Steven (part 4 of 4)

Sara looked at Steven with sadness. How dull must his life be? Her parents long ago moved on to new and exciting projects and only saw Steven everyday because his tank had yet to be moved from the main room of their facility; and while she was out and about experiencing the world first hand he’d never seen the light of day save through a TV screen.

“Don’t you want more space to spread out? The ocean has tons of that, literally.” Sara commented over supper sandwiches she’d prepared for two.

Steven smiled. “You are so smart and yet think so little.”

“Bite your tongue,” she said, offended. “I only want what’s best for you. Keeping you lock up in here is self-righteous paranoia at best. My parents think if they let you outside other people will take you away and perform experiments,”

“They would.” He interjected.

“They are like children unwilling to share a toy. Do you want that?” She turned to him in flustered anger.

He touched her arm calmly. “Your parents are intelligent, but not perfect. True, my quality of life is probably lacking in certain areas. All I know of life is this tank and what I have learned from books and movies. But it is my fate; the limitations set down by my very existence. You think I belong in the ocean, but I am just as unnatural to that ecosystem as you are. A “fish out of water” one could say,”

“Why are you jokes so lame?” She cringed as he nudged her playfully.

He continued, “I don’t know how to hunt, find shelter, or protect myself from predators. And what’s more, the most important thing, I would be alone. Your family is my family and I would not trade that for all the space in the world. Just stay by my side and I’ll surely be the happiest Steven there ever was.”

Deflated Sara looked into Steven’s eyes, the deepest eyes she’d ever seen. “I love you Steven.”

“I love you too.”        

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Steven (part 3 of 4)

After much negotiation and pleading Sara’s parents agreed to enroll her in a local public school rather than continuing to study abroad. After all, what good is a life companion if you never see him? Steven would learn best to live with their daughter by growing up with her, not apart.              

Far below her IQ level Sara came to reign in her mind and soon found joy in the ease of her school work. It allowed for more free time, which she spent in the lab. Watching her parents run tests on Steven filled her with wonder, not in awe of the science involved but for the life show working and thriving.

The following years were spent in constant learning for both. While Sara attended school Steven spent his time enthralled in documentaries and literature, absorbing everything put before him. When Sara visited after school she laid out her homework on the platform next to the tank and they worked out the problems together. 

Before long Sara grew into a somewhat normal teenager. Normal in the sense she disliked her parents on principle and stayed up too late most nights. Somewhat in the sense she still had an above average IQ for someone twice her age and her closest companion was a bioengineered humanoid sea creature. None of that bothered her and she lived life in stable happiness.

One fall day her class took a field trip to the zoo. Sara had never visited a zoo so excitement granted her a restless car ride across town to the brightly colored entrance. Once inside Sara hung back from the cluttered group of peers to observe with her usual studious nature, quietly examining each exhibit and reading every descriptive plaque. The last stop on the tour was the aquarium; blue lights filled Sara’s vision as she gazed up at a tank, the biggest with all the bells and whistles, the zoo’s pride and joy. Filled with all manner of sea creature Sara looked at one fish in particular; strange because this fish wasn’t particularly big, wasn’t particularly colorful, and wasn’t particularly lively. In fact he was small, of a brownish grey hue, and lingered near the bottom without much enthusiasm. When it was time to leave Sara drug herself away with a heavy heart. That night she went straight from school to home, refusing to stop by the lab on the way. She had much thinking to do.                 

Steven (part 2 of 4)

“I wanna take Steven.” Sara said.

“Light of my life, sweet sweet child, no. We told you from the beginning he could not leave his tank.” Sara stomped her feet, displeased. Her parents raised their eyebrows in surprise. This was a new side of their daughter they had never seen. Sara and Steven bonded over a month’s time, spending almost every waking minute together and even some sleeping; a dream for them. But when it came time for Sara to head overseas again for school she refused to leave her friend behind.

She shipped out the next day without him. Saying goodbye was unfortunately one way as Steven still couldn’t speak coherently. Instead he looked sorrowfully on as Sara left the room, knowing she wouldn’t return for some months. Her parents cheered him, promising that while she busily studied so would he, and by the time she saw him again he would be able to welcome her home personally.

The next few weeks dragged. It never occurred to Sara to be lonely before, but since meeting Steven she found herself feeling restless when not at his side. Every time she looked through a window it only served as reminder of looking into Steven’s glass tank. Steven on the other hand was determined to make the best of the separation. Unlike Sara’s loneliness he felt almost palpable pain in his heart. Being so distant from the reason you were created can wear on one’s mind. So he threw himself into studies, hoping to hold meaningful conversations with Sara once she returned. Steven progressed while Sara fell behind; her grades slipped and her prestige fell to the wayside.

