“Humans have never had less. Not since cavemen. And I’d much rather be in their situation than ours. We don’t have much. But I’d do anything to protect it, kill if I had to. I’d die for that tree. For Dana”
Every fusion was different. And there were a bevy of offices and locations where they took place. Reggie and Dana’s fusion was scheduled to take place just a bit down the road. Their city hosted many fusions and this office was the most popular. They stood at the doorway, waiting to be let in. The glass faded away, just like the window in Dana’s office, and they walked through. Immediately greeted by dim light, like a blanket had been thrown across the building, sunlight barely peeking through. A man sat at a desk in the center of the slick room. Told them to sign in.
They were then given tablets and told to look through their options for the fusion. Black or white? Male or female? Bra cup size? Penis length? Piercings? (upcharge) Tattoos? (upcharge) The options were endless, and they given as much time as they needed. Dana had mentioned the last thing they wanted to do was draw attention, so they wrote a script, acted like certain things interested them. They even had a quick argument about hair color and texture. Selling the interracial couple façade. Shared a kiss and made up, turned their tablets in to the man at the desk. He smiled.
“I’m so happy for you,” he said. “Seriously. Couples like you are just too cute. Very retro. And the look you’ve gone for? Classic but modern. I love it. Follow me, please.”
They followed the man into an operating room. Two beds for them to lay on during the fusion. Another in the center for their new body. There were tools all around, vials and beakers used for the fusion. The man left them for a second, told them to get comfortable and that a doctor would be in soon. When he left, Reggie stood up, and began looking around the room.
No cameras. Their last moment of freedom. He liked having a bit of privacy. He took out a small syringe that was taped on the bottom of his tongue. Winced as he ripped it out. The syringe had a light blue liquid in it, he stuck himself then Dana.
“I hope this works,” he whispered. Dana didn’t respond. A placid look across her face.
The doctor entered soon after. Reggie discarded the syringe, smiled as the doctor questioned them. The entire process wouldn’t take more than a few hours. They were asked to confirm their choices, sign a few more waivers, and asked if they would like to keep their bodies and organs, since they opted for complete reconstruction. Reggie said no. The doctor smiled, left again, and when he returned, he was with two more doctors. They made them strip their clothes and lay naked on cold beds. Reggie closed his eyes.
Dana told him it would be like he got a good night’s sleep.
When he awoke, he was still naked and had minor cuts across his arms. His torso as well. He controlled his breathing as the doctors tugged and pulled on his chest. A quick glance and he could see the new body. Fully constructed, naked just like they were. Reggie could also she Dana. She had woken up as well. But she didn’t control her breathing as well as he did. Her stomach filled, and she gasped, eyes wide open. The doctors began to scream. Reggie knew this was the moment. He jumped up from the bed and punched the closest doctor in the nose. Dana took care of her doctor. The main doctor attempted to run towards the door, but Reggie tackled him down to the ground.
They didn’t have long. They knew that the doctors broadcasted a live feed of each fusion. To the imaginary task force, Dana concluded. They had seconds. Reggie got dressed and proceeded to the next part of the plan. He pulled out a thumb drive that was also taped under his tongue. He connected the drive to the doctor’s computer near the door. Five seconds later, he activated his program.
“I think it’s working,” he said. But they didn’t have time to find out. Reggie and Dana bolted out of the door, a sea of workers and doctors screaming after them. They reached the man at the desk. A swift punch sent him unconscious. Reggie unlocked the door of the building as the pair ran down the street. Cop sirens wailed and the task force could be seen approaching in a van. But they had planned for this. Knew the route they wanted to take.
It was a chaotic chase through the city. Alleys and streets began to mix in Reggie’s mind like water. He was getting tired. Legs were burning. They found an older building, one of the few ones around. Stopped for a moment, he fell to his knees.
“Reggie, I need you to get the fuck up.”
