Writers note: This is a short story I wrote that started out as a zombie horror story, and ended up as more of a religious family feud. Once again everything I try to write ends up writing itself. I try to explore the seemingly endless clash between Christianity and science, an argument which has certainly taken place in my own home more than once. And I try to show how both sides can be wrong at the same time, and how mindlessly devoting yourself to something without considering the bigger picture almost always leads to corruption and evil. I guess you could say it is a metaphor for my own search for spirituality and an understanding of the world around me. (except I haven’t died … yet)
This is my first attempt at any kind of fiction writing, at least for many, many years, and certainly the first attempt I’ve ever made on this blog. So don’t expect too much out of it, and of course feel free to offer any advice or criticism you have about the story. But most of all don’t take it seriously, it’s just a story I wrote so I could get the damn thing out of my head and maybe stop thinking about it and get some sleep.
The sun’s fading golden light was filtering gently in the window as I stuck yet another needle into Benjamin’s arm. He didn’t even wince any more, so used to the jabs of pain he’d endured for the last five years. I put this blood sample in with the rest to be taken back to my lab and lit a cigarette.
“You know those things are going to kill you one day Pete. For heaven’s sake, what kind of doctor smokes anyway?” he said.
“Everyone needs a vice Ben,” I said, “even you. Besides I research cures, I don’t treat hypochondriac housewives and sick children who need FDA approved air. I smoke to calm down, and you believe in fairy tales to feel better about being sick.”
Benjamin raised an eyebrow, shooting me a look I had seen a thousand times before. “The Lord has a place for everyone in His kingdom brother, if you would just be willing to look past your proven facts and scientific limitations. Surely you can look at the world around you and see endless miracles that cannot be explained by science. He has a plan for everyone, and in my case He has given me the peace of understanding, that I will live forever in His glory. Nobody lives in this world forever Peter, but I believe that my life is meant to serve as an example of the love and forgiveness He can offer to even the worst sinners, and the most hopeless in life.”
“You aren’t hopeless Ben, you’re just sick. I’ve been working on your cure for a long time now, but it hasn’t been long enough, I need more time, so don’t go resigning to a death by AIDS. And you and I both know that you never deserved the punishment they gave you. You’ve paid a thousand times over for your alleged “crimes”. You aren’t even close to the worst sinner, hell, you’ve never even been a little bad. You’re practically a god damned saint. Can’t you see that the drug laws in our country are remnants of the control your own religion still has on our unjust law system? You never needed forgiveness, you needed a just world, which your faith can never and will never give you. Your only hope is through science and it’s ability to cure sickness, so for Christ’s sake, give me a break with the holy roller bull shit. Let’s just focus on what you’re here for Ben, how have you been feeling?”
“Despite my ongoing worry about your salvation Pete, I’ve been doing just fine. I keep telling you, the Lord will save me if it fits into his plan. But for now, he’s giving me the grace I need to get through this. I only feel the slightest bit sick from time to time, and even you tell me I have years left to live. Now let’s quit arguing and go get some pizza, unless you hate that too. I haven’t really seen you much since you got out of college. If I hadn’t grown up in the same room as you I wouldn’t even believe we’re brothers some times. Let’s catch up on everything, tell me about that DNA thing you were working on last time I saw you.”
We kept on talking as I cleaned up the office. Sometimes I felt bad for how our relationship had turned since his contraction of the virus. It seemed like a huge rift had grown between us, and I missed the close bond we had shared growing up as much as he did, even if I was less prone to admit it. All I wanted in life was to find a way, a real way to save him from his certain death. But no matter how hard I tried, or how much I focused on my goal, he seemed to be steadily letting go of his will to live. His insistence on believing in these foolish fantasies of God and an afterlife excused him in his mind from needing to hold on. And as much as I loved him and wanted him to be happy no matter what, I couldn’t help but feel a stab of anger and resentment that he would so willingly give up on my chance at saving him. That he would choose his invisible friend over his brother, me, who had dedicated my life to curing him.
Two years had passed since the last time I had seen Benjamin. His fellow believers had convinced him he should put his trust in “the lord” and that placating me and my godless tampering with the holy plan was not only a sign of weak faith, but a defiance of his god. And in that time his fellow believers had become his followers. His faith had become his obsession. I had kept up with him though, tracking his moves in my spare time, and making do without his blood samples. I had to bend a few laws perhaps, but it would all be worth it for me, for everyone. I knew. I knew I could do this. This master plan. This ultimate breakthrough in medicine. I never wanted the accolades, or the money. I never wanted anything but to save him, that ungrateful, deluded brother of mine.
