I wrote this short story last July, during the time that BZPower forums were offline, and so I could not post it right away. Nearly a year later, I rediscovered this story on my computer and decided that it was finally time for it to be published.
I opened my eyes for the first time.
When my eyes were shut, I dreamt of places, beings, and adventures of another life. But now these visions deserted me, and I beheld an entirely different scene.
I was submerged in orange fluid. My vision was blurred and I was barely conscious, but I saw dark figures surrounding me, watching me.
Although I was already slipping back into unconsciousness, I was plagued by dozens of questions. Where am I? How did I get here? Why am I here? What is going on? Who are they?
Who am I?
When I regained consciousness, there was a notable change in my environment. The orange fluid had been drained, and I now saw that I was contained inside a large glass tube. Outside, I saw lots of delicate machinery, filling the small room.
I now more clearly saw my observers. Each one possessed four arms and two large yellow eyes. They were entirely organic, with black-green scaly skin. They watched me with interest, but their expressions told me that they did not seem particularly pleased about what they saw.
Slowly, I turned my head, taking in my surroundings. I still had many questions, and I wanted answers. Unfortunately, I could see that the other beings seemed content to simply observe me. They occasionally talked amongst themselves, but showed no intentions of answering my own questions, or even releasing me from my containment, for that matter.
I reached up and tapped the glass. A few of the observers noticed, but they turned away and continued their conversations with one another. I knew that they did not wish to speak with me, but I had little intention of being treated like a caged beast.
I balled my hands into fists, then thrust my arms out. My fists shattered the glass, and my containment fell to pieces around me. The glass shards bounced harmlessly off of my armor. Instantly, all eyes were on me, and the room was silent.
At last, one of the observers, presumably the leader, stepped forward. "What madness is this?" he demanded in an irritated tone.
I locked eyes with him. Slowly, I spoke my first words: "Who... am... I?"
The lead observer's expression softened, betraying that he was satisfied, or perhaps amused, by my question. Other observers began talking, but none were speaking to me; again, they were talking amongst themselves.
"He appears quite sentient."
"Excellent. He speaks our language quite well."
"His temper may need to be contained."
"Let us begin the testing right away," the lead observer declared.
Again, I asked my question, to which the observers took little notice. I repeated my question. This time, the lead observer glared at me, visibly annoyed.
"Perhaps," murmured one of the other observers, "it would be best to humor him. We must be prepared to answer these questions in our second trial."
The lead observer considered this, then nodded and approached me. "You are our creation," he explained, "our experiment."
My eyes widened with surprise. "You... created me?"
The observer's expression betrayed mixed feelings. His smile boasted pride, but in his eyes I saw embarrassment or perhaps even disgust. "Indeed," he nodded. "I am Zyents, and these are my fellow experimenters."
"Why," I inquired, "did you bring me into being, Zyents?"
"That is a rather long tale," frowned Zyents. With a sigh, he added: "But I suppose that I should have an answer for you, since I'll likely be asked that same question after our second trial."
Zyents grabbed a chair, sat down in it, and watched me with wary eyes as he recounted my origins. "Several decades ago, I saw a large object, almost looking like a giant robotic being, enter our planet's atmosphere one night. Nobody believed me the following morning, but no one could deny that there was now a large land mass where before there was only water. We scouted the terrain which, despite the thick forestry and presence of three peculiar structures, appeared uninhabited. We were about to quit our search when that observation was suddenly proven false."
