Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
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Beyond Sapiens

by Noel Carroll

I hate putting this down on electronic paper because, in doing so, I concede failure for the first time in my short life at the time of this recording, I am nineteen years old. I suppose I should also state that I am the biological mother of hundreds of children, all under two years of age.

I have no idea who or what will receive this, but I would not mind if my Homo sapiens of Earth got a chance at my way of apologizing, I suppose. In the event some entity wishes to accommodate me in this, Earth is located on the outer arm of a spiral galaxy inside a solar system of one sun and nine planets—ours is the third from the sun. If that isn’t enough, work it out with your computers.

I am about as miserable a human being as there ever was, yet I can fault no one but myself. I took too long to grow up and was too spoiled in the process, spoiled not by others, who wanted as little contact with me as possible, but by self deception. Youthful emotions lagged behind a genius intellect, permitting me to feel that whatever I did, it must be correct.

Failure has taught me a lot.

I had always thought failure for me was impossible. Even during my growing-up period, which lasted until age one and a half, I was seldom wrong. Those around me thought otherwise, but they think in three dimensions while, even then, I knew no dimensional limits. This intergalactic voyage of mine, however, has not gone as I expected it would. For example, as hinted at above, I do not know where I am. Oh, vaguely I do, I suppose. As I put Nikki, my computer, to the task of locating known galaxies, she pauses more than she should but then ventures a guess that is reasonable. I will not ask the poor thing for a confidence check; I would likely not appreciate nor agree with the answer—I know more than she at this point. In both voice and mannerisms, my computer is female, the engineers thinking this would please me, make me feel less of the loneliness that, on a journey such as this, is unavoidable. Sort of a girls night out, big-time.

I was ordered to fly this mission to everywhere and nowhere, but I could have turned it down, presented my "superiors" (I used to give a know-it-all smirk when I used that word) with arguments that they, with their inferior intellect, could not counter. In truth, they only think they sent me here. So subtle was I in my persuasion that, even now, they would vehemently disagree that this was anything other than their collective will. They saw a problem and they solved it in a very logical way. I knew exponentially more than they about the subject, thus it was I who should conduct the test.

That was their official reasoning. More to the point was that I was a pain in their collective butt. My vastly superior intellect overwhelmed even the most ego-secure among my scientist colleagues, and I instilled in them so much fear for their continued existence (I ridiculed them constantly) that they had to act to save themselves.

I wanted to leave. I had this feeling that I lived with monkeys, that if I did not soon escape their monkey noises and monkey thinking I would go mad. They were the old, the once was, the ancients whose time was drawing to a close, their path to extinction assured.

Oh God, how I miss them!

My mother was a Homo sapient, my father as well. I should have been but was not, which makes me a mutation. I have an atypically compact brain, a little over 124 times more compact than Homo sapiens yet filling the same size cranium—think of it as a vastly improved computer chip. But with all the humanity that must in some way reside in me, why did I not get soppy when I contemplated never again seeing the people I once laughed with, played with?

Oh, hell, the answer is obvious, at least it is now. I had no sense of diplomacy. I was all ridicule and contempt. As this produced a dislike of me in others, I reacted by disliking them.

By age five, I had matured to the point where I knew my conduct was both unwise and counterproductive—taunting scientists is tantamount to taunting mother bears with cubs. But a part of me enjoyed baiting, belittling and insulting. Seeing the looks on their incapable faces brought me moments of joy, and there have not been many opportunities for joy in my life.

Nineteen years! Nineteen years of living with quarrelsome monkeys.

I actually let slip the word "monkey" from time to time, in particular when I was frustrated with someone’s inability to pick up what to me was a simple concept. On a scale of one to ten, my colleagues worked at one while reasoning above ten was second nature to me. I had to converse in slow motion to keep from losing them completely.

I am embarrassed by the childish pleasure I felt in showing this face to others.

Anyway, to keep from having to acknowledge their "inferiority," they (with my subtle coaxing) spirited me off to the cosmos, there to confirm my theory about dark energy, the existence of which was proven only a century ago. I postulated that dark energy, with its anti-gravitational force, would permit almost instantaneous travel between galaxies.

It worked, of course. I have since ridden the coattails of dark energy, tickling a piece of it then riding the current I created to instantly appear somewhere else—tripping I call it. I began by slow-traveling to the point of dark energy closest to Earth, and from there tripping to a more distant part of our Milky Way galaxy. Where I wound up was not my choice. Dark energy flows through space as a vein of gold flows through the earth; one never knows where it will lead.

