continued from previous
He heard a gentle knock, not sure whether it was coming from inside his daydream, or from the real world – until he sensed the familiar direction of the sound, recognizing the three quick, consecutive knocks. He walked over to the door in no rush at all, opening it to see Aspen and Olivia’s faces smiling at him. They were holding a huge pizza and a big bag of salads courtesy of the vertical farm. They giggled mischievously, waiting for John’s reaction.
“Are we…celebrating something?”
“Well, it depends” Olivia said as she walked past John into the living room, flinging the door wide open. “It’s been such a fucking long day already, with so many good and bad things happening at the same time, my head is spinning!”
“How about we start with some good news?” Aspen said as she took the salads one by one out of the bag, noticing John smile with excitement as he recognized his favorite order: mixed greens with walnuts, non-dairy blue cheese and a synthetic olive oil dressing with artificial peach flavoring – peach farms had collapsed following the bee extinction, so artificial flavoring was now big business globally.
Olivia, as usual, couldn’t wait any longer to spill the beans. She put the pizza down on the floor and looked at John: “we have been made an irresistible offer from the prestigious Biotech Institute for Human Advancement to carry out dedicated research on the putative empathy apocalypse locus. It came through just as the Marine Institute was firing me – by e-mail haha! I’ve spoken to the Biotech Institute people already and their offer is legit and super generous. They have a lab and everything all waiting for us!” She paused for a second to catch her breath, as she looked around John’s living room:
“You need chairs in this place. And a dinner table”
“And…I have some other news as well, some of which you may hate me for” Aspen said as she bit her lip, making a guilty grimace. Olivia made a 30-degree angle with her head, bracing for it.
“I took the liberty of making you a social media profile last night Olivia. I thought it might be a good way for you to occasionally have a platform where you can reach out to a much wider audience than just scientists…you can address both your critics and fans here. If politicians have one, you should have one”
Olivia reached out for her head with her left hand in an “oh fuck” moment, before John cut in: “I think this is a great idea” John said. “You cannot avoid the attention. You are now a public persona, not just a scientist. Get ready for a ride though, you’ve been warned!”
“And speaking of fans…you have 23,000 new followers since last night! Here, look!”. Aspen passed her tablet to Olivia.
“Now look at this” Aspen took the tablet back in her hand to show Olivia the ever growing list of direct messages.
“They all want to take the test! 3,000 study volunteers so far and growing by the hour! Genealogy testing company MyDNAtree also wants to talk. They want to discuss funding you for research into a gene that could be part of their next genetic psychoprofiling product. They’ve already been using the sequence you’ve publicly shared and obviously they have been able to confirm some of your work. But they need you to be their expert. They are willing to give you access to parts of their huge genetic database in the area of the Apocalypse Locus. Here, you can read the entire message. Sorry I read it already, please go ahead and change your password right now”
Olivia’s face had changed from panic to scepticism to elation in just 1 minute.
“Thank you Aspen. You’re really something, you know that?” She gave Aspen a big hug, as she looked over at John and said: “we’re doing this”
(from the upcoming novel A New Earth)
to read from the beginning, go here
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books