Editor’s note: the following is a work of speculative fiction. It was originally published in the April, 2002 issue of New Oxford Review. It has been reprinted with permission.
Cite de Dio
The Feast of The Holy Innocents, A.D. 2032
My Dearest Miguel,
Oh, how I yearn to see your face again Miguel, my first-born son and only child. I so very much wish you were here with me now in this incredible city where the Sun never sets. Each time I look into the face of my Father, I see your face there. My joy would be that much more complete if you decide to join us here.
I realize our parting was so very hard for you. I wish it had not happened that way, and I realize that you could not possibly understand how I could have left you without an explanation. Now, I will try to explain. I know it can never erase the sense of bewilderment and disbelief that must have engulfed you at our parting. However, as I’ve come to know my Father here, I have come to know too that I must speak to you about those days of bewilderment and wonder and disbelief. I wish I had known my Father better in my youth. He has such boundless wisdom. Oh, the mistakes I could have avoided, and the suffering I could have prevented, if only I had listened to that wisdom in my youth. I pray you will understand, someday, that these words I write and speak are not words of regret. It is too late for regret. They are simply words of truth that I could not have possibly shared with you before that painful parting. You would not have understood then.
I wish too that your mother had decided to join me here, Miguel. You know I loved her too, as much as a mortal man can love a woman. It was not enough, though. As much as it is possible to “miss” someone here now, that much I miss your mother. She could have decided to come here too, but I would not have been able to help her make that decision. Our parting too was so very difficult. Then, it was my own face that was disfigured with that same sense of bewilderment and disbelief. It was so painful to see it on your face at our own parting, such a short while after.
We possessed the world, your mother and I. We had all that the world could offer. Never before had two people so enjoyed the awe and esteem of the world’s medical and scientific community. Never before had two scientists become so powerful and so wealthy. From the halls of the United Government, to the International Universities and Hospitals System, to the homes of the media elites, and even in the corridors of hidden power and control, we were welcomed and esteemed. That is why it was so hard for you to have seen me leave the way I did. That is why the questions ring through your brilliant mind, seemingly without answers. Questions you never anticipated asking, and for which I failed to form you to be capable of answering. That, in this place and time of no regrets, would be my greatest regret. In that I failed you, Miguel, despite my unprecedented worldly success.
As you know, Miguel, your mother was instrumental in finally “proving” the existence of global warming to the world. Her atmospheric modeling and computer analysis surpassed the efforts of any other scientist. Her ability to devise long-range plans for its alleviation brought her the Nobel Peace Prize. It was an accomplishment that an entire University faculty couldn’t match, and few men could even comprehend her mathematical methods and programming genius, let alone challenge her conclusions. Hers was a mind rivaled only by my own, Miguel. And you are heir to both our intellects. There is danger in that, Miguel, yet great promise and hope. I hope you realize this soon. Very soon.
When I joined the faculty of the International University, adjoining the grand halls of the United Government, my accomplishments preceded me. Few men had an MD degree as well as PhD’s in biophysics, immunology and nanoscience. My work identifying the protein markers on the fetus and placenta made it possible to develop the only contraceptive vaccine known to man that was at once as effective and safe as it was permanent. Unused and forgotten embryos, frozen in liquid nitrogen in fertility clinics worldwide, offered ample material for my research and experimentation.
All the other vaccines had failed, even those that linked the HCG hormone of the fetus to known immune antigens such as the tetanus vaccine. These vaccines all had painful, dangerous side effects, because the body failed to attack the fetus early enough in the pregnancy. My vaccine, however, met all the expectations and surpassed them. By developing a synthetic protein that mimics the proteins of the cells lining the early placenta, an immune reaction would develop as soon as a pregnancy started, ending it before the regular menstrual period. It was truly a silent termination. Ninety-nine percent of women never had any idea they were pregnant.
The fact that it could be added to the other vaccinations of childhood made it easier to distribute, especially among those cultures that we deemed “backwards” at the time, and refused to embrace the “wisdom” of our population control plans. We marketed the vaccine to the public at the same time, aimed at women of childbearing age as a painless alternative to surgical sterilizations and dangerous hormonal medications. We convinced the medical community that it only lasted for 10 years. It was a perfect deception. Yet this deception did not seem important compared to the scale of the environmental crisis we envisioned if the “population explosion” was not stopped.
