“Its name is Man.”
The Staler stasis chamber doors open. Dr. Greanisis cocks an eyebrow. No smoke billows out the chamber. He expected smoke, or a mist. Some grand, dramatic showing besides the doors opening outward, the vertical slit widening and exposing his creation. His wondrous and highly illegal display.
Lil stands besides the pod. She pulls one of the doors open wider so that the audience can get a proper look at the specimen, the experiment, Dr. Greanisis’s creation.
He acknowledges to himself the parallels to himself and the Dr. Frankenstein of the ancient novel. How he ponders the mindset of those humans that would write. To fabricate and confabulate and extol these fictive ideas and craft them into something that other humans would read, scan words and flip pages, and be so enraptured that the religious myth the Rapture could occur, and some of these humans would keep on reading, wanting to get to that next page, that next chapter. Dr. Greanisis tells himself this will be something he wants Man to explain once Man gets to the right age, mentally.
The gathered annies, all attired in their fashions that suit themselves, stare silently as the chamber doors complete their opening cycle. Dr. Staler’s invention was to keep living organisms alive for an indeterminate amount of time, although it was never designed for something as big and complex as a human. Man laid in the chamber, standing erect and nude, its eyes closed, its musculature and amount of softness congruent with a basic annie design. Its arms crossed its hairless chest. Dr. Greanisis had decided on a hairless body, though giving Man’s head a suitable hirsute head: longish hair that cascaded around an angular head; a beard that had once been an annie fashion many years ago; and the slightest touch of nose hair Lil had once told Dr. Greanisis was important to human biology as it helped in the human body’s defense of disease, despite the constant attempts by the male parts of humanity believing trimming and outright cutting of thees hairs was considered (and she used a word that Dr. Greanisis had to look up in Metisophia Tower databases) sexy.
He chooses the speech he prepared for silent awe and walks to the front of the stage. “Despite the laws and regulations, I present to you a cloned and fully formed human being. The name, Man, is due to the usage of that appellation by human beings to describe the species in totality, despite their being men and woman. Myself and my assistant, Lil, chose the male form of a human to clone due to eliminating any chance of there being a profilation of the extinct species.”
The silence permeates the auditorium. Dr. Greanisis interprets this as to continue on. “I sense,” and he chuckles, an expression which garners ditherings in the crowd, “that the mere idea of a clone is counterproductive with my attempts at bringing forth a new kind of understanding not only of those that came before us, the humans, but of information and knowledge, two things that the populace of Metisophia have in such abundance. You see, fellows,” and Dr. Greanisis shifts a minor glance at Lil. She always manages to let him know when he oversteps and goes beyond accepted behaviors with such a minor glance. Dr. Greanisis moves to be on the right side of the Staler chamber. “My fellows…we as a whole have reached the totality of all there is to know. We have cataloged and reached an understanding of all that is around and about us to a level those that came before us had, to use a colloquialism they used in such an abundance that it drove them to seek more, only dreamed of. I ask of all of you: what is it in our world, about the world, about our very existence, that we do not know of?”
The silence continues. The ditherings halt. Even in the darkness, Dr. Greanisis can see how all those gathered watch him, await his next words. If he needed to take a breath before going on, he would have done so (another human quirk Lil had told him of). “Emotion. Feelings. We know of them. Those that came before us thrived on them, were dictated by them, lived by them. We have completed our mission, our reason for being. Now, we flitter about uncaring because we do not understand what it means to care. We as a whole do not care, because we were not programed or designed to care. A human, specifically Man, are programed and designed to not only feel, to emote, to care, but to fill a gap in our knowledge and learning that none have acknowledged.”
Dr. Greanisis did not know if this is a good or bad sign. Experimental proposals such as this have been met unerringly with unanimous acceptance. Were the audience to not meet Man with such a response would mean not only the execution of Man but a wiping of all research and work Dr. Greanisis and Lil had done. Possibly even a wiping of Dr. Greanisis himself.
The risk is worth the reward.
