THE SUPERIOR SPECIES, A STORY OF NEANDERTHALS

July 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

As promised here is my story about Neanderthals.

THE SUPERIOR SPECIES

30,000 YEARS IN THE PAST

The two men sat atop a snow-covered mountain looking down on a land that would one day become Switzerland. Their prominent brows and wide noses marked them as a distinct species, one of two inhabiting this land. The other was a greatly feared aggressive tribe that they watched. With their high nasal voices, the two communicated their feelings to each other, the love for the land that lay before them.
They did not see the band of ten savages obscured by the falling snow approach the hill on which they sat. They appreciated the beauty that surrounded them. The area was covered in a thick blanket of snow and they were sure that there would be more to come. Recently, the period of snow and ice had been extreme. The lithe figures approached, preparing to attack. With spears held high, the savages crept up on the pair. As one of the muscular men talked to his companion, a spear pierced his breast. His companion rose and was himself impaled by a spear. The savages celebrated their kill in a most gruesome fashion.
THE DISCOVERY

John and Paul had hiked the Alps of Switzerland for most of their lives. Friends in England since their youth, they both chose to seek employment in Switzerland to be near the mountains they loved. Both enjoyed the solitude, hiking the mountains high above the point where novice hikers would stop. As they hiked that June day, they would have an experience they would never forget, an experience that would alter mankind’s perception of his place on this planet.
While on the lower levels of the Alps, they drank in the fragrance of the sentinel pine. And as the winter ice retreated, they had to climb higher and higher to enjoy the solitude they cherished. This June day, they hiked into an ice-shrouded valley that was new to them. Paul was the first to notice a dark mass protruding from the ice half way up the valley wall. It stood out black against the pristine ice.
“Do you see that, John?” Paul pointed. “I’m going to check it out.”
As Paul approached, a slight wind ruffled Paul’s quarry.
“John, come up here! It’s hair.”
The two men approached. They could make out a shape in the ice beneath the hair. They peered into the ice and both came to the same conclusion. Buried in the ice was the body of a man.
* * *
The two police officers responding to the Englishmen’s call were used to this sort of thing. Hikers were often lost in the Alps. When egos outdistanced skill and training, along with a lack of preparation, the results were often disastrous. And when the weather became unforgiving, they weren’t found until the first thaw. The two officers worked to reveal more of the body by chipping away some of the ice. The face was revealed along with other details. The more ice they cleared from the body, the more both men knew they were not uncovering an ordinary hiker.
“We had better place guards and call the university in Zurich.”
* * *
Dr. Hans Bueler looked down on the body. He could not hide his excitement. As he examined the corpse he talked to the policemen protecting the site.
As his investigation proceeded, he said, “Gentlemen, I do not know if you appreciate the magnitude of this find. This is, by far, the greatest discovery in the study of our ancient ancestors to date. You will notice the prominent brow, wide nose and lack of chin. Notice also the muscular shoulders. I will require further study, but I am positive this is the body of a Neanderthal.
“I am sure you also have noticed the cause of death. I refer to the spear point protruding from this individual’s chest. Gentlemen, this is a crime scene, a murder. However, you will never apprehend the murderer, for this crime took place thousands and thousands of years ago.

