Become a Fan
By Ronald W. Hull
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Dreamed this one last night...
If you think this is a horror story about recreational sports, forget it. Otherwise, read on...
Rob and Joan Estes could've been your average couple, but they weren't. While they kept it quiet, they were both members of Mensa, the genius club. While born to a loving family, Robert L. Estes grew up alone, with few friends, immersed in his world of hobbies and scientific pursuits while the other boys were out fishing or playing baseball. Of course, he graduated first in his class and was off to Princeton on a full scholarship in chemistry. He had little chemistry with girls. Although Rob had the same drives as other boys his age, he was small--some would say sickly--and couldn't get to first base with girls who stood over him with breasts perking out. Rob compensated by garnering the largest collection of pornography in his class. To the few friends he let in on this hoard, he was a stud overnight.
Joan Mae Rivers liked dolls, but she also liked her piano, flute, easel, model airplanes and rockets. From the first grade on she topped all of her classmates in math. By the fourth grade she was helping the boys calculate trajectories and altitudes for their model rockets. She was always coming up with innovations that helped the rockets go further and higher. Joan convinced the machine shop instructor in her junior high school to let her use the shop after school to make seamless alloy tube rockets that were the envy of all the guys. She had feelings, too, of course. Especially for James Adams, the quarterback and a smooth dancer. But Joan was just one of the guys. Skinny, with thick glasses and crooked teeth, she just wasn't attractive like Lola Jarvis, a popular cheerleader who took pity on her and befriended her in exchange for help with math. Still, like Rob Estes, she graduated first in her class and found herself, alone, with a full scholarship in mathematics at Princeton University.
Funny, that the two should meet. Even though her parents, relieved of having to pay for Joan's college education, chipped in for braces and contacts, she was still shy and lost in this big, vibrant freshman class. Her roommate was no help, shacking up most nights in some fraternity house or another. Ester Fontaine was a rich kid with no other purpose at Princeton than to get high and laid. Joan liked her class schedule but not much else.
Rob Estes was already in his second year. Having proved with straight As that he could conquer the best that Princeton had to offer had gained a full foot in stature over the last three years, he now stood a tall and gangly 6 foot 3 if not a bit skinny and sallow. Still horny, but with little luck, he set off to the freshman mixers with high hopes. At the science club opener, he spotted her in the crowd, and, with some strange sixth sense, bravely approached her. "Hi. I see by your nametag that your name is Joan. I'm Rob. Are you interested in the science club?"
"Hi, Rob. Ah… Yes, it is one of my big interests. But I like rockets the most. Do you like rockets?"
"I sure do. That's why I'm in the science club. Here we can do the things we want and not have to be bogged down by course assignments and stupid professors."
"Stupid professors! How can you say that? Princeton is supposed to have some of the best professors in the world."
Playing the all-knowing sophomore, Rob reasserted himself. "You'll see. There are good ones and there are bad ones--social climbers. You'll see after you take their classes."
From that chance meeting romance bloomed, and soon, they were inseparable. Sex soon followed, but it was so discreet that not even their best friends knew. They took precautions, so there were no babies to slow their rapid progress through college. Rob excelled in molecular chemistry, and, by his junior year was fast tracked by Merck through to his doctorate. Similarly, Joan’s team won a national rocket science competition between top schools, was picked up by McDonnell Douglas and fast tracked through her doctorate in aerospace science. Rob ended up in Chicago and Joan in St. Louis. Both had hectic schedules, but managed to see each other most weekends and holidays by driving or jetting off into the night. Finally, after four years of this, they got married and settled down in a Victorian house that they restored in Springfield, Illinois. They both kept apartments in Chicago and St. Louis and lived the commuter lifestyle with little time for family or friends. They were their own best friends, indulging in travel, hobbies, and scientific study aside from their work. Working to save mistreated pets, Rob became a good surgeon. To be on the safe side, he passed all the tests and obtained a veterinarian's license. Before long they were off quite often to disaster sites to save pets that were hurt, lost, or abandoned. After McDonnell Douglas closed, Joan joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, making it even more difficult for them to be together. Somehow, they managed.
