Re:the Janus project
I'll get right into it, shall I? You always did say I talked too much. Alhtough perhaps talking is not the most correct adjective…
He came to my house at 8:39 on a Tuesday night in early summer, not that I was counting. My birthday, not that I was counting. Screw that, I was counting. Of course I was counting. But even if I wasn't I think I'd always remember it, the fireflies flashing through air as hot and damp as a steamed towel, the hum of my t.v -not quite muted, I like the background noise- and the orange light still grimly holding on to the very edge of the cityscape's jagged silhouette, drowning under miles of bloody red. Say what you will; pollution makes for breathtaking sunsets. I've modified my lungs awhile ago, but I suppose I'm getting myself ahead. Ahead of myself? English is…harder now. So many pointless, meaningless, ridiculous rules…I can't believe it ever made sense.
I'm drifting again why do I always drift off I just want to tell this story- Damn it!
Okay. I'm…good. I'm good now.
"Dib!" He was shouting, hammering on my peeling-paint door with his little fists, "Dib you filthy earth-pig I know you're in there OPEN the door, open it RIGHT THIS INSTANT or I'll-" So I whip open the door, of course, letting my arch nemesis stumble a little. He hated that. Always hated being made a fool of… He recovers and stands on my dinky little balcony –I had an apartment then, teeny as a prison cell and a jillion times as expensive but New York doesn't come cheap to anyone, and it got me away from my father, at least. Out from under his shadow, and college was one hell of a formative experience. Turns out all 'maturity' means is that one can buy booze to pour on top of the vindictive, small-minded, pettiness-
Stop it, already. Stop. Just get – I just have to get this down.
So he stalks up to me as tall as he can, trying to intimidate me, which hasn't worked since fifth grade, and it's pretty clear that he's steamed about forgetting that he comes roughly up to my hip. I let him stew for awhile and then usher him in, for lack of a better idea. What would you do, when the doom of humanity shows up –all three feet of him- on your doorstep? And if it's probably your fault? Definitely, actually…this had to be because of our little get-together the past month.
Ahead of myself, again.
I put some coffee on, it being the one beverage both of us can drink for whatever reason. We sit –sat- at my rickety table, Zim a pale, twitching ball of nerves, picking open the seams of my single chair. I pull up a metal stool and let him simmer until the inevitable explosion.
"You did this to me didn't you, DIDN'T you I know you DID!" Zim screams –screamed, lunging at me with enough force to knock his seat over and landing on my chest, pummeling for all he's worth. Funny how it had used to hurt a lot more... I checked the coffee and poured it slowly, milk, sugar –Zim loved it black enough to stand a spoon in, interestingly enough- with a screaming green leech attached to the back of my head. He hated it when I was calm.
"So?" I ask, sitting back down and setting our cups on the table, gloating on the inside. He paused his ranting to take a deep, shaking breath and I could feel his little bird ribs against the back of my skull.
"Tell me what you did." He hisses, tugging on my ear. I pry him off my head and set him back in the chair, pointedly eying his untouched cup. Glowering, he takes an even more pointed sip of my coffee, every move a semaphore of I Hate Your Guts, Earth Slug. I sip my own drink back at him: The Feeling's Mutual, Alien Scum.
Samurai of the twenty-first century, bowing and smiling with one hand on our swords. Funny. We really had something special.
"Your base locked you out again?" I asked.
His expression was a very definite yes.
"That bad, hmm." I adjusted my glasses, smirking. "Annnnnd?"
He vaulted at me again. "You RUINED me!"
I caught him around the neck and held him at arms reach, letting him scrabble futilely at my arm. The gloves he always wore blunted his fingers from doing any damage, so I settled back in my chair and took a long look at him.
Then he kicks me in the gut. Metaphorically, anyway, his boots weren't doing any more damage than his fingers, although my arm was getting tired.
He started crying.
No, seriously, actual tears out of his maroon eyes, burning smoking trails down his green skin. Glaring at me the entire time –if looks could kill, you know- but his face is smoking. I dropped him like a hot…burning …thing and scrambled back against the wall, grabbing a knife from the counter without even noticing it. Animal instinct is an amazing thing.
