The Antecedent (Part Two)
“This is the Calculus Ingrained, Wade!” Kaine’s voice sounded triumphant. For those readers who have only known the Wasp in his magnificent and lithe adult form, I will tell you now that the larval Calculus Ingrained was not a miniature replica of the adult. Graphic descriptions are not my forte but I will try my best to describe what I saw.
There were no portioned anatomical features like a head, a body and limbs. He was like a caterpillar with an ebony black face. He had multiple eyes shaped like diamonds that formed a dome. Each diamond rotated independently from the others and fed that 1800 cc cranium of his with information from a 360 degree arc but even as a larva he had fourth dimensional perception. It would be more precise to say that he was cognizant of information within a 129,600-degree visual circle. His other senses were super-developed as well. His snake like proboscis that poked along the floor I am told could sniff a single hydrogen atom in a volume equivalent to the size of the Earth. He had no ears and no mouth proper if you do not count the orifice at the end of his proboscis. The 1800 cc cranium was visible under his opaque orange skin as a major fold in an otherwise almost cylindrical body that was about four feet in length. Bands of fiery orange and tawny blonde vertically striated this body. The only phenotypic evidence that suggested to me that he was not a behemoth insect was the slight hint of an endoskeleton underneath his skin.
Kaine in his narration of the Calculus Ingrained said that the creature’s internal organs were predominantly mammalian although there was one sac inside that sole function was to metabolize the venom that would be secreted through the stinger once the Calculus Ingrained underwent metamorphosis.
To be frank, I was close to vomiting upon the sight of this hybrid. I am told by some of Kaine’s associated who had actually worked with the larval wasp that it excreted the most fetid odor from its rectum. It seems that all of the larva’s waste products were gaseous. It needed to retain all of its solids and liquids to prepare itself for the change. It constantly ate and it constantly flagellated. Had I actually encountered the larva I know I would have vomited for sure.
Even though it did not appear to be a clone of mine, I still underwent the affectatious identification with it like all donors do upon encountering their clones. It did not matter to me that this creature’s other progenitor was an inch long pulp of protoplasm that got its kicks by dancing amidst a throng of other inch long pulps of protoplasm. I laughed to myself when I thought what the donor wasp would think of its 250-pound offspring.
As I watched with increasing parental adoration the Calculus Ingrained climbed into a swimming pool sized vat of carefully mixed carbohydrates, proteins, and cholesterols, I began to wonder why Kaine and why the Minister of the Interior wanted me to see this creature. It was a nice gesture but there had to be a reason.
The Minister’s voice dubbed over Kaine’s narrative. The Minister said, “This film was made two years ago. Since that time Qanus Kaine has passed away.” The Minister did not explain how Kaine had died. “The Calculus Ingrained is now eleven feet long and still in the larval stage. We estimate that it will be about 20 months before he initiates the change. It is not certain that his human portion will be able to tolerate the powerful enzymes and hormones secreted by his insect half during metamorphosis. Our guess is that he will not survive the ordeal. For you see, Mr. Gifford, the Calculus Ingrained is an experimental prototype that our government commissioned Qanus Kaine to design to our specifications. It was to be a secret project but those snooping agents from the World Indelible Impression Society uncovered its existence. They believed that Kaine was breaking one of their ethical codes and sought to take action against him. Because of the secretive nature of the project we sadly could not give him any support. Yet Kaine never betrayed us and he stoically became a sacrifice.”
At this point I interjected and asked the Minister what was the reason behind the Calculus Ingrained. I did not think that the Minister would answer. At best I hoped for an evasive reply. To my surprise, however, I was let in on the purpose.
“The Calculus Ingrained was designed to countermand some physiological and morphological shortcomings of the anthropoidal human being. As you may or may not know Mr. Gifford, our government is committed to interstellar flight and in particular to the Ceti Gamma system where we have been receiving faint radio signals for the past twenty years. The standard human being’s thoracic cavity cannot withstand the extended period of immobility that is required to reach Ceti Gamma. Alveolar pressures tend to build and build until the human organism is in a constant state of expiration. Without oxygen intake, well you know that! But an insect can withstand periods of dormancy that stretches a hundred fold their normal life expectancy. Consider the common fly. In northern climates they can expect to only live a few days. Yet when winter comes, some of these flies lay eggs that lay dormant for four or five months. Come April there is an adult fly buzzing about. In a sense these April flies extend their lives fifty fold. The insects of April are the true Methuselahs.”
