I. SUNK’S BARGAIN
By Mohammed Hassan
Professor Dick Sunk is standing with his elbow propped against the candy aisle at the supermarket, the top shelf with the Kit Kats supporting the weight of his arm—the one holding the half-eaten granola bar. Sunk is a middle-aged man. His body is old but strong and his black hair is mixed with grey but still luxuriant. His white lab coat had become such a staple of his daily life that he saw no reason for it to be his only wardrobe, along with the blue shirt and brown pants beneath it. He wore it every day during his tenure at the university, he wears it at all times at home and he will still be wearing it to wherever he ends up when he exits this supermarket. He had never purchased a product from this aisle. He never ate anything containing refined sugar because he knew the Idiopathic Postprandial effect would make him a sloppy thinker. He does not even recall ever buying a single food item from any of the other aisles. Even the granola bar he is eating now is of his own kitchen’s creation because he never fully trusted the sugar-free brands to be completely truthful. But he always chose to eat his granola bar at this particular aisle—the one where children often congregated—because it provided him with the optimal view of the women at the checkout counter. From here, he can be hidden from their line of sight, measuring their potentiality while remaining conspicuous to the public in order to avoid looking suspect.
The woman placing her basket onto the conveyor belt fits his preferred criteria. Her brunette hair is hastily tied up in a bundle and her white T-shirt droops over her shoulder, with its bottom end hanging loosely below the waist line of her grey baggy gym pants. From the makeup-free face to the green flip-flops, nothing about her appearance suggests that she made an effort to look attractive. But that was never a factor to Sunk. He has always maintained a firm grasp on the difference between physiological attraction and manufactured enhancements. When others saw a desirable woman, dressed immaculately for a night of dancing at the club, he saw black fabric that draws attention away from flabby skin, tall heels designed to conceal real height, bright lipstick that hides pale lips, glittering polish that livens up bland fingernails and an ensemble that tries too hard to project an image of a fun person and fails—a fun person would not bother with such a meticulous effort to help project a genuine personality in the first place.
Sunk realized long ago the importance of paying attention to the trivialities of any subject in order to understand that subject as a whole. He devotes himself to understanding a woman as a person first and a sexual partner second because that enables him to find a path towards forming a sexual partnership without making a personal involvement. It offers him insight into the mechanism of their fears and how to bypass them. By far, the most valuable thing he had learned about people was that without suspicion, they would find no cause for action—regardless of the severity of the act. You could be involved in every aspect of their lives: manipulating their choice of romantic partners, barring them from being promoted at work, switching their babies at birth, injecting carcinogens into their food and water or arranging the murder of their loved ones in a car accident—if they did not suspect you were involved, they will never do anything in response. It would not even cross their mind. They would think it was life as usual.
Sunk never considered his intentions to be that severe. His motive is pragmatism. He views sexual desire as a burden which he must alleviate with minimal waste. He will never marry or seek a traditional relationship because he can’t share his time at the lab. Plus, a relationship built solely on physical attraction is unlikely to last unless it evolves into a personal one. He found nothing of interest in the advertisements of women seeking sexual encounters. How could he? They all had a photograph! It was impossible to decipher their true personality from a photograph and a short resume that they specifically manufactured to make you lean towards accentuated traits that they might not have at all. It was propaganda of the poorest kind. He had no access to their genuine personalities. And despite his pragmatic approaches, he could not ignore the role that a woman’s personality had in sparking his sexual interest. He wants to know who he will be using for sexual gratification. This is why he embraced observation. Every instance of exhibited human behavior says something to him. The frugal movements of this woman at the counter speaks the loudest to him because she is too sleepy to generate a social façade. It is likely that this is how she looks like when she wakes up. It is early enough in the morning to assume that she just woke up, splashed a handful of water on her face and grabbed the car keys to come here and shop for her breakfast ingredients. The prepackaged breakfast meal that she just pulled out of the basket affirmed this deduction.
