I sent this story out to, Einstein’s Pocket Watch. Here is the acceptance email.
“I read your story, “Father.” I am going to accept it. I must say, it was a tough decision –NOT because the writing is bad, because the writing is awesome. It is just a bit “dark” for my Webzine. However, because it was so well written, and because it reminds me of something from “The Outer Limits,” I want to give it a go.”
Then I got this from Rob Crandall, Editor ;
“HI Gerardine, I’m happy to announce that I picked your story, “Father” as my $10 Winner of Issue #1 of Einstein’s Pocket Watch. It was my favorite story of the bunch, so I will be sending you a check for $10 to this address…. I also wrote a little blurb about you on Issue #2 ‘s opening page. If you want to check it out, go to: www.peafant.wordpress.com Also: There are some great stories and poems in Issue #2. You should check em out! Anyway, thanks for the great story, and congratulations! –Rob Crandall, Editor”
Rob was having issues with archiving past issues. So I am posting that story here. Other stories will follow. All comments are welcome.
For now-, here is, “Father” enjoy.
By Gerardine Baugh
I watched the women fall clutching the gun to her chest. She landed heavily on the floor. I felt the reverberations move through my tank, the water buckled with the impact. Confused, I couldn’t help her; I tried but my small webbed hand hit the barrier of glass. Darkness spread around her head.
My father, the one who feeds me and talks to me, he is the one who is here, his voice sooths my dreams in my cocoon of warm thick plasma. Father, whose eyes smile softly as he touches my tank. Now, he stands above her showing no real concern for her pain. I can see her eyes fill in black; I wonder if my eyes are that black, or are they the deep green, like hers were before she fell to the floor.
Father spent my lifetime scribbling at his desk, watching my progress. I can see awards on his walls. Awards that have strange creatures walking on them, long legged they weave designs in the corners catching the fast flying things, that at times get caught in my tank. Those I grab and shove into my mouth, they never come back out. I wish I could ask father why that is. One day I hope to sit next to him, outside my tank. Then I know, he will tell me everything. Until that time, I float and play with the bubbles. Father seems to like when I smile at him. Right now, Father, still isn’t smiling.
Charlie’s life work floated in that tank. His work as a palaeontologist enveloped his entire being. He not only lived it daily, but it encompassed his home life; where he had set up his own in-home laboratory. As many, highly educated, highly advanced, intellectual beings do. Put simply, he brought his work home with him.
He was lacking in having an-, even close too-, emotional equivalent of a “connected relationship” with any human being. If he had, it would give his type a rounded out persona. That would have changed his ending. Instead, poor Charlie was an asshole of the highest caliber. He was too smart for his own good.
Father’s place was misty, the brightness of the walls were covered with heavy, red designed fabric. I had nothing like that inside my tank. I wish I could crawl out and touch them. At times I saw specs floating in the sunlight when, Father, stepped between the fabrics. Once when my cover was off, some of those wispy pieces caught on a current and drifted over to my tank. I watched them get caught in the bubbles and disappear. I saw Father sneeze. He had a hard time breathing when he touched them. I, so wished, I could see what was beyond the fabric, what made the light.
Father when he sat at his work bench, never looked up. Those papers in front of him took up all his time. I didn’t know why. I just didn’t like them.
Charlie sat at his work bench oblivious to all but his work. The one-hundred gallon, algae lined fish tank bubbled behind him, as a row of smaller thirty gallon tanks worked just as hard. Bubbles rose one after another, in a hypnotic way. If he listened long enough, he could hear the sound of his own insanity in those gurgling, bulbous bodies of air.
Coughing up phlegm, Charlie spit it into the waste basket on the floor to his left side. Immediate, he went back to scribbling and erasing viciously in his journal, crouching low over his papers.
“Ok, now let’s see what this will do.” Charlie spoke to the undistinguishable lump of grey matter prone across the bottom of large tank. He measured out a diminutive amount of liquid from a glass tube into an eye dropper, then, carefully; it bled from the end of the glass dropper.
Charlie watched intently as the clear fluid plopped heavily into the greenish water. It dissipated slowly, like a film of oil slugging across the top until it was no longer visible. The thing on the bottom moved slightly, stretching its slimy sheath taunt until it touched the wall of glass. Exerting enough pressure to cause a squeaking sound as its body slid against, then down the inside of the aquarium.