I voiced a guess at this point, “So what you are saying is that if you combine the long-lived insects with the intelligence of a human being, you would have a viable deep space bio-mechanism that can withstand the arduous journey and still be smart enough to interact with the aliens.”
“Precisely!” the Minister’s voice echoed from the hidden speakers.
“But why is this being kept a secret?” The people of the Earth had been unified for so long that it was difficult for me to comprehend such constructs as espionage and malice.
“There is more to it than I have just revealed to you Mr. Gifford. I have given you the simplified view of the matter and I assure you that the general gist that you now have are the basics behind the Calculus Ingrained. But without sounding too arbitrary, we feel that certain elements within the project’s design would not go over well with the public.”
I am the layman personified. I have no special interests in any particular field. I find that my amateurness occludes me from delving too deeply into causal links. Maybe I prefer a mystical world where nothing can be known. But at that moment, I needed to know. To know more and to know why I was being involved in a conspiracy against the free spread of knowledge.
The Minister answered my unasked questions and veiled me in more shadowy doubt. “There is no special reason why you were chosen as the Antecedent, Mr. Gifford. We left the choice up to Kaine. But now that the choice has been made there are certain things that we require from you. There is a large amount of money invested in this project and for this reason we need a maximal amount of success. As I said earlier, the Calculus Ingrained is not expected to survive metamorphosis. There are too many bugs in it if you can pardon my pun. But with your cooperation and your strenuous effort we may be able to stretch out its life a little longer. More importantly with you going into a symbiotic relationship with it, we may garnish some details from its unexplored mind that my aid us in future experiments of this ilk.”
Perhaps I hesitated or perhaps the cameras in the room detected my emotive response that was one of strong repulsion to involve myself with a terminal case, but no matter how it was noticed, an ominous ring came into the Minister’s voice. “I am afraid that you have no choice Mr. Gifford. All your civil rights have been suspended. As you know I have the authority to take such action. Nevertheless your cooperation in this matter will be handsomely remunerated.”
The tape had come to an end. The last frame showed the fattened larva being lifted out of the feed tank and being sprayed with what I guess was water.
I will not bother the reader with the details of the happenings of the next two weeks. This period has been documented in several journals and I refer the reader to them. Let it be enough to say that I was taken to Amazonia where scientists fussed over me and made the required preparations that allowed me to go into direct communication with the larva. Although the anatomical changes to my skull were grotesque, I will inform the reader that my reactions to these changes were not hysterical, as some popular media have characterized them to be. Indeed it takes some getting used to having your face taken away from your head and having your cerebrospinal fluid poured away. But it is impossible to be hysterical over this because you are in effect perceptionless and cannot receive any data from the external world. In fact I was totally thoughtless when this happened. It was like I was in a deep sleep.
As is well known and not altered by any popular media, my brain was fused to that of the Calculus Ingrained. My body was strapped to its body with my frontal head surgically hooked up to the larva’s cerebral cortex. It is true that the larva went berserk at first but it eventually tamed and accepted me. Since I was genetically almost identical to it and it to me our bodies did not reject one another.
I woke up from this deep sleep with an explosion of sensory input. At first I was at the frenzied side of bewilderment. I did not know what my situation was. But I was seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling in a way that I could not comprehend. My sight was a confused visual field of layered contexts that sat upon each other, progressively changing from one perspective to another simultaneously. I saw one man before me but it was like looking at him from all different angles at once. There was a myriad of odors that assaulted my olfactory but they didn’t all mass up as an amalgam of smells. Rather each remained distinct and did not meld into one another in an additive form of normal human sniffing. Sounds took on a whole new perspective. It was like reading a word one letter at a time, one gluttoral stop at a time. I heard the sound at its point of origin through all the intervening points and finally where it faded beyond my hearing range. And like the other senses I was able to incorporate it all once I got over my initial confusion. I was in many ways a neonate and had to learn a whole new phenomenological set as the environment to which my vitals adhered. I had only a vague recollection of Wade Gifford and virtually no recall that I was in a fused symbiotic relationship with the Calculus Ingrained.