Your mother and I ardently embraced the need for population control. Her own calculations and global warming models showed the need and why action was necessary. My vaccine finally provided the answer; a safe, effective, permanent vaccine that was “accepted” because it was not suspected. With the wild success at eliminating so many human diseases that the vaccines of the 1900’s brought about, who would have questioned continuing and expanding the vaccine industry and research. Great-grandparents still remembered the iron lungs of the years before the polio vaccine. Several generations grew to respect and accept vaccination programs uncritically. My breakthrough was the dream of the United Government. I made it a reality and it made me rich. My own Nobel Peace Prize was awarded secretly, for the United Government decided the world was not yet ready to accept the level of central planning already being achieved by the selective administration of my vaccine.
Beyond that concern, and more importantly, the Third World nations were finally leveling off in population growth, and within a short period they entered into that desired demographic goal of birth rates “below replacement level.” Finally, after many years, total world population was declining. The strategic threat posed by population growth in Third World countries compared to the population decline of the West was finally eliminated. Even the Muslim countries failed to see the effects of this childhood vaccine. Its demographic effects were not felt till 15 to 20 years after its introduction, making it hard for traditional cultures to determine the cause of their infertility.
I am reluctant now to admit that we planned it that way, Miguel. It was the greatest cold war victory in the history of man. A war had been fought and won against an enemy, the world’s population, that never knew it was fighting a battle for its very existence.
Between your mother’s models and my own insistence that we were winning this demographic warfare at an unprecedented rate, on a scale never imagined, the nascent United Government decided that the traditional wars that had been envisioned as necessary to curtail world population growth were no longer necessary. A worldwide peace was negotiated and the United Government emerged victorious over eons of strife and discord. A new order grew that was unprecedented in its philanthropy and humanitarian efforts. A seemingly just world order reigned that never could have functioned before the population implosion that followed on the heels of my vaccine.
Fortunately, Miguel, I was able to turn to more rewarding research. Using my background in biophysics and nanomachines, I dedicated the rest of my years to developing a precise delivery system for chemotherapy and radiation therapy to malignant tumors. This was always my goal. I never intended to follow down that road to population control. I always found it somehow unsettling, but never realized why until I came here to this city.
I was fascinated with these nanomachines from my earliest memories. Machines not even seen by the human eye, capable of navigating the arteries and veins of the body, to deliver microscopic doses of molecular poison to cells of that last remaining incurable disease, cancer — these machines were always a dream of medicine. It was a frontier as big as the suffering of man but smaller than a human cell.
Like the wild success of my vaccine, my research utilizing nanomachines in treating tumors held such promise. The navigation system of these magnificent little machines depended on recognizing those same chemical markers on the cell surfaces of the body’s tissues. Just like the body’s own immune system that my vaccine tricked into attacking the placenta, my nanomachines were trained to find and attack tumor markers on cells associated with cancer. Building on my own experience with the female reproductive tract and its tissue markers, we attacked the cancers there first, with phenomenal success.
The delayed time bomb of breast cancers, uterine cancers, and cervical cancers precipitated by the widespread use of hormonal contraceptives that the West relied upon so heavily before my vaccination gave us ample opportunity to experiment and refine our machines and techniques. Your mother joined me, utilizing her expertise in computer modeling to map the surface antigen codes and utilizing the findings of the previous generation’s Human Genome Project.
We had cracked the code for every tissue marker in the body. Collecting tumors from the United Government’s International University Hospitals System, we mapped the tissue markers specific to all of the most common cancers. We prepared nanomachines for each type of tumor, capable of delivering the appropriate dose of chemo or radiation necessary to obliterate the tumor cells. The size of the tumor determined the number of nanomachines injected. They went directly to the tumor and launched their deadly payload right into the tumor mass itself. The results were immediate and astonishing. We were curing cancers previously thought incurable.
