JAVI AND PARMA
From the Galaxapedia, Volume III Chapter XIV:
“Members of the Wakinian race are born as two connected entities and remain that way through life. A thick, six-foot-long braid of fatty tissue connects the two bodies, allowing each some leeway of movement; the joined pair can work or otherwise operate in close proximity to each other, but at independent tasks. Of necessity, they grow up learning to physically and mentally act in harmony and as a single unit when needed, but unlike Siamese twins, as their species later came to be called on Earth, they don’t share a DNA profile and are completely distinct in thought and appearance. One of the advantages of this is that at any task, mental or otherwise, their independent thoughts and unique strengths, combined with their fluidly synchronized movements, maximize speed and efficiency. In essence, they complement each other in every respect.
They are also self-generating; a joined pair reproduces by mating with each other, resulting in a new, distinct Wakinian duo.
They interchange biological substances on an ongoing basis which are necessary for survival; each contains what the other needs, so that if their connecting tether gets severed, both halves die. Tether severance is the leading cause of death planet–wide for the species, and kills more Wakinians than all other causes combined.”
One frigidly cold day in the northeastern quadrant of the planet, Parm and Parma Halovin were about to become the first Wakinians to undergo a radical, experimental procedure to separate the two bodies, the hope being that one of the pair would survive. A vehicle collision resulted in a partially severed tether which would shortly snuff out the lives of both, so with nothing to lose, and themselves having been part of a forward-thinking scientific community, they agreed to be guinea pigs for the surgery. It would involve the transplant of glands and organs from one into the other, so that the one receiving the transplant would have everything needed to survive independently. This procedure had never before been carried out on a still-living Wakinian.
The operation would have to occur within hours, and as they lay side by side in bed, they still had one last and dreadful decision to make.
Drs. Ello and Ella Kygis stood by the couple’s bed, Ello adjusting dials on an array of equipment and monitors hooked up to Parm and Parma, Ella leafing through pages of checklist items for the third time to verify no pre-op steps had been left undone, beyond settling this one final issue.
She looked down at the slowly dying Wakinians in the bed and forced an understanding, patient smile.
“Parm, Parma, I know this is a very difficult choice to make, and I don’t want to rush you, but time is running out.”
Having lived always as joined entities, words between Parm and Parma were often unnecessary. The ones that needed to be said already had been.
In their interpersonal relationship with each other, Parm was their strength and protector, Parma the generator of creative ideas and the maker of things of beauty. Parm was the forger of plans and goals, Parma the weaver of dreams. Together, they made a fluid and perfect whole.
They now turned their heads on their respective pillows and looked into each other’s eyes. Parma shook her head no. Parm shook his yes, reached over, and took her hand, then turned to the doctors.
“Her. It must be her.”
Doctors Ello and Ella Kygis now both looked down at Parm and Parma with similar expressions of understanding and compassion. It was Ella Kygis who spoke.
“Thank you both very much. If the procedure works, not only will Parma live, but it will change the course of medicine and save thousands of Wakinian lives in the future. The sacrifice you’ve both made today will never be forgotten. The operating theater is already set up with the full crew standing by, and we do need to move fast at this point, but Ello and I-”
Ella stopped mid-sentence, because she knew that, despite her normal professionalism, her voice was about to break. A Wakinian herself, she knew what was at stake.
“Ello and I will leave you to have a few final minutes alone.”
Over 100 scientists and medical professionals watched from a glass-enclosed viewing area that encircled the operating room, as Dr. Ello Kygis deftly opened the chest cavity of the still alive, but sedated Parm Halovin, while Dr. Ella Kygis did the same with the body of Parma.
Two hours later, everything that was needed for Parma to, at least theoretically, survive on her own had been removed from Parm and placed inside her.
Ello looked up at Ella, then around at their attending staff, some just looking into his eyes over their own surgical masks, others nodding their understanding. One and all then looked down at Parm with sadness as Ello turned off his temporary life support monitors and finally detached the last threads of damaged umbilicus tether from Parma.
All attention then swept over to the monitors attached to her. One minute. Five minutes. The surgical team glanced around at each other, hopefulness, and tentative, restrained excitement in their eyes. Many of the people in the elevated viewing area were now on their feet watching intently or talking excitedly to each other.
Fifteen minutes later, Parma’s life signs were still holding strong.
Days later, when the successful, groundbreaking procedure was announced to the world at large, not everyone viewed it as a medical miracle that would enable half a Wakinian duo to survive a tether separation. There was a strongly divided camp on the subject of the “inner chest transplant” procedure, as it came to be called.
