Working on the principle that things are always worse than you think, Adam ordered another pint and asked the tattooed bartender if he’d heard about it.
“I’ve heard just about everything,” the guy said. He opened the tap on the Manny’s and filled the glass. He placed it on the circular coaster. “What’s it now?”
“Maybe it will be on the news. I don’t want to spoil it.”
The bartender shrugged and moved down the short counter and put his mind to rest, it appeared to Adam. He finished the beer, put cash on the counter and walked the three blocks back to the clinic. What he’d seen had called for a beer.
At the door to the neighborhood clinic on the outer industrial edge of the teaming city, a nurse stepped out and blushed when she glanced up and identified who’d pulled the door open for her. There will be a lot of that soon. Perhaps, since Adam can’t have seen the only man in the city and the history of the world to ejaculate black semen, millions of people around the globe already couldn’t look each other in the eye without a snicker, a panic, a jealousy, a question, a flash of shame, a moment of embarrassment remembering the ink spots on the bed sheets.
“Watch the video.”
“Use your words. I’ve got a lot to do and I’m almost out of time.”
“If I say it, you’ll think it’s a trick or I’m joking or …”
“… You’ve been drinking.”
“When you see this, you’ll want to too. Besides, I’m not seeing any more patients today.”
“Good. You know how much people get all wound up when their doctor shows up drunk. But, hey, what’s a little more work for me?”
“Just watch the video.”
“I’m watching. It’s a trick. You are joking. I’ve really got a lot to do, especially now that you’ve decided to get drunk and fuck off the rest of the day.”
“It’s not a trick. I was right there videoing it.”
“That’s got to be a violation of something.”
“Still. What do you think? Squirted ink in his urethra?”
“Look at the slides.”
“Call the county. I’ll contact the other clinics. I’ve searched online already and found a rock band named that and several satanic rituals said to cause it but no confirmable medical cases, though there must be thousands out there. Maybe millions. This kind of thing never just happens to one person.”
“Post it on YouTube. Crowd source it. If it’s happening elsewhere, they’ll be searching for it.”
“Good idea. It’ll get flagged though.”
“Not immediately. Put the phone number for the hotline on there. Not the clinic’s name though.”
Two hours later, as Adam had suspected, the hotline was ringing off the hook.
“What! What the hell! Jonathan!”
“I …” kneeling before his spread-eagled wife as if ready to catch anything that came out of there but surprised by what offered itself up. “Hey, I have not been sleeping around.”
“Sleeping around! You just came black sperm all over me and the bed!”
“Man, that’s … ” He shook his head while staring at her stomach, vagina and the sheet between her legs. The stuff was semen like in its liquid squid viscosity, but pure ink black.
“Did you have pain?”
“No. I didn’t feel anything … unusual.” He dabbed his finger into the gelatinous clumpy blob diffusing into the eggshell blue satin.
“You’ve got to go to the doctor.”
“Let’s just wait a minute. Hold on.” He vigorously rubbed his face with the palms of his hands. Going to the doctor for this kind of thing would mean blowing off the entire day. “Let’s look it up first.”
He was the second caller into the clinic’s hotline, usually reserved for suicides or dumb questions.
The first caller was a mechanic who made the call from his cellphone from inside of what sounded to the hospital staff listening to the day’s recordings to be a bathroom.
“Ewuuu,” one intern said.
“Okay,” said one of the men from the CDC running the clinic meeting. “Let’s figure what’s in the semen and go through the logs to figure out where this infection anomaly started.”
No one knew what “logs” he was talking about, but they all understood what he meant and so they got to it.
One of the young interns split from the others and entered a private bathroom and faced head-on the dilemma of arousing himself under these circumstances in order to see if he had been infected. He worked at it.
He was the only male doctor-to-be at the hospital to think to do so at that moment, but all of the female doctors and nurses had already thought about the male doctors running similar experiments. However, they did not think of the problem of trying to ejaculate without arousal. Had they, they might have lent a hand. However, they, for the most part, just automatically thought of the act as a mechanical matter, especially those with teenage boys.
One nurse did think about drawing the semen out with a needle and syringe. She told the doctor on the floor of the hospital where the first young man to be quarantined for black semen was housed. The young man agreed to the procedure, but the fluids were normal. When the nurse asked him to ejaculate, he did so with the kind of aplomb that makes some people much better lovers than others.
The semen in the cloudy plastic cup he handed the nurse was black.
“This came out of you?”
“Indeed it did, ma’am.”
The next day was pandemonium at every clinic and hospital in the city.