Zyents handed me a sketch. I looked it over and saw the image of a biomechanical warrior. "We saw a mysterious being emerge from the largest of the three structures; specifically, the structure located directly in the center of the new land. The figure wore armor and carried a spear, but most interestingly he had the ability to control air itself. Due to his armor and weapon, we assumed that he had emerged from the structure with some sort of violent purpose. As such, we engaged him in combat. Although he incapacitated most of our number, we successfully amputated a small part of his being, which we kept as a scientific sample. He retreated, and we pursued our adversary to the same structure from which he emerged. "
The experimenter took the sketch from me before continuing to recount his experiences. "Upon entering the structure, we passed through a long series of tunnels before discovering, much to our surprise, an entire series of islands located beneath the new land. These islands were inhabited by a wide variety of biomechanical species, including 'Matoran', short but very common citizens of the islands, and those called 'Toa', warriors such as the one we had encountered. As we observed their world, we wondered what potentials we could reach by creating one of these 'Toa'. So, we extracted genetic information from our severed sample. "
Zyents made a wide gesture towards the rest of the laboratory. "Underneath the other two smaller structures of the new land, we found a secret tunnel with a small empty cavern halfway-through the passage. Although we did not know its original purpose, we were able to convert the cavern into this secret laboratory, where we set up the proper equipment for our cloning process... such as the test tube that you just broke. After many months of development, you were finally completed."
I was silent for a moment, as I let the story of Zyents sink into my head. Then, I inquired, "What happens now?"
Zyents stood, grinning eagerly. "Now," he replied, "testing begins."
"Testing?" I repeated uneasily.
"Indeed, testing. Now that you are alive, we must be sure that all of your vital systems are functional and that you are capable of basic instinctual tasks, such as walking. This is all in preparation for our second trial. Rest assured that you will be rewarded with a surprise upon completion of the tests."
Thus, testing began. All of my life functions appeared to be functioning properly. It became clear to the experimenters that I possessed the sentience and intelligence of the Toa I was based upon; however, because of "modifications" made during the cloning process, they made me speak their language.
On the other hand, there were numerous issues that the experimenters found. They determined that I was partially blind in one eye, and as such my depth perception and hand-eye coordination were off. They also expressed disappointment when I tried to walk for the first time. For some reason, walking seemed completely wrong, almost as though it was not as I remembered it. For several hours, I was only capable of stumbling about, often being forced to crawl on my torso. Eventually, I was able to overcome this problem, but even then walking seemed strange and alien to me.
The experimenters shook their heads at this, jotted down notes, and talked amongst themselves. I was certain that one of them muttered: "This will be corrected in the second trial."
All these comments about a "second trial" made me curious. What was the first trial? My creation? Why was a second trial necessary? Did they plan to put me back in a test tube to improve my being?
As I contemplated this, a darker theory formed in my mind.
As the tests neared completion, I finally got a chance to speak with Zyents, the head researcher. He studied my breathing, claiming that he was testing to see if I could control air. I chose this moment and dared to ask, "What am I to you?"
"Pardon?" murmured Zyents, not paying attention.
I glared at him. "I'm just your little experiment, a laboratory specimen. In your eyes, I am not an equal."
Zyents glared at me with a bored expression. "That is true. We are, after all, your creators. We deserve to be respected as thus."
"But do I deserve to be treated as a thing?" I snapped. "A mere object that can be thrown away when broken?"
Zyents sighed, but his breath carried disappointment, not regret. "You must come to understand," he explained. "You are our first attempt at cloning this Toa. Our sample was contaminated, or perhaps even tampered with. As such, you are flawed... deformed. We will have to try again, but creating you, an imperfect specimen, took time and resources. And we'll have to replace that test tube that you smashed, and I hope you realize that the tube was expensive."
My dark fears were realized. "So that is what you meant by that rewarding surprise you promised me. You were going to dispose of me and start anew, and maybe in your second trial you might succeed in your little cloning process. But me? I'll just be... put to death."
"As you creator," declared Zyents, "I have the right to determine your fate."
"As my creator," I snapped, "you owe duties to your creation. You ought to grant me a long happy life in this world. But you care nothing for me! You may be my creator, but you are not my master." My anger rose; I did not notice the air pressure rising with it.
Zyents scowled. "Such impunity!" he spat. "I gave you life; I owe you nothing more!"
