By Kadath Bird & Chie Sakaguchi
“Since the day we bit into the fruits of the knowledge of good and evil, mankind has known
that they will only damn themselves with their own ability to create..”
They called me cancer. As the centuries passed, it became ever more true. Patches of sand surrounded what was left of my body. I watched it slowly shift in the wind; something I haven’t felt in thousands of years. It burned my exposed muscles, but against what remained of my skin, it was a welcome feeling in this eternal desert… this eternal hell. I lifted my frail body up from the sand, slowly but surely. I could feel spouts of the yellow grime falling out of the holes in my body. I set my eyes towards the sky, I saw a cloud. A beautiful, white cloud. It passed over the great fires in the sky and almost blotted them out. It’s been 4,000 years… 4,000 years since I’ve seen a cloud. 4,000 years since I’ve seen another human being. 4,000 years since I first became the cancer. I reached my hand into the sky, I stared down the shaft of bone bleached red with blood, small patches of flesh and muscle still clinging, that was once my arm. I clenched my fingers tight, I closed my eyes, and imagined that I held the cloud in my fist. My arm fell back to the ground in it’s frailty, and I opened my eyes. The cloud was gone. The great fires in the sky continued to burn. It wasn’t always like this.
Before I was known as the cancer, I had a name. It was Toshi. I cannot remember my last name anymore. It was the year of two-thousand-plus-ten. I had been happily married for almost 6 years to a woman named Haruka. She was beautiful in every aspect. She had long flowing red hair she would often put into unique, but pretty styles. Her eyes were a distinct shade of green, almost emerald. She always had a smile, she was always nice, and she was just what I needed to escape from the crimes against nature I would commit every day. I worked at a foreign owned chemical warfare lab that specialized in testing with dangerous radioactive chemicals. Before my promotion earlier this year, I worked as a guard for ‘The Chamber.’ The Chamber was where we tested our products, first on animals, then on humans. If the animals fell over dead, the test was a success. Then they would test it on humans the company deemed.. unworthy of life. I was supposed to make sure that the test subject couldn’t leave during the test, not until they could leave through the quarantine sector, and then incinerated. The things I saw in the chamber had horrid effects on my mind, an almost war like effect. There was a battlefield raging in my mind, almost always. But nothing I saw in my visions or in the chamber, could even begin to prepare me for the coming of the ignition.
It was night. Night spread her velvet cloak around the world, as dream infiltrated peoples minds, giving them adventures, giving them horrors, giving them hopes. The battlefield inside my mind was enormous and dangerous. I slowly crawled on my hands and knees in a muddy trench, slowly working my way through enemy territory. Above me I saw soldiers standing there, talking. I pulled out my handgun and flicked the safety off, in case I needed to use it, but I continued on. Ahead of me was a bridge, and under the bridge the muddy trench turned into water. I holstered my gun, it would have no use under the water. I gulped down a breathe of air, and dove into the water. Suddenly there was a rumbling, dirt from the bottom of the water began to rise and shake. I surfaced and looked towards the bridge, a convoy of trucks led by a tank crossed. I looked in the back of the trucks, which were carrying large crates with a biohazard symbol on them. In each truck, two guards, dressed in gas masks and hazmat suits, held carbines and kept a look out. The convoy slowed as the last truck past to let the guards in back jump out. I figured I had been spotted. I ducked underneath the water again, and pulled out my trusty knife as the guards slowly made their way towards the water, although they figured I was there, they could not see me in the murky, muddy depths. But then a klaxon began to blare, and they turned away in shock, and it was then that my dream ended. My wife, Haruka, shook me awake. She told me I had slept through the alarm again. I simply went ‘hmm.’ lethargically, and stood up to head to the washroom.
