My Sea of Rot
I solemnly declare this to be the final publication I will undertake. I believe in full, without reservation, that the decision to lend my last keystrokes to a realm beyond the watchful eyes of science, eyes that I once begged to gaze upon me, is an apt and necessary one. To infringe otherwise back into the community of well-meaning thinkers and entrepreneurs that I once debased would undermine this document, and the disclosure it is designed to achieve. But to understand why I do this, you must first become acquainted with the foul deeds that were perpetrated by my conniving, scheming hands of Midas, and the tidal wave of agony, despair, and tragedy that resulted.
When I was merely a child of an age that escapes me now, I recall that I experienced a horrific nightmare one sweltering July night that frightened me near to death. I dreamt deeply and longly of a sea of composed exclusively of the dead, in the midst of which I was lost adrift. For what seemed an eternity, I flailed helplessly among the rotted and desiccated corpses without any reprieve to be found. My vision was a blur, my mentality frantic, and whatever direction I turned to face, I was met with another gaunt visage of tight skin and coiled muscle barely containing the skull beneath. Every one, every single one, bore an expression of accusation, of condemnation, and of reckoning. Then, in a wave, every body shot skyward a twisted, mangled arm, flicking a deluge of blood high only to have it shower back down into the sea. I thought myself engulfed, with all reaching out to take hold of me, and all beckoning me to feel their pain for myself.
But then, I remember fleeing in terror across a barren desert landscape that stretched on for miles. There was no transition, no trick of the mind to place me there. I was swimming for my life, and then running for it; nothing at all between. My eyes scanned in all directions, desperate to escape to somewhere safe from the condemnation and agony. I fled for hours, possibly days, until I believed in the slightest that I was free of it. I'd take a few more, calmer, careful steps, only to find myself overtaken without warning by the same sea of death that surged before me like a tsunami. Snatched up once again by a million maggot-filled fingers, I disappeared into the crashing tide, and was consumed. Finally, with a jolt and severe hyperventilation, I awakened in a sweaty panic.
Fleeing to the warm embrace of my mother and father, tears cascading freely down my soft and supple cheeks, my tiny mind had most certainly taken painstaking note of the event and carved it in stone. This was far from the last time I would be met with that Hellscape, that vast and roiling ocean of withered and broken flesh. This was a dream that would stay with my through my entire life, its contents shaped with each passing week by new experiences of a young and impressionable man. It wasn't until the age of 11, however, that my vile nocturnal disturbance would reer its head while my eyes were open.
In the wee hours of the night in frigid Winter, I recall being awoken by my father carrying me out to our car, apologizing for waking me and clearly unhinged. I remember the tears running down his face, which even then bore a stern expression. In his eyes, though, there was clearly panic to which I was unaccustomed, and I roused more fully from my rest. He sat me in the back seat, made his apologies again, and closed the door. Moments later, he was in the driver's seat, but in the interval, I got a glimpse at what had frightened him so.
There, in the passenger seat of our family car, lay my mother. Her skin was pale as ash, far from the rosy peach I'd come to know, and her eyes had rolled back in her head. Her teeth were clenched so tightly I could feel my own ache in response. Father started the engine and drove us away, silent all the while. He looked over to her dozens of times as he drove, but she remained motionless all the way. I couldn't pull my gaze away from her face. She so little resembled the woman who cared for me that I nearly thought her a complete stranger. With the benefit, or perhaps detriment, of hindsight, I realize she must have been in constant minute motion for the entire duration of the trip, undetectable to me but perfectly observed by my paranoid father.
When we arrived, she was taken away in a wheelchair before I could even ask where she was going. It would be several hours in a soundless waiting room that nearly drove me mad before we would be told what had happened. I tried to ask my father, but he wouldn't say, merely asking me to wait and leave him be. Eventually, a medical specialist of some kind or another would approach to give us the news, and confirm my father's fear. My mother had had a massive seizure, which resulted in her losing consciousness altogether. I recall the term 'medically induced coma' being used to describe their treatment of her affliction, and even at that age, I knew that was a bad sign. It was a condition that would take permanent residence outside of the doctor's control.
