“Are you going out, G?”
“I’m meeting Venus for coffee.”
“She a friend. We met in music class. She plays the viola.”
“Hmm… you’ve never talked about her before. What’s she like?”
“She’s smart; she emigrated from China with her parents when she was young.”
“Parents? You mean she’s a Standard.”
“Yeah, what does it matter?”
“G, I told you not to associate with Standards. They have funny ideas.”
“So what if she’s a Standard, Gary. You always say you’re liberal.”
“No it’s not. Accept people for who they are not what they are.”
“Alright, but you know the rules and don’t be out late.”
G2 closes the door and I start worrying immediately. Standards and Specials should not be together, especially after puberty. I call Ophelia for advice.
“Hello Gary, how are you?”
“Okay, Ophelia, but I’m a little worried.”
“G2 has gone out to meet a friend–a Standard. I don’t know anything about her except that she emigrated from China and plays the viola.”
“Why worry, Gary? G2’s allowed to enjoy himself.”
“I know Ophelia. It’s just with you and O2. At what point did you send her for Indoctrination?”
A long pause.
“Things had gotten bad by then, Gary. She was very independent; I blame myself. She needed faith and I failed her. G2 seems like a fine Special, and it’s important to give him a good quality of life. Loyalty is paramount; he understands you’re his Creator and that’s what matters.”
“It’s just I’m hearing rumours of discontent and it scares me.”
“Being scared is the worst thing you can do. Paranoia breeds distrust. You are in charge, Gary; it’s your authority as Creator.”
“You’re right as usual, Ophelia. By the way, how’s O3?”
“She’s good, just turned 8. I think she’ll make wonderful Special.”
“Good to hear. Bye for now.”
I hang up the phone and turn on the television–nothing but reality shows. Whatever happened to drama, or comedy? Nobody laughs anymore; everyone is so worried about disease and dying. Society needs some levity.
I mindlessly pass several channels before stopping at the news. The desert in the American Midwest is spreading and now threatens the Appalachians. Miami’s dike is holding but Hurricane Bart is gathering off Cuba. Meteorologists are calling it a Category 7, perhaps the strongest ever. A full evacuation. Why do people live there? Get to high ground before it’s too late.
A breaking story: a riot somewhere. Japan? No China. A huge protest: police in riot gear, clubs swinging, people screaming and running around, clouds of tear gas. Chinese script adorns signs that I cannot read. The crowd is violent and overwhelming police. Water shortages, I think; everyone is concerned about clean water these days.
I shut off the TV and lie in the darkness thinking of G2. Pebbles of hail pound the window as I tumble into sporadic sleep awaiting G2’s return.
I stagger downstairs in the morning and see G2 sitting with a young woman. I assume it’s Venus. My initial thoughts are anger, distrust. Did they sleep together? He knows it’s forbidden. Specials must never propagate, it’s expressly forbidden in the Final Testament. I sit across from them and pour a cup of coffee.
“Gary, this is Venus.” G2 says.
“Hi,” she replies coldly.
“G, I was worried last night. You were out late. Why didn’t you call? You know the rules.”
Venus beams her eyes at me.
“Mr. Rollins, G2 is 21–he’s allowed freedom. He’s not your pet,” she says.
I turn to G2 as he jerks his head down.
“Is she teaching you this rubbish?” I ask.
He mumbles and fumbles with a muffin.
“G, I’m speaking to you.”
I turn to Venus.
“Just because you’re a Standard doesn’t mean you have any moral authority over G2. I gave him life and I have the right to determine its course. That’s how society works.”
“Yeah, well I don’t accept your authority and neither does G2.”
I stare at G2; he purses his lips and beats his leg like a piston.
“I don’t think G2 feels like talking, Venus, so it’s time you leave.”
Venus grabs her purse and latches onto G2’s arm. She whispers something in his ear then darts towards the door. The door smacks shut. I exhale sharply then walk into the kitchen.
“Do you want some food, G?”
“I don’t want anything,” he replies morosely.
“G, look, I don’t want you seeing Venus anymore. She’s a bad influence, Standards usually are.”
“You’re a Standard,” he snaps.
“That’s different; I’m also a Creator, YOUR Creator.”
