GiveMeTime

Give Me Time

One life isn’t enough for Thomas—he is dreaming of eternity.

With Genesis’ help this dream may come true.

One God companion story.

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Give Me Time


I.

One life isn’t enough. Two, three—not enough. Eternity, now that would be enough. Eternity yes, but not spent in one of the transcendent dimensions promised by the various gods. First of all, that’s got to be boring. What is there to do surrounded by nothing but emptiness? Nothing—there’s nothing to do. Secondly, there is no god. I’m sure, I’ve checked. And there’s no soul—this is verified information. The only thing that exists is protein. And science. Only science can help me reach my goal. Only science can give me time.

I’m interested in an overall eternity, and in the duration of all things, preferably without deterioration. An overall eternity is one that’s not only mine as an individual, but that includes a certain environment that I imagine will last forever along with me. Until I am satisfied, until the world is satisfied with me, until I do and feel and experience so deeply that I finally say “enough.” At the moment what I feel is hunger.

I am a hundred years old.

My name is Thomas—a very symbolic name. Any association with the doubting Thomas of the Bible is justified. I don’t believe in anything that I haven’t examined for myself. I need to put my fingers into the wound, like the skeptical apostle. I need to touch things—anything I can’t touch, doesn’t exist.

And I can touch a lot of things. I can look into places the average person has no idea about. I’m a geneticist, and thus able to analyze the very essence of human life, and I believe that I can see into the core of human beings. I disentangle the helix—sequence, isolate, analyze. And as I said, I believe that there’s nothing but protein. I have a T-shirt with the slogan: nothing but protein. We are that and nothing more.

Unfortunately protein wears out. You can compare it to a rubber stamp. In time, the ink runs out and the imprint becomes blurred. The same thing happens with proteins—sometimes they replicate incorrectly.

That’s what happened to me. And I am fucking pissed off.

II.

It’s hard not to be pissed. I’m dying, and it’s really fucking annoying. I don’t understand why this happened to me.

“We all die,” says Aurora, my wife. My first and last wife, so it seems. She’s a philosopher and offers me bouquets of clever sentences. You have to accept life as it is. We must live in harmony with one other. When the world falls apart, the broken pieces will eventually fit back together.

“I hate your sayings!” I tell her. I—hate—bullshit. All the more annoying is the fact that, as a geneticist, I was able to see what was happening to my protein, but didn’t have the time to deal with it. I’ve been busy with the entire world—I couldn’t be bothered with anything smaller than that: Aurora, Caroline, or myself.

“You have to accept it and move on,” Aurora says. I tell her to get out of my room, I can’t look at her. She seems to derive a perverse pleasure from the fact that unless a miracle happens—or unless I create a miracle, because I do have certain powers—I’m headed straight for the finish line.

“Never,” I say quietly, because she doesn’t like it when I whisper.

I have cancer. Fuck me. How could this happen? I don’t understand. I mean, I understand from an engineering or a genetic point of view. But I should have checked my body, submitted a sample to the cross-simulator and instructed it to calculate the most likely mutations. I should have done it—I could have. And then what would I have done? I don’t know, but I prefer knowledge to ignorance.

I don’t want to die. It isn’t my time yet. I need more time—I’m not done with my life! Damn it, it’s not enough! Aurora doesn’t understand.

“Time passes, you can’t change that,” she says.

“But I still have so many things—so many things that I haven’t done, that I want to do! That I have to do!”

“You can’t follow every possible path in life,” Aurora says.

“We’ll see!”

“What do you mean?”

“Genesis, Genesis—that’s what I mean”

“You think your employer will help you?” Aurora snorts, and in that moment I hate her. She’s never liked my work. I mean my work since I switched from a state job to Genesis. She knows that I love my current job, and when she wants to sting me she criticizes it. Or maybe she really doesn’t understand that Genesis is headed in the only right direction? In the end we, mankind, would never make it on this ruined planet. In the end the Earth would kill us all—we could never evolve quickly enough to outrun our own destruction of the environment.

