Book photo of Jenny Sullivan and the Defective Genes of Death

Jenny Sullivan and the Defective Genes of Death

One morning, Jenny, a sea-gypsy girl, finds herself covered in hair that makes her look like a chimp. This bizarre change is the side effect of the defective genes. Although those genes give her physical strength, they are a ticking clock of her death. They will shut down when the 12-year span of her age runs out. Her scientist mother, whom Jenny has never met when growing up, promises an antidote. But Jenny has to find her first. This story depicts how Jenny goes through a heroic journey to find her mother in the face of her potential death.

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Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 The Injured Iguana

The breaking waves had moved up farther. Jenny pulled the giant grouper farther ashore away from them. She moored it with the spear on the sand. Then she strode up across the beach slope toward Salim.

But two of the people in black uniform came to her and stood in her way. Both had firearms in their hands. She couldn’t make out their faces in their shiny helmets.

“Stop there,” said one of them. The voice vibrated out of the helmet. “Where are you going?”

“I’m with him. He’s my friend,” she said, pointing at Salim. “What happened to him?”

They didn’t reply but looked at her as if examining her up and down. “Give us a second,” the guard said. He pressed the helmet on the ear part.

He must have started to talk with the others because occasionally he looked at them on the other side of the beach. A while later, one of the people in white coats waved at Jenny to come to them.

When she was close to them, she realized two of them were women in eyeglasses. The women had black square devices, which Jenny later found out to be smartphones, and clipboards in their hands.

When they saw her, they pointed their smartphones at her. “Photos, photos,” they said.

And the one, who had waved at her, was a tall bold man. His eyes were weirdly red. Clasping his hands and grinning, he looked at Jenny as she was approaching Salim.

“Salim, what’s going on?” Jenny asked.

Salim turned around and caught sight of her. But he didn’t have time to respond to the question as the red-eyed man answered it, instead.

“Nothing ... is going on, miss,” the man said calmly, with a smirk on his face. “We just want the iguana of his for a close look.”

“Leave us alone,” Salim shouted at the man. “Kobi is afraid of you. You already destroyed the canoe.” His hands remained under his T-shirt as he seemed to have been shading the iguana in it.

“Destroyed? What happened?” Jenny asked.

“His boat hit it, sank it,” Salim said.

“It was an accident,” the red-eyed man said and turned to Jenny. “We tried to save your friend here from the water. As we pulled the canoe along, it bumped into the boat quite hard apparently, and it therefore cracked open and quickly sank into the water, disappeared. Nothing we could do about it.”

Jenny looked at Salim. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” Salim said. “But he wanna take Kobi away.”

“Is Kobi okay?” Jenny asked.

“He’s hurt, injured,” Salim said. “These guys were trying to cut him.”

“No, no, no,” the man said. “You misunderstood our intention, young man. We just wanted to scratch its skin a little bit. Just a tiny bit. Your iguana won’t feel any pain at all. You know, your iguana is a very rare species. It can heal itself very quickly.”

Salim shouted again. “I don’t care what species Kobi is. He’s still bleeding. If you cut somebody, you hurt him whether or not he tells you that. Kobi was in pain when you put the knife on him, even though he couldn’t tell you that. I know he was.”

Jenny agreed with what Salim was saying. She helped him to stand up, then examined the green iguana. Well, for some reason, Kobi wasn’t in its usual green anymore but in discolored green like Salim’s T-shirt. Kobi must have been stressful.

One of the women in white coats approached the man and whispered something in his ear. Then the three gathered in a circle discussing something. Afterward, the man went to Jenny and Salim again.

The man smiled. “Where were my manners?” he said to himself. “I’m so sorry, young friends, for causing the pain to your pet. Look, buddies, I want to buy it from you. We have some cash with us. Name your price. Fifty—er—a hundred dollars. What do you say?”

Jenny exchanged uncertain looks with Salim.

“Aha, this is part of the bargain, right?” the man went on. “What is your name? You and you.”

Jenny and Salim told him their full names although they seemed reluctant at first. And in turn, Jenny also asked the man for his name.

“I’m Lardo Dyson. Doctor Dyson if you want to add the title. Not a medical doctor but a scientist doctor. I work on that big ship over there.” He pointed at the cruise ship in the distance. “I’m a geneticist—that’s how people call my line of work nowadays. Do you know what it is?”

Jenny shook her head, and so did Salim.

“Well, to say it simply,” Dayson said. “I study how a rare species like your pet here has managed to survive for millions of years. That's why I’m very interested in it. What do you call it again?”

Salim told him the iguana’s name.

“Aha, hello Kobi, what a beautiful little specimen,” Dayson said. Then he turned to them again. “You’re from here, right? Do you live on the island?”

They told him where their sea-gypsy village was.

“That’s wonderful,” Dayson said. “So, everyone in the village still speaks English after all these years?”

“Yes, but mixed up with our own dialects,” Jenny answered.

