The Corpse Demon Fly Chapter 1: Origins The horrors of midnight Boston Took away my parents' breaths; The alleyways conceal shadowy characters. It's to me to avenge my parents' deaths. My father died a young man's death. Wrong place at the wrong time. The kind of death a young man never thinks belongs to him. My mother was there, and just as dead. The newspaper clips at my university weren't all that useful. The 1992 murder was a lot like any other. Neither parent was famous, and so were really a footnote buried within the Boston Globe. I live in the basement: the same suite my mother and father lived in. My mother's parents ruled the upstairs. They were still alive, but had little to do with me since my tenth birthday, six years ago. The house in Boston was run down but still worth millions. They had their house in Florida. The winter wind sucked the life out of their bones. I would have lived with them in Florida, but the retired village covenant wouldn't allow kids through the security detail's front gate. I didn't have real memories of my parents' faces. What memories I had came from photos and videos from my grandparents' collections. They were still both science students at MIT when they were murdered. But I was hardly destitute. I was very well taken care of. Both sets of my grandparents were quite well off. They weren't rich in any extreme. Boston society was an order of magnitude wealthier. The land alone was worth a million while the house was common, if not old and dated. Upstairs, there were few pictures, paintings that had been modern and relevant sixty years ago. There was even a small original Warhol lithograph on the wall that had never made it into any reproductions, but gave a good ambiance. I think I can remember my parents' voices. They're often in my dreams and sometimes as I'm drifting to sleep. My own life: I don't know if I came to love science because of my parents' interest or if it's genetic. In the beginning, my grandparents took good care of me. They loved me. But as granddad said, “When I was twelve, I left home and took care of myself. My daddy never gave me nothin' but hard work on a farm I had no love for. I don't know what you're going to learn being on your own in a paid for house and living money, but me an granny ain't gonna be around forever. There are good easy years owed to us. You'll do fine on your own.” The first time, they only left for a week, came back, found everything was fine. I learned how to cook a bit, order food by phone, and generally keep my basement apartment clean. They would return every holiday: Spring Break, trip to Uncle Ted's on Thanksgiving, let me go to my daddy's family reunion, and other things that kind of made me feel like I still had a family. The basement in which I grew up had been mostly locked up. As I grew older, I learned to pick the locks to discover the treasures inside. One was a small room in the basement containing shelves of aquariums (the insects had been long dead and mere empty shells). I wasn't exactly very socialized at school, and had even managed to switch to home schooling with my grandfather's blessing. (“You're already smarter and more independent than those dumb kids you go to that idiot school with,” Grandpa had said, signing off on permission. “I trust you know what's best for you.”) My grades never slipped, nor did I cheat to keep them that way. The few hours every week I needed to keep up that work was a lot less than actually attending a pointless institution. The first room I unlocked was filled with insect aquariums. Of course they were long since dead, empty shells. I then discovered the small office, with their desks, a library of genetic research, old computers, and filing cabinets filled with information and data printouts. Chapter 2: The Cop Shop On the tenth of January, the wind stabbed icy cold. Naked trees' limbs rattled like skeletons and soughed. When she went back home she was not alone. Two undead souls, insistently demanding, vengeance to atone. I mentioned that maybe I know my parents' voices. I didn't know if they were really of the dead, or some diabolic voices. I thought perhaps I was mad. But I never felt fear. Now, when alone, my thoughts no longer linger over memories that could have been, cut away by fate's ruthless shears. Those hearts that had loved still loved though the living flesh had putrefied and oozed onto the silk of the casket in their shared crypt. Going to the police station, for someone suffering from agoraphobia, is almost as hard as facing a man eating tiger. The officer who agreed to talk to me was already a grandfather. He agreed to look into the details of my parents' death. He couldn't do anything, but it felt infinitely better than watching a man brush me off, which was what the others had done. When he had come back, somehow his pasty white complexion had become more pasty, more white; the long shadows under his eyes seemed darker, and he had a hard time looking me in the eye when he told me he hadn't found much. I knew he was lying. He knew that I knew. But I also knew that whatever he saw he would never let