For as long as I can remember, I have felt that I was on the outside of everything. Perhaps it was the bullying at an early age; perhaps it was the absence of love in my family. But whatever the source cause, I always thought I was just faking it in order to fit in. I consistently took the course of least resistance, whether it was education, career, friendship, or relationship. It wasn’t so much that I thought the way people lived was valueless and meaningless, but it just didn’t engage the essence of my being. I thought there must be something higher, “a pearl of great price,” that I would be willing to give my all to possess.
But I had no idea what this pearl looked like, or where it could be found. And so, I suppressed this core belief as self-delusion, and went stumbling along the same joyless path, keeping the real me a closely guarded secret. Whenever I did make social connections, I always worked to be as supportive as possible. I was perpetually disappointed that my friends did not reciprocate, which only alienated me more than ever.
I suppose that in a previous era, a religious life would have provided a path with heart, but it seemed to me that these days religion was essentially melting someone’s psyche and pouring it into a mold the shape of someone else’s god. I knew I was depressed, but dismissed therapists as little more than machinists fulfilling a quota of happy little cogs to keep the machine running smoothly.
A few months ago, it came to me that researching my ancestry might provide insight into the source of my alienation. I got in touch with FamilyTree.com, but could only track my ancestors back to the nineteenth century peasantry of Poland and Slovakia. I also sent in a saliva sample for DNA analysis, and was eagerly awaiting results.
Then one morning, as I left the house for work, I was confronted by two men in black. They flashed credentials from the National Institute of Health, and requested that I come with them to a nearby NIH facility. When I asked what it was all about, they told me: “We were forwarded the results of your DNA analysis. It turns out that you are not human, not human at all.”
They explained that I had nothing to worry about, and that the scientists just wanted to check me out. Clement and James proved to be really nice guys. Before going to the lab, they took me to a little café for coffee and pie, and we chatted about sports and old blues music. They let me contact whoever I wanted to, so I called in sick at the office and asked my landlady to feed
At the NIH facility, Clement and James continued to shepherd me through the process, which was going to take several days. I decided to cooperate, going with the flow as I always do. We worked together to fabricate a cover story. I was pretty much a loner so there was not a lot that had to be done to explain my absence. We told the office and my few friends and relations that I had volunteered for an NIH research project, which was essentially true. I signed a confidentiality agreement that included a substantial stipend for my participation.
Then it was two weeks of extensive probing of every nook and cranny of my physiology, including brain mapping under a range of stimuli. There was an intense regime of psychological characterization. I did not feel at all victimized like some lab rat. Everyone was friendly and caring, especially the numerous young women in their white lab coats. The food and accommodations were great, and I was provided with everything else that I wanted.
Finally, I had my first sit-down with the director of the project, Dr. Lamarck. He reminded me of Francois Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with his Armani suit and calm intellectual manner. “I hope we haven’t inconvenienced you too much, but this is truly an extraordinary situation. We are participating in what may prove to be a great step forward for life on this planet.”
“Not at all; I actually have been kind of enjoying all the attention.”
“As you know, we have determined that your DNA is so scrambled that you cannot be considered homo sapiens. You are really an entirely new species.”
“What exactly defines the threshold that differentiates one species from another?”
“It is when the DNA has been mutated so much that sexual reproduction is impossible, or yields only monsters that cannot survive or offspring that are themselves infertile.”
“Ah, so that was why my ex-wife and I could never have children, despite my very robust sperm count and her obvious fertility—she’d had three kids before I met her.”
“Precisely. Now, we have exhumed your parents’ remains from their crypt down in Florida, and determined that the DNA of both is perfectly normal.” My mind slipped to an image of my parents’ mummified corpses, and I had a brief reverie wondering why people would want to so preserve the husks of their lifeless bodies.
Dr. Lamarck must have thought I was deeply moved, and gave me a moment to compose myself. Then he continued: “Sorry to mention that, but it is important with regard to what has happened. We have also taken samples from every system in your body, and find the same degree of mutation in every cell. The mutations occur primarily in what we call the ‘selfish genetic elements’ of your DNA. These are genes that work to enhance their propagation in the population at the expense of others, even though they offer no advantage in terms of survivability of the species.
“We are assuming that this did not occur through any alien-abduction scenario. You haven’t had any such experience, have you?”
“Not that I can recall.”
“All right then. From all the information we have gleaned, we’ve come to this conclusion. The mutations were likely triggered in the narrow range of time just after fertilization, in the interim before the single-cell zygote started to multiply. The most probable cause was exposure to intense localized radiation.”
