San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Perchance to dream

Jack O’Brien

Jack O’Brien

Of course I know how important sleep is! They can drive you raving mad by denying you sleep! But even so I am terrified at the thought of falling asleep, because with sleep comes The Dream. And The Dream is always there, just waiting for me to drop off, and it is always the same in principle, though the details may vary slightly.

I am one member of a powerful group of men, possibly the board of an arms manufacturer or the cabinet of a major power, or even the United Nations Security Council, and we are deliberating on a subject that may well affect the future of humanity. I am the most junior of all the members, and am the only one who refuses to go along with the proposition. All the rest are decided to proceed with The Plan, and I am convinced they are terribly wrong. Then the dream ends, and I awake bathed in sweat and racked with guilt at my inability to persuade the majority.

I have taken my problem to a dozen head-shrinkers, and every last one says that obviously something is worrying me, but I am the only one who can say what that is, that will be $200, please and good day to you. So of course I have racked my mind for what could possibly be the problem, and the only one who has come up with a possible solution is a geneticist I met while on a hospital investigation project, name of Humber.

According to him, we repair or replicate every somatic cell in our body over the course of about seven years, some every few days and others much longer, but the reproduction process is so extraordinarily complicated, that mistakes are common. There is an equally involved error detection and correction apparatus, but some errors always get by, and explain why the hospitals are always full to overflowing.

But here’s his big point: In the past, errors sufficiently large to threaten the whole genome of the race have proved lethal or at least have prevented the sufferer from producing children. But medical science has by now gotten so smart that it can not only keep people alive who by rights should be dead, but can even allow them to reproduce, carrying the bad gene into the public gene pool to ruin the lives of a whole string of descendants. In other words, there is a progressive corruption of the public gene pool, and you can actually see it happening by studying the hospitalization statistics over several decades. We are not all getting fitter as new medicines are developed; we are actually getting progressively sicker as new protein synthesis errors arise but are not eliminated by death prior to reproduction.

What Humber suggests is that The Plan proposed by my associates in The Dream is to terminate everyone by age 25, or at least sterilize everyone with the slightest genetic error and abolish all medicine until the genome cleans itself up. And the reason I oppose The Plan is that I realize it is already too late for it to work; the genetic code or genome is all we have to keep the race going, and once it is widely corrupted, the race itself must go. I am inclined to believe that knowledge could account for my night terror and, after all, it will probably take several hundred years before we are all gone, so we shall barely notice our replacement by a less vulnerable species. I feel better already.

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