Clone of Calamity

Clone of Calamity by J E F Rose

As a historian I often need the advice of scientists. Nowadays historians cannot relay exclusively on dates and names. History demands more now: biology, the study of diseases, linguistics, technology, geography, even physics. The latest hot topic in Our World history right now is genetics in fact. So I was a familiar figure in the Science Departments of The Havens University despite being an citizen of the rival Humanities Department.

Today I trotted down the familiar, harshly lit hallway of the Physics Wing, a rabbit warren of labs and closets masquerading as professor offices to reach the 'Infestation', the new set of cubbyholes populated by the genetics scientists to the loathing of the more pure blooded Physics scientists. To be exact, I was visiting my old roommate Jeffers Riggins.

Jeffers inhabited a tiny hole of a lab/office filled with a mass of test tubes, exotic machines, and exoteric contraptions like violet light scanners and centrifuges. The diverse widgets even covered his tiny window with marvels of science beyond the understanding of merely mortal historians like myself.

"Hello Jeffer! Wherever you are!" I shouted.

A head bobbed up from behind a bizarre machine and grinned. "Hello back you vile historian!"

We both grinned and Jeffers jumped up and poured out some industrially strong coffee from his test tube improvised coffees mess and poured it into a chemical stained mug. I looked at it with horror.

"Washed! Washed! Clean of genes of unknown things!"

"Washed with what?" I laughed but I drank the coffee anyway.

"Lousy humanist!" Jeffers growled mockingly. "What gets you away from your gigantic and luxurious digs to visit a pauper like me!"

"My cubbyhole is scarcely two feet bigger Jeffers!"

"But you don't have to squeeze a lab into it!" In the academic world a foot makes a world of difference. And my digs were in the old wings of the university which gave a patina of seedy grander to the cubbyhole while Jeffers inhabited the newer (1950's ) buildings which were just seedy without the patina of Fifth Age Grander. That counted too.

"So what do you want from a lousy humanist?" I laughed.

Jeffers put down his cracked mug of industrial solvent known as coffee and hauled me over to a tiny plant lodged in his grimy window. He had even moved three machines and two cans of flameable solvents over to make room for the biological runt. I stared the tiny curl of green and tried to look impressed.

"Wonderful! I am so glad you have found your green thumb at last Jeffers!"

"No! No! This is a wonderful thing Jay!" Jeffers exclaimed dramatically. "This is -- sit down -- a clone of a graft of a seed of a --well - I won't confuse you will all the effort but this is -- a living bud of the original stump of the giant wisteria that once grew about the famous Ancient Age pavilion of Lady Wisteria Fujitsu!"

I tried to stare in awe. The tiny bud appeared to wave at me. The air blasts from the air conditioning were blowing on it. "Well.... wonderful....but I don't...."

"Jay! I said..." Jeffers fumed.

"Yes! And I am awed that you even remember trying to read 'Wisteria at Twilight' by that famous Ancient Age author, much less appreciate her enough to want to resurrect a sprig of her famous wisteria. But I suppose there might be a market for a status product -- I can see it now---- the TV advertisement can start with a scene from a copyright expired movie of her novel playing.... then a zoom to her famous wisteria brambles -- then the black and white can slowly bleed into glorious color and the pitchman can ...."

"Oh shut up Jay! This is not some daffy money making grab like your sleazy semi-fictional retelling of dusty old history of Gildagad! This is a triumph of modern science! A clone of ..."

"...a graft of a seed of a ...." I added.

"It is real!" Jeffers shouted. "Don't you get it?"

"No. I am sorry Jeffers. No."

Jeffers shoved my nose down next to the tiny bud. I stared cross-eyed. "The legend said that Lady Wisteria Fujitsu's soul was grafted to that famous bramble of fragrant lavender splendor. A separate soul. She was immoral as long as that mass of ancient biology lived. She died, so the story tells it, when Prince Kitsune chopped down the ancient trunk at her request, when Horsham of Arcadia was exiled as Nitthing and the civil war she long predicted did in fact commence in Arcadia Prime."

"I am awed you remember a clone of a graft of a seed of history Jeffers!"

"So I can prove the legend true or false now! I have resurrected the ancient bloodline of that fabled mass of wisteria! So if that ancient lady's soul was grafted into that plant then I can prove it."