He learned some time ago that the items a woman buys are just as telling as her appearance. If her shopping cart is filled with raw poultry and spices, that means she is likely to be married and cooks for her family. The same if she bought cleaning products in large promotional packs or fresh produce that she thoroughly inspected beforehand. Single women always spent the longest time at the frozen food aisle. They generally stayed away from poultry and anything that required cooking. They rarely visited the fresh produce section and the ones who did wander into it never bothered to grope and squeeze their pickings. They also tend to choose a small basket that they could carry on their arm instead of a large shopping cart. And they always had to buy at least one microwave food product. That was the biggest telling sign for Sunk. A single woman’s shopping basket always included a combination of microwave food, cereal boxes, eggs, chocolate bars, snacks, soft drinks and a book or a magazine, but the microwave meal was always the omnipresent item. The brunette’s shopping selection consists of the breakfast meal, a couple of juice boxes with the word ‘FRESH’ embellished across them in enormous font, two jars of different-flavored jelly and a small jar of Nutella. From that, he inferred a couple of things. The first is that she is a single woman who lives by herself—and that is a great thing. It always made him happy to see an independent woman living on her own because it made her an easier target. Independent women prefer to do everything by themselves, which leaves them living in places with minimal security precautions and away from big gatherings, and they are often away from their home, which leaves Sunk with plenty of time to peruse it. If he finds food or drinks in the fridge that they are planning to have for dinner, then it means he will be spending the night in their bedroom. He saw all of that in this brunette. Her shabby appearance says she will go home, take a shower, eat her breakfast and get dressed for work. If she was in a relationship, her partner would either be here with her or waiting for her at home, unless they live separately, in which case it becomes riskier if they meet at night. Whichever the case will turn out to be, Sunk’s odds are stacked in favor of finding out.
The second thing he saw is an indulgent eater. The breakfast meal comprised pork sausage and bacon, omelet, hash browns and baked beans all packed into one large box. The meal is excessive but what exposed her true gluttony is the tiny jar of Nutella. The small jars always screamed ‘impulse buy,’ and those who could not resist the temptation opt for the smallest one as a psychologically-satisfying compromise that they are not drifting too far away from discipline. This is the decisive pro for him. Women who expose themselves to have a noticeable degree of denial are always the perfect choice for exploitation. If she is this oblivious and careless with her well-being, submitting to the flirtation of advertising campaigns and harmful sweet taste, it means that her guard is down to other things too—like a stranger who is watching her and getting ready to follow her.
Sunk is sitting in the lounge area of an apartment building, pretending to read one of the magazines scattered on the table in front of him. The décor is neat but hardly impressive. This building seems to have only a few tenants. It appears to be newly built and, judging by the neighborhood, the rent must be higher than the affordable apartments found abundantly in the center of the city. This counts as another pro, as women who can afford higher rent are unlikely to be willing to share with roommates. An hour earlier, the brunette’s car had pulled up in front—and his car pulled up on the opposite side of the street. The pace with which she had rushed inside says she might be late for work. A job that demands she leaves this early is a good thing. A scattered mind works in his favor. Although, living in an apartment might present some difficulties. If she lives several stories up, it might raise suspicion for him to be seen crossing that many flights of stairs at such a late hour of night or even taking the elevator. The best approach is to enter the building early, lurk until he is certain she consumed her dinner and then leave in the morning, like any other tenant going to work. With no roommates, no romantic partners, no family and a busy schedule, she is the perfect choice for spending the night.
“Is that all you see in a woman?”
For the longest time, Sunk has had a loud voice in his head—a voice that he is certain is not his conscience. It behaves in a similar manner to a conscience. It presents itself as a moral dilemma whenever his next course of action is declared illegal by the courtrooms of his time or considered unethical by the recent standards of this generation. But Sunk had a better understanding of ethical perceptions. Looking at the process as a whole is something that never escapes him. He sees the whole of ethics as a reflection of social compromise. Year after year, time after time, societies compromise their stance on what is ethical and what is unethical, and that takes the wind out of their argument for the necessity of their existence. They were supposed to be measures of preserving the status quo, and they failed. People’s attitudes changed and, with time, so did their notion of what constitutes an ethic. So it is too obvious for it to be that. Plus, this voice never makes itself forceful. It would never obstruct or intervene in what he plans to do. It merely chimes in with a sarcastic opinion or an unexplored point of view. Though, he did notice that it only asked questions and never provided any answers. To him, that was proof of its invalidity. If it had provided answers, he would have to reconsider what he was going to do at the time and compare the pluses and minuses of its results. But since it added nothing of practical value, he relegated it to the background. It is only an accompanying voice. It was always in his nature to ask questions, anyway. This voice must simply be a misfire of his curiosity.
