The Daily Nash-on

a mindstream from just another statistic…

The Absorbtionist

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This is a short science-fiction story written by Joe Flavin <flavin@ll.mit.edu> . It is an interesting read for those who would like to destroy their misconceptions that sci-fi genre is limited to Star Trek and Star Wars and corny Hollywood productions.


I was not born artificially. Only the dean of the university, one professor, and a handful of
students know, but the influence of my father’s wealth has kept them profitably quiet.

I am a human being, though. No one can take that away from me now. I was biologically
reproduced by my parents, which is illegal, since artificial insemination and in-vitro
fertilization are the only legal birthing methods. It has been this way for several
generations, since the isolation of the agression gene and the recombinant DNA
developments that produced human fetuses successfully purged of the gene. These clean
birthing methods have made possible a society safe from conflict, free of violence. So
because of humankind’s need for control, and their fear of nature’s spontaneity, any
natural pregnancies must, by law, be terminated. My father’s inexhaustible political
resources, though, allowed him to keep the true nature of my mother’s pregnancy a
secret. People in their position in society could not face the public shame of their act.
Besides, my father thought human biology had been purified of the agression gene for so
many generations by then that surely even a naturally born child might be free of it.

But evolution finds a way, and I was born carrying the aggression gene. Through very rigid
training and discipline provided by my father I have always been able to control any
tendencies toward emotional outbursts…until the incident at the University Medical
School.

There were only five of us in the class that day, including Keith Gilford, the only one to
remain my friend after learning that I was naturally born. The professor was pushing hard
that day, trying to force us to grasp difficult concepts far more quickly than I thought
reasonable. When he was standing directly in front of me and stating that it appeared we
were incapable of becoming doctors, I felt that his comments were not only derogatory,
but were centered on me in particular. In retrospect this was probably no more so than
with the other students. But they were all purely bred and non-aggressive, so his remarks
were just accepted at face value by them.

I, on the other hand, was growing unbearably frustrasted and angry.

Finally, when I could stand no more, I made a nearly fatal mistake. I hit him. How do I
describe what happened to me at that instant to a world of people who haven’t the
slightest notion of taking action against what I saw as provocation?

My limbs shook, my face flushed and my thoughts became clouded to anything but one
centralized, burning focal point: the desire to punish my antagonist, to do him physical
harm. I had felt that warmth beneath the surface all my life and had always been able to
supress it, but its force became uncontrollable once released. I could have ruined my
father’s position, my family’s reputation, and could possibly have even been put to death,
since there was no precedent for what I had done. I knew all of these things before I
raised my hand to the professor, but still, I hit him. If not for the immensity of my
father’s political power I can only imagine what may have happened to me.

Was this what daily life had been like when people had still carried the aggression gene
in their DNA structure? Could a society have really existed in which its people struck out
at one another at the slightest provocation, without consideration of consequences?
History said that this had been the case, but it must have been madness!

Another fire now burned in me; the desire to be rid of this horrible aspect of my self,
this monster inside of me. I was afraid I had lost my parents’ respect. They always quietly
prided themselves on how well I had maintained an air of legitimacy and kept the family
secret until that incident. My father had even dared to dream that I might someday fill his
business and political shoes. Now it was obvious that he felt the risk was too great, even
though he said no more about it once he had financially sealed the lips of those who knew.
I didn’t care about business or politics. I simply wanted to be like the rest of the human
race. And I came up with my own solution.

Absorbtion research is still experimental and very controversial. Those who oppose it
argue that it’s simply not necessary. Its advocates insist it will provide aggression
control for naturally-born people and allow sexual reproduction to again be legalized.

Absorbtionism is a new branch in the science of recombinant DNA. It stemmed from the
study of psychic abilities in human beings and became a highly debated issue when the
absorbtion gene was discovered, which allowed its carrier to probe the mind of another
and psychically withdraw the chemical output of selective genes…specifically the
agression gene. The downside was that the person with the psychic ability absorbed and
retained what they withdrew. The absorbtion of agression from several people would
drive the psychic into brutally violent rages and eventual loss of all rationality.

Then a breakthrough was made. Through elaborate DNA manipulations a highly specialized
embryo was designed, and out of a laboratory container, the first absorbtionist was born.
The absorbtionists are repulsively obscene creatures. Although designed from human DNA
structures, their genes have been so drastically altered that physically they are an
abomination of the human species. Functionally, though, they are a scientific wonder. I
had seen them myself in medical school. After viewing a digital recording of one
performing the absorbtion process–carried out on a voluntary, naturally– born human
subject–we were required to perform a group dissection on the corpse of a surgically
terminated absorbtionist; surgery is the only known way to terminate them, since their
life span appears indefinite.

Their globular and almost shapeless bodies average about three feet in height. Their flesh
is pasty, with a sickly, jaundiced sheen and an acidic odor that lingers long after death.
The face…the face is an amorphous parody of human features, hideous in its simplicity as
it lacks ears, nostrils, hair, and any firm structure beneath its glutinous skin. Two
bulging eyes and a mouth-like orifice are their only garnishments; the former roll and
pulsate in sockets rimmed by puffed sacks, and the latter is no more than an open hole in
the flesh that emits a whistling sound as it dialates and contracts in the drawing and
releasing of breath.

During the process of siphoning the chemical and emotional energy of its subject’s
agression gene, the absorbtionist’s flesh ripples and bulges in bulbous waves as it
becomes saturated with the raw energy of primal rage and violence. The whistling of its
breath quickens and is accented with slurping and sucking noises as the mouth puckers
obscenely, frantically struggling to continue its air intake while expelling a pungent
effluvium of gases, and the circular pouches around its eyes roll inward as the pupils
bulge outward.