I looked around and then whispered: "I don't see any First Age member of the Elite 100 of Old Arcadia sitting on your dingy chair Jeffers."

"Well! It is still a bud!" He fussed with the tiny plant indignantly. "Give Science time!"

"Well why do you want to prove or disprove a legend?"

"I am not a total ignoramus you know Jay!" Jeffers exclaimed indignantly. "Unlike you. I do remember some of that stuff I had to read in General Ed Classes. Literature. For your information I had an adolescent crush on old Lady Wisteria Fujitsu you know!"

"I am amazed!"

"And I read all of 'Wisteria at Twilight' you know! Did you?"

"Well....." I hedged. "It is one of those books you read some of, see a lot of movies based on it, and mine for historical nuggets rather than .....well.....read."

"See! See! I read it!" Jeffers strutted about his tiny lab in pride. He had nailed me. I bowed before his superior perseverance. Today reading 'Wisteria by Twilight' is hard because the language had ebbed into a backwater of antiqued nuance beyond the common vernacular. Most people of Our World were totally familiar with her famous creation ---- but only through movies and television serials which were still best sellers -- which her multi-volume book was not. It was always in print and required for university reading but that did not mean people actually read it. As an historian I mined the five volume long creation for history. Teen aged female students read it for it's dashing and virile hero (reputedly based on a combination of Prince Adulterine Grafton and Horsham of Arcadia). Male students rarely read it but when they did, they read it for illusive lady of wisteria who lurked in the twilight shadows like a spider weaving a diamond dew web to ensnare the heart. I always found that odd for legend said she lost her heart when she embedded her soul in the wisteria to live forever only to discover that it was not perhaps a good idea to live forever and have to watch everyone you love grow old and die around you. Father god created Time, Change, and Death for a reason as she sadly discovered when she found herself outside the loop of Time, Change, and Death, trapped in the amber of her wisteria and her art.

"Well, it is just an legend.... but I for one would not want to meet that intimidating lady."

Jeffers was shocked. "Why?"

"Well....she was both famous and infamous in a way... courtiers were known to run away from her and Ben the Beorach once defended his trying to burn down her pavilion by calling her his most dangerous adversary. Someone who could even enthrall Horsham of Arcadia and threaten Ben the Beorach is someone I might find rather too dangerous to know....."

"She was the single most famous beauty of the age! And she created practically the whole of First Age Arts! Her brushmanship.... is intoxicating! And if Ben the Beorach was almost scared of her then she had to be one hell of a woman!"

"Well.... this is all academic Jeffers. You might be able to resurrect a presumed dead piece of ancient biology through your science but you will not be able to resurrect Lady Wisteria Fujitsu....."

Except of course Jeffers Riggins did......

I came back after a nearly disastrous foray on Old Terra Nova to find an escalating reel of messages on my answering machine from Jeffers.It was late but I dumped my backpack and trotted across the magnificent plaza of The Havens University to the modern buildings of the Sciences and from there trotted to the rabbit warren of harshly lit hallways to Jeffer's tiny laboratory. I knocked and receiving no response, raddled the door. It was locked. I knelt down and peeped through the keyhole. The key was still in the lock. So I raddled again, knocking loudly, announcing my name. Then a soft voice whispered "Enter". The key dropped. I did.....

Inside I found the laboratory of cutting edge science overgrown literally -- with wisteria. The stuff was everywhere. The branches of horny wisteria entangled the widgets, cracking fragile centrifuges and crushing frail test tubes. The branches had even shattered the window glass and yanked the window frame and buckled some of the newly exposed steel girders of the wall. Blossoms of wisteria dripped everywhere, the air suffocating with the heavy scent. But the beauty had gone beyond wishful to oppressive, beyond twilight into dangerous. A ceiling fluorescent fixture hissed and spitted sparks as it flickered on and off, the tendrils of plants in the process of yanking it out by it's electric roots. I gasped and then looked around for the supposed owner of this lab: Jeffers Riggins. Instead I found a video tape machine beeping, the picture blurry, the tape on it's last legs. I went over and rewound the tape and hit 'play'. Jeffers's face, grainy, appeared. The date on the bottom of the video screen announced five days ago.