As they grew older they looked for a second home, a retreat, for retirement. They chose the North Carolina Mountains because the winters were not harsh and they liked the beauty, remoteness and tranquility of the place as well as its friendly, open people. They bought 200 acres comprising a hollow at the end of Sleepy Hollow Lane and build a log home. On the acreage they built kennels and enclosures for animals. In their 50s with huge retirement packages from the stressful lives they had led, they sold the place in Springfield and retired to their North Carolina retreat. Joan took up oil painting and their rescue service took in deer, birds of prey, bear, mountain lion, and an occasional pet tiger. They saw the plight of animals to be dire and took on that cause in their retirement years. Still, they were lonely.
"We should have had kids when we were young. You remember when I had those embryos frozen in that experiment at the University of Chicago? Joan was waxing wistful one evening during their after dinner sherry. "It was a good idea at the time. Should have thawed some out while I could still bear children."
"You still can." Rob said matter-of-factly.
"Come on, Hon. I'm 76 years old. There's no way a dried up old cervix like mine would support a baby!"
"You remember those fertility experiments we were doing on rats at Merck before I left? Well, we were close to creating an artificial womb in the abdominal cavity that would support an embryo. It appeared to work with rats. Maybe I can try it on some of our infertile dogs here. I’ve still got some embryos of yours from that experiment here, too"
"Well I never... it never... ceases to amaze me what science can do. I guess you're right. Why don't you give it a try on old Macy? She's been here 10 years and never had pups. Give her a surprise."
"Good idea, I'll get started tomorrow. We’ll see what happens."
Using Macy's own tissue, Rob soon grew a pouch that would act as a womb. He garnered some fertilized embryos from dogs of Macy's breed, Labrador retriever. He filled the pouch with blood that he gathered from her over time. In a surgery that lasted only a half hour, he carefully connected the pouch with three fertilized embryos in it to some arteries in the abdominal cavity of Macy. Joan served as Rob’s assistant, and stitched Macy back up
Rob watched Macy carefully over the next few weeks. Although she had been badly mistreated as a pup, she had recovered from her wounds and showed a newfound energy and hunger that accompanies a dog's pregnancy. To his amazement, ultrasound showed three healthy pups growing in her abdomen. Since she was so old, perhaps 15 years, Rob thought he would end the pregnancy early so that she would stand a better chance of living after it. With Joan present as his assistant, he performed a cesarean section and removed two healthy, but premature baby pups. Sadly, the third pup died shortly after it was removed. Macy had developed enough breast milk to nurse the two puppies that survived. At first they had to be fed by a dropper because they couldn't climb up to nurse on her. Joan carefully hand fed them until they could nurse on their own. In a few weeks, the pups had grown and were very lively. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Macy.
Macy began acting very agitated. She would jump up from her sleep and spin around. She started to exhibit spasms like epilepsy and lost her balance. She seemed to be in great pain. Finally, Rob had to put her down. Trying to figure out what caused Macy to behave this way bothered Rob. Was it something that he did? Did it have something to do with the pups? He had to get to the bottom of it. He decided to do an autopsy. When he cut open Macy’s abdomen, he found that everything had healed well from the original surgery to the cesarean section. Everything else seemed normal for a dog of her age. Finally, he opened her skull. What he found surprised him. Macy’s brain had deteriorated as though she had some severe form of Alzheimer's disease or worse. The gray matter had severely atrophied as though it was no longer being used. Fortunately, the two puppies were very much alive and active. They learned tricks very quickly and surpassed other dogs of their age in any test that he gave them. There appeared to be nothing wrong with their brains.
Rob got on the Internet and began to contact friends to see if he could find out what had happened. He knew they had developed a drug to help the artificial womb connect to the bloodstream of the test rats. Could that be the problem? He had used the same drug on Macy because it was the only way that the womb would connect and began to feed the embryos from the mother's blood. He called Dr. Ralph Samuels at the University of Chicago where Merck had done the tests. Samuels was emeritus and not in the office, so he left a message.
"Rob Estes? This is Ralph Samuels calling you back. You called me three days ago about the experiments we did ten years ago on the surrogate womb?"
"Yes, Ralph. This is Rob. I'm glad you remember the experiments. You remember that drug we developed, W-429?"
