Carbon-Based Life Forms

“This doesn’t make any sense.”

Gyp backed away from the examination table and leaned against the sink. His hand slipped a bit, some excess water having sprayed all over the place when Yoz entered the lab with an annoying whistle, something screeching and torturous in Gyp’s delicate ears. He stuck his hand under the nearby QUICK lamp—a gust of acrid air blew through his fingers and his hand was wet no more. His mind, however, remained unchanged: positively boggled.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Gyp repeated.

“What doesn’t?” Yoz asked from across the room. His eyes remained glued to the eyepiece of his microscope. His left hand clicked the coarse adjustment back and forth as though playing to the beat of a rhythm only he could hear. Yoz was always playing, finding some sort of game in his work and inviting no others to play along. How else was he supposed to end up the winner and have complete strangers kissing his ass?

“Look at this femur,” Gyp said, not taking his own focus away from the bone that lay in front of him.

“I’m busy looking at these cancer cells. Don’t tell me your leg is more exciting, because that’s just not the case.”

“It’s not about excitement. Just, please, come over here and look what I found.”

Yoz sighed, the irritation no doubt surging through him. It wasn’t like he and Gyp had to mask their discontent for one another, but the lack of courtesy Yoz had for Gyp definitely made the lab something oft referenced during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: a hostile work environment. Gyp at least was nice enough to stuff his true feelings down, maybe release an eye roll now and then, but only when Yoz’s back was turned. He was not one of the ones who would bow down and—what was that other twentieth-century phrase? That offensive one? Bend over.

Yoz ambled across the room, his metal-heeled shoes clicking against the blue tiles on the floor. His round body seemed to bounce with every step, as if he was made of that ancient substance known as rubber. But he isn’t made of rubber, Gyp thought. He’s just another carbon-based life form, like me. Isn’t he? Aren’t I?  If this bone is any indication of… something… then who knows?

Yoz stopped next to Gyp, put his back against the sink, crossed his arms and huffed, his shoulders dropping, his head tilting, his aura uninterested and his mind still on his precious diseases. “So?”

Gyp lifted up the bone. He directed Yoz’s attention to the spot at which he had been chipping away for some time. It resembled the layers of the Earth’s crust, when the Earth resembled more of a ball and less of a broken cookie. “So we’ve got the femur. We have the osseous tissue, the marrow, the endosteum, the periosteum—”

“Hey, how about we quit the expository first-grade anatomy lesson and get to the point,” Yoz said.

Gyp scowled, but skipped to the end anyway. “Look at this.” He grabbed the iron pick he had been using to dig the hole. He held it across from the bone in his other hand.

Yoz looked predictably unimpressed.

Until Gyp released the pick and it shot into the hole on its own volition, like one of those sporting arrows they found during medieval times.

Now Yoz’s mouth dropped.

“Yeah,” Gyp said.


“Yeah,” Gyp said.

Yoz snatched the bone from Gyp’s hands and tried to pull the pick out. He had to place it on the examination table in order to get the proper leverage; after six good tugs, the pick was finally free. “It’s magnetized?”

“It looks that way.”

“This person must have been exposed to some kind of, well, magnets,” Yoz posited.

“But it only acted like a magnet once I got to that layer of the femur. I’ve been using the same tools the whole time, and it just started to do this.”

Yoz furrowed his brow and removed one of his gloves.

“What are you doing?”

Yoz dipped a finger into the bone. He grimaced like he was inseminating one of those four-legged creatures they had discovered roaming the fields of 18th century England, those black and white ones that had pink areola-like appendages underneath their bodies. He did this for a while until his grimace morphed into something else, something near frightened.

“Is that metal?”

After Gyp felt for himself, the two of them bagged the bone and quickly trotted out of the lab toward Rez’s office.

Gyp didn’t know what they were going to tell their supervisor. He had no idea what they had discovered, and he wagered Yoz was just as lost as he was (though he would never admit it). There was metal, magnetic metal, inside of a human’s thighbone from 2012 A.D. This was a human who had, according to their records, received no type of surgery, no implants of any kind, and was in perfect health when they were killed. Gyp wanted to get into this business to learn all he could about post-historic Homo sapiens, but he never in a million years, backwards or forwards, could have predicted he would find something like this. Whatever this was.

Rez’s office was at the far end of the station. The holographic door was not like the others in this section, but rather it was designed to accentuate Rez’s importance. It was based off the doors a team had witnessed on their journey back to 13th century France, something fit for a king, etched with a dozen or so gold crosses that apparently had some significance to people on Earth in the time before the Exodus. Gyp never understood what all the fuss was about: he lived way above the clouds and saw no sign of a bearded man in sandals anywhere, let alone the structure to which he was supposedly nailed and left for dead.

Gyp and Yoz froze in front of the door and waited to be scanned. There was a small ping and the monarch’s door drizzled into something more translucent. Gyp and Yoz stepped through.

Compared to the door, Rez’s office was rather bleak. Black with white luminescence shooting through the walls, it gave the impression to those who stepped foot in it that they were walking in space, a sensation only amplified by the fact that Rez had a magnificent view of the remnants of Earth as it hung dilapidated among the stars—a big chunk or two here, a few rocky pieces there, it was like a cut-up loaf of bread with crumbs scattered around. Every time Gyp walked into the office, he was filled with a sudden emptiness. This is what we came from, he would often think, and this is where we’re going to end up.