"You should not have gifted me with life," I retorted, "only to take it away!"
By now, all the researchers were staring at me with wide eyes.
"You don't understand!" claimed Zyents. "This is all for science!"
"Oh?" I was skeptical. "Then let us assume that the second trial works perfectly, or what if I had been flawless? What then? What would you do with your warrior who could wield the element of air? Science? I think not."
Zyents said nothing. Although he glared at me with contempt, his limbs were trembling.
"This isn't science!" I declared. "You have taken the study of the world around us and perverted it to meet your own selfish ends. You sacrifice its true purposes... and you sacrifice my own life, deeming me as a failure."
"Stop this now!" demanded Zyents.
I frowned. "I have no right to defend my very life?"
Then, Zyents placed his hands over his ears and screamed in pain, a most terrible sound. The other experimenters did likewise. I saw monitors break and glass shatter. As if under a tremendous weight, Zyents's legs buckled.
Only then did I notice that the room's air pressure was exceedingly high. Panicked, I wondered what the cause was. I slowly looked down at my own hands and recalled that I was based upon a Toa who controlled air. In my anger, I had created a high air pressure.
Seeking to rectify this, I raised my hands and called upon my inherited ability to control air. It took massive willpower, but I was able to reign in the air pressure. The pressure lowered, and slowly Zyents and the other experimenters were back on their feet. I smiled, allowing myself some pride in my triumph. I had mastered my element.
Or so I thought.
Now that the air pressure was on the decline, I could not stop it. In only a matter of seconds, the air was dangerously thin. Zyents's eyes bulged out of their sockets. He desperately gasped for air and gave a muted plea for help. Then, one by one, Zyents and the experimenters collapsed to the floor.
Once again, I panicked. And in that moment, I lost control.
The room was filled with howling winds. All around me, machinery was demolished. Glass shards from my shattered test tube flew about like deadly projectiles. I was deafened by the wails and screams of the wind.
It was over quickly. The air was normal again, but now I was surrounded by destruction. I rushed to the aid of Zyents; despite his intentions, I felt that I owed something to my creator. But when I laid my eyes on his body - still, silent, and impaled by shards of broken glass - I knew that I could not save him. Looking around, I saw that none of the other experimenters survived.
"I'm a murderer," I realized.
Horror-stricken, I backed away from the corpses as I desperately tried to rationalize my actions. "No!" I whispered to myself. "It was an accident! I was defending myself, but I lost control...!"
But no matter how I shut my eyes, I could not dispel the images of the lifeless forms of Zyents and my other creators. They had given me life... and I had taken theirs.
Frightened by what I had done, I backed away, then turned and ran down one of the tunnels connected to the laboratory. Eventually, I reached a dead end. Before I could turn around and head back the way I came, a hatch opened in the ceiling.
I hid in the shadows as a mechanical beetle-like creature dropped down into the tunnel. Its metallic body was colored in shades of green, it carried two large shields, and it had narrow red eyes. It was followed by seven more of its kind, which all looked nearly identical except for red shapes partially obscured by their faceplates.
The lead beetle made shrill clicking noises. It and its brethren shifted into ball-like forms and rolled down the passageway. Curious, I followed them back to the laboratory of my creation.
There, the beetles unfolded out of ball mode and surveyed the area. Without hesitation, they began spraying acid from their shields at everything they saw. The demolished machinery, the rubble, even the corpses. I felt sickened as I watched the face of Zyents melt away.
In a matter of moments, the beetles' task was done. Where there had once been a laboratory, there was now only an empty cavern. Nothing remained of the place or people that created me. The beetles shifted back into ball mode and rolled away. Hoping to find an escape, I began to follow them, but a quiet crack caught my attention.
I looked down. A few shards of glass littered the ground, having escaped the beetles' acid. Gingerly, I picked up one of the pieces, realizing that these were the last remnants of my creation.
