This story is a result of a random numbers prompt from terribleminds.com. My prompt required my story to take place in the weird west, have as conflict man vs.tech, and must have a forbidden book. This piece is back story to my current work in progress, Dragon Dreams. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-3u
Wild Wild Horse by Louise Sorensen January 17, 2013
“Josephine! What in the seven levels of frozen hell are you doing?” I hear panic in my voice and calm myself. “Sorry. What have you got there, daughter?”
My unruly daughter, the one who doesn’t quite fit in, looks up at me with those big brown eyes and says, “Oh hello, Father. You startled me.” She stands in front of the forming table trying to hide what she’s working on, but I have a sinking feeling.
“What are you making, Josephine?” I ask with as much nonchalance as I can muster.
“I’m making a horse, Father,” she says, head down.
I keep my voice regular, though I can’t help balling my fists. My fingernails cut deeply into my flesh.
“That’s a project for your sisters, Josephine. You know you have trouble following recipes. Why are you working on it? And all alone?”
“I wanted to surprise you Father.”
“You’ve definitely succeeded. But why?”
“I got bored. My leg’s all healed now. Mostly. And I wanted to help replace the horses. The dogs are wearing themselves out herding the beeves. We need something we can ride herd with as soon as possible. “And,” she finishes quietly, “I thought if I made one, I could have him as my own.” I know she wants so badly something to call her own.
“Hmm. I understand. But things don’t always work out the way we want, do they?” I wipe sweat off my brow. “This is a very tricky procedure, Josephine. It requires total adherence to the written instructions. You cannot stray one iota and succeed. Did you follow the instructions to the letter, Josephine?”
“Yes I did,” she says with a smile and a shine in her eye. My chest relaxes a bit.
“That’s a relief. May I examine your work?”
My curious, irrepressible daughter moves aside and I inspect the foal that she’s creating.
The gelatinous form glistens in the bio pan. “Hmm. Wiring looks good. Skeleton’s well built.” The half formed milky eye glows red momentarily. If I had blinked, I would have missed it. My heart rate increases.
“Josephine,” I say in my calmest tone, “where are the directions you used to build this creature?” She hands me a flimsy.
“But this addendum isn’t part of the standard directions.” I strive to keep my voice from shaking.
“No, Father,” she says patiently, as if to a three year old. “I found the addendum in the old records. I wanted to go back to the original and make a real horse. A genuine horse. One that’ll be even better than the ones we lost.”
Her pleased expression dismays me, breaks my heart. So intelligent, such a good nature, but can not follow directions absolutely. Most of her offspring have proven to be first quality. Such a pity some must be culled; we need them so desperately.
“But didn’t you see ‘Forbidden’,” I wring my hands, “beside that particular addendum? I keep erasing it but it keeps on popping up.”
“Yes. I saw it. But I read it carefully, Father. There is nothing to fear in those instructions. They will create the horse of our ancestors down to the last molecule.” She smiles, so proud of her initiative. She doesn’t know that the genetic material she used to make her poor little foal was contaminated somehow during the long voyage from Earth and requires special procedures to render it safe.
“I should have made sure those directions could never resurface. I should have known labelling them Forbidden would not ensure they’d never be used. I should have destroyed that horse DNA and developed a new animal from donkeys or zebras or moose or something.” I tear at my hair.
“Calm down, Father. It’s going to be alright.” Josephine takes me by the shoulders and pats my back as she walks me out of the lab. “I’ve followed the directions to the letter. I didn’t try to experiment or change anything at all. I promise.”
I hate myself, but I know what I must do.
I leave my bed late that night on the pretext of checking some detail of my morning surgeries and hurry to the foetal developement lab. It’s deserted; the only sound the rhythmic whir of life support machines as they sustain developing creatures. My daughter’s creation is beautiful; long legs perfect, head and body a work of art, a true Drinker of the Wind.
But there is a disturbing sinuousness in the glossy black coat, a cunning intelligence in the fully formed eyes, sharp canine teeth erupting where there should be only pink gums.
Somewhere in our long voyage from Earth, the horse DNA was violated, polluted, perverted by an extraterrestrial invasion. The alarms went off and we destroyed precious gene specimens by fire; lost many plants and animals and a good deal of our own human seed. Only a trace of alien matter remained in the last of the horse DNA and we couldn’t bear to lose the horse forever. So we kept it and found a remedy. Labelled the records of the contaminated gene material Forbidden and forgot about them.
“Not good enough,” I say as I pour poison over my daughter’s beautiful, crafty foal and switch off its life support.
“I’m so sorry this happened, Josephine.” I hold her the next morning as she weeps in my arms. “You’re not methodical enough. You didn’t follow the directions. And he died. I’m sure he felt no pain.” I pat her on the back. Brilliant, intuitive, my difficult favourite child.
“Here.” I guide her away from the rotting remains of her foal, “I have something for you.” I hand her a tomato plant in full bloom. “Perhaps you’re not suited to follow in the family profession. Zoology and medicine are clearly not your forte. I think you’d make a fine botanist.” I push her out of the lab.