He picked himself off the floor and stood there, fists clenched, little chest going in and out and two bubbling stripes across his face. Scariest thing I've ever seen. There was worse, later, but that one image, that one wrongness, is going to haunt me if I live to be a thousand. I remember, standing there with a meat cleaver leveled at this little scrap of a person, literally terrified out of my mind. The sky could have turned purple and rained radioactive weenies and I would have been less freaked out.
And it was my fault. All my fault.
I'd gotten some sort of space-flu from him in the encounter before last and spent roughly a month firmly convinced that I was a species of talking flower. It was educational, to say the least, and when I finally came out of it enough to understand the concept of revenge it was all I could think of, until the last month when we were having a dogfight around Saturn and I managed to remote-control Zim's crazy robot into doping the alien's food supply with an extract of my DNA. The general idea, as I recall, was that Zim at the very least would be horribly sick, and at the best something even more interesting would happen.
Zim technically won the space-battle –at least, Europa's been blown to bits, which I didn't really want, and which he gloated about. We split up after that and I made it back to earth in time for the very last day of college, fully content in having done something creatively nasty in the name of science.
I should have remembered the baloney. Bologna? I hate this language. And now apparently something the little three-foot-sixty-pound hominid had decided that Dib-DNA is the new fall –well, summer- fashion and was happily combining nineteen-year-old-seventy-percent-water-human with god-knows-how-old-dissolves-in-water-irken.
It solved the extinction-of-the-human-race problem, I have to admit.
To cut a horribly, horribly long story shorter, it was irreversible, and took the longest month of my life until it was over. Zim was turning into me, frying his little alien organs from the inside out as a budding heart pumped acid through his chest and his lungs started fighting for space and his bones started growing –he was almost six feet tall by the end, not that he could stand up, or, for that matter, care- faster than his skin, which started peeling off in horrifically disgusting patches and his home-base still wouldn't let either of us in no matter what we tried and my lab was totally, hopelessly inefficient but we tried everything anyway until Zim lapsed into blessed delirium and stopped screaming at me but his eyes, his eyes never changed. They stayed that unearthly alien maroon until the bitter end, until there was nothing left but this wasted undead skeleton on my couch, watching my every move as I still tried to save him. I didn't look much better by the end, either- even taking time out to eat seemed like treason, like breaking a promise.
I still don't know why I tried that hard.
Maybe…I dunno. Weird, but I think he was the closest thing I ever had to someone to talk to. We could never have been friends, the whole invader thing totally aside, but still.
And then came the morning, August fourth, when I wake up and something doesn't feel right. And I get out of bed and step on something hard and curved and turn on the light and realize that what was left of Zim dragged itself to my bed in the night, somehow snapped out of its delirium –maybe not, maybe he was hearing voices until he died- with some purpose in mind. The glazed eyes looked at me, still –I think they'll always be watching me- but there's nothing behind them anymore, not Zim, not the pain-crazy remnants, not anything.
And the ribs weren't moving,
And his pack was gone.
And then…then…you ever heard that expression, how did it go, there's a party in my socks and…something? It was like that. Something exploded in my head with something sort of like music and something sort of like dancing and something exactly like pure, unbridled glee.
All the questions in the universe, answered. Do you know what that meant to me? Do you? Could anyone know what that was like, that pure, perfect moment of every doubt, every fear, every qualm and quibble and uncertainty flattened like a mud shack when a mushroom cloud expands next door, up and up and up in brilliant, aching, glorious sound too loud to be heard. A world, reborn, in holy silence.
He carried paradise in a tin can on his back every fucking day of his insane little life and he never knew.
I am Zim, can you understand this?
I am Zim.
I think I see, now, now that I am who he could never have been, why he was so crazy, so defective. It was never a malfunction in his machinery, like I'd always assumed after watching his twisted little failures of machinery –that dog-robot, that floating moose, a thousand and one deathrays that shot cheese or confetti or the time he tried to fill the moon with fudge.