“They can help me, I’m sure”

“I hope you’re not overestimating their capabilities,” Aurora says, and walks out of my office. She closes the door carefully, almost inaudibly, which annoys me even more. So much so that I’d like to throw something against it. I don’t do it, though—I won’t give her the satisfaction of knowing she’s driving me crazy. I won’t give her an excuse for another lecture about the “necessity” of accepting my illness. You have to accept that you can’t influence everything.

“I fucking well can!” I say to myself.

III.

I met Aurora when I was twenty-two. I put up with her for nearly a century, and I’m both proud of that and angry about it at the same time—angry about all the years I could have spent with someone less complicated. In the beginning, when I was young, I was attracted by her reticence, which could suddenly change into a verbal diarrhea. Her gestures, so ethereal, her trembling lips—Aurora cried a lot. Today she’s not crying, just arguing with me. Not even arguing, really—just contradicting.

She also used to laugh more. What’s left now is this passivity, this stubborn sticking to me. After all, why does she stay with me? We don’t match.

It’s natural: our relationship, like everything else in the universe, evolved. Panta rhei—everything flows, said Heraclitus of Ephesus, to quote my wife quoting him—she quotes philosophers any chance she gets. She spent years studying their work, so let her cite their bullshit and I’ll somehow put up with it, since I, too, observe the flow of everything, but as a scientist. I used to love her. I felt good with her. I was Alpha, and she—Omega. I was midnight, she was the noon. I was the zenith and she was the nadir. I was a plus, she—a minus. We attracted each other.

In the beginning we lived in peace. Things were really good, despite some financial problems. Material nourishment is supposed to pale in comparison with the spiritual and intellectual sustenance we offer each other. I disagree—nothing tastes as good as lobster. Even cloned lobster is damned good.

In ancient times, in the twentieth century, Aurora gave birth to our daughter, Caroline. I no longer have contact with her, unfortunately. We lived an ordinary life: Aurora worked at the university, I worked at an institute whose name has now faded from my memory. It doesn’t matter—Genesis acquired it back when I was in my sixties. I thought they would just get rid of me—there were so many talented, much younger, scientists. True, I had some great achievements, but these were purely theoretical and on a small scale. But things turned out differently than I expected.

Miran noticed me, the president of Genesis. He reviewed our research, analyzed the data. He fired everyone except me.

“You have potential,” he told me when he came to see me. That felt great. It felt so good that, despite Aurora’s objections, I joined his team. That was in 2020.

Soon it’ll be my twenty-fifth anniversary of working for the company. For twenty-five years, every day, my wife has protested against what we do, Genesis and me.

Through all my years with Miran, my anger at Aurora’s views has fueled me—her views, her philosophical small talk, her riddles, her contemptuous smile. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have created a new tomorrow—and I have created one. Not alone of course, but together with Genesis, proving how very wrong she was. How little she sees. How little, overall, she knows. Philosophy isn’t knowledge, it’s a celebration of ignorance.

IV.

Caroline is fifty-eight. Place of residence—unknown. Or rather known, but not visited. Not by me, anyway, although Aurora sometimes visits her. My daughter doesn’t want to see me.

It’s not surprising—I wasn’t a good father. I was busy with everything but Caroline. And by then I also didn’t care for Aurora much—the intimacy of the first years of marriage was over. No wonder that they—Aurora and Caroline—became very close.

I should have intervened in the relationship—should have disconnected them, these two lovebirds—before my wife, accursed Aurora, broke my daughter. Before she filled her head with stories from out of this world, convincing Caroline that genetic engineering is counter to God’s act of creation. Nonsense! Engineering is just creation on fast-forward!

Before I realized that Caroline was lost, that she thought that what I did was wrong and contrary to nature, it was too late. She told me she didn’t want to know me. That she was leaving the city, not wanting to see how Genesis would transform it into its own farm, collecting people from all over the country, and then from all over Europe—the hundreds of thousands of people who would be needed to take care of the future of humankind. She didn’t understand that it had to be that way, that it would necessarily happen, and that we, the people, would subordinate the whole world. We would be god. Collectively. I don’t like collectives, but let it be.

