evolving actaeon

short stories collection - a compilation of my short stories.


Wanted to quickly turn an idea that came up during a conversation into a short story. Touches on ideas of genetic engineering and cockfighting.

“Acid vs. venom is a pretty fair fight wouldn’t you say?”

The pair sat in a darkened room. Around them were a sea of monitors, computers, and cages, lots of cages. Adding to the cacophony of sound produced by the high-tech equipment were inaudible screams. Ultrasonic to be precise. Some of those belonged to a rather peculiar critter, jokingly called Mus musculus acidus. They were rather small and diminutive. An naive person might even consider them cute, should they be ignorant of their rather peculiar abilities.

“Not even a chance, everyone knows that acid would win in a fight.”

“How about venom and pure, raw, unchallenged speed?”

“You think a mouse is slower than a python?”

“Well, Dolores isn’t in and the chamber is ready, should we put that hypothesis to the test?”

One of the pair, who we’ll find out is called Blue, got up and walked toward the rack at the back of the room with all the cages. The rustling grew louder as he approached and the inaudible screams reached a crescendo. Blue threw on a silvery-green coat and dropped a heavy black mask over his face. Stretching some equally heavy gloves over his oversized hands, he reached over and pulled out a cage.

“This one’s labeled lentivirus #54 test #7, that one good?”

“Which mouse?”


“...one sec, let me check the notes,” the man called George responded. Reaching under the bench, he pulled out a small, Moleskin-style notepad. The front was laser engraved GEORGE with a picture of his fiancée etched on the back. Some men love abusing their access to high-end machinery. Flipping through the pages, pictures of half-formed specimens filled the page with copious notes along the margins. Tail-end of Ankylosaurus on body of cat? ...how will we get bone structure to form...not sure how to splice genome...talk to Antediluvian DNA specialist...Dan Siller? “Yeah...yeah, that’s the one, bring her over.”

“Where’s the python? We don’t have one on protocol, right?”

“Y’all might not, but for all her bitchiness Dolores is pretty good at getting every animal known to man on our protocol. Wish you were in a neuroecologist lab, don’t you? Government loves us.”

“Not really, being the king of bullshit isn’t super appealing.”

“And being the master-o-tubes is better?” George reached over and picked up a phone on the desk. He spent a minute or two looking through the directory next to it before finding the extension to reach his assistant. While the phone rang, Blue quickly flicked open mouse 879’s cage lid, dropped a silver weigh boat inside, poured a clear liquid into it and slammed it shut. In that brief span of time he had to swat the mouse back into the cage several times. And upon closing the lid an ear-splitting inaudible cry could be heard (if one was gifted with ultrasonic hearing). The person on the other end finally picked up the phone.

``Hey hey! I just ran this total rad gel, I think we got ‘em, you know, the HDAC co-activators...’’

“Holy frak Daniella, not now. Want to bring over one of the Python reticulatus venenatus? We want to run a small test.”

“But, but you gotta see this gel, is so beautiful, the bands are clean...”

“Not now, just bring over that python. You capable of that?”

“I’m not 12...”

“Might as well be. Four years at Ohio State and you still can’t even drink yet...”

“...come again?”

“Just bring the python.”

Blue peered into the cage through a small slit in the side and was greeted with a blueish liquid to the face. Barely flinching, they’d dealt with these critters daily for the past couple years, he closed the viewport and placed the cage on the desk.

“This gonna happen?” Blue said and started to remove the protective gear.

“Ah yeah, and guess who’ll be here to watch?”

“Fuck, her? Why do you always bring over that chatterbox...”

The door flew open and the word-machine known as Daniella bound into the room. She surveyed the room with her blue and green eyes then grinned. “We doin’ science here?”

“Give me the box Daniella,” George said.

“Don’t be such a bitch about it, Jeezus,” she snapped back and tossed the cage George’s way. Catching it, he threw it into a small chute next to the terminal he was sitting at.

“Blue, Blue! Frak,” leaning in George hollered once more, for by this time Blue had turned on his tablet, plugged in his headphones and was long gone from the world around him. Looking up, he tossed the cage with mouse 879 into a chute on the opposite end of the terminal.

“Oooooo, is this an interaction test? I’ve always wanted to see how you both do this. What’s the hypothesis? Must be a hypothesis right? Guessing you’re looking to see how venom affects python’s prey catching tactics? What type of mice are those? What’s with the silver boxes? Aren’t they normally clear?” Daniella rattled off a million questions before George put up a hand.

“Stop talking,” he muttered and began entering some commands into the computer near him. Several of the displays switched to showing a small, concrete-walled room with two small, square holes on each side. Daniella sulked over to a chair near Blue and leaned over his shoulder to see what he was doing.

“Hey Blue, Blue...hey Blue,” she leaned in further. “Hey Blue, what’re you both doing here? What’s the test? What type of mice are those?” Blue looked up without taking his headphones off, stared at her blankly, and went back to his tablet.

“Hey Daniella, stop bothering him. Come over here and watch. This is pretty sweet,” George said as he finished entering the last instructions into the computer.

The small holes in the concrete room closed for a second and a slight hiss was heard. Then they both re-opened, only this time they weren’t empty. One had the python, the other the diminutive mouse. The python began slithering around the room, its tongue flickering in and out. It seemed not to notice the mouse at first. At the same time, instantly sensing the python, the mouse bound out of the hole and off one of the nearby walls. In the process, a bit of the mouse’s spittle splashed against the walls, causing new holes to be formed.

“What?” Daniella said and leaned over George to get a better look at the action on the screens, her eyes growing wide.

As if on cue, the python suddenly turned around and lunged at the mouse, missing and ramming its head into one of the walls. It’s tail continued the attack and caught the fleeing mouse’s foot, sending it careening through the air. Hitting the wall, it dropped to the floor, wheezing. The python turned around and with Tomahawk-like precision, honed in on the immobile prey. When it was mere inches from the mouse, the diminutive beast kicked its legs against the wall and flew to the other side of the tiny room then got up on its hind legs. The python turned and lurched toward the mouse. Without warning, the mouse opened its mouth and spew a small jet of blue liquid into the pythons gapping mouth and side-stepped the onrushing mass. The python’s limp body crashed against the wall and slid to the ground, its face half melted away. The mouse scurried to the corner, small bits of saliva dripping from its mouth and sinking into the floor. All the while, that dumb-as-nails look never escaped its face.

“Pretty awesome, no?” Blue said, having suddenly decided to re-engage the world. “We could probably market this shit.”

“Wait...this is what all your tests have been about? What the fuck is this? This isn’t science, your not supposed to bastardize...”

“We’re improving nature. Why should directed evolution be confined to E. coli and other trivial aims?”

“It’s unethical...”

“...in humans,” Blue said, a puzzled look crossing his face, as if he didn’t understand her surprise and protests. “Plus, come on, we can study how species interaction changes when the prey becomes the predator.”

Daniella eyed them both suspiciously. “What’s in the rest of those cages?”

George looked over his shoulder at the rack, a slight smile crossed his face. “Other improvements. Want to bring another python? 879 had one of the more tame modifications.”

bahanonu [at] alum.mit.edu


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©2006-2018 | biafra ahanonu | updated 02 april 2018
biafra ahanonu