The elevator rings, announcing its arrival. He had been trailing the lit floor numbers on the control panel for the past hour, ever since he walked into the building right behind the brunette and watched her back go into the elevator. The number stayed lit at ‘6’ for a few minutes after she went in, before it went down to ‘2’ and then down to the ground floor, where a family of three emerged. It stayed here for the rest of the hour until it just went back up to ‘6’ a few seconds ago and arrived now. The brunette exits the elevator and rushes out of the building with an even faster pace than before. Sunk is watching her through the giant window to his right as she throws herself onto the driver’s seat and speeds away. He successfully managed to remain out of her sight for the entire duration, ever since his eyes settled on her at the supermarket. He puts the magazine down and heads to the elevator.
The elevator door opens and Sunk enters the sixth floor. The six apartment doors on both sides of this hallway could present a problem in identifying which one belongs to the brunette, but the peepholes on the doors solve that problem for Sunk. He reaches into one of the pockets on the inside of his lab coat and brings out a black pencil case made of cotton. The case is bulging from the applied pressure of the items stuffed inside it. He unzips it and pulls out a reverse peephole viewer—an instrument used by law officers to look into the privacy of people’s homes in cases of potential threat—and places it on the peephole of the first door to his right. Nothing of interest. He repeats the process with the second, third and fourth door. Something catches his attention. There is a pair of green flip-flops on the ground, near the living room sofa. He found her. He brings out the pencil case again and ruffles through its contents until he finds an extremely thin reversible blade, the kind thin enough to fit into an optical screwdriver. The end of one of the blades has been chipped and chiseled into a precise shape. He looks to his right and left to make sure he is still alone, then sticks the blade into the apartment’s keyhole and maneuvers it until a clicking sound is heard.
Without hesitation, the first room he walked directly towards once he stepped into the apartment was the kitchen. He knows that this whole plan would either go to waste or come to fruition depending on what he finds inside the refrigerator. The pivotal starting point is always the refrigerator. Sunk has come to the conclusion that food culture dominates the modern world. Try as they might, the human species cannot set themselves apart from the other ones on this planet. Their behavior has not grown uniquely enough to distance themselves from their origins. Sunk can see past the added layers of modern society. To him, mice storing their food for the winter is not very different from a family buying a stainless steel kitchen. The only difference is that in the case of Sunk’s species, survival has been enhanced by the learned trait of foresight. When humans install a refrigerator in their kitchen, they store their food for the next twenty winters, and when they move up the corporate ladder and into the bigger office at the top floor, the one with the best view of the metropolitan skyline, they store their food for an entire lifetime. Perseverance is ubiquitous and still in its primary form of metabolic energy consumption for human mammals. But he still must open each refrigerator he encounters individually because he needs to know how this particular mammal perseveres. What he finds inside will mirror the appropriate next step to get to what he wants. In a way, when he opens the refrigerator door, he opens the door to his own means of foresighted preservation.
Inside, there is the archetype of a single person’s diet. Half-eaten foods, unused packets of ketchup, one open soft drink can and a full six-pack of alcohol bottles. The two ‘FRESH’ juice boxes are in the refrigerator door. One has been opened. The main attraction, and the sign that Sunk has been looking for all along, is the plastic plate of shrimp pasta in the center, wrapped in cellophane. The pasta looks slightly used, a small part of it eaten but for the most part it is still there. The black plastic plate looks like the standard type used by restaurants, so she must have ordered this sometime yesterday and did not finish it. She seems to have wrapped it in a hurry because the layers of cellophane are thick and unevenly wound several times around the plate. This is yet another good thing. It means she will not suspect any tampering when he wraps it back again. He puts the plate back inside the refrigerator and heads into the bedroom.
