The first one they ever created was a failure.
The female was shapeless and unintelligent, with a brain only half the size of a human one, frail bones that snapped too easily, and wide, sightless eyes the color of pus. They kept her in a cage, where she lay motionless in a patch of dimming light, gurgling slightly and drooling from a wide, beaklike mouth as the doctor dribbled a yellowish formula down her throat. She flapped her arms a little – sad lumps that they were – but made no sign of understanding his soothing tones or the cool touch of his assessing hand. Her skin was the bumpy texture of sandpaper, grayish brown with a few spiny hairs growing out of what they presumed to be her elbows. They tried to make her move around or sit up, or even swallow properly on her own, but the thing was too weak and stupid, too animal to understand.
A week into the experiment, a tall man in a white lab coat came into her cage with a syringe. He stroked her small, hairless head as she wiggled under his fingers and then slid the needle into her neck. She made and inhuman screeching noise, thrashed so suddenly he leaped back in amazement – never had they seen her move so violently – and contorted her face in a flash of agony.
Then the scuttling noise stopped, and she lay very still. Her barrel shaped chest moved once, twice, and then stopped.
The doctor stood over her for a second, then left the cage and locked it behind him. On the chart attached to the steel bars, he crossed something out, and on a blank line he simply wrote the word “One.”
Four could almost talk. He was bit too small, his vocal cords not quite the right shape, and the voice that escaped him low and distorted. He knew only one word, as far as the doctors could tell. They tried teaching him more, but he didn’t respond to any sort of stimulation. They wondered if perhaps he couldn’t feel, because he seemed completely paralyzed, his stunted limbs limp and useless like rubber.
Still. Perhaps he was just being deliberately defiant. The doctor needed to make sure so he pressed a couple of buttons on a tiny remote control he held in his sweaty palm and held up a thick index card for Four to see.
Four whined, but made no more noise.
The faint humming sound increased in pitch, and Four started keening loudly. “St..hh…h.”
The doctor looked at Four’s tiny face hopefully, but the almost-word dissolved into a series of unintelligible whimpers and cries.
The doctor growled angrily and threw the remote across the room, where it shattered into a pile of springs and broken plastic against a pale colored, tiled wall. Then he stomped out of the room, leaving the sobbing Four still on the table, still hooked up to countless electro transmitters and wires.
Twelve was a miracle. After a dozen of failed attempts, he was their dream child. Their salvation. Their heavenly gift.
Doctor Blanc stared at his beautiful creation through the glass pane separating them. Twelve was sitting propped up on some pillows, his eyes closed, his breathing shallow and even. He was resting one hand on his lower abdomen – one perfect, finely sculpted, delicate hand. He was pale, but that was to be expected, especially after his third surgery. Doctor Blanc watched as the nurse bustled around him under the flickering fluorescent lights, stroking his silky, chocolate-brown hair, moving his arms gently to rest comfortably near his body, and tucking a soft blanket around his tall, slender shape. Twelve cracked his eyes open to look at her and smiled wanly.
“There, there,” she crooned at him quietly. “Are you feeling better?
He dipped his head in a tiny nod, and Doctor Blanc felt the sting of tears behind his eyes. Years of research and work, years of attempts to get him just right… and he was. He was exactly what they had wanted. He understood human communication; he was intelligent, nonaggressive, his eyesight was incredibly sharp, his reflexes were a dream. Despite having been born just so recently he had the body of a grown man – lithe and powerful, angular, teeming with the potential for incredible strength.
His wings. Good God, but his wings were divine, wide and soft speckled brown, streamlined, with smooth feathers and strong muscles. And they looked completely natural. He folded them lightly against his back as if they were meant to be there, as if Nature had wanted them there from the start and Doctor Blanc had simply added them when Nature had forgotten.
Blanc needed to talk to him. One last time.
He twisted the knob on the door separating them with a screech and watched Twelve look up sharply as he entered. He walked over to his beautiful child and squatted down next to him on the floor, nearly gasping with delight when Twelve twitched one wing in a slight, reflexive motion.
He reached out to stroke the feathers lightly, liking the way Twelve shivered. The way those amber eyes went wide when he reached out to caress his smooth jawline.
“It’s all right, Twelve. I’ve come to say goodbye.”
Twelve sat up gingerly, rubbing the back of his wrist across his cheek. He cleared his throat. “I won’t be… seeing you again?”
Blanc shuddered slightly, letting Twelve’s soft, lilting voice wash over him. It was a bit scratchy, high-pitched, but still music to his ears.
“Yes. I’m afraid I… I’ll be going away for a while. You’re safe here with the others.”
Twelve nodded again, the corner of his lips turning up in a small smile. “I know.”
Blanc patted Twelve’s shoulder very, very lightly and stood. “I will miss you, Twelve. Au revoir,” he said, his face twisted into a marginally happy expression, his French suffering for it terribly.
“Au revoir, monsieur. Je vous souhaite un bon voyage,” Twelve replied, his accent flawless. His talent for languages was just another interesting ‘side effect’ of his fascinating genes.
Doctor Blanc looked around carefully, taking in the white room with the harsh lights and the spotless surfaces. He frowned at the nurse, who was in the corner fluffing a pillow.
“Get him some color in here,” he admonished. “And take good care of my Twelve.”
Then he left, shutting the door with a click.
© Copyright 2017 Kaia Julee. All rights reserved.
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