me see if he could help it. “It's a cold case. Everything is archived. I wish I could help you. I think it's better that you go home and remember them in life rather than in death,” he had said. I could read his mind, which said, 'I cannot show an innocent girl this file! It would scar her for life!' I remember feeling so helpless and powerless. My parents had been students going after the same grants, and coauthored their papers together. Studying insects wasn't exactly what my grandparents had wanted for them. But they still respected their decision. They had their own lab equipment in the basement, along with a healthy library of photocopied journals, papers, sorted and cataloged on cards. The ancient computer had been encrypted thoroughly. However, the undead had whispered the key to me one Halloween when others my age were cheerfully pandering for candy in appropriate costumes. For my thirteenth birthday, my grandparents gave me a party and ten thousand dollars. They weren't 'society' rich, but they made more money every month from smart investments and generous pensions than they cared to spend. I didn't really know anyone at the party. Their friends brought their grandkids who were my own age; a few cousins of mine had come with the entourage. But they were kids my age, but we spoke different languages: they giggled about dresses and boys and celebrities, while I couldn't stop thinking about murder and revenge. The old computer, having saved all the data, went to the recyclers. The microscopes had been sent to a shop which installed digital cameras so that the images could be viewed live by the new computer. I spent a week carefully cleaning out the old aquariums. The stench of rotting insects had been gone long ago, but the smell of death still lingered despite my best efforts to sanitize. That lab, updated and renewed, became my life, as it had been the life of my parents before me. I fell upon their literature, their writings and essays, their photo slides and notations. Their journals gave me insights into their daily lives as students, and even as parents. My undead companions had already told me how much they loved me, and how proud they were of me, beyond their wildest imaginings. The words they spoke, their phrases, their unique style of speaking, was already familiar to me before I began learning of their day-to-day lives. One kind of journal gave me their loves, their lives, their outings, the story of their meeting, their love, love making, and every event associated with a good life. Reading them made me know them in a way, perhaps, that few children ever get to know their parents. The only novels in the library were The Island of Dr. Moreau and Frankenstein. Chapter 3: Graduation That night so long ago, as they walked upon the newly fallen snow, They danced to the melodies of love, music that only they could hear. They could not know that the demons envied such beautiful love, Thus murderers came out of the shadows to silently stalk their prey. When my parents' files, journals, and computer data, had been exhausted, and all their textbooks had become a part of me in the same way as the alphabet becomes a part of anyone who learns to read, I was thirteen years old. Cloistered as I was, I wasn't even aware of how quickly science had evolved since the last entries were written. It occurred to me at that point that what I needed now was 'out there' beyond 'the door.' The primitive lessons required of me from the public schools were so trivial. If I hadn't promised my grandmother that I would follow through with my graduation, I probably wouldn't have cared and let it slip. Her expertise in medicine was dated, but her wisdom was sound. My resistance had its roots in agoraphobia, which I had to fight every time the need to step foot outside the house arose. “Augusta,” grandma told me in a tone that was final, “I know you don't like to crawl outside your lab. Not unlike your parents, but even they had friends and colleagues, physical classrooms to go to. You, you're alone. This diploma is a key to a new world for you where there will be many who speak the language you have learned. You don't need to be alone any more! You're no child, and I suppose you've never been. You need to at least understand how the world will see you. Just never believe it for a moment!” The final exams were a breeze, as were the SAT. It was harder to stand so close to all those people. It was impossible to avoid physical contact with them: I had to watch my toes, elbows, and get out of the way of unmindful students, parents, and invigilators. When the letter arrived for her grandparents, she did not bother to open it and couldn't be bothered to be interested. It ended up on the desk along with the pile of bills and other unimportant correspondence. Grandpa discovered the letter on a visit. “A perfect score,” grandma had said, “means you can go to any university that you want. You are a prodigy my girl. Your parents would be so proud!” “Does that mean I can go to MIT?” I asked. Grandma looked at me through her thick bifocal lens, “MIT? Like your parents. Yes, that