Excited by my success, I tripped again and again until finally I was on the periphery of a galaxy other than our own, the first member of the human species ever to do so. The galaxy appeared to be very old—perfectly circular with a giant black hole in its center. It set me to wonder whether it had been around long enough for sophisticated beings to develop, perhaps more sophisticated than I. I decided to stay awhile, devise a way to ride dark energy in a controlled fashion and thus get close to a planet of interest. Perhaps someone would spot me and come out to investigate.

But then they would compare me to themselves and perhaps see in me the monkey I saw in Homo sapiens. It was not a comforting thought.

I tripped again, this time to an elliptical galaxy, one not so old. I felt safer there, but I also felt shame, the same shame I once attributed to my human cousins. For the first time I began to understand them, the fear they have of losing ground, of slipping from superior to second rate.

Tripping took my mind off such disturbing (and to then unfamiliar) thoughts, and in recognition of this, I tripped many times, barely taking notice of where I went. Eventually I sobered enough to pause and take stock. Using long-range detection, I followed where I thought I had recently been, noting with pleasure that its appearance had changed—so far away is one galaxy to another, that the light takes an eternity to reach its neighbor; no matter where one aims one’s eyes, one is always looking back in time. Repeated applications of this technique allowed me to spot what I think was the Milky Way galaxy, some five billion light years away. I hoped this was so, since it would prove travel through the universe is not only possible but close to instantaneous.

I had no intention of returning to Earth with news of my discovery. I knew I could if I wanted to, that with time and heavy thinking I could learn how to travel through dark energy with deliberation rather than abandon, like one learns the current of a difficult river. But I was still thinking of this as a great escape from my monkeys. If I went back, I would create a path for them to follow.

At the periphery of a galaxy that looked to present little danger, I decided it was time to implement the second stage of my plan. It was time to make more of me.

I had long ago calculated the exact point at which my body would arrive at puberty. I was eleven at the time and already a recognized and respected scientist with free access to sophisticated laboratories, including in-vitro fertilization clinics. There I easily learned the process of follicular extraction, incubation and storage. This meant I knew how to stimulate egg development in my ovaries, extract these eggs (that took some practice, I can tell you!), fertilize them with donor sperm then properly incubate the results until they could survive outside a test tube. By the time the moment of puberty arrived, I had all the pieces in place and was ready to give it a test.

I visited an in-vitro fertilization clinic, removed a legitimate embryo, replaced it with one of mine that I had carefully nurtured, then adjusted the container to make it appear to laboratory officials as if nothing had changed. Within nine months I was able to view my first child, and so happy was the surrogate mother that she and her spouse did not notice that it more resembled one of the lab’s visiting scientists than either of them. I waited a while before trying this again, but when no one appeared to catch on, I was encouraged to do another, then another after that—there are sixteen of my creations running around Earth at the moment, although I made sure none possess enough of my genetic traits to someday follow me here.

It was not difficult to coax the monkeys into permitting me a slight addition to "their" plan. I reminded them that I would be gone a long time, perhaps forever (their spirits visibly perked at that), and that I needed company. I told them I wanted a child. This triggered a smirk or two, but I quickly pointed out the process by which I would bring this about: in vitro fertilization and incubation. It is not that I object to sex. After all, I am nineteen; physically, my body has arrived. But when my libido is down and the "monkey" lying beside me wants to talk, it drives me to consider murder. Anyway, they permitted me this, even as they tried to couch it as an experiment. They gave me female eggs and a sufficient amount of donor sperm. I discarded the eggs soon after liftoff.

Now I was ready to put it all together, to create enough of my species to pioneer a promising new planet, one populated by beings I would not be ashamed to have over for dinner. I went to work on the donor sperm first, removing all genes that might otherwise dominate my own (including the Y chromosome—no sense complicating matters by creating males). Then I removed any gene likely to detract from what I wanted most in my creations: a superior intellect.

I had already extracted and stored a good supply of my eggs, and I selected and fertilized a number of these. I placed the embryos, one each, in sophisticated incubation tubes. The tubes and matching post-natal support systems had been the most difficult equipment to wean from my reluctant monkeys, my insistence on twenty-four of them excessive in their eyes. I would have liked twice that number.

In nine months, I was again a mother. Indeed, I "delivered" from the tubes twenty four babies in a matter of days. By then an expert in multiple follicular extractions of female eggs, I already had enough to start twenty-four more.

