“Hope”

Anthony O. Paul

All rights reserved by the author

 

 

“Hey Jeff, how was your day honey?” asks Mary.  She had just returned from the market and was setting the groceries on the table. “Jeff,” she repeats but yet he still doesn’t answer her.  Jeff is not deaf but he might as well be.  I know this for a fact because I am Jeff.  Ever since the incident I haven’t been able to completely focus on one thing.  Mary, my wife, is always nagging me and asking me if I’m okay but I just can’t believe that I had so much to do with the creation of him.

“Hey Dad,” says my daughter.  She was named after my grandmother.  Katherine Illyana Jefferson, but I call her Katie.  I love her so much.  She is one of the few things that still brighten up my world.  See, my wife cheated on me in the past but I stayed with her because I am a fool.  Imagine that, a Scientist with no common sense.

“How are you doing, honey?”

“I’m good, daddy,”

“That’s good, baby,”

“Hey Dad, I heard the funniest joke today,”

“Well why don’t you tell me it, then?”

“Okay, ummm, let me try and remember how it goes,”

I couldn’t help but smile, she is 17 years old but she will always be my baby girl.  I have a relationship with her that most fathers would envy.  She is truthful with me and that is why I am able to trust her so much.  I don’t have to worry about her running away with some random guy, drinking, or smoking.  She is such a superb student and a talented athlete.  The way she moves in that pool is simply amazing.  I can’t believe that next fall she will be off in college.  Duke has offered her a full scholarship, but that means she’s going to leave me here all alone with Mary.  I can’t help but shudder at the thought.

“Okay, okay I remember now. One Thanksgiving a friend and I were walking down a main street in Albany when a man comes up to me and gives me a turkey and says, ‘Happy Thanksgiving!’ Without hesitation my friend knocks him out. I asked my friend why he punched the nice man. My friend said, ‘He gave you the bird!’  Get it, the bird,” after saying this she bursts out laughing.

I said she was a good athlete but I didn’t say anything about her being a comedian.  But of course I laughed just to humor her.  She grabs a snack, still giggling, and goes to her room.  Once she exits my wife comes up to me and says, “Do I not exist anymore?”

“What do you mean, honey?  Of course you exist.”                                                      

“So how come you don’t answer me when I talk to you?  Even Katherine doesn’t acknowledge me anymore.  I can’t take this Jeff, how many times must I apologize?”

Welcome to my world, as a matter of fact welcome to the brain of Dr. Jeff Johnson.  At one point, I must admit, a lot of people would kill to be in my brain but now I don’t even want to be here anymore.  My life consists only of lying in bed with a woman I don’t care much for anymore, thinking, and hiding from him. There goes my wife again.

“See, there you go again.  It is so obvious that you have not listened to a word I’ve said the entire time.”

“Look, Mary, you know it’s not that.  I told you that you were forgiven.  But you also know about the dreams I’ve been having and…”

“Jeff!  That was over a year ago.  Look, we both know that excuse won’t work anymore, now tell me the truth.  I think you owe it to me,” and as her last word found its way into my ear a loud sound filled the room.  Damn he finally found me.  I knew this day would come soon and there goes my life flashing before my eyes again.  I’ve been on edge so much lately that this seems to happen at every strange noise I hear.  I might as well tell you the story now so that you know what I’m talking about.

 

Two years earlier 

“Ugh…this lab is going to be the death of me,” I muttered as I worked the night away in my lab.  I haven’t had a major breakthrough in anything for the past couple of months and all of my experiments were turning up failures.  Then my apprentice Ricky Booker walks in. He’s young, smart and promising but he can be so annoying sometimes.  He always has these hare brain ideas, but on this particular day he ran into the lab really excited about something.

“Hey, Dr. Johnson what if we could change people’s genetic make-up in order to prevent disease?  I mean we can find some way to insert a synthetic gene into their body so that they produce the things that they need in order to remain strong as opposed to letting their muscles get all weak,” he said.

“Yeah right, Rick.  C’mon let’s be serious.  There would be no way for us to change a person’s genetic makeup.”

The hours continued to fly by and I couldn’t come up with anything.  Rick had left over an hour ago, and his preposterous idea came rushing back into my mind.  The idea was brilliant, but only if there was a way to actually insert a gene into the nucleus of a cell.  How could I get foreign strands of DNA into a cell without having white blood cells destroy them first?