“I hope this isn’t hurting you.” Charlie sighed, “What type of man would I be if I knew it was causing you pain and I continued.” As if it had heard, it moved again, thumped on the bottom of the tank.
I felt the change in the fluid surrounding me. Soft, and cool, strength and power, clarity emerged through the fog. I smiled at Father; bumping gently against my glass crib. He smiled back at me. The door opened and a flash of bright light burned into my tank. I covered my eyes; crying silently, cowering, trying to merge to the bottom, out of the way of pain.
Thelma burst into the lab, in her tight jeans and her braless, bright orange halter top “Are you going to stay in her forever, Charlie?” She stood with her right hand on her hip, with her left she waved it at him.
“Can’t you speak without using your hands?”
“Never mind! You never mind, Charlie. You never pay any attention to me.” Thelma chewed her gum like a cow chews its cud. She snapped a bubble with her teeth as she waited for him to respond.
“What?” Charlie sighed, took off his glasses setting them on the work bench he rubbed his eyes, and then picked up his inhaler. The swish from the intake echoed in the room.
“Well?” Thelma started tapping her toe; she cocked her head to one side, one eye brow raised, waiting impatiently.
Charlie exhaled in a rush of air. “Sorry, you know I have to hold the medicine in or it doesn’t work?”
“You think I’m an idiot?”
Without letting him continue she rattled on, “Charlie, what’s been going on in my life?” She stared bullets in his direction. “These past five months. Well! Charlie, what have I been doing!!”
“I thought that you would be busy with the pregnancy.”
“You’re an idiot, Charlie; I lost the baby at three months. Does this look like the body of someone that’s nearly eight months pregnant?” She started to cry, “Charlie I was here when it happened.”
Charlie’s eyes narrowed as he watched her wiping away invisible tears. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“You didn’t know or you didn’t care?” She bared her teeth like angry poodle. “You’re and asshole, Charlie, you never noticed I dropped that fetus in your tank. You’re pathetic.”
Charlie, glanced at the tank, where the grey mass rolled and pulsated on the bottom, it had grown, half way across the tank, its features obscured within a membrane.
“Thelma, my experiment…”
“I don’t care about your experiments, Charlie.” A smile spread across her angry, beautifully selfish features.
“You don’t understand. I have been working on changing the 16S mt rDNA sequences in South American gymnotiform electric fish” He motioned towards the large tank. “I had a beautiful specimen here, which I was trying to perfect its ability for change. This experiment was to help aid damaged tissue in its regeneration cycle.” Charlie rattled on not looking at Thelma; he grabbed his papers waving them under her nose. “How could you add, an aborted fetus to my tanks?” Sweat broke out on his forehead. His hand shook as he held out the paperwork. “Do you understand the problems you caused? You compromised this experiment.”
“That was our child, Charlie.” Thelma stepped closer to the work bench, her hands waving anger in the air ahead of her.” Not just an aborted fetus! Not just an experiment!” She was screaming at Charlie, spittle sprayed his glasses.
Dead panned he asked, “Then why would you drop it into a fish tank?”
I could feel Fathers anger. His pain, it hurt me! I tried to get his attention, to make him smile. He was to busy yelling at the female, she seemed familiar to me on a primal level. I didn’t care who she was, she was upsetting Father. I tore at my outer membrane, attempting to help Father. My bare hand for the first time touched the warm glass. I pressed my face against it, smearing the algae, allowing my vision to clear. I smiled up at Father. My gills pulsated in my neck. I kicked my small feet in protest.
“It has legs.” Charlie whispered.
“Legs! What the hell is that thing?” Thelma stepped away her hand came up covering her mouth. She was either going to throw up or scream.
“Looks like my daughter is part human, part fish, a throw back in human evolution.” Charlie’s hands were against the glass, opposite of the hybrid. She smiled back at him, while examining his hands on the glass.
Charlie turned back to his notes. “I have to keep her alive.”
“Her?” Thelma’s voice shook with fear.” We need to kill it.” Regaining her composer she turned to Charlie; her features smoothed out, no longer flashing anger, her eyes narrowed. “You could pay me off, I’ll keep quiet and you can play with your,… little monster.” Thelma cocked her head at him and waited.
