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Despite their deserved reputation as lotharios, Sirians really can be good drinking buddies. Now admittedly, not too many people know a Sirian, at least they believe they don’t know any Sirians. Let me explain… no, let me just tell the story, and all will become clear.
It begins when Inkohatum visited me in my little apartment high above Michigan Avenue just north of the Loop – my sad, lonely, post-divorce home. He was a he that night, wearing his male skin, looking like a handsome, well-groomed college student – maybe a member of the Young Republicans. I’d insisted that he stop trying to seduce me with his female skin, which was admittedly pretty sexy. He’d patterned it after a famous porn star and gotten all the details right, but I knew there was a little green man, or, to be precise, a little green hermaphrodite, under all that gorgeous cleavage, perfect curves, and supple smooth female skin, and that more than killed any possible arousal. So he’d pretty much given up on me and treated me like a comrade. Or so I thought.
“Hey, Inkohatum, how’s things?”
He strode into the apartment, fashionable bag over his left shoulder, three thousand dollars of casual clothing on his firm young ersatz body, oozing confidence, athleticism, and charm. He sprawled on my leather couch saying, “Hey Gerry, life is wonderful! So what have you been up to?”
“Well, I wish I could say every day of my life was as wonderful as yours. Unfortunately, today was not so good. I spent an hour in a community outreach seminar. To tell you the truth, my friend, it got me so angry, I just wanted to scream at those people!”
He reached into his high-fashion shoulder bag. “I can sense your tension. You need some of this.” Out came a bottle of my favorite single-malt scotch, special limited edition. I’d been eyeing it for weeks at the liquor store in the lobby of my building, and how he found out, well that was one of his mysteries: he always knew more than I told him. But there it was, ninety dollars a bottle, and he was already pouring substantial amounts of it into two glasses that he’d also pulled from his bag.
“I bought this to celebrate my latest deal, but clearly you need it more than I do. So tell me, why did you want to scream at those community outreach folks?”
“It was some religious group, Chicago Area Fundamentalist Baptist Society, I think it was called. They came to us, actually. Wanted a dialog between scientists and pastors. But all they did was grill us on what proof we have of evolution.”
“You should have contacted me. We have video sequences over hundreds of thousands of years of the changes in land mammals on this planet among other things.”
“Right, they’re going to believe that someone was making videos a hundred thousand years ago…”
“Oh, forgot about that little detail.”
“They believe in this drivel they call intelligent design. They think humans, in particular, were designed by God and put on this Earth all at once. What nonsense.”
Inkohatum sat silently, tilting his head.
“Did you hear me?” I asked.
“Sure, sure, Gerry. Uh, bit of a problem here, I’m afraid. Don’t know how to break this to you but…”
“What are you talking about?”
He gulped two fingers of scotch in a single swallow, poured another glass, and sighed. “Well, here it is. Those pastors are right.”
You should know that Sirian disguises are not just costumes. They’re as far beyond Hollywood-quality makeup jobs as stealth bombers are to paper airplanes. Sirians can communicate the slightest emotional nuance with their perfect face masks, feel the lightest touch, and convince anyone that they’re really human. I gave him a close look to see whether he was joking, but his perfect artificial face revealed nothing. “Is this one of those misunderstanding things we have every once in a while? Like when you told me that you were a drug dealer?”
Inkohatum laughed. “That was and still is true, but of course, oak resins aren’t considered drugs here on Earth.”
He took a deep breath and continued. “Those pastors told you that humans did not evolve randomly, right? That what you are today is the result of conscious design, and that the designer then put that pattern into your genome. Is that a good summary?”
“Well, it’s a lot more magical and mystical for them of course…”
“Sure, they don’t understand reproduction at the genetic level, but they claim that an intelligence, which they conclude must have been God, designed you.”
“Right, but of course I explained to them that we know today about all of these intermediate forms, a continual chain in the fossil record…”
“Etcetera, etcetera. I know. But for each of those intermediate forms, how many individuals are there in the fossil record? Oftentimes, less than one. It’s just a jawbone, or some other small part.”
