Autumn 2007 Volume One Issue Four
Elephants Never Forget - Jennifer Brinn
Davis shoved aside the stacks of test results and picked at the food his assistant had brought. His sixtieth birthday crept closer. If the Institute, if his work, would let him, he'd insist on having a cake.
It wouldn't. Parties wasted time. People were dying, people he could help. People he couldn't forget. "I hadn't heard from you in over a week, so I thought I'd stop by."
Davis waved at the Institute's Chief Administrator without looking up. "Nothing to report, Mark."
"Nothing at all?"
"Like last week, I can create sudden acute Alzheimer’s reliably in rats and monkeys. Even fish, if I wanted. None of the standard variations work towards preventing the disease, and do little beyond slowing the progression."
"Oh. Well. It's been a month. Is this harder than epilepsy then? Or has something happened to your brain?"
If only. "No, all my faculties are intact."
"They won't be if you don't eat. Don't make me assign you a health detail again. You're the giant in the field. I'm obligated to make sure you're at peak condition."
Davis scooped some bland but nutritious food on his fork and stuck it in his mouth. "Fine," he said around his chewing.
"I suppose you haven't looked into the other...matter either."
"Do you want the same full report I've given you every year for the past forty-four? Or can we leave the formalities with 'no?'"
Mark picked up some pages from one of Davis's piles and stared at it as if he could understand the data. "You know the Institute, the government, everyone, wants more than that. You're the last of Problem-Solvers."
"Lucky me." Davis shoved himself out of his chair and climbed on the treadmill. If they were going to chat about Jimmy's research, he might as well do today's exercise routine. A small change from dictating notes. "I don't know how to recreate his experiments, decipher his notes, or to create additional Problem-Solvers. I don't know why, of all of us, I survived when even he didn't. His aneurysm put an end to the project."
"They don't like that answer."
"They should be used to it by now." Even at fifty-nine, his body loved to run. No strain in his chest, his breath even, his muscles content with the amount of exercise the Institute allotted him. All the strokes, fatal seizures, pre-curable illnesses, assassins, and insanity that had claimed the other Problem-Solvers had passed him by. Eventually, old age had to catch up. "Stop arguing with your conscience. If there is anything to know about me, your teams have written it down. Either they'll figure it out or they won't. Either way, taking time away from my research helps no one."
"I'll leave you to it, then." Mark said. He walked to the door, swiped his card, then leaned in for the retinal scan. "Maybe you should take a break from Alzheimer's and work on the next item on your list. Asthma, is it?" A palm print, an exchange of passcodes with the guards on the other side of the door, and Mark was gone.
The treadmill slowed to a stop, and Davis slumped back to his chair. Curing asthma was like curing cancer, hundreds of variations and subtle changes required to cure each. Almost as bad as dealing with viruses. Eighty-two types of cancer, nearly a thousand strains of viruses--including AIDS and the common cold--and always another disease left to fix. Jimmy's six levels of approach to rewiring the human brain to magnify existing genius had helped move humanity towards world peace, clean abundant renewable energy, and all the other great dreams humanity had had. Through Davis, the goal was perfect health.
His own would give him another twenty years, maybe more, to work on the task given him. Vacations, retirement, a birthday party...selfish thoughts, when people were dying. He could stop only when he couldn't work anymore. Selfish. A word used against billions of people who just wanted one sick day every now and again.
The next round of tests beckoned. Cause Alzheimer's with one simple injection. Wait for symptoms, try yet another cure. Davis shuffled into the lab, flanked by bored guards who stayed near enough to prevent assassination attempts from the numerous techs. Who would be just far enough away. One chance, because they'd never let a needle slip and inject him by accident twice. If death couldn't claim him, maybe, he could forget. There was no cure for Alzheimer's if he didn't make one.
- END -
Jennifer Brinn is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and fails to avoid writing despite acting as facilitator for the long-running Cat Vacuuming Society Writers Group. She has stories available from the May issue of T-zero Xpandizine and (forthcoming) from Aoife's Kiss. She lives in Northern Virginia with assorted family, pets, and the occasional lurker in the basement. Her website is http://www.jenniferbrinn.com/ and you may contact her at: me AT jenniferbrinn DOT com (but all shmooshed together into a regular email address.)