So she left. Never spoke to me ever again. Never, ever.

Before I die, I want to say something to Caroline. That I remember. One event. Caroline was three years old. I took her for a walk by the river, something I almost never did. We walked along the bank. She was licking a lollipop, and I held her hand. I felt her hand in mine and it was good. It was great. I remember that day.

I need more time to tell her this. That one walk is not enough. I want to do something more for her, for myself, something else.

I really miss Caroline.

V.

My disease is progressing rapidly. Cancer is a bitch, able to multiply at an alarming rate. This ability fascinates me as a geneticist, but pisses me off as well.

I’m undergoing various therapies, but this shit is resistant to all of them. There are some new medications that Genesis is reportedly testing, and that supposedly work, but the research isn’t complete yet. I’ve seen my colleagues come up with some epic fails in the past, so let them finish the tests before I try them. I’m not afraid to die—I’ll die anyway—but I don’t want to end up as some creepy mutation. If the risk that the meds might make my DNA go crazy is low enough, then I’ll try them—just thank Genesis, swallow the drugs without thinking about the consequences, and that’s that. I refuse to die just because some fucking cancer wants to eat me alive.

There are also some other options that I want to discuss—I do not know why—with my wife, who just brought my medications. I inhale them deeply, then cough, but they help. I hope the cancer is now suffering an agony. I’d like to hear it scream. I imagine that it sounds like the squeak a shellfish makes when it’s put into boiling water—even the cloned ones squeak. Let the cancer squeak until it’s hoarse.

“Aurora, I can be cured. I talked about it with Miran,” I say.

“Well, he certainly has reliable cures,” says my wife. First I stay silent. Then I break my silence—I can’t stand that tone.

“He does,” I answer. “You probably don’t even want to know what it is. The very fact that it comes from Genesis is enough for you to object to it.”

“Right”

I don’t say anything more because I start coughing. Aurora sighs. She walks out, comes back in a moment later, and brings me another inhaler. She turns it on and applies it to my chest. The machine scans what has to be scanned, measures the dose. I put the nozzle in my mouth, inhale the next drug. I’m dizzy, and then feel better. I can, at last, answer Aurora.

“I can undergo a transplant. At the company. For free”

“You know it’s not about the money”

Right, money is not a problem. We have more than we need. We have our apartment in one of the highest Hives of the Ark. It’s on the top floor—below you can see the entire megalopolis. Except when smog covers it, but even then you can see all the way to the horizon. We’re above the smog. We are above the city. We are above everything.

“You’re above God,” Aurora says sometimes, usually as she looks at the Genesis building that shines like a flare behind the other buildings. It’s blue.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I answer every time.

I sigh. I get up, go to the window.

“Up!” I command. Home computer pulls up the blinds. Before me I see smog, purple and dense, pierced by occasional streams of light flowing from the glass-covered walkways. The sidewalks glide the people along—they don’t walk, they’re carried from building to building. From place to place. People flowing—there are so many of them, they seem to fuse.

Aurora joins me at the window.

“What do they want to transplant?”

“Lungs”

“I know. What lungs?”

I hesitate for a moment. I don’t know whether to tell her the secret. I decide not to—better not. You never know who’s listening—Genesis has cameras and listening devices all over the city. I’m not sure whether we have them here, in the apartment. Actually, I’m pretty sure we do.

“Some. From a donor,” I answer indirectly.

“Don’t lie”

“I’m not lying”

“You’re lying,” Aurora says, and shakes her head sadly. She doesn’t understand that it’s better if she doesn’t know. She does not need that knowledge. “Don’t do it,” she says.

“I’ll think it over”

“You’ve already made up your mind, right?”

“Aurora…”

“Your mind is made up?”

“No. But I do not want to… I don’t want to die. Please, understand me, Aurora! I do not want to die! I need more time, just some time!”

VI.

I have new lungs. Fresh, straight from my donor.