“Sure, we extrapolate from what we find. Over time we find more, and it’s always consistent with the overall concept.”
“And how do those pastors explain that fossil record?”
“They claim that God put it there to test us.”
“Really!” said Inkohatum. “Clever people. Very close to the truth.”
Now I was mad at him. I stood and walked to the apartment door, opened it, and pointed to the hall. “If you want to mock me, you can leave. Come back when you better understand the concept of common courtesy.”
“Gerry, my profuse apologies, but I was just getting excited because I never knew that there were people who had stumbled upon the truth about the origin of your species. Yes, of course, all the other species on Earth evolved as science explains, but humans were designed.”
“You really believe that?”
“No, I don’t believe it. I know it. Look, do you have time to come over to my place now? I need to show you some videos.”
Inkohatum owned a penthouse on the Inner Drive, a trophy of his success as an interplanetary drug dealer, but also his business office, his transportation center, and his communications link to his home planet. He swooshed through the door, while I panted and huffed, feeling my forty years, trying to keep up but trailing a good dozen steps behind. By the time I’d crossed the threshold, he’d disappeared into an inner room. I paused in the foyer, empty except for two knotty pine tables that would have been more appropriate in an up-north cabin, then passed into a large, ultra-stainless, granite-clad kitchen, then into a massive living room with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the dark lake in the distance. A river of car headlights on Lake Shore Drive was just visible at the very bottom of the windows.
He stood among his precious, tasteless, Early American furniture next to something electronic that was attached to a screen with a striking three-dimensional image. As I neared, I could see that it showed a laboratory with undisguised Sirians moving about. Their bulbous heads and thin bodies always creeped me out – these were the little green men everyone made fun of, only they really existed, and they were really smart, and one of them was a good friend of mine. On a long table, like one you would see in a hospital operating room, was a humanoid figure – not human, not an ape – something in between.
“See the running time stamp in the upper right?” he said without taking his eyes off the screen. “That number corresponds to one hundred eleven thousand, six hundred and fifty-seven years before today.”
He then pointed to the upper left. “That location stamp puts the video on Earth, in what is now central Africa.”
“What are Sirians doing in central Africa then? And how did you get this video?”
“It’s in our archives – any Sirian can access it.”
Sirians are the Japanese tourists of alien species. They record everything, and have been doing it for roughly a million years. Long before humans ever existed, they’d invented their own cloud – a vast storehouse of information with associated tools to easily access knowledge they’d gathered from thousands of planets and dozens of intelligent species.
We spent three hours studying the video. This was no home movie. It had layers with bench notes, scientific papers related to the experiment, explanations of why and how they did it. I’ll give you the short form.
Some influential Sirians had gone to Earth to see the wildlife and noticed the hominids. They found them interesting, and imagined what they might be like with less hair, bigger brains, the ability to talk. Scientists were paid to discreetly create such a creature. The result was homo sapiens sapiens, an animal the Sirians found irresistible. For a thousand years, a few elite families made fortunes bringing the wealthiest and most perverse of their kind to Earth to frolic with their creations, at the same time assuring the humans that these were gods that must be obeyed. In return, the human colony, ever growing, was fed, housed, and pampered. To cover their tracks, the Sirians planted some fossils to show a more gradual progression in the development of their designed species.
Then, a thousand years later, the whole sordid business was exposed to the Sirian public when a major revolution on Sirius Prime overthrew the ruling elite. The humans were cast adrift, forced to make their own way, always yearning for the lost land where they’d been housed and pampered that the Sirians had called Eden-iwak, always looking to the sky for their gods to return.
“Oh my god!” I said as the clock chimed midnight. “No pun intended, but, wow! I’m knocked off my feet by this. Are you sure this isn’t some elaborate hoax?”
Inkohatum looked at me with the tilted head that I’d come to know meant we’re not like you humans.
“We should show this to your pastor friends,” he pertly suggested. “I imagine they’d be delighted to be proven right.”