“No, I don’t think so. You are right though. Someone needs to die.” Charlie looked up over his glasses at Thelma.
“Hey, wait a minute.” Her voice lowered, and she glanced towards the door; guardedly she stepped back.
“Sorry, don’t have the time. By my calculations she needs an infusion of human DNA, preferably from one parent. So her lungs can form.”
“Lungs?” Thelma took another step backwards. “You plan on taking that thing out of there?”
“What’s wrong, Thelma? No motherly love.” Charlie said sarcastically. “You never could understand my work. Work and family are one. Neither separate. Charlie smiled into the tank; the child was kicking its legs making waves in the large tank. Little webbed toes, with fins on the outside of her thighs, a small fin across the back of her neck, protruded beautifully shimmering new bright colors.
Do you plan on cutting her up into little pieces to see if she re-grows her limbs?” Thelma spat at him, “you’re the monster, Charlie.
“I hadn’t thought of that, cloning an exact duplicate.” Charlie smiled, “No I don’t think that would work, this little one is cognizant. I won’t hurt her, no one will.” Charlie couldn’t take his eyes off the large eyes staring back. “I can use piece of her biological parent, just as part of the experiment. Just to see if a new being can be developed from skin grafts, or even using your eggs and my sperm, and this tank as an incubator.”
“You want to make more of these?” Thelma spat out.
Charlie wasn’t watching her; He missed the strange high pitch to her voice. He missed her moving away from them both; slowly inching backwards. She pulled a small gun from her purse and aimed at Charlie. Luckily for Charlie she was a bad shot. She missed, twice. Panicking she turned and tripped over a pile of palaeontologist magazines. She fell hard, with a sickening sound, similar to an egg being cracked over the edge of a bowl; she hit her head on the iron door stopper shaped like a mermaid.
I panicked. A whizzing sound pierced my tank. A hole cracked the glass, ever widening. Pressure released around me, until I floundered on the bottom of the tank in mere inches of water, fighting to breath like my Father. His hands snatched me out of the tank; he tore away the rest of my membrane, and cleared my mouth and throat. Fear showed on his face, fear vibrated through his pores. Frightened I cried!
“My little one, we are no longer alone. Soon you will have brothers and sisters to swim and play with. Well, as soon as I can pick apart mommy, and set her up in the smaller tanks. The creature, smiled widely, a sound like a bubbly, baby giggle erupted. She started sucking on her thumb and fell asleep.
My crib was partially underwater and part dry mattress. Father allowed me to choose where I wanted to sleep.
I still didn’t understand what he was doing. Father worked behind a screen, all I saw was his face. I didn’t care as long as he smiled at me once in a while, and then I was happy. I sat up and watched him as he worked, my eyes big, and my smile even bigger.
“Just as well you’re too young to see this.” Charlie pulled out a sharp scalpel began his tedious job. By the time he was done, pieces floated in multiple tanks. The last to submerge was Thelma’s head. Charlie was surprised at how well her tissue responded to his special sauce. The clear fluid swirled around her nose causing her to sneeze.
After only one day, Charlie could see the changes taking place; tentacles had emerged from her severed neck, growing long spindly legs, arms and genitalia. The only thing that worried Charlie was her personality; it hadn’t changed.
Thelma had found her voice after four months. Her mindless, chattering was an irritant. He had already decided that didn’t matter, a few snips and her vocal cords wouldn’t work. He once had a dog that he had debarked; this would be a similar operation.
Charlie wrote a scientific paper on his experiments and a business proposal; an eco-friendly burial option, that sounded a lot like a sales pitch for sea monkeys. As far as Charlie was concerned; his name was set in history. His experiments had turned out to be big business. With an offer in the billions, Charlie decided it was time to sell off this experiment. Code named, “Thelma.”
His daughter had helped with the presentation, by handing out pamphlets, and playing with some of the smaller, finger creatures. As her mother’s tank was wheeled away she smiled, flashing her large eyes, and keeping her gills hidden. She sat beside Charlie on the podium; fiddling with her sparkling diamond bracelet, and snapping her gum. Charlie winched with each snap.
A question was posed on inherited defects. Charlie smiled, thought for a moment before he answered “I have wondered how to cut out certain, minor, genetic defects.” His eye twitched, as the sound of snapping gum echoed through the lecture theater. “It is an issue, I’m still working on.”