Open Blog Weekend: The Man Who Cures by Brian Guthrie
A young man’s face appears on the screen. Soft gray eyes surrounded by sharp features stare out. A sweeping nose juts down between his eyes and long black hair frames his face.
“Is this thing on?” he says. “This is log number 425, recorded on 15 April. My name is Morris Tackett and I’m the man who will cure the plague.
“That always sounds good, doesn’t it? You’re probably tired of hearing it, but mantras don’t work if you avoid saying them all the time.” The sound of paper shuffling fills the recording. “So, as usual, here’s a progress report. Tests are moving along. We’ve managed to get the cells to recode after infected, but then the disease moves on to other cells we haven’t touched yet.” He shakes a piece of paper at the screen. “This set today looks promising. The lab tests proved successful last week. We’ll be moving to this series of treatment today.”
Morris sets the paper aside and pauses, his eyes looking at something off-screen. His head shakes suddenly and he refocuses on the camera.
“These tests need to make some progress. We’re running out of time.” He holds up a finger and points at himself. “No, I’m running out of time. This disease is spreading and our funders are growing impatient for some proof of concept, something to hang their hats on.”
A chiming chirp fills the air and the man frowns, picking up a small, silver colored device. “Pardon me,” he says to the screen, holding the device to his ear. “Hello? Yes, I’m just starting.” His lips compress, a glare crossing his eyes. “What? You know I can’t. I’m needed here. These tests are important!”
He goes silent, listening to the other speaker. His jaw clenches and the sound of teeth grinding ever so faintly comes through the monitor.
“I told you already,” he finally says, shaking his head as he speaks. “I can’t leave yet. These experiments are delicate. You know I’m needed here.” He pauses, then cries out as his hand runs through his hair. “No, I can’t leave them to Cole,” he says, his voice strained. “The man is barely competent. He’s got more dream in him than actual science and I can’t leave such delicate work in his hands.”
Another pause and his eyes close. “I told you already why.” His voice drops to a whisper. “I’ll be home as soon as I can, Cel. Goodbye.”
He taps the screen on the device and tosses it aside. The sound of it clattering on the desk fills the recording. Morris stares down at the desk for several moments. Finally, he looks up at the monitor and shrugs.
“I’m sorry but I have to go,” he says, a pained look crossing his face. “Something’s wrong, I know it. I know what I said, but she wouldn’t call if it wasn’t. We’re not exactly on good terms right now, but she still wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important.”
He stands up and reaches for the monitor. “I’ll post another update tomorrow.”
The recording ends.
The screen turns on as Morris’s face appears again. He looks gaunt, eyes sunken, hair hanging limp around his face. His skin seems stretched tight around the bones of his face and his eyes, upon closer inspection, are very red. He sniffs once, mouth moving but no words coming out.
“Log number four hundred and…and.” He pauses, closing his eyes and taking in a deep breath. “Twenty-six? No, 427. It should be 426 but the fraggin’ computer won’t let me use that one. ” He opens his bloodshot eyes to stare at the monitor. “Today’s date, October 30th.” He pauses again, eyes wandering around. “I’m supposed to give you a report…a progress report, yes?”
He stops talking again, eyes closing and a single tear creeps down his cheek. He doesn’t speak for several moments. Finally, he opens his eyes, sniffs once, takes a deep breath and begins to speak.
“Our progress has been…rampant of late. The experiments.” He shrugs. “Let’s just say the experiments are over. Not that we succeeded, mind you. No, we did NOT succeed”
His eyes wander off to his right. He breathes through his nose, short soft whistles filling the recording. He blinks and looks back at the monitor.
“Our work is over. They pulled our funding.” He shakes his head. “No, they pulled everything. Our accesses, our research. It’s all gone. After I finish this log, I’m leaving this lab forever.” He closes his eyes. “I’ve been banished.”
He stops talking, eyes still closed. His entire frame visibly shrinks down, shoulders bowing, head leaning forward and to one side slightly. His mouth opens, moving but not speaking. A silent cry wracks his body.
“I . . . I lost her,” he whispers. Tears begin to stream down his face. “She’s gone. Taken.” He looks up into the monitor, eyes wide, his words accelerating. “I tried so hard, spent my entire life fighting against this disease. And…and-” He leans back, head looking up to the ceiling, hands going up to grab his head. “It wasn’t enough. I couldn’t stop it.”
He looks back down, hands dropping, one pointing at the monitor. “I told her. You heard me tell her it was important. These experiments -” he grabs a piece of paper and holds it up to the monitor. “This could have been the answer. It might have been right here.” He crumbles the paper and flings to the side. His head remains looking at the ruined sheet wherever it fell. “That could have been the answer.”
His head bows again and he sighs. “Then again, who knows anymore? I sure don’t.” He glances back up at the monitor, his eyes empty and bloodshot. “I couldn’t save her. I worked so hard, put in so many hours. Wasted so much time.” He shrugs, shaking his head. “I couldn’t stop it from taking her.”
A gaunt look fills his face, eyebrows furrowing slightly. “And it’s so much worse than anyone knows.” He buries his face in his hands. “So much worse,” he whispers. “They think it was just her. They think they know it all.”
His hands lower and a cold, dead face stares back out of the monitor. “They know nothing.”
He looks around the room and leans near the monitor. “You see, they think it was just her. Just my precious Cel. They think I only sacrificed her to the research to save her.” The cold, hard look wavers, a twinge of some emotion struggling to wrest control of his face away. It loses. “They think they know what happened.” He shakes his head slowly. “But they don’t.” He leans even closer to the monitor. “They have no clue. Only I do.” He points a finger at the monitor. “And now you will too.”