“Oh my, I don’t think so! Their God is an almighty being, all powerful, invincible, all knowing…”
I stopped because, to tell the truth, I hadn’t said anything that wasn’t technically true about the Sirians. They recorded everything, so they were all-knowing; they wore disguises that doubled as body armor invincible even to artillery shells; their technology was so far advanced compared to ours, that it easily surpassed the Clarke definition of magic equivalence.
“I see you’re arguing with yourself,” Inkohatum said. “We really do fit their definition of God, don’t we?”
“Well, not completely. You didn’t create the world and everything in it.”
“No, not your world, though we’ve done that hundreds of times in other star systems.”
I shook my head. “Doesn’t matter. The UN Secret Commission on Sirian Affairs would never grant approval for those pastors to meet you or any Sirian.”
“We could bend the rules,” he said, sporting the impish grin I usually saw before he went for a sexual conquest.
“Oh no, not me! I’m not losing my grant and the opportunity to learn from you guys!”
“Don’t worry Gerry, I won’t involve you.”
“Please, Inkohatum, don’t!”
He grinned again, dare I say it, impishly. I sighed. There’s no telling a Sirian to back down once he’s taken a notion to something.
Two weeks passed before the other shoe dropped. I had just finished teaching my senior-level quantum mechanics class, a class I was within a year of obsoleting once I got all the things I’d learned from the Sirians into proper scientific papers. It was through one of those Sirian scientists that I’d met Inkohatum – the disreputable nephew who wanted to harvest oak logs and ship them back to his planet. Little did I know at the time the implications of that seemingly innocent enterprise.
As I walked back to my office, chuckling while remembering how Inkohatum had latched onto to me like a deerfly in the Wisconsin forests he trolled for wood, I felt a light tap on my left shoulder, turned, and there he was, in his male skin, prancing lightly alongside me.
“You really need to learn how to walk like a man when you’re in that disguise,” I grumbled, embarrassed.
“Are you kidding? I get much more sex this way,” he said with his best Cheshire cat grin.
I sighed. He could be so mature and interesting, and then in the next breath, so childish and degenerate.
“I wanted to discuss something with you,” said Inkohatum.
“Let’s wait until we’re out of the corridor.”
Once in my office, door closed, he said, “I met with your pastor Washington. You need to explain this man to me. We just don’t understand your species at all sometimes, even though we designed you. How did you turn out so irrational? What did we do wrong?”
“You met with him? Well, I’d love to hear what happened,” I said.
“I showed him the videos, explained everything. Even told him I was one of those little green men wearing a disguise. He didn’t believe any of it. So I tore off my mask, showed him my real face. He jumped back and started praying loudly.”
“Wow, you revealed yourself to him! Total breach of UN rules. I hope he doesn’t report you. Your drug business would be over.”
“No worries. My cartel would just send a replacement, but he’s not going to report anything because he believes it was some kind of magic trick that I did. Same with the videos, he can’t believe they’re for real.”
“Well, it’s a very simple thing really, Inkohatum. We humans, faced with evidence that contradicts what we believe, don’t just throw our beliefs in the trash. We doubt, we test, we investigate further.”
“But I showed him the evidence. There’s no doubt, there’s nothing to test, nothing to investigate.”
“You didn’t build us from scratch, you know. You modified a hominid that already had many of the traits we humans have today, and you added a layer of god-worship on top of the superstition, deceptiveness, casual cruelty, loyalty, sense of justice, and so forth. We’re just not a rational creature.”
He shook his head. “We really screwed up, didn’t we? Never really checked out the animal we used as a base, just added a few things and assumed it would all turn out perfectly. Typical, really. We Sirians tend toward laziness.”
His eyes lit up, and the impish smile returned. “Uh, oh, I don’t like that look,” I said.
“We can still fix you. Really, it’s our responsibility to do it. I’ll get right on it.”
He turned, opened the office door, and ran down the hallway at the speed of an Olympic sprinter. I prayed no one would open a door in his face. As I sat contemplating his words, my alarm grew. What did he mean by fix?
