It was with little regret, and not a drop of hemming and hawing, that Myron came to a decision: playing God was not for him. Contrary to popular belief, genetics wasn’t rocket science. Well, obviously it wasn’t rocket science, rocket science was a whole other field. But while genetics was not for the slow witted nor for those lacking a mountain of Ph.ds, throwing various bits of DNA into the proverbial pot and hoping for the best didn’t seem particularly productive. It had yet to produce a cure for anything, it had yet to tell them something they didn’t already know, nor did it seem fair to take what Mother Nature had worked so hard on for billions of years and muck it all up for the sake of a what-if. It was also unsettling. Very, very unsettling.
Plus there were the ethical ramifications to consider. Just because God could create a duck-billed platypus didn’t mean humanity could go around making parrot-beaked echidnas and butter-fly winged black widows (the black widows had been the final straw. Myron had a hard enough time as it was with spiders, then that idiot Doctor Flemming had to go and give the damn things wings). The world wouldn’t be able to deal with his department’s creations. Rabbits, for example, had enough of a struggle hiding from wolves. How fair was it, then, to combine the DNA of a wolf with the DNA of a rabbit and give them the ability to burrow (and yet still crave meat over carrots)?
Then there were the four legged, air-breathing sharks. That was a horror movie waiting to happen.
It was without a second thought that Myron transferred to the less-than-thrilling adventure that was studying amoebas. Amoebas may not have been as thrilling as four-legged sharks, but at least they were safer.
In fact, two weeks in and Myron found himself quite content to stare into a microscope at bristly little blobs floating about in their little liquid world, wholly unaware of the massive being watching them like some inactive deity.
It was as Myron was observing that liquid world that Dr. Elspeth came running into the lab, out of breath and his chubby face flushed a color bordering on puce.
“Oh, Myron, you’re going to love this,” Dr. Elspeth gasped in elation, eyes practically sparkling like a kid on Christmas morning. “You remember your old department?” Of course Myron remembered it. Number one, it was hard to forget. Number two, it had been only two weeks since Myron had transferred.
Dr. Elspeth, however, was too caught up in his excitement to care about particulars. “Something escaped. Some kind of… monkey-bird-cat thing…”
Myron looked up from his microscope thoughtfully. Ah, yes, the flying monkey with the face of a cat and a penchant for knocking things off shelves for no reason at all. Myron had been rather fond of that one… when it wasn’t stealing his glasses in order to bat them around on the floor.
“It started knocking stuff down and letting other animals out of their cages. They barely managed to catch everything and I think a few of the specimens were eaten. They’re shutting the department down!”
Myron shrugged. “Bound to happen sooner or later.” And went back to his microscope and amoebas.
Watching those vulnerable amoebas in their tiny world, Myron couldn’t help but think about all those creations he’d had a hand in. What would become of them? Would they be locked away? Or… disposed of? Because they certainly weren’t going to be released.
The brain was such a funny little organ, with thoughts going this way and that like undirected traffic. Here Myron was, wanting nothing more to do with his old department and its creations – creations more at home in some disaster movie in which idiot scientists gleefully rearranged DNA for the sake of it and then unleashing their monstrosities, also for the sake of it – and Myron found himself feeling sorry for the abominations. It wasn’t their fault they existed, and it certainly wasn’t their fault they couldn’t live in the same world where their DNA originated from.
Myron looked up from his microscope and sighed at both the machinations of his brain and his blasted sense of responsibility.
Myron had to wonder about himself, sometimes. He had been quite happy as a scientist, even one who studied boring amoebas. He’d never had a desire to branch out in his career, pursue other interests, expand his horizons and so on and so forth. He most definitely had never entertained the thought of starting a zoo.
But while not all the creations of his department were his, some of them were. And as disturbing as flying spiders and four-legged sharks were, he still had a soft- spot for those cat-faced monkeys and parrot-beaked Echidnas. Since they couldn’t be released into the world, they could, at least, live out the remainder of their existence in comfort.
His former co-workers were more than happy to help, in part because they, too, still cared for their creations. Also in part because they were in need of a job. Besides, who best to handle these creatures than the ones who’d made them?
There was only one setback. Myron knew next to nothing about managing a zoo. He’d been to enough of them as a child, and so attempted to base his current zoo on the zoos of his childhood. But while riding a flying horse tethered to a pole seemed like a good idea in theory, riding a dragon-fly horse turned into a lesson in “how not to panic” when the creature refused to land anywhere but vertically on every available wall. The kids enjoyed it well enough. The parents… not so much. And while the octo-cats were affectionate and harmless, trying to untangle their tentacles from off one’s person was a nightmare.
Also, not only were their too many animals with the ability to talk, but for some reason they only ever picked up on swear words and other insults (also to the joy of the children and the annoyance of the parents). The talking coyotes would belt out the most terrible rendition of any song sang to them, thanks to Dr. Johansen, their creator, who had always enjoyed singing but could never carry a tune to save her life.
There were animals too smart for their own good, forever getting out only to find themselves in something else’s pen – usually an unfriendly something. The wolf-rabbits were digging holes their handlers were forever falling into. The rat-fish kept gnawing on the decorations in their tank. The (literal) spider-monkeys would get their handlers, and sometimes themselves, tangled in their own webs. The kangaroo-cockatoos squawked so loud that guests refused to go anywhere near them until they were behind sound-proof glass. There were also protests, people standing outside the gates waving signs and demanding that the owners stop playing God for entertainment purposes.
It was a pain, a mess, and made Myron wonder for the fiftieth time what he’d been thinking. And yet…
It was also a success. Despite the issues, complaints and protests people still came. They “ewed!” over the tarantula ducks and “awed!” over the tiny bat-bears, then left the zoo cuddling stuffed animal renditions of iguana-lemurs and owl-otters. Once the situation was explained to the protesters, they eventually drifted off (after giving Myron the stink-eye for having created these creatures in the first place).
And while a part of Myron sometimes missed the uneventful world of amoebas, it was a sentiment overshadowed by a feeling of contentment, of having done something important.
It seemed to Myron that any idiot with a mountain of Ph.ds could throw DNA together and make something new. But what mattered was what one did with that thing after. It may have had tentacles and scales and was so ugly that nature itself would have fainted at the sight of it. But, damn it all, it was their creations – his and his former departments.
Any of Myron’s employees slash former coworkers who so much as uttered the words “so what would happen if we combined…” would get a swift slap to the head and threats of a pink slip. Myron was finished stirring pots of DNA stew.
But looking after his creations he could live with.