The time had flown past as I assume it does for all those who completely immerse themselves in their studies. Society had ceased to have a hold on me. What did I need them for anyway, those idiots. They were the ones who allowed all this to happen. They were the ones who put these ideas in his head, and tried at every turn to stop my work. My perfect work. If only they knew, but they couldn’t. I never let them in anymore.
Lindsay had been the last. She was a nice enough girl, but too foolish for my tastes. Too preoccupied with the unimportant things in the world. The fashion. The trends. All she seemed to want was to talk, to interact with no goal in her life. She had tried just like the rest to take me away from my studies. But it wasn’t her fault, she could never understand what I was accomplishing here. She could never fully grasp the full scale of what I was doing. So I had to make her leave. Too bad for her she was just like the others, she was a nice enough girl. She could never understand. I was so close, so close to doing what nobody thought was possible. Now it was just my work and me.
I could do it though, if I worked hard enough. Who needed a god when you could cure death itself. Who needed to cure one disease when you could cure them all. No, Lindsay was wrong about me. I have never lost sight of the good things in life. In fact, I’m the only one left who still sees what good can be done. Ben has his obsession and I have mine.
I am so close. So close. And that’s why I came here today. To this church Ben built. I kept up with him, I know what he’s been doing. He’s been busy too, but unfortunately he’s been busy trying to kill himself.
“Hello Peter, I have missed you dearly. The Lord has put you on my heart these last few weeks, please come sit with me. Would you like to see our Temple?”
“No Ben, I would not like to see your temple, which by the way is clearly unhealthy for you. Much like the things I’ve been hearing from your doctor. You know you should be taking your pills. You know I had your doctor prescribe them so you could stay stable Ben. Your PTSD needs to be addressed, not to mention the fact that without those pills you don’t take the ones keeping you alive. You need this medicine! You have to see you aren’t thinking clearly anymore!”
“I’m sorry Pete, but it’s been a long time since I stopped listening to the doctors. And I say this with love, but you are the one who is not thinking clearly. The Lord has blessed me many times over, my cup runneth over Peter, but you dear brother have lost the way. My Children tell me that you hardly leave your lab. They tell me that you are unstable. I know you’ve been watching me, because I have been watching you too. I love you Peter, but your obsession with this disease is driving you mad. You need social interaction. You need the never ending love and understanding of our Lord. You need to let go of your fear for this mortal life and give yourself to the salvation of your eternal soul. Why can’t you see this? Can’t you see the love and brotherhood that I have built here with the Children of the Lord?”
“What I see is a bunch of whacked out psychos Ben. You talk about social interaction, but you’ve isolated yourself with these religious fanatics! How exactly did you persuade all these people to follow you anyway? These beliefs in the unprovable are getting ridiculous, even dangerous. It was bad enough when you just believed that some invisible Rabi was going to save you when you died, but now … Look at what your’ doing! Your so called “children” picket through town protesting every other belief. You terrorize people with your barrage of hate and bigotry. Look Ben, I can understand why you would hate homosexuals. I can only imagine what you went through … back then. But I don’t think …”
“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!” He screamed. His jaw clenched so hard I could see the pulse in his neck. Then slowly he looked around at his followers, seeing their reaction, and calmed himself down. “You could never understand what I went through, and you may never understand what it is like to find the forgiveness and salvation of our Lord. I love you Peter, but you’ve given your life to godlessness and evil. You spit in the face of the Almighty with you defiance of his plan for mankind. You not only defend the sinners who are clearly an abomination to the Lord, but you go so far as to set yourself up as a false God yourself. You can not understand what you have done, but we know all about it. Your unholy experiments, sacrificing animals and human organs to your God of science. You will see us again Peter, and you will have to come to judgment in front of the holy Lord for the sins you have committed in the name of science.”
