The Dreamcatcher Fallacy
Book One of The Dreamcatcher Fallacy Cycle
Book Two: Strands of Silk and Fire coming Spring 2014
Locked here in my cell, I have far too much time on my hands. I want to stop the hate that is chewing a hole in my gut, but I no longer know how. I suppose my forced addiction was meant as a kindness, but the numbing of emotions by the drug called cziana root is not much better than the awful rawness of my mind.
In this, perhaps I am a masochist.
Staring at the metal beams of my room, I often ponder the far-flung agricultural and mineral planets that have become both lifeline and chain to our dying world. The world’s near cousin, Rialga, has perhaps a few more decades before it, too, will have nothing for its restless winds to blow about but sand and soot. Its red-hued continents always come quickly to mind, even when I sleep-- that place where I was captured and the place where I had to leave my lover behind. Such sunsets on Rialga, though.
That, at least will never change, even with the death of all that is green there.
Terrantata is also constantly with me, the newest of the supply-planet jewels, only ten-thousand humans digging toenails into its skin, raking their little teeth over the stalks of the jungles. But they are ten-thousand souls bred to be true human beings, waiting their chance to break from the confines of their structured society. I know because I sent them there, and they will one day provide the nudge that will topple kingdoms.
Planets are the things of large vision, though. Inevitably, prison also means too much time to nurse a sorrowful distaste for the waning power of the Core Families. They seem tied forever to the original home of humankind and still act as if they held an influence that truly mattered. They could have prevented the travesties I have witnessed if they had only opened their eyes early on. But with dependence comes a narrowed vision. How sad now to see these unaltered humans at their dinners and business meetings and pre-bought legal proceedings, playing the near politics because the real scope of life is simply far beyond them now. How they fiddle about, one hand on the door to this world, the other in each other’s pockets and still think themselves quite mighty and grand.
But in truth, I spend most of my precious time feeding my rage about this sprawling Company that has dragged me back to Earth and into this dungeon. They are the ones who had originally dared to designed whole new sub-species of “humans” to take over the jobs that the normal or non-company personnel (or NCP’s as they have come to be called) would not or could not do.
It is the Company who births us, owns and sells us, and decommissions us at the end of our useful years. It is headed now by the oh-so-perfectly molded Administrator classes created within its own walls, their leashes, in turn, held by the still-human Core or so their advertising machine helps the worlds believe. Accountant, product designer, executioner and mortician—those are the roles I have always seen in their genetic template, but then I nurse my hate with such words; it gives me the will to live year after long year in a room without windows, perfectly isolated--until I have begun to savor being such a perfectly poisonous creature.
There is no outside eye anymore in all the cosmos capable of observing what the Administrators do to their human genetic products, no balances, no checks on how much more they could change us, both within and without. They have already ripped individuality from their soldiers and freed them from the wisdom of physical pain, bred a kind of autism into their high-science techs even as they destroyed their tendency toward creative impulses. For themselves, they have designed minds constantly nimble with numbers and data, but without any receptors for the useless information that once informed such niceties as empathy.
But of course, as one of their products, I can see this from within the belly of the beast. My time with my all-too-human lover, Krystine, opened my eyes to what had been lost, and to what would continue to be lost if I did not choose to act.
Oh, yes, I see clearly. Humankind, genetically modified and not, has become as barren and desolate as its home world. In the end, I am as committed to my course of action as surely as the Administrator classes are to their own. I know my job—to bring back the ancient genetic lines of humanity, and set loose a viral judgment on them all.
And I have that singular luxury of time to truly hate myself as well. That I will be forced to use my own son as an agent of destruction surely will damn me for all time. But I have no other options. I must reset the double-helix within us all and breathe a vicious and pregnant wind of change over the Cosmos.
I pray that God, if such exists, will pardon me for my own hatred and hubris.
No. I retract that statement.
No more reconciliation, no more bowing to any power. For surely God Itself has given me the prophet’s clear seeing, the warrior’s sword and a poet’s unblinking vengeance.
No, the only thing I really pray for is a way out of this addict’s hell that has become my life. One day, my last words will fall on my son’s ear—“I have delivered thee unto Hell with but a cup of water in thy hand.”
Use it well, my son, you who are my vision, and my weapon.
Genetic Specialist Tech Grade 8
Historical Journal Entry
Company Central Historical Archives
High Security Holding Cell
Company Central, Earth Complex
James Illion, Tech Grade Eight for Earth Company Central, slumped his shoulder against the door of his cell. He struck at the heavy metal with his fist, and then slid down its cold surface until his long legs folded beneath him. The edges of his belt buckle shoved into his bare stomach and he leaned into the dull pain, surrendering himself to it. For a moment, it gave him a focal point.