"Where are you Jay! Damn it! Well I will record my achievement for posterity and you will miss all the excitement to your eternal regret!" Jeffers then stood back from the video camera and with a melodramatic flourish produced a repotted and flourishing plant of green graced with a single blossom of wisteria. "A wisteria plant does not normally produced blossoms until biologically mature! But my plant has! And note please the abnormal maturation of leaves! The massive growth of mature and horny brambles! The bursting vigor of roots! This is a virile plant! Every test and scan indicates it is abnormal! Absolutely abnormal in it's biology! All my machines are recording off their scanners! The results are unbelievable! More to come!" the voice announced gayly.

The video clinked blank for a moment and then a later recording clipped in. The date announced four days ago. Again Jeffers stood with a proud flourish, gesturing at a massive plastic bucket filled with overflowing greenery that now filled his window. He had moved all his machines to accommodate the swelling creation. "Note the profusion of wisteria blossoms!" the newly green thumb scientist exclaimed proudly. "The air is intoxicating! The readings are off the meter! Even my ultraviolet is off the meter! I am recording everything most carefully but I fear my rival scientists will doubt my readings for they are so amazing!

And Jay! Jay! I can feel her! I swear I can feel her! Like someone just hovering out of view that you can just catch out of the side of one eye.....or just catch for a fleeting moment in a mirror! I swear I can almost catch her! Lady Wisteria Fujitsu! She is coming alive! Alive! And her perfume is intoxicating! If I can resurrect her then imagine Jay! Imagine! History come back alive! You could come and talk to her! Ask her anything! The discoveries we will make! And the implications!

If we could duplicate her ability to graft a soul into a controllable biological substitute then imagine the implications for curing the aging process! Someday Mankind could be immortal! Immortal! And I will be the single most famous scientist in history! I, Jeffers Riggins, will cure the Curse of Father god of Fire! I will create the antidote to Time and Change and Death! Not even the Sidh gods in all their Celestial Wars could do it but I will! I will! Me! Jeffers Riggins"

The video cut off for five seconds and then another picture appeared. The auto date was three days ago. The wisteria now covered most of the office. Jeffers had run out of places to move the fragile machines to accommodate the massive of blooms and blossoms. Like a man engulfed by jungle, Jeffers now stood surrounded by greenery uncontainable by physical restraint. But now Jeffer's face was sweaty and pale. "Jay! Jay! Where are you! I need you! Now! You have to come now! I need you! She won't show herself! She refuses to reveal herself to me!

She is defying me! On purpose! I know she is here! I know it! I can feel her touching me when my back is turned. I can see her fleeting in and out of view in my lab mirror! I can smell her intoxicating perfume and just see out of the corner of one eye the flash of her silver blond hair! But she won't show herself! She refuses to show herself or speak to me! Why? Why?

I have brought her back to life? Why isn't she grateful? She owes me! She owes me! You have to come and tell her to come out and talk to me! Acknowledge me! I resurrected her! She owes me!" Jeffers' face sweated profusely, his voice edged with fierce emotion the bland scientist had never before displayed.

Then the video went black for a few seconds of black until another picture appeared. The auto date was now two days ago. Now Jeffers appeared haggard and frantic, dark circles around his eyes, his hair a tangle, his tee shirt sweaty. "Jay! Jay! You have to come! Now! Now! She is so cruel! Cruel! She has no heart! She has to know I am madly in love with her! Intoxicated by her! But she refuses to have anything to do with me! I can't eat or sleep! All my machines are smashed by her coils of steel-like brambles! She is crushing everything and she is crushing me! Look! Look! Everything is smashed! Smashed! All my records! My devices! No one will believe me now if I cannot produce the scientific data to back up my claims! And she has smashed everything! Everything! Look! Look! You have to come Jay! You have to come and beg her to stop abusing me! She is abusing me! Abusing me! I love her and she is destroying me!" The picture went blank.

Then another picture appeared. The autodate was yesterday. The laboratory was now a suffocating mass of wisteria. The fluorescent light was hissing and flickering. An emaciated Jeffers barely held himself up before the video camera. He looked like death. "She won't let me out! I can't get out! Yet she refuses to appear before the video camera. I have seen her at last! At last! She is beautiful! Everything ever said about pure blood Elves is true! True!

