Perihelion - October 2002
Apotheosis - James P. Barrett
(page 12/16)


Apotheosis

Were you aware, that every living bird on the planet has all of the necessary genes in it's body to make claws, teeth, and scales? Makes you think doesn't it? It made me think, in fact it scared the hell out of me, but it also made me think and that may have been what saved us all.

Of course we don't really know what was the cause of the disaster sixty-five million years ago which left these hidden, cloaked and concealed creatures the only remnants of the entire family of creatures which once walked the whole surface of our planet. Even despite all of the evidence which has accumulated in recent times for the asteroid strike theory there are still dissenters, still a few quiet voices calling out against the overwhelming consensus which has grown. But whatever it was, we have to be glad that it happened, for each of the great extinctions that periodically wipe the face of the planet clean allows new lifeforms to rise to ascendance. Last time, that was us, who knows what will be next.

I suppose it isn't really our concern. But for as long as human civilisation has existed we've been overdue for another one.

We don't know what caused the last Great Extinction, and I don't know what will cause the next one. But someone does. A mantle plume they say, a massive super-volcano somewhere below Yellowstone park, the entire continent destroyed, and tidal waves racing across the Atlantic and Pacific all that I understand, but it's what comes next that I don't. I'm not a physicist, hell I'm not even a scientist, I'm a security guard. I guard a high security installation the location of which I cannot possibly reveal. But its new purpose is no secret. We're responsible for Project Apotheosis actually in a way I'm responsible for it.

The bit about the birds, that was something I saw in the lab a few years ago. They had an embryo they were growing, a chicken embryo, but it had teeth, and arms, and they said it'd one day have scales instead of feathers, if they had let it come to term. They didn't of course. But it shocked me, and got me thinking, so when I heard the conversation, it seemed appropriate to mention it.

They were talking about... well I'm not sure really, something about fields and magnets, and the atmosphere too, as I said, I'm not a scientist. But they were, and I reckon that they understood it. I've heard some freaky stuff in my time here, stuff that'd make your hair stand on end, but I'm paid to ignore it, paid very well actually. This was different however, what they were talking about was the end of the world, the end of all human life ... and there was nothing that they could do.

I mean it's still not common knowledge, but others will I'm sure explain it far better than I can. A huge disaster followed by a change so profound that the planet will become uninhabitable. For another fifty million years or so. That's what they said, and nothing they've learned since has changed their opinion. There was nothing they could do to prevent it, and nothing they could do to offset it. No humans could survive, even the best life support systems couldn't save us for that long, nothing could be done to protect us from it, and human hibernation was still decades away from perfection. So the government had asked for other possibilities, and one of them was genetic modification.

Would it have been possible to build a human that could have lived after the disaster? Maybe, but if so then the greatest minds in the field didn't know how to, as far as they could tell they could modify human stock to survive, but in doing so would sacrifice all vestiges of humanity and intelligence. The best that could be produced would be something along the lines of a bat-winged ape-like creature about the size of a small lemur. Utterly stupid and incapable. An animal.

It was about when they reached that point that I piped up, and mentioned the chicken embryo, how given the right stimuli it might revert to something resembling a dinosaur. Couldn't they do that I asked. After all the enviroment might recover in 50,000 millenia or so.

And so it came about. Project Apotheosis the lemur-things would survive, and some time in half a million centuries, perhaps more, the enviroment would change again, and their children would be born, if not human, then at least close.


It happened, exactly as they believed, and the project appeared successful. We watch from within our concealed bunker buried deep within the crust. Our power source will last centuries, but our life-support system will fail within our lifetimes. And then we shall die.

But before then I'd like to record this, in case anything can ever read it. We never guessed, we never thought. It was so obvious in hindsight. When the enviroment changed there was no noticeable difference in them until the breeding season came around, but then as we saw, every bird egg laid began to develop strangely. Most never hatched, and most of those that did were too hideously misshapen to ever support themselves. But those that did were something we never expected to see, an intelligent, tool using social creature which had not beheld the Earth in it's reptilian eye for sixty-five million years.

James P. Barrett