But he could still feel the other’s presence, pressing on his skin.
Cheek hard to the door, James splayed one brown hand across the reflective surface. His fingers, delicately turned but with ragged, chewed nails, flexed against the door.
I am finally going crazy.
He lifted his head and stared at the slightly warped image of his own face. Dark purple smudges stained the skin beneath his bloodshot eyes. His dilated pupils pressed the irises into thin rings of golden brown, making his eyes seem almost black. James blinked and felt the dry heat, burning as always. His black hair, chopped severely short, stood in stubborn little spikes across the top of his skull. He touched his image with his fingertips. Was my hair long once, or am I only dreaming? It’s so hard to tell anymore.
He swallowed and stared at the skin that clung to the bones of his long face, and tucked tight beneath his high cheekbones. His lips cut a narrow swath of lighter color through the day’s worth of stubble. Krystine, you would not recognize me anymore. I don’t know myself anymore. Shaking, he shifted himself around and leaned his head back against the door.
The single plastic chair creaked beneath its occupant’s weight, the sound sharp and insistent. James shut his eyes and pressed his hands over his forehead. “I’m begging you, Muligan. Is that what you want? For me to beg? Well, I am now. I need my music. I can’t work without it—it carries me, don’t you understand?”
“I’d never ask you to beg, James. That would be uncivilized.” Muligan’s voice always had a flat quality to it, an awful patience that ran fingernails over the normal cadence of ordinary speech.
James slowly rolled his head up. His hands fell limply into his lap, his head cradled by the door behind him. “What would you know about being civilized, Muligan?”
Administrator Muligan smiled. His legs, shoved straight out across the floor, crossed at the ankles. An expensive brown turtleneck, tucked fastidiously into black pressed pants, seemed at odds with his thin, messy hair and sleepy eyes. It was that gaze that always infuriated James. That, and the slender tube that drooped from his slightly parted lips. The poisoned part of James knew intimately how cziana root deadened the emotions, dampened the shifts and moods that stress brought out in a human. It suppressed feeling to the point where each day went smoothly forward, gray and dull and changeless. And dead, just like you and I, Muligan. But at least you had a choice in the matter.
Muligan raised one eyebrow, quirking his otherwise round, slack face. “You’re fascinating like this, James. Look at you. You’re so deliciously raw. Everything’s on the surface, every emotion, every witty comeback just pops out, unedited. I would have thought three years here would have…”
“Four years!” James knit the fingers of his right hand into the stubs of his short hair and pulled his other arm tight against his stomach. “You know very well it’s been four years, Muligan.” He glanced around his room then, mostly to avoid the satisfied smile the other man cast at him.
A simple mattress, spread out on metal brackets, hunkered on the wall to his right. At the foot of the bed, an open doorway led into a cramped bathroom. Someone had removed the actual door, leaving ragged and accusing holes in the frame. His black plastic workstation stretched across the entire left wall, littered with used syringes and stubby glass vials. His specialized keyboard lay buried beneath a wad of dirty clothing.
My world now. This is all of it.
James made a sound something like laughter, but the coarse gasp of breath behind it mutated it into the sound of despair. “My god, Muligan. Do you have any idea how mad a man can go in a fifteen by fifteen foot room?”
“Some,” Muligan replied. He took the root out of his mouth and held it in a practiced, two-fingered grip. Its normal silvery-blue had already shaded to the sickly gray of a nearly empty stick.
James kneaded his stomach with his fingers. His neck hurt and a headache clamored behind his eyes. So tired. He could feel his jaw quiver, clicking the backs of his teeth together. “My music. You’ve taken everything else from me. Why this? And why now?” He pulled on his hair again, and then slid his palm back down the side of his rough face. “What have I done to deserve this? I’m meeting my quotas, aren’t I? My eye is as good as always. I know I’ve caught more than my share of template flaws this last quarter. So why take the music now?”
“Because you’ve been a bad boy, James.” Muligan straightened a little in his chair. He wove the root through his fingers, a deft trick of under-over, and then slowly replaced it in his mouth. “You’re not taking your prescribed drugs.”
“That’s not true.” James gripped his stomach with both arms then. He stared down at the floor, at the lines of cables that ran beneath his workstation to the wall hookups. Blue lines and red lines twisted there like an umbilical cord.
“You’re lying to me, James. You’re in withdrawal right this moment. I should know—I’ve been through it a time or two myself.” Muligan chuckled, an awful, fabricated sound, and then leaned his weight forward. “Besides, I have a vid-disk of you last night, listening to…what was it? Tchaikovsky? You were crying, James. People who take their root don’t cry.”
