|Y Chromosome, from|
Caroline is in my creative writing class at UC Berkeley, African Studies 159: Creative Writing. She always brings in the most innovative ideas for writing, and after reading this piece, I thought it absolutely perfect to show to my Unleashed readers. Caroline has nicely allowed me to publish her story, so please remember that it is copy righted 2012, and Enjoy!...
This is a story about a world, a world much different than the one you may be familiar with. It takes place right here on Earth, in fact. The skies are blue; the oceans are vast and full of life. Birds sing sweet, melodic songs, fish swim gracefully through the clear freshwater streams. Thick forests of trees become naked of their leaves from winter’s harsh cold, flowers bloom bright hues in the warm months of spring. Humans inhabit the houses of the suburbs, the buildings of the cities, and the sidewalks of towns, taking part in their everyday life. From a bird’s eye view you may think that nothing has changed. So what is different? you might ask. Take a closer look, at the people that is. Mrs. Cragsby, an elderly widow, is seen watering her garden to the left. Little Tracy Sherman runs through the park with her dog Maggie. And Pattie O’Brien is at her office downtown. Ah, now you see it. There are no men.
“‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him,’ God said. And then using Adam’s rib, Eve was created.”
“Is that what happened to them? We stole all their ribs and they blew up and died?” said Ruthie in exasperation, blinking her brown curls out of her face. Ruthie was the spitting image of her mother, and also inherited her stubbornness.
“No sweetie, you know the story. Why do you always want to believe women were the ones that caused their extinction?”
“Because we’re still here. We must have done something.” Ruthie’s mother tucked her into bed and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “It’s time for bed.”
Andrea Jacobsen closed the door slowly as she heard the soft snore of her little girl. The chime of the grandfather clock resonated from downstairs. 8 o’clock. Already? Andy raced down the steps as quietly as she could, and turned on the TV just as “Diana’s Point” began its overture. Jazz music synchronized with the leaps and kicks of Diana. Clips of the superhuman secret agent flashed across the screen as Andy sipped her red wine. They were fast enough to keep your attention span almost non-existent, but enough to jog your memory of what happened in the previous episodes. Gosh I love Fridays, she thought to herself. Although Fridays consisted of ten long hours in the lab, a new episode of “Diana’s Point” certainly made up for it.
It was week fifty-three of the new project that Andy’s research lab had recently begun, and it took place in an isolated, windowless building downtown. “Project Y,” as it came to be called was practiced widely at the world’s top research institutions and labs. Andy’s PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Cornell drew much attention to her abilities as a researcher and she was heavily recruited to be the CEO of the company. The goal was to restore the Y chromosome in mammalian species. Numerous trials had been very close over the years, however none were successful.
The sudden ringing of the telephone jolted her, nearly spilling her wine. Was it meant for me to miss this week’s episode! she thought in annoyance.
“Hello Ms. Jacobsen, it’s Sheryl. Is this a bad time?”
Andy looked longingly at the frozen image of Diana roundhouse kicking three cyclopses at once. She sighed. “No, I guess not. What’s the matter?
There was a long pause. “We found something.”
“Okay girls and ladies, take your seats, take your seats. As I’m sure most of you know, Wednesday marks a very special holiday. Do any of you know what it is?”
“No school day?” Anne-Marie said, inducing the rest of the class to giggle.
Ruthie raised her hand eagerly. “Mrs. Albatross, I know! May 11th marks “Single Gender Day.”
“Very good Ruthie. And because it is coming up this week, we will be having a history lesson on its origin.” Several moans were let out followed by a sequence of eye rolling.
“My moms say women chased them off the Earth.”
“Mine says they melted because the sun was too hot and they were weak and women were stronger than them.”
“No! It’s cause we stole their ribs!” Ruthie let out in final declaration. At this moment arguments broke out in different sections of the classroom.
“Silence, girls, silence. Do you see why this day is important? To rid you of those ridiculous misconceptions that are tainting your young minds.” She waited for the room to settle down. “Now everyone open your history books to page 143 . . . ”
Although she told no one, Ruthie was captivated by the history of men. She wanted to know everything about them—how they looked, how they smelled, what they ate, and most importantly why they were no longer here. Of course she’d seen pictures in books and she had seen many old movies over the years with men in them, but she still felt that there was some sort of information missing. Sometimes they were depicted as mean, evil, dirty creatures that hurt women and took advantage of them; then other times they were charming, gentle, and romantic. Ruthie didn’t know which side to believe; perhaps they were a combination of both.
“While many of you might believe that women were behind the cause of man’s extinction, it was completely natural—a natural disaster some have called it,” Mrs. Albatross continued. “An important part of their DNA, the Y chromosome, just disintegrated over time until there was nothing left. And without their Y, there was no way men could survive on our planet.”
