Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Experimental Story of Sorts

Below is an experiment I tried last year. It is a story told completely as a series of digital voice recordings. In a way, it's a horror story. I know it certainly gave me the willies when I read it just now.

I did try submitting this to a SF lit journal, but the response was pretty-much what I feared. He didn't get it. *shrug*

You see, "Haudego" is the story of a scientist obsessed with eradicating selfishness. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, you know the old saying: "Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it."


“Oliver? How do I tell if this damn thing is on? Oh, I see… Well… Yes… Hello. Today’s date is January 29th. I am Doctor Manny Kanton. After years of searching for the answer, I believe have finally found it. A single chemical chain in the cerebral cortex holds the key. Therefore, this set of recordings shall serve as my journals for the trials of the experimental drug to be known as ‘Haudego’, and may they serve as the testament for years spent in the search to solve the one problem behind all other problems known to man—selfishness. Understand whatever I am about to do has been done strictly for the sake of my fellow man.”

“February 12th: The university has given me the go-ahead for implementing my research. I am happy to know that they understand the importance of this project, although I am not fooled. Some members of the board certainly see this as a means for financial gain. I gave them only the barest of information for that reason. All notes and data will be guarded closely from this point onward. No single person will benefit from my work. It is for all of mankind.”

“February 18th: We began with the usual rodent test subjects today. All have been given the same dosage and the blind trial is in place. I expect to see results within a week.”

“February 22nd: Initial tests using rodent subjects for Haudego have proven fruitless. I had hoped the chemical chain in these lower animals would be suitably similar to our own, but when combined with the drug, these chemical chains become unstable causing immediate death. Curious. There is no indication for this result.”

“February 24th: Hypothesis of chemical chain instability in lower mammals incorrect. After biopsy, no data can be found to support that conclusion. According to my initial theory, nothing about this drug should cause such an immediate and fatal a reaction. I see now I was right. I’m looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps the dosage is too high… Yes. That has to be the answer. A lower dosage should suffice.”

“March 1st: New tests with lower dosage show promise. Rodent subjects no longer exhibit respiratory failure immediately following administration of the drug. I expect to see great improvement in these subjects over the next few days.”

“March 2nd: Initial subjects for test with lower dosage have begun to exhibit extreme loss of appetite and rapid dehydration.”

“March 3rd: Second test has failed. All subjects from the initial test but one have expired. Last subject shows no ill effect of Haudego, and tomorrow, remaining live subject will be tested to ascertain the drug’s desired effects.”

“March 4th: Final subject from initial test has proven immune to lower dosage of Haudego. All tests show no effect on brain chemistry… Hmm… This is actually promising. If I can eradicate this immunity, I should be able to insure Haudego’s efficacy.”

“March 4th (addendum): Earlier, I increased the dosage to gauge its effects on the immune subject, but regrettably, the subject expired in the same manner as the initial subjects. Subject not immune. Tolerance was higher… Nothing to suggest a possible way to increase the positive effects of the drug while diminishing the fatality rate, but it must be there. It has to be.”

“March 7th: I am now certain my failure with the rodent subjects was strictly due to the difference in anatomy between species. Closer examination of the exhumed brains of my subjects shows total atrophy of the cortex area, to the extent that many brain cells necessary for the successful function of the organism have ceased to exist. This can only be due to specie.”

“March 8th: I have convinced my superiors of the need to utilize subjects closer in makeup to mankind. Tomorrow, we begin work with a small sample of rhesus monkeys.”

“March 15th: Primate subject tests are all failures. Same basic cause of death as the rodent subjects. I can only assume the monkeys are still too far away from the chemical makeup of the human brain. I need a human subject. There is no other way. I am certain that if I could work with just one man, I could prove my theory is correct.”

“March 18th: My request for a test sample of volunteers has been denied. Damn them. If they had any idea what they were preventing… It’s madness. The board… Men and women who never once thought about their fellow man… They are apparently not convinced I am correct. They do not understand. Even if a small number of volunteers are lost, the importance of Haudego is worth it. Millions will be saved once this chemical chain is eradicated from the human physiology. I have to convince them. They have to listen.”

“April 9th: I located my first human subject tonight. A male of fair health and medium stature. He jumped at the chance to make money so he could buy his next fix. Heh. I think that once Haudego succeeds, however, he will be so grateful, payment will become unnecessary. This subject is perfect. The track marks along his arm are classic. Once my drug takes effect, he will no longer feel the need for narcotics of any kind.”