James jerked his chin up in frustration, smacking his head back against the door. The impact echoed a little in the base of his skull and radiated down his spine. He lifted his eyes to the ceiling. Surrounded by metal. And everywhere my own face thrown back at me. God, Krystine. What I would give for just one wet leaf. Just to hold it in my hand, feel the veins running under my thumb.
“I had to feel the music again,” James whispered, still staring at the ceiling. “Really feel it, like a human being is meant to. I couldn’t let you take that away from me. I won’t.”
“And I won’t let you torment yourself with all that noise until you are stabilized again. Until you are back on cziana root, your music retrieval passcode has been revoked. It’s that simple,” Muligan said with a weak shrug.
“Stabilized?” James cried. He rocked forward, clutching his stomach. “Four years you’ve thrown that at me. There’s nothing wrong with me. There never was!”
“Nothing wrong with you?” Muligan actually sounded amused. He lay back in his chair and shook his head. “Nothing wrong? You’re a classic case, you know. Just like all the other Ancient Recovery Products. Moods shifts, trouble with authority, job tasking glitches.”
“Why the upper level Administrators ever started messing with the old Tech Grade genetic templates, I have no idea. Better to have let history remain history.”
“Stop it!” He pulled his knees into a tighter ball and drew his breath over his clenched teeth. “Stop talking to me like I’m some kind of goddamn machine. I’m not a product, I’m a man.”
Muligan snorted. “Come on, James. You’re no more a natural human than I am. This place is womb and parent and God to people like you and I. You were designed and made here, James, and you will die here.”
“No.” James opened his eyes and glared at Muligan. The other man watched, smiling around the edges of his root.
“You can take everything else from me, but not my humanity.”
Muligan shrugged his shoulders as if suddenly bored. He pulled the cziana root out of his mouth and tossed it to the floor. His arm held the flinging gesture for a moment, his first finger crooked, his thumb flicked out, then let the movement go. “I can’t take what you never had, James.”
James curled what was left of his fingernails into his own skin. His eyes burned dry and hard in his skull. “Get out.”
Muligan merely smiled at him.
James rose shakily to his feet. He put his hand out against the door to steady himself, then shuffled two steps forward. “You heard me, Muligan! Get out!”
Muligan stood then and moved over to the workstation. He fished into his back pocket and pulled out a small vial filled with a pale blue fluid. He set it down firmly. “New stuff. A little stronger distillation just for you.” Head bent slightly over the vial, Muligan looked up through the sprinkle of his eyelashes without raising his head.
James faded back toward one wall, his arms clutched over his belly.
“You have to stop fighting me, James, or you’ll stay in here for the rest of your life. Do you understand that? If you’d just work with me, I could extend your privileges with a clear conscience.” Muligan tapped the vial with one fingertip. “Try this. Who knows? If you respond well, maybe I could even get you stationed back on Rialga. Someone named Krystine would like that, don’t you think? Unless she’s already found herself another Tech to screw.”
“You son of a bitch,” James whispered.
Muligan smiled and pulled the cell’s passkey out of his pocket. He walked to the door, then stopped and looked straight into James’ face. “Be careful not to take too much of that cziana. It could kill you, you know.” His muscles shifted around his cold eyes, folding out another smile that did not reach their brown flatness. “To lose a Tech Grade Eight with your long years of experience would be very unfortunate, don’t you think?” He pressed the tab on the passkey without taking his gaze off James. The door moved aside.
“Very unfortunate,” Muligan repeated as he slipped past James and left. The door clanged shut behind him.
James gave a strangled cry, stumbled to his chair, lifted and heaved it at the door. It crashed just to the right of the frame and bounced against the floor without leaving a mark. He spun wildly, and his reflection mocked him everywhere he turned. Giving an inarticulate cry, James fell to his knees, both hands pressed tight to his temples. Gravity pulled him forward until his forearms smacked up against the floor. “I can’t. I can’t.” He fell over to his side, curling his limbs up close to his body. The cold floor sucked greedily at his clammy skin.
“Oh, god, Krystine. I can’t do this anymore.” He shuddered, feeling his stomach knot. It sent little tendrils of burning liquid up his throat and with it, his anguish rose, bitter and devastating. “Four years, Krys. Four years and they never even let me say good-bye.” He gulped at the air, and pulled himself tighter.
“You’ve got to help me, Krys. Please, help me.” Can I even remember you, the way you really were? He tried to draw Krystine in his mind, shading her hair auburn, her eyes green, trying to remember the feel of her waist against the palms of his hands, the spicy smell of cultivated Rialgan flowers on the soft skin of her neck. That ghostly scent alone held the image together, even when it tried to buck and flutter in his mind.