Dana’s voice rang loud in his ear. He looked at the other Dana, still wordless, still placid. Real Dana continued to talk in his ear.
“I’m above the bookstore right down the street. They don’t know where you are. Hurry.”
Reggie took a deep breath and ran as fast as he could. He entered the small studio apartment with the other Dana. The real one typing furiously as he walked in.
“Your program worked,” she said gleefully. “I don’t know how, but it did.”
“So you---you,” he struggled to say.
“I control the green room now. Yes.”
Dana continued to type as Reggie waited. For his own death, he guessed. Fake Dana sat in the corner of the room staring at the wall. Touching it lightly with her fingers. It was starting to rain. The water ran down the glass on the window. This building was older. Its windows weren’t disappearing. Fake Dana watched, mesmerized. Reggie couldn’t help but smile looking at her. Her beauty. Real Dana was tough, smart beyond her years. But the company, the world, had beaten her down. Forced her into doing work that killed innocent people. Brainwashed her into hating simple things about herself, her life. And she broke through because of the strength of her mind. They were two halves of a beautiful whole.
“How—how did you do it?” Reggie asked, his gaze still on the clone.
Dana had been done typing for some time. Was she watching fake Dana as well? Was the program complete? Was his life about to end? He let the last thought escape his mind.
“I created the technology that exists in the green room,” Dana said. “It changes every single thing about a person. By the time the transformation is done, they aren’t a human anymore. Genetic code completely rewritten.”
She walked over to her clone. Seeing them, next to each other, the two halves coming together, Reggie almost fainted at the incredibleness. He sat down as she continued talking.
“I figured I could invert it. Make it so I take a bunch of rocks from the ground and change their structure.”
The clone turned, placed her hand on the Dana's cheek. A tear rolled down real Dana's face.
“And here she is.”
Reggie watched as Dana let the tears flow onto her clone’s hand. The clone’s attention shifting from the rain outside to her creator. Reggie cried as well. Maybe they were for completely opposite reasons. He thought of a world where people truly had a choice. And didn’t have to pay for their government’s mistakes. Where a black man and a white woman’s voice mattered. Where their work mattered. Where their pairing wasn't a trend. And where this ominous cloud of despair didn’t hang above. Reggie dreamt of that world daily as he worked, wrote code, the beauty of it, the warmth of it. Dana slid an empty syringe into her clone’s arm. They locked eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Dana whispered.
The clone turned back towards the window. Put its hand against the glass. Smiled.
“This is where I leave you,” the clone said. The syringe pulled out a golden liquid from the clone’s arms. The clone turned into a pile of rocks seconds later, thudding against the floor. Dana stuck herself with the syringe, letting the golden liquid flow through her.
She let out a deep sigh. Turned and faced Reggie. Words weren’t needed now. The plan had worked up to this point. They knew that the task force would be blasting the door open any second. They embraced each other and let the tears stream down their face, not afraid to show that weakness in front of one another. No, not weakness. Strength. There was a strength in what they were doing. Reggie knew it. Dana knew it. If only they had more time.
The task force charged into the room a few minutes later. Just before the entered the room.
They had talked during their three days about how Reggie fit into all of this. Without him, they wouldn’t have gotten into the green room’s controls so there was that. But she needed someone to be brave enough to escape a fusion with a prototype clone. And someone brave enough to risk their life for someone they didn’t know. Someone with a dark storm in her mind, her past a fog.
Reggie reminded her that he had a past too. Did things he didn’t like, wasn’t proud of. One thing was made clear drawing up their plan. Reggie wouldn’t be needed in the green room. He didn’t want to see it, and Dana knew it was a fate worse than death. So when the task force approached them, screaming at them to get on the ground, Reggie simply smiled.
“Thank you,” he said to Dana.
“Thank you,” she said.