Thus began seven excruciating months watching my mother lie and wither in her hospital bed, connected to any number of machines and monitors and fluid bags that were supposedly keeping her alive. The underlying cause was found via magnetic resonance imager. A disproportionately large, cancerous tumor had grown and pressed inside her brain, resulting in many neurologically related symptoms that went ignored, but none so severe as the seizure that brought her in that night. Across those seven months, my mother rotted from the inside. Her frame lost all semblance of what it once was, reduced to a horrid mass of bones visible beneath skin so thin I feared to touch her, lest I break what was left. I could not see her when I looked upon her face; there was no resemblance whatsoever to the beautiful woman she was before. And then, one day, my father made the decision that she wasn't going to come back, and it was time to let her go.
During this time, good dreams did not exist for me. Only the nightmare. Only the sea. Only the bones and the desert and the fingers. Only the accusatory gazes and flailing about for my life. The nightmare returned every single night, without fail, and a new element had made this mental madness its home. I could see her, swarming among the dead, her corpse just as desiccated as the rest, her eyes just as hateful. I could feel her near-skeletal fingers in more tactile reality than ever before, for I had felt those cold, dead appendages with my own two hands. It was the first time in a long, long while that I would regularly be woken by my own sobbing in the aftermath.
It was also this incident that would prove to be my greatest, and most regrettable motivator.
In remembrance of my mother, and as a way to honor her and earn her posthumous love and pride, I dedicated my life from then on to ridding the world of the disease that had stolen her away. By the time I reached university, I was well on the track to a long and distinguished career in cancer research, and the founding of an entirely new sub-field of study. The field in which I was both pioneer and pariah became known as nano-biological excision and remission, shortened merely to NABER. The goal, as one might surmise from the name, was to invent and distribute something capable of curing cancer at its smallest levels, all the way up, from the inside. I funded the initial research of NABER with the aid of various grants and scholarships given me during my fledgeling years as a medical and technological collegiate student.
At first, I was the only member of my research team, working tirelessly through day and night at a feverish pace. My initial goal was simple enough: Construct machines small enough to traverse living tissue unimpeded. I had far more difficulty in this endeavor than I anticipated, primarily due to the scale upon which I was required to build. I must have constructed nearly a hundred prototypes before finally admitting that, even with my impressive catalog of mechanical know-how, the steadiest hands I could muster, and a constant nocturnal reminder of the consequences of failure, I was out of my league. I nearly gave up on the project altogether, resigned to a life of ceaseless nightmares haunting me with the fruitlessness of my life. However, a colleague of mine unwittingly gave me the inspiration I needed to make it work.
This colleague, whose name I omit with purpose, was similarly skilled in mechanics and electronics, but turned his focus to the industrial. He designed and oversaw the creation of machines capable of reliably constructing other machines en masse, and I realized that that was exactly what I was lacking. Both quantity and quality were beyond my abilities as a mere human, but equipped with one of his machines, my mortal failings would have had no bearing. And so with what little research funding I still had, I commissioned him to build me exactly what I needed, under contract never to reveal the methodology or result of his research into the matter to anyone. After a single afternoon transaction and several months of patience, my muse kept true to his word, and I possessed a machine able to produce as many microscopic nanites as I could supply materials for. In all truth, I have no idea how he managed to create this machine, only that the man was, in every sense, a genius whose name and reputation do not deserve to be sullied beside my own.
I took my newly wrought nanites and set as many appointments as humanly possible with research clinics investigating the deadly and debilitating disease I sought to exterminate. Employing every ounce of business tact and shrewd pricing I could muster, I managed to convince the now defunct Effegen Laboratories in Mexico to undertake the very first trial of my nanites in patients. Those methods, however, were not the only I used to sway them, as the pride and impatience bubbling within began to take over.
It is here that I must make my first admission. You see, I was quite well aware that there was no institute, no laboratory, that would undertake human trials without some form of prior trials in other creatures, or at least some assurance that the treatment was at least theoretically effective. I gave them this information hand over fist, never once divulging the falsehood of every document that passed into their system. Fabricated trials, forged results, and a backlogged paper trail didn't prove effective in convincing any other potential partner, but Effegen, it seemed, struck just the right balance of professionally interested and legally dubious. They have since ceased operations, by force of law, and are destined to only have a single patient seek their care ever again.