The stain on the bedroom’s carpet under the bedframe says she is a fussy eater and likes to have her dinner in bed. There is no television in the kitchen so she must bring her meals here to watch her programs. There is a digital video recorder sitting on top of the television set. If she is out for most of the day, then she probably records her favorite shows and watches them later at night—probably some simplistic sitcom that requires only a dull mind to enjoy. He can imagine her in this room with the lights off, sitting against the bed’s headboard with a goofy grin on her face, laughing and reflexively digging into the bag in her hand to lift more bites into her mouth while letting the meaningless images and sounds from the television be funneled into her eyes and ears. The more he imagined what she is like, the more he wanted tonight to be over and done with.
Sunk walks back into the living room and takes one final look around the place. The plan is clear to him now. He goes back into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator door again. He takes out the plate and carefully unwraps the cellophane. He holds the plate to his chest with one hand—because leaving traces of circles on the table would be clumsy—and brings out the pencil case with the other. He arranges the shrimps in a way that their ends all touch. He pulls a syringe filled with ice out of the black pencil case and lets no more than a couple of drops fall on the food, directly on the shrimps. He then quickly wraps the cellophane around the plate again and places it back inside.
The liquid contained in the syringe is a special recipe of Sunk’s own invention and his proudest achievement to date. His first year in the university had rewarded him with a revolutionary discovery. When he was experimenting with properties of liquids, he accidentally constructed a complex chemical compound that behaves differently in liquids of different temperatures. In room temperature, it deteriorated and vanished slowly. In warmer temperature, it reserved its qualities but had no effect on the water it was immersed in. In boiling temperature, it infected the entire water and turned it into a weird congested substance resembling white custard. But the most astonishing effect was its behavior in cold liquids. When applied to icy water, it appeared to have no effect. When he did his tests, he could not find a single alteration to the chemical structure of the water. It was as if he did not add anything to it at all. He decided to take one sip of the water and as a result, spent the rest of the day curled into a ball on the floor, clutching his stomach. He was certain he drank hellfire. When the pain finally went away later at night, and he was able to stand up again, he came to a couple of realizations about his formula. The first was that it is impossible to see when injected into another substance. It was as if it evaporates at the moment of contact. And the second was that, in the right temperature, it changes the nature of what it comes into contact with by replacing it with its own without changing that substance’s physical appearance or internal chemical structure. What he had remembered was that, before adding the drops, he cleaned the syringe containing the liquid by quickly running it under hot tap water. Some of the water must have leaked into the syringe and the liquid amplified the heat it absorbed from it and as a result, he unintentionally drank boiling ice water—despite the fact that he only added one drop of it. That one drop permeated through the bowl’s water and completely negated its presence and effect, stopping only when it encountered something of a different chemical structure, in this case the physical bowl itself. The formula, he concluded, is an invisible amplifier that replaces the nature of first-contact substances with that of its own. Right now, the two drops, laced with sedatives, are slowly permeating through the chemical structure of the shrimps (likely to be the first thing she eats) sustained by the coolness of the refrigerator. It was this strange discovery that set Sunk on the path of alternative lifestyle that he lives today. The idea of being untraceable triggered something in his mind. He saw opportunities in it. He felt that this was evidence for the feasibility of eventually learning invisibility. But instead of sharing it with the world, he decided to keep it to himself until he uncovers its true potential. Even back then, he felt there was more to its story. He is the only person who has known about its existence since he discovered it over ten years ago, and he has been injecting it into unsuspecting strangers’ foods for the past three years.
Despite the concoction’s fast effect, he always gives himself at least an hour and a half before he enters through the door. He would never risk barging in earlier than that—all hell would break loose! He also must be sure not to be seen entering the apartment. Even being seen with his hand on the doorknob is out of the question. But he never waits for more than two hours. He would have to spend less time with them if he did. He knows the odds of him doing this to the same woman twice and not being detected are slim. He only gets one night with each one and he needs to make it count. He decided to give this one the full two hours. It would give her enough time in case she decided to take a bath or shower when she comes back. Then she will eat her dinner and fall asleep in the comfort of her bed. It would be the end of another routine day for her and a memorable enough experience for him.