Then…the world crumbled around me, son. When your mother was diagnosed, it was like a deathblow to me, despite the rapid progress we were making. If I had believed in God, I would have shaken my fist in His face, or cursed fate, or engaged in any of the old superstitions to which man resorts when he knows not why he suffers. But atheists are stoic in their own way. Stoic is really just a word for the mask atheists hide behind while they silently despair.
Your mother’s treatment should have been routine. Instead it went terribly wrong. I should have recognized the signs of that fearsome condition from the start, Miguel. In my earlier days, working on my PhD in immunology, I had described it in the medical literature and mapped out the complex biochemical cascade that lies behind it. But Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy was simply not seen much any longer, and in reality, doctors always tend to under treat and under diagnose their own family and friends.
Why didn’t I see it, Miguel?
Pride. My pride would not admit that my own treatment of my beloved wife was killing her. Her blood simultaneously clotted and grew too thin throughout her body, throwing clots to fingers and toes and organs, and at the same time bleeding uncontrollably in other places.
Looking into her eyes I saw a horror I never knew possible for a person of science. She was more fiercely atheist than myself, and she knew death was coming, but in her pride she would not believe, even then.
Of course, I followed the United Government International University Hospital guidelines for termination of life support immediately. I helped write them. I had to abide by them, even if, after recognizing my error, I thought somehow I could save her.
Miguel, you were deeply involved in your own meteoric rise within the inner circle of the United Government long before your mother became ill. Now I see that I lost you so many years earlier when I chose my work and research over raising you, my son. And with an intellect such as hers, the world did not expect your mother to forget her own research to raise a son. There is no way to apologize now for what was so obvious then. We were embarrassed to have conceived (I would never give my own wife that vaccine–we elites were above such cattle controlling methods) and too proud to abort the offspring of two such great minds.
Yours was the finest education money could buy, at only the best prep schools. I’m sorry you only saw us on our vacations from the International University. My own money, power and prestige, combined with one of the greatest intellects of all time, bought you your ticket to the highest levels of the new United Government. But you never knew the love of your own parents.
After your mother died I suffered a depth of despair that few could possibly know. When the promise of science fails to fulfill one’s life and bring the happiness that the grasp of pure knowledge promises, an abyss of despair, depression and even suicide awaits, Miguel. I was very close to death, having decided to end my despair and my life over my failure, when I first heard my Father’s voice. It came to me as a whisper, as in a dream. “Awake, my beloved son. I have work for you yet to complete before you part from your world.”
In that moment I saw it all. I saw the billions of children who died early deaths in the womb from my vaccination. I saw the agony of “infertility” of billions of couples. I saw your atheism, which sprouted from my rejection of fatherhood and my failure to show you the Love of the Father of us all. I also saw my eternal “reward” for my life up till that moment. I had a conscience, and I had knowingly killed it. I ignored the natural law permanently imprinted on my soul. I was guilty of some of the greatest crimes ever against humanity. I was a prideful man, Miguel. You know that. But I was not a dumb man. I knew the reward that was mine at that very moment.
When I awoke, I knew that I had little time to correct the things I had done. After 78 years of destroying the Father’s image in His families on earth, I had so very little time to restore some small piece of it. I knew nothing of that Faith which my grandfather had brought out of Cuba, and my own parents rejected, and that I ridiculed as the crutch of small-minded men. But I knew that something must be done.
Of course, you, better than anyone else, know the rest. After I called the international press conference and revealed to the world the presence of my vaccine in childhood immunization programs worldwide, the truth was out. I was a powerful man in my own right. I revealed the demographic war that had been fought against the Third World countries. I revealed to the Muslims the failure of their leaders to protect them and their faith.
The world finally realized why the Catholic Church had been sounding the alarm at every United Government meeting for decades — faithfully, truthfully — while everyone had stopped listening except a small remnant. Now a springtime of the faith blossoms amid the blood of countless martyrs.
Of course, all these admissions did nothing for the credibility of the United Government, and the price was to be paid in blood. When they brought me before the United Government International Criminal Court, the Chief Justice — you, Miguel– could not believe the reports. How could you possibly believe that your own father, that brilliant scientist, had rejected the god of Science and backslid into that old superstition of Religion. Controlled by a bureaucracy you helped to create, you had to convict your own father of treason against the United Government you served, just as I had put your mother to death due to the guidelines for Euthanasia I had helped create for the International University Hospitals System. The United Government allowed no exceptions to its laws.