He clung to the shifting image, willing it to feel real, begging it to stroke his hair, touch his lips. “Tell me I’m still alive, Krys. Tell me I’m more than a Company product. You tell me, and I’ll listen. Please, just tell me.”
The image of the woman in his mind clarified. He could imagine the warmth of her skin as she took his hand, smiled, and then leaned her head against his shoulder. He sobbed, mentally clutching her to him. “You’re so tired,” she said. “As soon as you finish your work, then you’ll be able to really sleep, James. Rest now, and then finish it. Finish it all.”
James slowly let the ragged edges of his consciousness slip away beneath her shadowy touch.
James jerked awake. The cold drove him, groggy and still nauseated, off the floor. He dragged himself to the bathroom sink and splashed some of his carefully rationed water over his face. No sense in turning the light on; enough flooded in from the outer room for him to see. For a moment he just leaned against the hard edge of the sink and let the precious water drip over his dangling fingers. It was his only luxury.
He had to push himself back into the cold glare of his room. “Lights, down sixty percent,” he murmured. Deep within their ceiling recesses, they automatically dimmed. Better. Better. James swallowed back the aches and insistent roll of his stomach as he crossed to his workstation.
He brushed a shirt off his antiquated keyboard, and pulled it across the hard plastic surface until one rounded corner bumped up against his thigh. Without bothering to straighten it, he typed his entry-code with one hand.
The entire left wall flickered, and then lit up with a dizzying genetic template display. Color-coded lines linked series of numbers in a tangled abstract schematic of life. In the left corner, the flowing red product designation read Number 1011, Batch 16-2240, L-Group.
James reached up and tenderly touched the wall. In response to his contact, the number sequence beneath the pads of his fingers flared a rich shade of green. He slid his hand along the metal and the numbers slid with him, shifting into new positions. He withdrew his touch and walked along the edge of his display “Yes,” he murmured absently. Now you’ll be able to hear Tchaikovsky the way he should be heard, with your whole soul. Or whatever you choose to call such a thing. He had set up the whole template to cascade like a gym filled with dominos, one switch tickling the next, on down protein sequences that would be impossible to trace in the early stages of development but would have a cumulative effect on the fetus. He hadn’t been stopped by the Company because what he was doing was so subtle and had certainly never been attempted before. Quality control would miss it for a very long time.
He prayed it would be long enough. The Administrator element within this, his last work of art, was the shakiest part of the whole creation. The ultimate success or failure of his entire life hinged on a decision that would be triggered by the smallest package of genetic information. But it was all he could do.
He backtracked along the edge of his station, his eyes flicking over the riot of numbers and lines. A small smile tickled his lips. “That’ll finish it, I think.”
Abruptly, his stomach knotted itself into a hard ball. He bent sharply over, feeling his skin flush hot. The screen lurched and the lines and numbers warped, shimmering. He groaned and tried to steady himself against the workstation.
His hand bumped against the vial Muligan had left.
Trembling, he picked it up and shook the liquid a little. It sloshed up against the sides of the container in choppy wavelets. James closed his sweaty hand around it and looked at the complex data stream on the wall. “You win Muligan. But so do I.”
If he did not take his own life, another man would soon come and do it for him. He knew his executioner’s name, his blue-gray eyes and blond hair. Death, from the moment he had been captured, had always been inevitable. This way felt clean, though, ending life mostly on his terms and not at the hands of a one-time friend. They were still united in their vision, though. And that would be enough.
James fumbled on his desk for a needle and syringe. He speared one end and emptied the entire vial into the thumb-thick plastic cylinder. With his first finger, he tapped the air bubbles to the surface. He caught the hint of irony in the gesture, and laughed in a short bitter explosion of sound. Like it will make any difference now. A moment later, the needle sunk into his flesh and he winced as always with its bite. He tossed the empty casing onto the floor, barely noticing the clatter on metal.
Leaning heavily on his arms, he studied the schematic again through both the bright glimmers of pain and the gathering cziana fog. If the genetic production directory overrides that I acquired still work, he’ll have a chance. Just a chance, but that’s all I can give him now.
James drew his lips up, a quivering compromise between a smile and an expression of despair. This form, this mind, this is all I can leave to you. He pulled the keyboard to him and pressed the numbers that would send the template to the production directories. Within hours, the soup of lines and numbers would begin to dictate the formation of living tissue.
Happy Birthday, my son. And someday, I hope you can forgive me.
He pressed the last number, and the screen went dark.