Continued from previous
Aberash took a step back, surrendering the floor with a hand gesture. Aspen walked in hesitantly, taking Aberash’s place at the centre next to the light source. She looked into the audience for a few seconds, trying to make eye contact with some of the faces. All she could see was eyeballs reflecting the fairy lights.
“My uncle has been studying the variants. A gene has been discovered. We don’t know what it codes for, or what it does. At this point it’s just a chemical signal, but it is common to almost all the variants that emerged after the first phytoplankton mutant. They all share this signal, however distant they may be to each other on the phylogenetic tree. One hypothesis is that this may be an ancient gene that hasn’t been expressed since the last big extinction event. It only wakes up at times of existential crisis, becoming active under conditions of extreme environmental stress to an organism. The team studying this is calling it the Apocalypse Gene. They think it is possible that it is a chemical messenger that spans the entire EoT, and possibly what lies behind the increased mutation rate. Organisms who mutate faster are more likely to survive past the extinction event”
“What do you want from us?” – a voice shouted out of the darkness
“The team working on this has found a similar DNA sequence in humans. But the strength of the mRNA signal in the existing human database is very weak. In order to test the EoT hypothesis they want to run tests on Minimalists within our group. I’ve come here to ask for your consent to submit blood and DNA samples. We’ll need at least 20 volunteers for the first part of the study, which will include both chemical and psychometric tests”
“What kind of scientist would even believe in the EoT?” – someone broke out laughing, in disbelief. It was the same voice as earlier.
“The one who coined the term in the first place”, Aspen replied.
“My uncle is John Harmon, retired extinction ecologist and author. You may have heard of the book The Veil. He wrote it”
From the upcoming novel A New Earth