I felt my pulse quicken as the anger built up inside of me. The tick. The damn tick I had tried so hard to get rid of was nipping again on the edge of my eye. This idiot, this damn fool couldn’t see the truth. I exploded, “There is no god! Everything you believe is lies Ben! Your so called god has done nothing for you but deceive you and turn you against your fellow man. He’s condemned you to death and offered no hope of healing. So fuck your god, and fuck your cult! I’m bigger than any god you’ve ever believed in. I’m creating life from death, I’m mastering the very principals of consciousness as you understand them. I can give you eternal life Ben! And only I can do it it. That’s why I came here to see you again.” I was breathing heavily, angry and passionate, trying to get through to him. “Give me two more weeks Ben, and I can save your life. I only have a few more problems to fix and I can save you forever, save everyone! Just two more weeks, and then I’ll show them all. They will all have to understand.”
But I saw then in Benjamin’s eyes that he had no interest in my cure. His eyes saw through me in his religious fog of faith and misconceptions. He seemed to stare at the wall behind me, pausing for a long moment before at last he spoke so quietly it was almost a whisper. “Judgment day is soon brother. Sooner than you think.” And he turned his back to me and walked slowly out of the room.
As he went I saw for the first time how feeble he looked. His body had become frail and he appeared to be no more than a skeleton, a walking corpse. How had I not seen it before. Ben was dieing. My brother was succumbing to his sickness, and I may have taken too long to save him. Ashamed and angry I watched him exit, holding back my sudden tears. I hardly noticed the men escorting me out of his church, my mind far away, already thinking of what I could do to speed up the research for the cure. I had no time to lose if I was going to defeat death and save Ben.
I was asleep at my computer when they broke into the lab. Twelve men wearing all black, unarmed, but too many to fight off. Before I had time to try and defend myself they had me cuffed to my chair, and pushed against a wall.
I felt the pain first in my face, and second in my body. The cuts stung as the cold water splashed me. I could tell I had been beaten, and as more water splashed me I heard Ben’s voice yelling at them to wake me up. The darkness turned to dim light, cleared slightly as I began to see what they were doing around me. It all happened so fast, too fast for me to process. They had my serum out, and had filled a number of syringes when I tried to tell them. I tried to explain that it wasn’t ready. It’s all so confusing now, getting hard to remember.
He kept saying something about judgment. His lord required judgment on the sinners who defied him. I was a sinner, all sinners. A land of heathens, deserving only of god’s wrath. But I tried to explain it to him. There was no eternal life serum. No cure yet. I hadn’t finished. He didn’t care.
I had worked out almost everything. I had made a marvel of science, a virus that altered human DNA. I made everything work better, every organ last longer, every muscle stronger, every reaction faster. I would have cured his AIDS, making the immune system hundreds, possibly thousands of time more resistant to disease. But I hadn’t finished. I made every instinct stronger. Every base instinct to hunt, to defend, to kill. I made the brain fire faster, so fast that it destroyed higher cognitive thought, burnt it out leaving only an animal mind behind. An animal mind in a body that healed instantly, that was faster and stronger than any normal human on earth. A predator that felt no pain or cold or heat, only hunger and rage. I hadn’t finished.
I tried to tell them it would kill them all, that it was contagious, but they didn’t care. Benjamin didn’t care. He wanted judgment. He got it.
None of them would listen. They all injected themselves. And soon, just as I had said, they attacked and infected me. their teeth ripping chunks from my bleeding body as I strained to fight back, strained to survive. They were screaming so loud. Maybe I was screaming. I remember choking on blood, biting back at the thrashing bodies around me, feeling a new strength coursing through my injured body. An impossible strength. At least that’s how I think it went.
It seemed like a lifetime had passed since I had a human thought. On second thought, maybe it was only a moment. The screams and growls were coming through in the distance, although the blows and movement still seemed very close, probably all around what was left of my body. I could feel the darkness closing in on my mind, numbing my body, erasing my feeling, my soul. I felt death taking me, even as my body revived itself. I could feel some dark fire kindling in the corners of my mind, unleashing itself. After a lifetime of arguing with benjamin I wondered which of our truths would await me on the other side of death. I could be right and there’s nothing. Or even worse, he could be right, and his god could be pissed. Although, something tells me God would get a sick laugh out of the irony in my final moments. Benjamin had worshiped a creator, and then twisted his creator into a perverse mockery of itself. Had turned it into a force for hate and suffering in the world. In the end I had become a divine creator myself, birthing a creature both terrible and perfect, subhuman and superhuman. And now it was destroying me and turning me into a force of suffering and evil. Both of us had been wrong. I wondered if there had even been a right path to choose in the first place. But it doesn’t matter now. None of it matters. The only thing that matters now is my hunger. The unending hunger.