“Well, it seems I’ve been able to get you home safely, then.” Devi pulled into my driveway and turned off the engine. “Door-to-door service. Now get your dog and get inside, so I can tell Nathan that I saw you in before I drove away.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “Thanks again.”
She waved it off. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you soon.”
“Absolutely.” I slid out of the car before opening the back door and taking hold of Beverly’s leash. She jumped obligingly down to the driveway. I closed both doors, waved to Devi one last time, and turned to walk up the path to the house.
She was still there when I unlocked the front door and stepped inside, Beverly sticking close to my heels all the way. I turned to face the living room window and watched as Devi drove away.
In a matter of seconds, she was gone, and the street was still.
“Mom? Dad? Joyce?” No one answered. I was alone in the house. I had been expecting that; it wasn’t the middle of the day, exactly, more late afternoon at this point, but they all had jobs of their own to do. I was the only one who’d had the day off. It was actually a bit of a relief—I hadn’t been looking forward to explaining what I was doing home and where the dog had come from before I had the chance to calm down a little bit.
I couldn’t say exactly what had been so disturbing about seeing Beverly’s owner get sick, any more than I could say exactly what it was about the sleepwalkers that disturbed me so much. Something about them was deeply and fundamentally wrong, in a way that I couldn’t articulate. I just knew that it made me feel like I was going to start throwing up again.
Beverly sat at my feet, waiting to see what I was going to do next. I bent and unclipped her leash from her collar.
“Welcome home, Bevvie,” I said, and rubbed her silky ears. She let her tongue loll, looking pleased in that way that all dogs have. “Go ahead and explore. You’re going to live here for now.”
Beverly stood, stretching luxuriously, and went trotting off into the living room. I shrugged out of my coat, hanging both it and the leash on the rack next to the door, and followed her.
For the next ten minutes, Beverly explored the house and I followed her, watching as she sniffed at corners and shoved her head into places where I wouldn’t have expected it to fit. She was perfectly well behaved, not attempting to chew on anything or squat in any of the corners. Once she was done with the inside, I led her to the back door and opened it far enough for her to squeeze out and go to explore the backyard.
I didn’t know whether we’d ever had a dog, but we had a high fence that looked like it would be sufficient to keep her from wandering off into traffic. I watched for a few minutes as Beverly explored the outside, her nose low to the ground and her tail carried high, like a rudder. Then I whistled for her to come inside. She bounded back through the sliding glass door into the kitchen, her tail wagging madly as I closed it behind. I needed to go to Safeway and get dog food for her. I needed to do a lot of things. I was suddenly too tired to stay on my feet. I staggered down the hall toward my room.
I don’t remember getting into bed. I don’t remember falling asleep. All I remember is that one minute, the world was there, and the next minute, the world was gone. And, as always, I dreamt.
Here in the hot warm dark, something is changing, something is different than it was before. There are words now, words here in the dark, words for things like “red” and “drums” and “time.” There is a “before” here now. There was never a before, and where there is a before, there can be an after.
What is an “after”? I do not know, and because I do not know, because there is something to be known and an “I” to fail to know it, I am afraid. There isn’t supposed to be an after. There isn’t supposed to be an I. There’s only supposed to be the hot warm dark, forever, and it’s never supposed to change.
The drums are getting louder. I wish I knew what that meant. I wish I understood why I was so very, very afraid…
The main issue with Steve’s D. yonagoensis variant—which he was calling “D. banks” in those days, because hubris is not only a sin, it’s a fun game to play at parties—was rejection. Our immune systems wound up in a muddle because they spent millennia evolving alongside parasites, and we took those parasites away very abruptly, causing a spike in allergies and autoimmune conditions. That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t mean our immune systems liked the parasites. They knew how to handle them. That doesn’t mean they wanted them around.
Steve approached things as a businessman and a scientist. What he lost, ironically, was the human angle. We’re constantly told not to anthropomorphize in science, but when you’re talking about the human body, even the autonomic functions of it, you have to anthropomorphize. That’s where you’ll find your answers. Our bodies don’t like having parasites inside them, no matter how beneficial those parasites are intended to be. They’ll fight back until the parasites are destroyed, or until they are. D. banks triggered every rejection response that D. yonagoensis did. What you got from Steve’s “miracle cure” was dead worms and sick people.
That’s when I was brought in to consult. My specialty was the human genome. How it worked, how it could be used to benefit humanity—how to fold it into other things that didn’t start out as members of the human family tree. If you wanted someone to build you a worm, you went to Steve. You wanted a worm that had medical applications, you went to Richie. And if you wanted that worm to be a cousin of yours, you came to me.