NEW HAVEN, CONNETICUT

It was a wild night with a howling and frigid wind buffeting the windows of the senior faculty house on the Yale campus. Sheets of rain kept all the details of the world beyond the windows indefinite.
Four men, leaders in their fields, sat before a roaring fire, the flames reflecting off the dark wooden panels of the study walls. Each man held a brandy sniffer and appreciated the ambiance of the room and the moment. The men were in one of the faculty houses provided to senior members of Yale. The residence was that of Dr. Carl Gold, an evolutionary psychologist. Gold was in his mid sixties, and with his trim build and gray mane of hair, would not be out of place in the boardroom of a major company or arguing on the floor of the senate. He was a leader in his field with a worldwide reputation.
Gold had invited three men he knew by reputation as giants in their own fields. He also knew them all personally, in varying degrees, and was confident that what was discussed this stormy night would not go beyond the walls of his study.
Across from Gold sat Fred Fielding. Tall and gaunt, Fielding had a permanent tan from his many field trips as physical anthropologist. Next to Fielding was John Sanders, a world-renowned human geneticist. Sanders published his work in all the major journals, but most of his work was now tied up in the debate over the use of human stem cells. Sanders, with his short thick build, was the opposite of Fielding. With his thick black hair and swarthy complexion, he was often mistaken for a maintenance man. The broken nose he earned during his collegiate boxing career added to the image.
The last of the three invited guests was Dr. Bill Mark, a fertility specialist and adjunct professor in Yale’s medical school. Tall, slim and blond, with his athletic build, he appeared to be in his mid forties although he was well on the way to sixty. As each man introduced himself and discussed their specialties, Mark wondered if he had been summoned to this meeting by mistake. His discipline did not fit in with the others present. He was not a researcher. He was a physician.
Gold surveyed his colleagues and friends. “Gentlemen, the storm that rages beyond these walls will be dwarfed by the storm that may rage within these walls tonight. I’m sure you are all aware of the magnificent discovery made in the Swiss Alps. The body of a perfectly preserved Neanderthal, using carbon dating, is estimated to be thirty thousand years old. I have spent my life in the study of these creatures. From the time the first Neanderthal skull was found in 1848, this subset of man has remained a mystery. We are still trying to fathom the extent of their intelligence and how they fit into the human tree of development.
“There are many facts about these distant relatives of modern man that lead to fascinating conjecture. To begin with, their brains were ten percent larger than that of modern man, yet they are thought to be simple brutes. We now know that Neanderthals manufactured tools and produced art. The mask found on the banks of the Loire in France was an unexpected find. The fact that they produced art indicates they had an appreciation of life beyond their own existence. They apparently did lack one skill. They were not as adept at fashioning weapons as their fellow bipeds.
“Another intriguing discovery found in the Kebara Cave in Israel was a Neanderthal bone of extreme importance. The bone I refer to was a Neanderthal hyoid bone. This find dispels the theory that Neanderthals could do nothing but grunt. The presence of a hyoid bone indicates they were capable of speech. Taking into consideration other aspects of their skulls, it is thought that Neanderthals had a high, nasal voice.
“There are many questions to be answered, and now we have the means at our disposal to journey from conjecture to fact. I have obtained a sample of the newly discovered Neanderthal. The reason I have called you all together this evening is to formulate a plan, that my utilizing modern genetics and in vitro fertilization, will produce a Neanderthal. We shall be able to answer all the questions that have plagued modern man about the Neanderthal enigma.”
Fred Fielding was the first to speak. “As a physical anthropologist, I look forward to examining the body of the recently discovered Neanderthal. But your point is clear. To see how the physical characteristics, whose meaning we assume to deduce, come into play in a living specimen would mean phenomenal advances in our knowledge of man’s distant relative.”
John Sanders, the geneticist, now spoke up. “With a specimen from this newly discovered Neanderthal, modern genetics could solve, once and for all, the debate of where Neanderthals reside in man’s family tree. However, what you propose is to produce a living individual. To do that would require cloning, a method too dangerous to try on a human – to say nothing about it being illegal.”
Gold said, “My dear Dr. Sanders, you would not be cloning a member of the Homo sapiens species. You would be cloning an example of Homo neanderhtalensis.”
A smile crept across Sanders’ face. This argument would be viable, until the law caught up with the science. “In that case, I am willing to isolate the DNA. What we would need next is a human egg and female willing to carry the Neanderthal to term.”
All eyes were now on Dr. Mark, the fertilization specialist. He said, “I now see where I fit in. I see how we all fit into this project. I will not mince words. I feel uncomfortable about this proposition. The mechanisms of the plan would be simple. I have a supply of donor eggs. We can remove the egg’s DNA and using cloning methods described in the literature, insert Neanderthal DNA and initiate mitosis. I also have a group of women we use in my practice who are willing to carry babies as surrogate mothers, but refuse to see the baby after birth. They want no chance to form an attachment to the child.
“I think the experiment Dr. Gold proposes can be accomplished. My question is should it be done? By using the scientific name of the Neanderthal as a loophole, we feel we are free to create an individual who may possess human emotions, who may possess a soul. This is much different than cloning a sheep or a cat, no matter how much we choose to belittle the difference. I am not sure I can proceed with this endeavor.”
Gold said, “I picked you, Bill, because I knew you would not go easily with this plan. What we are planning to do is of profound importance, and also of profound scientific and moral complexity. Yet, for science to advance, sometimes risks must be taken. I appreciate your arguments. I know there are risks, but we have the capacity to venture into the unknown and bring light to a land of mystery. Through our expertise we can gain knowledge of the beginning of our humanity.”
The debate went on until dawn lit the study windows. Fielding and Sanders warmed to their initial confidence. Mark persisted in his initial skepticism. But in the end, as a new day on Earth began, a new chapter in mankind’s knowledge was agreed upon.

