The Experiment: Part 2
“Jason, I'm afraid I have some bad news,”
Fear lodged into my throat as I contemplated what to do.
“It's actually... serious?” I stammered.
“I'm afraid so,” Dr. DeSalve solmnly said.
“Doctor, what's wrong with my son?” Mom asked. She was actually brave enough to ask the question that was on everybody's mind.
“Your son is currently suffering from a very rare disease that is affecting his very genetics. There have been only 17 known cases in this country. The doctors who discovered it called it 'Noman's Syndrome'.”
“How serious is it?” I managed to ask.
“I'm afraid that you have a year, at most, to live.”
The color drained from my face. All this time, I had been thinking and hoping that these dizzy spells were just something small. Something insignificant. Now, I had to face the music. I was going to die.
“How does this disease work, exactly?” I asked. I didn't know why, but somehow, I felt that I needed to know exactly how this was killing me.
“The virus causing this disease is effectively shutting down the chromosomes in your cells. Without those, you effectively don't have an identity. Cells that lack an identity... die. As time passes, these dizzy spells you've been having will begin to last longer and become coupled with more disorientating and debilitating side effects. However, in my short time of researching this disease, there has been one relatively unique factor that it seems to exhibit,”
“A unique factor?” I asked, “Could it be used to possibly... save me?”
“I don't know, Jason. This virus is unique in that it will only target male cells. Women who have the virus present in their bodies are completely unaffected by it. We suspect that it is only targeting cells with an XY configuration in their chromosomes.”
“So... I'm dying... because I'm a man?” I asked hopelessly.
Dr. DeSalve paused for a moment. “...I'm afraid so.”
“Is there anything we can do!?” Mom desperately asked.
“I have researchers working on that at this very moment. If there is any chance that we can treat your son, we are going to tell you. But, as I have said, this disease is so rare that there are likely no quantifiable cures.”
“When do you think you'll find any results?” Dad asked.
“My researchers are very talented. If they haven't found anything by Monday, then we may have to give up hope.”
“Give up... hope?” I asked.
“I'm sorry, Jason. Now, I suggest that you five all head back home. Jason is not contagious, but I know he'll need your support during this trying time. I will call you as soon as my researchers find anything.”
Mom sniffled, “Thank you doctor. Let's... go home.”
I was on autopilot as I was led out of the doctor's office and back home. As soon as the front door had closed and we were in relative privacy, my entire family embraced me tightly. Amy and Mom were sobbing, and I thought I saw the glistening of tears on even Brian and Dad. As for me... I was numb. I couldn't feel anything. I could barely even speak. The unthinkable had occurred. There was now a time limit on my life. It wasn't “when I die from natural causes”. It was “one year”. I knew that my family was giving me all the encouragement that they could, but I just couldn't pay any attention to anything.
* * *
The voices were faint. “...Jason?”
“Come back to us, son!”
“Big bro, snap out of it!”
I blinked several times. I was in my bed. My family was staring at me. All of them had been crying.
“...Jason?” Mom asked gently, “Are you with us?”
I had trouble getting any words out. “I... think so. Why am I in bed?”
“Sweetie, you fainted at the front door. We were all so scared!”
Upon hearing that, memories came flowing back. I remembered the embrace I was given at the front door, and I remembered... that I was going to die. I started to cry.
“I'm going... I'm going... to die!” I cried.
My entire family embraced me once again as I simply cried. I hadn't cried like this for years. I was always told that boys are tough. They don't cry. But, we weren't tough enough to take the news that we were dying without tears. My family just let me cry. Just let me let everything out. As my last convulsions shook me, I found myself on Amy's shoulder.
“Are you feeling any better, big bro?” she asked. She was giving me a worried smile. Why was she smiling at all?
“I... think so... a little bit...” I managed to get out. “How long... was I gone?”
“Almost two hours,” Dad said, “we were all so worried...”
“I'm sorry guys,” I said, “I didn't mean to worry you so much.”
“Sweetie,” Mom cooed, “we understand. You received some disturbing news today. I'm sure any of us would have done the same in your place.
I sat up in my bed. “Did we get any calls from the doctor?”
“No, sweetie,” Mom answered, “but, there's still time. Hang in there.”
“I'll try,” I said, “but I don't know what I'll do if we don't get any good news...”
“Don't think like that, Jase!” Amy cried, “They'll find a way to save you. I just know it!”
Despite everything, I actually managed to smile slightly. “Thank you Amy.”
After sharing one more loving embrace with my family, I carefully climbed out of bed, helped by the fact that I wasn't feeling dizzy at the moment. For at least one day, we tried to forget about the dark cloud looming over us, and just have a calm day with each other. Nonetheless, Mom kept a watchful eye over the phone, just in case, but we received no calls from the doctor. As I climbed into bed for the night, I was honestly fearing the worst.
“Jason, you have to wake up,” I heard Mom telling me.
I rubbed my eyes and looked at her. “What's wrong?”
“Dr. DeSalve called this morning. He wants us to come see him. Your siblings are already ready, so just come down when you're ready.”
“He called? I'll be right down!”
“Alright, sweetie. I'll see you in a few minutes.”
Mom left me to get dressed, which didn't take me that long. As my family filed back into the SUV, I truly hoped that Dr. DeSalve had found a way to save me. As we entered the waiting room, we were told that Dr. DeSalve would be waiting in his office just down the hall. With some hesitation, we entered the room, where he was waiting for us.