In a standard birth the neonate is alone within his or her compartmentalized shell. My new birth delivered me to a world where there was another essence sharing the same sensations that I did. Indeed, I had no clearly delineated psychological skeleton. Parts of me were blending into the other consciousness and this made communication more direct and yet fuzzier since I could never be sure if I was the addressor or the addressee. I did not know my distinct thoughts from the other’s. It was a blend. It was a heightened self-consciousness with two minds. For those readers eager to find out if the Wasp disclosed any of its wisdom and its philosophy to me, I have to say that it did but it must be realized that our communication was not verbal and does not easily translate into that medium. I am certain that if I took a stab at trying to impart some of the wisdom I received from the Wasp during symbiosis what I would be doing is giving my own thoughts and not those of the Wasp’s.
I was very fortunate to have such direct communication with the One That Changes All but I am also the unluckiest man in the world. For in those two months that our brains were fused I possessed the neural pathways to the greatest mind that ever existed but with our parting I lost it all. I have undergone hypnosis on several occasions in the hope of retrieving that golden garden period of my life. The results were always the same. I can recall only the synaptic firings of my own brain at the time; the Wasp’s consciousness did not even leave fleeting traces of its existence within my brain. Now, I have given up on trying again. The Wasp during his adult life has said more than all of humanity has ever said. I cannot add to it and to do so would be foolish. It won’t serve any purpose and I do not intend to aggrandize myself or profit from my association with the Calculus Ingrained.
After our separation I was informed that the only reason for our symbiosis was that I could strengthen its human half with additional epinephrine, norepinephrene, and other medulla hormones to counteract the derisive insect enzymes and electrolytes that would have eaten away the human organs inside the Calculus Ingrained. It was much later that I learned that I too could have died from its metamorphosis. From the safety of hindsight I could have had the luxury of saying that at the time I was willing to sacrifice myself like Kaine for the Wasp. In truth, however, had I been aware of the consequences I would not have cooperated to the extent that I did. Privately, I like to think that it was my survival instinct that delivered to the world its true Parasite. Perhaps when this paper is published, I will have struck out that last statement.
During those two months of our symbiosis, the larva grew to seventeen feet in length and not counting my weight, it was now 450 pounds. We had been moved from Amazonia to an equally secret compound on Luna where the lighter gravity did not put as much strain on the larva’s internal organs. All that I can recall, and the source of this may be the accounts of the scientists present, was that this was a period of great distress for the larva. In fact it is true that it did try to kill itself rather than go through the metabolic storm that was beginning to brew inside of it. It actually broke out of its pen and was very near to getting out into the lunar atmosphere before it was finally restrained by a team of men, laymen like myself – laborers. Sometimes I think that the Wasp was truly meant to be the patron of the unskilled. The team managed to get the larva back into its pen by injecting a pint of a depressant into it. This was the only occasion that the Wasp slipped and showed an understandable hesitation to going on with its destiny.
I have no recall whatsoever concerning the metamorphosis. As soon as there was a visible sign of its body contorting and narrowing into sectioned pieces, I was removed and taken to an infirmary. I was in a coma for more than a month. My head was restructured to its former shape. I did not witness firsthand the actual changing. I have not even seen any of the videos showing that most strange and most glorious moment of human history. I would hazard to guess that there isn’t a reader who has not seen one version or another of The Change. I did not want to see them then and I do not want to see them now. Perhaps it is because I cannot stomach watching a worm writhe in excruciating agony as its skeleton literally walks inside of it; unbinding old joints and fusing new joints. While at the same time the internal organs bounce around like ping-pong balls against the thoracic and abdominal cavities, and the striated muscles are stretched to the very point of snapping and beyond. Although it is the greatest birth ever it still is a painful process for any conscious being to undergo and for this reason I cannot watch any video of it. Thankfully they did not ever release to the viewing public the holograms of when the Wasp went into shock. I have been given graphic descriptions of this that I wisely do not relay here. All that I can say is that the Wasp was clinically dead for two months. From my hospital bed I urged the scientists to bury the creature but luckily they did not listen to my advice.