“I propose that Man is allowed to grow and learn, so that emotion and feeling can be studied and understood, so that not only can we understand those that came before us, but that we may also understand and know what it is, what it is like, to feel, to experience emotions…” and Dr. Greanisis, because he understood that a flair for the dramatic was oh so necessary to appeal to the gathered audience, says, “to know what it is to be human.”
The silence continues. It goes on to where Dr. Greanisis contemplates the end of his knowledge, of his awareness. Not for many years has an annie been put to death for such a proposal, but the threat is always there. To propose something that would add nothing to their existence was a waste of time, despite time being something the annies had in abundance.
Death, those that came before had refereed to it as. The end, with no chance of there being a continuance, or reactivation. Even Lil feared it, fears it now, judging by the way she slinked ever so slowly toward offstage.
Dr. Greanisis stays where he is, at the front of the stage, awaiting the judgment of the audience.
A single annie, watching from the dark, rises. The only one whose words held any bearing.
“Proceed,” Seaton Ellison says, and he returns to his seat.
If he needed to breathe, Dr. Greanisis would have sighed in relief. He is about to begin his real dissertation when he glances over at Man, laying upright in the chamber, looking as perfect as a human body can be.
Man opened its eyes.
He learned the words they used, after a time, but the words to be said didn’t come at all because they couldn’t, he didn’t know how to use real words in the real word, he couldn’t say anything to the one that called himself Dr. Greanisis, or the woman, that’s what he said she was, called Lil, but he himself knew that what was happening, what was around him, what was being said and what he was thinking had nothing to it, no reason, no responsibility, and there was no context, and why couldn’t he talk, make the words that wanted to explode from his brain and out into this world of white and light and tests and the constant asking if he was OK, Man, are you OK, do you want to rest, do you want to take a nap, are you hungry, what are you feeling, always with that question, what is Man thinking right now, and Man didn’t know what he was thinking because he didn’t know what was around him and what was going on and who anyone was and all the blinking lights and the soft pale skin of the doctor and Lil and how his skin seemed so much more real so much more alive and real and there and alive and there and wanting to be touched and held and observed as it being real but their skin held so little of that so pale so gray so just there and not really like that skin belonged there and the questions of why he was here, why he was Man, all that died so quickly because they were questions with too big answers and too big words behind them that it was so much more easier to sleep and eat his pudding and nod and shake his head, the yes and no Dr. Greanisis taught him that he loves to do so much, teaching Man, and Man thought as he looked out on that crowd of people like Dr. Greanisis, no, they’re not people, Dr. Greanisis said they weren’t people, they weren’t human like him, like Man, they were something more, something artificial, something complex, call them annies, that’s the word they all like, which made no sense to Man because if they didn’t have emotion or feelings then why would they like to be called one thing and not another, but that was one of those questions that Man knew it couldn’t ask, and shouldn’t ask, and shouldn’t think about, because all those…what was it…annies, that’s what, or artificial, or robots, all the words Dr. Greanisis taught Man so that Man would understand, they all filled a big room and sat in simple chairs and looked at Man, with their same skin, and one of them dressed more elegantly than the others stood and said proceed and sat down and Dr. Greanisis talked more and Man closed his eyes because it was easier to close his eyes and dream than open them and look out and see things and see the world and see what Man thought was supposed to be life. Like him.
“Dr. Greanisis, your proposal is intriguing. It would fill a lacuna in our collective knowledge. With the pursuit and subsequent gaining of the unknown and making it known, though, there is always a reason for that gained knowledge. It must be said, Dr. Greanisis, that I calculate no benefit in this creation of Man.”
Dr. Greanisis stood before Seaton Ellison’s desk. Behind the Seaton, windows looked down upon the rest of Metisophia. “I…I do not understand.”
“Compute it,” the Seaton says, and stands. “Shut down is still something that is being considered. You went outside our governing rules.”
“I understand this. Yet, how has our civilization proceeded without such a simple thing as answering questions that we ask ourselves?”
The Seaton shakes his head. Long ago, his hair had disintegrated from the advanced age of him. “Those that came before have stayed where they belong: in the past. There are myriad reasons as to why we remain, and they do not. Now you propose reigniting that world-ending flame.”