“Have you thought about introducing yourself instead?”
Sunk had thought about it. He always thinks about it. But, so far, and for reasons that he attributed to pure coincidence, not a single one of his choices had the qualities he wanted in a genuine relationship. These women fit the physical criteria sufficient for one night of copulation, but when it comes to what they have in common with him, the disparity in interests is staggering. This brunette, for example, stuffs her stomach with the unhealthiest and most repelling substances on display at stores. Her kitchen drawers and cabinets are rife with traps for the ‘bite-size’ consumer. To the general public, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, bubble gum, gummy bears and soft drinks are fun snacks that you share with your friends at a party, but for a biochemist like Sunk, they are not even food. He understands completely what he is inserting into his digestive system because he sees food in its foundational composition and pairs it with the perceptions of taste buds and protein requirements of enzymes. To him, food can only be classified as nutrition. It is meant to sustain an organism’s energetic state to lengthen its age and increase its odds of propagation. The nutrients contained in any of the products in this kitchen would be the equivalent found on top of a small slice of potato after using it to scoop from a big bag of sugar. The liquids have the words ‘minimum 10% juice’ written unashamedly on the box. Their manufacturers rely on continuous mastication and strong chemosensory detection by providing many pieces in one bag and leaving a memorable aftertaste in order to create the illusion of mealtime. You have to have a certain level of naiveté to be comfortable with self-abuse and this brunette is unforgivably naïve. What she considers entertainment, he knows it to be a waste of time. What she considers important, he is sure that it is trivial. How could he possibly coexist with her, now that he knows what she is like? She is a human being, a healthy and capable person gifted with a complex brain, who deliberately and consciously chooses not to reach her full potential and contribute to the betterment of her race, preferring instead to behave like the most simple of organisms and satisfy basic survival instincts on a daily basis. She is a waste. She is the worst. He would never allow himself to be with someone like that because he would never allow himself to be that. He appreciates his capabilities and pays them their due. This is why he had already decided that nothing deserves to take time away from his lab. Tonight, in particular, must be spent in this brunette’s bedroom because tomorrow morning he will begin tackling the most ambitious project of his career. He needs to have a rested body and a clear mind. She will do that for him. All of this was taken into consideration from the supermarket. It is old news. The voice is desperately rehashing arguments that he had already won.
Sunk exits the apartment and closes the door behind him. The brunette might find it suspicious at first to see her door unlocked, but with a scattered mind like hers, and her running out this morning, she will probably just think she forgot to lock the door when she left. It does not matter as he will only need to do that once anyway. He knows how to leave and lock the door from outside once the key is in the keyhole. Everything is ready now. He will have to wait for her outside in his car, then enter the building and wait until he is sure she is fully sedated. This could take his entire day, but it is unavoidable.
It is the middle of the night and Sunk is once again standing right outside the apartment door. He saw the brunette park her car in the building’s parking lot and calmly—or rather tiredly—walk inside. That was exactly two hours ago. He can hear sounds coming from the television inside—probably from the bedroom—so she must be home. He looks over his shoulders once again and fiddles the chiseled blade inside the keyhole.
There is very little that has changed in the living room since he was here this morning. A few papers, mostly bills, are scattered on the table and there is a laptop sitting on the sofa. There is a faint smell of steam coming from the bathroom and the bathroom door is wide open. However, the bedroom door is closed. He can see from under the door that the room’s lights are off but the sounds of the television conversations can be clearly heard. He walks carefully towards the bedroom door and pushes down the handle.
