Fiction

School Project

By Ramprasath Rengasamy

     ‘That the sperm of a man be putrefied by itself in a sealed cucurbit for forty days with the highest degree of putrefaction in a horse’s womb, or at least so long that it comes to life and moves, and stirs, which is easily observed. After this time, it will look somewhat like a man, but transparent, without a body. If, after this, it be fed wisely with the Arcanum of human blood, and be nourished for up to forty weeks, and be kept in the even heat of the horse’s womb, a living human child grows therefrom, with all its members like another child, which is born of a woman, but much smaller’

     These were words of a German alchemist for creating a miniature of a human being semi-artificially. But, I was not born this way.

     I still haven’t figured out how I was born exactly. All I knew was, a lab full of biologists, scientists, and researchers nurtured me.

     Periodically I was taken to a room where there was a six-foot mirror. My height and weight were measured. A photographer used to take photos of mine. I was shocked the first time I saw myself in the mirror. I was just 15 centimeters when I was 15 years old.

     The lab assistants monitored my health regularly. It was not like I was underfed. There were calculations, observations, and metrics behind my diet. Every day there awaited a special meal for me. It was prepared specifically for me. So I was under the impression that they took care of me well. I considered them as my friends and well-wishers even though we never shared even a single word. I often wondered how I deserved such love and affection. If not them, I thought, I must have been dead. I thought I lived by the love and affection of each one of them on me.

     Yet, I was just 15 centimeters. For a long time, I didn’t have any clue what was going on in that laboratory dungeon. I thought there was some problem within me, and they were trying hard to fix me up.

     Initially, I thought I was 15 centimeters because I was 15 years old. But, one of the biologists was 180 centimeters tall but was only 34 years old. I came to know that when they celebrated his 34th birthday at a corner of the laboratory. I became very confused. I could not ask anyone not only because I was too small but also because I was dumb.

     Later, I realized, there was something wrong with the diet they fed me. But I didn’t have a choice. If I were to be alive, I had to take whatever they gave me. It was not like I didn’t have the right to shout or protest. Even if I wanted to shout, I could not.

     I lacked several things. My head was bald due to stunted hair growth. My muscle mass was less and hence was weak. My skin was always dry and thin. My hands and feet became cold often. I suffered from poor appetite. I suffered sleepiness for the most part of the day. I became infected quite easily. So I was always under some medications.

     Initially, I only felt numbness on some parts of my body for only a few hours. I became panicked when the hours grew to days. Whenever the numbness persisted, one of the laboratory assistants gave me a drug. It restored the body part’s functions. But the restoration was only a temporary fix. When they fixed one part, I would develop a problem somewhere else. Then their focus got shifted to the new one, and this continued like a chain. Some of the others too took medicines at times. But not as frequently as I did.

     Appearance-wise, I had everything that an average human being had. The only difference was, I was too small. This gave me a hint of what they were doing in the laboratory. They were researching on creating a human miniature, and I was their proud creation. While I was becoming paralytic very slowly, they debated over who deserved the creational credit over me.

     One day, I was taken to the observation room as part of the routine process. There, when the photo session was going on, one of my fingers in my right hand fell on the floor. The surprising part was, I didn’t feel pain at all. It was as if a fingernail fell off by itself. I wondered how a finger could fall off all of a sudden.

     The whole laboratory panicked immediately. An Ortho surgeon arrived immediately to fix my amputated finger. He, after careful examination, complained that my bones were very weak for surgery.

A Neuro surgeon’s observation threatened everyone, including me. He complained that any more sedation could cause a permanent collapse of my brain.

     Somehow I learned their idea. An average adult, when in rest, inhaled and exhaled about 7 or 8 liters of air per minute. That totaled about 11,000 liters of air per day. Inhaled air is about 20-percent oxygen. All this was attributed to the size of the human being. The idea was, lesser the size, lesser the consumption of oxygen and other resources. So researchers in the lab were trying to create miniature version of humans.

     But, with an amputated finger, I realized, I quickly became an obstacle in their research. They continued to feed me as usual, but there were no calculations or metrics. In fact, I even got milk and bread on a couple of meals. I never used to get them before.

     From many things, I inferred that their science had not attained the needed maturity to fix my finger instantly. They didn’t want to quit their project. They couldn’t give up on their project. So, they gave up on me. The Laboratory could not have held me back anymore. I was of no purpose to them anymore. They only had limited space for test subjects.

     Then I was packaged inside a freezer box and was sold to Khalid. For the love and affection that I believed they all collectively had on me, I wondered why none of them didn’t come to send me off. Perhaps they might have felt bad to face me, or Khalid’s men might not have given a chance to them. These were my thoughts. I didn’t want to believe I didn’t matter to them at all.