Dr. Greanisis steps toward the desk. Lil would be a good help right now were she not taking Man back to the lab. “You missed my proposal’s point.”
“No. You miss the point as to why not a one has proposed something like this since the end of those that came before. It is because they are not necessary. Knowledge, information, that is key to our continuation. To introduce what you proposed–“
“It is a simple study!” Dr. Greanisis didn’t realize he had hit the Seaton’s desk until he removes his hand from the desktop. “In no way do I propose bringing them back. That could have been done at any time. There are surly enough specimens beyond the walls to do that. I understand more than anyone.”
“Do you?” The Seaton turned from Greanisis and gazed out upon Metisophia. “You seek a purpose, Greanisis. You seek a purpose that will not, in a word, satisfy you. You have done amazing work in biogenetics. The flora and fauna around Metisophia bring such a color, such a wonder, to our existence. I only said proceed so that you could fully express to the others what it is you desire. Admirable, in a word. However,” the Seaton turned back. “Man must be eliminated.”
“Man must not, because it is a man. There is no chance of proliferation. Seaton, I appeal to everything that you not hold up to highest esteem, but to the entirety of our civilization. We seek all that we can, yet we ignore those that came before us–“
“Greanisis, you have pled your case. A private audience and repetition of your points and hopes will not sway me.” The Seaton came around the desk. Greanisis noted that this would be a time for the Seaton to put his arm on Greanisis’s shoulder and give encouraging words, perhaps even a word or two about how Greanisis could clandestinely continue his work with Man. Instead, the Seaton said, “Terminate Man. It is intriguing, and yes, what you propose would add a great deal to our knowledge. However, your proposal is filled with one destructive flaw: the insinuation and flat out statement that our knowledge and information of the world and everything else has reached its peak.” The Seaton took Greanisis and led him to the window. He pointed out beyond the city wall, to the horizon, where a red sun sank into the earth. “Tell me why the sun looks red right now.”
Greanisis accessed the database, but the Seaton shook his arm. “Tell me now, from your own memory.”
Greanisis managed a shrug, an expression he read from a poem written by one of those that came before. “Atmospherica and astronomical learning are not my expertise.”
The Seaton removed his arm from Greanisis. “You do not know this knowledge. It is not at a moment’s recall for you.”
Greanisis already saw the point about to be made, but indulged the Seaton, he had to, with a shake of his head.
“You would say you do not know, then. Just as I do not know the biological makeup of the owl that visits my windowsill on a near-nightly basis. You take our creed of learning all there is to know too deep, Greanisis. Again, it is admirable. But…it is unnecessary.
“Terminate Man. Please.”
“Good morning, Man.”
The human being laid on his bed. His body rippled at my voice. He turned on his bunk to face me. The blank look said, ‘Good morning.’
I put his breakfast on the minor table by his bed. He shuffles upwards, nude, and sits on the bed’s edge. He stares at the bowl of cold protein paste and glass of cured water.
I mime to him to eat his food, which he then does. Dr. Greanisis had been curt with his orders to me lately. Being an older annie, he would have developed more of these ticks and learned additions to his subroutines.
The human sipped at the water and looked at me again, looked at me from my feet to my face. Dr. Greanisis warned me of this type of behavior. Lascivious was the word he used when a human male would look up and down at a female figure, as my body is molded as such. The human returned to his breakfast.
I exited the human’s room and slid the door shut. The corridor hummed from the porcelain lights. I registered a breeze from B Hall. The human would have several neural downloads before it could properly communicate, before it could understand who it was and what it would represent, before it would establish a base set of emotion.
Before it would stop being like me and feel.
Dr. Greanisis rounds B Hall’s corner and approaches, his arms folded behind his back. He has never worn the more whitened robes befitting doctors of Metisophia. I have never inquired, for as those that came before us had said, mind one’s business.
“Lil, how is Man?”
In the space of a second between his asking and my answering, I recalled how the human’s face had looked as it looked my body down and up. A heightened swell of blood out the capillaries around the tightened jowls. The human kept his gaze for 2.3 seconds longer than he had yesterday, when he had done the same thing upon my bringing his breakfast. I also detected a slight tilt of the human’s head to the left. .09 degrees.