There she is. Her body is spread across the mattress, illuminated in the dark room by the flickering light of the television’s images, and her left arm is extended towards the left end of the bed. She is wearing only an extra-large T-shirt that reaches below her waist and covers her underwear. The smell of steam he detected earlier and her wet and curly hair means she did take a shower. He was right in biding his time. Sunk looks in the direction of her extended arm to see that the floor directly beneath it is now littered with pasta. The mess is not a major concern for him as she will likely think she simply knocked down the plate when she was asleep—which is the case, anyway. The television is loud in this room. The canned audience laughter means he was also right about her choice of entertainment but the sitcom is not recorded like he assumed because the recorder is turned off. Sunk closes the bedroom door behind him and takes the pencil case out of his lab coat, placing it gently near her feet on the bed. He unzips it and pulls out a thick roll of transparent Polyactide bioplastic that has been folded into the size of a pen. He puts the roll on the floor and keeps uncurling it until it eventually unfolds into a rectangular shape, roughly his own height and width. He takes out a shower cap from the pencil case, causing it to lose most of its bulginess, and fits it over his head, making sure all of his flowing hair is contained within. He lifts the brunette’s body and places the bioplastic directly beneath her on the bed. His mind retraces all the steps that he went through to get to this moment. There is something intriguing to him about actions and their effects. He traversed his way into such an opportunity. If it was not for his complete understanding of behavior, he never would have been here. His mind is formulating a gem of an idea. He can sense it, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. He starts to undress, looking down at the snoring brunette in front of him and calculating how many hours he has left to be with her.
Sunk is sitting behind the wheel of his car, which is parked in the supermarket parking lot. He is staring at a woman who is exiting the supermarket with a basket on her arm. It is the brunette from last night. She is talking on her cellphone and walking with an extra spring in her step. There is a broad smile on her face this morning. The morphine shot he injected afterwards must still be taking its effect on her. She does not seem to have the slightest inkling of suspicion. To her, this is just another morning, with the minor exception that she woke up with an extra burst of energy. His DNA and fingerprints would be enough to incriminate him but that would never come to light because her suspicion will never be piqued enough to undertake a test in the first place. He left no other traces of his presence and did not forget to twist the key so the door would lock from the outside before he left. If she still remembers the painful moaning that he put her through a few hours ago, she must have attributed it to a nightmare and moved on with her life. She seems happy and so is he. His body is as calm and rested as it can ever be. His brain is sharp and focused as well. They both benefited in the end and nobody’s life was altered in any way. Sunk’s plan has worked. He can now get back to his project. He pulls out of the parking lot and starts driving home.
For more than a few weeks now, Sunk has been entertaining a radical thought. His obsession with malignant abiogenesis has consumed him fully. He has been actively researching cancer and its multitude of effects for the better part of a decade. Initially, his interest was merely out of curiosity, but as he delved deeper into his thoughts, it manifested into an obsession. The entire world has been under its mercy and engulfed in its mystery. He felt compelled to produce answers. He started reading every single entry related to neoplasia in scientific journals. He followed updates and new announcements from clinical oncologists. He conducted his own experiments both in the university’s laboratory and this one at his home. Despite the vast amount of data he collected, he found nothing of substantial value. There was something missing, not from the testing phase, but from preceding intentions. He asked himself: what are all these researchers looking for? A cure? Why? They should be looking for a solution and not a hard-and-fast cure. He was adamant in his belief that there was a major angle that has not been covered by anyone in the field. Sunk’s collective thoughts, research, experiments and findings all culminated in his decision to choose a process of a uniquely precise nature, as opposed to the blind nature of general tests and results. A process that he had decided to label ‘the Cancelled Effect.’ In a Cancelled-Effect type of experiment, the objective would be not to remove the problem from the roots but to render its result a non-problem instead. What he is looking for is not a cure, but more of a workaround for cancer. The tumor would still be there, thinking that everything is going as planned, when in reality, it has been manipulated with and affected in an irreversible manner.
“Just like the brunette?”
Sunk parks his car inside the garage and enters through the front door. His home is not as luxurious as a mansion but still impressively large and furnished with modern décor. He crosses the empty living room and enters through a door at the far left corner. His home laboratory is as well-equipped as any laboratory in any respectable institution. Beakers, flasks and various containers are arranged along the large square table in the middle. A large freezer stands in a corner. Liquids in particular dominate the laboratory’s space. He pulls a drawer and brings out a massive pile of papers and folders that he compiled over the years and spreads them across the desk in front of him. He places a blank notebook sheet on top of the pile and grabs a pen. With the pen still between his fingers, he places his hands on each side of his head, as if forming a parenthesis of concentration around his eyes, and starts fading away into his mental process.