Apparently, there was no shortage of tumor riddled patients in the southern America's, as we were inundated with a veritable swarm of humans seeking a cure. I kept track of the numbers so carefully, so obsessively during the first three months that I am genuinely befuddled as to how I have currently forgotten the total patients we took in during that time. It must have been dozens, though I don't believe it eclipsed two hundred. Their conditions were monitored on site by resident psychologists, neurologists, pathologists, and oncologists for any change, positive or negative, and for a great long while, there was little for me to do but wait and see.
My research first bore fruit in late September of my 28th year. A young woman by the name of Merida began to show signs of remission without chemotherapy or surgery, merely via the use of my nanites. Then another, a man named Ricardo, nearly cured outright as the miniscule machines fought his cancer the way his body couldn't. These were the first successes, after nearly a decade of research and roadblocks, and I am certain that tears were shed when I received the news. Once the initial results were published, my cell phone nearly shorted itself out with the number of calls I began to get. I was offered multi-million dollar contracts for the use of my products all over the world. It was the true birth of the NABER science as it is today. And therein rest the impetus for the disaster that followed.
It is with no small reservoir of shame that I disclose the truth of what happened. I was given full and complete records of every patient that passed through Effegen's doors, including detailed, well-documented physical and psychiatric evaluations for each. I vaguely recall reading through some of them at the time, looking for rudimentary patterns that could be correlated to use of NABER technologies. Perhaps my inexperience got the better of me, though I suspect moreso that I was overcome with hubris and haste. In any case I failed to, or chose not to, connect the steadily declining mental and physical well-being of our patients with the use of my nanites in their treatment, and moreover, none of the psychiatric files or additional physician's remarks were released at any time to any potential financial backers. This information was, without question, requisite for approval from these institutions, and I made the conscious decision during that time to transfer those documents to the black bin beside my desk.
With no hesitation, I accepted offer after offer, compiling an inordinate amount of wealth over the next six months, to the extent that I stopped trying to keep track of it at all because the number was always changing. I lived in lavish luxury in the heart of Mexico during the prime of my life and I would have had it no other way. Had I known the extent to which I had destroyed the integrity of my own work, and with pressing gravity, the lives of all involved, I am unsure as to whether I would have been able to turn down the opportunity to do it all again. That I, in earnest, can make this claim, I believe reflects most accurately and harshly onto the content of my character. I am not a man who made poor choices that hurt people in the end. I am, instead, a monster that unleashed a blight upon the world and smiled as I reapt my reward.
The patients deteriorated faster and faster. It seemed like I was receiving emails and phone calls every day for weeks on end from all manner of medical professionals concerned for their patient's health. I disconnected my phone number more times than I can recall. I established new email addresses under aliases and pseudonyms in an attempt to avoid their harassments. When their standard methods of contact failed, a select few decided to confront me in person, to which I responded with a door slammed in their faces and threats to phone the police, all the while planning to pack my bags at sunset. I disappeared in the dusk, into the chapping air of the Mexican desert, never to be heard from again.
I was far from free from the consequences of my actions, however. My assets were seized out from under me, to which there was no recourse without revealing myself to the public. My face was circulated to news outlets on an international scale. I fled the country, making an illegal cross into the United States in the dead of night. From then onward, I did everything in my power to stay out of the eyes of law enforcement and disappear. I began a new life, with a new name, in an unfamiliar place. I worked a meager job as a semi-truck driver that kept me always on the road, and rented a modest home with petty cash that I expected to never fully pay for. After some years, I married a woman who knew nothing of me, and had a child, a daughter who captured my heart unlike anything ever could have before. I thought that I had escaped from the misdeeds of my past, but the memories of the fallout never left me, and the dreams were always there to haunt me.
I am now 39 years of age. My daughter, Mabel, turned seven years old last August. My life has been calm, quiet, and peaceful in a way I never imagined it could. Elanor is, without question, the most beautiful and wonderful woman in the world to me. She understands me, and grants me patience when I require reprieve from the memories she knows nothing of. She brings a smile to my face, and I hers. She knows fully well the horror of my dreams that never leave me for long. With her, I believed I could live normally, and happily.