My mind has a tendency to wander into strange lands. I stood in the shower, hot rain haled upon my bare body. I have no idea when or truly why I had the habit of doing so, but I always shaved in the shower; as I was shaving, I nicked myself on the cheek, only slightly, but enough to draw blood. I saw the blood slowly drip and intermingle with the water at the drain, then my mind began to wander. The hot rain turned into hot blood, and the spout turned into a human arm, the arm that belonged to me. A gash opened in the palm, as I heard a strange mechanical screaming. Blood poured into the drain, and my mind then imagined a system of pipes, flowing red with blood as if they were veins. As the blood criss crossed and rain through the pipes, I saw more than just blood. The pipes connected to a metal heart, pumping out steam and more blood, which flowed to a circuit board which served the purpose of a brain, and in the end, I was shedding blood for the machine. My vision ended, and I turned the knob and shut the shower off. I went back into the living room and sat down naked on the bed. Haruka had already gone back to sleep. I knew I was going to be late for work again, but I couldn’t care. I had things to ponder. I hate mysterious endings, and I needed to know what was in the crates in the back of the trucks in the convoy, I needed to know what the soldiers saw, and most important, I needed to know what happened to little-soldier-me sneaking behind dangerous enemy lines. I don’t normally go for the predictable ending, but I had to giggle a little seeing little-soldier-me standing in a parade, being heralded as a hero, chomping a cigar, and standing next to a group of super models. I never totally decided what was in the crates though, all I cared about was that I was a hero. I smiled, a rare thing for me when I’m not spending time with Haruka. But I knew I had to get to work. I got up and slowly dressed, by now, my smile was gone.
Every day going to work, things were always the same. I’d dress in a lab coat, pin my access badge on, catch an over populated smelly train, and stand there for a half hour with a migraine induced by the smells and noises of the train before it would stop and let me off at a huge white complex in the ass end of nowhere. Once I stepped out, I’d walk over to the complex alone, and scan my access badge and retinal ID before both door locks would open. There was always a security guard sitting in a booth, his feet up on his desk leaning back in a chair, and reading the days newspaper. I never saw him move. I never heard him. I always theorized that he was a mannequin, and every day a short little man would take away his newspaper and position a new one in the dummies hands. Today, I felt somewhat relieved, as I was told I would not have to worry about having to keep an eye on the chamber.
I still wasn’t particularly enthused about going to a meeting though. As soon as I got there, all the staff of team Wormhole (A project working on an acid powerful enough to eat any mineral, metal, any surface to allow quick access. When I saw a test done with it, it reminded me of the blood that spurted out of the titular monster from the Alien movies.) and team Compact (Possibly the only team working on something not to be used in war as a weapon, Compact was supposed to be a starch like material that could somehow ‘shrink’ objects to fit in tiny concealed backpacks, and they would resize themselves once they hit the air, which burned away the material.) as well as other scientists currently unassigned. As we all sat down, a door slid open and a man in a black suit holding a briefcase walked into the room. He sat down on the other end of the table. I usually picture men like this as tall and big, but this man barely could get his chin above the table. In fact, the briefcase seemed bigger than him. A second man entered the room, this time he was of average height, but fairly out of shape. He stood next to the short man. The short man began to speak in Russian with one of the thickest accents I have ever heard. I only knew one language, fluently at least, and that was my native language of Japanese. I spoke a smidgen of English, and a smidgen of German. I also knew how to ask for the bathroom in Greek, Spanish and Italian, but nothing more. The man next to him translated what the short man was saying. “Mr. Bielesheck is here with a new offer for workers of this facility, if you are willing to listen and if you agree with his requests, the deal will pass and you will all be payed handsomely.” The short man began to speak again. “With the recent outbreak of WW3, the Modern Allied forces are in desperate need of a special weapon. This weapon will be far more dangerous than any you would have handled in the past, and we require it at least be powerful enough to wipe out, at minimum, 60,000 people in less than a minute, while causing no structural damage to the battlefield, with the exception of flame, as flame does not destroy or pock the landscape nearly as much as most bombs. It also must be able to affect soldiers and civilians wearing Model-3 CoralCo hazardous material gear.” The short man spoke again, and then once again we received a translation. “We are promoting 7 lower level employees to make the team for the project. They are, Toshi,” as he said these words I stood up proudly, he gave me a look for interrupting him before he continued with the other names, but I do not remember them any longer either. The short man then spoke one final sentence, before being translated once again. “Each member of the project shall be payed a sum of 円1,238,431,211.01 each.” (Brief authors note: the symbol before the numbers is the real symbol for the Japanese currency, even though it is commonly represented as a Y with two lines in the middle. The number, in American Dollars is $12,000,000) Everyone in the room gasped, no one has ever been paid such a sum before. The short man then lifted his briefcase onto the table and opened it up. Our eyes glittered at the huge amount of money. “Any questions?” the large man asked. A partner of mine responded, “It’s not really a question, but a concern. How are we going to make the weapon powerful enough to damage people using Model-3 CoralCo suits? They have been proven to be impervious even to massive nuclear fallout. People have continued to inhabit Chernobyl because of those suits!” The short man responded angrily. “He says that you will find a way, or the deal will be called off and you will not earn your pay.” My partner sat back with a face mixed with greed and anger. The 7 men picked for the team stood up and said “Deal.” before shaking hands with the short man. While team wormhole and team compact continued to work, the newly formed Team Ignition instantly went to the drawing board.
