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The Noble Mutant

ryeguy123's picture

“Technically you’re a parasite,” I shot back. “You implant fertilized eggs in the female uterus, a clone of yourself. You’re like a cuckoo, putting your egg inside another bird’s nest, forcing our women to raise your offspring, who will grow up to exploit other women. That’s parasitic.”

“Technically,” Daniel corrected without a hint of animosity, “we are exoparasitoids, and it’s not something we are ashamed of.”

*   *   *

“You know you don’t have to do this,” I said, trying to bring Sarah out of her trance for the third time. “A proxy signatory is perfectly legal for this kind of contract.”

She had spent the entire flight staring out the window at the endless expanse of ocean below, or maybe it was endless space above. Although it looked like we were in outer space to me, our trajectory placed us barely within the bounds of what was considered sub-orbital. As fantastic a view this afforded Sarah in the window seat, it was one she was accustomed to and I knew her preoccupation with it was subterfuge for the heavy thoughts weighing on her mind.

“Legal, but unprofessional,” Sarah shook her head, staying focused on the world outside. “I’ve worked with Daniel for over a decade now. He’s a decent person and I owe him the respect that comes with a face-to-face business deal.”

“And the risk?” I prompted.

Her eyes flashed disappointment at me and I immediately curled up inside, but tried to remain outwardly cool, “Risk is my department Todd. I’ve been working with Daniel for years via video conferencing mediums.”

“See, that’s the part that concerns me,” I began cautiously, trying not to sound jealous. “In video conference negotiations you two are on equal footing. Your negotiation skills give you a decisive edge over him actually. But in close-quarters, the power he wields—“

She held up her hand to stop me, “Just because his mutation gives him such power, doesn’t mean he’s the kind of person to abuse it. Besides, all of the contract details were worked out months ago, this is a mere formality.”

“I understand, but consider what he is—“

“I trust him,” she assured me. “Whatever happens in to me in his presence, I know he won’t take advantage of the situation. This isn’t our first time coming into close physical proximity of each other.”

I wanted to bring his inherited wealth into the discussion. The billions of dollars Daniel’s father had amassed as a self-made man were inarguably the result of his genetic advantage over the opposite sex. He not only seduced wealth out of the hundred-plus women, but offspring as well, a whole island full of them.

“I asked for you to come along,” Sarah said, “because I trust you too. I know it’s only a few minutes, but I hope you understand.”

“I was a teenage boy once,” I smiled reassuringly. “I think I know a little something about raging hormonal responses.”

She cracked a genuine smile and for once in my life I knew I had finally scored a few conversational points with this beautiful woman. I tried to savor the moment as she returned to the window, lost in thought.

My ability to flirt with women was inversely proportional to their attractiveness. A woman as stunning as Sarah was so intimidating it stripped me of all but my most professional demeanor. I suspected that was why she asked for me specifically on this business transaction. She considered me neutered; although, that was light-years from the truth. I considered her the perfect woman, but I lacked the casual wit to win a mind like hers over.

Our resumed silence was now uncomfortable for me, but she was unaware. She was completely detached from the present. Her mind was so focused on what awaited her on the ground.

“Our decent will begin shortly,” the lone stewardess thankfully brought me out of my meditation on Sarah. “I’ll need to collect your drinks before reentry eliminates gravity in the cabin.”

I handed my untouched bourbon and water over to her and then passed Sarah’s diet soda over as well. We were the only passengers on this flight. Even without Government restrictions on travel to the island, technically a country, there was little demand to visit a nation of mutants.

My insides adjusted as we began reentry. I quickly nabbed Sarah’s pen from the air in front of her as it floated away. She took no notice.

I used the opportunity to soak in her profile. Her soft features were accented against the window, where space was fading away and the curve of atmosphere split the sun’s rays into hues of blue. Far below, the Pacific Ocean was coming into clarity, but I was absorbing Sarah, who was absorbing her own internal conflicts.

*   *   *

“Our visas won’t allow us out of the airport,” Sarah was saying as we exited the shuttle. “Of course, being a woman I have no desire to leave the airport. I can’t imagine what traveling through a community of them must be like.”