I thought back on my parents’ early life and it made a lot of sense. My father was an MP at the Nevada nuclear test site during the mid-1950s. My mother had been script girl and secretary at the filming of The Conqueror in Utah during the same time frame, and they met in a bar at the Utah/Nevada border. The Conqueror was a bio-pic of Genghis Khan produced by Howard Hughes, with John Wayne miscast in the lead role, and was essentially a Mongolian Western.
The movie became notorious because the filming was just downwind from the test site, and many of the cast and crew, including director Dick Powell, Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, died of cancer. Moorehead, whose career spanned from Citizen Kane to Bewitched, was a special friend of my mother’s, and Mom was shocked that Moorehead had succumbed in spite of her very healthy lifestyle. My mother herself died of ovarian cancer in her early sixties.
I told Dr. Lamarck all this, and a waterfall of memories started cascading. I recalled that my parents always joked that we were a “nuclear family” because of the circumstances of their courtship. I remembered that my mother was also secretary on the set of TV’s original Superman. I used to fantasize that George Reeves was my actual father, and that I was thus the true “Super-Boy,” a half-alien with family roots on the planet Krypton.
Lamarck must have noticed that my mind had wandered, and he left to get us some coffee and pastries. When he returned, he was accompanied by Dr. Chandra, a motherly woman who he introduced as a sociobiologist at a major think-tank in D.C. “Thank you for being so cooperative,” she began; “Taken in isolation, your situation must be a personal tragedy, I know, with an inability to have children or bond with the mass of humanity. To be such an outsider…my!…you must have an extraordinary ability to develop coping skills. I don’t think I could bear it.
But in the larger scheme of things, a genetic anomaly such as yours would normally only be a curiosity, an evolutionary dead end. However, we believe that intelligent life on the planet is approaching a crisis. The proliferation of social networks combined with unbridled consumerism and selfish behavior is leading to an unstable situation. On the one hand, we have evolved a hive mentality. On the other, it is ‘every bee for himself.’ Social networking will become so all-consuming that no one will have time for anything else.
“Your mutated genome provides the hope for an alternative path forward. Whereas humanity is now overwhelmingly social and fundamentally selfish, your biological make-up causes you to be actively asocial and highly altruistic. We have also found in your genome a somewhat enigmatic sequence which we have termed ‘spiritual genetic content.’ This corresponds to some very unusual brain structures that we are still trying to understand. Your DNA is a gift that we hope to use to inject a higher degree of altruism and spirituality into humanity, while cutting the energy for frantic social networking. Here’s what we have in mind.”
The plan as she described it is this. My sperm is to be harvested, and used to fertilize human eggs that have been genetically modified to allow reproduction. The growing embryos will be monitored to ensure that the resultant offspring are able to mate with the general population. Any undesirable embryos will be discarded at an early stage of development. This is to be a long-term project, with literally thousands of children (my children!) brought into the world. They will be raised by their biological mothers or by adoptive parents, with the Government providing full support. It will all be top secret. While I am not thrilled with either large scale abortion or test-tube babies, a panel of bioethicists has convinced me that this is necessary.
I will be required to make donations at the lab’s sperm bank twice a week. All of the fertile single women at the lab have volunteered to participate in the project. They treat me with a certain fondness whenever we interact, projecting an enthusiasm that is not so much desire as devotion. It is a most pleasant experience. Our lives will be intertwined, and I imagine we will share a preoccupation with these children as they make their way in the world, transforming it as they go.
I am helping to design and furnish my luxury residence on the rooftop of the NIH building, including a garden, swimming pool and tennis court. A dedicated staff will be provided to meet my every need. I am also being trained for a job analyzing my children’s DNA samples, and will serve on a committee to choose the parents of those not raised by their biological mothers.
Our offspring will still be homo sapiens, but with the enhancement of my unique genetic coding. I will remain a species of one. Lamarck and Chandra have proposed a name for the new species: “Homo Transcendus” or “Transcendent Man.” They will use it when the annals of the project are eventually made public.
The biblical tradition holds that Adam was the first man, and St. Paul refers to Jesus Christ as the “second Adam.” By accident, I’ve stumbled into a gig as Adam Number Three. But maybe there are no accidents; maybe this was meant to be. A seed of radioactive dust was sown in my mother’s womb, and will hopefully yield a bountiful crop.
Richard Krepski (RICHSKI) is retired from a career as research scientist and educator. He currently resides in the twilight zone between scientific rationalism and poetic lunacy. His writing often has a spiritual or supernatural theme. Publications for 2022 appeared in The Closed Eye Open, Uppagus, and Esoterica.