The possibilities all seemed quite frightening.
Months passed, and I received only the most cryptic of messages from Inkohatum. He was working on the problem we’d discussed, and I enjoy much progress, but cannot yet disclose details. I had no clue as to where he was or what he was doing.
And so, curious, and more than a little fearful, I asked his uncle, the scientist who led the team that was teaching me and a few other prominent human scientists Sirian physics, just what Inkohatum was up to.
“Nephew has finally taken up something respectable. I knew that drug dealing was just a phase. Nephew sends his warmest greetings and is saddened that you haven’t inquired about his whereabouts,” said his uncle, the Learned Nefer.
“And what, your Most Learned, is the respectable endeavor that my good friend has engaged himself in?”
“My relation studies viruses, their alteration, and their eradication. Nephew’s goal is to ensure the health of your planet by developing an ecosystem of beneficial viruses that will overwhelm those that cause disease and other undesirable conditions.”
Biology was not my field, but I do read science headlines voraciously. Something disturbed me. Couldn’t viruses be used to…
“Your Most Learned, what might these undesirable conditions be?”
“I suggest you visit Nephew yourself and discuss this. My relation wishes very much to see you, but does not want to communicate about said work over your hopelessly insecure email or phone systems.”
Learned Nefer was a nice enough Sirian, but formal and precise to the point of aggravation. For example, he never used the personal pronouns he or she because Sirians were hermaphrodites, and thus both at the same time. Their language had a single sound that meant he/she, but Learned Nefer, the amateur linguist, somberly corrected me when I tried that approach – not proper English. While Inkohatum, for all his quirks, treated me like a good friend, Learned Nefer saw me more like an intelligent lab animal, something his people had decided to train, but certainly not something he’d ever have any feelings toward.
“Would you be so kind, Most Learned, to tell me how I could accomplish such a visit?”
“Nephew resides at our secret facility in the Sinai desert. To reduce the fatigue of travel on your most uncomfortable air transports, I suggest you use our teleport facilities.”
Well, that was a new one. I had no idea they’d installed teleporters, but was certainly happy to know I’d be able to travel halfway around the world in a few seconds.
Two days later, laden with a heavy suitcase (I never travel light) and my computer backpack, I pushed the sub-basement button on the elevator of the Sirians’ training facility, disguised as the IT center of a commodities exchange. I’d tried that button many times before without success, but this time it illuminated. Working with the Sirians, one became accustomed to the unexplained.
A Sirian attendant quickly and efficiently guided me through a low opening framed in a gray plastic-like substance unlike anything I’d ever seen. Ten steps later, I emerged into a small room, not much more than a brightly lit closet, and then, suddenly a familiar face appeared – Inkohatum in his male skin.
“My friend! How pleased I am to see you!” He grabbed my hand and dragged me through the door, then into a long hallway, pulling me along at a trot toward an open door some hundred feet ahead. My suitcase and backpack were like lead weights as I tried to keep up. I was exhausted when I finally plopped down in a comfortable armchair beside a fine, richly lacquered oak table. Inkohatum sprang like a small dog into the chair opposite me.
“I have so missed you, my friend!” There was a sincerity to his voice and his face that convinced me that he meant it.
“I’m happy to see you too,” I responded. “Are you finding enough, shall I say, diversions, here in the Sinai desert?”
“I must confess this has been a problem, so I go to Amsterdam where we have a transport center, and enjoy some very debauched weekends.”
This sounded more than plausible. But I didn’t want to hear the details, which he would have been happy to supply at length. I was, in fact, tremendously curious about his work, and so asked him to jump right into explaining it to me.
“We are manufacturing viruses and delivery mechanisms,” he said. But the grin on his face said, Ask me what we’re delivering and why. So I did.
“Remember my assertion that it was our responsibility to fix the mistakes we made when we created you?
“Of course. So what are you doing, creating a new species?”
“Oh, it’s not a new species, it’s just a fix, sort of like a firmware upgrade.”