You yourself wrote the law that said that a United Government International Criminal Court Chief Justice, finding a man guilty of a capital offense against the United Government, must personally carry out that execution. I know that somehow, when you wrote that, you felt it was a noble thing, and would help prevent abuse of a punishment reserved for only the greatest offenses against this new world order. I also knew that the beast you unwittingly helped create and set in power was now dictating to you your duties. I hold no ill feeling towards you, son. Like myself, you thought you were only serving man and science.
Our parting was so difficult Miguel. When the day of my execution arrived, bewilderment, wonder, and disbelief filled your face as you did for me that which I failed to do for you. You gave me the gift of Baptism by Blood, even though I had never given you the gift of Baptism by Water. By taking my life, you gave me Eternal Life. By following the orders of the Beast, you are helping the Beast to defeat himself. My public execution, televised worldwide on the United Government network, was witnessed by more human beings than any other death in history.
Of course war and bloodshed have since replaced that false peace the United Government had imposed. From my witness and blood has sprung forth so many more witnesses and martyrs. And I was only a 78 year old fool, who only grasped Reality for the final 47 days of his life, and who never learned a single line of the teachings of the Father during his life on earth.
Son, my prayers here in this Cite de Dio seem to be powerful with my Father. Apparently the intercessions of the Martyrs are some of the most powerful next to those of the Mother of God. I look into His beautiful face, into this Beatific Vision, and I see you. My Father allows me to see into your soul, where I see turmoil, bitterness and bewilderment. Yet I also see a fragile glimmer of hope there, that fragile willingness to believe that maybe, just maybe, your own father did not die in vain. My Father does not allow me to know your final decision, however, so I persevere in prayerful intercession for you at His throne.
I will spend Eternity in this City learning about Our Infinite Father. He has taught me the severity of my sins but also the Infinite Mercy of His Divine Love and Forgiveness. Now, of course, He has also taught me that in His eyes there is simply, no such thing as “overpopulation.” The Love of an Infinite Father simply cannot be exhausted by “too many” children. In My Father’s eyes, there are poverty-stricken children and prideful, selfish children. They are all the Father’s children, made in His image and likeness, yet wounded by that Original Sin. His Will is for His children blessed with material excess to aid His children in poverty, not eliminate them. Yes, Miguel, the Father’s Son, when He walked the earth with us, said the poor would always be with us. He knew man would resist His Grace and Love, with which those effects of Original Sin could be solved. Even your mother’s prideful notions of global warming, which we used to rationalize the deaths of billions of His children, were way off the mark. The pride and folly of man, to think we could destroy the creation of an Infinite Creator! You and your United Government now must realize that the global economy has completely collapsed because there simply cannot be economic growth with a contracting population base, and that “global warming,” such as it was, was only the Father’s naturally created cycles that man’s myopic vision could not grasp.
You are indeed one of the ten most powerful men in the world, Miguel. But the most powerful one, the one you serve, is not of My Father, but a liar and deceiver from the start. But do not despair, my son. Even my death will be forgiven you, if you only ask.
So I say these words here directly to your soul, even if your mind fails to hear them and grasp them. My pride and failure as a father took away much of your earthly opportunity to come to know our Father. Yet He undeservedly granted me the grace of Martyrdom before your very eyes. There is no greater witness to that which cannot be seen. Please take this gift that was given you, the witness to the shedding of blood for belief in the Eternal Father, so that you too may come to believe, and decide to join us here in this City.
I have lost everything, Miguel. I lost my worldly wealth and position. I lost your mother. I lost my life, but by losing my life, I gained it. I do not want to lose you too. Of all my worldy accomplishments, none could I bring with me here to this City. The souls of our children is the only worldly thing Our Father allows us to bring to this City. You are my only Eternal accomplishment, Miguel.
Please come join me here my son, my only child, my executioner, my beloved Miguel. It is not too late. Our Father is waiting for you to decide.
Your loving father,
Saint Miguel Cortino III, Holy Martyr