means you can go to MIT. But, Augusta! You can become a Harvard girl! That's the best university in the world! Grandpa couldn't be prouder no matter what you choose. If Pierre wasn't on his deathbed in France (a veteran of the second Great War), surely he would have stayed a few days to help, too.” The interview session at MIT took place almost right away. While most students had already applied before graduation, I knew nothing of the process. So, it was a surprise when they gave me a call. Grandma had joined Grandpa to send off Pierre into the next world, and they had not yet returned from the city of love. When the panel, two men and one woman, sat on one side of the table, and I on the other alone, I could not repress the nervous energy shaking my legs or my voice. “Why do you want to come to MIT?” asked the man. He looked at me like he could not comprehend how a young adolescent such as myself could even be considered. He looked again at my transcripts, as did the others who flanked him. “I follow in the footsteps of my parents who came before me.” I replied. I stood up and handed to him my own research. “We will have to check the authenticity of your authorship. We will get back to you.” They did, and remarkably, I was enrolled the next week. I was truly excited about the following September. Chapter 4: MIT When vengeance has tasted once, The blood of evil for what evil does, It thirsts again for another drink, And evil unto evil becomes what one loves. Despite the promise of challenging classes, they were dreadfully simple. The texts and lectures were designed for young people who had never tasted science beyond the high school lab, while I had raised myself in one, tutored by two dedicated incorporeal parents. I sat quietly, almost at the back row, attempting the same invisibility that my parents managed to everyone around me. But, perhaps for reasons of my youth, having just last Summer turned sixteen, made me stand out. Our professor of Molecular Biology 101, Dr. Szu from Singapore, for whatever reason spied me flanked between the bewildered and confused mass, yawning out of boredom, and decided to make an example of me. “Miss Wagner, perhaps you're in the wrong class. You certainly appear to be too young for this discussion and topic,” he said, glaring at me through thick round spectacles. He was profoundly far sighted and therefore his eyes appeared much larger and bug-like. “I'm so sorry, Dr. I never meant any offense,” I had responded. “I thought this was supposed to be an advanced class, yet the material is generic, disguised by a forest of superficial verbosity, much like the textbook I read last week.” Stunned, Dr. Szu's eyes popped out, “You finished the course material already?” I nodded, “See me after class Miss Wagner.” With considerable trepidation, I managed to find Dr. Szu's office: door open. “Come in!” he said, before I could timidly knock. “Have a seat!” I did as bid without hesitation, despite my pounding heart. “This is last year's exam,” Dr. Szu said, sliding the paper across his desk. The door was open, and people looked in randomly as they passed by. “If you actually read the course and understood it, this test should pose little difficulty.” The door had to be left open. Young girls alone in the offices of professors were cryptonite to otherwise invincible tenured professors. He was right. The exam was so simple and easy that I could have done it having never attended his classes or read the material. He actually watched me scribble away and hen peck at my Casio graphing calculator. An hour later, I was finished with his three hour exam. He stood there, shaking his head in disbelief. “When I was told that I was receiving a prodigy, I shook my head: those have mostly come and gone when the going got tough. Perhaps that will be you, too. But the bar is clearly too low in my course, and I suspect the other courses you are taking. I have underestimated you. I am very sorry for my behavior.” I shrugged and smiled. This was more respect than I had gotten from anyone, even grandma! Calmly, trying to repress the smile that escaped (smiling is for immature students, is it not?), I replied, “I have been studying the materials for a long time now.” “A long time?” he asked, eyebrows arching halfway up his forehead. 'I've been doing this longer than you've been alive,' was the reply, reflected in his eyes. “When did you begin studying molecular biology?” “It was my parents' passion... before they were murdered.” I told him the story of their murder, what little of it that I knew. “I want to find their killers.” “What does molecular biology have to do with finding your parents' killers?” he inquired. “I don't know what science can help me track down their killers, so many years after their deaths. But this is the road that's calling me. Are you familiar with the corpse fly?” I asked. He nodded, so I continued, “I am just now becoming familiar with cutting edge techniques for genetically modifying organisms. Here, we are preparing to study and work on mice. At home, I have already begun to modify the genes of flies. Perhaps you'd