Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Love Of Knowledge: A Very Short Story

Professor Jeff Wilson, head of the archeological department, burst into the room, startling Professor Johnson. Johnson, head of the biology department, looked up from his computer screen into the wild eyes of his associate. The man with whom he had been working with for so long was scarcely recognizable.

“Oh God,” Wilson exclaimed. “It’s too much!” For lack of words or comprehension, Johnson could only stare at the maniacally excited man who strode about his office and rambled on without uttering a coherent thought.

“It’s all so clear now! It all ties together! Sunshine and pizza and dogs barking at the moon. It all makes sense! Every shred of it all pieces together.”

Johnson stood aghast as Professor Wilson prattled on hysterically about baby rattles and daggers, a movie he had seen in his youth about a giant gorilla and the interrelatedness of time and space. He spoke of inanities, yet Wilson could not help but see a certain light in the other’s eyes. He spoke madness, but he radiated vision. It was a disturbing incongriguity.

Wilson’s excitedness was such that Johnson was tempted to try to make sense of what he said. “Calm down,” Johnson said, “and try to tell me what you’re talking about.”

Forcing himself towards some sort of calmness, Wilson sat in the chair next to Johnson’s desk. He paused in his ramblings, and with a noticeable effort, tried to convey the revelations dancing in his head.

“There are no words,” he said at last. “It’s too big. Too grand. It’s life, it’s everything. And, and…”

Johnson had always known his friend to be a dispassionate sort of man. The only time he ever saw him excited was at the moment of discovery, and Johnson could only assume that this was the case now. They had been working for a while now on a project together. A unique bacteria was found within the body of a centuries dead mummy. Within a tomb laid hidden beneath the earth for countless ages, was this reminder of a civilization long turned to dust. Yet in that tomb this bacteria survived. It was alive. Despite the centuries and the death of all that surrounded it, this speck of live somehow survived. It was this find that came to involve Johnson. And it was this find, even more than the discovery of an unspoiled tomb, that had excited Wilson. It was a living clue for both professors, a way of bringing the past into the present.

Johnson looked back up at his now stuttering companion and knew what he had done. This bacteria was unlike any known to biological science. To know more about it had become both men’s life work. Because of a need to know more that transcended mere professional curiosity, Wilson had infected himself. He had become the host of an unknown organism in order to understand what countless white mice had been made to know; mice that did not die but were never again what they were.

“You’ve done it, haven’t you?”

Wilson nodded his assent forcefully. It was as though he wished to communicate his thoughts, to make himself known. But every time he spoke, a stream of meaningless babble erupted from his mouth. Frustrated by his inability to communicate but still exhibiting the same inner fire, Wilson leaped from his chair and left the room.

By the time Johnson thought to go after him, Wilson was out of sight. Johnson headed toward the one place where he thought his friend might go—the laboratory where the bacteria was kept. He rushed to the lab, but found nobody there. He was alone with the bottle sitting on the table where Wilson had left it. He looked at the bottle and slowly the realization of what he would do came over him. A scientist’s first rule is objectivity: he must distance himself from whatever it is he is studying. But a scientist’s first love is to know, and love knows no rules. He scrambled around until he found a pen and paper, and began scribbling on the paper the last lucid thoughts he may ever know in his life.

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