I followed the beetles to the opposite end of the tunnel. There, another hatch opened in the ceiling, and one-by-one the beetles climbed out of the tunnel. Before the hatch closed, I too ascended out of the passage.
I emerged from a large structure that appeared to consist of four tall pillars and the secret hatch in the center. I recalled what Zyents said about three structures on the new land.
I was quite disturbed by what I saw on the surface. This new land might have been at one time a beautiful jungle. However, all around me the beetles were destroying the forestry. The green acid-spraying beetles were joined by a swarm of red flame-throwing beetles, and together they laid waste to the land, burning and melting until there was nothing left but a barren wasteland.
I glanced back at the structure. It was sinking into the ground. But not sinking, I realized. Retracting. As though it was designed to do so.
Thinking quickly, I recalled that the third and largest of these structures was located in the center of the new land. Dodging the mechanical beetles and their handiwork, I traveled through the wasteland until at last I found what I sought. Indeed, the structure was much larger than the one that concealed the tunnel and Zyents's laboratory. However, it too was retracting. I was running out of time.
I sprinted towards the structure and forced open a large hatch in its center. Quickly, I jumped through, only to be surrounded by darkness. I allowed myself a few moments to adjust my eyes to the lack of light before continuing.
I proceeded through a long series of tunnels. At the far end, I passed through a narrow opening and found myself facing a silver sea, with a great stone barrier behind me.
I wondered how I could possibly hope to cross the sea, but then I saw a small boat docked at the barrier not far from my position. At first, I could not believe this stroke of good luck. Then, I recalled that Zyents and the other experimenters had explored this area; this must have been their boat.
Zyents. It was though I could never get him out of my life. Everything I did, I did only because he gave me life. I felt sickened whenever I thought of him, because I was reminded of how he planned to dispose of me... and how I killed him in return.
Still, I climbed down and took the boat. I set sail and traveled to the south. The travel was slow and eventless, but after passing through a tunnel and emerging at another ocean, I finally saw a large land continent to the south.
By the time my boat washed up on the shore of the land continent, night had fallen and I was suffering from fatigue. I paused my travels to get some rest, but no matter how I tried, I was unable to lie down in a comfortable position. Ultimately, I was forced to sleep sitting upright and leaning my side against a tree.
While I slept, I dreamt again of people and places of another life. They felt so incredibly real. But when I awoke, the visions were dispelled once more.
I woke at the crack of dawn. I was pained by pangs of hunger and thirst, but I saw neither food nor freshwater anywhere. Thus, I resumed my journey, this time hoping to find something to satisfy my needs.
At last, I stumbled upon a village. The inhabitants were biomechanical, like me, but they were short in stature, so I doubted that they were fellow Toa and guessed that they were likely Matoran. Still, as I watched them carry on their daily tasks, they seemed friendly and peaceful. I had a feeling that they could help me.
I approached the village. One of the Matoran noticed me, so I shouted: "Excuse me? Can you help-"
The Matoran's eyes widened behind his mask. He pointed to me and yelled in a language that felt familiar but I could not understand. "Manas!"
This alerted the entire village to my presence. The Matoran all began shouting to one another. Although I heard "Koro mangaia!" and numerous cries of "Manas zya!", I could not understand what they were saying.
But when the Matoran formed a village defense, armed with swords, claws, and other weapons, I understood that they were not giving me a friendly greeting.
The Matoran began firing catapults and disks at me. As agile as lightning, I dodged their projectiles, but I got the message that I was not welcome. Thus, with a heavy heart, I turned and left. Behind me, the Matoran cheered in triumph.
"How... barbaric!" I thought aloud. My creators wished to dispose of me, the villagers rejected me... why could I not find sympathy or kindness anywhere?
Above, the skies darkened with storm clouds.
I continued traveling until I came across a small lake, where I decided to stop and quench my thirst. I bent down over the water's edge to have a drink, but then I saw a creature staring up at me from the depths.