I nodded, also unable to imagine it, “Scary, I suppose.”

“More like ecstasy,” she looked sideways at me, gauging my response. “Remember your raging juvenile hormones?”

I tried, but the time and place weren’t conducive to nostalgia. I noticed there was no one to greet us in the lobby. In fact, the whole airport was deserted.

“They’ve taken all the proper steps to accommodate me,” Sarah said, her stride clipped and purposeful. “You know the first time I came here, one of them had lingered in the airport too recent to my arrival and I got so hot I—“ She shut-up, blushing, and said, “Well… They were so embarrassed over it, and apologetic. They really are very gentlemanly.”

I said nothing, didn’t know what to say as usual. Once again I was painfully aware of how a more socially adept male would have some means of capitalizing on this situation with a tasteful joke, but I was not him.

“They only produce males,” Sarah noted solemnly after a few moments of marching in silence. “Without any women on the island they will go extinct in one generation.”

“It’s a pragmatic necessity,” I said. It was a sterile and scientific thing to say, but the best I could manage, “If their mutation were allowed to run free—“

“It would drive the human race to extinction,” Sarah cut me off, nodding her head in vigorous acknowledgment of the reality. “It doesn’t make it any less tragic.”

I winced, but was not allowed to dwell on my conversational blunder as we came to the conference room door. Sarah turned the handle and I followed her in.

The scene inside was casual. Recliners, tropical plants, and fine art made up the décor. Daniel stood in front of the lush sofa across the coffee table. He was stiff and obviously uncomfortable. He was an extremely short fellow, pale and somewhat disfigured. Not hideous, but far from attractive.

When we entered the meeting room he nodded his head once at both of us and muttered a brief greeting, but made no other motion. It was Sarah who stepped forward and offered her hand, which he seemed to take reluctantly.

“It’s good to see you again Daniel,” she said sincerely.

“As it is to see you,” he replied formally.

Sarah gestured to me, “This is my notary, Todd Pearson.”

Daniel had no problem offering me his hand, which I took firmly out of politeness with a nod, but said nothing. He looked to Sarah again and swallowed uncomfortably, gesturing for us to sit down. Once certain we were comfortable, he seated himself on the sofa. That’s when I noticed the large vent in the wall conspicuously placed behind him. It took me a moment to realize the fan was moving air out of the room, channeling the breeze toward himself and away from us. I found this setup incredibly considerate of him, and unexpected as well.

Daniel pretended to busy himself with reviewing an electronic copy of the contract as Sarah casually slipped a bottle of hand-sanitizer out of her jacket. She squeezed a dollop of the stuff out on the palm she used to shake Daniel’s hand and began wringing it thoroughly. I tried to think of something to lighten the uncomfortable situation, but nothing acceptable came to mind. A wry observation that could evoke a chuckle from both parties right this moment would certainly earn me more points with Sarah, but the situation was simply too bizarre.

“You’ll find things just as we discussed,” Sarah said, and I detected a slight tremble in her voice. She shifted in her seat, “The extensive list of charities will have their designated gifts bestowed should the last inhabitant of the Island—“

“When we all pass away,” Daniel corrected with a sympathetic smile. “There is no uncertainty there.”

“When that time comes,” Sarah shifted again, and her speech quickened pace. “When the last heir to your father’s fortune expires, the entire inheritance, $160 billion dollars, will be distributed according to the appropriate charities accord--according to your d-designations.”

“It’s all in order,” Daniel said without actually reviewing the contract. I could see he was more concerned with Sarah, who’s face was flushed and beads of sweat were breaking out on her forehead.

“This… thumbprint,” Sarah managed through heaving breaths, pressing her now-trembling thumb to the electronic document, “in the notary’s presence and your own, secures our contractual obligations.”

Daniel followed suit, pressing his thumb to the electronic document before him, “I give my consent to this last will and testament as accurately defining the handling of our nation’s estate.”