It was as I’d feared. I did little more than squeak, so shocked was I, but he continued as though he hadn’t noticed my concern.
“We alter certain genes that control specific brain areas and voila – no more superstition, no more irrational fear, no more innate stupidity. There’s more, but you get the picture.”
His face said Praise me! Look at what I’ve done! Isn’t it wonderful?
“Uh, my friend, you wouldn’t be conducting tests on living human beings, would you?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Oh, no, not tests. We’ve modified some humans, yes, but those aren’t tests. The tests are performed in computer models. We work out all the problems there, and by the time we infect the subjects, everything works perfectly.”
For the first time I saw the slightest concern in his face.
“Oh, they’re healthy, and they’re rational, sensible creatures just as I designed them, but there is one unforeseen problem. You see, the model didn’t include what would happen when they returned to society. When they went back to their homes, they found their friends and relatives to be insufferable bigots and fools. We’ve had to move every one of them into temporary housing – they were in grave danger in their native environments.”
“You’ve ruined those people’s lives! You should have talked this over with me. I could have told you this would happen!”
He sighed and said, “Yes, I should have. But here’s the funny thing. We’ve offered to change them back, but none of them want that. They like themselves the way they are now. It’s everybody else that’s the problem.”
“So how is this ever going to work?” I asked. “You take away a person’s hatred and he becomes an outcast.”
“Yes, there’s a transition problem we hadn’t anticipated. So, the solution is to narrow the transition time to the smallest possible. We’ll have to spread the virus very quickly in areas of conflict like Israel and Palestine, for example.”
“You’re going to disrupt the entire world, Inkohatum. Does your uncle know about this?”
The door to the conference room opened, and an undisguised Sirian walked in. “Hello, uncle!” said Inkohatum.
“You’ve told him everything?” asked Learned Nefer.
“Not the dispersal plan. Everything else.”
Learned Nefer turned his coal black eyes toward me. “Nephew has persuaded me that it is our duty to correct the mistakes we made when we created your species. Your governments would of course refuse if we asked permission to do this. So we will not ask.”
I nodded, thinking furiously. I had to get back, warn the people on the UN High Commission. There could be worldwide violence and confusion if the Sirians did this, and what if the virus caused unforeseen complications, or mutated?
“I think you’re making a mistake,” I said. “There are over seven billion people in the world now. It’s nothing like it was when you first engineered us. And what gives you the right…”
“We are your creators,” said Learned Nefer. “And that gives us the right to do whatever we wish to you.”
He spoke in a commanding voice, one that said I will be obeyed.
I turned to Inkohatum. “I thought you were my friend. Why would you take such an incredible risk with the entire human species?”
“Gerry, I am your friend. That’s why I’m doing this. I care about humans, especially you. I want your world to be a better place. This is the way to make that happen. You’re exhibiting the design flaw right now. You’re feeling the irrational fear, the inability to accept the voice of reason. Soon you’ll be past that. You should be rejoicing! Sure, there may be some losses during the transition, but they’ll be far fewer than the many deaths that would result from our leaving you all as you are.”
“I see.” I stood and took a step toward the hallway. “Maybe I should just go home, relax, try to get used to this idea. I think I’ll head back then. Good to see you Inko…”
“Nice try,” said Learned Nefer. “But no one who has knowledge of this plan can leave this facility. We can’t risk your communicating with the High Commission.”
They gave me a wonderful apartment, quiet, luxurious, with a great view of the Red Sea. Inkohatum hovered over me like a high school boy courting a cheerleader, taking me to dinner in the compound’s opulent executive dining room, stopping by several times a day, trying to convince me that all would come out well. But at the same time, I was cut off from everyone I knew, and my internet access was severely censored, so I had no way of knowing how the dispersal of the virus was proceeding.
One evening, as Inkohatum, wearing his male skin, sat in my living room, taking in the sunset over the Red Sea, I said, “It’s crazy. You have total control over me. You could kill me in an instant if you wanted, or do whatever else you wanted to me. Yet you keep trying to win me over. Why am I so important, Inkohatum? Why are you spending so much time with me?”