“April 9th (addendum): Impossible. The first test subject expired at 10:02 p.m… I don’t understand it. Ten minutes after Haudego was introduced, he… The subject gasped once and then stopped breathing. My assistant, Oliver, administered CPR and breathing resumed briefly. But each time the subject was resuscitated, he took one or two breaths and ceased breathing again… Oliver is now readying the corpse for further study. I need to know why this is happening.”

“April 11th: Just as I had suspected! Autopsy shows no ill effects of the drug upon the respiratory system. I knew it! Oddly, it was almost as if the lungs received an order from the brain to cease function, but… that cannot be so. The chemical chain involved has no bearing… none at all, on the respiratory system. However, this bears further study. When Oliver returns from disposing of the remains, we will go over the data together to determine a solution to the problem… Oliver is a good man… It was his idea to hide the remains. He understands the importance of this discovery, and he understands any negative light shed on our experiments will jeopardize the success of the project... This project must succeed… for the betterment of humanity.”

“May 10th: We have hit upon the possible cause of Sub1’s untimely and unfortunate death. A single molecular chain in the drug’s chemistry affects the subject’s autonomic systems. I will adjust Haudego and resume testing as soon as possible.”

“May 27th: Our second subject was acquired, and we administered Haudego without delay. I remained in the lab tonight for the observation of the second subject. He experienced no ill effects, and after three hours, I left him asleep in the lab. I am confident we have finally resolved any issues with the autonomic system, and the test will be successful. I will run further tests tomorrow to see if Haudego has accomplished my goal.”

“May 28th: Success! Sub2 has shown vast improvement from his former state. All tests have been passed, and the subject has been released with instructions to report back to the lab in the morning. My assistant showed concern for the subject’s return, but it cannot be helped. We do not have adequate facilities to house a human subject for too long, and I cannot afford to have rumors of my tests leaking to the advisory board. This experiment cannot be jeopardized for any reason. Oliver’s concerns are duly noted, however, and I took the precaution of offering some additional financial incentives to the subject. I am confident the man will be prompt in his delivery of his body for further testing.”

“May 29th: Sub2 did not return as expected. I sent my assistant to retrieve the man from his place of residence. Perhaps this is another indication of the drug’s success. No other man in his position would have stayed away from the fee I was offering.”

“May 29th (addendum): My assistant arrived this evening with the unfortunate news of Sub2’s expiration. At first I feared Haudego was the culprit, but my assistant assured me that Sub2’s death was purely accidental. It appears the man was killed on his way home from the lab. Vehicular homicide… Stepped in front of a freight van. Curious. One would think a man in his position would have been paying closer attention.”

“June 21st: I… I went into the lab tonight. We… That is, I… have been unable to locate any appropriate test subjects for nearly a month now. Oliver has been overly concerned that the delay would impede our research, and delay the chance of Haudego reaching the market in a timely fashion. I tried to explain that sometimes trials of this nature can take years, but being young, he didn’t comprehend my words. I went into the lab tonight and found Oliver. He couldn’t wait. He used himself as a test subject.”

“June 21st (addendum): I disposed of Oliver’s body. What a horrifying task. Upon my return I went over his notes… His notes were flawless. Right down to the instant of his death. Every sensation; every thought carefully recorded. But his observations cannot be so. I refuse to believe Haudego has any ill effects. I have tested and retested the drug’s composition myself. Nothing is present to indicate this kind of reaction… I have no choice now. I must explore his observations for myself.”

“June 22nd: As of ten o’clock tonight, I am under the influence of Haudego. As foolhardy as it may seem, I had to know what happened to Oliver. I have to know where I went wrong. I must… Curious. It doesn’t really make any difference what I think I need to know… But Haudego is for the betterment of humanity… I should care about the completion of our work if only for that reason… But what does it matter? I… I don’t understand… What is happening to me?”

“June.. 23rd… This… will be my last… recording… I have destroyed… every last vestige… of this project… save for this… final epitaph… to my own folly… Even now… I have to fight… against the drug… to do even this… last small thing… for myself… Haudego… was designed… to spare mankind… from the one… malady… the one cause… of suffering and war… of hate and depression… since… the dawn… of humanity… I… created… Haudego to… save humanity… I… We… were taught… all along… Selfishness… is so… wrong… How… can it… be possible…? Selfishness… is… self… preservation. How… can… I… have… failed…? How… could I… have failed to see…?”

Thus ends the transcription of recordings found with the body of Dr. Manny Kanton. The only punctuation for his final recording: the exclamation point of a gunshot, and the final ellipsis of a soft, heavy object falling to the floor.