As all readers know this was the famous latency period where the Wasp’s internal environment readjusted to the new shell. All of its vital processes were anaerobic and not visible to the eye or to crude instruments. After the latency period, the Wasp arose.
It is here where my story bifurcates from his. The reader knows his all to well and although much has been said about me, the Antecedent, I am none of those things and I will now set the record straight.
The switch from the contextually rich perceptions that I shared with the larva to the more familiar and mundane opaqueness of my own senses set me into despair. It was similar to going from a sophisticated bio-holovision to the flatness of a gnarly black and white photograph. It did not take me long to readjust to the cognitive field that I had grown up with. But I was remarkably impressed by the sheer loneliness of having only one consciousness. In some ways it was the most defeating experience that one could undergo but in other ways it was a noble ideal worth clinging to. As more and more time lapsed from the symbiosis I favor the independence of one mind but there are seductive savories in being in direct communication that now and then I pine over when it seems that the environment is caving in on me. I guess though I cannot have it both ways.
The Minister of the Interior visited me shortly after I gained my consciousness and my mental feet. He informed that it had been 37 bio-days since the Change. He said that the Calculus Ingrained was now a mass of inert matter that was kept inside a hydrogen ion tank. At present, he was not sure if the Calculus Ingrained was going to survive but he thought that the project was an overwhelming success. He confided in me that they were pessimistic that metamorphosis would be instigated at all.
Then in a triumphant tone he described the massive bodily changes that the larva went through. It was 38 feet long and weighed slightly over 400 pounds. It had six hairy quadruple-jointed legs. The front four were appendaged with three finger-like digits and one opposable thumb on each hand if you want to call it that. Its body was a giant replica of its insect antecedent – a golden abdomen covered with sable-like fur, an emerald thorax from which the six legs sprung. The cellophane wings were only rudimentary and would never be able to support the creature’s weight in flight. Because of the large abdomen the Calculus Ingrained could never stand fully erect and for that reason it would never be able to free its upper legs from the requirement of walking.
How wrong the Minister was! As everybody knows the Wasp was able to bend its spine in such a manner that its lower legs could support all of its mass and free those hands to perform the miracles that they have. And flight! Flight never existed in its true form until the Wasp took to the air with its magnificent retractable wings. When not soaring, these beautiful satins slid back into their special sacs between the rib cage and the skin.
We cannot blame the Minister for his ignorance. None of us knew of the Wasp’s thirty-feet span until he magnificently revealed them on the first Turning Day when humanity forever gave up on the foible ‘to err is human’.
The Minister described to me on that 37th day the shape of the head of the Calculus Ingrained. He had a boulder of a brain that dwarfed his facial features. It still was inherently ugly by human aesthetic standards but in the cosmos it was the essence of radiant beauty. It had two sets of domed multiple eyes. Each individual eye had a different color that could change into a myriad of permutations and patterns. It had lost its larval proboscis. Now it possessed bullhorn shaped mandibles that hid a quite human mouth beneath. It had my tongue, lips and teeth. It had all the proper tracheal anatomy for human speech. Two fingertip sized depressions above the mandibles provided the gateways for oxygenation. A nasal sphincter that could tightly seal allowed the Calculus Ingrained to switch its chemistry to anaerobic metabolism whenever it flew through space. A gill-like apparatus found on its upper thorax permitted it to traverse beneath the seas. It was truly a creature adaptable to all environments or lack thereof.
It didn’t take much understanding to know that Qanus Kaine used more than just my genes and those of a wasp to produce the Calculus Ingrained. It has been postulated that the great natural artist used a smattering of extra-terrestrial DNA in the design. But where would Kaine have gotten a hold of such matter? Logical thinking dictates that he used a wide range of bacteria and viruses in his tanks although it could never be precisely known what species that he used. And in the end, who cares anyway?
