quick! Look out! Lie down!’

Douglas Boats self-combusts at exactly 15:45 on Monday 6th May 2019, in the presence of Professor Hayley Colorado DPhil, her fiancé Professor Gary Elliot DPhil, and son Clayton Jackman III.  

Liam McNeil self-combusts at exactly 15:45 on Monday 6th May 2019, in the presence of his devoted wife, Karen.  

Delmont McVeigh self-combusts at exactly 15:45 on Monday 6th May 2019, in the presence of his wife, Paula.

There are no survivors.

 


© Copyright 2019 HJFURL. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

More Science Fiction Short Stories