He leans back, pursing his lips, eyes squinting slightly. “I’ll make sure this is buried in the database. Before you find this, so much will have happened. I’m certain whenever this is finally found it will be too late. They won’t be able to stop it now.”
He takes in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “I don’t really want to do this, mind you. But what choice do I have? She’s lost to me. So much is lost to me.” He stumbles to a halt, eyes closing. More tears begin to fall. “It wasn’t just her. I was trying to save more than her. I was trying to save all of them.” He looks up to the ceiling. “Why couldn’t I figure it out?”
He rests there a moment, head tilted back, before shaking himself and looking back at the monitor. “My wife is dead. And it’s my fault.”
His head slumps down, shoulders bowing with it. “There, I said it. I’ve been avoiding that for days now. I, Morris Tackett, killed my wife.”
His head looks up and the cold, steely face is back. “I killed her because I didn’t find the answer. I killed her because it was the only way to stop the suffering. I don’t care what they say in their history books or their official records. It’s all a lie. I killed her, you hear me?” His voice climbs, his eyes widen and he leans closer to the monitor. “It’s my fault! I did it. Not them, not Cole, no one else. Me!”
He jabs a finger at the monitor. “Don’t you let them trick you, either. They’ll cover this up. They can’t let this get out. They’ve worked too hard on their image to let this ruin it. That’s what matters most. Their image. We can’t have the public figuring out what we are and that what we have to offer is as dangerous as everything else.” He shakes his head, laughing slightly as he looks away. “The arrogance. It galls me. To think we’re better somehow.” He looks back into the monitor. “We’re just as mortal as the rest of you.”
He closes his eyes momentarily before saying, “ask my wife.”
He leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “My wife. I loved her so much.” He shakes his head. “We weren’t close recently. I know that much. We were fighting a lot.” He looks around the room. “My work. That’s what we fought over. I was here too much. That’s what she would say.” He nods once. “She was right. All that time here and it did me no good in the end. Did her no good.”
He closes his eyes, head slumping down toward his chest. “Did us no good.” He moves forward, resting his head on his hands and looking down as he leans on the desk. “We tried for so long. She just wanted to be a mother. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We went to all the doctors and they couldn’t find a problem with either of us.” He drops his right hand, looking up at the monitor. “There wasn’t a reason for it not to happen. Or so we thought.”
He looks off to his right and waves that hand around the room. “Turns out this was the answer. Not me being here. But why I was here.” His eyes lock on something off-screen. “It was the disease. Infertility was a possible early indicator for some.”
He closes his eyes and a large sigh moves through him like a wave. “Well, we thought it was in this case.” A small smile crept on to his lips. “I still remember that call. I was recording one of these, I think. About seven months ago. She was so excited and made me come home.” He drops his hand and the smile spreads on his lips. It does not touch his eyes. “We’d done it. She was pregnant.” The smile fades. “We were pregnant.” His eyes close. “Oh, what have I done?”
His head lowers as another sob silently wracks his body. He weeps quietly for several moments before wiping his face and looking back at the monitor.
“She was so happy,” he whispers. “Every day, I came home to something new added to our home. A bed, a blanket, a doll.” He shrugs. “She just wanted to be a mother. She couldn’t wait. We didn’t tell anyone. It was so early, and the doctor warned us to be patient.” He laughs slightly. “Be patient. How true those words are.”
He looks back up at the monitor. “Yes, she was pregnant when the disease took hold of her. It was already there, most likely. All this time and we’re still not sure how it starts. Well, that’s not true. We know it begins with cells dying. We’re just not sure how to stop the cells from dying. We tried recoding the cells. Tried making them new again.” He sniffs once, wiping at his nose with his sleeved arm. “That’s what I was working on.” He waves a hand off to his left. “Those experiments. Trying to recode the cells faster than the disease. We might have stopped this.” He closes his eyes. “The disease, it took the baby from us.” He shakes his head, shrugging slightly. “I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t save the baby.”
He pauses, hand tapping on his head as he stares out of the monitor. “And I couldn’t save her either. I didn’t have a choice, you see.” He leans close. “It was the only way. I had to do something. I couldn’t just let her die!”
He points wildly off to one side. “My work. My research. It’s the answer. Complete remapping of the cells leading to regeneration. Think of the possibilities. I just needed more time, more practice.” He lowers his arm. “But I didn’t have that. She was dying. I had no choice. She fought me; she didn’t want it.” He shrugs, shaking his head as he holds his hands up to look at them. “I couldn’t let her die in my arms. Maybe if I’d had more time. She might still be here. My baby might still be.”
He shrugs and shakes his head. “But they aren’t. It’s over. And my wife is all that’s left. Well, what’s left of her.” He looks over at the monitor. “I did it to save her. I didn’t know I would lose her doing that. I thought I had it figured out. I believed I knew. I still do. So I tried the next phase on her. I recoded every cell at once.” He holds out a hand. “What would you have done? The research could make her body new again.”
He glances over his shoulder. “Someone’s coming. I have to end this.” He leans close. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. Don’t let them trick you. Remember this face. Remember my name when it all happens.
“I am Morris Tackett. I’m the man who they will claim murdered his wife. And they’re right. I experimented on her and I killed her.”
His voice drops to near a whisper, his face as cold as smooth metal.
“I also murdered my child by not figuring this out. And I won’t do that again. So, remember my name. Morris Tackett, the man who murdered his wife and child.”
Cold, dead eyes stare out of the monitor.
“The man who will cure death.”
The recording ends.