How to Raise a Human

by Deb Taber

all rights reserved

Originally published in Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest, Issue #7, Fall 2006
Visit the current version of Apex Magazine for great contemporary fiction.

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Instructions:
Welcome to your Life Skills Seminar Project. Enclosed is everything you will need to complete this week’s assignment: raising a Homo sapiens. Please read all instructions thoroughly before you begin.

Warning!
Homo sapiens, or human beings, are incapable of perceiving your presence directly. Use caution when contacting them indirectly, and do so only with the instructor’s permission. Overexposure to your presence may cause your human distress, and in extreme cases may cause the being to fail completely.

Day One: Prenatal Development and Birth

If you have contacts from previous classes, you may select a parent or parents for your human that are known to you. If not, a parent or parents will be selected at random when you connect with the project’s habitat. Begin by inserting your Homo sapiens starter cells into the female parent and beginning cell division.

You may now select a sex for your human child.

Most students will select XX or XY, as these are the simplest to form and track. For more advanced options, please consult your teacher.

Once cell division has begun, follow the instructions on the habitat interface to tune into your human’s thoughts. You may also detect conversation and sounds outside of the human mind. Please remember that your human’s aural spectrum may be much more limited than yours.

Observe your child’s development with all seven senses. This is best done while the mother is sleeping. If you have taken proper care with selection and development, your human should be ready for birth during the last quarter of the class period.

Homework for tonight: get to know your human infant.

# # #

The baby kicked inside her mother’s womb. The ultrasound had just revealed the sex of the fetus, and her parents swallowed their shared disappointment and went about selecting a new name.

The child felt her mother’s disappointment as a recession of warmth. Cold was not a feeling she knew, but the warmth she had felt through all eternity pulled back, leaving nothing. The sounds she felt as vibration in her cells changed tone. Shorter. Sharper. Her parents argued through the night, pretending to be angry over a burnt dinner and an unkempt house. The matched set of chromosomes on the fetus’ twenty-third pair had never cooked a pot roast or grasped the handle of a vacuum cleaner. Still, without speaking, the chromosomes both started and ended the argument.

The child grew, becoming used to the reduced warmth of her world. Noises grew friendlier again, and she welcomed their hum. She kicked, stretching her muscles and causing vibrations of her own. She felt with her whole skin, saw with it, tasted with it, heard with it. It was through this skin that she noticed the turning, the changes in blood flow and tension. She learned fear as the changes took place and the vibrations she felt grew shorter and more frequent, waves of sound closer together.

Then everything was a jumble and shock, a continuous scream on her skin.

Light burned.

Smells invaded.

Surfaces scratched.

Sounds grated.

She opened her mouth and found sweetness. Oxygen rushed over her tongue and into her lungs, then carried out with it all the screaming she felt. She was born. She was whole.

She was Janice.

# # #

Day Two: Childhood

As the infant human grows, it learns to differentiate itself from other humans and its own environment. It will access its mobility quite rapidly and you may need to recall your previous seminars in the habitat, such as Flora and Fauna, to keep your human safe. Keep a detailed log of your project’s development, including thought processes, dreams, inhibitions, aspirations, sensations, verbalizations, inclinations and eliminations. Students on the advanced track may begin to introduce stimuli from Day Three at this point with teacher permission.

Homework: find at least two friends for your child and report on their interactions. You may work in groups for this, but each group member must turn in a log of their own child’s results.

# # #

Janice stared at the wall of the second grade classroom, wishing the teacher would open the blinds so she could look outside. She avoided eye contact with the other children and the teacher when she could, though it often got her in trouble for not paying attention.

“Janice, Janice, pees her pants-iss,” hissed a whisper from behind her.

Her face burned. The chant had been hurled at her all year, ever since her little accident on the field trip. Tyler Moss threw carrots at her when she pointed out how bad the rhyme was, and Kimmie Francis made fart sounds at her every time their paths crossed, though Janice couldn’t see what the sounds had to do with anything. Worse than any of that was the laughter Janice heard at the back of her mind. It was there even when she was away from the other kids, which was all the time now.

That laughter knew things about her that no one else knew. It saw when she tripped up the stairs and fell flat on her face. It watched her undress in the morning and at night, and when she washed her private parts in the bathtub. It made her feel ashamed of herself because she knew it was smarter than she was, and faster, and even though it lived in her head, she was sure it was much bigger than her. She named it Rudie because Mommy said it was rude to spy on people. She wished someone would tell Rudie the same thing, but she didn’t think he would listen.

Most of the time Rudie was alone in her head, but sometimes he had friends that would slip into her mind with him. At first it only happened when she was around other people, but occasionally she would feel an extra presence or two, laughing at her like Rudie did, even when she was alone. She learned to shut off the lights when she changed into her pajamas, but she was afraid Rudie and his friends would still see her, so she tried changing under the covers in bed. Mommy caught her doing it and laughed at her too, and it made her wonder if Mommy had her own Rudie in her head, and if the Rudie laughed at Mommy so much that it made her mean. She wondered if the other kids had Rudies too, but she couldn’t ask. She wasn’t ever going to speak to any of them again.