"Who could forget? Right after you left us--retired, I think--all of our experimental rats began dying. All the rats that died had been experimented on with that drug. We finally found out what the drug was doing. It was breaking down the blood brain barrier. After we CT scanned several rats that hadn't died yet but were behaving very strangely, we determined that the drug eventually caused severe brain deterioration and atrophy. We immediately asked Merck to stop producing it. Where did you get it?
"I continued to do work for Merck after I retired here in my laboratory. I still have a number of their experimental drugs in my inventory."
"Well, I'd get rid of them if I were you. That drug is too dangerous. It'll never be used on a human if I have anything to say about it."
"Too bad. It had such promise. I'll get rid of what I've got. Thanks so much for the information. I'll be in touch."
"Say hello to Joan for me. I miss the good old times we had. Bye."
"Bye." As he hung up the phone, Rob promised himself that he wouldn't destroy the last of his W-429. He was sure that Ralph was hitting on Joan during those so-called, good times.
Five years passed and the animals became a burden. Gradually, Rob and Joan had them shipped off to other sanctuaries around the country and stopped taking in new charges. They missed the suspense, the mystery, and excitement of saving animals from the brink of death and restoring them to good health. But it was just too much, too much for their aging bodies to do anymore. They were still both in good health--they had taken good care of themselves--but were getting frail and finding heavy work just too much. Their circle of activities became smaller and smaller and they interacted with their North Carolina community less and less until it was just the two of them and the two Labrador puppies who had grown into magnificent dogs, Romer and Lena.
Romer was clearly an alpha male. He protected their little hollow with zest against all comers. He was laughable when he chased the raccoons away from the garbage cans. But not so laughable when he chased away a mother black bear with cubs. Rob and Joan woke that night to terrible barking, growling and commotion. When Rob turned on the floodlights he was surprised to see Romer, with Lena behind him, challenging the bear. He seemed to know enough not to attack the bear directly, but rather distracted her enough so that she wanted to leave in peace. Rob had seen other dogs mix with a bear and come away with terrible wounds. Romer seemed to be smarter than that--a lot smarter. Both he and Lena took easily to training. Soon, they became a big help around the house. Companion dogs.
Joan took notice of their intelligence and how easily they trained for various household duties. "It's almost like having a child," she said, to Rob absently one day.
"Yes, I noticed that too. I've been thinking a lot about it. You know, we could have children like that. Just think how smart they would be. Much smarter than us, I believe."
"Yes, but it's too late. I'm past 80 and having trouble now even doing household chores. There's no way I could take care of the baby. Besides, you know what happened to Macy. The same thing would happen to me. You told me that yourself."
"You're right, Joan. You and I are both too old, and I would hate to think what would happen to us if we took W-429. But look at these two guys. What if they really were our children? They seem to be doing all right without their mother and without ever even knowing their father. We could do that. We could give the next generation our children."
They thought about it and thought about it. They knew they were taking a tremendous risk. But somehow they felt unfulfilled if they didn't do this one last thing before they died. Compared to what they had been, they were almost useless now, just shells biding time waiting to die. This one last thing they could do. So, once again, using their superior intellect, they hatched a plan.
Once they had put their affairs in order and made sure that their families, now both distant in time and place, and their favorite foundations and charities were taken care of, they set about executing the plan.
Just like he'd done for Macy, Rob grew two surrogate wombs in the laboratory. In the meantime, both he and Joan drew blood to provide for their operations and the surrogate wombs. In three or four weeks they had enough blood and the wombs were ready. Joan was first to go under the knife. Operating on Joan was much easier than operating on Macy. Rob used a local anesthetic, and placing two thawed out fertilized embryos in place quickly finished the operation and stitched Joan up. She was smiling the whole time and thanked him for an almost painless procedure.
After five days of recovery Joan was up to feeding well enough to do Bob's procedure and it was his turn. After carefully studying the video of how Rob did it, she went ahead with implanting a surrogate womb in Rob. Like her operation, Bob's went without a hitch. They each took a quart of blood to make sure they wouldn't become anemic but doubted if they would have needed it.