like to see my work?” “I would, but there are people at this university that you need to meet. I can also speak to the dean about finding a ... place at the university, customized for your talents and interests,” he replied. True to his word, and after some extensive academic testing, I now have an on-campus lab, an assistant who is a PhD student. At first the student had balked at working under a freshman yearling and under aged girl. However, Phil Escalibar, soon discarded his superficial assessment of me. It took me awhile to discover that he was a spy. Chapter 5: The Sanctuary The murdered mouse now rests beyond the torture. Merciful Death has intervened. Justified and sanctified the heroic scientist Advances science with the heart of a sadist. I sat in my lab. It's difficult to study flies. A mouse can live for years. Most flies have up to a week to live. However, when it comes to its sense of smell, when it comes to death, is an order of magnitude better than a cadaver dog's. A few molecules drifting on a particle of dust, can tell a hungry fly, desperate to propagate, where the newly dead lies. With that single molecule on the spec of dust, the fly knows with natural instinct the moment of death and the exact location. I studied the computer simulation, working its way through the university's 50,000 CPU mainframe and uploading them to my computer, trying to determine whether my strand of DNA and the strands of ten separate species of insects' DNA, cut, spliced, and pasted together, could possibly interact with mammalian tissue. What would the brain make of such alien signals? Would it understand its new sense of smell, taste, or touch? I sent my assistant away. Better to work swiftly and surely than having to answer a thousand of his questions explaining details he cannot understand. Sometimes he saves me time, but as the months came and went, he made up for it with attempts at overcoming his confusion. But he could never close the gap. The group finally extended its invitation. Following the instructions, I found my way to the basement. The smell of damp earth wrinkled my nose. The light bulbs were strung together, suspended by hooks twisted into an overhead support beam. It's an old building, built before Edison had gazed upon the first incandescent bulb. Above, the rooms were renovated and beautiful: a harmonic and tasteful mixture of the old and new. An adult human male would have to stoop where cross beams intersected. Beyond the black depths of the unlit shadows scurried little feet of what must have been rats. I could make out their malevolent eyes glaring back at me. Did those rats know how I used their species in the lab? Do they know about the surgically implanted electrodes gathering data? Would the information ever be passed onto that little rodent brain? Certainly, I could imagine the rat wishing for vengeance. Here, under the castle of science, they must be considering revenge: a small young woman, not yet fully grown, alone. 'Next time I come down here,' I promised myself, 'I will bring some kind of weapon (even if it's just to make myself feel less terrified).' I must have traveled the full length of the university building before coming to an inconspicuous door. Had I not been informed, surely I would never have known that there was a door there at all. I rapped upon the door according to the instructions. It looked like the end of the basement wall rather than a portal into another section of the buidling. Then I repeated the words promised to give me entrance to the secret domain, “There is no pain; there is no law; there is only science!” In truth, at this moment I thought that surely this was some kind of prank played on a naive freshman. Nearly I had turned, feeling like a fool taken in, my ego burned. But then, the door swung in, revealing poorly lit stairs. My heart fluttered in my breast. I took a deep breath: willing myself through it. The silent door swung back behind me before I had descended three steps. I looked about for some button to push, or lever to pull, to let me flee should the desire take me. Seeing nothing, fearing everything, I pushed aside the uncertain girl that I was with the white hot will of the insatiable scientist. The little girl, who once fought terror just when stepping outside, was being taken over by a heartier heart. No longer were my feet frozen by fear and indecision. Now they moved by a new impulse, stronger, driven by the need to know. The stairs wound round and round, down, down. Dim lights gave way to bright, revealing a large chamber. A voice, loud, “Welcome, freshman!” nearly made me jump out of my skin. I looked to the source: a man dressed in a robe, like some kind of druid in a druid's robe. The cowl covered his head and half his face. Glasses reflected the light like two dim glowing balls. The flesh on the back of my neck crawled, but my step did not stutter. Chapter 6: The Coven of Forbidden Science Witchcraft and science are in fact entwined, Both reviled by those closed of mind. Both burned by the crossed crusader, All relentless in the pursuit of power. “Come with me,” quoth