The donor didn’t survive, unfortunately, but I don’t care. The customers at the chain of Genesis grocery stores—the name of which drives me crazy: Ant—will eat its meat. Ants, Hives, termite mounds and termites, people and their apartments—the tunnels between them look like the tunnels between levels of an anthill. The individuals, large and small, glide inside. All of them are workers—there’s no queen. Or Maybe Satia fills that role. She’s so close to Miran, probably fucks him—I noticed something during the meeting, the way she looks at him. As if she wanted to devour him, as if she loved him, but with a strange, possessive kind of love. Different from Aurora’s love for me—Aurora loves me desperately, sadly—a love that no change can alter. I don’t know if I should be grateful or cry.

I have new lungs, clean, without cancer. My old ones were tested first, then destroyed in an oven. I hope the cancer suffered. It destroyed so many plans that I had, and now I’m busy, busy as hell, trying to make up for lost time. Well, now I have time to spare.

Time passes, I do not know how much. Life in the Hives makes it difficult to follow. Year after year, it’s all the same, although the work changes dramatically. When I was born, I didn’t know how the world worked, my knowledge was so limited. The double helix was described when I was almost twenty. Today I can disentwine it and then rewind it again in any way I choose. That took less than a hundred years. My knowledge now grows faster and faster. I’m doing better and better, as if the information I have—whether stored in my head, or held in the reliable Genesis databases—allows me to more and more effectively penetrate unknown, unexplored fields.

Initially, with my new lungs, I feel great. Unfortunately, after some time they start to make trouble. I assume that the goddamned cancer has been lurking somewhere inside me and is now attacking me again. I do tests, but I don’t find it. I feel bad, I’m weak. I feel like my body is somehow independent of my will. A rebellion.

I draw some blood on my own—I’ve done this hundreds of times. I put the sample into the cross-simulator and let it do an evaluation. The machine does this willingly. I love machines—they’re so much easier to use than people. The cross-simulator displays the results on thin nets that hang from the ceiling. I wander between these curtains and stare at the presentation created by my perfect mechanical collaborator, the powerful computer for which nothing is impossible. It has cut my DNA into pieces and shows the fragments to me, asking if it should spread the segments so that I can check them more thoroughly.

“Split,” I say. Cross-simulator listens. Splits. I see more pictures, this time not just blue, but also green and pink. I don’t have to look long. I see. I see what’s happening inside of me. “Fuck!” I say, and call Miran.

He picks up, as usual. I’m important to him. I ask him for a meeting—request that he come downstairs, to the protected zone of the building, and take a look. He comes quickly.

“My DNA combined with the DNA of the pig whose lungs were transplanted,” I tell him, although I know that he sees what I see: that I’m becoming a pig. I was already figuratively a pig, according to Aurora.

“Oh,” Miran says, and moves to the next sequence. “Do you have any symptoms? Side effects?”

“Yes”

“Oh.” He’s still thinking.

I tell him that if it progresses, I’ll probably cash in my chips. And I don’t want that—it is not time yet, as I’ve said repeatedly. I still have a lot to do. And here’s a nice surprise, somehow, miraculously, not anticipated by cross-simulator, I have foreign DNA. Of course I can get it cleaned out, come up with some medicine that will remove the unwanted sequences. But they’ll be back, like a stubborn wasp that returns to feed on something sweet. I don’t like it.

“I don’t like it,” I say to Miran.

“I don’t like it, either.”

“If this is happening to me, it’ll happen to others too. The ones who’ve been treated in our clinics. There are millions of them.”

“I know!” Miran is impatient.

“What do we do?”

“Nothing. Not a single word about it outside. I will think it over, see if we can help you somehow. But in the meantime keep what you know to yourself.”

“But they probably feel as shitty as I feel.”

“Fuck that. They have to hold on until we can solve the problem. Try to deal with it, prepare some preliminary concepts. I’ll order some teams to work on that”

“And if it’s… some mystery?”

“I don’t understand.”