Perhaps it was that hope that demanded karma reer its head in kind. I came home from work just over five months ago to discover an envelope on our countertop, and my Elanor clearly distressed. She explained to me that Mabel hadn't been feeling well for the past week and a half while I had been away on the road, and that she had to be taken to the hospital. They discovered multiple growths in her brain, likely hereditary, which had been causing blurred vision and difficulty reading, and ultimately severe headaches that demanded medical attention. Knowing we couldn't afford long-term treatment, the doctors put forth an offer that was risky, potentially lethal, but promised results if successful. My wife approved of her own volition, expecting my unconditional consent as well. Had I been there, had I known the full context of what was to be done, the would have been no question. She never would have suffered. But I wasn't. I was away on the road, a career chosen for the express purpose of escaping what I had done. Mabel had already undergone the procedure by the time I returned home.
Over the next several months, I knew exactly what to expect. I read over it dozens of times all those years ago. None of that prepared me for it, though. For five long and mournful months, my heart collapsed into dust as, gradually, certainly, my little girl started to deteriorate. She lost her ability to see, started to feel emotions that didn't correspond to her environment, and started to forget names and faces that should have been familiar to her. I recall in vivid detail the first time she asked her mother who I was, genuinely at a loss and unable to recognize me. It wouldn't be the last time, but it was the most heart-wrenching.
Mabel started having frequent seizures day and night, most of which lasted for upwards of ten minutes. Trying in vain to to keep her safe from her own body resurfaced long forgotten images in my head of a woman long dead, but nevertheless memorialized in my subconscious. The muscle groups in her arms and legs atrophied without any outward cause until she was left immobile from the neck down, unable even to operate an electric wheelchair. She would sometimes go through bouts of severe and intense pain that she said hurt like being eaten from inside. There were no good dreams left, either for her or for me. Mine were swallowed by the rotten sea, and hers never surfaced again at all.
Finally, one night, as my wife and I lay awake, her sobbing beside me and I threatening to do the same, a sudden clatter roused us from our bed. We both rushed to Mabel's room and found her collapsed on the floor beside her bed, her breathing thready, one of her legs bent the wrong way in two places, and tears running over each other onto the carpet. One of her eyes had gone completely bloodshot in its recessed socket, and refused to dilate in the light. Her heart stopped less than a minute later, before we could even get paramedics on the line. We tried, in vain, to bring her back to us. All we got in return was the broken corpse of our beloved daughter and a lifetime of trauma.
There was nothing we could have done for her, a fact I was fully cognizant of from the moment she was cured of cancer, from the moment I read my original patient files. The nanites I poured all of my medical and technological know-how into could indeed cure cancer of any kind, in practically any patient. They couldn't, however, tell the difference between healthy living tissue and unhealthy cancerous growth. I was more than passingly aware of this limitation, a roadblock I couldn't overcome and instead circumvented in order to make my mark. I told everyone involved that they would work unfailingly, flawlessly, backed by thousands of pages of fabricated data gathered by no one but myself. And they all believed me until the bitter end. And those machines wrought by my hand brought about thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of crippling, demyelinating, degenerative deaths to patients all around the world, leaving behind families with no choice but to stand and watch their loved ones wither away. And among them, and most heartbreaking, I count my own flesh and blood child.
I type this now as my public confession to the atrocities that I orchestrated for personal profit. I understand now the grave responsibility of the medical profession, and that I should never have had a place in it. I expect no mercy, nor pity. Only despise and fear, sentiments that should endure long after I am gone from the world. To every family of every victim of my wretched machines, I give my sincerest condolences, and apologize from the bottom of my heart. There is nothing I could ever do to rescind the pain I caused, the death, and the grief. All there is to do is ensure that I never harm another living soul. I have abandoned the remaining shambles of my life, unbeknownst at this time to my dear Elanor. I am headed southward, to a low-budget hospital with a name that I recognize very, very well, having made phone calls and arrangements with as many familiar names as I could relocate.
I'm going there to, at long last, get what I duly deserve.
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