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Brain Child

Brain Child

Something rather unexpected happens when a human brain is allowed to grow without restriction.

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Fantasy / Sci-fi


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Arthur M. Doweyko (United States)





Brain Child
By
Arthur M. Doweyko




"You called me, Doc. So what's going on?" I looked up at the camera and threw it a grin. "You do know it's cold out here."
When Riddles opened the fire door, my jaw dropped. His head was wrapped in aluminum foil. But that wasn't the worst of it. I pinched my nose. "You look like … crap, and you smell like—"
"I know, I know. Get in here. Put this on."
He handed me a silvery foil hat. The hollow look of his eyes and the dark stubble kept me from hurling more insults. He looked as if he hadn't slept for days.
"What's this?"
Riddles leaned out as if making sure there was no one else outside. Entering through the loading dock of the BioGentics Research building gave me a bad feeling. At three in the morning, how else was I going to feel?
"Keep your voice down, Jimmy, and put the hat on."
"Doc, you are beginning to scare me." I put the hat on.
He eased the fire door shut, and grabbed my sleeve. "This way—hurry. I'll explain."
We jogged the length of a hallway lit up by a blue-white emergency light at the far end.
"No power?"
Riddles steered me up the stairs. Four floors later, my chest pounded and I was seeing double. "Hold on, I need to catch my breath."
"We're here."
I staggered into an office that reminded me of a doctor's waiting room and plopped into the closest wooden chair. "What gives?"
He swung the door shut and leaned against it. A red ceiling light flashed over his head, giving me the willies. "It's out of control."
"You're not making any sense. What's out of control?"
He pressed an ear to the door and then collapsed into a chair next to me. His voice was no more than a croaky whisper. "I don't know how much time we have, so I'm going to make it short. Someone has to know." He took in a long breath. "Jimmy, you know what we do here?"
Princeton's BioGentics was famous. "Yeah, you guys grow organs—for transplants—that kind of thing."
"And we've been very successful." His gaze wandered to the door.
"Go on." I noticed that the wall clock wasn't running. No lights on the phone console, either—must've happened after his call.
"You heard about our tissue work—in vitro generation of livers and kidneys. That's what put us on the map. We use stem cells, so that—"
I waved him off and nodded. "Doc, I get it, I get it. What do you want with me? I'm just a high school chemistry teacher."
"Last year, management thought we should take on something more challenging."
The floor shook for a second, sending Riddles back to the door. He turned the dead bolt and leaned against the jamb.
"What was that?" I asked.
"So we started with mice, Jimmy. Just to see if the fundamentals would apply."
I couldn't help but raise my voice.. "Get to the point."
"Then rats, of course. And it worked there, too." Riddles adjusted his hat. "It's getting hard to think. I've got to concentrate."
Maybe it was contagious. I was getting a headache. "What the hell did you do with mice and rats, Doc?" I felt another tremor.
The man slid down to the floor with his back against the door. "We tried it with human brain tissue."
The whole thing sounded like some sci-fi movie. "What the hell for?"
"The idea was to grow specific sections of the brain—you know—to replace damaged or missing tissue. Human stem cells—we transformed them into brain cells. And it worked."
"You already said that. And?"
"We didn't expect them to grow into a whole brain."
Right away, I pictured an isolated brain floating in some kind of soup. In the movies there were tubes and bubbles, like the thing was breathing.
Riddles gasped. "Do you see the problem, Jimmy? Do you see it?" His eyes fluttered for a moment and his body slumped sideways to the floor. I thought he was out, but a twitch later, he was back. "The problem—"
"I'm sorry, Doc. I don't get it."
"Senses, Jimmy. It had no sensory input."
That got me to pause—a brain grown from scratch, not connected to anything. No input. So what was it thinking about? I got a real bad feeling.
"It kept growing—like it was searching for some physical way to connect with the outside world. Jimmy, you can't imagine—"
When sparks began flying off his little foil helmet, I threw mine off, maybe a little too late. I smelled burned hair.
Riddles reached up to his head, and tore at the foil. His mouth opened into a silent scream like in Munch's painting. That's when the door got all wavy-like. The next thing I knew, he was stretched out on the floor. My head felt like it was going to explode. All I could think of was getting away, getting out of the damn room, the damn building. Something was coming and I needed to find a place to hide.
The pain was so bad that I forgot about Riddles and fumbled with the dead bolt. I couldn't think straight. When the door opened, and I fell on my face in the hall. Crackling and popping sounds came up the stairwell. The concrete stairs cracked, walls were crumbling into sand.
I heard a voice—maybe it was more like a feeling than a voice. This was a cold, lonely, and very upset feeling. I had to get out of there—any direction but down.
I took the steps two and three at a time—fifth floor, sixth, seventh—through the last fire door and onto the flat asphalt roof. My lungs burned. I ran to a parapet looking for a fire escape. The building lurched, almost sending me over.
That feeling again. For a moment—I don't know how long—I pictured a giant brain that had grown without any restrictions, without senses. No duties set by language or custom. The damn thing had no limits—it was just pure thought—struggling to discover its purpose.
The street lights went out. The rumbling in the building stopped. The stars jiggled for a second. Then they all disappeared. I floated in pitch black, surrounded by complete silence. There was nowhere left to hide.
Then that feeling came back and I heard a voice, echoing like a bell got rung in some humongous church.
Time to start over.
***
"Please turn on the lights, Jimmy."
I waited a moment longer for effect, and then flicked the switch. "Let there be light."
The laughter from the class filled me with joy, as did seeing the children's wide eyes, their grinning faces. Miss Molly, our teacher, sat back down at her desk, and thought about what she was going to prepare for dinner tonight.
Even with the fluorescents, the classroom felt a bit confining. A few windows would fix that. Of course, that meant bringing up a sky with a sun and a whole bunch of other stuff.

End


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
The growing brain caused electrical discharges in tin foil hats? C'mon. Beggars the imagination. You could find an explanation for it, or just lead you readers off the cliff of belief. The artificial reality is easier to accept. On the last para, the brain plays God? Okayeee...

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
This was extremely interesting! Great hook, great narrative, great voices. However, I didn't seem to understand the ending. Maybe make it a bit more clear. Good luck on your story!

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
Th opening immediately captured me with the casual sort of snarky tone. It felt like the opening of a new episode of a television show. The characters both felt real and original. Introducing Rabbit with hollowed eyes, stubble, and a tin foil hat really makes him standout. It also made his frantic and sporadic behavior that much more intriguing. I was a bit confused by the ending, though. Was it a dream? A project or maybe he was giving a presentation? Even so reading the story made me wish it could become some type of sci-fi series about people who accidentally grew an omnipotent, all-powerful brain that seems like it can’t be stopped. Jimmy also seemed like a rich, lively character. He is the type of character I wouldn't mind sticking with for a whole novel.