“So their bodies ate themselves? Eww.” Laughter erupted throughout the classroom once more.
“I don’t know why they expect 2nd graders to understand this type of material, it’s way over their heads,” the teacher mumbled to herself.
“Why didn’t the X chrosomome diesentigrate?” Ruthie questioned, somehow managing to get the mouthful of words out.
“Oh, well that’s a great question, Ruthie. The X chromosome was just built stronger I suppose.”
Suddenly, Madeline stood on top of her chair with her arms up high. “Look, I’m a big hairy man. Rawr!” The girls jumped out of their seats and ran outside, screaming.
“It looks like we will be taking an early recess today,” Mrs. Albatross said to Ruthie whom was still seated.
“It’s okay Mrs. A, I don’t associate the men with dinosaurs anymore. I’ve grown out of that stage.”
“Take a look at Charlie’s chromosome levels, they’re increasing! His Y is actually getting stronger and stronger by the weeks. I can’t believe the little guy pulled through.” Ecstatic, Sheryl began to write frantically in her lab book.
“Are you certain you got the right results?” Andrea stared into the cage at the male mouse, hiding her frustration from her subordinate. How is this possible? There’s no way you should still be alive. The mouse stared back at her as it ran on its wheel, as if it was mocking her.
Charlie was the lab’s newest addition, the product of artificial insemination between a female mouse’s egg and a chemically synthetic Y sperm. And of all the mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs they had experimented with, he was their longest survivor so far. Yet, what no one knew was for the past two months of the assignment, Andy had secretly tried her best to make sure Charlie didn’t survive, slipping a deterioration stimulant into his food pellets to expedite the chromosome decaying process. Ever since rumors arose that the lab would discover the human Y chromosome after smaller mammal Y’s had been successful, Andy wanted to slow down the progress as much as possible. It had worked on the other subjects, but this time something was different. The synthetic Y-chromosome her research lab had constructed this time around was far stronger than the others, growing at an even higher rate in the presence of her poison. Then it sunk in. They had done it. They had found the cure.
“Mom you’re famous! Look your work is on TV. And that’s my school. And that’s the library. And that’s the park, they’re showing our entire city!” Ruthie turned up the volume on the television and sat inches away from it, fixating on every word Susie Singleton reported:
We are live in Seattle, where our story focuses on Genecon, one of the leading research headquarters in the Northern Hemisphere and home to Charlie, the male mouse. After years of trial and error, the lab has finally reached a turning point in their research to restore the Y chromosome. Synthetic genetic material has been constructed by the lab that mimics the behavior of a real Y chromosome, except for one important trait—it doesn’t disintegrate. It remains intact, solving the issue males had so long ago. But the world wants to know, what now? Sources say that Genecon will continue to test its chromosome on other species and then attempt to breed these males with females. If viable offspring are produced, history will be made. Recent discoveries also reveal that an artificial human Y chromosome may be in the making. Back to you, Jan.
“Wow. Mom you did it, you did it! You’re bringing them back. Now I can have a Daddy; oh thank you, thank you. I promise I’ll clean up after him, and feed him . . .” Ruthie jumped on top of her mother, who was still staring blankly at the screen.
“Ruth Elizabeth Jacobson, what did you just say?”
“This means that the men will come back and I can have a Daddy like in the old movies. But I’d pick a nice one, one that smiles a lot and has a mustack, and isn’t bad.”
“Do you think they just fall from trees, these Daddies you speak of? Honey, they aren’t going to be any men here. This has all been blown way out of the water. We found a gene that let our mouse stay alive. A mouse. Mice and human beings are completely different things. Bringing men back is just . . . it’s not what the world needs. Trust me, baby, we are better without them.”
“You mean you don’t want them to come back?”
“I’m sure it would be . . . fun, for lack of a better word, to have them back but do we really need them? Isn’t the world fine just the way it is?”
“No. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Remember the Adam and Eve story you read to me? They’re supposed to be here with us. I know they look really strange and some of them are evil, but some of them are good, too. Like the man from Sleepless in Seattle.”
“Who’s sleeping in Seattle? What on Earth are you talking about? I can see it’s passed your bedtime.”
“No, Mommy! You always say that when you want to change the subject. I’m seven and a half, I’m not a baby. Rachel Simmons can go to bed whenever she wants to. You never listen to what I say.” Andy stared at her daughter in perplexity. She’d never seen her get this defensive before. And about men? What has gotten into her.