The tension in the room set me to work with an intensity I’d never felt before. There wasn’t much I could do except verify the results on the electronic display resting in my lap. I stared at it, tried to lose myself in it, anything to avoid the unspoken conflict going on inside Sarah sitting nearby.

Sarah’s heavy breathing paused and she let out a moan. My eyes remained fixated on the read out as the A’s, T’s, C’s and G’s were decoded out of the genetic samples and compared against the international database. I thought I could actually feel the heat radiating off of her, sense the blood boiling below her skin. I narrowed my eyes at the screen as if trying to will the results out of the program.

I reached out with one hand to take hers, “Almost done.”

She withdrew her hand as if the touch burned her. “Don’t,” she hissed.

I winced again, involuntarily. Mercifully, my computer verified Sarah as being herself and Daniel as being himself.

“By the power invested in me by the United Nations,” I announced uncomfortably, “I declare this document official.” I pressed my thumb to the screen to lock the will and file it away with the governing body.

Sarah stood up suddenly, trembling, “If you don’t mi--excuse me.”

Sarah strode out of the room. I detected a damp spot on the rear of her skirt, but averted my eyes respectfully. The situation might be funny were it not for the fact that Sarah was a close friend, and I knew how incredibly humiliating this must be for her.

This left me alone in the room with Daniel. With the overwhelmingly attractive female absent, I could feel my self-confidence restoring. Feelings of bitterness at my romantic ineptitude flooded in, and accompanying them was a rush of jealousy that focused on the mutant sitting a few feet away.

“You hate me,” Daniel said, and I looked at him. His eyes regarded me coolly. “I can tell your feelings go well beyond simple dislike.”

I shook my head negative, but did not answer immediately. I took a few long moments to sort out the reasons for my emotions, “It’s your genes I hate. You as a person, I admire.”

“So you both hate and admire me,” he corrected. “You hate the inanimate strings of proteins inside me, but not their end result sitting here before you? You can be honest. Anything you say won’t be anything I haven’t heard or read a hundred times before.”

“I--I hate the incredibly exploitive nature of your evolutionary adaptation,” I snapped. “I despise the fact that your pheromones have just driven my client into the bathroom, where she is certainly masturbating compulsively in an effort to satiate the raging lust your presence induces in all females of my species.”

“Your species,” he whispered sadly.

“Yes, mine,” I asserted. “The consensus among geneticists is that you are a new branch on the evolutionary tree.”

Daniel shrugged calmly and said, “Our species are able to cross-breed. So we are not such distantly related mammals as you think.”

“Technically you’re a parasite,” I shot back. “You implant fertilized eggs in the female uterus, a clone of yourself. You’re like a cuckoo, putting your egg inside another bird’s nest, forcing our women to raise your offspring, who will grow up to exploit other women. That’s parasitic.”

“Technically,” Daniel corrected without a hint of animosity, “we are exoparasitoids, and it’s not something we are ashamed of.”

“You shouldn’t be,” I said a little too hastily, and I averted my eyes, embarrassed at my outburst, my obvious display of prejudice. I had always prided myself on my open-mindedness, “It’s no different than any other birth-defe—hereditary predisposition. Like being short, or pale, or asymmetrical, or having poor skin…” I trailed off, frowning as I realized these were all qualities of the man sitting in front of me.

Daniel was obviously amused.

I cleared my throat, and after an uncomfortable pause said, “I’m not a bigot. I just resent the power life has just given you through an almost statistically impossible chance mutation.”

“Did you know some of the residents on this island have made a conscious decision to live as homosexuals?” Daniel seemed to ask me out of nowhere.

I took a moment to process this. “Considering your entire female population is now past the age of retirement, I would say that’s a pragmatic way of fulfilling certain needs,” I replied coolly, and when Daniel’s eyebrows lowered at me knowingly, I added, “I wasn’t talking about sexual appetites. Cohabitation provides community stabilization. Having a life partner means having someone to lean on and be leaned on. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Many of us have undergone sexual reassignment surgeries,” Daniel added, watching me, measuring my reaction to this news.