“If we can’t solve the problem because—because there’s some force beyond our understanding, whose actions we can’t comprehend, and who really doesn’t want to cooperate with us?” I ask the question, and as soon as I finish I hear how stupid it sounds. Maybe I have some mindfuck as a result of the mutations. I have junk in my head, I hear a constant noise, headaches and dizziness. I’ve become an idiot, as Miran confirms.

“Bullshit. There are no supernatural forces, just us”

In the evening I come home completely exhausted. Aurora sees that I’m feeling bad. She suggests a doctor’s appointment—she doesn’t know that I don’t need the Genesis quacks, because I have my cross-simulator. Those guys are fine for the termites. Not for me.

“I’ll make you something to eat,” she decides. Prepares my salad with vegetables that weren’t grown in the company’s fields—we, the better people, the non-termites, don’t eat that genetically modified shit. We eat clean.

I eat the salad, which tastes like paper—my sense of taste is also undergoing mutation. Aurora’s watching me. She knows me well—one look and she knows I’m in trouble.

“What’s happening?” she asks.

“I can’t tell you, professional matters,” I say. Aurora shakes her head. She leans forward. A tear runs down her cheek, falls on the counter. I wipe it with my sleeve. “Aurora, you know the rules,” I say to her gently.

“I’m worried about you,” my wife says.

I feel so touched—I get up and hug her tightly. I kiss the top of her head, then her neck. She still loves it. She breathes evenly and deeply, doesn’t move away, but gets up. I kiss her on the lips, as hard as if it will be our last time.

Time. I need time—this can’t be the last time. I want to kiss Aurora forever. I have to kiss Aurora. I love Aurora. Everything I do, I do for her. Although earlier I might have sounded like I didn’t care about her, deep inside I love her. And I will always love her. Aurora. Aurora. Time.

VII.

“Do you want to live forever, Aurora?” I ask her some time later. Recently, we’ve been talking a lot and I feel that things are slightly better between us, although there’s still something in the air that divides us—something called Genesis. I don’t want to think about it right now—Genesis isn’t going to go away and Aurora will eventually accept it.

“I don’t understand,” Aurora says. She gets nervous and sits down abruptly, showing me her bare back. It’s old, Aurora is old, but she looks good. She doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Without informing her, I gave her something we prepared at Genesis—something that isn’t available to the termites, only to me and her and a few other people. It slows down aging, pushes the cells to work harder and live longer. Thanks to this concoction Aurora feels good, even though she’s almost as old as me. She thinks it’s a matter of genes—and in fact her genes are good. She says her family is long-lived, and it is. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m just building on her existing potential—I boost it. Aurora can live for about two hundred years, maybe even more if I work hard at it. Of course my goal is eternity, hence the question. Would Aurora want to live forever? Always. Always.

“Would you like to live forever and never die,” I repeat, stroking her arm. The touch of her skin still excites me. Even after so many years.

“For what?” Aurora asks. She lies down, covers her breasts. A pity—they’re really nice.

“So you can do everything the way it should be done.”

“And how should it be done?”

“If you were able to live forever, you’d have time to find out how to do everything just right.”

“Do you regret something? And why are you asking?”

“No, maybe—I don’t know.”

“Thomas, are you dying?”

“Every day, bit by bit.” I laugh, but I feel my throat tighten. I’m afraid, because I know that now my dying has been sped up. My clock is ticking at a frantic pace. My time, my precious time, is running out. I feel worse and worse, and neither Miran nor the others have any idea what to do with me. They had better hurry, because I’ll be really pissed off if I die.

“Thomas, I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.” She turns her face towards me, hugs me.

“Caroline,” I say, because I’ve told her so many times about the problem of time that I don’t want to repeat myself yet again.

“Oh, Thomas…” Aurora sighs. “It would be better to fix it now, today.”

“Today…” I repeat.

“Yes. Hurry up when you’re loving people, they die so quickly,” she says, quoting a local poet. They do die quickly, so true. I’m angry. I hate dying. Fuck, I hate it. Death sucks. There’s been too much death in my life. Too much. I do not have good genes, neither from my mother nor from my father. They were gone before I could give them time. Fuck me.

VIII.

I went to see Caroline shortly after that conversation, as Aurora had advised me to do.