I returned home around 4 o’clock in the morning and my wife was already asleep.  I don’t know how she stays with me; I’m never here to take care of her or listen to her problems.  She still tells me that she loves me but I’m starting to feel like the words are getting emptier and emptier.  Anyway, I dismissed the thought and hopped into bed, I was unbelievably tired and rightfully so.

The following afternoon, I was attacked with hugs, kisses, and yelps for joy.  Katie had just arrived home from school and was shouting, “Daddy, Daddy, I got an A on my project.”

“Honey, calm down, relax, why don’t you tell me about it?”

“Okay, I did it on viruses and the process of the infection of cells. They insert their small amount of DNA directly into the nucleus of the cell.  They then produce certain proteins, which allow the virus to take command of the cell.  After this the host cell mass produces copies of the virus.  That’s how all viruses work, isn’t it cool?  And at first a virus strand goes undetected by the immune system because they’re covered by protein.”

Little did she know that with her rudimentary high school explanation of viruses, she revolutionized the world of medicine.  How could I not have thought of using viruses earlier?  Rick’s idea was possible now! I’d make a fortune.  “Darling, that’s great I’m happy for you, but I got to run off to work now.  I’ll see you later,” I said.  “Tell your mother I’m sorry about having to cancel our lunch plans…umm…as a matter of fact, just tell her something important came up.”

I arrived at the lab a half hour later eager to begin my experiment.  Rick told me yesterday that he would not be coming in today so I had the lab all to myself.  I decided to keep this breakthrough a secret; he didn’t really need to know about this anyway.  It may have been his idea but I actually worked on it, so it is my work, right?  All right, enough thinking I need to get to work I’ll worry about this when the time comes.

I found a way to strip viruses of their DNA and insert a new strand of DNA.  This way I could insert this virus directly into the muscle.  The viruses would do the rest of the work on their own; it was truly a work of art.  The DNA of the muscle cells would change and the cells would increase production of certain proteins, which made the muscles larger and stronger.  Some of these proteins even maximized the flow of energy throughout the body.

After observing the mice that I injected I found that their muscles got larger without any exercise at all.  With exercise the muscles grew 20-50% larger.  This was amazing, Rick was absolutely right.  As the mice aged the muscles retained strength as opposed to getting old and tired.  The entire time I managed to keep it a secret from Rick but couldn’t help but feel bad that I did.  I reasoned out to myself that I would inform him of my findings when all of my research was done. 

All of my animal experiments were a success; I was slowly but surely creating a race of super animals.  I needed a human subject, preferably an athlete.  This was the only way I’d know for sure that the injected genes would enhance the performance of muscles among other things in the human body.

“Damn! Who can I get to go along with such a risky procedure?”  I placed my head on the desk and began to think.  “I can’t let this project go to waste, I’ve done way too much now,” I said.  I picked my head up and there he was, the solution to my problem.  Jack Richards, a high school track star.

Jack went to the same school as Katie.  Sometimes I would hear her mention how fast he was.  I also knew that she strongly disliked him.  She would complain about how he was narcissistic and never satisfied.  Jack was definitely the perfect candidate for the muscle enhancement program.  I knew all about him and thanks to Katie I also knew where he could be found.

As school let out the following day it seemed as if the children were fleeing the building.  I fought against the current of students and found my way inside.  I approached Jack as he stood outside the locker room, just where Katie said he would be.

“Hey Jack, I’m a big fan.  My name is Dr. Johnson and I was wondering what would you say if I told you that I can make you faster and stronger than you already are?”

“Well, Doc, I would ask you if that is even possible,” he replied.  I can see that he really didn’t believe me because he was already walking away and shaking his head.

“Wait, of course it is.  See, I developed this new advanced form of gene therapy, which would cause your muscles to maximize their output.  What do you have to say to that?”

“What are you waiting for?” Jack grinned.

With that we took off for the lab.  I ran through the procedure as usual and there were no immediate side effects, so far everything was going right.  After a few tests, I told him, “All right, you’re all set.  Now go and workout like you normally would.  After your track meet this Saturday I want you to come back and tell me what happens.”

