Gasping, Ged woke up with a start. He had the dream again, the one where everything was green. His body felt constricted, like he was still submerged, but he soon realised that it was just his blankets tangled around his body. Letting out a sigh, Ged sat up in bed and ran a small hand through his messy mop of chestnut curls. A slither of light peeked through the curtains across the room. Getting up, Ged crossed the room and pulled open the curtains. Light flooded in, highlighting the pieces of paper and colouring pencils strewn across the wooden floorboards.
Muffled sounds filtered through, shadows fluttering here and there. A sharp, piercing noise rang out, not muffled like the others. It hurt.
Cringing, Ged covered his ears as the dream flashed through his memory once more. Teary-eyed, Ged hesitantly hugged himself, shivers racking through his small frame. Looking through the window, Ged’s eyes scanned over the lush green lawn and swaying trees. Noticing a dot of red crawling across the window, Ged slowly leaned forward, careful not to startle the little creature before him.
‘Ladybug,’ Ged whispered as he stared at the insect. He wasn’t sure how he knew, it just came to him. He’d never seen a ladybug or even heard the name before.
Smiling, Ged carefully prodded the ladybug onto his hand. Cupping the other carefully over the creature to prevent its escape, Ged quickly scampered out of his room.
Look, it’s a ladybug! Did you know they eat all the bad bugs that try and eat all the pretty flowers? Let’s go bring it to the garden so it can be the flower’s knight.
Stopping, Ged looked around. He thought he heard a woman’s voice, but there was no one in sight. Shaking his head, Ged turned back and without a second thought continued running through the dark corridors of the house, finally arriving at a big oak door. Ged stopped. Shuffling worriedly, Ged’s car patterned pyjamas rustled with his movements. Having seemingly made up his mind, Ged took a deep breath and pushed open the doors.
The doors opened into a brightly lit room, the walls covered from floor to ceiling with thick volumes of the most intricate of sciences. In the centre of the study stood a large mahogany desk overflowing with books and papers, the slightest breeze seemed like it could make the whole thing topple over. Sitting behind this desk was a round man, his tan complexion contrasting with his baby blue eyes and white walrus moustache.
‘Dad,’ Ged called out as he walked towards the desk, careful not to run.
‘Ah, Ged m’boy! I just heard from your teachers. Great job! You’ve already mastered computer programming and it’s only your second day! And not only that, you were able to throw a rock so far it was like a bullet!’ Harold praised as he playfully messed up Ged’s curls.
‘I’m so proud of you, boy.’
Smiling up at Harold, Ged enjoyed being praised by his father, revelling in the warmth before sticking out his closed palms.
Opening his hand carefully, Ged said excitedly, ‘Look, look! I found a ladybug in my room.’
‘A ladybug, hmm? And what will you do with it m’boy?’ Harold said as he struggled to get out of his chair, but soon gave up the feat to motion Ged closer to him.
‘Well, I was thinking I’d take her to the greenhouse. Aren’t ladybugs good for plants? It can be the flower’s knight!’ Ged replied, his excitement barely contained. Flesh slammed against wood, causing Ged to flinch. Paper flew around him as Ged looked up at Harold who was leering down at him.
‘Flower’s knight?’ Harold asked as he towered over Ged, ‘Where did you hear that term?’
‘I just thought of it,’ squeaked the trembling Ged.
Letting out a long sigh, Harold swept his meaty hand through his thinning hair. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, how his puppet could not follow the processes he was trying to instil into him. Biting his lip in frustration, Harold glared down at Ged.
‘How many times have I told you? No compassion! No niceties! I want to see you pull that bug apart! Rip it apart like you will those bastards that ignored everything I did for them!’ screeched Harold, spit flying from his mouth as his eyes grew round and wild.
Cowering, Ged looked fearfully up at Harold. He had never understood why his father was so focused on those ‘bastards’, as he called them.
‘I . . . I’m sorry Daddy. B . . . but I don’t like doing those things. It hurts them. They’re always crying and begging me to stop when I do as you say. I don’t like it.’