Many viewed it as the creation of a freak and a travesty of nature. There was uproar in religious circles as well. In all denominations, planet wide, the normal rituals of faith required the participation of both halves of a Wakinian. There was no such thing as half a duo sleeping through a church service on Wakinia.
Some objected solely on the logical grounds that the half of the Wakinian who survived as a result of the transplant could never have a normal life. Their single-unit appearance alone would make them an object of derision, pity, or scorn, all on top of the many other problems that would inevitably arise. It was considered an unconscionable cruelty to relegate someone, by means of surgical alteration, to an unavoidable life of isolation as a singleton in a culture built around binary life forms.
The debates and disagreements raged over the next weeks. Petitions to courts, tribunals, politicians, and rulers flowed like water around the globe. Editorials and talk shows on the subject became more inflammatory with each passing day. Demonstrations outside the medical science center where the procedure had been done, as well as all around the Dome-of-State government buildings, were carried on day and night. Picketers toted signs demanding legislation forbidding inner chest transplants, and demanding the euthanizing of Parma.
Things reached a crescendo when the military had to be called in to quell a rioting mob that attempted to storm the medical center in an effort to get at Parma and the doctors responsible.
Two months later, legislation was passed planet wide that put an end to any further ‘experimentation’ that resulted in the surgical alteration of a Wakinian pair.
By that time, the procedure had only been done on one other twosome.
A law enforcement duo named Javi and Java Kolpre suffered a severe tether injury in a shootout. They were only five miles from the science center when it occurred, and Java, injured beyond repair, and knowing about the transplant procedure, requested that it be done to save Javi as her death-bed wish.
Like Parma’s, his procedure was successful, and like her, he would live a life of isolation, with no way to conceal his single-unit appearance, and in constant fear for his own life because of his being an ‘ungodly travesty of nature’.
With the procedure now outlawed, the medical team, in conjunction with government representatives, worked out a number of options for Javi and Parma’s future, which were discussed in a meeting with both of them present. They could continue as they were, which would result in either a life of constant rejection and harassment or a life of self-imprisonment, locked away in some government facility for their own safety. They could be willingly, humanely euthanized, or they could be provided with a home off world. An uninhabited planet had been found that would support Wakinian life. There, they would at least not have to live in hiding for the remainder of their days. Javi and Parma, who had by this time become friends, were then left alone in the conference room for private reflection and for discussion with each other.
Kale and Kala, eager and curious four-year-olds, sat side by side on their parents’ laps looking over volume VII of the Galaxapedia decology. Their parents, Jord and Jorda, smiled to each other over some of the questions the children fired at them and did their best to explain some of the strange pictures to them. They were pouring over the drawings and photos in chapter XXII.
“YUK!! Look how funny they look. Where’th their Thtwing?” Kala had a lisp, so still called the Wakinian umbilicus tether a Thtwing instead of a string. ”How come thothe Wakininth aren’t in one pieth like we are?”
Jord glanced at Jorda, who shook her head no.
“We’ll tell you that story when you’re a little older. And on that planet, they’re called Earthians because their planet is called Earth, just like we’re called Wakinians, because our planet is Wakinia.”
Kale, the more precocious of the two, now stabbed a drawing with his finger and shrieked with laughter. “That one’s boobies are showing!”
This caused Jord to laugh. “It’s probably so warm where they live that they had to take their clothes off.”
Jorda rolled her eyes at him, and wondered if the kids were just a little too young to be looking at a galaxapedia.
“What are their names?” Kale asked.
“The ones in the photos? I don’t know.”
“No, the boobie ones in the drawing.”
“On Earth, those two are called Adam and Eve.”
Food for Thought
1: Can you think of a way that a scientific technology that you oppose now, might yet be of great value at some time in the future, or can you think of times this occurred in the past.
2: What about one that you think is of high value now? Could you see ways in which it could be used destructively, or times this occurred in the past?
3: What would you say is the yardstick that measures the value of any technology or creation in terms of it being constructive or destructive to the individual or society at large?
4: Similar to the characters in the story, how far would YOU go beyond the realms of established norms to save your own life or the life of a loved one? Would you have undergone the experimental surgery that was done in this story, if you were in Parm and Parma’s position?
About the Author
Ellen is a freelance writer living in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and two demonic cats that wreak havoc and hell (the cats, not the husband).Her short stories have been published in over a hundred magazines and anthologies. She as well has had an exciting life working as a circus acrobat, a CIA spy, a service provider in the Red Light District, a navy seal, a ballerina on the starship Enterprise, and was the first person to climb Mount Everest. (Editorial note: The publication credits are true, but some of the other stuff may be fictional.)
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I think this story’s dominant theme is marriage, in whatever form society endorses it. To me it’s metaphorical of many relationships. Nice work, Ellen!