“Either this is the fastest spreading infection ever or most of these people have been living with a secret. How will they ever figure out where it started?”
It seemed to Adam that the best they could hope to do would be to figure out roughly when the infection (he didn’t know what else to call it) had jumped into the population.
By the end of the day, it was as he had feared.
The bell curve for when people reported first noticing their semen had turned black stretched out over several weeks with two-weeks ago the median. One 57-year-old man, an outlier — there are always a few — said it had always been like that for him and he’d only come in because his wife had seen it on the news. He might be the carrier, several said, but the carrier of what, no one had a clue.
For roughly nine months, Adam, whose sperm had remained its normal color, had been anticipating this moment — they had seen the patterns that suggested it among miscarriages and abortions, heard the testimonies and declarations of faithfulness and the promises but until this one birth from an artificial insemination using a black sperm, they could not know for certain that the sperm was able to germinate an egg and produce a healthy baby.
“… of course. She. She. I didn’t mean otherwise. It’s just a surprise. You have to be surprised at it too.”
“Jonathan! This is our child, our baby. A human being. Not an experiment and I won’t hear any more of that talk from you!” She was screaming and her heaving to get the screamed words punctuated properly was interfering with Adam’s ability to sew up her perineum. In addition to being black, the baby’s head was big, though not completely out of the range of normal. But pretty darn big, it seemed to Adam.
“You’re going to have to relax,” Mrs. Eller. Mr. Eller? Perhaps you can take your daughter down to the prenatal ward with Nurse Bob?”
“Sure sure sure … honey honey … I’m in love with her. I am in love with my daughter Krissy Ann.”
“You better be.”
“Go on now, so we can all get through this.”
His name and their names will be written down along side Krissy Ann Eller, who probably wasn’t the first baby born this way, after all the infection had spread across the globe, but would be recorded as the first definitive one. Would their names be recorded in a history of an anomaly that happened on a global scale, like the pandemics of old, or would their names be written as the pioneers in the first moments when humanity changed forever?
Hard to know, Adam considered.
By the end of the second year of this pandemic, every baby on the planet was born black — black hair, black skin, black eyes — iris and sclera — black teeth, black gums, everything. The children’s brains, too. However, all the stuff on the inside was the normal color. Blood, thankfully, every phlebotomist thought, remained red. The color of health and normalcy. Now, the black brain tissue did have scientists across the board worried about the longterm health and mental capacities of the children. They appeared normal and active, but who knows what kinds of retardations this anomaly might provoke.
At first, the people who used to be called black said things jokingly like, “It’s about time.” and “Man, I thought I was black.” And the CD by Public Enemy — Fear of a Black Planet — received a fresh round of attention and refilled the band’s coffers and filled out the band’s performance schedule. White people, fearing charges of racism and the like said things like, “Well, he’s still our little Jeffery. He’s got my eyes. The shape anyway.” And joked: “How will we ever tell them all apart!” Ha ha ha.
That first year, the governments of the world had to wage public health campaigns, establish warehouses to shelter and care for all of the abandoned babies as well as to incarcerate all the people who had killed their black babies. But by the second year, no more babies were abandoned, abused or killed than had been before — since now all babies were born that way. The cacophony of conspiracies in every form of media had died down too. Since every child born on the planet was the same total color, the remaining theorists focussed mostly on who was to blame and to speculate when the hero of red, white, yellow or “true black” would have the virility to engender a reversal of fortunes for the world’s populations.
By the second year, these theories had fallen out of fashion and were despised because they suggested that the children were sick or unwanted, which they were not or not more than the generations of children before them.
Adam had told his story of discovery and the first test-tube experiment that proved transmission that by the end of the third year, everyone on the planet had heard it. And, since he was a smart businessman as well as a pretty good general practitioner, he grew very wealthy. The black had put Adam in the green. The only hitch for Adam was that he had not caught the infection, if that was what it was and he had to keep that quiet. Otherwise, people would assume he caused it and left his own fluids looked as they always had or had the antidote. He had no idea why his fluids had remained the same, but he wasn’t taking any chances on getting lynched so he refused to have children and to explore what made him different. Besides, he rationalized, by the time he’d known for sure his semen would not change, the world had been populated with black babies. So, what would have been the point? Just more agony and infanticide would have followed.
Despite the fact that Adam’s story had been so widely broadcast and gone virile online, the story nevertheless morphed into a creation story of almost no resemblance to the original facts, a creation story for the first generation of The Blacks.