But she is deadly! She has no heart! No heart! Even now! See! See!" A demented Jeffers pointed off camera and screamed. "There she is! See! See! She won't appear before the camera! There she is! Over there! See! See! Siting over there! Smiling her damned smile! Refusing to reveal herself for posterity! Refusing my begging and pleading! Making me make phone calls I don't want to make! But refusing to be recorded! And she is holding me hostage! Hostage! She locks the door! She keeps the key! She won't let me out! Why? Why is she doing this?

I just want to show the world how beautiful she is! She is everything legend and myth has ever said about her! She is intoxicating! Her voice is like music. Her eyes like wisteria at twilight. Her skin is like alabaster. She is just this side of perfection! Perfection! But she won't show herself to anyone! And she won't let me go! I wanted to go and fetch someone, anyone to prove my claims now that she has smashed all my machines but she won't let me go! I can't even get out of the window to shout for help! The coils of wisteria are like steel! See! See! They have smashed one wall and yanked out the window frame and even now are buckling a steel girder! The coils are wrapped around my feet! I can't move!

I don't know why she is behaving like this! Why? Why? I have resurrected her! I love her! I would do anything for her! Anything! Except the one thing she keeps asking.... I can't do it! I can't! She made me make three phone calls but at the last moment I hung up. I refused! And she can't or won't get on the phone herself to consummate the order. And I won't give her my credit card number! So she yanked out the phone line! And it was the same with the internet. She yanked out the computer line when I refused to read off my credit card numbers and click 'complete order'. So she destroyed my computer. It is a stalemate! Why is she acting like this? Why? Why?" Tears poured down Jeffer's face. The screen went black.

The video picture flickered but then came back to wavering life. The date was now this morning. Jeffer's face was sickly as death. Coils of wisteria were wrapped around his neck. His whole body was entangled with wisteria like chains of steel. He could barely hold his face before the camera. Tears poured down his ashen face. He panted and gasped. "Please! Please! I can't! I can't! Not now. The only way is if you let me go. You destroyed all outside contact! Unless you let me go I can't....I......"

"To escape and bring back more people like you?" a soft voice whispered off camera.

"No. No. Jay isn't a scientist but a historian. It is not the same thing....."

Off screen a soft voice whispered something I could barely hear. "Just do it. Just do it."

"I can't! I can't!" Jeffers whimpered. "I love you. Why are you murdering me? Have you no heart? Can't you understand love? I love you? Why are you acting like this? Where is the art? The music? The dance? Everything you are famous for? Where is your heart?" Jeffers cringed as coils of wisteria tightened around his neck. Off screen a soft, elusive voice whispered "I have misplaced.....love....." The video screen went black.

I hit the play button to no avail. The video screeched and then the video tape snapped and spat out of the machine in a broken tangle.

"Just do it. Just do it" a soft voice whispered behind me. "Just do it."

I cringed. "I am a historian so I understand. Absolutely. I will do as you wish. But I will need to get some kerosene. That is the fastest and surest way to do it. But you have to let me out to fetch the kerosene. There is no other way. You have to let me go. I am a historian so you can trust me to do it because I know history -- your history-- I know who and what you are. I will do it but you must let me go in order to do it."

"Let it be so" the soft elusive voice whispered like audible twilight. I ran out of the laboratory. I bought a can of kerosene and came back at three o'clock in the morning and opened the door and hastily splashed the colorless liquid all over the mass of quivering wisteria. Then I stood back and put my hand in my pocket, fussed, and then pulled out a lighter. I did not smoke but a lighter can come in handy. I held the tiny plastic arsonist delight up in my hand. Then I flicked the small wheel with my thumb. A tiny flame danced.

A woman sat quietly on the dingy chair, her layers of silk immaculate, her long kilt elegantly draped around slim hips, her bare feet dainty and tiny, her silver blond hair so long it coiled about the floor around her. Lady Wisteria Fujitsu smiled her smooth, elegant, ghostly smile.

"Greeting my dear Jay. I believe it is Jay?" She purred, her voice surprisingly low, her accent oddly antiquated. Her pale grey eyes were large, the grey of an obscure, intangible quality as to appear almost violet in some shades of light. Her lips were red. Her presence was intoxicating as perfume and as hypnotic as a drug. She sat back in the chair and it creaked, her elegant arms draped over the arms of the chair.

"Greetings Lady Wisteria Fujitsu. I believe it is Lady Wisteria Fujitsu?" I replied, shivering.

"Yes" she purred, stroking a fragile over-tunic of sheer silk.