Sunk found cancer cells to be admirable. There was something majestic in the way these cells are in tune with their propagation values. They spread faster than other cells, as if they appreciate the scarcity of time, and they block normal cells, as if they refuse to be distracted by life’s trivialities. They do not even die like other cells do. They are fatal and yet it is as if they are better at life than everything else. They simply exist to increase. But Sunk was not going to be defeated so easily. He had more depth into his methods of research than any of his peers back at the university. He recognized that cancer cells, despite their resourcefulness, are not as smart as they seem to be. The DNA encoded in cells—any cells, damaged or not—is a mere blueprint. The information in it comes packaged with favoritisms and prejudices towards realizing a specific agenda. That leaves the DNA carrier prone to predictable behavior. If a primary tumor that had originated in the pancreas and then hematogenously disseminated its cells to the liver, and then to the lungs and then to the brain, then that route would be sacred. If that primary tumor had magically disappeared and reappeared in the exact same place, with no notable changes in the body’s conditions, it stands to reason that it would likely repeat the entire process, from malignancy to metastasis in absolute precision. It would go through the same steps in the same order, starting from the Pancreas, creating the blood vessels in the same way, spreading to the liver, the lungs and ending with the brain. These cells react to their environment in programmed moves. An adaptive player can outsmart them. It is because of all this that Sunk feels he does not have to spread his efforts too wide. There should exist one underlying code that shapes the two hundred plus diseases people commonly call ‘cancer.’ Uncovering that base code is all he needs to do.
The number of possible directions that migrating cancerous-DNA cells might take is staggering but if someone is dedicated enough to study behavior closely, as Sunk has been doing for the past fifteen years, the patterns become recognizable. The most ubiquitous pattern that he observed was the tendency of these cells to target compromised parts of the body. A chain-smoker would be more susceptible to lung cancer because of the cells’ prolonged exposure to exogenous agents. Weakness is an attraction to cancer. The weakest cells act as a starting point, setting off a trail that follows to other cells gradually lesser in weakness. But Sunk finds words like ‘weak’ and ‘abnormal’ to be inapt. Is it really a sign of weakness to overcome something of a different nature and turn it into your own? These originating cells are triumphing in their conversion from multi-tasking builders and information hoarders to single-task builders of information. Weak is only how we see it. To a builder, that is not weakness. That is precision. They merit a response of equal precision. Something that fits their building prowess. He now has to create a condition in which building never stops but nothing is built. In the context of his Cancelled-Effect experiments, that means to let the cancer continue its course of growth with no obstructions or direct stunting, but with the added twist of a dictated course. Cells of similar nature stick together in one settlement, but the ones migrating from the primary tumor in an attempt to expand are looking for places specifically of a different nature.
A realization has just dawned on Sunk. These focused cells only start to replicate themselves when they find the appropriate place to settle. They fit into a programmed ‘end-destination’ where their propagation would have more likelihood of being effective. Not only that. In metastasis, they travel to those end-destinations. If you take away the destination, you would be taking away a crucial step in their limited programming logic and their replication process would never start. Taking away their destination in this case would mean taking away the favorable conditions that determine a destination by making it unfavorable. And what they find unfavorable is an already occupied area that does not need more cancer cells. Excising the tumor completely would be pointless, since another group of cancer cells can still congregate and form another tumor, and it would also take away an opportunity to neutralize the effect at the central stage of their own choosing. However, if only a sample of the primary tissue was harvested and strategically placed within specific coordinates near the main infected tissue, the direction of the migrating cells has to be affected. The parts nearer to the blood vessels should be favored for the relocation because those are the ones that initiate the migration process. The blueprint instructions contained within the build-only cells would be blindly obeyed and whatever molecular recognition signals that attract these cells to the secondary tumor position would never be recognized as they will only be in contact with the primary tumor and the relocated cells from that primary tumor positioned near and around it. The primary tumor would still exist but its effects will be diminished considerably because it will never metastasize. And growth of new blood vessels would no longer be an issue in these circumstances. Instead of relying on angiogenesis inhibitors for treatment, this method instead favors angiogenesis happening. If the cancer cells in the relocated tissue grow new blood vessels that attach to the capillary and lymph systems of the body, they will only grow within the specifically modified range which will create more secondary routes within the original no end-destinations route, ensuring that the migrating cells will have more space to travel and yet still no place to settle. It would be as if theythink they had engulfed the body’s entire circulatory system when they have actually never left their central position. They will remain trapped in an endless loop.