Reggie charged the closest soldier to him, attempting to grab his gun. A single blow to the shoulder brought him to his knees. He tried to get up but was kicked behind his knee. Unarmed, they could’ve taken Reggie in with her. Make him suffer the same fate. But they both knew that wouldn’t happen, even in this world. A soldier pulled out his pistol and fired a bullet directly into Reggie’s skull. He fell the ground. Thudding just like rocks.
Dana didn’t remember much after that. She assumed they gave her a sedative. She woke up naked and being carried by two men in suits. It was a building she recognized. Her old job, the same building. The green room. Dana saw the vault that had seen too many people. She smiled as the men continued to drag her. The green mist popped as the vault unlatched. She smiled at the men.
“Have you ever sympathized with white supremacists?” she asked. They threw her into the room.
The transformation happened. Dana became one of the rock monsters that she helped engineer. Felt all the pain they had felt. Would this help make up for her crimes? As her rock life neared it’s end, she felt relief. Maybe the plan wasn’t going to work. And maybe Reggie’s program didn’t work. The life was escaping her as she floated towards the yellow light. She could feel her skin peeling away, ripping at every direction. It felt good. Relaxing. She slowly closed her eyes as the light combusted, and she died.
The last fusion ever.
“My name is Dana. I’m a geologist with years of research in rocks, rock formations, and weather patterns. For the last, I don’t know, few years, I worked with the people responsible for the fusions. The people responsible for us being stripped of our autonomy, our freedom. I helped create and maintain the weapon they use against us today if we say no. If we even think of not conforming to their rules.
Our world is incredibly clean now. It took a climate catastrophe to get there, but the main way we are able to have this source of power is because of this machine I created. That turns rocks into clean, renewable energy. So they made me create a way to turn people into rocks.
I’ve caused a lot of pain. A lot of hurt, but I’m trying to make it right. I just recently turned thirty-five. My fusion is tomorrow with a kind man named Reggie. But it will be the last fusion ever. If we succeed, I will be able to mix my DNA with a clone’s DNA, as well as the serum used for fusions. And Reggie will hack into the machine, disabling all of its functions, so that my hybrid combination completely dismantles it. You will be free. To do what you want, love who you want, and be whoever you want to be. I’m not sure humanity will get another chance like this. Let’s not waste it.”
Dana’s plan worked. Better than she thought it would. The machine became corrupted from her DNA, it exploded and caused a nuclear meltdown at her old building. Everyone died. And the world heard Dana’s message she uploaded minutes before her fusion. People were confused at first. There was outrage, blame. But when the reports rolled in, when that machine fell, and when the government demanded people go back to doing fusions, they refused.
A lot of people died. Riots happened. Change happened. And so did something Dana did not expect or predict.
The hybrid combination of her DNA destroyed the machine, yes. But from the ashes of the building, underneath the rubble and ash, a flower sprouted. One made with Dana and the clone’s DNA as well as the power of the machine. Right there, in the Earth. People found it, planted it and it grew. And, almost miraculously, magically, it transformed into a tree. Grew to gigantic heights, spawned almost every type of food, and produced clean energy, enough for the world.
It’s been 100 years since Dana and Reggie died, but most say they aren’t dead at all. The government tried to confiscate the tree. Use it for their own purposes. Anyone who dared harm it, were killed. A new government was established. A new order. One rooted, quite literally and figuratively in the message from her video.
“Do what you want. Love who you want. Be whoever you want to be.”
And now, a final fight against the government for control. A mythical, life-giving tree that represents the hopes of all people. No matter the race, gender, religion, they all agree that this tree must be protected. That the world will never return to discrimination. Racism. Fusions. The tree must be protected at all costs. Their town must be protected at all costs. Society must be protected.
They named the town Reggie.
And the tree, Dana.
About the Author: Toren Chenault (he/him) lives in Lansing with his fiancee, Rachel. A writer of everything from comic books to novels, Toren loves science-fiction and anything that pushes the brain to think. His influences range from hip-hop, sports, television, and of course, comics.