Freelance Writer & Journalist

The Thylacine

     The Scientist was a man of many beliefs, but even more doubts. A calm demeanor became him, though he was hysterically contemplative and in a constant state of uncertainty. His ice blue eyes were on the ocular piece of the microscope. Chimp epithelial cells thrived, as blue as his eyes. Dye made it that way. The cells had been the same since he last inspected them three months prior. There were no changes. It hadn’t worked again.

      The Scientist pulled away and his heart sank. Not even the view of a lively illuminated Sydney harbour in the night through the large window at his side could lift his spirit. It was another failure amongst many that came before – a failing battle to counteract man’s most heinous disease at its source.

     Cancer was the bane of his existence.

     Many times the drug would kill the treacherous cancer cells… along with the organism’s crucial cells. The fury battered his brain! It was scraping against the back of his skull in a pulsating migraine. All of which was a result of stress – the tension throughout his body. The eight cups of coffee he ingested made the effects all the heavier. 4:01 AM the clock read – wait, make that 4:02. He didn’t consider the fact that he should have left the lab nine hours ago, but he considered that he was just one minute closer to death. Mortality was what filled his fatigued mind.

     He turned then, to the stuffed thylacine on a table in the middle of the room. Tasmanian wolf, Tasmanian tiger – many names for the same Australian marsupial. It grinned unintentionally, as if mocking his futile efforts. As if it told him that the human race was to be as

extinct as its species was. He stepped closer to it, turning further away from his work. He had turned his back on his work, both contextually and literally. The lamp cast a large shadow of him in the mortal marsupial’s direction. It held a dull gleam in its glass eyes.

      “How delicate existence can be,” he hissed at it.

     It gave no reaction. Its eyes were glazed over as he began shaking a fist at its hopeless lack of acknowledgement. The biologist bared his teeth and back-handed a stack of books to the floor. The pages rustled when they hit the floor and became motionless.

     “Man hasn’t evolved and progressed through the various trials of history to lie at the hands of disease! Science has been a part of the evolution that has prevented just that from happening. Science is the means of progression, and because science exists, I exist. And, not only do I exist now – but I can exist for longer. Science is the means of advancement – of immortality! Every disease can be cured, and what will kill man then? Nothing. ”

     The thylacine hadn’t the heart or mind to be disturbed. It stood in place as it has since 1936: cold and composed.

     The rage grew more within the man of science as his mind returned to his failure. Oh how cruel life had been! How it couldn’t grant him this triumph. How he spited it for all that it was! He slumped over, depression taking its toll on his delicate existence.

     “But why, thylacine? Why does my work do nothing in this advancement? Why are we all mortal still?”

     He banged his fists on the table, making all the specimens – including the thylacine – jump.

     “Is there no God?!” he shouted to the bare white ceiling in the midst of this trembling desperation for answers.

     The gleam in the dull eyes upon him disappeared and reappeared as he swayed before it, covering and uncovering the light behind him. Science was great, the scientist knew, but science only seemed capable of creating the physical world as it could be observed and measured. He knew there was surely more to the world than what met the eye – what could be seen for what was. Surely, science was not responsible for such mysteries as love, hate, instinct, thought and soul.

      “It’s the work of a god,” he completed the thought vocally. “The work of one or more gods who instill upon each of us a path of fate. If not a god, than a force, surely. All of us are spiritually bound to a series of actions which led us to this moment. A moment which everything cannot yet be seen at once until our final hour. All of us…”

      He stabbed a finger at the thylacine. “Even you!”

      The animal was motionless, jaws agape.

     “Yes, a path of fate – each leading to a similar outcome. Death and demise. Fate cannot be escaped. If fate cannot be escaped, then those who are destined to die of cancer will be killed by cancer. Hence, a cure cannot be found. It must be the fate of many.”

     His eyes held spite as he glared at the still beast.

     “Even me.”