     To tell about Khalid, he ran a stationery store that sold student projects. Khalid didn’t buy everything that the laboratory sold. He had a specific taste. His taste bent based on his business. He did all the work that a school or a college student was supposed to do for their project work. He maintained a warehouse for this purpose and employed a few technicians to do the jobs he assigned them. Those jobs mostly involved checking the purchased goods for their intended purpose, cataloging finished products, troubleshooting issues in the spare parts, and tuning them to perfection.

     Khalid had all of his projects listed on his website online. Anyone looking to buy a project could look up using keywords in his site. If there was a matching project, an order could be placed online. His website inventory showed as many as six hundred such projects.

     At Khalid’s warehouse, two technicians thoroughly examined me. They didn’t miss to notice the amputation in my right hand. I wondered what they could do about it when a team of scientists has already given up. To my surprise and shock, they amputated the same finger on my left hand. The idea was to have an even number of fingers on both hands so that I appeared flawless. For them, it was easier than trying to fix me up.

     Then the technicians gave me a seed and asked me to swallow it. I did as they told. I lost consciousness soon after. When I woke up, I was pinned to cardboard and held in the showcase. At first, I thought the technicians had me tied to a tree. On close examination of my own body parts, I realized I was wrong. Part of my body had developed trunk and branches and spurted out leaves. By then, I was a half-human and half plant. Half of my body felt like wood, and I was up for sale. I wondered what he might have named me.

     Wireless receiver and transmitter for power, energy producer and an interface to fit it to replace human stomach, External memory to the human brain were some of the other products in my vicinity in the store. I was glad I became a part of some of the Hitech projects in the store. Some of those projects seemed to have been in the store for quite a long time. I was afraid if I might end up in the store for too long.

     Luckily I didn’t have to spend much time at the store. A boy came to the store with his father.

     “Hi, I am Peter. This is my son.” Peter said.

“I got you, Peter. We have your order with us for a creative bonsai. Correct?” Khalid said.

“Yes.”

“It should be alive. Correct?”

“Yes. Alive.”

“I have a piece fitting for you.”

     Khalid then took me from the showcase and placed me on the glass table between them.

     “Wow! Bonsai of a hybrid! That’s very creative.” Peter asked in surprise.

     The technician who cut my finger came and inserted a machine that had bevel and shaft peeking at its front. The machine had a small display. He tilted it so that the screen was in sight to Peter and Eric.

     “As you can see, the hybrid piece shows both plant and animal metabolism,” Khalid said.

     Peter nodded his head in agreement. Then the technician pulled the machine off from me.

     Eric was staring at me with interest and slight fear. I was sure I certainly amused him. Who wouldn’t be amused at such a sight? After all, I was a brand new concept in town for all school goers. The world could have seen a Bonsai, but a hybrid bonsai? I now knew why Khalid bought me from the laboratory.

“How much?” Peter asked.

Eric hadn’t taken his eyes off of me.

“A thousand bucks.” Khalid said.

“Pricy”

“There are not many stores around selling what I have.”

That statement convinced Peter almost instantly.

“Can I pay through a credit card?”

“Works like a charm”

That was all. I was sold just like that.

     Peter signed the papers for taking control over me from Khalid.

     Peter and Eric took me to their home in their car. All the while, Eric was going over me in great detail. I felt embarrassed a bit initially, but then I got used to it. After all, he was a kid.

     I found that it was easier to win over kids. I hoped I could get Eric to love me. All I wanted was to be loved.

     At the same time, I could not express what was going on inside of me. It was like parts of me, one after the other went dysfunctional as time passed.

     I lost muscular and nervous control of my right hand. The color of the skin turned tinted grey. But I knew, Eric and Peter might have taken it for hybrid effect.

     I waved my left hand to draw Eric’s attention. My intention was to ask him to leave me. But he waved back at me and smiled as though it was a friendly gesture.

     After some time, I began to feel numb around my foot. But the plant part of me held me upright. I knew it must have given them the impression that I was alive and healthy. I wondered if I was dying slowly.

     I became a little uncertain about hinting him by waving my hand. I wondered what if Eric cut off my only functional hand to make me look even on both sides. With what happened to me in the past, there was no other way I could have taken it. Without moving my limbs, I could not keep the blood flow in my veins. I knew it was only going to worsen my situation.

     Eric kept me locked inside the refrigerator before going to bed. The refrigerator only suffocated me. The next day, he had a science exhibition at his school. It was for that science exhibition he bought me. I began to feel colder inside. Chillness amplified the numbness I was experiencing. I became numb to feel anything. I could not breathe properly. I wondered how Eric and Peter thought I could survive inside the refrigerator.

     I prayed to God to not give birth as bad as mine to anyone else. I wished I was the last to have lived a life like mine. I had no hopes of surviving until the next morning.  I didn’t remember when my conscious slipped. 

     When Eric opened the door of the refrigerator the next morning, I was not dead yet. I could only consider it a miracle. I wondered how I was not dead yet. But I no longer felt any level of discomfort. It was funny to realize how human minds tend to give up so easily in life.