As I had said earlier I was outraged when I was informed that for all intents the Calculus Ingrained was dead. I demanded that the Minister begin interment rites. Under the old laws a donor had the right to his clone’s final disposition. A part of me was dead – a part that I had shared that ran so deep that the word ‘intimacy’ does not do it justice. The Minister refused by saying that the Calculus Ingrained was not truly my clone but a hybrid of me and a stinging insect and thus the law was not applicable in this case. How could you get the consent of an insect? Especially a dead one? Fifty generations of wasps must have passed by since the particular wasp antecedent had existed.
All this tension considerably weakened me. A physician attendant entered and gave me a relaxant. I faded into a slumber while the Minister handed me a cheque whose total credit was beyond what I would normally could make in a lifetime. But my thoughts were sided with the dead Wasp. I could not take the blood money. I must have growled, “I don’t want your money!” before I slipped into unconsciousness. Often I have experienced repercussions from this incident. These came in times when the muscles that supported my back began to fatigue and wanted to disintegrate. The money could have provided me with a new spinal column. It was a fine moral stance considering what type of input I had at the time but the true situation did not dictate these loyalty ethics. The Wasp lived. I was never paid for my service although when I am feeling righteous I could say that the Wasp’s life was more than reward enough. But then there are times when my back aches.
Contrary to public belief, I am not an embittered man. I have seen some accounts of me that paint me as an ogre and a child-beater. Others have said that I am saintly and that there should be devotions given to me instead of the Wasp. These are the people that have not truly learned the Wasp’s lessons and are still adherents to the old ‘made in the image of God’ school.
“Man is not the ideal. Man is not the evil. Man is a member of the community.” These are the Wasp’s words and to me he hit it right on the nose. The description fits me.
I am neither an ogre nor a saint. I am what I am and that’s all that I am. One of the early-animated characters used this tag to describe himself. I cannot recall the particular cartoon. I am what I am and that is all that I am. There is no need to enlarge or to refine. Face value should be the only criteria for understanding. I know that there are those of you who would disagree vehemently with what I say. You would say that a person is a complex machine that operates on a multitude of different levels with each level indeducible from the other. You may be right but for my Weltanschauung, my worldview, face value is not only the ideal but it is the work-a-day parameter of life. This at least is the way I view myself.
I have my faults and I have my assets. Some of my tenets are logically inconsistent with each other but I still incorporate them all into my schemata of myself. The Wasp had affected my life no differently than he has affected yours. He filled some schisms that were in dire need of mending and he has given strength to the most human aspect of a man, his saliency. Yet I am not a divine disciple, an insectoid apostle. Nor am I a Benedict Arnold or a Judas Iscariot. My flesh and blood is part of the constitution of the Wasp. I do not begrudge him his or am I exalted by it. These are only the building blocks. A house is more than its building blocks and the host of other materials that go into its construction. So is the Wasp. He is more than my genes, the wasp’s genes and what other secret ingredients Qanus Kaine used in the design.
I know that it is part of the mythos to deify everything associated with the Messiah but I cannot tolerate the partial treatment that I have received. I do not seek excess or success but I am continuously sought out to demystify the Wasp. I say to the reader demystify him yourself. You have all the same potential that I do.
I know that I ramble here and that some of you want me to get on with my autobiography but I have worked myself into an anger and see that I have been pandering to the vicarious need in all of us to be gods. I cannot write any further of my life on this account. Indeed, I have a mind to tear up this manuscript before others peruse it.
What you have just read is the only validated writing of the Antecedent. Although the narrative style has much to be desired, it is discernable that Wade Gifford truly was a pious and humble man. And we should give thanks to him for giving the noblest gift in history, the Wasp.
The Wasp himself offered to carry the Antecedent’s pall after Gifford died the last natural death, arteriosclerosis. With him went the old order and through him was birthed the new. Wade Gifford was the Metamorphosis. He was the Antecedent. Let us offer him our praise.