Their craniums at birth were small, and at first that alarmed me, set me to thinking they were mental inferiors rather than the other way around. But then they began exhibiting traits that could only belong to mental giants. I surmised in this that their brains were even more compact than mine, like the evolution of computer chips, smaller but more powerful. I was not alarmed at this leap of evolution, surmising that it was a by-product of my gene cleansing.

It did, however, set me to thinking. And worrying. The creatures I created on Earth were gene cleansed downward, while my twenty-four new children were gene-cleansed upward. I was in-between, a human species consisting of but one individual. I felt a pinch of inferiority. I had always been at the top of the heap where brains were concerned, and now that position was threatened. I wondered whether this was what my monkeys felt with regard to me.

I reacted poorly, and as it turns out, ineffectively. I told myself I would create another batch of children as soon as the support equipment was freed up, this time entirely in my mold. I had forgotten that I had upwardly cleansed my entire collection of male sperm, that there was nothing left of the old material to create another me. My anxiety built, and I had to battle it back down, all the while nagged by the thought that I had become the Homo sapiens I used to ridicule.

Within a month, my infants were rapidly adding bulk to their tiny bodies, taking what they needed from their support systems. This made them odd to look at, large muscles that seemed out of place on such small bodies, but their one-month-old brains had reasoned this to be necessary to support early use of their massive intellects. They did not intend to be hampered by an infant’s physical limitations.

As additional months were added to their age, I noticed other odd things about them. They appeared to be engaged in discussion, though no audible sound left their mouths. I tried speaking to them, using easy words at first, and though I could tell by their expressions that they not only understood but were amused at my attempts, it provoked neither word nor sign.

The alarm bell that had been threatening to ring since the first birth, now did so loudly. I spoke to them again, this time insisting that they respond. After a moment of silently conversing among themselves, they gave in. With astounding ease, they placed thoughts in my mind, their "speech" flawless, sophisticated and … coordinated—I was not communicating with one but with all.

The shock of "hearing" someone after so much time alone rendered me temporarily speechless, and when finally I thought of a proper reply, I felt self-conscious about having to deliver it orally. They sensed my embarrassment, and this provoked twenty-four baby smiles that were at once diplomatic and condescending. They went to work teaching me how to do it their way, and within minutes I was taking my first baby steps at communicating mentally with four-month-old infants!

The irony of this did not escape either them or me. They were the teachers and I was the baby, and so obvious was this to all that they felt the necessity to temper my humiliation with smiles and nods of understanding. As my monkeys were to me, I was to them. And like my monkeys on Earth, I did not like it!

Although they were physically capable of speech by age six months, they did not bother to try. Having taught me to communicate, they saw no need to change what was more efficient. Using mind-to-mind telepathy they made it known what would happen next: They would handle the baby-creation process from now on. I was not asked about this; I was told, as one would tell an elderly mother who deserved understanding and courtesy.

Physically, this was not a problem for them. So brilliant were their minds that they easily defeated the physical limitations of their young bodies. In addition to forcing the rapid development of critical muscles, they coaxed mechanical aides out of material found within my spacecraft. I should say their spacecraft, since, more and more, I was along for the ride.

My children not only discovered how to reproduce, they improved upon the process. They shortened the gestation period from nine months to one, and so well did this work that our oversized spacecraft (over a hundred meters long) soon bulged with determined little people, none of whom had yet reached her first birthday.

I grew restless, agitated. I did not like what I had become, an assistant, a minor technician, a relative with limited abilities who was kept busy by children who felt sorry for her. I retreated into my tripping, needing to get my emotions back on track, needing to lose myself in areas in which I still felt competent. My infants did not bother me during this time, though I had a nagging feeling they would soon elect to test more of their wings.

I tripped again and again, and seldom did I stay long enough to scout the area where I landed. I was running from truth and senseless tripping was my legs. I ran from maturing emotions, from having to grow up and face my past. I ran from the shame I would otherwise have to face, the shame of wanting, even needing, what I had too readily spurned in my youth: my monkeys.

How could they have put up with me for so long?

A few weeks later, my children let me know their thinking, and so easily did they present this, without so much as a hint of disagreement between them, that I knew it had been worked out even while they were still in their test-tube wombs. Overcrowding was never a problem to them because they intended all along to salt the universe. They would establish a process of pioneering that would see them in galaxy after galaxy, wherever they found one not yet under the control of powerful beings.

They revealed to me the how-to of navigating galactic dark energy, presenting it as a knowledgeable teacher would to a young student. They would use this concept to seek out and approach planets capable of sustaining human life. I lost a moment trying to absorb their methodology, but then saw that it was brilliant and flawless. I was awed by how quickly they were able to figure it out, not only how to control travel through dark energy, but determine ahead of time where they wanted to go, which planet was a likely candidate and which was not. I was less impressed when they revealed to me that they did not need nor want my help.

