Author: Michael Hopkins
The root scurried across the garden and stopped. I had just dug and chopped it free from the ground, ripped it up with my bare hands, and threw it to the side. I was clearing some new space behind the old barn for potatoes, garlic, onions and other underground edibles.
The plot of land was sure to be fertile; a compost area on my farm where for years I had been dumping my failed CRISPR experiments. Discarded bacteriophages, gRNA plasmids built from E. Coli DH5-Alpha cells: a viral gumbo I thought would amalgamate with the existing organic and inorganic minerals: chicken droppings, cow manure, coffee grounds, food leftovers, and grass clippings. The spot had direct sunlight most of the day.
The root was pale brown and had four eight-inch legs, a gnarled horizontal body, topped with a bundle of thin tendrils twisted into a head and mobile antlers that fanned out in all directions. It stopped, faced me, self-assured.
My knees cracked when I stood.
It charged and leapt into the air.
I’ve always had great hand-eye coordination. My swing caught the root right on the sweet spot of the hand trowel. It launched in a long arc up and over the barn. I thought I heard it scream, a baby’s voice.
I dashed around the barn to find it. My foot caught on an old, buried piece of rusted barbed wire. I fell, hit my head on a tree stump, and blacked out.
I opened my eyes, and squinted at the bright sun. I was paralyzed, stuck to the ground.
The root moved around me.
It shoved portion after portion of something into my mouth. After each helping, it put a tendril to my head and triggered me to involuntary chew and swallow. I recognized the stuff being crammed into my mouth as the mushrooms that grew in the compost. The root’s active tendrils were stained blue.
An hour after the root stopped feeding me I regained use of my body and sat up. The mid-day colors were extraordinary; I could see the leaves of the trees breath; the breeze was a beautiful music; and the clouds performed a synchronized dance. I dug my fingers into the ground and felt the earth as an extension of my body. I was one with every living creature, every star and galaxy in the universe – pure bliss.
The root and I connected. I now knew its name was Craig.
Craig and I worked twenty-hour days in my lab. He sat on my shoulder. When I was uncertain about a next step, Craig would climb on my head, dig his tendrils into a few spots on my skull and I would know what to do.
Three months into our project I began injecting myself twice a day with the genetic goo we made. Craig just dipped in his trichomes. We both changed.
The water in the toilet bowl swirled; it took three flushes to get rid of all my meds: lisinopril, atorvastatin, lamictal, metformin. I never felt better…except for the warts.
Rough bumps grew everywhere on my skin. The smallest were pinhead sized, the largest about the diameter of a quarter – one or two inches high. Some were white, some red, others blue.
Craig led me to the woods behind the county reservoir. With my new claws, I readily dug a big hole, a grave. I got in and pulled the dirt over my body until there was no room for me to do anymore. Craig scurried above me, with some new helpers, and finished the job.
A heavy summer rain saturated the ground. The dirt around my body became moist. The growths on my skin extended, detonated, in all directions: biophysical renovators, mycelium.
I was home, reunited, at rest, yet restless: samsara. New realms rushed through me.
In time the world would follow.