     Eric took me in his hand. Peter took Eric in his car.

     Soon, Peter’s car was on its way to Eric’s school. On the way, I glanced at the world outside through the window. All those passing trees and staring clouds appeared more beautiful than usual.

     Those sights made me baffle more at fate and destiny. Within a few hours, I realized, my versions of fate and destiny changed twice. I wondered how a philosopher might have wanted me to take it. I wondered what might have suited best for me despite how a philosopher might have wanted me to take it.

     At the science exhibition, I was the center of attraction. Many kids like Eric had brought several different projects. But none of them were as baffling as me.

     Eric had kept me on a table and tagged me Human Bonsai. Bonsai was familiar with many on the floor. Human bonsai must have been new to most of them. Initially, a small group of spectators gathered around me. They were mostly from Eric’s close friend circle. As time passed, I began to attract the attention of more and more people. At one point, the entire crowd that had come for the exhibition was around me.

     Several of Eric’s friends took photographs with me. It was like I became a celebrity overnight. I had never been an attention seeker. But the attention I got at Eric’s school science exhibition was overwhelming for me. I felt so much love and affection. Considering the caged life I was gifted with, in the past, it was like a heaven for me. I felt very fortunate to have ended up at Eric’s hands.

     Suddenly, the participants and the organizers of the exhibition hustled. The gathering of so many students and teachers around me dispersed. I didn’t like that part though I could do nothing about it.

     “Let us start our inspection with the one project that got the most attention for today,” said an elderly man. Everyone looked at me.

     Someone who looked like a lab attendant approached me with a toolbox. It had an attached computer monitor. He took out a machine that resembled much like the machine I saw at Khalid’s store. Its other end was connected to the computer. He pushed the bevel gently in me. Then he began to talk to the computer using his keyboard.

     “There is no sign of animal metabolism in this.” He announced after pulling the bevel out of me.

     I was the first one to be surprised and shocked. Peter and Eric saw each other. I knew they would not talk much. I was something they bought from a store. They were supposed to have made me all by themselves to have the courage to face the school authorities.

     “It is just a Bonsai” the lab attendant announced again.

     Everyone stared at Eric.  Eric had to say something now.

     “If there was a problem with your project, you should have spoken to me first, Eric. After all, I am your teacher. I have to mark this an intended fraud.” an elderly looking man said.

     “Phil, I didn’t intend to commit fraud. It was alive yesterday.” Eric said.

     “He could be right. When the animal cell metabolism becomes too weak, the dominant cells override the weaker ones. For a hybrid to remain a hybrid, both the participant cell types should be strong enough to fight for their survival. It’s like both the cells are in a continuous fight for taking over the control of the body. When one type becomes weaker, the other type takes over the control.” the laboratory attendant said.

     “Whatever it may be. Eric, you promised a human bonsai. But, we didn’t find animal metabolism in your project. This is a clear indication of fraud. Our school has a reputation. We value its position in the ranking system. We cannot let it go further down. We need to suspend you until further notice.” Phil said.

     My world collapsed after hearing those words. I no longer cared what anyone spoke about after that. I understood what was happening to me. I was born as a human, and I turned into a plant. The diet and the supplements I took in the laboratory had killed my animal metabolism entirely. So what remained in me was just plant metabolism. But I was not born as a plant.

     Disheartened Eric, grabbed me from the table and walked towards the gate. Once crossing the main gate, he dumped me in the junkyard and walked away. I waited for a few seconds hoping he might look back at me once. But I was disappointed. It was weird to know how people react when they found us no longer useful.

     Why was I born in the first place? Hasn’t every living being a right to live in this world? Why was I forced to undergo such treatment in the laboratory? Who consented my participation? Why did I get such sudden, short-lived limelight? In this whole orchestration, which sides were fair and unfair?

     I inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon dioxide when I was born. But now I inhaled carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen in the dump yard. I might have to continue to do so for the rest of my life left to live as a bonsai tree. Having said this, what could have been the purpose of my life? What percentage of what purpose did I served in all my animal life? What percentage of what purpose left for me to pursue further? What this reversal of primary functions meant by the great grand design of the cosmos?

     Questions bombarded me. I didn’t have answers to any of them. I was afraid if they were going to remain open questions and were going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

     But I was finally happy to be free. All I wanted was an average life. Just like everyone else, I only wanted to dwell amongst people who loved me for what I was no matter how little in number they were. All I wanted was to be loved.

     Now, I was no longer a human. I had not completely turned into a plant both by the body and by conscious. In fact, I was just in an intermediate state of being. It could have been fine had I got some love. After all, life was all about imperfections.  No one got everything they deserved. I never longed for a perfect life. All I wanted was a few ounces of love with which I could see life beyond these imperfections.

                             ~ The END ~

Categories: Fiction

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