“That’s fair enough,” Dayson said. “That’s how you’ve kept your own culture a little bit, I guess, right?”

Jenny and Salim looked at each other, turned to the man again, and nodded their agreement.

Dr. Dayson tapped his chin as if he seemed thoughtful for a minute. He turned to Jenny. “Miss Sullivan, my friend’s last name is like yours. She used to live here. I don’t know where exactly on the island. But on the island. Her name is Selina Sullivan. Oh, I remember her for sure. But it’s little chance your last name has anything to do with her, though. Very little chance, I bet. She lived here for years doing a science experiment. Quite an expedition it was. Oh, yes, hear this. This island and its people were always an exciting topic for her to talk about. She could do that for hours on end. Why not, right? You guys are great. It’s my pleasure to meet you. So, how much is your iguana?”

“Sir, Kobi isn’t for sale,” Salim said.

“Why not?” Dayson said. “Well, sure you can buy a new canoe with a hundred dollars. Or buy other iguanas.”

“Kobi grew up with us, a friend,” Jenny said. “No money can buy a friend.”

For some reason, Dr. Dayson laughed for a long while. “Well, young pals,” he went on. “I need your iguana for my research.”

“Get one for yourself in the wood,” Salim said.

“That isn’t possible,” Dayson said. “Didn’t I tell you already, huh? Your pet is a very rare species. For years, I’ve been studying rare animals that are only found on this island. But I haven’t found anything like this specimen. He could be the last of his species. That’s why it’s very important we study him so that we can preserve his existence as a species.”

Jenny frowned and exchanged looks with Salim.

Dr. Dayson seemed to understand that they might be clueless about what he talked about, so he quickly said, “If Kobi can’t produce babies, he and his entire kind will die out.”

“But Kobi is a male,” Jenny said.

But Salim wasn’t sure about that. “I think Kobi looks more like a female to me.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Dayson said. “I can clone it. Meaning that I can make copies of it as many as I need. But first I need to study it.”

“How are you gonna do that?” Jenny asked.

“How am I going to do—what?” Dayson said. “Clone it or study it?”

“Both,” she said.

“Well, to clone it correctly, I need to study it first,” Dayson went on. “That means I also need to cut some tiny parts of it so that I can get its living cells that I can then study them under a microscope. And in some cases, I also need to cut out its certain organs for detailed studies.”

“That will kill Kobi,” Salim said.

“No, it will not,” Dayson said. “I have a special lab filled with high-tech gadgets on the ship. As a rule, we follow a special protocol when working with such a rare animal.”

“That will hurt him anyway,” Jenny said. “That’s sick. I’ll never let Kobi go through all that.”

Dr. Dayson paused and closed his eyes for nearly a minute. His jaw was clenching a few times. “Okay. On second thought, I agree with you. I’ll place your pet in a nice cage and let it have all the food it wants. I’ll make it the happiest iguana ever. So, can I have it now? In return, you get two hundred dollars as a gift from me. It’s not a sale, of course, but gifts. We exchange gifts from new friends. Agreed?”

“No, I won't give Kobi away,” Salim insisted.

Dr. Dayson again closed his eyes for a while and sighed. “That’s most unfortunate.”

One of the two women behind him stepped forward and again whispered something in his ear. He nodded a few times.

Jenny and Salim waited for Dr. Dayson’s next response.

Then Dr. Dayson turned to them again. “Our negotiation clearly sadly stalled, not working. We’re now leaving.” He clapped his hands. “Guards! Get the business done.” He turned around, then walked away in the direction of the boat. The two women soon trotted after him.

Salim shouted, “But send us home first. You promised me before.”

Dr. Dayson paused his steps. “I meant it in exchange for the iguana. But you chose otherwise.”

“You didn’t say anything about the exchange,” Salim said, stepping toward Dr. Dayson.

“You’re right,” Dayson said, then looked at Salim. But the man soon turned to Jenny, who was now beside Salim, and said, “Stop staring at my eyes!”

“Sorry, sir,” Jenny said.

“You poked your own eyes or something,” Salim said. “Are they bleeding?”

Dr. Dayson sighed. “No, not bleeding. It’s a medical condition.”

“You tried to clone them, didn't you?” Salim said.

Dr. Dayson stared at Salim for a long time. Then he shook his head. “Back to the subject. Where were we?”

“You were saying we were right—er—about the exchange,” Jenny said.

Dr. Dayson looked at them from one to the other. “Right. You’re right. Yes, yes, I didn’t say anything about the exchange in my promise. Well, shall I make it up to you? Let's do that. Give me the iguana, and in exchange, I’ll send you two home to your village. There. I did it. What do you say?”

“You can’t have Kobi because he’s my friend,” Salim said. “I won’t sell him or exchange him as a gift. The promise you mentioned before was in exchange for the canoe you destroyed—not for him.”

Jenny added, “You can’t just walk away after destroying someone’s property.”