he, of the silken robes. I followed closely, alert for danger; wide eyed, wild with curiosity. We passed by steel barred cells dug into the hall. “A most curious place, is it not? Once upon a time, centuries gone by, this dungeon was hidden from the public. The Mathers themselves had this one built when they wanted to advance their science against the practicing witches of their day. Do you believe in the craft? In the underworld? What do you believe, Miss Wagner?” “Magic explained is science, ignorance of science is magic. But surely there is more to the universe than our best instruments are capable of measuring or detecting,” I replied. The cells were old, indeed, but the floors within were not covered in dust. Rust had been worn away, by hands, I'm sure. Dull iron shackles hung limply, suspended by iron links. Some cells had been used, and not so very long ago by the looks of it. A larger cell had no shackles, but instead in the middle were ancient tools used to extract confessions. Stocks with two holes for hands and one for the head stood menacingly in one corner, while in another were leather bindings for ankles and wrists, with ropes wrapped around a hand powered winch for pulling. Through the silence, between the scuffing of his sandals on the floor, my ears... I'm certain I could hear voices centuries old. Their screams still faintly echoing, conservation of energy never allowing the voices to entirely fade. Dark stains in the wood, for a moment, seemed red and liquid, dripping. But when I blinked my eyes, they were again dark and centuries dry. Perhaps more recently, too. Most curious. Wouldn't I love to bring in some evidence jars to extract some samples from that historic room that brought many an accused witch (as all women of power were labeled in those days) to her doom. We came to a a heavy wooden door, probably oak. He opened it for me. Voices tumbled out of the room, finally snapping me out of my hypnotic melancholy. There was laughter, and music: the trivial sounds of young adults, a bit intoxicated and excited, tumbled and echoed through the main cavern. The walls were so thick that they could keep even the loudest screams from escaping. All of them wore the same white, silken robes. All save for one who sat at the end of a long table, who wore instead one of red. He picked up a gavel, and struck the table. All fell silent, and gathered round, taking their assigned places. “Silence,” said he, and they obeyed. All eyes and ears trained on their master. “Brothers and sisters of our forbidden science, welcome Miss Augusta Marie Wagner.” They wore their robes, with cowls down. Their faces, I knew not but one: my assistant. He smiled at me, but not in a friendly way. I knew then that he had reported everything I did and said to him. I bowed my head, out of respect or fear, or maybe both. It seemed the thing to do. “This is the prodigy we have heard of and discussed at length since she rose above the freshmen ranks.” Around they went, telling their names. “She's just a child,” said one woman, Marie. “No, not just a child. She is a descendant of two members, none of you have been here so long as to remember. A word of warning, Miss Wagner, speak not a word about us, where we are, what we do. For I assure you, you would regret it. We would know of it. No one leaves and no one escapes.” I knew that already. This was not a foolish prank. 'What have I gotten myself into?' I asked myself. “Sit,” said the man of the crimson robes, “Let us begin.” Chapter 7: Initiation Knowledge of science is the one and only God. It must come first before the ultruities of frail humanity. What mysteries remain unfound, undiscovered Because of some political or lawyerly foil? I was only vaguely familiar with the hazing ritual that is associated with new members of a university fraternity or sorority. This group was something like one of those, except there were members of each sex here. Also, while there were definitely fun and games, and drinking was a part of that, they were not excessive. The chief interest in this group was in fact the underground study, a no-holds barred approach to GMO, away from the eyes of the law. “We have an initiation within our house,” said the man of the crimson red robe. “Once you have crossed into our circle, death is your only escape. Do you agree?” I shrugged, not knowing what to expect. “Bind her for the ceremony!” he commanded the others. My recent triumph over agoraphobia did not bring with it relief from haphephobia and merinthophobia: fears of being touched and restrained, respectively. I screamed with a fury I had never known existed within me leaping away and prepared to run for the door. “If any of you touch me,” I screamed, “I will kill you!” The vindictiveness in my voice caused them all to fall back. “I came here for my love of science! Not any foolish games!” “I'm sorry,” said the man in red, “you are right. We are acolytes of science, not some foolish teenagers.” That rat of a man who called himself my assistant cried out, “But we have all gone through the ritual!” “Such a tradition is for fools! You are a fool, but