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Audrey M. Snead

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The Strand
By Audrey M. Snead
Saturday, September 07, 2002



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Recent stories by Audrey M. Snead
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Two scientists discover a piece of ancient wood containing a trace of extraordinary DNA that convinces them they have found the source of all life on earth. But could the world ever accept the truth of their findings?


Brian O'Connell never really believed the true source of life on earth would be discovered in his lifetime, let alone by Brian himself.


When the artifact mysteriously arrived at his motel room during his first real field assignment, Brian had viewed it skeptically. The scrawled note that accompanied it, insisting that this piece of...what? Fossil? Petrified wood?... contained within in its ancient bowels the truth that the scientific world had been searching for since man began searching, was even less impressive. It was out of sheer curiosity alone that Brian put it under the lens at all.


However, a single curious look turned into a thousand excited ones. Actually, excited didn't describe it for Brian O'Connell. Even ecstatic was a bit mild for what this geneticist was experiencing. So naturally, he found it rather irritating, even frustrating, when his colleague and boss took it with a grain of salt.


"What is it?" Jerry asked.


Brian shrugged. "Not sure." He turned the object over in his hands as if looking at it for the first time, when in reality he had studied it until his eyes began to throb. But this time he was appearing to think, when he was actually struggling to keep from shouting at the other man for his dismissive attitude. But to avoid being unfair to Saunders, Brian assured himself that Jerry's perception would change- and change drastically- once he inspected this thing under the microscope and saw what Brian had been certain couldn't really be there...but somehow had been. "What does it look like to you?"


"I don't know." Jerry took the object from Brian and glanced over it with a less than attentive look. "A fossil maybe. Or piece of petrified wood."


"It's wood." Brian said. His pulse raced and he wanted to blurt out everything he had discovered in this little piece of ancient tree, but he held back. It was clear that Saunders wasn't interested, and any information divulged at this moment would be met with skepticism. So it was best to let the man see it all for himself.


"Okay." Leaning back in his chair, Jerry Saunders laid the artifact on the table in front of him and looked up at the younger man. "So what's it doing in the lab?"


"I really think you should take a closer look at it." Brian said.


"Why?"


"Just trust me." Brian produced a prepared slide and handed it to Saunders.


"Don't waste my time, O'Connell." Leaving the slide in Brian's outstretched hand, Jerry leaned forward and pushed the piece of wood aside. "You know I have work to do. You have work to do. So I suggest you get to it."


"But-"


"But nothing. I didn't hire you so you could bring in each and every nondescript
object you could find and waste the lab's time and money studying it." Saunders sighed. "It probably came off the beach or something. Nothing spectacular."


Brian shook his head slowly. "It didn't come off any beach, I guarantee you that. Now I know you're my boss and all, but I have to insist you take a look at this." Brian thrust the slide towards him a second time. "And if you refuse, I will be forced to take it elsewhere. And believe me, you don't want that."


The compressing silence squeezed at Brian as he waited for Saunders' response. Of course Brian would not take his findings elsewhere. It would be career suicide to do so. The information would be studied and then confiscated by more respected and well known scientists, and Brian's discovery of a lifetime would quickly become someone else's miraculous find.


Saunders pursed his lips then nodded. "Fine. You feel so strongly about it, I'll take a look. But," Saunders held up one finger in warning. "If you are wasting my time with this, I guarantee you will never be sent out for field work again. Are we understanding each other?"


"Yes, Sir."


Saunders took the prepared slide and crossed the room to a row of microscopes lined up along one counter. He secured the slide beneath the lens and pressed his right eye to the scope as he adjusted focus.


Brian held his breath and watched the man go rigid. He seemed unable to speak as he stared through the scope and twisted a second lens around to get a different perspective. But Brian knew each perspective would yield the same results. He had looked at this from every angle possible and still came up with matching realities.


Straightening suddenly, Jerry Saunders' eyes narrowed and bore into the younger man. "Where did you get this?" He whispered.


Brian smiled. "It was sent to my motel room while I was on assignment."


"From who?"


"I don't know." Brian shrugged. "It came to me anonymously."


Saunders shook his head and rubbed a nervous hand over his mouth. "Was there anything with it? A note, perhaps?"


"A note, yes." Brian said.


"Well, what did it say, man?"


Brian cleared his throat. "It said that this piece of wood contained the source of life on earth."


"Just a casual little note letting us know that the greatest mystery of life is now solved, huh?"