# # #

Day Three: Adolescence

This is an exciting time in the development of your human. Today you will introduce it to a variety of stimuli, both internal and external, and note its reactions. Choose at least three items from the list below. Remember, your teen does not have to accept the stimuli, but each stimulus must be introduced into the habitat long enough for the human to absorb and react to the encounter. Note down all chemical, biological and electromagnetic changes in your subject.

Adolescent Bioinhabitant Stimuli:

  • religious experience
  • crime
  • money
  • betrayal of friendship
  • art
  • uncollapsed particle state
  • drugs/alcohol
  • chemical/hormonal imbalance
  • biological anomalies
  • rearrangement of home structure
  • sex hyperstimulation
  • unfamiliar culture
  • career paths
  • isolation
  • physical trauma

Homework: record a conversation your human has in response to one of the stimuli introduced.

# # #

“What do you want to talk about today, Janice?”

“Nothing.”

“There’s nothing you want to talk about?”

“That’s what I just said, isn’t it?”

“How are things at school, Janice?”

“Educational.”

“Really? How so?”

–long pause–

“This is your time, Janice. Anything you say won’t leave this room.”

“Anything I don’t say won’t leave it either, will it?”

“Good! You’re a very smart girl. Do you prefer Janice or Jan?”

“Whatever.”

“What do your friends call you?”

“Is this where I’m supposed to tell you I don’t have any friends? I thought my mother already covered that for you.”

“You think your lack of friends is why she sent you here?”

“Just one of many reasons.”

“What are some of the other reasons, do you think?”

“Don’t you have a list?”

“I’m interested in your perspective. Sometimes adults see things differently than teenagers do. I’d like to know what you think.”

“Which perspective do you want? I like to look at things from a lot of different angles.”

–pause–

“She thinks I’m crazy.”

“Who thinks you’re crazy, Janice?”

“My mom. She’s probably right.”

“You think you might be crazy?”

“Boy, you’re quick. How much is she paying you for this?”

“Why do you think you might be crazy, Janice?”

“Like you said, I’m a smart girl.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“She also thinks I steal.”

“Your mother thinks you steal things?”

“Good! You’re a smart man, Doctor Ray. She thinks I’m a klepto.”

“Why does she think that?”

“Probably because I am. It makes the voices in my head very happy. That is, when they’re not asking me to kill everybody or take over the world.”

“You hear voices, Janice?”

“You’ll believe anything I say, won’t you Ray? Oh, I forgot. It’s what you’re paid for.”

“Tell me about the voices.”

“Listen real close and you’ll hear them. They’re saying this session is over. Thanks. I’m all fixed up now. You’ve been a real help.”

“We still have plenty of time, Janice. Sit down. Let’s back up a bit, shall we? Why did you say you heard voices?”

“I was being a pain in the ass. Isn’t that what all crazy people do? Hear voices? Next question.”

“What do you want to get out of our sessions?”

“I’m just here to keep my mom off my back.”

“What bothers you about her?”

“She’s always there. Always watching me and commenting on what I do. I only stole that stuff to prove that she never let me alone.”

“What did you take?”

“I don’t know. A watch. A Butterfinger bar. A couple pairs of earings. Oh, and a pair of socks.”

“Socks?”

“They had a pig on them that made noise when you poked its face. I was going to wear them to English class so I could make it oink whenever the teacher mentioned Napoleon. We’re reading Animal Farm.”

“You like George Orwell?”

“He’s all right, for a dead white guy. Kind of like you, except for the being all right part.”

“What do you like about him?”

“He doesn’t ask a bunch of stupid questions.”

# # #

Day Four: Adulthood

Congratulations! Your human is now experiencing adulthood. If yours did not survive, pair up with a classmate whose project is still living and observe that human’s interactions in the habitat.

Your human should now be able to survive without its parental units. What does your human do to pass time in the habitat? Will your human pair up with a mate? You may need to try a number of different opportunities before finding the best lifestyle for your human, but finding the right one will enhance your human’s well-being for the remainder of its lifespan.

Accelerate your study of the habitat so you can follow your human through the next ten years of its life. Examine the variety of behaviors your human engages in. What changes does it go through? What contrasts do you find between its internal thoughts and external speech and actions?

Homework: Imagine life from your human’s perspective. How would you respond to the type of situations it encounters in the habitat? How can you learn from your human and apply its skills to your own life? Write an entry in your log from your human’s perspective.

# # #

I am a human woman-girl. My name is Janice. I am so stupid I can’t hold a job. Boy-men don’t like me but they like to act like they’re breeding with me. I think they’re ugly and they smell funny but I like the way my body makes them act. I like to sleep a lot and be boring. I don’t like my brain because there’s something smarter than me inside it. It makes me do bad things sometimes, and I don’t like that I enjoy them. But I do enjoy them, and at least it’s not boring.