Essentially it came down to this: God, tired of the fighting and bickering on Earth, sent down this New Seed, The Black Seed, to eliminate all discrimination and violence based on appearances. And it seemed to have worked! In fact, crime had plummeted (after the first rash of infanticides) and charitable giving had skyrocketed. People had stopped polluting and eating junk food in such large numbers that whole global corporations imploded.
“Why are you so different?”
“Well, what do you mean?”
“Why is your skin all pale and gooey looking?”
“Be nice now and finish up your peas.”
“What? Always more questions with you.”
“I don’t think you should be allowed to live.”
“Why Krissy Ann! Where did you get ideas … sit back down right his minute .. stop now … stop …”
Adam, the rich and the wise doctor who knew all there was to know about The Blacks and had been on every television staton in the world talking about what it might mean and not mean had been the first to point out that scientists, while not seeing much structural change to the tissues of the brain, could not predict what psychological or mental changes these children would under go. They seemed to be developing mentally much faster than their peers, for one. And for another, they seemed to want to eat flesh, or, based on the testimony of a few thousand people whose children had grown up enough to talk and walk and express and act on the desire to kill and eat their parents.
By the end of the sixth year, millions of black children had killed and eaten at least some of portion of their parents, siblings and neighbors. They also developed a very distinct smell that became extremely offensive when in the presence of their older, non-black siblings and parents.
“They have to be rounded up and exterminated!”
“Are you crazy?”
“They’re running around killing and eating their parents — what do you suggest Senator? Handing out packets of salt and pepper?”
“They are not all … “
“Some don’t but even those express the desire.”
“… they have to be studied and contained sure but there are hundreds of millions of them around the world. We couldn’t round them all up if we had to. Besides, I have black grandchildren. I’m not going to hack them to death in their beds for God’s sake! Besides, the troubled ones are already out there in the streets, living like animals. Hunt them down and warehouse them. Those facilities must still be available.”
“They sure took care of the rat problem.’
“Well, we’ve got to do something. I’m naming you Czar of the Department of Black Problems.”
“It’s like the 1950s all over again.”
“Well, Congressman, what do you suggest?”
“Find their leaders and reason with them. Extermination or cohabitation”.
“We’ve tried that. They don’t have any leaders.”
“Let’s ship them to a big island and leave ’em there.”
“And what then? Even if we could round up most of them, we have reports that they have already begun breeding and can bear a child every three to five months.”
“Who was that doctor who started this, what’s his name?”
“Funny. That’s right, Dr. Adam. What’s he say?”
“He’s gone into hiding or been killed.”
“How did we ever get into this mess?”
“God only knows.”
Adam, loved by the black children with an intensity bordering on sexual fever, couldn’t leave his house. They were everywhere. They said he smelled like love to them and some of them, before he caught on and stopped wearing clothes, would stalk him until they could take from him an item of clothing he had worn or even had on at the moment. They put on his pilfered clothes to attract the others to themselves. Adam was an old man by then and often wondered if his semen had not changed for some diabolical reason. As it turned out, there were others like him on the various continents, something like one normal for every three million square miles, he calculated. They too had to be sequestered from the blacks. Adam was an old man, barely able to walk up and down the steps in his split-level town home and since electricity had become spotty, he often froze rather than put on clothes because the blacks would tear the clothes off of him with such ferocity, they nearly broke his bones.
When he died the next year, one of the black females, a tall strong woman by then, expertly removed his skin and wore it raw and fetid and became the first documented leader of The Blacks. The competition for resources forced more drastic measures among them and for that, they needed group identity and a leader, she told her people as she rallied them to compete for the resources they needed to survive.
The blacks were experts at everything they put their minds to and had already, just 40 years into their reign on Earth, reached nearby galaxies. But they needed to go farther and faster, if they were to survive. They were especially efficient thinkers and doers because they never became ill and so did not spend any of their scientific energies studying themselves or in curing diseases. One tribe had even succeeded in cloning their gooey parents and siblings and so would never again face the near starvation their species faced in the first years of global ascendency. Now, they had an ready supply of gooeies to eat, big herds of them, huddled all together in the factory gooey farms. This tribe soon had dominance on the land, while another tribe had in fact set out for the most distant stars.
Jake Berry Ellison Jr. has been an award winning journalist for 25 years at newspapers big and small from North Dakota to Seattle, where he worked for 10 years at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until it ceased print operations in 2009. He was raised on a small farm in Montana but found his way to college anyway and received an MFA from the University of Montana. He currently herds cats at KPLU.org (an NPR member station) as Online Managing Editor.