The most frightening aspect of this new science is the fact that, like their human
predecessors, the absorbtionist is like a sponge, retaining and carrying in its own body
the chemical and emotional output of the aggression gene. The more subjects a single
absorbtionist is exposed to, the more powerful the primal violence held captive in their
flesh.

This is why they were designed without limbs. Should an absorbtionist have the means to
express or release the mindless brutality it contains, the result could only be one of
devastating horror.

I am still amazed at how easy it was to steal an absorbtionist from the university’s lab.
Not a corpse, but a living specimen. I had Keith Gilford’s help, but his cooperation required
more than friendship; I assured him that the financial reward my father would provide
him when we were successful would be substantial. Keith was still hesitant, wary of the
risks. What did we know of handling an absorbtionist, and of overseeing the absorbtion
process?

I reminded him of the demonstration we had seen and that the absorbtionist itself did all
of the work. As far as I knew all we had to do was provide it with oxygen. I also convinced
him that I was really the one taking the risk…one that was an absolute necessity if I was
to have any future in society.

It had been rumored that there were live absorbtionists secretly kept in one of the more
remote storage areas of the medical school. It was also rumored that these had been
purchased without administration approval because they were early, experimental
specimens with undefined imperfections; but that was another risk I was willing to take
for the chance to join the human race.

Students are often employed by the university at low wages for some of the facility’s
mundane security duties, and it was through a profitable incentive I provided to one of
these students that I was assured that, between the hours of three and four a.m., the
biology clinic would be ungaurded and unlocked.

Now I was the one who was hesitant, feeling it just could not be that easy. But it was. The
live-animal storage facility was in the farthest reaches of the south wing. Within twenty
minutes Keith and I had located the basement room that housed the absorbtionists. There
were three of them, each contained in a lead-lined black box with portable oxygen
processing tanks attached. The compartments were solid, with no openings to expose their
live contents to their surroundings; as soon as an absorbtionist senses another living
creature in its immediate environment, it instantly begins the gene probing it was
designed for. The lead lining was the only sufficient barrier to their psychic outreach.
There was also a supply of specially designed helmets and clothing to protect anyone
other than the subject that had to be in the presence of an absorbtionist. We took one of
the outfits for Keith.

I was afraid we would not have time to complete the absorbtion process in the clinic, so
we transported the box in a rented truck to the basement of Keith’s apartment building.
We brought it through a bulkhead door, slowly guiding it down the cement steps and into a
barren storage room. We lifted the box onto a small table, where the black square sat like
a minimalist statue on a pedestal. I pressed my ear to the side of the container and, even
through the leadened walls, I could hear the whistling breaths of the absorbtionist.

Through a small window above our heads I could see the night hinting towards the subtle
blue-gray that would become dawn. I wanted to have it finished before daylight. Once
dressed in his protective clothing, I had Keith sedate me, as was necessary for the
procedure. As soon as I felt the seeping approach of medicated haze I gestured for Keith to
open the container.

First the top cover flipped back, then all four sides dropped away like an illusionist’s trick box. I felt the painful tugs of the absorbtionist’s inner probing at the same instant that I
heard Keith begin to scream. His screeches were mixed with words and broken phrases
about imperfections and mutations.

I struggled to lift my head. Keith was trying to close the sides of the box, to seal up the
monster, but could not. The absorbtionist itself prevented him from doing so because its
genetic imperfections consisted of arms, thick with pasty muscles, and hands accented by
grasping, globular digits. It slammed the heavy walls of its container away, knocking
Keith backwards, all the while still absorbing.

Its head was tilted backward at an impossible angle, its eyes visibly throbbing as it
sucked at my very being. I felt my thoughts fading as I listened to its slurping and
wheezing sounds. I was struggling to stay conscious when I saw the creature appear to
grow taller. I strained my neck muscles to see…

It was standing up! It had legs and it was walking!

It leaped wildly from the table to the floor. The black box was thrown across the room as
the absorbtionist tore a leg from the table that had supported it.

I was drenched with sweat and watched through a growing mental fog as the absorbtionist
moved ploddingly but quickly across the cement floor, heading for the bulkhead and the
steps to the outside world. It paused beside Keith, who had curled up on the floor behind
the open door. It raised the table leg and began viciously pummeling every inch of Keith’s
body.

When the absorbstionist’s arm stopped flailing, the unmoving, bloodied mess at the
bottom of the steps was unrecognizable. Exhausted from the medication and the
absorbtion process, I had been able to do nothing but lie and watch my friend battered to
death.

The absorbtionist released a piercing, gurgling whistle-like scream, then ripped the
bulkhead door from its hinges and disappeared into the pre-dawn light with the bloodied
table leg still grasped in its sticky palm. For several minutes I could still hear its
disgusting slurping and whistling breath in the morning air.

I was responsible for letting this monster loose on a society that has no police force, no
military organization. Every person that crossed its path would be unprotected from raw
brutality unleashed.

I should have felt fear for those people. I should have felt guilt for my actions. I should
have felt hatred and vengeance toward the absorbtionist for my only friend’s brutal death.
Shouldn’t I have become obsessed with seeking out the creature and destroying it before it
murdered others?

But I felt no animosity toward the absorbtionist. I felt nothing. There was a serene void
inside of me, where there had once been a fire raging.

Certainly now I must be human.

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Written by Nash

November 29, 2006 at 5:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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