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Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about a scientist.... view prompt

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Science Fiction Fiction

To Joseph L. Mundigler, 

I recently came across your incredibly scathing opinion piece regarding the creation of THOUGHT and it’s negative impact on a global scale. The statistics you referenced were accurate enough, and your collection of firsthand testimonials from former THOUGHT users was a nice touch. I agree with your perspective (though, not wholly), which may come as a surprise to you, considering I’m the creator of the drug you criticize so vehemently. There is, however, one thing you got wrong and I feel it is imperative that the mistake be corrected (and do feel free to publish my response in your next column. Consider this my written consent.). 

In paragraph three, you wrote: “While I disagree with the creation and continued use of THOUGHT, and while I believe he was reckless in creating the drug, I do not count the drugs creator, Dr. Michael Jennings, on my long list of mad scientists.”

Mad scientist. I admit, I ruminated on the phrase for a while. I rolled the words around on my tongue just to see how they tasted. The thing is, when I created THOUGHT, I was mad. Mad at the world, mad at crooked politicians, mad at the war and all it had taken from me. I’ve never denied my anger. I was always a mad scientist, and I’ve never once claimed to be anything else. THOUGHT was born to a mad scientist because THOUGHT was the dream of a mad boy. I’ll tell you why:

He came back a different man, my father. He left when I was young and when he returned, I figured my job being man of the house was over. I thought he would pick up where he left off. I thought we’d go back to being the kind of family that sat down to dinner together. None of that happened. Only when I learned more about the war did I realize what I fool I had been to hope for normalcy. My father was no longer normal, and the atrocities of war had made it so. Here’s the thing we often forget about war — when a man returns from war, he brings his ghosts back with him.

I spent all of my free time trying to understand my father, studying him the way a young boy might study a wild animal. I kept a safe distance. The smallest noise would bring him back to the jungles. The slightest inconvenience would trigger his predatory instinct. If he wasn’t posted in front of the television with a tv dinner on a folding tray, I had to tread light and breathe quiet. I had only ever been on the receiving end of his anger once, and once was all it took for me to learn my lesson.

Still, I wanted to know where his ghosts came from. He’d scream in his sleep. He’d shout the names of people I had never heard of before. He’d go into the bathroom and cry for hours, begging his God for relief. Or maybe he was begging for release. It could’ve been either or, because both relief and release would have set him free from his ghosts. That was all he really wanted.

When I wasn’t studying my father, I was studying science. All kinds of science: biology, chemistry, psychology, and physics (I even played around in astronomy for a time, but my problems were of this world, so astronomy became more of a spare hobby). I overachieved and excelled, all because I wanted to understand my father. I wanted to see his ghosts. I wanted to take them from him so that he could know peace again. I thought I could save him from the things I couldn’t see and the horrors I couldn’t imagine. Horrors my father lived through and would never talk about. The horrors that made the ghosts. 

I was still in high school when I created THOUGHT. It was made in my basement with a science kit my mother had given to me for my sixteenth birthday. I won’t go into detail about how I acquired the necessary chemicals to create the drug, nor will I divulge what those ingredients are (this is not an instructional piece and my creation has been debased quite enough). THOUGHT was the perfect answer to the questions I had been asking for much of my young life.

It took weeks to convince my father to try a THOUGHT. He was skeptical at best, and morbidly suspicious at worst. He caved, eventually, when he realized that years of prayer had done nothing to save him from his ghosts. What do I got to lose? my father mumbled when he finally agreed. Nothing, I told him. Nothing at all.

He didn’t care what THOUGHT he took so I chose for him. I gave him peace because it was the only thing I wanted for him. He swallowed the pill and chased it with a swig of whiskey (water turned to whiskey after the war). A few short minutes later, my father sat wide-eyed on the couch in a dreamland, wearing a smile I hadn’t seen since I was a young boy. Since before the war. Since before the ghosts. He was seeing and feeling peace, and it was finally real to him — even though it was only in his mind. I couldn’t see what peace looked like to him, but I could feel that it was in him. He was immersed in it so fully that he fell asleep in his peace. When he woke up a few hours later, his posture had straightened ever so slightly and there was a small bounce in his step. He was still wicked, mind you, but he was lighter. Whatever peace was in his mind, it was exactly what he needed. 

My father continued treatment, ingesting a THOUGHT once a week. In a matter of months, the screaming stopped. The crying and the begging stopped. The triggers and the rage stopped. My father turned into the version of himself he would’ve been if not for the war. Make no mistake — it was my anger at his ghosts that made THOUGHT possible.

My father died a mildly happy, old man. He didn’t become a perfect person, and THOUGHT wasn’t a perfect drug back then (it was still in it’s trial phase), but I was able to give my mother a few more good years before he passed. I was able to rid him of his ghosts, and that was all I really wanted. 

Now, my point. First, I remind you, as I have reminded countless others over the years, that my intention and the drugs purpose can be found in it’s name: THOUGHT — Therapeutic Hallucinations Observed Under Guided Higher Therapy. THOUGHT does more than provide alterations in cognitive patterns. THOUGHT gives us a glimpse into the human brain and it’s formerly unknown system (now known as the Projector). By administering a Type II Xonex IV into the brain stem, researchers are now able to bear witness to the cognitive patterns, personal thoughts, images, and scenarios that the patient experiences with THOUGHT. This insight provides researchers with valuable information needed to improve disruptive and damaging cognitive patterns and, ultimately, helps to heal the traumatized brain.

Second, THOUGHT was designed to treat mental health disorders such as PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, OCD, phobias, and more. Data gathered from countless longitudinal studies have shown positive effects on patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries — specifically injuries that left patients comatose. THOUGHT was also successful in treating degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, which was far more than I could have hoped for. 

Third, how the drug is used and abused recreationally is well out of my hands (I do, however, encourage the concerned to write to their local politicians regarding the ethics and morality behind the government regulation of life-saving medicines). I stand by this fact and refuse any and all blame for how society chooses to medicate itself. Labeling me reckless will not shift the blame in my direction because the blame is not mine.

Lastly, know that I do not write this with the intention of changing your mind. Your disdain for the drug is clear and I’m quite aware you’re not looking for an unsolicited debate. I’m only writing so as not to confuse you or mislead any of your readers about who I am. 

Put plainly: I am a mad scientist, sir. I have always been. My creations are the results of my curiosity and frustration, mixed together in one mad mind. This is true of all scientists. If we are not pushed by our anger at the world, we are pushed by the limits the world imposes. We are mad enough to meet those limits and break them. I ask that you not insult me by pretending to spare my feelings. Count me among them, Mr Mundigler. Count me among the mad scientists because that is what I am. 


Michael Jennings, MD., PhD.

March 15, 2022 19:46

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1 comment

Michał Przywara
03:38 Mar 22, 2022

This was very believably written, and the character of Michael Jennings shines through his words. The subject matter -- the use and abuse of technology to improve lives, and the ethics thereof -- is also an interesting one. I like that the story doesn't try to answer that complex question, but rather presents an interesting POV. Thanks for sharing!


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