“There are two reasons, Gerry. Both are rather embarrassing. I hope you’ll be kind when I tell you these things.”
Inkohatum’s artificial face glowed. With his famous impish grin he said, “You see, I’m in love with you. I have been for a very long time.”
I felt my face flush. I wasn’t sure whether I was more shocked or embarrassed. “Come on, stop messing with me, Inkohatum.”
“No, it’s true. Remember, we designed your species to be sexually attractive for us. We all crave a human sex partner, and we’re sentimental, deeply emotional creatures. It’s really nothing surprising if you give it even a moment’s thought.”
“You know very well that…”
“Of course, and it hurts me so much to know that you’ll never care for me like I care for you.”
He turned his head to the windows and spoke softly, as if to himself. “Of course, I could force myself on you, and I could make it so you’d like it. Like it a lot.”
Now I felt a wave of cold fear. “Please, Inkohatum, don’t do that, I beg of you.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t want you to hate me. But now you know why I spend so much time with you. It’s because I love to be with you.”
He paused, then stood and paced the length of the windows overlooking the sea. As he walked, he said, “The second reason is that when I first took your hand, those first moments when you arrived here, I infected you. I’m watching you closely, observing how you change.”
I should have been outraged, but I felt strangely neutral. Of course it made sense to observe the changes Inkohatum had designed in someone he already knew well, someone whose baseline behavior was well-defined. Then I realized my lack of outrage must be the direct result of the infection. I was already changing. The look on Inkohatum’s face told me I was right.
“I see it in your face, Gerry. You’ve realized that the change is happening. You’re losing your irrational fears.”
“Yes, I just can’t work up any outrage about what you’ve done.”
“And outrage is such a motivator,” said Inkohatum. “It is among the most irrational of human emotions and has led to so many terrible things.”
His confessions had created an opening for me. I decided to take advantage of it. “I’d really like to get back home. Not only am I bored here, but I did have a life, you know. I’ve missed two visits with my children already. My ex has probably gone to court to take away my visiting privileges by now.”
Inkohatum sat silently for a moment, then said, “I haven’t observed you all the way to the end. I can’t let you go for another ten days. Hold on until then, Gerry. When you do return, you’ll see for yourself the changes we’ve made in the world. It’s already a different place.”
The ten days dragged, but at least I had something to look forward to. Finally my day of freedom, as I’d come to regard it, arrived. As I stood in the teleport facility, Inkohatum, in the male skin he always felt most comfortable wearing, held onto my hand as though he wasn’t ready to let me leave.
“I’ll miss you,” he said. “But I suppose it’s for the best this way. Soon you’ll understand.”
I felt a strange twinge of sadness about leaving him myself, but my eagerness to return home overwhelmed it. I pulled my hand free, patted him on the shoulder, and walked through the teleporter.
Chicago certainly looked the same. As soon as I got home I went to my computer and began accessing news sites. My Sirian friend was right – the world had changed – a lot. Israel and the Palestinian areas had merged into a single country. Every nation on Earth had renounced nuclear weapons. Peace treaties had been signed all over Africa. The stock market was soaring. It looked like the Sirian plan was working out quite well.
It took a while to convince my ex that I’d been on a secret mission related to my work, but she finally agreed to let me see my daughters. They lived a short walk away, and were just home from school. I couldn’t wait to see them again.
Shawna opened the door to her apartment and stared at me. “Who are you?” she asked, her brow furrowed with suspicion.
I laughed. “Yeah, it’s been a long time hasn’t it…”
“Look, I recognize the voice, but I seriously do not recognize you,” she said. It didn’t sound like she was joking.
Leila, my fifteen year old, appeared behind her. “Hi, honey!” I said. “How’s school?”
“Uh, like, who’s the weirdo?” she said, her voice also filled with suspicion.
I pulled out my wallet, showed them my driver’s license. That finally convinced them to let me in, but the tension was thick. Shawna said, “You really don’t know, do you?”