Harold let out a long sigh as he contemplated what Ged meant when he said that he could hear the creatures crying and begging, but that wasn’t important at the moment. He could always study that at a later point. What was more pressing was Ged’s lack of obedience due to his developing emotions. Everything was so much easier when all the boy would do was nod and do as he was told. It was crucial that Ged obeyed his commands without question. After all, how else would he be able to prove how valuable his research was to the Board of Directors that shunned his studies and practices? They would learn though. They would learn that his research was necessary and they would regret making a fool of him.
Smiling greedily, Harold finally managed to sit himself upright as he leaned over his stomach, his large hands resting on top like it was a pillow. Ged watched carefully, his eyes trained on the movements of Harold’s hands. They reminded him of the hands in his dream. The feelings from the dream returned to him now as his small frame quaked.
‘My dear boy, I do this all for your benefit. I know you don’t like being cooped up at home all the time, even though I go out of my way to make you feel comfortable.’ Pausing, Harold looked down at Ged. He could see his words had sparked guilt, wracking through the boy’s small frame. Emotions were good sometimes. Made things easier.
‘So, m’boy, I am hard on you, and make you do these things, so you’ll be safe when I can finally take you with me on my little trips out of the house. You’d like that wouldn’t you?’ Harold continued, his Cheshire grin hovering over the small figure before him.
‘I . . . I’m sorry father. I never realised it was all for my sake. You do so much for me. Thank you.’
With a small bow, Ged hesitantly began to pull at the ladybug’s legs, wincing slightly as its small squeaks of pain reached his ear.
‘Please! Stop! It hurts!’ the small creature cried out. Ged couldn’t quite explain how he could understand the language the bug was speaking, but he knew that he wished he didn’t. His task would be much easier.
Unbeknownst to Ged, Harold’s eyes gleamed as he watched the boy dismember the bug. This was exactly what he wanted. His research would finally be given the funding and recognition it deserved for he now had the perfect proof of his research sitting at his feet. Creating GED – Genetically Engineered Devices – was possible. Utilising a human child and genetically modifying their DNA while removing their memories would make them the perfect bio-weapons. It was a perfect, indisputable method. Who could go against such effective work?
* * *
‘- subdivision of the peripheral nervous system that controls the body’s involuntary motor responses by connecting,’ droned the tutor standing in front of Ged, a book on the human body propped in the tutor’s right hand as he continued to read out loud.
Ged, however, was elsewhere. He could still feel the numbness in his hands from a couple of days ago when he had been ordered by Harold to dismember the ladybug. Looking down at his hands, Ged clenched his fists as he was submerged in the guilt of killing the little creature.
It’s ok dear, it isn’t your fault. You were just protecting Mummy.
‘Ged, are you listening?’ called out the tutor, snapping the book closed.
Startled by the sudden sound, Ged looked up at his tutor.
‘Um, attractive stimulus is paired with a noxious stimulus in order to elicit a negative reaction to the target stimulus, right?’ Ged answered timidly, knowing full well he wasn’t actually listening.
‘It seems like Ged has already mastered all you have to teach him, professor,’ laughed Harold as he walked into the room wearing a pristine white suit with matching white tie.
Unable to look at Harold, Ged continued to stare at his hands. Noticing this, Harold scowled. He didn’t like that Ged was avoiding him. It made it all the more difficult to control the boy. Waving his hand to dismiss the tutor, Harold dragged a chair over to Ged and sat down with a groan.
‘Look at me,’ Harold commanded, his cold, blue eyes trained on Ged’s every movement.
Shivering slightly, Ged looked up while his hands clutched at his clothes in fear, Harold’s cold eyes piercing into his own. Seeing these actions, Harold couldn’t help but smirk. It was good the boy was afraid, fear made everything obedient, but he needed the boy to be loyal. So Harold plastered a smile on his face.
‘Good job, m’boy! It’s only been a few days and you’re already mastering what others took decades to accomplish! I’m so proud of you Ged!’ Harold exclaimed as he ruffled Ged’s brown locks.
Surprised at Harold’s actions, Ged stared blankly up at him, unsure what to do. Ged remembered the cold way Harold looked at him and the anger the last time they met, but now it seemed like everything was back to normal. Harold had once again gone back to being the caring father Ged remembered. Still cautious, Ged began to relax around Harold.
Seeing Ged lower his guard, Harold had to hold back his laughter as he continued to pat Ged’s hair. It seemed to Harold that everything was aligned perfectly. The Board of Directors meeting was a few days away and Ged was ready to be presented to them. Everything was going according to plan.