A strange thing began to happen. Both of them started waking up without the aches and pains of old age. They were hungry all the time and took long walks in the woods without getting tired. There was no morning sickness, just the kind of euphoria that comes from knowing that you’ve got something living growing inside you. They were eager to keep tabs on the progress of the embryos, so, as soon as they could detect anything, they took ultrasound scans. To Bob's amazement, both of the embryos in Joan were growing. Before long, they determined that one was a boy and the other was a girl. The ultrasound of Rob showed that one of the embryos had died and only a boy was growing in him. After some discussion, they decided to end the life of the embryo of the boy in Joan's womb. As good as she was feeling now, Rob didn't think that she could stand the stress of carrying twins at her age. She agreed. They had always agreed. Such was the nature of their love and trust for one another.
With a long needle, Rob pierced the abdomen of Joan once more, and with the camera on the end of the probe, gently ended the life of the boy she was carrying. They both cried a lot after it happened. That evening after they ate, they lit a candle and had a memorial service. After that, they didn't mention it again, but focused instead on the living babies growing inside of them.
It was a happy time, this dual pregnancy. Rob and Joan played like children and ate like horses. Romer and Lena found it amusing and great fun when they wanted to play with them all the time. Time passed quickly, and soon they both were showing. They could feel the babies moving and kicking. Before long, the weight they put on began to be a burden and slowed them down. It was obvious that they would be unable to carry for a full term nine months. Rob was hoping that they would pass five months so the babies would have a good chance. When that day came they were very happy and celebrated. By now, they were complete recluses. The last time they've been to the grocery store was about a month earlier. Fortunately, they had had a good crop and there were plenty of fresh vegetables and melons from their garden, the one last task they indulged in.
One beautiful September morning, Joan woke up with a headache. "Rob. Rob, wake up! I'm not feeling well at all." She rolled over and gagged.
Rob was startled awake by her movement. "What's wrong, Joan baby. What's wrong?"
" I don't know. I had this terrible dream that something was trying to steal my brain. It was terrible. In all my life I never had a nightmare like that. And now I have this splitting headache. I'm nauseous and dizzy. I couldn't have the flu. We haven't been anywhere to catch a virus. Bob, this is serious. I think we'd better do something."
"Okay, honey, we'll do something. But first, let's have breakfast." He was serious, but sometimes he appeared to be joking at times like this.
"Okay, but you fix it and then we'll have to do what we said we’d do."
They both got up and got dressed in their best clothes. Rob couldn't zip up his pants--he hadn't been able to for the past month--so he put on his suspenders and left his pants gaping with his shirt hanging over the top, just like he did the last time they went to the grocery store so that no one would notice. And then he went to the kitchen and made them a breakfast of ham and eggs. The eggs were fresh from two chickens they kept for that purpose. After breakfast and a trip to the bathroom to brush their teeth, comb their hair and look as good as possible, they fed the dogs and petted them for the last time.
They took a walk around the place and looked at the fall colors beginning to appear in the mountain air and breathed in their last. "It is time," Rob said, and they walked back into the house and into the bedroom. "I'll call." He dialed 911.
"Hello, 911, what's your emergency."
"My wife is very ill. She will need to go if the emergency room. She appears to have a large cyst or tumor that is protruding from her abdomen. I hope you can handle it at County General. I'm sick too and unable to drive. Please hurry."
"My computer is showing you to be Robert and Joan Estes, residing at 13645 Sleepy Hollow Lane, Mountain Home, North Carolina. Is that correct? Is that where you're located?"
"Yes, it is. Please send an ambulance as soon as you can. She is very sick and so am I. I will leave the phone off the hook. Can you tell me how long it will be?"
"It's a long way, perhaps a half-hour. I see that we do have the ambulance ready to go and I am dispatching it as we speak. You should be at County General in an hour. Are you going with her?"
"Yes. I told you that I'm sick , too. Make sure that you have a stretcher for me, too, in case I can't walk either."
"I'll stand by. My name is Susan. Just pick up the phone if you need me. The ambulance should be there in about 25 minutes."
Rob and Joan looked at one another, hugged and kissed for the last time, and then, together, took their pills. The first pill was cyanide. Rob had prepared it to release its poison in four hours into the upper intestinal tract. He figured that would be enough time for them to remove the babies. The second pill was a powerful sedative that would put them under for about five hours. Although the babies would be under it too, Rob calculated that they would be fine. Holding hands, they both lay down together to fall asleep. Romer and Lena were not allowed on the bed. But, sensing something different was happening, both crawled up on the bed and snuggled up to their masters. They were greeted with hugs as the two fell asleep.
