Building Beyond: Vestigial Nature
Building Beyond is an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary. Let’s give it a try, together.
We figured out what the appendix does, and it's incredibly dangerous.
Vanesa L. Perillo is an environmental researcher, educator and fiction writer from Argentina, splitting her time between solving science questions and losing herself in the corners of her mind. When not writing, teaching or discovering new things, she is reading, cooking, zentangling, making maps, or learning a new skill. Yes, the addiction to learning does exist!
Are we on? Yes? Thank you. I know I'm asking much, but we can't let this continue. We owe it to every single soul to hear what we have to say.
Whatever happens, even if they boo me, please keep live streaming. Get a wide angle that includes the crowd as I go up the stage, but most importantly, make sure you get a great angle for the demonstration.
Hello? Please, everyone. Can I have your attention? Quiet down. Thank you.
Standing here on the stage of a world-renowned scientific meeting, full of doctors both of the science and medicine kind, I have a confession to make. I'm no doctor. Heck, I'm not a scientist. I barely passed biology in high school, but despite that, I have consulted with many physicians, many who were too scared by the policies that this country has made to keep this information hidden from view to come out themselves. But here I am, risking it all so that you can have a platform to tell the truth.
Sir, please, don't shush me. There is no need to mansplain anything to me. I know I'm interrupting. Don't you think that's the point of this highjacking? Men, really. Now, if y'all would just quiet down and let me get to the point, which is:
Leave the appendix alone.
Hey, don't laugh. I know awkward laughter when I hear it.
You know what I'm saying is true. The government is trying to keep you quiet, but I'm not in their employ. I know what I know, I've seen what I've seen, and now I'm here to beg you to stop lying to us.
Stop saying the appendix is the reservoir of good bacteria that will replenish our gut after we had an issue with–how do I put it politely?– going too much number 2, or that the appendix is a remnant of our evolution.
I will tell you the truth. And if you're a knitter or a crocheter, think loose end and you'll get it.
With our sharp tools, our knives and whatnots, we cut ourselves open, and we risk dissolving into nothing. For that is what happens when you touch the appendix.
So, leave it alone.
Look at this rabbit, and I apologize, Mr. Rabbit, but I need to show the world, with witnesses so that no one can deny it or say I manufactured anything, which is why we're doing this live. For all of you who are sensitive, you might want to cover your eyes, but have someone see this and tell you the truth.
What? No! Of course, I never did it on human volunteers. We found out from an accident, and my nephew, there, the one with the camera, was the one that witnessed it. He was too scared to come and tell you this himself. He was told to shut up for his own good, but you damned well should know that you don't threaten a member of my family and get away with it. No matter how powerful a government you are. Me, I'm not afraid.
I have a blade here. I'm going to make a little incision here. Of course the animal is sedated. Didn't you see me use the anesthesia? Who do you think I am? A monster? Like your government who doesn't shy away from disappearing people with this knowledge I'm going to show you?
Here you, yes, you, show the label of the bottle to that man with the distinguished mustache.
Now, if y'all pay attention. Darling, come closer with the camera, will you? Here is the important part. The one that we need to do something about.
Here look at this. I'm holding the appendix, I tug at it and look, see how Mr. Rabbit is unraveling? Can you see it? We vanish, inch by inch, like one of those knitting projects you need to redo. Wow, yes. It never gets old to see a being puff out of existence right before your eyes with just a little tug.
Now you've quieted down. See? There's nothing left. Even the blood is gone. I haven't figured out yet how that part works, but if you tug at someone's appendix, they're just gone.
You've all seen it. Our appendix is the bit of flesh that stops us from unraveling from the inside out.
We are basically held together by a thin thread. Whoever designed us was too lazy to weave this loose end into the fabric of our bodies and thus, made sure it was sewn inside, where we wouldn't be able to access it. But we can access it now. Modern medicine and all.
And if we're not careful, if we let the conspiracies lie to us, we'll keep losing people for good. How many have disappeared without a trace? How many parents walk down the streets begging to have their children back? Too many. Too damned many.
Don't just stare at me.
Say something. Do something.
Your secret is out.
Neil Sharpson is a novelist, playwright and blogger who lives in Dublin with his wife and two children. He is the author of When the Sparrow Falls, and blogs as Unshaved Mouse, reviewing animation, comic book movies and whatever his readers see fit to inflict on him.
THE HOOK AND THE WORM
“Anyone like fish?”
“Sweet Jesus! Look at the size of that bastard!”
“Yup. Caught it up Lake Rowe. Almost broke my damn arm pullin’ him in. Miracle the line held.”
“You shouldn’t go out there. The crawlers...”
“Not this time of year. They’ve mostly moved south. Plus, I had Luke with me. He stood watch.”
“What do we owe him?”
“Nothing. I caught a Rainbow Trout too. We’re paid up.”
“We can make this last until next week.”
“I do good?”
“You do very, very good sir. Maximum husband points. Want to earn a few more?”
“Well, I mean, I already have maximum so…”
“I need you to talk to André.”
“Why, what he do?”
“Nothing. Some of the other kids were talking about their A-Days…”
“He got really freaked out. He’s in his room. I think you…”
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m on it.”
“Hey buddy. Can I come in?”
“Sure Dad. Did you find food?”
“Did I find…my boy, there is a fish down there on that table the size of an alligator.”
“Really? Can I see?”
“In a minute kiddo. I want to talk to you. Your mom said…”
“Is it true Dad?”
“Is what true?”
“That when you turn ten they cut you open and take out your guts?”
“What!? No! No, it’s just a small procedure. They take out your appendix, that’s all. It’s tiny. It’s just a tiny, useless thing.”