His pak was what he was, almost, Zim; perfect in every detail, a triumph in irken technology. It was Zim. It was what it was supposed to be: the greatest caste of geniuses irkenkind would ever know, the invader elite.
The part that I had come to know was the wrong body- somewhere on the conveyer line that manufactured these amazing little Alexanders, these Caesars, these Napoleons, something had gone wrong and what was supposed to be Zim, scourge of humanity, was fitted onto and into smeet number 2375926-dash-56 instead of smeet number 2375926-dash-57. The smeet that got Zim's pak went insane, of course, nutzo, whacked-out paranoid sociopathic paranoia. I don't think Zim was ever truly happy for a moment in his life, with his body and his brain constantly, constantly fighting against his mind. His own arrogance and the xenophobic irken culture instilled in him a fanatical scorn for anything resembling self-help, self-doubt, or even introspection, but his pack, oooh yes yes yes, his pack knew something was wrong. His brainmeats might be a scrambled stew of bug-fuck loony but his mind wanted to be fixed.
And then it found my DNA in a plate of waffles.
Ironic, huh? Dib, the crazy paranormal investigator outcast, the paradigm of rationality to a sentient metal can of alien.
So I'm Zim now, Zim like I was never Zim before.
And in my brainmeats, now, in Dib's inferior little brain, there's information. Such information! Humans, humans are…they're going to be, going to be… fuck! There isn't even a word for it, they're perfect in an indescribable way , they're going to be the new dawn of the irken civilization, they're going to be saved and savior at the same time.
Zim –my predescessor, that is- had been right about a few things, all xenophobia aside; we're an unpleasant race, naked apes squatting in our own filth and killing each other for lack of anything more constructive, lying and cheating our way through our pathetic little existence.
But ignorance and cruelty are universal constants, it turns out, and with this miracle on our backs we don't need the fallible little sacs of goo that we so laughingly called our minds. Our paks can think for us. Our paks can be us, the better us, the us that the best and brightest of us could only dream about as they waded through humanity's collective shit.
Reborn in holy silence.
Think about it, think! Take a human, Homo Sapien Sapiens. Scoop out the brain –don't need it don't want it- and give it a pak and you get irkens, bigger, stronger, faster, breathing oxygen instead of nitrogen, drinking water instead of formaldehyde, impervious to –dependant on- one of the most common compounds in the galaxy, no carapace to hold them back –steroids, ye gods my tallest the things we could do with a smeetling's first chemistry set to these miracle monkeys- dilating pupils, two brain lobes, calcium bones, hot blood, reflexes from a time of bloody mammal kill or be killed wars a scant twenty thousand years ago, everything, everything, and to top it off genetics more easy to play with than a set of building blocks. Xenophobia be damned, gods, tallest, this is going to be awesome beyond your wildest dreams. Homo Novio Sapiens.
It's going to be so beautiful.
You're wondering why you're reading this, aren't you, Gaz? Why I'm warning you? Giving you a chance?
I'm Zim, but my brain's still Dib's, still full of guilt and the twenty billion other complicated little chemicals that percolate through our fire-cracker meat-hunks. What's left of Dib, my enemy, my ally, my cast-off-skin, still wants to talk to you, to have that peculiar human reassurance of familial bonds, go through the motions that never worked in the first place.
You are, after all, my sister.
I'm coming for a visit, soon, Gaz, little Gaz, little human, not so little, anymore, are you? I've seen your pictures in the news, Gaz. You'll make a fine right hand, a fine admiral for our new armada. Who knows? We could even be the Tallest. Would you like that, Gaz? Would you like to rule the galaxy beside your big brother? They're three thousand years old, my sister dearest; we, perhaps, could live forever. Worlds to conquer, empires to build in glorious 3-D life. Beat that with your game-slave, Gaz, the universe awaits us.
I'll see you, Gaz. Your brother and his little alien nemesis friend, together at last.
I'll see you.