I am not!” I yelled. I knew then that he had been a spy in my own lab. The wings of my anger, repressed for so many ears as in a cocoon, erupted like thunder. The adrenalin gave me strength I'd never known. “You betrayed my trust! You wasted my time with pointless questions when I try to focus my time on fusing strands of DNA! You are only good for sweeping and getting coffee!” I don't know if I had ever said anything rude to anyone my entire life, up to that point, but the threat of bondage had somehow loosed the damning stone that had kept my tongue silent for so many years. “Please, calm down. Phil, shut up. She's right. We are here as pioneers of science. Not childish pranks. You are obviously no match for her. You are, without doubt, one of the best intellects within the talent pool at this great school. But from what I hear from her professors, she is a star in the making. It is an honor to have you, and please... please accept my apology!” I don't know what it was that disagreed with me. His eyes seemed to say one thing, while his mouth said another. I shrugged, calming down. As the adrenalin wore off, I nearly fainted. “But I must insist that you do some of the things that freshmen members are required to do. There is much cleaning to be done in our sanctuary. It will be your job to clean it up.” I was about to tell him that I had no time for such menial tasks. Then I remembered my curiosity: how old were those stains in the cells? What information could I gain from taking samples? I agreed to his terms. I have always been a slave to my curiosity. I did not doubt that had he known my intent, he surely would have had second thoughts on welcoming me to this society. None of the acolytes of this particular sect of science looked at me as if I was a harmless little girl that didn't belong. Instead, there was respect: like I already belonged. The following day, after taking care of my precious flies, checking their eggs, and feeding new animal corpses to their larvae, I went into the sanctuary and did my cleaning duty. But also covertly carrying small vials and scraping tools to get my samples and store them for later study. Chapter 8: Eureka! A new discovery, or a new engineering marvel, Is like a baby: a new creature to be suckled. A mother loves with a love, blind to good or evil, That her child may bring to the unsuspecting world. When I cleaned the basement (it took a whole day), I was able to take samples of the stains in the wood. The results were as I suspected: there were many victims who had bled in the torture chamber. The Luminol, the chemical used to highlight human blood, helped lead me to droplets of blood scattered all about. For a moment, or a few, time is hard to measure when in such a state, I could almost see my mother in the stocks, with great pain tearing apart her face. I could hear the whip cracking and her screams. My father's ethereal image lay on the confessional table, blood flowing freely, dripping onto the table, forming puddles, and then dripping onto the floor. Surely it was my imagination! I am a mad scientist, not a lunatic! Surely it was my imagination. DNA analyses of each of the victims revealed that there were dozens of them from different periods of time. The testing couldn't reveal all of the dates of each of the victims. The older the blood spatter, the harder it was to determine a specific date. However, I now had motivation to sit down at what was a dinosaur of a machine built forty years ago to examine the microfilm. I was able to construct a database of unsolved murders of students at both MIT and Harvard. I could not be sure of anything. But, that's where every scientist starts: with questions that have never been answered. The journey of solving those questions is at the core of experimental research. Sometimes one looks up in the sky and sees a familiar shape that vaguely resembles a face or an elephant. But no one looks at an elephant and says that it looks like a cloud. Two unlike strands of DNA entwined in the rat's brain: the DNA of the corpse fly I had harvested and spliced together with the strands of nerve tissue. I had finally overcome the barrier of joining two genetic worlds together! Within a week, the connection between the mouse and the alien DNA began to establish itself in the mouse. Most remarkably, it slowly became aware of a stronger hunger for the dead. When I conducted the tests on its ability to smell, it reacted as strongly to the introduction of a corpse in the same way as the corpse fly. Combined with its superior intelligence and its new sense of smell, its ability to detect the dead multiplied and matched that of the corpse fly. One month later, there were no signs of cancer or tumors as a result of the fusion of the two different species. It was then that I decided to move onto the human trial. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to perform a basic operation on oneself. Just last week, I went to the police department, and once again met with the old officer. “I'm amazed at your tenacity, young lady,” the old gentleman said. “I will miss you.