Rez himself sat at his desk, something that had been crafted out of many shards of obsidian found during the days of early Man. The sharp edges of the desk only mirrored the sharp edges of Gyp’s boss: a nose that jutted out like a corner; eyes that slanted inwards and made a W of his face. Every time he would meet Gyp’s eyes, it was quick and jolting, like getting stabbed.

“Doctors,” Rez said, rising from his seat. He gestured to two spots in front of the desk. A foggy white light shined from the floor and two clear platforms rose into the air and hovered. Gyp and Yoz took their seats.

“Something on your faces tells me this is urgent,” Rez said.

“Maybe,” Gyp replied.


“Yes. Maybe. We don’t know.”

“Then why are you here?” Rez asked.

Before Gyp could respond, Yoz cut in. “We found something absolutely insane, sir. Like, we’re talking, grab some straitjackets and wrap this discovery up tightly and cram it in a padded room.” Yoz didn’t talk to Rez like he was an authority figure, something that clearly caused Rez much displeasure. This would have been obvious to Yoz if Yoz wasn’t such a—what was the slang term people used to use? Douche?

Yoz began to explain their findings. All the while, Rez stared at a spot on his desk, his hand on his chin, nodding. Once Yoz was finished, Rez stood up from his seat and stared out at the destroyed planet. Gyp couldn’t help but remember what he had seen in the archives, the films old humans used to watch, and what they used to call clichés. Rez, at that moment, was acting very cliché.

“Gentlemen, during your research, what have you surmised about the human race? Before the Great Exodus?” Rez asked.

Gyp and Yoz looked at each other. Where to begin? The whole “religion” thing, sure. There was an extended focus on these beings known as “celebrities,” their stature almost godlike. That even reached as far back as the Neanderthal days, when one member of the pack seemed to be deified by the rest.

Gyp knew what to say. “They were born to worship.” He could feel Yoz’s eyes daggering into him, all beady, all envious. Gyp continued, “People, beings, either real or fabricated.”

Rez whipped around to face them. “Yes. But think about this: why would anyone want to live under the thumb of someone, or something? What kind of life would that be?” He took a seat back at his desk, leaned forward. His eyes contained a hint of malice, something that sent a chill down Gyp’s back. It felt like electricity.

“Not a great one,” Yoz said.

“So, imagine this,” Rez continued. “However the human race came to be—evolution, God, whatever the case may be—that creator had to ensure that his creations would have total devotion to him.”

“Or her,” Gyp said.

Rez shot him a more menacing glare and Gyp had to look away.

“Or it,” Yoz said.

Now it was Yoz’s turn to avert his gaze.

Rez kept going. “Granted, he had to account for some error, malfunctions here and there, but the best way to ensure this type of blind devotion… was to program it. Like a computer.”

The wheels started spinning in Gyp’s head. Rez can’t be serious. He can’t be saying what I think he’s saying.

Yoz was quicker to the draw. “Ancient humans were robots?!”

Rez broke off a piece of his desk, leaped from his chair, hurdled over the desk and slammed the obsidian into Yoz’s chest. Yoz fell off the hovering platform onto his back, Rez still on top of him, stabbing Yoz over and over again like he was digging through the femur to get to the magnetic center. Gyp backed away, closed his eyes, only listening to the sounds of his lab partner being hacked to pieces.

The hacking stopped. Gyp looked up. Yoz was a bloody mess on the floor, his dead eyes fixed on the ceiling, on that black void, the place he inevitably would end up. Rez was on his feet, the obsidian drooling blood in his left hand, a subtle sheen every time the white lights reflected off of it.

Gyp could only think of one word to say before Rez became feral again. “Don’t?”

Rez charged forward. Without thinking, Gyp flailed his arms around, reaching for anything. His fingers suddenly grasped against something. It felt hard; it felt cold. It felt like it might save his life. He brought it forward and smashed it into the side of Rez’s face just as his supervisor, now former supervisor, was about to get him.

An eerie silence filled the room. Gyp watched the broken Earth, all alone out there. He looked over to Rez’s body. He was dead, no question, his corpse sprawled in an awkward heap.

There was something else, though. The object Gyp had used to defend himself was a metal plaque commemorating Rez’s many years at their lab. This plaque was no longer in Gyp’s hands, nor was it on the floor.

It was imbedded into the back of Rez’s head, just behind the ears, and sparks were shooting out of the wound.

Gyp carefully crawled over the body. He knelt down over the plaque, making sure the sparks wouldn’t fly onto his knees. He tried pulling the plaque out of Rez’s skull; after six good tugs, the plaque was finally free. Gyp looked closer at the wound, using the plaque to spread it open even wider as he didn’t have any gloves to wear. Sure enough, he saw where the sparks were coming from: exposed wires, surrounded by the same kind of metal in the femur, the wires being one layer deeper.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Gyp said. Without thinking, he looked up at the ceiling, at the void. He said, “Is this the way it is? Are we all just… just things meant to boost your ego?”

Gyp’s eyes went dark as he was remotely powered down.