# # #

Janice perched herself carefully on the bar stool, crossing her legs tightly to give her ass a little bit of extra lift inside the thin white skirt. She looked over the prospects casually at first, waiting for one to catch her eye. A clean-cut man in the corner looked good and she gave him a smile. Not too bold, just a friendly I-didn’t-mean-to-catch-your-eye look, then move on. Inside her head, Rudie and his friends laughed.

She was pretty sure there were two or three of them now, and whenever she was with a man–or a woman, for that matter–she felt another presence enter her mind. She waited for that to happen now.

Nothing. Another presence–physical–joined her at the bar, however, and she turned to check him out.

His breath was too beery with undertones of whiskey, but he looked good enough in a bad-boy sort of way. Janice felt herself growing slightly aroused and realized Rudie had chosen this one for her. Usually she resented when he did that, but this time the guy was cute enough that she didn’t really mind.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked.

She smiled. “Sure. I’m Jan.”

“Ty. Ty Moss. You from around here?”

“No,” she lied, hating Rudie for his sick sense of humor, hating herself for still being a slave to her childhood bogeyman. She hadn’t seen Tyler since the sixth grade, and he was probably too drunk to recognize her now. Maybe she should just have the one drink and go home alone.

“I’m in real estate,” said Ty as the bartender poured their beer. “Not selling houses. I own a few of the high-rises downtown.”

Rudie laughed. Ty was lying. He probably was a real estate agent, or maybe a carpenter, judging from his muscular hands and arms. She also noticed the indentation from a wedding band on his ring finger. Possibly divorced, or else he’d just taken it off to have some fun. That was okay. Her first name was the last item of truth she intended to share with him. As she took the first sip of her drink, the presence she’d been waiting for all evening stroked the edges of her mind. It slipped in easily, joining Rudie and his other friends, and she became aroused again in spite of herself. By the end of her drink, she knew that she and Ty would be leaving together. She wanted to.

# # #

Day Five: Middle Years and Beyond

Your human’s middle and later years are shaped by the early experiences you have guided it through. By now your human should have a network of other humans which will support it throughout its life and execute its removal from human society when it dies.

In class today, you will introduce any stimuli you feel are necessary to provide your human with the life skills it needs. After the project is completed students are asked to limit their access the habitat, as frequent interfacing can distract from other studies.

The project will be graded by your teacher according to accuracy, technical expertise, creativity and the presentation of your logs.

There is no more homework on this project. Congratulations! You have now raised a human.

# # #

Janice was lonely. Her constant companion for the first forty years of her life was gone. He left her as she had left so many of her transient lovers, slipping out of her mind while she slept. Leaving her with nothing but dirty sheets and bad breath.

At least there was nobody laughing at her anymore, except the occasional titter in the break room at work as she left. She’d dealt with worse.

Every once in a while, when she was in the middle of something mundane like working or driving or combing her hair, a familiar presence would stroke the edges of her mind and slip in. It never stayed, and when it departed it left behind a feeling of annoyance and disgust. Janice was never sure if the feeling was her own.

On the night of her forty-ninth birthday, she sat alone in her apartment with two bottles. One held pills; the other, whiskey. Both were open.

Stroke.

Slip.

“You,” said Janice. “It’s about time.”

The presence seemed surprised, and she realized with a start that she’d never spoken to Rudie aloud before. Her face burned in embarrassment, but there was no one there to see.

“Stay right where you are,” she said. “I have things to say to you. Can you talk?”

Mocking laughter.

Of course I can, a lot better than you, stupid woman-girl. Who-what do you think I am?

She didn’t hear the answer in words, but the feelings stimulated in her brain were clear enough.

“Why did you leave me?” she asked.

You were boring. I was done.

“If I was boring, you made me that way, you son of a bitch. You made me everything I am.”

No.

“Yes.”

Yes.

Nervous excitement rose in Janice, entirely separate from the feelings being stimulated in her brain. At least it felt that way. She should have done this long ago.

“What are you?”

Something better than you.

“Are you a god? I don’t believe in God-with-a-capital-G.”

You were my project. Like you say, I made you.

“Did you make others like me?”

Not like you. I have better ones now.

“Where are you?”

Somewhere you’ll never hope to go.

“What happens to me when I die?” Her hand involuntarily twitched toward the bottles. If he wanted her to, she would drain them both. If he didn’t, she might do it anyway. She’d thought about it often enough since he left.

When you die, you are dead.

“I don’t go to where you are?”

Of course you don’t. What would I want with you then?

Lightning struck in Janice’s mind and Rudie was gone. She was split and emptied, certain he would never come see her again. She looked at the bottles on the table in front of her, stroking their sides, imagining the feel of hard pills and soft liquid slipping down her throat.

Comfort.

The kind Rudie had never allowed her when he was in her head. She reached for the smaller of the two bottles and twisted the cap back on. If he really was gone, maybe comfort wasn’t what she wanted. Rudie had cast her aside like an old toy, but she knew something about him now, and she knew how to talk to him. She took a swallow of the whiskey. There were others like him in the world, and they could probably be made to talk, too. They might not all be such assholes. Maybe it was time to make some friends. Another swallow.

Maybe somebody else wanted to play.

# # #

Final grade for project J114I35: D+