I walk towards him, but he hops off the chair and starts backing through the hallway, stopping at the door of his room.
“G, I made you, you’re my Special and you have a great life. I’m not asking that you worship me; you know I don’t care about religion, but I am your Creator and I try to be fair. I just ask for a little understanding.”
“What happened to O2?” He asks tersely.
“What about O2?”
“Venus says in China, Specials are rebelling for equal rights. They’re sick of being locked up and used by Creators. It’s happening here too, whether you believe it or not.”
“Look, G, that’s all rumours, nobody is being held against their will. O2 was sequestered for Indoctrination, that’s all. She got sick and died from influenza–these things happen.”
“You’re wrong, she’s alive and I’m going to find her.”
He slams the door and dislodges the picture of us fishing on Lake Mazinaw. I stare at the debris and remember that day fondly. We are so much alike, maybe too much alike, but ever since turning 21 he has become aloof.
I turn on the television. News bursts onto the screen. The riots in China are spreading: Japan, Malaysia, and South America. There’s a journalist standing on a street in front of a burning pile of rubble. People are running and jumping behind him, celebrating. I turn up the volume.
“Here in Sao Paulo is the latest in a rapidly expanding global crisis. Behind me are the bodies of some 60 people, dragged from their homes, shot, and incinerated. It is believed all are Creators. Police are hunting for roving bands of Specials exacting revenge for what they say is decades of subjugation, torture, and even murder at the hands of Creators. The Standards Unity Movement (or SUM), a global organization of Standards turning Specials against their Creators, is claiming responsibility.
I turn off the television and call Ophelia.
“What’s up now, hon?” She says.
“Have you been watching the news?”
“Yes, what about it?”
“There are riots everywhere and Creators are the target. G2 is getting strange ideas and I am certain Venus is putting them there. I think she’s involved with SUM.”
“Relax Gary. A few riots in South America and Asia are not going to spread here. Specials understand they have it good here. There’s no need for rebellion and SUM has little appeal. Specials have rights, freedoms, schools, and churches. In China they’re treated like cattle, it’s horrible. I support the rioters to be honest.”
“Well, what about O2? What happened to her?”
“I had her euthanized.”
“Euthanized? Jesus, Ophelia, you told me she died from influenza.”
“Look, Gary, I don’t like to talk about it, but O2 had lost her way. It was a sacrifice I had to make and my prerogative.”
“G2 thinks she’s still alive and is looking for her. They think she’s been sent to a prison camp with other Specials. Is there such a thing? What if these people are freed? They’re going to be pissed.”
“I’ve heard rumours, but that’s it, rumors, and I don’t believe them for a second.”
“So how do you know O2 is dead?”
“I paid to have her to be put down, that’s how. The government has no right to question the God-given authority of Creators.”
“You had better hope she doesn’t come for you.”
I glance up to see G stepping out of the door.
“G!” I yell.
“See, Ophelia, G2 is not listening to me anymore. Now I have to sequester him; how did it come to this?”
“Don’t panic, Gary. He knows you’re his Creator, now start acting like one. This revolution–or whatever they call it–will blow over, it always does.”
“I hope you’re right, Ophelia, but I have a bad feeling that G’s in trouble.”
“Gary, as your mentor, have I ever let you down?”
“No, I know, I’m paranoid. You have always given me sage advice. I have to stop watching the news.”
I hang up the phone, shower, then drive to work along the coastal highway. Barely twenty years ago I couldn’t see the Ocean from here. There’s been so much heat, so much melting ice and now we’re building new cities, new highways, and nothing is permanent anymore.
I slam on the brakes as I approach the main intersection leading to downtown. Thousands of people–maybe tens of thousands of people–are walking along the highway in protest, shouting slogans, chanting, and carrying signs: Equal rights for all; Heart = Human; SUM for ALL.
I get out of the car.
A protester points at me.
“Creator or Standard?” she yells.
I hesitate, flustered, unsure of what to say.
I grab the door and launch myself into the car.
Protesters start yelling at me so I crank the wheel, pop over the boulevard, then speed down the deserted highway.
How could I have been so unaware? A mound of despair gathers in the base of my stomach. Is G2 being influenced by Venus? By SUM?