THE CLONING

John Sanders received the frozen tissue samples from Gold. As he gazed at the sample packed in dry ice, he could not believe he was peering into a box containing a tissue sample of a ‘man’ dead thirty thousand years. Sanders’ ego did not get the better of him. He knew he had been out of the lab for too long to attempt the important work that lay ahead. He employed a promising PhD candidate, Michael Rose, to do the actual work. He would tell Rose as little as possible about the nature of the experiment. The meeting at Gold’s study had left him with the feeling that he was involved in a conspiracy rather than an experiment, the fewer people that knew about the true purpose of the experiment, the better.
Sanders’ first meeting with Rose went well. “Michael, I would like you to help me in a special project.”
“Certainly Dr. Sanders. I’m a little desperate for a new project now that the study I’m working on is going nowhere.”
Sanders said, “It’s a cloning experiment.”
“Fantastic,” said Rose. “What will we be cloning?”
Sanders hesitated, and then answered, “A non-human primate.”
“Has that ever been done before Dr. Sanders?”
“Not to my knowledge. We would be making history.”
Rose could not believe his luck. He was going from a dead-end research project to an historic experiment.
“When do we begin?”
“Immediately,” Sanders said. “I already have a tissue sample from which you can extract the DNA for the cloning. I also have a list of references I want you to read and extract from them the method used to fertilize the egg and develop it into an embryo.”
* * *
Two weeks later Rose had the DNA extracted and the materials he would need for the union of the egg and extracted DNA to begin their journey to a living entity.
Sanders called Mark, “Bill, we’re ready to implant the DNA into the eggs.”
“I’ll ship them out by express mail,” said Mark. “Good luck!”
The eggs arrived in a container of liquid nitrogen. The paperwork indicated that there were ten eggs contained in the container. When all was ready, with Sanders at his side, Rose began the cloning experiment.
The eggs were rapidly thawed. Once thawed, Rose removed their DNA and inserted the ‘primate DNA’ he had prepared. Each egg was given its own petri dish of life sustaining fluids and put into an incubator.
Both Sanders and Rose periodically checked on the eggs. Initially, all ten began to divide. But soon four of the small balls of cells died. The remaining six progressed to a point where they could be slowly cooled, then frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen until they could be implanted into a uterus.
Rose was excited as he entered Sanders’ office. “Dr. Sanders, the embryos are frozen. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the experiment.”
Sanders said, “I’ll let you know how things progress.”
“Do we have the monkeys that will carry the embryos to term here?”
“No Michael, the implantation will be done at another institution.”
After Rose left, Sanders sat at his desk and thought; You’ll be told the embryos all died after implantation. For you, this experiment is over.
Strangely, Sanders found himself feeling envy for Rose. His dreams had recently been haunted by what this adventure might produce.

THE BIRTH

Bill March had three women he had used as surrogate mothers in the past who refused to see the babies for whom they had made life possible. They were ready to perform the function again. All were young, in their mid to late twenties and all were single. They were all paid for their service and all three shared similar feelings about their pregnancy. They wanted to provide a family to couples who needed help.
The three women were each implanted with two of the Neanderthal embryos. They were all told that the fetuses belonged to a very wealthy couple, and that they would be paid well for their services and their confidentiality. When it came time to deliver the babies, the births would take place at the couple’s country estate. All preparations had been taken to equip a room at the estate with the criteria of a delivery room, all the latest equipment necessary to handle whatever emergency might occur.
Two of the women miscarried.
These miscarriages revived the doubts March originally felt about the project.
Pat Meyers carried the last two fetal Neanderthals to term. She knew she was pregnant with twins, but she grew no larger than she had when she carried a single child. This disturbed her. She also knew she carried two boys. Even with her doubts, it made her happy to know she was bringing joy and creating a family. She was making it all possible.
Two weeks before her due date, she was moved to a country estate in northern Connecticut. The house belonged to Gold and had been in his family for many years. Mark told the two nurses who would assist in the delivery, “The babies may seem somewhat peculiar. You will be paid to overlook anything out of the ordinary. After all, we must be sensitive to the parent’s feelings.”
Pat went into labor and had an extremely easy delivery. Although she had carried the babies to term, both were less than four pounds at birth.
Each nurse cared for one of the infants. The boys were covered with a fine down of black hair. One of the nurses whispered to the other, “Look at his head. It’s so misshapen after such an easy delivery.”
Once the babies were settled in the nursery, the nurses left the estate. As they walked to their cars one said to the other, “Those infants were indeed peculiar with their misshapen skulls and covered with hair like an ape. But the one thing I will never forget about them was their eyes. They weren’t the eyes of any baby I’ve ever seen. They had a weird look to them, like intelligence. I felt they were looking right through me.
The other nurse responded, “Did you also get the feeling that they feared our touch. I’ve never seen that in a newborn before.”