Caroline doesn’t live in the Ark. She chose a village, some complete shithole. I barely managed to get there—gravitational cars have trouble on the road, especially since the roads are largely ruined. Almost no one travels outside the Ark because there’s nothing there, so there’s no real point to repairing them. We have rail, which takes termites where they want to go.

Caroline looks bad. She’s very skinny. I’m sure she sometimes goes without food. It’s no surprise. Our plants—genetically modified and fast-growing—drove out everything natural. Almost nothing will grow in the village fields, but people like Caroline are still struggle to bring in a harvest. Clean food, uncontaminated by Genesis inventions. Their struggle is like trying to turn back a river with a stick—it’s clear that our GMOs will win the battle, but these people delude themselves into thinking that their plants can survive. They won’t, neither the crops nor the people. They will not survive if they don’t join us.

Caroline is fifty six, but she looks older than me. She’s very pale. She’s skinny. She dresses in strange clothes—no one in the Ark wears stuff like this anymore. The outfit is threadbare, just like my daughter.

My heart breaks. I look at her for a long time, and my heart just breaks. My girl. I haven’t seen her in so many years, and she’s dying. I don’t want her to die—it makes me want to scream.

“How are you?” I ask, hoarse because my heart is breaking. Why does heartbreak cause problems with one’s voice anyway?

“Okay,” she answers. We sit in her house, one from a time before Genesis, as old and as ruined as my child. I feel bad here. It’s dark, we’re on the ground—I can’t live so close to the ground. Literally and figuratively, I need to fly high.

“I don’t think so,” I say. “Are you sick?” I ask directly.

“I have leukemia,” my daughter says. My heartbreak is suddenly complete. I cover my face with my hands. I have to pull myself together.

“What kind?”

“I don’t know.” Right, how would she know? How would anyone test her blood out here? Holy shit!

I ask her about the symptoms. I ask if I can examine her. Caroline agrees. I touch her for the first time in so many years. I’ve missed this so much. Her skin is thin and warm. Soft.

“I think you have lymphoblastic leukemia,” I say.

“I don’t know what that is,” Caroline says. I know she’s lying. She used to work with me—once, long ago. Then she left the Ark. She thought we were interfering with matters that man shouldn’t meddle with. At the time I asked: if we have an opportunity to intervene, why shouldn’t we? If god—whom she invoked over and over again—gave us minds able to embrace the world, apparently He wanted us to take the world over. In the end, He Himself said that we should go out and rule it. Didn’t he, Caroline? Caroline! Don’t go, I said. She didn’t listen.

“I can cure you,” I tell her.

“How?”

“At Genesis. I can cure you, or at least get you into remission.”

“For what?”

“Caroline…” I can’t finish what I want to say.

“I don’t want that,” says my daughter.

“Why?”

“Because.”

“Caroline, stop talking nonsense.” I use the old saying, but there’s no humor in it this time.

“It’s your fault that I’m suffering,” my daughter says angrily. “You and Genesis did this. You and your digging into the world. If it wasn’t for you, if it wasn’t for Genesis, none of this would have happened. Everything that’s going on—the end of the world.”

“It’s not the end, it’s the beginning!” I raise my voice. “The beginning! Don’t you understand? If you come back with me, you’ll see that what you’re saying is complete nonsense.”

“Nonsense?” Caroline shouts. She gets up, then sits down again because she isn’t able to stay on her feet. “You’re killing me. Me and the others. You’re killing us!”

“Come back with me,” I say, completely calm. There’s no point arguing with her now—I’ll explain later. She’ll understand everything, but it’ll take time. Understand that we, humankind, have to move forward. This lifestyle that Caroline’s used to is outdated. Now it’s time for the Ark. Now eternity is born.

“No!” says my daughter. “Get out. Don’t come back. There’s no point. I won’t go with you. Never. I’d rather die. I don’t want to live there—it’s not life. It’s not the world. You’ve destroyed everything.”

IX.