"Where is Jeffers Riggins?"

"There." the living ghost languidly pointed at a shadow under the oppressive boughs of massive wisteria. I looked down. His body had been dead for nearly a day, since before I landed at the Havens Airport. It was black -- the perfume of decay covered up by the perfume of wisteria.

"Why did you kill him?"

The living wraith shrugged her elegant shoulders. "I ignored him and he would not do it. So I asked him and he would not do it. So I commanded him and still he would not do it. Don't make me to the same to you Jay. I am not a malevolent creature by inclination but I expect to be obeyed when I give an explicit command. I am after all a member of the Elite 100 and the Elder of the Elder of the Elves of Arcadia. I do not wave it about but I am a person of implied authority and power in Court. I expect to be obeyed when I evoke my authority. I don't do it often but when I do, I expect to be obeyed....." The living resurrection of a long ago creature of magic and power smiled her smooth smile of quiet dominion. There was a reason why courtiers ran away from Lady Wisteria Fujitsu and Ben the Beorach considered her a fearsome foe. Her breathtaking beauty was a mere container for a soul and brain that was unbreakable and and fearsome.

The tiny flame flickered in my hand. "You chose to commit suicide and such a decision, not taken lightly the first time, did not incur regret on your part then My Lady? The decision still stands then? Suicide. Death. I am the Future? Are you not even curious how it all turned out?"

"No. I am not even curious. When I embraced my death, I embraced it wholeheartedly. I did not ask to be resurrected. I did not ask to come back in any capacity whatsoever. When I choose to embrace Time and Death I did, expecting my decision to be understood and accepted accordingly. I consider this man's behavior to be rude and unseemly and worse -- bad taste." The soft voice had a steely edge like the sound of a sword as it comes out of it's scabbard.

"Well", I said holding up the flickering lighter, "bad taste is unforgivable. I am an historian but I am first and foremost a man who wants to survive. If Jeffers Riggins is dead, and he is clearly dead, then who am I to delay your exit from life my lady and Jeffer's murderer?"

Her musical voice laughed softly. "Let it be so". I tossed the lighter into the kerosene and then ran like hell as the door closed by itself and locked behind me to contain the flames on their intended target. As Lady Wisteria Fujitsu said, she was not by nature a malevolent creature.

For a week I lived in terror in my cubbyhole of an office waiting for an officer, any officer, any sheriff or ranger or investigator to follow some invisible CSI trail to my door. But none did to my amazement. Jeffers Riggins had gone missing a week before I even returned from Old Terra Nova so I was not on any list of suspects and he died before I even landed at the airport. His behavior had been erratic and bizarre too, like a man going insane. Everyone noted that for the rangers. And he had made three phone calls to stores selling flammable liquids and two internet orders for herbicides and poisons to be delivered to the lab, only to fall to complete the transaction. And the lab was filled by too many machines, jerry rigged to too few outlets. And there were cans of too much undefinable cans of liquids and solvents and powers and stuffs for any man to consider safe.

And of course the rangers could and did note that the charred door was found closed and locked from the inside. And for some reason the security cameras in the Sciences Building had just gone dead just before the fire started.

It was later discovered that some sort of infestation had yanked out all the electric wiring in half the building and clogged and sniffed out much of the air conditioning and ventilation system. In the end the University had to tent the whole building and fumigate to exterminate everything within those hallowed halls of research into the unknown before rebuilding much of the fiber of the building. But the inhabitants actually cheered. The belated upgrade of the 1950's fiber brought the building up to millennium standards. The Physics bunch blamed the 'Infestation' ie the Genetics bunch but the final result was a state of the arts Sciences Wing so it was a win- win situation even if the building had to be shared by two rival camps of scientists.

When I was sure I was safe, I took a tiny tape recorder out of a box and put it in my CD player. I switched on the 'play' button. Just before I pulled out that lighter, I had reached deeper inside my pocket and switched on the 'record' button. Now I played my interview with Lady Wisteria Fujitsu. It was lucky for me the security cameras went dead that night. All I heard on that recording was my human voice and the odd soft whisperings like wisteria blowing gently in the breeze of twilight. I burned the tape. I am an historian by trade but first and foremost I am a man bent on survival and my nearly disastrous foray on Old Terra Nova had already taught me that some things should never be dug up.