“Go into the bathroom and look in the mirror.”
I suppose that when I’m near death I’ll review my life and think about the moments I was most proud of, most embarrassed about, most wished I could relive. But that moment, I’m quite sure, will be the one when I was most shocked. What I saw was a face only faintly like the one I remembered as mine. The eyes were bigger, the nose smaller. Everything had elongated. And it wasn’t just my face. I took a closer look at my fingers. They seemed unnaturally long. It doesn’t take many changes to completely throw off our facial recognition capabilities, and the changes in me were just enough to do that.
I thought hard about the little apartment the Sirians had given me in the Sinai. No mirrors, not a one anywhere. This change had to be why.
Shawna had been watching me from behind. She’d seen my shock, and her voice was now much more sympathetic. “What happened, Gerry? What did they do to you?”
“I was the subject, no, the victim of an experiment I never agreed to. They infected me with a virus that changed my genetic makeup.”
She gasped. “Could we catch it from you?”
“It doesn’t matter. They’ve dispersed it all over the world. You may well have it already!”
I wanted to spend some time with my daughters, but I had to get back there, tell Inkohatum to stop. Shawna and the girls understood. It took a few minutes to get approval to use the teleporter, but within the hour I was facing Inkohatum, still in his male skin, and Learned Nefer, undisguised.
I spoke calmly, repressing my anger. “Apparently your computer models didn’t account for physical changes. Even our primitive science knows that physical and behavioral traits can be genetically linked. How could you make such a mistake?”
Learned Nefer’s large, piercing black eyes seemed to get even bigger. “How dare you insult us with such a nonsensical statement.”
Inkohatum took my hand. There was a sadness in his artificial eyes, but a glow too. “Gerry, of course we know about linked traits like that. I just thought that as long as we were making changes, I’d throw in a few, made specially for you, so that you and I could get along better.”
“You changed my looks on purpose?”
“Not just your looks. Give me a minute.”
He disappeared out the door. Learned Nefer said, “This is when I leave you. It is the culmination of Nephew’s experiment. I will return shortly to observe the results.”
I stood in the small conference room alone for two or three minutes and then an undisguised Sirian walked in. “Gerry, take a good look at me. What do you think?”
It was as though I had new eyes. The tiny nose, the greenish skin, the thin limbs, they all seemed alluring and impossibly beautiful now. And then I looked into his, or was it her, deeply black eyes. Never had I felt such a connection to another living being. My knees went weak, my breath came in gulps. I felt as if I were in a trance.
“You see, Gerry, we’re going to be very special friends now. Isn’t it exciting?”
A war broke out inside me. On one side, I felt an almost irresistible desire to drag Inkohatum to the nearest bed. But on the other side, revulsion and outrage welled up, freezing me. He opened his arms, beckoning me to embrace him, but instead I fell to the floor, curled up in a fetal position, and broke into uncontrollable sobs.
He stood a minute above me frozen, perhaps confused, then fell to his knees beside me, put an arm around me, and said, “Oh my poor friend! What have I done? I only wanted you to love me.”
The door opened. Learned Nefer took a step into the room, stared at the two of us on the floor for a moment, then said, “You fool! I warned you that your model might not be accurate, that re-engineering their deepest emotions was risky! This human is among the most prominent physicists on Earth and far too valuable to our program to be lost to your frivolous infatuations. Change him back at once!”
Changing me back wasn’t quite as easy as Learned Nefer made it sound, but three months later, I looked and felt like my old self again. It took a lot longer than that for me to get over my anger at Inkohatum, but now, almost two years on, he’s won me over and we’re friends again. And I have to admit, he did a lot of things right. The world really is a much safer, more pleasant place now.
I never have really understood Inkohatum. Why wouldn’t he prefer a romantic relationship with one of his own kind? Why did he feel such a deep need to re-engineer us humans? Why would he fall in love with me, of all people? Contemplating those questions, I’m beginning to understand my religious friends better. The gods really do work in mysterious ways.
|The Dreaming Fire|