In a parallel
universe, the GoHs went the traditional way and chose to make a Speech.
is a glimpse at that alternate reality.
Below is an excerpt
is from the story "Blood out of a Stone", contained in the anthology of
the same name, published by Nanopress.
scene in the waiting room, therefore, with Pandora, and Manuelle.
The last batch of vaccinations. About forty children and adolescents
slouching in chairs, sprawled on the carpet, on the sofas, with their
feet propped on the walls. In my corner -- no white coat: casual
clothes, paternal smile -- I "vaccinate" the older ones (role models
for the little ones who are still afraid). As they wait their turn,
kids play hide-and-seek with the cats among the canisters of green
plants, scribble with colour crayons in big sketchbooks, or leaf
through comic books -- duplicates: Manuelle didn't want the children to
have access to the monitors; her neo-Luddite phase has gone a little
too long for my taste, but I've always respected her choices, for the
most part. And Pandora all by herself in the modern technological era,
two terms a year, suited me fine.
was always one of the little kids who didn't like the injections, even
though we used compressed air syringes, and who protested: "Why do we
have to get vaccinated twice a year?"
this scene, it's a little girl, no more than five years old, with very
pink skin, but covering too much of her body to be sunburn. Pointed
face, dark eyes, and a cluster of little braids of a very light blond
sprouting from her head. The medium shot barely permits you to see,
almost subliminally, the iridescence that runs over her pink shoulders.
makes a little face, the way she does every time. "Vaccinate," that was
the term we had chosen, she and I, to avoid overly complicated
explanations, and she was stuck with it. But since there was always one
of the big kids who wanted to be the centre of attention, an adolescent
girl is now reeling off the usual explanation (with a close-up on her
face, too brief to show anything but her purplish eyes and, again, the
iridescence of her skin in the light):
is something that is making us sick, us, the Hendemados, in the air, in
the water, everywhere, and that accumulates in our bodies, and it will
have to be neutralized regularly throughout our whole lives."
settles the question without the eyes of the dazed young listeners
glazing over, much better than:
of your genes can transcode in two ways, either by making the planned
enzyme or by making a shorter enzyme that causes the hybridization to
become unstable: part of the DNA sequence for the enzyme is almost
identical to the sequence that typically marks the beginning of one of
those genes. There's an environmental factor that triggers the bad
transcoding and it is necessary to regularly administer a synthetic
antibody to neutralize it."
of course, showed no shock when I realized what was happening and
explained it to her, in the very beginning. She knew a lot about
genetics, and with good reason. And above all, she knew what she was,
what her child with Tiliss was and, later, what Pandora would be.
However, for the sake of the story, you could actually move on to me,
giving this very scientific explanation, in Tiliss's bedroom, the day
after the birth. The big aquarium seen in dull light, the naked bodies
of Tiliss and the baby suspended in the water, sleeping, the halo of
thin tentacles spreading around Tiliss's head, moving with the slow
predatory movements of her dreams. Manuelle, much younger, or at least
no grey hair, and I the same. Manuelle's whisper:
this child will live... these children will live?"
the mothers too. The procedure is longer and more... complex, but the
result is assured."Manuelle smiles a little smile that is both ironic
wasn't the way I saw myself having children."
touch her arm with my hand:
you'll have many more, and you won't die as a result. And the sirens
another flashback, the scene of our first meeting. The grey sky flecked
with clouds, the sea bleak and stormy, Manuelle lying unconscious and
pale on the little beach near the wharf, dripping, her bare and very
protuberant belly clearly visible, and the three sirens near her, with
the one facing me, Tiliss, his torso lit up with greenish signals, a
bioluminescent message I was unable to decipher, but I didn't need to.
I kneel down beside Manuelle, and as soon as I touched her I knew what
she was -- but the simple fact that she was pregnant was even more
astounding. I beckon to the orderlies to put her on the stretcher, and
they have the same surprised reaction when they touch her. And then
Tiliss steps forward as if to stop them (in fact, he only wanted to
follow them), and I hold him back, and again the astonishment is
written on my face.
I did not understand how astounded I should have been before Manuelle
regained consciousness later and explained everything to me, the
sirens, their seasonal sex change, their terminal problem of
reproduction between them -- and the nature of the stillborn child that
had almost killed her too.
we segue into that scene, then, after the one on the beach? But that
would make a little too many flashbacks, and that could make the whole
thing too long, too explanatory: all my experiments with Manuelle and
the sirens to find the solution, the cloning of an egg from Manuelle,
the fertilization using Tiliss's sperm at the end of his male phase,
the reimplantation in Tiliss's uterus during the female phase... Yes,
later, a scene of my discussion with Manuelle on refinements to the
process and its extension to the rest of the tribe. "And they don't all
have to be your children. There's a gene bank here." With genetic
material that would not be siren sperm to fertilize her eggs too, but
that's something I discussed with her later; and she didn't say no --
less out of love for knowledge than because she wanted, in the end, to
carry a child herself, even though it would also have to be mine.
at least that's what I told her. And why wouldn't she have believed me?
are really much too many things to explain in this film -- one of the
reasons why, besides the fact that there wouldn't be viewers who knew
nothing at all about the subject and for whom this exposition would be
necessary, it will never exist except in these flexible montages of
images I indulge in from time to time.
besides, at the very beginning, it should tell something else: not only
is the heroine impatient to leave again after her studious stay with
her father, but it is necessary to introduce the hero.
come back to the waiting room and the "vaccinations." Suddenly,
outside, the pounding of footsteps, shouting. Silhouettes go by on the
balcony, outside the picture window. One at first, a blur because of
the speed, then those of its pursuers, orderlies (in white coats; they
weren't wearing them, but that can easily be added. Images are quite
magical: so much information just in a uniform...). The children press
against the picture window, then some go outside so they can see what's
happening. I do the same with Manuelle and Pandora, tapping the button
of my wrist intercom and asking: "What's going on?"
patient has escaped!" pants Carl's voice.
no use following him, you imbeciles, just block any access to the lower
level!" Another tap, ending the communication -- rather superfluous,
but it's intended for the audience, not the film audience in this case,
but the children who have come out of the room and in particular
Manuelle and Pandora.
patient?" asks Pandora, as expected. She looks like she's in her
twenties. She is seen in three quarter profile, skin smooth and tanned,
eyes an intense blue, wilful features, a helmet of short black curls.
guy a remote patrol found on the mountain a few days ago, half dead,
and half crazy. A survivor of the epidemic. He has violent episodes
from time to time."
he's coming back this way!" comments one of the adolescents excitedly.
The orderlies didn't catch him -- not because he's running fast, but
because they're not really hurrying.
back inside, children," says Manuelle in a tone that brooks no reply.
They comply. I back up, Manuelle too, to leave room for Pandora, who
does not step away when the man charges towards her. He's still thin,
but he's a good head taller than she is. His white t-shirt is torn
across his chest. He tries to avoid Pandora, but she grabs him by an
arm, unbalances him, throws him to the ground and puts him in a
stranglehold. He struggles furiously to get free, close-up, you can see
the whites all around this brown pupils, like the eyes of a
panic-stricken horse. Then he suddenly relaxes. Change of angle,
another long shot. Pandora's tense face leans over the man's face. He's
still not quite unconscious. We can see his lips move. He is whispering
something to Pandora. The others can't hear, they're too far away, the
whisper is too soft, but Pandora shivers a little with horror. And the
sensors have heard too, so we know what the man said before passing
out: "Kill me, kill me!"