I make a siren call to Ophelia’s house. She lives in a stark, quiet suburb where nobody ventures outside. I park and march towards the front door, but as I reach to press the doorbell, notice the door slightly ajar–odd–she’s always security conscious. I look around the dour neighbourhood, the tall fences, wrought iron gates and razor wire; it seems lifeless and rotting like maggots on a dead raccoon.
The door creaks as I slither in.
“Ophelia,” I whisper.
The house feels dank like a crypt.
I creep upstairs and notice drops of blood on the carpet.
I race down the hall to her room, stop at the door and see her body lying on the bed, blood oozing from stab wounds on her back. The duvet radiates bright red in the diffused sunlight while tomato coloured liquid flows in tributaries down her white cotton sheets. Above the headboard–written with hand smears–is the word “MURDERER.”
I gag and turn to catch my breath. I run downstairs to the street then hear a loud smash and scream from a home nearby. I drive towards the sound of distress, screeching around the first corner then find myself confronted by four people in black balaclavas, their hands, arms, and torsos soaked in blood.
I stop the car just as a heavy piece of construction cable pulverizes the passenger window. I glance over to see an arm reach in to unlock the door. I stomp the pedal and speed away, clipping one of them in the leg and sending them tumbling to the pavement.
I grab my phone to call the police, but call G2 instead. No answer. I toss the phone on the seat and drive home. Is G2 in trouble? The house is empty when I arrive, so I sit on the couch and turn on the television to the same news channel. Riots are everywhere. Cities are burning: Paris, New York, Tokyo, Delhi. The Rapture is upon us, as prophesied in the Final Testament. Creators were supposed to be benevolent with such powerful genetic tools and yet we have failed ourselves and our progeny.
Darkness descends and everything is quiet save an ungodly orange glow radiating over the city. I hear a soft click, like a door being pressed closed.
“I’m going to make dinner. Do you want some?”
I wait for a minute then rise from the sofa and shuffle towards the butcher’s block in the kitchen. I grab an eight-inch carving knife and hold it tucked under my forearm. I slide along the wall, through the hallway and towards a dim red glow emanating from G2’s bedroom. I walk in and see G2 in a blood-spackled shirt, a balaclava lies on the floor at his feet. He examines a bloody wound on his right knee.
“G… tell me you…”
I turn slowly just as a pine board leaps from the darkness and smashes me on the forehead.
I wake up in a small white room with a headache and bleary eyes. I feel a warm wet bandage encircling my skull. I stand carefully and stare at a small white desk with bookshelves displaying Robert Munsch. A child’s colourful paintings are taped to the wall. I look closely at them. A girl is giving blood to her Mom. The same girl is playing in a playground that is floating in a thought bubble above her head. The picture at the end shows the same girl lying head to head with her mother. There’s a heart in a halo hovering above both bodies. The woman looks like Ophelia.
“That’s not a halo, that’s an O. Ophelia… you didn’t.” I whisper.
The door bursts open and G2 and Venus stand in the hallway. G2’s leg has a large brace and white bandage.
“G, who are you involved with? Where am I? Why am I here?”
“Look around,” he says, “I brought you here to show you the fate of Specials who obey. You see what Creators do, whether it’s blood transfusions for beauty, stem cells for vigor, or a heart for longevity, Ophelia killed O2 for her young heart. Venus was her best friend.”
“G, I never knew, but I’m as disgusted as you are.”
I start walking towards him–arms outstretched for embrace. He reaches into his pocket, cocks a gun, then I see a snap of white and puff of black soot. A bullet bores into my flesh; I flop backwards against the desk, my abdomen burning like a welding flame on my skin.
“SUM has opened my eyes, Gary. We are re-populating the world with Specials and Standards. The age of Creators, your phony religion and your craven abuse of DNA will die with you. You may be Creators but you are not gods.”
“That’s not me, G. Please help, I need a doctor.”
Blood gushes through my fingers as I struggle for another breath.
“I would never allow you to suffer like O2. G… I love you like a son.”
G2 presses the gun to my forehead.
“But I will never be your son.” he says.
I look up to his eyes–my eyes.
“No, G, you will never be my son.”
“That’s all I need to hear. Oh yeah, my name is not G2, its Gary, and it’s time we say good-bye.”