“Well, I sent you up here, didn’t I?” Dayson said.

“But we don’t live here,” Jenny said. “Our village is far from here.”

“That’s not my problem,” Dayson said. He turned around and resumed his pace toward the boat. He paused again when the guards gathered around him. He talked with them for a while.

At that time, Jenny asked Salim where her talisman necklace was. Salim kept it in his T-shirt pocket that he often used to keep pebbles.

“You aren’t supposed to place it there,” Jenny protested. “It’s holy, sacred, and—and precious.”

“I nearly lost it when I was in the water,” Salim said. “So, I stuck it in my pocket. Here, take it back.”

“No, I can’t wear it now like that out of your pocket,” she said. “That’s blasphemy! I have to purify it in the Odool Shrine first for seven days—and feed chicken with sticky rice—to pay out my sin for having left it abandoned—treated it badly.”

“So sorry,” he said. “But I’m sure Princess Odool knew what’s happened to it. So, she won’t curse you—or blame you for that.”

“Of course not,” she agreed. “She’ll curse you. I’m sure.”

“You can’t blame me,” he said. “She should blame those guys.” He held the necklace toward her. “Want it back or not?”

“Not now,” she said. “Keep it in your pocket for now. You’re right though. Those guys are to blame. Will tell the princess about them.”

Then four of the guards left Dr. Dayson and went to Jenny and Salim.

“Hello again, young fellows,” one of them said. His helmet was in his hands now.

“What do you want?” Jenny asked.

“Show me the iguana,” the guard said, producing a smartphone out of his pocket. “I just wanna take a couple of pictures of your iguana. No worries, it won’t hurt him.”

Jenny and Salim exchanged worried looks again.

“Come on,” the guard went on. “We’re leaving soon. We can send you home to your village if you want.”

“Sure. That's what he promised me,” Salim said.

“No worries about him, young man,” the guard said. “I can take care of him.”

“You promise us?” Jenny asked.

“Of course, that’s why I’m here,” the guard said. “But I need to take some photos of your little pet first.”

“Okay,” Salim said. Then he took it out of his T-shirt, holding it on his palms and showing it to the guards.

It was turning to the strangers as if examining them while they were snapping pictures of it over and over again.

Jenny, who was standing beside Salim, realized it no longer had any cut marks. And for some reason, it looked a little bit smaller than it was. It must have gone through some sort of transformation. It was now shiny under the sun.

“Have you seen any other iguanas like this one here?” the guard asked.

“No,” Jenny answered. “We found him when he was still a baby.”

Neither Jenny nor Salim had expected what happened next. The guard pushed Salim backward.

Salim screamed in pain. “Ouch!” The iguana was flying in the air out of his hands.

Jenny realized the guard had struck Salim’s hands, too. The iguana landed on the sand a few feet away from them.

“Go get it!” the guard said to his colleagues.

But Jenny caught them on their backs. She managed to take down one of them. Wrestling him down, she tried to shove him to the ground. But she wasn’t strong enough.

A few feet away from her, Salim was already on the ground as the guard, who smacked him earlier, was now kicking him.

Salim shrieked. “Ouch, ouch, get away from me.”

Jenny felt a strong grab on her leg. The guard under her wriggled out of her locking arms and threw her to the ground.

She cried, “Ouch, my back.”

When she was raising herself up, the guard loomed before her. His boot flew at her and hit her shoulder a few times. The heavy boot cut a wound on her skin and may have also dislocated her bone, she thought.

The pain made her shriek again. Her arm went numb. With anger building up inside her, she turned to the guard and meant to bite his leg. She missed catching it, and in turn, she felt a hard punch on her face.

She fell to her knees. She cursed the guard repeatedly. Her mouth and nose were bleeding. Everything around her turned dark. She laid there on the ground, breathing hard.

Several feet away from her, she could hear Salim was shouting and asking for Kobi back. She turned to look at Salim. He was on his feet, limping. But he kept chasing two guards, who were trotting toward Dr. Dayson in the distance.

A while later, they reached Dr. Dayson. Laughing, he got Kobi and now examined it in his hands. Some other guards were already on the boat.

Salim picked something from the ground. It must have been a pebble or a hard shell. She knew exactly what he was about to do.

From a distance, he aimed his hand at Dr. Dayson. Then his hands spun. Something flew out of them. The next thing Jenny saw was Dr. Dayson shrieking in pain, holding his bold head, and turning to Salim. He cursed Salim loudly.

The two guards, whom Salim had chased earlier, turned around and chased him in return. They also raised their firearms and shot at him.

He fell to the ground. But he still moved, crawling and screaming. The guards began to kick him several times until he was quiet and motionless.

They walked away toward the boat where Dr. Dayson was now standing. His hand was still on his head. Kobi was in his arm. The boat turned around and left the shore.

A while later, Jenny turned to look at Salim on the ground a distance away from her. She wondered why he hadn’t moved at all.

Was he dead?

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