What a hideous countenance this creature had! Its arachnid face possessed large mandibles and glared at me with eyes that were as red as a burning fire.
Instinctively, I lashed out at the creature and jumped back, perceiving it as a threat. But my hand had only hit water, and when the ripples in the water's surface died away, the creature still waited in the depths, staring right at me.
Cautiously, I reached towards the water creature with one hand. In response, the creature reached up a hand to meet my own. However, when I dipped my hand into the water, I could not feel the creature's hand; I felt only water. When I pulled my hand away and waited for the ripples to disappear from the water's surface, the hideous creature was still there, watching me.
Cold fear took hold of me.
I slowly reached up and touched my face. The creature in the water imitated me. I ran my hands across my facial features, feeling every line, every line, every curve, and every bump. So did the creature. Then, I positioned my hands so that the mimicking creature would touch its mandibles. My fingers touched them. They were there.
That was no creature of the depths. That... that was my reflection.
I was the monstrous creature with the hideous arachnid countenance.
"... you are flawed... deformed... an imperfect specimen..."
It all came together. Zyents and the experimenters wanted a Toa, but their sample was contaminated by arachnid DNA, resulting in a deformed abomination that they wished to dispose of. The Matoran protected their village from what they perceived to be a hideous monster.
I had a cursed form.
The knowledge overwhelmed me. I gasped for air. I clutched one hand to my chest, and the other to a large rock for support. "Oh, wretched creature!" I whispered. "You shall be abhorred by any sane being who lays eyes on you!" I began to weep, but my hand slipped off the rock; as a result, I lost my balance and plunged into the lake.
For several terrifying seconds, I was drowning. I flailed about helplessly. Water filled my lungs and weighed me down. On the verge of death, I briefly considered drowning as an escape from the torments of life. A surge of strength took hold of me and I vaulted myself out of the lake.
Dripping wet, I slowly crawled away from the water. Then, my remaining strength left me, and I collapsed upon the ground, panting for air. Rain began to fall from the dark skies above, and I felt the water droplets as they ran down my armor.
When I had thoughts of suicide, what gave me the strength to survive was my will to live, my refusal to let death claim me. But how could I live if every being despised me?
I slowly regained my strength and gradually sat upright. I glanced back at the lake which changed my life and made everything so clear to me. The raindrops hit the lake, sending ripples across the water’s surface.
I watched the ripples. They started so small, but in only a matter of seconds their size increased exponentially.
I watched the ripples. Then I knew what to do.
With renewed strength, I stood and walked through the rain. Every drop that landed on me only boosted my confidence and determination. The lake and rain washed away my old naive, grieved self.
I had a cursed form. But that did not make me much different from those who had normal lives, such as the villagers. The indifferent rain fell on all of us the same way, after all. Could we not share the same hopes for a brighter future?
I had a cursed form. If that prevented me from interacting directly with society, so be it. I could still find ways to spread my influence across the universe like ripples across the water's surface. Even if I had to begin in anonymity, I would build myself a reputation that would one day earn me respect, not quick judgment.
It is said that rain is the most dreary and miserable weather condition. I disagree. Although I was created in Zyents's laboratory, I was reborn on that rainy day. I was cleansed of my guilt and fears. I was given new life, strength, and purpose. If it is true that all endings are actually new beginnings, then I hoped that I would die on a rainy day.
I had a cursed form. But I had something far more important.
The ability to carry on, even with a cursed form.
Before you ask, no, this short story is not a criticism of science. I'm all for science. In fact, I was writing this short story during my spare time when I wasn't doing science myself! Instead, this short story was one that I had in mind for years and finally felt inspired enough to write last summer.
Comments appreciated. Constructive criticism encouraged. Spam given to the vikings. Flaming given to the pyromaniacs.
Edited by PeabodySam, Jul 17 2012 - 10:11 AM.