“Sure thing, Doc.”

A few days later, Jack returned with the biggest smile on his face.  I also noticed that his physique had changed.  His shoulders were broader, and his biceps and calves looked swollen.  “I ran my fastest time ever.  All of the college scouts were extremely impressed,” he said still smiling ear to ear.

“That’s great, Jack.  Well my apprentice is about to come in, I’m finally going to reveal my work to him.  I’d like you to stay and meet him so I can tell him about our success.”

“Anything for the man who just guaranteed me a free ride to college.”

We sat and chatted until Rick arrived.

“Hey cuz, what are you doing here?” Rick said with glee upon arriving.

Apparently the two of them were cousins and I knew nothing of it, luckily this project was a success or there would have been a problem.  I began to explain everything to Rick when Jack grabbed his chest.  Later I read in the paper that his heart had exploded.

Rick snapped that day and I don’t blame him for it.  I came home that same night and told my family that we needed to move.  I told them that I got transferred to Washington DC but obviously the truth was I needed to lay low for a while.  That leads us back up to today; it seems that Rick finally found me.  On the day of his cousin’s death I remember him vowing revenge but I thought it was the anger speaking.  I decided to leave because I couldn’t live with the guilt.  I left all my work behind and to Rick it must have seemed like I just disappeared.  I thought it would be best for the both of us.  I did stay in contact with some of the scientists in the Albany area and they told me that Rick spent all day and night in the lab.  There were rumors going around that he was working out the kinks in my experiment but I didn’t take them too serious.  Rick was only 24, how could he succeed where I failed?    

Then one day I saw it on the news, Rick Booker had experimented on himself and became the ultimate man.  The story was short but the newscasters told me all that I needed to hear.  They had footage of Rick doubling the world record in all weightlifting events.  He also ran stride for stride with a greyhound.  How could this be?  Although I was happy for him I was depressed by the fact that I wasn’t the one to become a success.  Then I started to have dreams of Rick capturing me with his immense strength and avenging his cousin’s death.  I tried to shake them off because why would he come after me now?  He was a huge success, he’s probably forgotten all about poor old Dr. Johnson.

 

Present Day

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  That sound was the kicking down of my door by an incredibly powerful human.  There was little Ricky from the old lab, but he wasn’t little anymore.  Maybe it was because I was on the floor but he seemed much taller.  He was also bulging with muscle.  That’s when I saw the umbrella.  I should reach for it, hop to my feet, and...

Before I could finish my thought everything went black.  Rick had punched me in the back of my head, knocking me unconscious before I had any chance of defending myself. 

I woke up with to the sounds of metal clanking, bright lights surrounding me, and Rick’s massive back facing me.  When everything finally came into focus I could see that the room was completely void of life except for Rick and me.  Still groggy I finally asked him, “Where am I?”

“You’re in my lab now, do you like it?  I had it built just for times like this.”

“What does that mean?”

“It is sound proof,” he smirked.  “There is no more running now Dr. Johnson.”

“They’ll find my body, you can’t cover this up.”

“I don’t really care,” he replied.  “It’s too late for me I’m going to die as well.  I only found a way to delay the adverse effects of the gene therapy.  I only needed enough time to kill you.”

I knew I was in a jam.  I really couldn’t blame Rick for hating me.  I mean I did kill his baby cousin, but it was not my intention to do so.  I really wanted to…I’m not even sure what I wanted to do anymore but I know it was for good.  I guess it’s up to God to decide whether or not my actions were sound.  Honestly, I already know what his decision is.  Why would he put me in a situation where I was sure to die if I had not done something wrong?

As all these thoughts ran through my mind he injected me with a poison that painfully shut down my organs leaving my brain for last.  He had really done his homework, I felt everything up until the last moment and he also seemed to enjoy it.  As the poison reached my brain I saw Rick gasping for air, grabbing his heart and suffering as well. I guess God wasn’t too pleased with him either.

The next day the bodies were found.  It became a big story; the whole country seemed to become obsessed with it.  When the devil came to my cell every morning to give me the daily update he also gave me a copy of The Daily Devil. In my opinion, the most fitting headline was, “The Side Effects of Man Playing God.”

 

© Copyright 2005 by the author

All rights reserved