Genesis found a solution. As usual—I never doubted that it would. Faith helped me survive the period prior to the transplant, when I felt really bad. So bad that I was afraid I’d never make it. But I made it—the will to live is strong within me. I want to live, I want it more than anything else.

The solution is based on my own DNA, from which the talented geneticists removed the fragments that came from the pig donor. Inside a capsule, in a liquid suspension, they grew my new lungs. I checked on them almost every day.

The surgery was easy. I didn’t even tell Aurora that it was happening. Besides, we quarreled after my visit at Caroline’s. I said that our daughter was a moron. Aurora said she had the right to live the way she wanted. I don’t think so. I think I should bring her here. Bring here, heal her. Feed her—she’s so skinny. She’s an adult? So what! I’m still her father! I still have a duty to care for her, and with that obligation goes the right to impose my will on her. Aurora screams that I’m a tyrant. A mad tyrant who wants to control everything, to dictate terms. I agree, but it’s only because I’m angry with her.

After the treatment, I feel great—so much better. The pig genes were bad for me—my own are the best for me. Once again I have energy for my work, and I work as much as possible, from time to time using stimulants. I’m addicted, and Aurora yells at me about that, too. She doesn’t understand that just about everyone takes them—not just us, the core of Genesis, but the termites too. If you can, why not?

Aurora can immediately tell that I feel better. As usual, she has questions about what I did.

“What did you come up with?” my wife hisses. “What devil’s trick?”

“There is no devil,” I answer. I don’t like these reproaches, with the bizarre epithets, and she knows it, so she inserts the word “devil” whenever she can.

“You sold yourself,” she says. Another old, hackneyed trick. Aurora wants to piss me off. No way.

“I sold my soul to the devil, and you know what?” I ask. “I feel great about it”

I win. Aurora is a very, very angry. Good. She shuts up for the moment, stops talking. Also good. I don’t have time for bullshit talk. And everything I can’t change is bullshit—things I can’t change are irrelevant. And no one can change the fact that Genesis has once again gone several steps forward—we’ve set up the next stage. There’s nothing to talk about. Nothing can stop us.

X.

I’ve gone too far. When I come home from work—after saying that I sold my soul—I find Aurora in the dressing room. She’s taking her stuff from the cabinets and putting everything in a bag.

“What are you doing?” I ask, as if I’m an idiot—I can see perfectly well what she’s doing.

“I’m packing.”

“Are you leaving?” I wonder where. After all, everyone is here, in the Ark—a short ride away on a fast-moving walkway. Or in our vehicle— as privileged employees of Genesis, we have one available. Or maybe she’s come up with a holiday somewhere a bit further away?

“Yes,” she responds.

“Where? When will you be back?” I sit down on a chair.

“To Caroline. Never.”

She’s fucking lost her mind, is what goes through my head.

“Aurora, you know that makes no sense. You’ll die there.”

“I will somehow manage to accept that fact.”

I ignore this—it’s just intended to piss me off.

“There’s no one there. Everyone’s in the Ark. There’s nothing.”

“There’s Caroline.”

“Better to bring her here.”

“No.”

“Aurora…”

“Thomas,” my wife says, “fuck off.”

She leaves the same day. Her disappearance is, of course, recorded by the ubiquitous camera. Not surprisingly, the next morning, Miran invites me for an interview. I assume he’s heard our conversation. Whatever. I have nothing to hide. But I hide a lot from Aurora and I tell that to Miran.

“She doesn’t know anything,” I assure him.

“Maybe she’s guessed?”

“I don’t think so”

“What if she has?”

“I don’t know. If she had some idea…”

“Would she tell anybody? About us?”

“No. And even if she did, those guys out there aren’t a danger to us.”

“True. But they have contacts with our competitors, who are eager to take advantage of the people outside the Ark to achieve their goals.”

“Aurora has no idea about genetics.”

“If she does, you’d better get rid of her.”

“No worries,” I say. I try to relax, although I’m scared—scared that something bad will happen to Aurora. Miran never hesitates. If he thinks that she’s a threat, he’ll kill her. Without emotion. Without remorse or hesitation. The success of Genesis in based on these traits of his. I admire them, and at the same time I feel overwhelmed by them.