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Next week I will retire. I don't know what you can do with the evidence. The letter from your professor at MIT says that you are mature enough now to handle the material, and well trained in forensics. Surely you could do no worse than we have!” It was all on the USB stick: DNA data, fingerprints, none of which had ever made a hit on the local database. The police could solve almost any mystery. Those that didn't become political were usually buried with other unworthies, like my own parents. “Thank-you,” I said to him, giving him my best smile. When I told my grandpa that I finally got the evidence, he told me that they had hired a private investigator years ago, but that investigator had never managed to dig up any leads or new evidence. When I went to see him, I found this to be true. “Half the time,” he had said to me, “your parents cannot be accounted for. There are so many holes in their whereabouts, that it has become impossible to make effective time-lines. This isn't just true the day of their murder, but also of their daily routines.” I was able to put it together: they were a part of the same secret society as I had just joined. I had to talk to members of my own secret society. More importantly, I had to do it without raising suspicion. Could I do it with a straight poker face? I had a feeling that my life depended on it. It could be my DNA in the torture room and my body found in an alley. Chapter 9: Deadly Suspicion The blood spilled and ran down the street. And ere I stabbed his heart ten times, The murderer is still: paid in full for his crimes. The taste of death was never so sweet. I was by now so familiar with my own DNA, combining those cells in petri dishes to harmonize with that of the insect, that when I saw the DNA of one particular test sample, I saw half my chromosomes were the same. My mother! Later I found my father's. Had I really seen my parents in the torture chamber? The samples had come from the very machines of torture where I had seen the specters! The moronic assistant was gone. I still had to put up with periodic visits from members of the coven. They would ask me questions and I would give them simple answers while hiding my true research designs and keeping a cloak-and-dagger security system on my computer system. They could see my notes, but the real gems remained hidden. Sometimes I had to go to their gatherings. I spared as little time as I could. I very nearly lived in the lab now. They had eyes on me, I know. They knew that I slept more nights on the lab couch than I did in my own bed. My every waking moment was focused on improving and broadening the extent to which vastly separate species could be used to enhance one another: marrying the superior brains of a mammal to the senses of the insect. The leucochloridium paradoxum flatworms, otherwise known as the green-banded broodsac, could take over the motor control of its host. Equally fascinating, I could see the tsetse fly paralyze the much larger tarantula, bury it, leaving its eggs behind. The way its grubs slowly devoured the large spider alive was so arousing! Glorious! Dr. Mohamed Ahmadi, head of the entomology department, came knocking on my door—locked by habit to keep from being surprised or disturbed. In the coven, his robes were white, like the younger members (of which I am one). But his white robe had a band of crimson red on each sleeve that distinguished him as a senior member. When I opened the door, I was surprised to find him standing there. “Hello, Dr. Ahmadi. What are you doing here?” I asked. “I like to know what all of our members are doing. But the reports I keep getting back from those sent to uncover your research leaves me feeling... well, they're fools. I have come to see for myself what exactly it is you are doing, day and night, in your lab all by yourself. Of all of our members, you are the most paranoid. We need people like you. The other new members are the cream of the crop at MIT in the art we love. But they are still immature, despite the fact that they are all a decade or older than you. You... you will go so very far. Still, I cannot abide forever wondering what curiosities you are investigating.” “You're welcome to my lab, Doctor,” I replied, smiling sweetly. My lady parts were blossoming, and such smiles were growing in power I had noticed. One might wonder what need I had of worms and insects that could render the will of another organism into an obedient zombie. Alas, the power of my charms were not as great as those of the tsetse fly or the more exotic, and prized, green-banded broodsac. He first went to my bank of aquariums. They had grown to become so many. When he began to inspect them, his narrow jaw became slack, “I am amazed. I did not know we had such a large collection of species. Myrmeconema neotropicum? Is this real? I would have noticed such an acquisition in the university logs.” He looked closer and saw the hosts, giant gliding ants, standing stupidly on delicate branches. Their gasters (the backside of the ant) bright red, evidence of the zombie infection. “I am