"Hey, this is Jack. We've arrived at the house and have a situation. Both parties are comatose on their bed with bulging bellies and the dogs won't let us get near them. Oh... it's okay. George just started petting one of them and they seem to have calmed down. Like I said, they are both passed out or comatose. Seem to be breathing okay, like they are sleeping. What’s that, there... it's a note. It reads,' It’s okay, we are sedated, please get us to the hospital and remove the babies by caesarian section as soon as possible. We will not live beyond the births. Sincerely, Rob and Joan Estes.' Well, if that isn't the damnedest. Let's get them out of here!" Jack snatched the note for good measure. Never heard of such a thing.
Dr. Charles McDonald had everything ready before the ambulance arrived. "I want them x-rayed first. If they have a cyst or tumor we might be able to remove it and save their lives. If they are pregnant like that note says, I will have to make the decision whether to remove the babies or not. I hope that isn't a tough call." Almost before he could finish briefing the staff the ambulance was arriving. Just as the note said, the x-rays revealed two healthy, but premature, babies. The Estes appeared to be resting comfortably in spite of all the jostling about. He thought for a moment, and then decided to act. "Get the woman into the operating room first. We'll see how that delivery goes. And then I'll decide on the man."
McDonald couldn't believe what he was seeing when he cut Joan open. He had operated on many elderly patients, but this seemed surreal. Inside this old, decaying body was a vibrant young baby girl with all of her fingers and toes. She was sleeping but breathing well on her own, in spite of being premature. The little gal was 5 lbs. 1 oz. and was screaming her lungs out within the hour. McDonald stitched Mrs. Estes up, and moved her to the recovery area.
When it was Rob Estes’s turn, McDonald was beside himself with disbelief. Not only was Estes old, he was a man. Men don't have babies. What kind of cruel joke was being played? Had Rob Estes been playing with nature up there in that hollow? He didn't know and he couldn’t be sure right now. He just had to operate and remove that baby from Rob Estes's stomach. Just as he had 40 minutes before, he removed a healthy baby boy from Rob Estes’s abdomen. The boy weighed 5 lbs. 2 oz. and joined his sister in an incubator they had waiting in the nursery.
Although Rob and Joan had good vital signs when they were moved into the recovery area, within an hour their vital signs began to deteriorate rapidly and they both died. A subsequent autopsy showed that they had both died from a massive dose of cyanide poisoning. When the rest of the pills were found in the Estes bedroom their deaths were ruled a suicide.
The babies were well developed in spite of being premature and were out of the incubators within a month. A fervor went up around the births that reached worldwide, and the little town of Mountain Home, North Carolina was besieged by the news media for several weeks after the births. The McDonald's, who were childless, decided to adopt the babies. The two dogs, Romer and Lena were also welcome in the Ralph and Susan McDonald house.
Two months later, the babies, named Jason and Margaret McDonald, were left on a blanket in the living room to roll around and make their gurgling sounds while the two loving Labradors lounged protectively nearby. Margaret rolled over on her side and looked Jason in the eyes. His bright blue eyes caught hers and they stared at each other a minute. Finally, Margaret said, "Is that you. Rob?"
Rob replied. "Yes Joan, it is… And I can't wait until we can walk."
Copyright 2006 © Ronald W. Hull
Site: Ron's Place
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|Reviewed by Ronald Hull
|And the best one...
"You have some crazy dreams!! It was wierd, but good.
|Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
|What a captivating story....with a wicked twist at the end!!
|Reviewed by Regis Auffray
|A captivating story from start to finish. Thank you for sharing it, Ron. Love and peace,
|Reviewed by Aberjhani
|A darkly bizarre and deliciously twisted tale. My guess is Alfred Hitchcock would have read this, smiled, and offered you a cigar. The question is what would Washington Irving have made of such goings on at Sleepy Hollow Lane? Think I'll leave that one alone. Thanks for one wild scream of a ride:-)
|Reviewed by Rafiriio Daniels
|very nice work.|
|Reviewed by Peter Paton
Wow...what an unexpected twist at the end..
Just goes to show that you shouldn't try to be God !