My ethical belief in multi-culturalism dictated I not pass judgment, but I did wince involuntarily at this revelation, “How… are the rest coping?”

“Each in their own way,” Daniel softened. “An island full of quarantined mutants waiting out extinction. We don’t have the option of passing on our genes, so we work on passing on our ideas. We write, create artworks, conduct research… We have our father’s fortune to play with. Maybe with it we’ll be able to leave a deeper mark on history than as a genetic case study.”

“That’s… healthy,” I managed to say.

The corners of Daniel’s mouth tweaked upward with sympathy for my awkward position, “I’m only telling you this so you will know that life has not exactly rewarded us.” His eyes flashed at the door, and I could hear approaching footsteps, “It’s lonely. Imagine how lonely it will be for the last of us.”

Sarah returned, her face flush, dabbing at the sweat beads on her forehead with a handkerchief. She was breathless, but had recaptured some of her composure, “I appreciate your patience gentlemen. Daniel, I believe this concludes our business.”

Daniel and I stood up. Sarah offered him her hand, but he pretended not to notice, “Thank you Sarah. Your coming here means a great deal to myself and my brothers. Especially concerning a matter of such gravity.”

Sarah let her hand drop to her side, “I appreciate the trust you have placed in me.”

“Best wishes for a long and happy life then,” Daniel said.

“Best…” Sarah frowned, trailing off. “Yes… Thank you.”

Daniel nodded, beaming and Sarah turned to leave the room. Daniel turned to me and took my right hand in both of his, squeezing with far more pressure than was appropriate. I tried not to betray my confusion at this gesture.

“Best wishes for a long and happy life for yourself Mr. Pearson,” he said in a conspiratorially hushed tone accompanied with a knowing smile I could not understand.

I nodded once, extracted my hand from his massaging grip, and followed my client back to the waiting shuttle.

*   *   *

“You know,” Sarah said after a while and I noticed she had brought Daniel’s picture up on her personal computer, “while I was in there, I thought he was the most attractive man in the world. The longer I’m away from his presence, the less attractive he becomes. The pale skin and black eyes… His disproportions… Lack of symmetry. He’s actually quite ugly.”

I knew I had a responsibility to say something to lighten the mood, something to play down the awkwardness, but I said nothing. I just stared at the picture of the ugly little man, and soon realized I didn’t need to say anything. I just needed to be there for her, and I was.

“Infatuation--,” Sarah shook her head. “Lust is a funny thing. How it colors our perceptions. Like how a woman’s menstrual cycles affect what she finds attractive in a male.”

“It affects men in the same way,” I said, thinking of my disastrous ex-wife, who I’d married with a head still swimming in passion and fell out of love with just one year later. “Those raging hormones can override all common sense, make us sacrifice security for dangerous behaviors. People go to prison for letting their lust rule their heads.”

“Thank you for coming with me,” Sarah put her hand on mine and my skin tingled with the rush of warmth that followed. “A lesser man might have taken advantage of the situation… and I don’t just mean sexually. I was in mental state easily manipulated.”

“I never got to tell Daniel why I admired him,” I noted after a moment, watching the island finally vanish into the vast expanse of ocean below.

“You told him you admired him?” Sarah asked, lifting her head from my shoulder.

I nodded, “I don’t think he registered it, but I do really. As much as I hate the quaternary sequence of his DNA, I dearly respect the mind riding along in that body. To wield such powers of procreation, to know that opportunity exists with any woman in the world, just for the taking, and not act on it.”

“It makes men born with the rapist genes seem all the more weak-willed,” Sarah supplied neutrally.

“Such an ingenious evolutionary adaptation,” I added, “thwarted by the conscientious objection of a human mind.”

Sarah paused and tilted her head to find my eyes, “You realize what you just said.”

I met hers and nodded, “And they are. They’re letting their mutation go extinct to prevent its destroying the human race. I’d say such an altruistic act of sacrifice to benefit our species makes them honorary members of the tribe.”

“You don’t know half of it,” her eyes went distant, and flashed brief sorrow. I would soon discover what I thought was weighing so heavily on her mind was really only a miniscule fraction of the whole story.