amazed that you have kept this secret. But how many pupils of this university, or even professors, would even know what these are?” He noticed that one of the aquariums was empty. “Tsetse flies? Did they die on you?” he asked. “No, hardly. I just happened to be studying one when you entered. I wonder where it could be...” “They're highly dangerous! Are you so careless?” he cried. “No, not careless,” I laughed. “She has a job to do for me.” The fly had landed on the back of his neck. He exclaimed, letting out a yelp of pain. It was too late for him to notice the sting. His clumsy attempt at vengeance against my insect friend was ineffective. She flew back into her home. It still marveled me that so many of my insect friends would know, instinctively, what I wanted of them. Chapter 10: The Queen of the Flies The ten who took my parents lie upon the floor, Paralyzed but for their agonized screaming, Begging for mercy like my parents before. They smell so tasty after they die! “That was not a common tsetse fly, Dr. Ahmadi,” I said to him after he'd collapsed onto the floor. “Its venom is much more potent, and has some added chemicals: it now produces its own gamma-aminobutyric acid. So, your body thinks you're asleep, and as a result, now you're paralyzed. Of course, you can see me and hear me. But it's like a dream, is it not?” Of course he couldn't reply, though he tried and got the senseless murmuring of a sleep talker. He was a big man, relative to me: just over 1.8 meters tall and 90kg. It took a great deal of effort for me to get him into the wheeled bin. I covered him up, and after a great deal of effort, wrestled the bin down into the basement, down the long, dirty corridor with only the red beady eyes of the rats to watch us from the shadows. Getting him down the long staircase into the sanctum proved even more difficult. By the time I managed to strap him to the torture table, where I had seen the specter of my father, hours had passed. Soon he would be regaining his motor control. “Why... why are you doing this?” he asked. “Surely you know why. I shouldn't have to tell you,” I replied. “Surely you were here, a part of those who murdered my parents!” “How... how did you find out?” he asked, terrified. My fury knew no bounds. I had not heard the footsteps behind me. “There's no need to deceive the young lady,” came a man's voice whom I recognized. It was voice of the red robe. His hands grasped my shoulders before I could whirl around. “Let go of me!” I screamed, stamping on his foot as hard as I could on the metarsocunieform joint, trying desperately to snap it. But I was made for study, not combat. But it was enough to elicit a yelp of pain, and loosen his grip enough to allow me to whirl around. My knee thudded into his groin, having much better success. He fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes, holding his damaged jewels. I tried to step away, but he fought through the pain and grabbed my ankle. I had no weapon, and I was no physical match for him. I kicked him once, but he managed to pull me down to the floor and crawl over me. “I was the one who killed them! Aye, and tortured them, too! I can't tell you how much joy it gave me to do it! Did you know that screaming can help stimulate the appetite? They were going to betray the coven, and death was their punishment!” “I did not come alone!” I cried. My little babies: crawled out from under my clothing and from under the bin I had carried Dr. Ahmadi in. They swarmed in a black cloud: my hybrid breed of insects whose DNA was my gift to the world. They swarmed all over him as he screamed, biting, stinging. He screamed. The scream was shrill, tortured. The venom in the corpse demon flies (my babies!) did its work, and he collapsed. As he came to (I waited too long, like a child before Christmas morning), he found himself in the same position as my mother was in. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “Why did you stab my parents 10 times?” I asked. “There were ten members at the time,” he replied. “We are but two. The rest have moved on to careers for pharmaceuticals and other research firms. Each one of us, so as to protect the others, had to have a hand in their killing.” “I am going to kill you, you know that,” he nodded in reply. “How you die... well, tell me everything I need to know and I won't stretch out your death.” On my hands, on my shoulders, crawling through my hair were my children. “The Queen of the Flies!” Dr. Ahmadi cried. They gave me the other names. Each one of them, I would hunt down, track, and kill. After getting the names I needed, I watched the corpse demon flies lay their eggs into their ears and noses. Their screams were as music to my ears. I thought I could hear my parents laughing, smiling. At last, they could rest in peace. As for me, I had two here, and eight more to kill. For me, it was just the beginning. When once the smell of death had made me vomit, it now gave off a pleasant odor. Perhaps that's because of the corpse demon DNA finally connecting to my nerves, heightening my senses beyond the limitations of my flimsy human genes.