“Good morning,” he said, “please, sit down. We have much to discuss.”
“Did you find anything in your research?” I asked nervously.
“Ah. Straight to the point, I see. When researching this disease, we hypothesized two possible methods of beating it. We can attempt to trick the virus into thinking that it is not among male cells, or we can eliminate male cells by making them female, thus giving the virus no reason to attack. But, we were baffled. It is impossible to trick something that has no brain, and I have never learned of a successful way to make a male cell genetically female. However, unbeknownst to myself, a doctor specializing in the treatment of Noman's disease has figured out a way to transform a male cell into a female cell! The successful application of this treatment will indeed save you, Jason.”
“The only way I can be saved... is by becoming a girl?” I asked.
“I'm afraid so, Jason. Unfortunately, this treatment is still highly experimental. Four of the last eight victims of the disease were killed during the course of the treatment.”
“How long would this treatment take?”
“The full transformation takes place over about a month. If it finishes, you will be left a genetic female, but you will have your whole life ahead of you.”
“When will we know if I will survive the treatment?”
“Unfortunately, we cannot know until the end. Although two of the deaths were due to suicide, the other two occurred at the very end of the transformation, when their uterine functions began. It's been accepted that if one has their first period, then they are safe.”
“Do I... have a choice in whether to accept this treatment or not?”
“Of course you do, Jason. Since you are a minor, your parents will have to sign for you, but you are entitled to refuse treatment. After all, this could shorten your life even more.”
“...Okay. This isn't something I can just decide on right away. Can I talk to my family in private?”
“Of course. I'll just step out of my office. Call me back inside when you're done.”
“Thank you, doctor,” I said as he took his leave. I slumped down in my chair as I contemplated my options.
“Sweetie,” Mom said, breaking the silence, “what do you think you should do?”
“Well, the way I see it...” I said, “I either have a 100% chance of death in one year, or a 50% chance of death in one month. Neither set of odds is very pleasant.”
“But what if the treatment works?” Dad asked, “You'll be safe from this disease forever.”
“But at what price?” I answered, “Doing this will change everything. You'll have a new daughter. My siblings will have a new sister. What if I can't handle living as a girl?”
“Come on, Jase!” Amy chimed in, “Mom and I will be there to help you every step of the way!”
“And,” Dad added, “as much as it would pain me to lose one of my sons, I'd rather have to put you in a wedding dress than into a coffin.”
I turned to Brian. “What do you think, bro? Should I do this?”
“Jase...” he said, “Honestly, I'd rather have a living sister than a dead brother. But, that's just me. No matter what you look like, you'll still be family, man.”
“...Okay,” I said, “No matter what my odds are of surviving this treatment... no matter how much this will change our lives.. nothing can be worse than being guaranteed to die. I'm... going to do it.”
“This is very brave of you, sweetie,” Mom told me, “we'll be here to support you every step of the way.
“As much as it pains me to say it,” Dad told me, “I think you've made the right choice, son.”
“It will be interesting to have a sister of my own,” Amy told me, “but I really want you to live, Jase.”
“I'm your big brother, Jase,” Brian told me, “and I'm going to stick with you until the end... and I'm really hoping that your end will be many years away.”
I was moved to tears by my family's unwavering support of this decision. “Thank you,” I told them all. Mom moved to the door to call Dr. DeSalve back into the office. He took his seat at the desk.
“Have you made a decision, Jason?” he asked.
“I've decided to take the treatment,” I told him.
“Alright. Before I inject you with the serum that will initiate the treatment, I would like you to know that I have arranged to have counselors available to you whenever you need to talk to somebody. This transformation will be a huge shock to both your mind and body. Don't hesitate to seek support.”
“Thank you, doctor,” I said, “I won't.”
“Good,” he said, “Now, if you would come with me to an examination room, I can give you the injection.”
Dr. DeSalve stood up and motioned for us to follow him. Upon entering an examination room, I was lead to sit on the table while he prepared a syringe.
“Now,” he explained, “this will burn a bit more than your average flu shot. Are you ready?”
I nodded. There was no turning back now. Dr. DeSalve numbed some skin on my arm and stuck the needle inside. I felt a tremendous burn as he injected the substance into my body. Why is it that doctors always understate the amount of pain they're about to inflict on their patients?
“There,” Dr. DeSalve said, “was that so bad?”
“It was pretty bad,” I admitted, “definitely more burn than most shots.”
“It's a necessary evil.” he explained, “Now, do you have any more questions before I let you go home?”
I thought carefully. “When will my transformation start?”
“It should start in about two days,” he said, “you should begin by losing some of your height and weight, but retaining a male figure. However, once you have stopped shrinking, your figure will begin to feminize.”
“What about the progress of the disease?”
“The serum should halt further progress of the disease. As your transformation nears completion, your symptoms should subside. But, as we've caught this so early, you're likely to just have one or two short dizzy spells in the next two weeks.”
“Thank you, doctor. I don't have any other questions at the moment.”
“Okay, Jason. If anything strange happens, don't hesitate to give me a call.”
“I won't. Thank you again.”
“You're welcome. I hope that this will end in your continued health.”
I stood up and shook Dr. DeSalve's hand before leaving the office with my family. I was scared of what the next month would bring for me, but I knew that it would be all worth it if I could beat this disease.
To be continued... (I forgot to put this last time. Whoops!)
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