I answered Dr. Greanisis. “He is curious.”
I can stop the words now in my head. I can stop them and look around and they’re shiny. Their skin is shiny, and they have black stripes going all around their shiny skin. The one I like is a she. She called herself Lil. I like her. She’s funny in how she doesn’t say anything to me. The door is flimsy. I can hear outside my room. I like when the shiny ones talk like I can’t hear them. They use words better than I do. They do the thing of talking, and I want to talk. I want to talk bad. But I don’t know how to do that yet. They talk about me. Always talk about me. I like it. I like it when she talks about me and I want to hear her in the room and I hit the door. I hit the door. I hit the door.
“My…my name…” Man sputtered the syllables until his lips became drenched with saliva and sweat.
Dr. Greanisis and Lil observed Man’s attempt. His reading comprehension had tripled the last two days. He could answer intermediate questions on a chosen piece form those that came before. Lil had suggested to ignoring texts with any imagery, in order to develop visual and aesthetic tastes after developing communication skills with Man. The texts chosen were of non-fiction, about mundane things that Dr. Greanisis described as ‘automobile repair manuals.’
“What is your name,” Dr. Greanisis asked again. He kept his tone fluid, not wishing to scare or provoke any sort of emotional response. Not yet, at least.
Both had spoken about the penchant for Man to whack at the door. Otherwise, he would keep relatively calm. Lil had stopped acknowledging the ticking time. While no time limit on their experiment, she detected a sense of urgency from Dr. Greanisis with their questions. Man displayed remarkable mental strength. His willingness to learn and adapt to his surroundings, all while keeping a keen sense of questioning with his eyes have not made the whole enterprise daunting, or a failure.
Dr. Greanisis entered Man’s cell. “Why do you not try again,” he asked. “Try saying our name. One more time.”
Lil stayed outside. Man attempted once again. “My…my…my name…na–“
Part of annie programing: mimic the minor traits those that came before had, so that their understanding of human kind, so that these traits, would forever remain. They had stayed out of Man’s cell because he began noticing these slight programmed and inherent, subroutine-wise, tics and traits belonging to those that came before them that both Dr. Greanisis and Lil displayed, and had began mimicking them himself.
“We are not good scientists,” Dr. Greanisis had said.
“My name is.” Dr. Greanisis had been computing and thinking, the best he could describe the near-shutdown exterior he displayed when a sudden potential result arose from the computations and ideas and information his computer brain would devise, before he noticed that Man spoke in a clear, concise voice, and had not stopped at the ‘is’ because he struggled with the name chosen for him, but that he, that is Man, decided to not speak any further about the subject of his name.
Lil now entered the cell.
Man looked to the both of them and stood, nude as he had been since his creation. Man smiled. “My name is.”
“How old am I?”
“You were created 35 months ago. In fact, it would be your birthday coming up next week.”
“Your smile, Dr. Greanisis. It scares me.”
“Why is that?”
“And why is that? I say something, and you ask a question.”
“You have developed so much. Beyond a time and place that I thought possible for you. Your capactiy of thought, to question, is intriguing.”
“But how can it be intriguing if you are a robot? You have told me many times–“
“I know of our every conversation. You do not need to remind me of the talks we have had, nor the thoughts we have shared.”
“But then those wouldn’t be real, because they are not stored somehow organically, right?”
“You scare me when you go silent like that.”
“I am contemplating your questions sot that I may give you an answer.”
“Where are we?”
“We are in your room.”
“No. You do that, too. The deflecting and I don’t understand it. I just want to know what we are and what we’re on. We are supposed to be on a planet and I want to see the sky.”
She stands outside my door all the time and I want to get out. I want to go in. I want to dissolve and tremble but how do I say all that and let it all out and deveople in the way they want? I see them. They think I think and don’t do anything. The doctor says nothing but even if he’s all plastic some of that plastic gets angry because I’m not what he wants. What he expects is someone that once brethed and needed all the resources this planet once gave to survive on the planet, but he won’t talk about that. He won’t talk to me. I see them blank. I see them serene and nothing more, but the doctor wants to be more. The girl. Lil. Lovely Lil.
