William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifteen

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Rocky Shannon answered the phone, informed the caller of the late hour, but nonetheless handed the phone to Julia.

“You need to come in here now,” said Carson.

Julia recognized his voice but was still half asleep.  “What is it?”  She had been dreaming about Cossacks and naturally assumed that the call had something to do with the Central Asian steppes.

“I did what you said.  I ran the array and then did the confirmation tests.”


“And the samples are identical?”

Julia worked to rouse her sluggish neurological thoroughfares.  “If they’re identical, it means that the samples were not taken properly.”

“Wrong, professor – sample one is a vaginal swab from Karen Sorrows.  Sample two is a swab from the fetus.  No error, and the samples are genetically identical.”

Julia didn’t even need to think about this.  Not even fully awake, she didn’t even need to be fully awake to smell an error.  “Not possible.”

“We don’t argue the facts, boss,” Carson half whispered.  “The fetus was genetically identical to Karen Sorrows.”

“The fetus was a clone.”

“You’d think that, right?”

“The fetus was a clone,” Julia repeated.

“Technically, yes,” said Carson, “but first of all, no human has ever been cloned to our knowledge. And second of all, it would be hugely expensive and require a private secret lab with a lot of money.”

“Karen Sorrows lives in a secret compound; they have a cloning program.”  She was excited.  Nervous too.  “They impregnated her with a clone.”

“Julia,” Carson said, trying to calm her, “Professor, listen, I thought that too, at first.  But here’s the thing, this girl was on birth control.  No one should be getting pregnant on birth control, and no clone lab that was interested in impregnating women would give them Depo Provera.”

“Maybe they didn’t know she was sexually active.  Maybe little Karen was seeing someone on the side and didn’t indicate that she was on birth control.”

“If you ran a clone lab, you would test for that, you would do regular blood tests.”

“So what are we talking about?”

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t either, unless she’s parthenogenic.”

“Virgin birth,” said Carson.  “No proof that it’s ever happened but there sure have been accounts.”

“It’s possible.  Are you still in the lab, I’m coming down?”

“I’m home,” Carson said.  “I got tired.  Don’t worry though, I took everything out of the system, but I have a disk and I have the printouts.  We need to figure this out, not tonight, but we have to face the facts that unless someone made a major sampling error, we just had a girl abort her clone.”

“That’s so fucked up.”

“We need to meet her,” Carson suggested.

“Yes we do.  Meet me tomorrow at six.  Maybe we can work a little more intensively on this.”

“Right,” he said, hanging up.

Julia felt her pulse racing.  There had to be a mixup.  She would not have doubted it for a moment except for the fact that her own mother had taken the samples.  But on the other hand, a woman and her growing fetus cannot share identical DNA.  The genetic contribution of the father guarantees this at the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg.  No woman is genetically identical to her child.  The fundamentals, everything known about heredity confirms this, Julia reassured herself.  And as Rocky turned, half asleep, coming awake when he found her sitting up in the bed, Julia sensed that there was more to Karen Sorrows than was apparent.

“Are you having nightmares?” Rocky asked, staring up at her.


“Come here,” he said, and she curled back next to him.

“Did you ever see anything you couldn’t explain, Rocky?  Like a UFO or a ghost?  Cause I’m starting to see some improbabilities and that’s not good for a scientist.”

Rocky kissed her, ran his fingers through her hair.  “I saw something once.”


“It wasn’t a UFO.”

“Was it big and green?” she asked.

Rocky shook his head, which she felt, pressed next to hers.  “We go through many careers, most of us,” he began.  “Billy and I tried a few things before we decided on the renovation thing, and we were working old gold mines for awhile, semi-exhausted gold mines.  So some years back we were four weeks into opening this mine in western New Guinea, and we still couldn’t keep the workers from fighting every night.  There was liquor everywhere and there were whores, and the government liaisons said not to get involved with that, not to try to even begin to mess with that.  So we didn’t, but the fighting got worse.”

“Sounds awful.”

“It was.  We had a crew of soldiers from Jakarta but they were mean bastards.  One night they were all drunk and some huge commotion was heating up, and the tribal leader was banging on the door.  It was like eleven at night which is pretty late there.  This tribal guy, a guy named Sidmund, started banging on our door.  We knew him, so I let him in.  He sits down and then pulls a head out of a bag, a human head, still dripping blood.  Said it was his nephew that the soldiers had killed.  And asked what we were going to do about it.”

“That’s a rough spot.”

“Yeah, so when I told him that we would talk to the soldiers, he spit on the floor, called me a son of a dog, told me I had to better control my yard or others would soil it.  Then he left.”

“That must have been scary,” Julia said.  “Having a head in front of you.”

“Thing is I got a good look at the head, so I was able to recognize it when it came by the next Saturday to pick up its paycheck.”

“Say again?”

“I checked him out.  Full ripe pink scar tissue, still bleeding, but that was the head and it was on the body and it was asking for a paycheck.”

“So did you pay the head?”

Rocky nodded.  “We did, yes.  We paid the head.  The head was the leader of a trace crew, a team of about twenty guys.”

“You’re sure it was the same head?”

“Pretty sure.”

“That’s strange, Rocky.”

“Yes,” he said, “but I listen to your phone calls, and it’s no stranger than a little girl impregnated with her clone”

“Yeah.  I have to go, sweetheart.”

“It’s four in the morning.”

“I have to go do this.  Carson’s still at the lab.”

“The phone is loud.  I can hear.  He said he went home.”

“He lied.”


Written by williamdoonan

December 27, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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