*   *   *

The bustling terminals at Norfolk International were a stark contrast to the island’s deserted airport. I escorted Sarah to Customs. My passage back into America was rather straightforward, a quick check for banned fruit and plants and I was on my way. Here Sarah faced another ordeal.

She turned to me suddenly as we stood in line for processing, “Todd, I was thinking on the trip back here, about what a pillar of stability you are… and not a half-bad looking one at that. Would you like to have coffee with me tonight? Get to know one another outside of a professional setting?”

My eyes must have widened appreciatively, because she laughed and took my sleeve absentmindedly. I said lamely, “I would like that.”

She nodded, apparently comfortable with my awkwardness. It was as if she were seeing me for the first time, “Six o’clock then?”

“Yes,” it was all I could manage.

“Sarah Oliver?” a man in a white lab coat called out, and we both looked toward him.

“Great,” Sarah said and started walking over to the old man. She turned around, walking backwards, and gestured to him over her shoulder with one thumb, “Word of warning, I don’t know how good a mood I’ll be in. I’ve got a date with the government gynecologist that I’m not looking forward to,” she grinned and shook her head. “They’re not paid to be gentle. So be prepared to be patient if I’m in a foul mood.”

I merely nodded, “I’ll see you at six.”

She nodded, still beaming at me and strode off, casting one last glance at me over her shoulder before disappearing through the clinic door.

I decided I needed a drink, and was conveniently standing in an airport, where bars were plentiful. I surveyed my surroundings and decided on the closest pub. It was filled with weary travelers waiting out the time between transfer flights. I ordered a bourbon and water, and then made it a double knowing my body had plenty of time to process the alcohol before my date that evening.

“Those poor mutant freaks,” I overheard the bartender telling a nearby patron. “I’d kill myself too if I was stranded on an island without any chance of getting some tail.”

“Not the proper kind anyway,” the patron said with a goofy grin between sips.

I frowned and focused on the scrolling closed-caption feed accompanying the news report. Daniel’s entire island of mutant Don Juan’s had committed suicide, and Sarah knew it was coming.

The Will I had notarized suddenly held a much deeper meaning. Billions of dollars allocated to various charities across the world. The mutants, quarantined out of society, were buying their way back into it through an incredible singular act of sacrifice. They were heroes to the human race.

“Bunch of rich brats enjoying a tropical paradise bought off the hard work of others,” a buttoned-up 20-something was telling the bartender, who was smiling and nodding in agreement. “The world won’t register the loss.”

“And what do you do for a living?” I demanded, and both their heads whipped around to me.

“I’m a political consultant,” the kid replied with self-importance.

“Social parasite,” I spat and downed me drink. I pointed at the bartender and commanded, “Another.”

The bartender returned with another double in a thick, uncomfortable silence. The fellow sitting nearby got up and left without another word, having only finished half his drink. I smiled inwardly, but maintained a stern, warning expression to keep the bartender in line.

I considered my right hand, which I had not washed since shaking Daniel’s, imagining the pheromones lingering there. I frowned, realizing what it had recently gained me, and wondered if I would have the willpower to wash it before our six o’clock date. The answer came moments later, when I rubbed the palm into the other, and pressed them both into my cheeks, massaging slowly. I was only human after all.

I raised my glass to the flat screen in a silent toast to the island pictured in its top-right corner over the news anchor’s shoulder.

To better souls than I, I thought and downed my glass.

Ryan Somma

Nicely done

This was a tricky premise--could have gone wrong so easily--but you handled it really well, especially in the way that everyone in the story is ultimately sympathetic and doing what they can to cope with the situation.

But at the same time, their responses are complex and none of them are acting quite the way they would like to. Which makes the whole thing feel right--like how something like this might actually go.

And Todd's action at the end is so very human.

i like this story

it's really believable.

kelson.philo's picture

Well, now, that was quite

Well, now, that was quite good. Humid and sultry for the end of October! At least in this neck of the woods. Have you sent this along to some mags?