Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Fear of Man

by Ros Jackson

I'm afraid they will change me back.

For four hours they have held me in this sterile cube three metres long. It's transparent and I can see the clock in the room outside, but they took away my comlink, my watch, my belt, even my wallet. I'm being kept in some kind of laboratory, I think. I'm the only specimen. I'm not sure whether or not I should be comforted by that fact.

The cube seems to have no door. I was unconscious when they put me in here so I'm not sure how they did it. The building looked as grey and unprepossessing as any other in the night. I could have broken into any one on this street. Instead I chose this one, the national headquarters of the Organic Alliance. Being an extremist group they don't exactly advertise their presence, and the sign at the front saying "Oggson's Accountants" gives little away. My luck tonight is just ghastly. I can't bear the thought of losing my new body. But I can't imagine the Organic Alliance letting me go intact after what I've done. One of them said I'd "polluted their ecohabitat". I`m not even a person in their eyes, I'm a contaminant. Worse, a contaminant who tried to hijack their share portfolios for my own personal gain. So they've arrested me. All I can hope is that the police will be involved at some stage, but I'm beginning to wonder. The Organics don't involve outsiders unless it really can't be helped. This is because most of the police and rescue services are genetically modified too ~ it goes with the job.

It's the waiting that I can't stand. I close my eyes, more as an attempt to imagine myself elsewhere than an expression of my need to sleep, although I'm still quite woozy.

I am interrupted.

"So, this is the intruder."

A tall man walks in. He is middle-aged, and his stance and tone suggest authority. His full dark hair is clipped short, his clothes pressed razor-sharp. Two others follow him, a man and a woman. The second man is clean-shaven and uniformed, and younger than the first. The woman is made up lightly, and wears a suit. Her expression is severe, in contrast with the softness of her wavy blonde hair.

"I caught him in the business room, sir," says the shorter guy. "He had our passwords and was trying to transfer funds. I thought we'd better check him out."

"You did right. The blood sample we took shows up fifteen percent more genetic code than normal. It's one of them all right, even though it looks almost human," says the first man.

"Not as bad as some of them, is it? At least it's not a bloody plant."

"Don't be fooled, Peters. This is the worst sort. Posing as our kind, you have no idea of the corruption underneath. Disgusting."

"What are we going to do with him?" The female wrings her hands. I don't think she's worried for my welfare, though. She's afraid of me.

"Are we going to call the police?" asks Peters.

"No," the leader says, " I don't think we need involve them."

"Let me out!" I bellow, surprising myself with the volume of my rage.

"I don't think we can do that," says the authoritative one, coming closer.

"You're breaking the law by keeping me here."

"That makes us even." His speaking voice is just above a whisper, and I have to strain to hear him.

"I still have rights."

"Perhaps you had rights. People have rights." He's so calm, I want to smash his face in. "I take it you used to be one, before you had this abomination done to you?"

Is he trying to trick me into giving something away? I think quickly.

"No. I was born like this."

I can see the younger pair cringe. But if I can get him to believe that, he won't know that nobody has my new DNA on file. Officially I disappeared last year, leaving behind a pile of debts. So the authorities won't come looking for me, because for the moment I'm outside the system. I have to convince these people otherwise...

"Are you trying to tell me you're a vegeburger? You're a pathetic liar." Still he doesn't raise his voice.

"I'm a prototype."

I'm clutching at straws, and he knows it. He turns his back on me to address the others.

"Too old. Twenty years ago humans were being modified by splicing their genes with plant and animal DNA, and the technology was crude. They are easy to distinguish from real people. This... actually chose to become a GM creature. What was left of the human being was destroyed by those injections. A lesson for us all."

"All that's left is a lying, thieving cancer," pipes up Peters. He sounds as if he's rehearsing a set text. "May I suggest, sir, that we ... put it out of its misery."

I can feel the blood leaving my face.

"Can't we change him back?" asks the girl.

"Absolutely not," the leader replies. "We should not meddle with nature. Two wrongs will not make a right, Cerise."
They leave quietly. I want to scream, to rant and plead and pound the walls. I'm caged like an animal and they want to slaughter me. I want to roar and let rip, but some small instinct tells me not to. I obey it, although I'm not sure why.