“We must, however, acknowledge … that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system- with all these exalted powers- Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.”
- Charles Darwin, “The Descent Of Man”
Somewhere between being completely awake and being unconscious, there is a temporary loss of reason. Things that would seem obvious when you’re fully aware come across as confusing. Take, for instance, the fact that there is a strange kind of gray mist floating in front of my face. It’s taken a few seconds, but I’ve gathered from the cold that it’s my own breath. But is there something more? Yes. Smoke.
And as the old saying goes: where there is smoke, there is fire.
A few more inebriated seconds later, and I’m able to gather enough composure to see the source: my small aircraft, my precious Icarus, has modeled itself after the legend of which it was named, and crashed violently to it’s doom. And now it lay before me, a smoldering pile of burning metal. The scraps of her once-beautiful body lay scattered about, burning in the snow banks of… where… a small clearing.
Right! A small clearing in the woods somewhere off the coast of Canada. It’s starting to make sense again, how I ended up here. My darling Icarus, turbulence, emergency landings. Me, finding the clearing. My passenger, screaming.
And what of my passenger? Dr. Elliot Amir, leading researcher in theoretical evolution at the University of some-such-place. I didn’t ask for many details. I didn’t even bother asking what was in that crate with the air holes that kept making that ominous sound. Considering my current situation, I’m beginning to wish I was more inclined to ask questions first.
After some quick glances, I’m able to find Dr. Amir amongst the rubble. Curled in a U-shape near what I can only assume to be his seat on the Icarus, both half-cradled in the parachute that may or may not have kept him from becoming a splatter-stain on the vast Canadian wilderness. Panic sets in as I realize he’s not moving.
“Dr. Amir, do you hear me? Wake up, man. I’ve got a lot of shit going on right now, and I really don’t need a corpse weighing down my mind on top of it all. Come on, come on…”
A pulse. That’s at least something. Now if I can get him up and moving around, we’ll be doing a bit better. Luckily, bear-like hands and arms to match come in handy at a time like this. This small man’s frame is no match for a solid shaking. Now wake up!
“Wha… a… who… where are we? What happened?”
Questions already. Leave it to a scientist to be so inquisitive when he should be thanking me for saving his brown-skinned hide. Score one for advanced crash landing skills.
“We crashed. Whatever the fuck you were cartin’ around in the back began making quite a ruckus. Rattled around somethin’ fierce, smashed out the side window. From there, something must have flown out and bloody well messed up my engine. We went down in the woods.”
“I… The subject! Where is the subject?!”
“The what? The thing in the crate? I don’t know. I ain’t quite as taken by the smarts as you, doc, but if I had to make an educated guess, I’d be willing to wager it’s a pile of ashes by now…”
“It can’t… the crate. Find the crate!”
“Alright, alright, don’t hurt yourself… more… I’ll find it…”
A crate that large is easy enough to spot when you aren’t carrying much else. And in only a few moments, me and the now up-and-running doctor are standing over the remnants of the wooden box. The contents nowhere in site.
“We need to find the subject immediately.”
“Whoa, now. We need to get us some help immediately. I don’t know what you were luggin’ around in this here box, doc, but there is no way it’s more important than getting’ us to a hospital. If you hadn’t noticed, we were just in a fuckin’ plane crash.”
Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves, right out in the open. Now, I’m used to seeing people express panic, worry, but nothing like this. Usually, I’d punch someone out for grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me like this, but something about that look… the one in his eyes. A look of sheer terror. For a second, the inside of my body matched the outside: cold. Shuddering off his bony fingers, my mind fades back in to catch the tail end of his frantic words.
“…dire consequences… imminent danger… disastrous results…”
“Alright, alright, calm down, doc. What exactly was in there, anyway? That thing sure didn’t like flight, and it sure as hell had no issue movin’ around this crate. What was it? Bear? Fuckin’ wolverine?”
“No, it was… it was something different. Listen, you can’t tell anybody this…”
“Yeah, sure, if it’ll expedit’ the process of getting our sorry asses to a hospital and me some delicious pain medications, I’ll play hush-hush with whatever it is you need to say. Get on with it.”
“We… created something.”
“Created? The hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Yes, the nonsensical crap you said you study. What of it?”
“Well, we’ve been spending the last two and a half year or so splicing DNA of various animals. Basically, we’ve been taking bits of pieces of one thing and combining it with other bits and pieces to create all new animals. Improvements on the physical capabilities. Enhancing intelligence. Essentially…”
“Essentially, you’re all playin’ God. So, what, you’re telling me we were flying around with some kind of pissed of hybrid riding our ass?”
“Not a hybrid, exactly. More like something entirely new.”
“And that… that Beast… is now probably running amok out here in the woods?”
“Yes! It is of utmost importance that we contain it as soon as possible. There is no telling the effects it could have on the ecosystem! We’ve introduced an entirely new species to an unfamiliar environment…”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure the back of a fuckin’ plane was unfamiliar to it, too. Fine, you go lookin’ for your little science project, I’m going to go see if I can’t radio in some help.”
“Do what you must, I can’t leave here until we find it.”
“Well, doc, judgin’ by the gash in your head, you’re not going to have much choice soon enough. It’ll either be leavin’ here without Fluffy taggin’ along, or leavin’ here in a body bag. Hurry it up.”
At once, Dr. Amir began looking around. Uttering words in his native tongue, with the occasional English tidbit falling in amongst the verbal blur. The only words I was able to pick up before he went running off were “foot prints”.
Indeed there were prints. Unlike anything I’d ever seen. Large as a bears, but with claws. Perhaps like a dog? No… longer fingers. Almost human-like. Another internal chill froze me in place. Something didn’t feel right about this. All the more need to get that radio working.
Luckily, it wasn’t all smashed up when I found it in what used to be the cockpit. The static feed over the radio was jarring over the surprising silence of the wilderness surrounding me. It was at that moment I noticed that I was, indeed, surrounded.
“Hey, can anyone here me? My name is Clinton, Cash Clinton, pilot… eh… look, we went down all hard-like in the woods somewhere, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t itchin’ for someone to pick this transmission on up and come quick to help me out. We’re hurt. My coordinates are…”
A scream echoing through the trees quickly turned my attention away from my coordinates. Dr. Amir…
“Hey! What the hell is going on?! Dr. Amir! …shit, fine. Hold on, you dolt, I’m comin’”
Another scream guided me into the tree line. Zigzagging between various levels of plant-life, I pushed forward towards the sound of the screams, which were now increasing in volume and frequency. Dr. Amir wasn’t doing good. Not at all…