As with the baby creation, they were taking over, this time the entire ship. I was told, as a child tells a senile parent, that there would be no tripping other than that which serves their collective purpose.

With me along for the ride and feeling like a retarded relative, the process of salting the universe with a modified version of humanity began. Tiny genetically-altered human pioneers, none of them more than two feet high or two years old, all confident about their ability to survive. They would keep in touch by computer-assisted, long range telepathy.

We "salted" fifty-two toddlers on thirteen planets in three galaxies before we encountered our first intelligent life. Well within an elliptical galaxy and approaching a sun not much larger than the one I once knew, a ship came out to meet us. It was large like ours and completely transparent—I could see countless arms stretching from instrument to instrument and clusters of shiny eyes, all pointed in our direction.

My children reacted with their first sign of uncertainty. They halted our ship, then began backing up at a rate equal to the approaching speed of the aliens. When the alien ship sped up, we, after an instant of reflection, did as well, until finally we were anticipating the alien’s next move—my children are fast learners. In time, a subtle flash shot out at us, and we felt the hint of something barring our way, slowing us down. It brought my children to their second moment of uncertainty.

It was, however, their last. They sped away, this time tripping to another galaxy. It took a while before they were willing to respond to my curiosity, but when finally they did, I was told that, though they had mutually concluded they were superior to whatever that was, they had no intention of contesting what the aliens obviously regarded as their own. They would never return to that galaxy. With the billions available to them, there was no need.

They resumed the process of growing brainy little people then depositing them on new worlds. At the time of this recording, they have visited almost a hundred galaxies and have rejected only nine as unsuitable. My original twenty-four children have all left the ship, as have the infants who replaced them. And each time a new batch is "born," I see in them understanding and knowledge that even further surpasses my own.

I have been away from Earth for almost three years now and, as mentioned at the beginning of this report, it has not gone as expected. My life has been reduced to watching my little pioneers drop themselves off at an ever increasing rate and an ever decreasing age—as I say, they learn fast. My only real usefulness is as the source of their eggs—I am the queen bee. I know and they know that this cannot last, but the smug smile on their faces tell me they have already figured out an alternative. I beg them to use me to better purpose. I am only nineteen years old and an intelligent being, more intelligent than anyone on the planet Earth. They only smile.

I cannot stand it any longer. These children of mine, these…ingrates!…are tolerating me. Having decided among themselves that I am incapable of understanding at their level, they no longer make an attempt to educate. Oh, they are polite. I am their mother, and whatever else they are, they retain that human need to keep in touch with kin. Indeed, they are more polite than I ever was to my monkeys. Ironic in a sense. Yesterday I was the star player, confident of my superiority. Today I am not even invited into the game.

Why does maturity come so late?!

I want to go back to Earth. I want to see my monkeys again, to make it up to them. I want to apologize for trampling on their feelings as my offspring now trample on mine.

Even now I am not being honest with myself. I "trampled" on my monkeys on purpose; my kids try not> to trample on me. I was arrogant and cruel; they are clumsy but considerate.

I think their way is worse. When you have a child not yet capable of understanding, you invite it into your thoughts only in a condescending way. But a child is not aware of this, and I am! My little monsters show me that smile (more and more a grating smile), and they take more time with me than they would like, but they do not take me seriously!

They undoubtedly know how to get back to Earth, but they show no interest in going there. Like me at one time, they see little value in associating with Homo sapiens, aware as they are that Homo sapiens are even dumber than I. I could ask them to drop me off, I suppose, but I have burned too many bridges to make that work. Simply put, I would not be welcome.

I do not like the looks on their faces, a substantial part of which is now pity. Every day they progress while I remain essentially as I am, superior to no one. Homo sapiens thought me an oddball, and as it turns out, they were right. As I said earlier, I am the only one of my species, a one-person stepping stone to the next link in the evolutionary chain, at one time a mental leap forward, but now a curiosity that impresses no one, not even me (at least it doesn’t any longer). I suspect my badly abused monkeys have already picked out a name for the genetic anomaly that blundered through their fragile midst for sixteen years: Homo insufferable.

I am now that older generation I once looked upon with such disdain. I gain from my children courtesy in direct proportion to what I lose in respect. I am now the past; they are now the future. I am now old world and they are now new.

I smile at the thought of what they will feel when, as surely they will, they encounter beings superior to themselves.


© 2003 Noel Carroll

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