Work got out early. The meeting was all there was that day. I went home, depressed as usual, but as soon as I walked into the door a smiling Haruka came to enthusiastically greet me. It cheered me up as usual. Over dinner I told her of the promotion, she thought it was wonderful. I myself was not looking forward to not only seeing the horrors it could produce, I felt even more guilty inside about the fact that this time I would be responsible for the horrors. I did not tell her this. After dinner I popped upstairs and began to do my homework, and I began to think about what team Ignition should be about. My mind wandered and spoke to me, and suddenly the walls around me fell apart. Hundreds of men women and children stood in front of a gray wall. They were naked and cold, they shivered while covering their shame with their hands. As I looked at them, a cacophony of screams let loose, until their throats became dry and spurted blood, then a strange man in a medical uniform ran by the people and stitched their mouths. They could no longer scream. But they stared at me in horror, sometimes their eyes would fog up like cataracts, bulge, or even bleed. The medic ran by spasmodically for another round, this time he took away their eyes and stitched the sockets, and the flesh around their noses began to melt away. The medic came for a third round, but he could not stitch the skin, he simply tore it off, but the stitched eye sockets and lips remained. They stared at me expressionless. They were faceless and in pain. A fire began at their feet and they began to shake their heads and arms in fury and pain, before falling to the ground. Their entire bodies burned charcoal black, but their faceless faces remained, and I knew they were staring at me. I closed my eyes and yelled, and Haruka came running into the bedroom. “What’s wrong, hon?” I panted and sweated over the paper I had written on. In gasping breaths, I said to her, “I saw the people. The innocent people who will die, and they knew I was the culprit. THEY KNEW.” She turned me around and looked at me with her sad but beautiful eyes, she then smiled, but this time the smile didn’t help. Haruka invited me into the bath with her, but I simply stared off into the distance in horror, imagining what I saw all over again. She climbed into bed, still naked, with me next to her and tried to caress me, but I simply shuddered in terror, I did not sleep that night.
The next day, project Ignition began. My fellow scientists didn’t handle the materials as intimately as I did. It was risky, hell, it was against protocol for me to handle the materials for more than 10 minutes at a time. But I spent 20 to 40. I would become ill, and when I left the hazardous materials laboratory, I would vomit onto the floor and collapse, blood seeping from my nose. My friends would help me, before continuing my work in the acceptable 10 minute shifts. At the end of 60 minutes, they would stand in a horribly painful shower to rid themselves of any possible contamination. Their screams were blood curdling, and it made me think of the cacophony of people I heard the night before. I could not be in the showers with them, as I was soaking in a higher dosage of radiation, and so I had to take the showers separately. It felt like needles tipped with salt flying through your skin. I once again imagined myself bleeding, and the blood seeping into the veins of a great machine.
The project carried on, and went along smoothly. It was nearing completion, and we already knew what Ignition would be. It would be the strength of the sun in a volatile drop. Early controlled tests on animals and people proved that we no longer needed the incinerator after the tests. Every time I saw a man turn to dust as the small drop touched the base of the chamber, I cried. Ignition had already met two of the requirements, it could still kill those in the Model-3 suits, and it caused no explosive damage, just a burst of flame before vanishing. The final requirement was to kill 60,000 people in less than a second. There was no way we could test that in the chamber, but the government told us they had a prisoner camp they wished us to test Ignition on. I was already afraid of my project enough as it is, but I was even more scared knowing that we would require a higher dose of Ignition. We were put into overtime to mass produce Ignition for the test as well as for the future use of ignition, should it go that far. I continued to work with the dangerous chemicals, until one day, I collapsed, foaming from the mouth a yellow and red liquid and convulsing, and as my body flopped, skin began to tear off on the floor.