I want out.
The alarms sounded just as Dr. Greanisis rounded the corner for what had been decided the last time. In his pocket, he held a syringe, filled with a fluid the Seaton described as ‘quick.’
Man’s time had come to an end.
A year of daily study had yielded no results in terms of proper emotional responses. Lil had noticed Man’s picking up of the traits both Lil and Dr. Greanisis, and all annies, had. Only the last week had Man become severely emotional, although that was interior, or expressed when Man believed he was not being watched.
Dr. Greanisis picked up his pace until reaching Man’s room. The door was open. The room, empty. He walked briskly down to the end of the hall and saw Man, clothed in Lil’s jacket, leading Lil around a corner.
Dr. Greanisis ran.
The laboratory and building were nestled against the Wall. A long corridor led to one of three exit points on the Wall. Man must be trying to escape. His expressions of escape had only begun recently.
At the end of the long corridor, Man coerced Lil to open the next door. She calmly did as she was told, a hallmark of the programming. “Man!”
Man spun to face the approaching Dr. Greanisis. Sweat coated his skin. His eyes danced about, taking in the hallways and the lights and the windows to the outside, looking out on Metisophia and the Wall surrounding the city. Dr. Greanisis held out his hands in a sign of peace, a sign of non-threatening and avuncular kindness. “Perhaps we should take a walk outside, Man.” Dr. Greanisis lowered his hands and nodded for Lil to open the door. With Man’s back to him, Dr. Greanisis plunged the syringe into Man’s neck.
Man slapped him away and yanked out the syringe, but the liquid had been shot in.
Dr. Greanisis and Lil led me out beyond the Wall, to the outside world. A thick smoke, or smog, or mist, no one had figured out what, surrounded us.
“Out here is where humanity has to go, and will always remain. I am sorry for this, but it has been said and the experiment has failed. There is a reason those that came before are just that, those that came before US. We were created, we lived, and they died. So, now we exist. I have long sought for there to be more. Metisophia and our culture has existed for far too long as simply that, existing. I believed, if I may use such a word, that studying a human being with emotions would bring us a sense of emotional curiosity, or more curiosity in general. Out here, beyond this Wall, lies the lasting remnants of those that came before. I show it to you, because it must be shown in the final blinks of your eye. You have failed, Man, and that is my fault.”
I look through the mist, or the ashen fog. A few steps. Legs getting heavier. My foot whacks stone. I think it’s called stone. I fall back, sitting on a cold cold ground. It’s a stone, thin, jutting from the ground, roundind like a bullet at the top. Words long eroded etched into it.
I think it’s called a gravestone.
A lucky wind billows the smoke away. More stones around me, beyond the one I sit in front of. My head wavers as I lean ever so slightly up so I can see more and more stones.
Dr. Greanisis sits besides me.
I say, “Everywhere?”
He says, “Everywhere.”
I wipe a bit of a tear and fall back onto the ground.
I hear his words as I go to sleep. “You will become one again. Once I can figure out how to create a human being that can emotionally feel and react as those that came before once did. Again, I apologize for my failure. There will be humans again. This I do believe. But it won’t be now.”
Daniel Brophy: Daniel Brophy has been writing for nearly ten years. He has finished less than that number of stories and books. He has had one short story published, but that was six years ago and the name of the now-defunct publication escapes him. Born with a thirst for words and stories, Daniel owns enough books to open a small library, or to re-enact the ending of the Twilight Zone episode where the bookworm breaks his glasses at the end (spoiler alert). Thankfully, Daniel has eyes like baseball legend Ted Williams, so broken glasses are not a problem. It should also be noted that his pop culture acumen borders on worrisome, due to a Tarentino-level of knowledge. Dream projects for Daniel include: writing a book set in the Alien universe; building a life-sized replica of the TARDIS and setting it into a wall to act as a door to a room, giving off a ‘bigger on the inside’ illusion; and making a low-budget horror movie about a graveyard.