Sunk puts the pen down. He has done it. Using only his mental process, he has come up with a treatment method that prohibits the spread of cancer. His dedication has been vindicated. And despite the fact that he did not reply, he did listen to the voice’s arrogant interjection earlier. He did not fail to see the similarities in his method of treatment and his method of alleviating sexual burden. It is this same method that will now save millions of lives. This will be his reply. Fifteen years of research into one of humanity’s most perplexing puzzles and he has a dimwitted brunette to thank for the answer.
Sunk is walking along the pavement in the middle of the night. He had decided to take a stroll to end a very eventful day. The blood circulation and the change of air always help to relieve any residual tensions he has on days like this. And he needs it because tomorrow morning, he will do his first ever feature interview by a major news network to discuss his treatment method in detail. All day long, his ‘Workaround for Cancer’ article has been making waves on the internet, shared by hundreds of thousands—last he checked—of virtual users. That was a few hours ago. The number must have broken the million milestone by now. And it will break many more millions after the interview tomorrow. He turns to his left and enters an alleyway. At the end of the alleyway, through the narrow opening, he can see the swarm of reporters outside his house. They have been there for quite some time now. He already anticipated their arrival and decided to leave the house for a lengthy walk and decide on his next course of action. He knows that as soon as he walks out of this alleyway, he will be walking into a new chapter of his life. He starts walking through the dark alleyway with a slower pace. He tilts his head slightly to the side, as if trying to listen to his shoulder.
‘You’ve been silent for too long,’ he asked the now-mute voice. ‘You don’t have anything to say? Well, I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering why I care so much. Why would someone like me, an outlaw who so obviously lives outside your wholesome view of society, be so interested in helping people heal? Can someone who’s so bad really be so good? You can’t wrap your head around that. I bet you’re thinking healing is a noble thing too, right? It has nothing to do with healing, really. Cancer was just what I picked. If what preoccupied their existence was how to grow wings, I would’ve done that for them instead. You see, people are preoccupied with fear, and they fear what they don’t understand. They’re dying from this cancer and they don’t even know yet what it really is. I don’t need to explain it to them. I just need to pacify them. I need to win their unconditional approval, otherwise they’ll never leave me in peace to do all the unorthodox things I want to do. And that can’t be done by minor achievements. Their level of approval has to match my level of unorthodoxy. Giving them the answer to cancer was simply the fastest way into their hearts today. Tomorrow, it will be something else. If I am to live my kind of life in the open, I have to do the things that endears me to them on the surface. So I’ll end their diseases. I’ll cure their disabilities. I’ll eradicate their murder. I’ll fix everything for them. I won’t stop until they’re convinced that I’m the best thing that ever happened to them. And in return, I’ll pluck away a small number of their people to indulge in my own deepest fantasies and desires. A few of their women for my kind of rape, a few of their men for my kind of murder, a few of their children for my kind of life. I know myself. I can’t hold back these urges. So those ones would be the unlucky few who don’t get to live the perfect life I shape for the world. But it’s okay, because that’s only a minority. The majority would live in absolute bliss. And, when you really think about it, isn’t majority happiness what your society preaches anyway? You know, I think you’re right to be quiet now. Ever since that day you started complaining on my shoulder, I paid every bit of attention to your arguments and I left none of them unchallenged. You shouldn’t have any more questions because everything you ask, you know that I can answer. You need to start seeing the big picture, my friend. Add a little more pragmatism to your worldview. With my way, you get all the solutions to all the biggest problems humanity faced throughout the ages, and I get a special reward that fits the scope of my efforts. How is that not a good bargain?’
Sunk exits the dark alleyway and enters a blinding orgy of camera flashes.