XI.

Aurora called me. Unexpectedly. She had sworn that she would never talk to me again and so on, and she wasn’t one to make empty promises. When Aurora makes a decision, she never wavers from it. If she says she’ll do something, she does it. Until now.

Today she calls me and she’s crying. She says that Caroline is dying.

Without hesitation, I order a heliplane. It lands with a thud on the roof of my Hive. I get on. From the plane I call Miran and describe the situation. I ask for permission.

“Bring them here,” he tells me. I know that this isn’t because I suddenly touched his heart. It’s just convenient to have them under supervision. But Miran’s reasons don’t matter—what matters is that I bring them here, to the Ark, to the only place where I’ll be able to help my daughter.

We’re flying. I look out the window. Below I see empty spaces—the only green fields are ours, the ones belonging to Genesis. Below there are empty cities. Below us there are roads, destroyed by the roots of our plants. Below us there’s gray and brown. Below us it’s fallow. Everything needed for life is consumed by the Ark.

We land and immediately I’m running. I carry Caroline to the heliplane in my arms and Aurora follows me. She begs me to save our child. I feel a certain satisfaction. In the end she’s admitted that I should do it. I want to point out to her that I was right, remind her of all the times we argued about whether what I was doing was right or wrong and point out that only now does she understand what I said over and over. I told you so! But this isn’t the time—we’ll talk later. When Caroline gets better.

Caroline is so light, like a feather. People say that the soul weighs the most—maybe she doesn’t have one. What a ridiculous thought! I push it away angrily, put Caroline in heliplane, plug in the equipment that I have on board, and begin to analyze what’s going on with my daughter. The heliplane takes off, stirring up dust. Aurora is crying, repeating the same thing over and over.

“Save her. Thomas, save her!”

I do what I can. As soon as we reach the Ark, I move Caroline to our clinic. I connect more devices and remotely run the cross-simulator. I view the results in my daughter’s room on the small screens they have there. We don’t have the equipment here in the clinic that I use downstairs, and the tiny screens make my eyes hurt. I prefer light curtains, but I don’t want to leave the room, leave her alone.

I analyze like crazy, and the cross-simulator warms up.

“Count—count, you bastard!” I say to it. It listens, it counts. It sends the results to the gene editor—let it clean up my daughter’s DNA, clearing out the rubbish that’s killing her. “Come on, bitch!” I say to the editor, trying to make it work faster, although the conversion and sequencing of DNA doesn’t actually take long. “To the capsule!” I order.

New bone marrow will grow in the capsule—perfect marrow! This, unfortunately, will take a bit longer. Unconsciously, I pray.

“God, if you exist, give me some time! Give me time!”

But God doesn’t exist.

I don’t get time.

Before I have the marrow, my daughter dies.

My daughter dies.

Completely.

I can’t begin to describe the rage that fills me. I want to destroy the fucking cross-simulator, the gene editor, the capsule. But I don’t. Because there’s her DNA, right in there. And as long as it’s there, Caroline isn’t gone. My daughter. My child.

XII.

Less than a year later, Aurora dies. She stayed with me after Caroline died, or at least her body stayed. Her mind went somewhere else. Aurora couldn’t cope with the fact that Caroline was dead. She said it was her fault, and she was right. We should have done something sooner. She says she was stupid.

“You were right, Thomas,” she said. So what? It thought that I’d feel satisfaction when she finally admitted that my way was the only right way. I didn’t.

I think she died of despair, I really do.

But I have her DNA. And I have Caroline’s DNA.

And I’m still alive. I try to stay in shape until I’m able to create them both anew, marinated in chemicals specified by Genesis. I take more and more stimulants. I work more and more. Miran works with me, on the same process I am—cloning a human being.

I have the DNA from Aurora and Caroline.

I’m alive. I’m fine.

I have time. I have my time.

Sooner or later either Miran will find the solution or I will. Then I’ll create Aurora and Caroline once again.

And then we’ll live our lives as we should.