“Who’s been letting you watch these movies? I’m going to have to give Mrs. Albatross a call in the morning and then we’ll see about who’s going to be sleepless . . .”
“I found it on my own, in the public library. I searched ‘men’ and ‘Seattle’ and that movie came up. And you would like it Mom. It was about love and it had a miniature man, too and the man and woman fell in love and they lived happily ever after.”
“Ruthie, I don’t know why you would watch such an old movie when you know how unrealistic it is. I still don’t understand how women ever found them attractive. Obviously our gender has come a long way intellectually.”
“I’m going on strike!” Ruthie stormed off into her room and slammed the door behind her.
Fling! The racket made such an impact with the ball that the sound resonated throughout the courtyard. The speed of the ball was even more pronounced, as it flew inches from Andy’s face.
“Hey, that one almost hit me. Watch it.”
“Sorry Andrea, but you’re going to have to pick up your game. When did you become such a sissy. You used to school me at tennis in junior high.”
Autumn leaves covered the courtyard—shades of yellow, red, and orange created the illusion that the two were playing on fire.
“These stupid leaves are going to make me slip. And if you step on one, it cracks into 15 more pieces of danger.”
“Are you okay, Andy? You seem more miserable than usual,” Vivian said, as she flung the ball in Andy’s direction.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Ruthie has been very distant with me ever since that argument we had. She wanted a Daddy, can you believe that?” She fired the ball back.
“Well it’s becoming more and more of a possibility, you of all people should know that. How is the research coming, by the way. Any other successes?”
Andy hesitated, “Yeah we’ve tested our Y chromosome, and it’s been successful on all other mammal species we’ve used it on. Every one has produced a male that has been able to produce viable offspring.”
“That’s wonderful! Wow, you must be so proud of your work. Look at you, making history while I construct buildings all day. Do you really think they can bring men back? Wouldn’t that be a trip, just like in the movies.”
Aggravation overwhelmed Andy once more. Even her own sister wanted her lab to go through with the human experiment. “You know, some of the females killed the males when they first came in contact—a few rabbits and hamsters. The females thought they were a foreign species.” Andy laughed at the thought. Fling! “I just see it as a sign.”
“What do you mean by that?” Vivian asked.
“I mean the animal world has adapted just fine without males. Some have been able to evolve to be asexual and clone themselves as a means of reproduction. Some have been able to form both reproductive parts and become hermaphroditic. And then there’s species like us, that used intelligence and science to keep our population alive. Don’t get me wrong, many species went extinct because they weren’t able to adapt to the lack of males, but they were the weaker ones.” Vivian stared over the net at Andy questioningly. “What I’m trying to say is we don’t need them. That’s been made pretty clear if you ask me.” Andy perched herself down on the leaf-covered bench to get a drink of water. Crunch.
“If that doesn’t convince you enough, Viv, then look at the world in which we live. The crime rates have plummeted, the economy’s improved, and the human population has gone down significantly without men here. More jobs, more houses, more everything. We’re better without those scumbags.”
“Andrea, that’s not true at all. Don’t you see that one day we’re going to run out of all these scientific resources we have? One day we will no longer be able to even keep the women’s population alive, assuming that artificial insemination begins to fail. Then what? What will happen to us? Reproduction between a man and a woman is natural, it’s how we were designed.” Vivian sat down next to her and stole her water bottle. “You can’t fight it little sis,” she said as she took a mouthful.
Men were everywhere. Hanging from trees, running through the streets, yelling like wild beasts. Their deep voices shook the Earth and caused buildings to crumble in the background. Women were dragged from their homes by men, some were carried on their backs. The sky was black as coal, with no stars or moon to provide a comforting light. Hair drooped from their faces and covered the sidewalks. Shrieks were heard from all around, cries echoing throughout the cold city. Something small was approaching from the distance. A small creature with a long tail. It was a mouse. It was Charlie. His brown, matted fur was raised on its ends as he advanced forward. He came closer and closer, until you could see that he was grinning.
Andrea sat up in bed in a sweat, hyperventilating and grabbing her pillow as a weapon, searching the floor for any mice. Or any men.
No men wanted here, do not make them reappear! No men wanted here do not make them reappear! Picket lines and circles surrounded the building of Genecon, news helicopters hovered above the scene, capturing every minute of the protest.
“It is day twenty-four of the Anti-Male Protest here in Seattle, and these women are not backing down. Since the release of the news that the top research facility Genecon is now looking for a female surrogate to officially test out the human Y chromosome they have completed, many people have become outraged and are fighting back. Some have claimed that men will cause the demise of our world and bring ravage to our streets. Others believe the population of humans will simply increase too rapidly with males, and that the Earth’s capacity will be exceeded. But the real question is, will Dr. Andrea Jacobsen go through with the proposal, or shut it down for fear of opposition. Suzie Singleton, XYZ news.”