“Darryl said there was a girl in Palmer and they did it to her and she got sick and died…”
“Fuck’s sake…okay, the doctor in Palmer was an idiot vet who didn’t know what the hell he was doing. Doctor Chen’s done the cut hundreds of times and he’s never lost a single patient. Do you think I’d let him operate on you if there was even a chance something bad would happen?”
“But why’s he gotta cut me at all?!”
“Because…okay. Get your coat.”
“Where we going, Dad?”
“Because if we’re getting into this shit I’m going to need a beer or eight.”
“Can I try some?”
“Gaaahh! Awwch, it tastes like pee!”
“Yup. That’s ‘cos it is. They make it with dog piss. Now never drink it again.”
“It’s nice out here, ain’t it? Nice and quiet.”
“Didn’t always used to be like this, you know. There used to be so many more of us.”
“Ohh…Lord. Close to eight billion.”
“How many is that?”
“More than you can imagine. This whole world was like a big ol’ bee hive just humming and buzzing and hot with people. Back when I was your age.”
“Do you miss it?”
“Well…I like how it’s quiet now. I like how the rivers are full of fish and we don’t have to worry about the world burning to a cinder. But I lost everyone. Do you know what it feels like to lose every single person you’ve ever known? Parents? Relatives? School friends? I was the last person left alive from my whole town.”
“Did it hurt?”
“No. No, it didn’t. Some pain’s too big to feel. You know what happened?”
“The Farmer’s Solution?”
“Heh. Fermi’s Resolution, son. It was what we called the thing. I always thought it was a damn stupid name. Boring. Something wipes out 99.9% of the human race it should have a more badass name than that.”
“What did it look like?”
“Like paint. Silver paint in the sky. When it first appeared we hoped it was friendly. We thought this might be the start of something great. Well, some people did. I knew what was going to happen.”
“There was an old movie called Independence Day. A fleet of alien spaceships shows up and everyone’s all ‘oh are they friendly or are they hostile?’ And even as a kid I was all “of course they’re hostile. They sent a damn fleet. It only takes one ship to say ‘hi’. The Resolution was the size of Brazil. Anyone with sense could tell it had come to throw down.”
“So, it was a spaceship?”
“No. It was…grey goo. Trillions of little tiny machines working together. They reckon it must have been drifting through space for thousands of years, looking for any planet with life on it.”
“To kill it. To find every baby in the universe and smother them in their cribs. We watched it on TV. Screaming. Crying. Praying to Jesus. It was just hovering in the sky and then it started to open up. It spread wider and wider until it was the sky. The whole world went dark, except for the lights of our cities glowing on its grey belly. And then it fell. Like a pillow being pressed down on the face of the world.”
“Dad, is this true?”
“Kid, if I’m going to go to the trouble of making something this crazy up I’m at least going to make it funny.”
“They set us up! Bastards set us up!”
“THEM! THE FUCKING CUNTS WHO DID THIS TO US…sorry. Aw Jesus, I’m sorry André. I didn’t mean to scare you kid. I love you son, I didn’t mean to scare you, I’m just, shit, I should not have had those…I…I just let me lie down for a second, okay?”
“Okay Dad. Are you, are you alright?”
“…yeah…yeah…I’m peachy fuckin’ keen. Thanks for holding my hair.”
“It’s okay Dad.”
“Yer a good kid, André.”
“Dad, where are we?”
“We’re up near Lake Rowe.”
“Are we going fishing?”
“No. No, I gotta show you something. You can’t tell your Mom I brought you up here, okay?”
“I told her there were no crawlers up here. I lied. They’re all over this place.”
“Dad? Isn’t this super dangerous?”
“There! There! You see them? Down there by the lake? Ohhhh…they got themselves a moose, look at the size of that thing. They’ll strip that bastard to the bone and then they’ll eat the bones and the antlers. They’ll eat the whole damn beast. Look, André!”
“No, Dad, I’m going back to the car…”
“LOOK AT THEM, BOY!”
“Dad, let me go! Let me go!”
“Shut up, we don’t want them to hear us! Now look at that big one there. Jesus Christ can you believe that used to be a human being? Look at the size of it. Look at those big dead eyes. Look at those arms. Doesn’t even look like it has bones, does it?”
“Dad, you’re hurting me!”
“We thought it was just a stupid little evolutionary dead end. We never knew it was a hook. As soon as the Resolution touched the Earth it activated in every human being who still had one. I had appendicitis when I was five years old. That’s how I was spared. That’s why I spent three years wandering alone eating dogs and rats and hiding in dark empty houses so scared that I thought I might die from the fear. I thought the fear would kill me, it was so bad. Something fucked with us, son. Millions of years ago. Something found us and put it in us and left us here for that big silver bastard to find and try to eat. And it worked. The whole human race turned into those things and they ate the goddamned sky. That’s all we ever were. That’s our big legacy as a species. A worm on a hook.”
“That’s why we cut you! Do you understand? I need you to understand. It’s not all gone. Some of that silver shit is still out there in the trees and the mountains and the water and if you touch it, you’ll activate. You’ll turn into one of them. That’s why we need to cut you!”
“I’d never hurt you, André, you gotta believe me…”
“Dad. They found us. They’re at the car.”
…ssssssssssssssssss tkktkkttkktkktkktkktkk ssssssssss….
“Ah fuck. Okay. Okay. André. Get ready to run home.”
“They’ll catch me.”
“No they won’t, son.”
“No. They won’t be chasing you. I promise.”
These possibilities are just beginnings. Vanesa's demonstration is the start of a story of humanity uncovering our own messy origins. Neil's dialogue is the tragic backstory of a child who will grow into a fighter.
What can your appendix do? What damage can it inflict? Is there any way to protect yourself from it?
Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.
No matter what you do, please find ways to support Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, support Black people and communities, and participate in local mutual aid.
In the meantime, care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.