The doctor looked at me when I awoke in the infirmary. “You are one strange, strange man Toshi. I’m afraid the constant exposure to the radioactive properties of Ignition has given you cancer, a full body cancer that has a strange effect on you.” He turned on an x-ray. “You had your tonsils and appendix removed over 28 years ago Toshi, yet somehow they have grown back. Extensive liver damage from your days as an alcoholic has completely reversed. Brain cells have reemerged. Your Emphysema from 24 years of smoking is vanishing. But your skin and muscles are a different story. The cancer is attacking the cells in muscle and epidermis to destruct them, yet the cancer cells which are healing your body constantly may increase your mortality rate into astronomical proportions.” I looked at him with disbelief. What a fool I was. “So you are saying that cancer, a disease which screws with your cellular structure, is somehow fixing my cellular structure in all areas but my muscle and flesh? Can I buy some pot from you doctor?” He didn’t find it amusing. He was dead serious. “I’m afraid I cannot recommend anything except bandaging the open sores that are likely to break away the skin at an accelerated rate. I also cannot allow you to work any longer with ignition’s properties. We have machines that can mass produce the chemicals once the original formula is laid out. Did you not know that?” I paused for a second. “Yes. I knew.” In my mind, I wanted to add “But I didn’t care. I deserve to be punished.” I went home to Haruka that night. She tried to smile, but she cried when she heard the news. I held onto her deep into the night, she was all that kept me anchored. Sleep came to me that night.
I sat in a church, kneeling down before the altar and praying to a god I do not even believe in. I asked him to forgive me for what I had done. I looked out the window, and saw ash blowing in the wind. The ashes of thousands of innocent children. The government had used ignition on a school. Suddenly, I heard cries and moans, and the swirling ash outside distorted into faces. I began to cry as I saw them, and I closed my eyes and continued to pray. The howling became louder, and the windows in the church shattered. Stained glass flew into the church at high speeds, and a long shared pierced my head. I gasped and said “Thank you, lord.” and slumped over dead. That morning I heard the alarm. I shook Haruka awake anyways. I knew today I would be leaving with the shipment of Ignition to the testing site. I told her how much I loved her, and I asked her to please forgive me. A tear came to her eye, and she nodded. “I forgive you.” With that, I gave her my last kiss, and left.
The rotting was slowed down by the bandages, but it still continued. Blood began to seep through the bandages, and I screamed in pain as my flesh tried to force its way out. My muscles ached and cramped. My face had begun to peel away to reveal muscle, and on my mouth, even bone. Once I arrived at my destination, I gladly put on one of the military grade gas masks, not just to protect me from any harmful chemicals or gases in the air, but to hide my deformities. A convoy of 6 trucks held huge crates containing beakers of ignition. They were emblazoned by a large biohazard symbol. I felt deja vu, I knew now what the mysterious weapon in my dream was. As the convoy passed over the bridge, I imagined seeing little soldier me, staring at me from the water in disappointment. I waved, and he vanished. The convoy came to a slow halt, and over the radio I heard a superior say ‘Out of the truck, now Toshi and Ebihara.’ It’s amazing I remembered his name, but none of my friends at work. We jumped out, and turned around. We were separated from the convoy. I heard crackling over my radio, and then the superior saying, “Oh. My. God.” Suddenly a noise broke in the distance. Ebihara and I turned towards our destination. A huge flaming sun erupted into the sky, a sight more horrifying than the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. It was ignition. The clouds in the sky suddenly turned red and dissipated, and the gases in the air burst into flames. The entire world around me turned into dust, my partner, the bridge, the truck, the water, but not me. I was knocked back, and my bandages flew off, and flesh finally relieved itself and fell to the ground with wet thuds, but the pain continued. I awoke several hours later in a desert. The skies still burned with flames. In the distance, I saw blue sky. I saw a cloud. I ran towards it, but my legs became weaker as I ran, eventually it whittled down to the bone. I had to walk. As I walked towards the actual sky, the flames followed with me, and so did the dust. But I saw humans. Living humans. They lay on the ground screaming in horrible pain, parts of their body lay in ash next to them. I walked over to them and spoke.
I told them my story, but they became violent. They hated me righteously for the evil I had let loose upon the earth. I was told to rot in hell, my response was I was already rotting. Yet I stayed with them for an entire month, before they finally died. They called me the cancer, because of my decaying skin and ailment. Yet all damage to my vital organs was instantly repaired, and as my doctor said, it would extend my life into astronomical proportions.
This cancer, this painful, god awful cancer is eating me away. But it’s kept me alive for 4,000 years since the day of the ignition. I still hear voices crying and gasping, ashes of people lay in eerie piles like shadows. Sometimes I see their faces. Sometimes I hear their voices. Around me is nothing but dirt, and my body is so frail and decomposed that I can hardly ever move. As the cloud passed out of my sight, I remembered the day I last saw one. I remembered it in hatred, as it was the day my punishment began. I created something evil, and now I will lay in this desert forever, rotting in hell.
Originally Posted on 2008/05/09