      He sniffed once and rubbed at his eyes – anything to keep himself awake. The many cups of coffee had only taken his senses so far. The caffeine ran thickly in his veins, soaked fully into his muscle, intertwined in the very marrow of his bones – and yet, he did not feel its striking effects. He glanced over at the digital clock. 4:07 AM. Five minutes of contemplation, he couldn’t believe it had only been five minutes of this philosophical contemplation.

     “If there could only be more time. If I could only have more time,” he begged to an unseen force – any force that would listen to this vain plea. “I could understand the meaning behind it all – why my failures are so great. And – if you would be so kind – grant me the means to rectify them.”

But in order to understand the end, one would have to understand the beginning. He recalled the days of hovering over biology texts, studying to acquire this temporary job in this temporary life. He recalled the chapter of living matter spontaneously arising from non-living matter. He recalled all of this, the miracle of life. But this miracle was by no touch of God. These cells developed into entire beings. Perhaps beings with such mysteries as love, hate, personality, human emotional instinct, thought and soul. There never had been proof of divine intervention. There had only been proof of themselves and how they came to be. It was them and them only.

     Only them.

     “There is no God…”

     His eyes came off the thylacine. He knew it grinned still, as if it had known the answer all along. In the midst of this stomach-churning depression, he slowly started winding down. He dropped to his knees before he dropped to one side before he dropped onto his back. He stared at

the ceiling high above him. He stared at the thylacine from a peculiar angle. He stared at nothing in particular. Ice blue eyes staring blankly now. The feeling of being alone bore down on him, forcing him to the floor, it seemed.

     “There is no God…” he muttered again.

     He brought his own arms about him to fend off the feeling of the cold. Death was inevitable, so he waited for it. Because death was inevitable, he felt cold.

     A new thought had occurred to him: death was the end, but it was only the end of one thing. Death was only the end of time on earth. The end of the motion of energy within himself seemed unlikely. Energy was transferable – never dissipated. The energy went somewhere. It was to be looked at in a new light – he’d been seeing it all wrong. Death of the self wasn’t all tragic anyway, it was a relief. All worries would be past him. Never again would he stand over a microscope with an ulcer in his gut. Never again would he ponder the meaning of the cosmos and how they appeared in time. No responsibility, nothing counting on his survival.

     He rose to his feet with a sudden proud air about him in a Superman stance.

     “How incredibly insignificant we are! I die, and nothing changes. Nothing is shifted, warped, or bent. The greater picture remains.”

The only student to hear his lonely oratory was the humble thylacine. His gaze was held level on it. For the first time, he felt silly speaking to this Australian mammal for what had been fifteen minutes now. Being an Australian mammal himself, that was the only thing he held in common with it.

     “Life was meant to be lived, thylacine. Not expanded, not analyzed. I haven’t lived life since I was a child – I always sought out the means to expand it.”

     A pang of guilt struck him then. Who was he to play God?

     “I now see the path… I now see my fate expanding before me. I’m dead already.” He didn’t look at the clock. He rose, grabbed his coat, and switched off the light in the room. He stepped into the doorframe leading out. Light from the hall spilled into the room in sharp lines, shining onto the crooked grin of his stiff companion.

     The Scientist decided that life was to be lived now. He closed the door, leaving the thylacine submerged in darkness.

     The Scientist was speeding along in his fancy sports car alongside the harbour, free from care in the world. His foot eased down on the gas, and the car responded with a slight purr before it took off at a faster speed. Let fate guide him now, he decided. Walls of motion blur appeared at his sides. A yellow traffic light shone in the distance, beckoning him. A relaxed smirk came about his face. The light suddenly turned red, but he didn’t relent. And at that moment, everything was laid out before him – the path of fate which brought him to this moment. The Scientist’s life ended that night not at the hand of a heinous disease, but by blind epiphany.

      And the greater picture remained.

Stephanie Hughes

Written March 1st, 2012