Andrea sat at her desk with her head hidden in her arms. When she had been chosen to be the head researcher of this project, she didn’t actually think it would get this far. At least not in this century. She wanted to create males in the animal world for agricultural purposes; with the rationale that having male animals would increase the livestock numbers, and bring in more money to the economy. There would be more cows to eat, more sheep to shave for wool, more horses to plow. That’s it. She never intended it to extend to the regeneration of male human beings. Why would someone ask for that? Obviously not those people out there, at least they have some sense. They can see how detrimental men will be to our world, they can see the big picture. All the other “pro-male” women out there are too foolish to see. Knock knock.
“Ms. Jacobsen, they’re ready for you.” Her assistant peeked her head in through the office door.
Every seat was filled in the small conference room, making the room stuffy and adding to Andy’s anxiety. She loosened her white collar and stood before her lab team. Over the past year she had come to know these faces very well; she cleared her throat to get their full attention.
“Good afternoon everyone. I’m sure most of you know why I called this board meeting. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve definitely heard the shouts and yells coming from outside our building. When we started this project over a year ago, I had the vision of restoring the Y-chromosome of mammals. And you succeeded higher than my expectations, which is where our problem arises. It was never meant for the human Y to be restored as well. It wasn’t even a consideration at the time, but now it has been done. And those people out there are outraged because of this. Our research has caused this revolt and the project is no longer safe to continue. Come tomorrow, I will publicly announce the discontinuation of Project Y.”
A bright light illuminated through the living room window, and the soft rumbling of a car engine followed. Ruthie stirred awake on the couch, touched a button on the remote control, then closed her eyes again as her mother walked through the door.
“Ruthie, I’m home . . . oops,” she heard in a whisper. The 7 year old felt a kiss on her forehead as she slanted one eye open to watch her mother. Andy was turning to go into the kitchen when the television caught her eye. A dark-haired man was displayed on the screen with what appeared to be his son, and then a title came across “Sleepless in Seattle.” Ruthie felt the sharp eyes of her mother on her and like clockwork began to snore softly. She braced herself for a serious grounding but her mother sat down on the sofa next to her and began watching. Ruthie smiled in satisfaction, only then to drift off into actual sleep; a couple hours later, Ruthie was awakened by a strange sound. She peeked an eye open to see that her mother was crying. The screen displayed the man and woman holding hands and walking away, staring into each other’s eyes. She didn’t even know moms were capable of crying. She felt her mom lift her up from the couch and carry her to bed. A hand stroked through her curly hair followed by a gentle, “Goodnight,” and her mother was gone.
“Good morning, everyone,” cameras flashed from every direction as Andy stood at the podium. Many of you might have heard rumors that we were going to shut down our research due to the recent uprisings. However as of today, Project Y is in full force and will continue to be so until we have finished what we came here to do—restore the Y chromosome in all mammals, including humans.
“Andrea, Andrea! What made you change your mind?”
“My daughter. Yesterday I realized how much smarter she was than her mom. She made me see things that I failed to acknowledge before.”
“Does this mean you will continue the search for a surrogate?”
“Yes. Right now we have narrowed it down to two individuals that have met all of the requirements. We will inform you of our decision when the time comes. No more questions.”
“Thank you for tuning into XYZ broadcasting. I’m Suzie Singleton, reporting a special announcement. The day is here ladies and girls. I’m standing in front of the Lincoln P. Jackson Memorial Hospital in Seattle, Washington with the news that Abigail Roseland has gone into labor and sources say she is ‘doing great.’ The twenty-two year old volunteered to be the surrogate for Genecon eight and a half months ago and faced much opposition from anti-male protestors. Roseland says that she felt she was ‘called’ to do this and has never felt better in her life. A close source to the mother-to-be says that she craved steak and peanut butter on a regular basis. And now the entire world eagerly waits to see the source of those cravings. Andrea Jacobsen, and others from the Genecon institute are inside monitoring her progress.”
Andy paced the halls of the hospital until her feet began to hurt. Has something gone wrong? Maybe our genetic design wasn’t ready for humans yet. What if comes out half human and half . . . something else? We would be shut down for sure. Andy took a deep sigh to calm herself down. Then she heard the cry. She raced into the room to see Abigail holding a small baby wrapped in blue sheets. He was perfect. In no way was he evil or threatening. There was no way something this precious could ever bring the world to ruin. “He’s absolutely beautiful,” she murmured to Abigail. “What did you name him?”
“Adam. Adam Tom Hanks Roseland."