‘Hey Dad, can I ask you a question?’ Ged said as he looked up past the hand on top of his head.
Curious to know what Ged wanted to ask him, Harold removed his hand and motioned for the boy to continue.
‘Where’s my Mum?’ Ged asked, unaware of the growing darkness clouding over Harold’s features, ‘Sometimes I remember – well, more like hear – a woman’s voice, and maybe that’s my Mum?’
Looking up expectantly, Ged’s eyes began to quiver in fear. Never had he seen Harold like he was now – a sinister smile with cold, unemotional eyes searing into him. It was all over in a flash as Harold leaned back into his chair, all hints of the intimidating aura gone, causing Ged to question whether what he saw was real or not. Standing up, Harold extended his hand to Ged as he smiled happily down at him.
‘Would you like to go see her?’ he asked as he waited for the boy.
Eyes growing wide in surprise and excitement, Ged eagerly took hold of Harold’s hand as he nodded several times, all thoughts of fear forgotten at the possible opportunity of meeting the voice he had been hearing.
‘She’s by my lab, but before I can take you I need you to promise me that you’ll do exactly as I say and be a good boy, ok?’ Harold said as he began to make his way out of the room.
Eagerly following, Ged looked around. He had never ventured near Harold’s labs. Whenever he did stray too close someone would always find him and turn him the other way, not allowing Ged to ever pass beyond the stairs leading to the basement. But here he was now, standing at the precipice. Taking a deep, excited breath, Ged followed Harold down the wooden stairs.
Seeing how excited Ged was, Harold could barely contain himself. Soon everything would come to an end, and he would be the one to create a new beginning. Standing before a metal door, Harold looked down at Ged.
‘Now, Ged m’boy, remember your promise?’ Harold asked, waiting for Ged’s nod before continuing, ‘I want you to close your eyes tight, ok? Don’t look until I tell you. After all, I want the first thing you see to be your mother.’
Closing his eyes as directed, Ged’s other senses heightened. He could hear the rustling of cloth and feel the soft coolness of silk as Harold tied a bandana around Ged’s eyes. Feeling Harold’s large, sweaty palm encircle his smaller one, Ged obediently followed Harold as he pushed open the metal doors.
The smell of disinfectant stung Ged’s nose as he crinkled it in displeasure. Tightening his grip on Harold’s hand, Ged began to breathe faster. The air around him felt oppressive as his heart squeezed inside his chest. Something felt wrong, but he didn’t know what. His only source of comfort was the warmth of his palm against another, but this too was quickly taken away. Panicked, Ged began to quickly look around despite being unable to see.
‘Now Ged, there’s a step in front of you, ok boy? Be careful now,’ Harold said, placing his hands upon the panicking boy’s shoulders, guiding him.
Feeling relieved at the touch, Ged complied to the command and carefully lifted his leg. Feeling the hands move away from his shoulders once he had gone over the step, Ged turned around, insecurity welling inside of him.
‘Dad?’ he asked as the sound of creaking echoed around him.
Pulling off the blindfold, Ged winced at the blinding light that pierced his eyes. Shielding them with his arm, Ged carefully looked up to find himself in what looked like a giant glass tube. Not understanding what was going on, Ged looked around until his eyes lay upon Harold, his icy eyes piercing into Ged. Shivering from the look, Ged called out.
‘Dad, what’s going on? Weren’t you going to take me to Mum?’
‘Ah, but this is your Mum, Ged. I created you after all,’ Harold said as he walked towards a small computer pad to the side of the tube, ‘I’m the Father that invented the whole idea of using genetically modified people, and this,’ Harold motioned to the contraption Ged was held in, ‘is the mother that held you as I modified your DNA.’
Smiling up at Ged, Harold pressed a button on the computer pad, causing a green liquid to begin filling up the tube. Panicked at how fast the tube was filling up, Ged pounded on the glass as hard as he could, begging to be released before it once again caused him to be submerged, constricted.
Tara Aguiar is a lover of fantasy and science-fiction. As she has been influenced by such writers as Tamora Pierce and Ursula LeGuin, Tara is currently using these broad fictional scopes to write and develop a collection of short stories within the fantasy genre.
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