Hybrid: Adapt or Die
A man in a white lab coat turned to me with a smile. A tie-dye bandanna held back his long, graying hair. Doctor Helix was an older man somewhere in his 60s, but still had the hippie heart of a Dead Head. Wiry in build, he was a dead ringer for Bob Weir. Doctor Helix flashed me a peace sign as he rifled through a stack of vinyl records on a desk. Selecting one, he drew a joint from his lab coat and put Sugar Magnolia on the record player, adjusting the needle as he expertly lit the joint with one hand.
“It’s always best to remember the dead with a tribute song and a little smoke,” Doctor Helix explained. “Makes the job less of a job, you know.”
I smiled, uncertain if he was talking to me, or maybe to himself.
He pulled back the sheet and blew smoke into the dull-gray face of one of the dead aliens. “Here’s to you, buddy,” he whispered, his expression soft. “Had some good times, man. I’ll miss ya.”
I stared at the lifeless body in wonder as I observed this new and unknown species of alien. The skin shimmered with hints of blue against its smooth gray complexion. Its closed eyes were set deep within a triangular-shaped face that tapered to a sharp point. The alien’s spidery limbs hung motionless over the side of the metal table. I studied the delicate, elongated fingers that nearly touched the floor, its thumb almost as long as its index finger. I was surprised at how humanoid it appeared; they didn’t look too different from humans, just more exaggerated in comparison.
“He was a friend of yours, Doctor Helix?” I questioned, watching him.
“You young kids and your formal titles,” he scoffed. “Man, call me Doc Do Good. I might be old enough to be your grandpappy, but I ain’t no old fart.”
I liked him instantly.
“Yeah, kid, he was my friend. They all were.” He was silent for a few beats before shaking his head. “Shouldn’t have gone down this way. Good people, man, shouldn’t have happened.”
My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. “You called the aliens people.”
“Well, hell, man,” he answered with a shrug. “They weren’t aliens to me. They were the same as us—better even.” Doc pointed to one of the cabinets lining the far wall. “Lab coats are in there, kid.”
I opened the cabinet, selecting from the wide array of liquid-proof radiation aprons, accompanied by radiation attenuation gloves. The Doc turned with an encouraging nod, indicating for me to suit up. Selecting one, I pulled it over my uniform of black cargo pants and shirt.
“Grab one of those lead face shields as well, kid. The ones with the lamp attached.” He touched his head, noticing he was absent a mask. “And kid, grab one more for me,” he called. “Don’t want any splatter getting in my eyes.”
I selected another face shield and passed it to the doctor. I’ve always been intrigued by autopsies. It’s fascinating to see the world inside our skin; the mechanics to the amazing anatomy that keep the human body alive and functioning. But I’ve always found alien autopsies unnerving. Those autopsies set me on edge. Seeing a new system—an unknown and usually much more complex structure of a living creature not from this earth—both astonished and troubled me. Every time I look inside an alien I am overwhelmed by the vulnerability of humans, how simple and trivial our bodies are compared to an extraterrestrial.
Doc rolled a free-standing surgical light over the cadaver of Species X as he activated his own head lamp and pulled down the lead acrylic shield to protect his face. He took out a recorder to begin his dictation.
“It’s the fifth of November of the year 2025. Agent Van and I are going to perform a Species X autopsy on Phylax Number 571. Number 571 is roughly seven feet, weighing in at 140 pounds.” Doc looked over at me, a scalpel poised in his hands. “Ready, kid?”
“Yeah, Doc, open him up.” I slid the shield over my face, ready for anything. I’d witnessed many autopsies, but this was my first experience with Species X.
With practiced fingers Doc sliced a smooth Y-incision into the alien’s chest, standard procedure during alien and human autopsy. A thick fluid oozed from the cadaver, and I coughed over the gagging stench, the taste of rotten anchovies coating my mouth. “Looks like thick cream,” I said as I rubbed the viscous substance between my gloved fingers.
Doc didn’t look up. “They don’t have blood like us, kid,” he explained as he worked. “I call it ‘lactrum.’ It has more nutrients than any mineral or vitamin we know of. Lactrum carries more genetic coding then all the species of our entire planet put together.” He paused to gaze down at the alien with what I imagined was wonder. “These guys could live forever, never aging, never falling sick with illness.”
Doc waved me closer. “Take a good look, kid. See how vulnerable our God made us compared to Species X.”
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