Palo Alto Weekly 35th Annual Short Story Contest
Young Adult Honorable Mention

The Beautiful Monster Within

by Sky Upender

Author Bio

Sky Upender is not a premier writer, he never has been. However, he has always loved to read. Whether shedding tears to american classics like Old Yeller or being in awe of the scientific masterpieces of Isaac Asimov, Sky Upender has always treasured reading. Sky is a rising sophomore at Mountain View high, who learned of this contest from his English teacher and chose to give it a shot. If Sky is not reading, you can find him writing other short stories and poems, exploring the beauty of the great Californian shores and forests, or working out with his novice mens rowing team. Sky hopes to do authors like Asimov justice with his short story "The Beautiful Monsters Within."

Inspiration

I have always been intrigued by science. I think it is phenomenal how much we have understood about the world. We know "The Why" to so many concepts, mechanisms and systems. While in the past, we might have pointed to a higher being or a mystical source for our explanations, with our current grasp of science, and more specifically biology, we have unraveled many of humanity’s ailments. Despite everything we know, there is still even more that we will never know. Although we may not know solutions for every unknown, the first step to solving a problem is to gain a deep appreciation and understanding of the known. Truly, the enjoyment of life lies in the constant discovering and deciphering of the intricate problems that remain. For my short story "The Beautiful Monster Within" I delved into a gray area. I used many concepts that we completely understand in modern biology while sprinkling in just enough of the unknown to keep everything plausible. Enjoy my interpretation of our future and the dangers of knowing too much.

The proposition seemed enticing to such a wealthy businessman like Gerold Boone: loan a few million dollars in a chance to reach a promised immortality. Death had always seemed like an immobile obstacle to Boone, and Boone destroyed all obstacles in his way. He couldn't afford not to; born to a mistress and a drunkard old man, Boone had to work extraordinarily hard to reach the mountains of wealth that he had now grown accustomed to. Having first-hand witnessed the true bitterness of love, Boone had sworn off any potential love interests, and thus far had no heir to inherit his vast fortunes.

It had been a month since Boone met Dr. Patricia Stemhower. Nicknamed the scientist of the millenia by Nucleotide Weekly, Stemhower’s career was on the up and up. During their first meeting, Stemhower was unveiling her latest project at the 2221 Galaxy's Fair: a miracle of nature that allowed a recent amputee to regrow their lost limb in seconds. Amazed by this seeming feat of magic, Boone had followed Stemhower, as she quickly left the stage, in search of an explanation. But the answer Boone received left more questions unanswered then he initially had envisioned. Dr. Stemhower had explained that she had taken advantage of the universal cell cycle, removing the genetic barriers and inserting enzymes to speed up a cell’s duplication substantially. What once could have taken weeks could now occur in the blink of an eye, giving the body the possibility to fully recover fully to its former glory.

Protestors lined the streets leading up towards the laboratory. Despite their fierce battle cry, "Morality for mortals!", these college students were no match for Boone’s armed security force and Boone eventually reached his destination. Those liberals were rioting after a photo of one of Stemhower’s first test subjects were leaked to the press. Boone could see the three dimensional holograms, carried by many of the protestors, depicting a horribly mutated man… a monster. Dr. Stemhower had assured Boone with full confidence that this was a one in a million chance and that this problem had been completely fixed. Stemhower’s top assistant, James… no Jack. Jack Springich had explained that as a drawback for removing the genetic barriers, there would be nothing inspecting the cell for errors and mutations. One mutation early on could lead to a regrown limb or organ resembling nothing ever seen before, even in the farthest known regions of space.

"I’m so glad that you could make it!" exclaimed an over ecstatic Springich. "I know the Doctor is very excited to unveil her final product to you." continued the underpaid assistant.

As a desperate attempt to shut up the conversationalist, Boone asked "Where exactly is the doctor? She said over the phone that she was going to meet with me personally."

Jack replied "Oh don’t worry Mr. Boone, she’s just getting things ready. You will get to see her soon."

While walking down a slick, metallic hallway hanging over the storehouse, Boone suddenly jumped back in utter surprise, "I thought there was only one of those mutated freaks, by the looks of it, there are thousands, right beneath us."

Jack stopped and made a quick pivot, turning to look through the tinted window at the beasts below. "Aren’t they just magnificent? That, just there, is the most recent batch."

"Recent batch?" screamed the entrepreneur. "Stemhower assured me that you idiots fixed these problems ages ago. I have spent billions on your stupid project, and this is how you repay me?"

"Calm down Mr. Boone, we have fixed that problem. What we are showing you today will do none of those dreadful things. We have perfected it in every aspect. Relax, Mr. Boone." Boone, who was slightly reassured, pulled out a handkerchief and had started dabbing his burning forehead.

"Ah… good, you’re here. I was beginning to suspect that my incompetent assistant had lost you." Stemhower uttered with an eerie, fake smile "Please sit, sit. We are all friends here." Boone, who was about to start arguing again, sat down on the leather seat and began staring at the hologram display.

"Where is it? I have dealt with your nonsense for long enough. After the last million I gave you, you promised that you would have it ready by today.

"Ahh. But I do have it ready. Here it is." declared Stemhower as she pulled out a small, translucent disk that almost looked like a contact. Boone’s little brother had contacts when they were young, but contacts had phased out of popularity nearly a hundred years back after the colossal improvements in laser-eye surgery.

"Is this a joke? I will sue you for everything you got, you pig!"

Stemhower coldy remarked "No, I am afraid that it’s not." Instantaneously, metal shackles sprang from the chair binding Boone’s legs and arms. In confusion, Boone was only able to release a single scream before a thin metal sheet covered his mouth as well.

"Don’t worry! Today, you will get what you have always desired, immortality! Today, you will get to join your brethren and evolve to a higher form of being!" Stemhower then paused, staring into the eyes of a petrified, desperate man. "You still don’t understand, do you? How pathetic. Scum, like you, is why I knew I had to complete this project. See there was never anything wrong with my path to immortality, for the beasts you saw had always been my desire. The only problem was that I had no way to control my beauties. That all changed when I met you, however. With your funding, I was able to create this." Stemhower gestured at the contact. "With this, I can control you, I will control the universe's future. Now, to fulfill my promise" said the mad doctor as she pulled out a needle filled with a glowing, fluorescent blue liquid. After putting on the contact, which became immediately red in her eye, Stemhower thrust the needle through Boone’s beating heart. "Enjoy Immortality!"

Within a month, 94% of humanity had fallen under Stemhower’s control. After another month, every planet within the Guan region of the galaxy had been infected. Just a week ago, there were 134 humanoids left in all known regions. Now, there are just ten of us left. By tomorrow there will be none.

Jack Springich, over and out.