She soon found herself called to the dean’s office. All sorts of moody she stared at the floor while he begged for an explanation. “Why have your grades slip?” He asked kindly. “Is it a teacher? We can move you to a different tutor if that’s -“

“It’s not that,” she interrupted. “I just miss someone.”

“Miss… Your parents you miss?” The dean blinked at the oddity. Though still a young child never before had Sara shown any signs of homesickness.

“Not them…” She trailed off and refused to say more. 

The dean jumped on the phone to her parents, who more than displeased were troubled their only child was unhappy. After much discussion Sara was home by the end of the week.  Bursting into the laboratory directly from the airport she felt her heart swell at the sight of the giant fish tank. Climbing the metal steps leading to the top she clanked down a platform running along its curves.

Steven emerged from the water with a grin. “Hello Sara,” he greeted. Sara almost fell back in surprise. Steven had learned to talk. He spoke perfectly save a slight watery accent. Ecstatic she leapt forward, wrapping her arms around his neck. Taken aback Steven lost all train of thought but instinctively hugged back, careful to keep her from falling into the water.

Steven (part 1 of 4)

The only child of two prominent biological scientists Sara grew up wanting little. Recognized for her brains early on in life she felt herself carried place to place by boat, by plane, and by car to experience the life her parents saw fit. By five she stepped foot on all major continents and by eight achieved great scholastic achievements in more schools than she had fingers. Everyone marveled at her many gifts – none of which were sociability.

Distant since birth only when laying alone in her crib did she not fuss or whine. As she aged she learned to cope but still regarded physical and emotional attachment with mild annoyance. Her parents, although socially awkward themselves, recognized what an issue it could become. The love in their hearts propelled them to test the desire in their minds in the creation of a solution.   

“Now darling,” Sara’s mother cooed, leading her down the hall by hand. “Mommy and Daddy are very excited about this.” A few months ago Sara noticed a change come over her parents. Never ones to be considered home-bodies they’d begun spending even more and more time at work until simply moving there full time, toothbrushes and all, leaving the house to her and the maids. Of course Sara was a little curious as to what new life-stage brought about such change, but kept well enough to herself and bothered with it little. But when her mother gathered her from afternoon studies, on a rare week of vacation at home and not abroad, Sarah let herself feel a little excited.   

Entering her parent’s laboratory and current home, a large high-ceilinged room far underground. Her father straightened from his cluttered desk and stood. “Darling,” he greeted, unable to hide his enthusiasm. Sara knew her parents were diligent in their work, devoting all their time and energy in whatever they set their minds to, but she felt they could have spared a moment to at least take out the trash. It was piling in the corner… “Come here,” her father held her at arm’s length, admiring how she’d grown since last he saw her. “We have something wonderful to show you.” Without further ado Sarah’s hands, held by her parents, led her to the center of the room where a giant circular tank posed, a story high and several yards wide.

Stopping a few feet away she gazed into the clear water. The exhibit left no space for hiding, so there he was. He remained still but she never doubted for a second he was alive. “What is it?” She asked.

“Not what, sweetheart, who.”

“Where did you get him from?”

“Nowhere sweetie.”

“You had to have gotten him from somewhere.”

“Well darling, humanoid sea creatures don’t actually exist in real life.” Her mother explained. “They just don’t. Odd, I know. We don’t really know why. So we thought: why not make one?”

“We know because of your travels and studies you don’t have time to make friends, so we made one for you. We thought, maybe if you’re interested, he could be a sort of play companion for you. Like a brother. You always wanted a brother…” Her mother clasped her hands fondly.

“Of course he can never leave this room.” Her father interjected. “He can’t leave the water for extended periods of time and even if he could, people would become jealous of you and steal him away. So don’t tell anyone about your new sibling, alright Sara?”

“Can he talk?” She asked.

“No, not yet.” Her father frowned. “He was created a blank slate and we have slowly been introducing him to different subjects. Maybe someday he’ll be as smart as you.”

Sara slowly approached the tank and, peering inside, touched her nose to the glass. She watched as the long-bodied creature, “Steven V” a plaque above her head numbered him, opened his eyes. Slowly he rose up and swam closer. She gauged him part mermaid, part dog.

Swimming up to the glass he examined her, sizing her up. Never had she seen such deep eyes. She heard her parents hold breaths in the background. Nothing was certain. Would they like each other? Would they bond as hoped? Would she appreciate him or continue to show little interest in any sort of interaction? Would he fulfill his purpose in life or would the fifth installment backfire at the most crucial moment?

After agonizing moments Steven touched his nose to the glass as well. In the mind of a child, even one as intellectually inclined as Sara’s, with that simple act and the knowledge he was hers there was no question. “Certainly,” she said. “Like a brother.”