"Yep." Brian licked his dry lips and stared at the floor. "But to tell the truth...I got the impression that whoever sent this has known about this for a long time. The note wasn't written as if this were some new discovery."


Saunders looked at the microscope and shook his head. "Impossible." He murmured. "If something as mind blowing as this had been discovered years ago, it would have been reported."


"Maybe..." Brian offered slowly. "Maybe they had no evidence to back up what they already knew...until now."


"How could they know it without the evidence?"


Brian moved to the microscope and motioned Saunders over. "Take another look. And tell me what you see."


"What?"


"If you had to describe what you see here, how would you explain it?"


Pressing his eye against the scope a second time, Saunders studied the slide for a long time, still suffering disbelief at what he was seeing. Brian understood this because, even now, after looking at it for hours on end, he still had difficulty convincing himself it was real. But what was even more unbelievable to Brian O'Connell was the fact that it had been right there in front of them for centuries, and they had passed it off as fable.


Saunders backed away from the microscope and sagged against the counter, his strength sapped. "I guess..." He swallowed tightly and licked his lips. "In layman terms, I guess I would describe it as superhuman DNA. It's unreal, like something you'd extract from...Superman."


"Exactly." Brian breathed. "I did extensive tests before ever bringing it into this lab. I matched it against human DNA in a multitude of tests and came up with the same results." He couldn't suppress the grin that slid across his lips. "Now, it is common knowledge that no human DNA is exactly alike, not even identical twins. Yet this..." He gripped the scope with an anxious hand. "This matched everyone. The DNA found in this piece of petrified wood contains a set of strands unlike anything we have ever seen before. And the truly awesome aspect of it all..." He forced his pulse to slow as he continued. "It didn't only match human DNA...it matched the DNA of all life forms."


Saunders eyed him intently. "So it proves that human and animals did, in fact, evolve from the same source."


Brian shook his head. "That's just it. It proves just the opposite. Secular strands matched that of non-human DNA, while the specific, more dominant ones matched that of human beings. It's as though one single source was the result of all life on earth, yet still managed to somehow keep the two DNA lines totally separate."


"What're you saying, O'Connell?"


"I'm saying that humans and animals did not evolve along the same evolutionary lines. In fact," He paced the floor, flexing his hands at his sides. "I think this proves that we- as well as all life- did not evolve at all." He paused in the middle of the floor and looked at Saunders. "Man has always existed in this current physical state."


Saunders rubbed the back of his neck. "And how, exactly, did you come to that conclusion? The scientific world will rip you apart if you come to them with that."


"If I come without the proper evidence, yes." He stepped quickly back to the microscope. "Take another look at this DNA strand. And for a moment pretend the extra, magnificent strands aren't there. What do you see?"


Breathing deep, Saunders leaned over the scope once again. When he raised up, he looked at Brian uncertainly. "It's normal human DNA."


"Exactly." Brian whispered. "And if this is the source of life- and what else could it be- then whatever this came from existed in our current physical state, yet contained the...I don't know... genetic resources to construct and manipulate life to its desired specifications."


Eyes narrowing, Saunders cocked his head to the side. "You're getting at something. What is it?"


The moment of truth had come for Saunders, and Brian wondered how well he would receive it. When it had first come to Brian, he had instantly rejected it. But after studying the evidence there was no denying what so many had known all along.


"There was a little more to the note than I told you."


"And...?"


Brian exhaled a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "And I know where this piece of wood came from." He met Saunders' intent stare with both excitement and uncertainty. If what he had discovered in this piece of extraordinary wood was the truth, and there was no denying that for him anymore, then there was more hope for mankind than science had ever dreamed. But he wondered...even with the evidence that science required...how many would still reject this stark reality?


Jerry Saunders was staring at him expectantly. Brian cleared his throat and detected a dryness in his mouth. Why was he so reluctant to tell Saunders the rest of the story? But then he knew, didn't he? Saunders- and himself as well- had always scoffed at this kind of thing. Brian had worked hard to gain the respect of Jerry Saunders, knowing it would provide him a foothold in the scientific community. But after today, he wondered if all that would be lost.


"Spit it out, O'Connell." Saunders pressed. "Where did this come from?"


Brian nodded slowly. "If you remember, I was doing field research in the Middle
East."

"Yes...and?"

Brian breathed deep and let it out slow. "This piece of wood...it came from an ancient wooden cross in Jerusalem." His heart pounding, Brian met Jerry Saunders' widening eyes. "Jerry, this DNA we've been looking at...it came from the blood of Jesus Christ, reputed Son of the Living God."

~ The End ~


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