REALIZATION

From the time of their births, the babies struck Gold, Fielding, Sanders and Mark as odd. The infants appeared tense, as if they had an inherent fear of Homo sapiens. The only time they relaxed was when they could see one another.
“Strange,” Gold noted, “it’s as if they know they are alien to us.”
The babies grew into muscular toddlers and were walking at six months. Gold and Fielding closely followed their development. Sanders and Mark occasionally inquired as to the progress of the children, but other projects quickly took them out of the picture. Their major concern was when Gold would go public with the astounding accomplishment. They were eager for the recognition their work would bring. Gold would answer their inquires by saying, “Soon, very soon.”
Fielding spent hours observing the Neanderthal infants, monitoring how their bodies developed as they matured. They were far more agile than he expected nothing like the lumbering brutes commonly associated with Neanderthals. As expected, their frames indicated that they would develop into adults of short stature compared to modern man. Their physique began to fill out, becoming more muscular than that of human babies. Gold, however, would uncover the true mysteries of the Neanderthals when he studied their psychological development.
The infants began talking at eighteen months, and not with the fumbling birth of knowledge of speech associated with human children. Gold discovered them talking one day as he entered the room where they slept. He was stunned, for he never heard them parrot sounds as children do to develop speech. The Neanderthals did possess the high nasal voices predicted by the bone structure of their skulls. Gold found the sound of their voices annoying.
Studying their psychological development, Gold thought, these infants are progressing far more rapidly than human toddlers of comparable age. Gold began recording his conversations with the Neanderthals. During one of his sessions with them they both seemed withdrawn. He asked, “What do you boys think about?”
The Neanderthal born first was called Adam, the other John. Adam answered, “Why, he asked, “ are we so different from you and the others we meet?”
* * *
It had been four years since the Neanderthals were cloned and Gold became more and more ill at ease about what the experiment had created. Fielding and Sanders wanted the results of the experiment to be published. Mark preferred to be left out of the picture.
One night Fielding and Sanders visited Gold in his study, site of the initial plans for the project. Fielding asked Gold, “Carl, don’t you think it’s time to publish our Neanderthal results?”
Sanders added, “The boys have shown none of the signs of premature aging that many of the animals clone in the past have exhibited.”
Gold said, “The boys are coming along fine. In fact, their intelligence level, given their age, is remarkable. But I still feel we should wait to publish. There is something strange about the boys. I would prefer to let them develop further before we go public.”
In the end, Fielding and Sanders persevered. A manuscript was prepared and sent to Science.

HISTORY IS REPEATED

When news of the existence of the two Neanderthal children became known to the scientific community, Gold was overwhelmed with requests to study them. The boys were now ten, and possessed all the characteristics of the typical Neanderthal physique. They were short and extremely muscular with prominent brows and wide nose associated with their kind. It was their mental abilities that Gold found both interesting and disturbing.
Gold taught the boys to read. Now they devoured books. They were sponges for knowledge. Fielding still visited the boys. On one such visit he told Gold, “You know Carl, physically, the Neanderthals are developing precisely as expected. It is their mental faculties that I find intriguing.”
“I share your amazement,” said Gold. “They have a thirst for knowledge that far surpasses what their human contemporaries demonstrate. It’s almost as if they are making up for thousands of years of extinction.”
* * *
A wild storm raged as Gold drove to the Neanderthal residence. They were fifteen now and had become something beyond human.
Gold entered the living room to find Adam and John reading. They were always reading. Gold stood drenched before them. He reached into his pocket and produced a revolver.
Adam said, “I fully expected this to happen some day. I expected history to repeat itself. You fear us. I have read all that has been written about Neanderthals. I know the conjectures your fellow scientists have about our intelligence. I knew, early on, that you realized how wrong those theories were.
“At the same time, we both realized that you would not accept us as merely different. Because of your human egos, we appear threatening, superior. John and I are ready to accept the only outcome this experiment could produce.”
Gold shot twice with the realization that he was the savage were and the Neanderthals were the superior species.

THE END

Entry filed under: free science fiction and horror stories, free stories, Walt Trizna. Tags: , .

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