“Rat bastard, you did it anyway.” I glared across the green, well manicured grass at the beast.
“Of course I did. One small fine was going to stop me?” Peter said, barely containing his pride. His aged pale skin, and balding head didn’t take from his confidence.
“But, it’s just the one, right? You didn’t go making a herd of them?” I wanted him to agree with me, more than anything I’d ever wanted before. My heart raced, and time seemed to slow down as I awaited his answer.
He soaked up my intense stare. “You got me. Only one has survived so far.” He nodded at it. “But you have to admit it’s beautiful.”
“Why a horse and a dog?”
Peter sputtered. “Not any horse, a purebred from a race winning family. Not any dog, but a grey wolf. Finest specimens I could find. Many different methods, but this one was from… ah… less than savory means.” Peter stared at his spotted hands, and wouldn’t meet my eye.
“Oh fuck. If you’re unwilling to boast about it, should I even ask?” Many of these methods were illegal, for exactly the reason, a new creature ran around the large paddock. It’s appearance was almost like a horse at first. The size was a little small, but certainly not pony-small. When it stood still, grazed, I could not tell a difference. But when it moved around, the front legs ended in giant paws, claws the size of my fingers. The back legs ended in hooves, as usual. The tail was somewhere between a horse’s flowing and a dogs fluffy. And even if you managed to overlook those oddities, the mouth was like a dogs, sharp teeth, long tongue that lolled to the side. It’s eyes were both canine and equine, intelligent, wild.
“This female was birthed from a horse. The male wolf bred directly, with very little intervention on my part.” Peter spoke low, almost as if confessing.
I closed my eyes and gripped the rustic wooden fence. The wood has long since turned grey, and something about the weathering on it made it seem warm.
My teeth gritted together. “How exactly did you manage that?”
“Damnit, that will be one of the first questions if this ever gets out. The press would have a field day with this.”
“Okay, I know you’re upset. I knew you would be. But I’ve developed a solution for drones around my property. An A.I. is setup to detect… well…” Peter took a step away from me.
The reason he did was my thousand mile stare bore into him. “How dare you meddle with A.I. again. Peter!” My anger rose. “Do you have any idea what it took me, the University, and the family to get them to pardon your ‘youthful indiscretions’ with A.I. Part of the reason you have this land was a grant to work with animals – and forever avoid programming. You’ve been messing with A.I.?”
“Only a little, and with complete supervision. Mary-”
“-Is your little sister, and still a minor.”
Peter took another step away from me. His face broke into a plead, a rare show of guilt.
“Call her here.” I demanded, pointed at the space between us.
“No.” Peter looked at the dirt, pretended to study the rocks for a moment.
“Mary?!” I yelled to the house, and pulled out my phone. Immediately I began to backtrack the dates, when was the last time I saw Mary?
Our little half-sister popped her head out of the large kitchen window. Her long brown braids flying in the breeze. She waved when she saw me.
“Come join us, please?” I called to her and she nodded.
“It’s okay, she’s busy with the laundry today. Maybe wait until… Thanksgiving?” Peter finished weakly, still not meeting my gaze.
Mary exited the back of the house. Before the back door slapped closed, I saw why Peter didn’t want me to see Mary. I steadied myself against the fence, resisted the urge to purge my lunch on the ground.
“Hey Phebe, how’s life? You hear my news?” Mary held her stomach, swollen with a new life. I glared at Peter, his guilt evident.
“Hey Mary. I hadn’t heard your news. New boyfriend? Do I need to schedule a family meal so everyone can meet him?” Please let it be a boyfriend.
“Peter let me pick and choose the characteristics. I’m carrying a chimera. I’m surprised he hasn’t boasted about that.” Mary launched into the technical details of how she chose, her research, and then she boasted how much Peter allowed her to join his work.
Each sentence made Peter’s shoulders fall a bit more. He appeared to collapse into himself by the time Mary noticed the tension.
“What’s wrong, My Love?” Mary looked shocked at her own words, then worriedly looked at me.
Peter took off running toward the barn. I didn’t know he could still move that fast. He yelled over his shoulder, “Get in the chair Mary!”
She took off for the house, half waddling, half running. She slowed to climb the stairs. My legs didn’t want to move. I wanted to stop both of them, but decided of the two I would have better luck reasoning with Mary. I followed her inside.
The house was just like it had always been. For a moment I was a kid again, the sun making streaks across the wood floor, the smell of cookies baking wafted from the kitchen. I shook off nostalgia and raced toward the basement.
Peter had spent gobs of money, carefully building the basement into a lab. I made sure there wasn’t enough electricity to run his massive computers anymore, but it was still an impressive amount of money. He had never let me down there.
The stairs were glossy, with added stickers of rough sandpaper, and the walls were white and grey, glossy material. It was like walking onto a movie set. Soft lighting erupted from the ceiling, making me squint. Only peter could make soft lighting harsh.
As I rounded the corner, I heard Mary curse, then moan. She panted.
“Is that you?” Mary said, weakly between pants. She had strapped herself into a chair like device, and several strange black pod type things pressed against her belly.
“It’s me, Phebe.”
“Oh, he doesn’t mean it to be like this.”
“What is this contraption?” In the distance a large rifle sounded, a single shot. In that moment Mary’s pain got much worse.
“Just help me give birth,” Mary pleaded.
The process was painful, but only took half an hour. Mary directed me, told me what to check for, and I caught her little baby girl in my arms. Mary directed me how to clamp and cut the cord.
I placed the squirmy nugget of life onto Mary’s chest, and the babies eyes opened.
“Did it work, Peter love?”
The most terrifying moment of my life happened when the freshly born child replied, “It worked. I remember everything.”