She was about to start screaming when she heard, “Get up! Please, get up.” Someone pulled at her, forcing her to sit up. It’s the face! Panic subsided. Confusion took its place.
The face continued to speak as it hurriedly pushed something onto her feet, first one foot then the other. “You must run as far as you can as fast as you can,” the face repeated over and over again. Finished with her feet, the face pulled her physically and rather roughly off the stainless steel altar.
She would have fallen but for the face holding her up. The face pointed down a well-defined ribbon of beaten earth, “Stay on this path and run and keep running! Never stop running! You must run as far as you can as fast as you can.”
The face pushed hard forcing her down the path and continued to run beside her for many yards shouting the whole time, “Run! Run and never stop! You must run as far as you can as fast as you can.”
She ran, slowly at first but picking up speed. The faster she ran the better she felt. She exalted in the exertion. Minutes turned into hours and day turned into night, and still she ran. Running, always running, each mile more cognizant than the one before, the physical stress forged her consciousness out of a vast reservoir of memories. With each passing mile, she became ever more aware of herself and the world she ran through. Personality coalesced from the chaos. She became sentient.
The path carried her along a mighty river and through the concrete canyons of a bygone civilization, and still she ran. She ran throughout the night and now, as the sun lightened the sky before her, she finally slowed to a walk and wondered why she was running.
The leaves of huge trees rustled high overhead. Bushes bright with blossoms and buzzing with bees brightened the land around her. A cool breeze brought the damp odor of the forest.
She stopped at a small mountain stream that crossed the path. It was not much more than a trickle, but she was thirsty. She knelt beside the miniature waterfall just off the path. Cupping her hand, she filled it with water and sipped. The liquid felt cool on her lips and throat, and she drank repeatedly. That ended when she stopped drinking and began splashing water over her breasts. She laughed, enjoying the carnal knowledge that it brought to the surface.
There, across the tiny stream, a small meadow of green grass invited her to lie down upon it. It was cool to her bare skin as she stretched out flat on her back. Her eyes drifted across the blue sky peaking through the treetops far above. Those are oaks, the fact came unbidden. Birds sang their morning songs to the rhythmic sound of the creek cascading down the hill but otherwise, all was quiet.
“Welcome,” the voice came from the other side of the stream.
Leaping to her feet, the woman confronted the intruder. She was frightened and ready to bolt at the slightest provocation. It was a man. He somehow got to within a few yards of her without her hearing him.
“Relax. I’m not gonna hurt you,” the man said looking the woman up and down. Except for running shoes, the woman was completely naked. “Besides a few superficial cuts, you are in great shape, not even breathing hard. Remarkable.”
He strolled to the edge of the stream and kneeled. The woman shied away keeping distance between them, but she didn’t run. Cupping his hand, he scooped a bit of water and sipped it. “Relax.”
She frowned, “Relax?”
The man laughed. “My name is Jonathan Sebastian Smith.”
The woman’s brow knotted in concentration then confusion, “Jonathan Sebastian Smith… My name is…” She could not remember. Well, this was embarrassing. Why couldn’t she remember her own name?
Jon laughed louder, “It’s ok. It’s my job to give you a name.”
The woman grew even more perplexed. “I don’t understand…”
“Your name is Helen, Helen Louise Smith.”
“Helen Louise Smith…” the woman said with wonder then frowned. “Where have I been? I remember someone telling me to run,” wildness flashed in her blue eyes. “So I ran and ran and ran!” she began to cry, “What is happening to me!”
“Ok, just relax,” Jon stood and would have moved to comfort the woman, but he suspected she would run off if he did. “Your name is Helen Louise Smith. Biologically, you’re twenty-eight but you were born yesterday. I’m your father.”
Helen looked closely at the man, “You’re my father?” Something deep inside recognized him.
“Yes Helen, he’s your father and I’m your mother. Jon, don’t you know the best way to make someone nervous is to tell them to relax?” The woman stepped off the path, jumped lithely over the little stream and approached Helen. “You must forgive your father. You’re his first child.”
As soon as Helen realized who it was, she rushed forward and threw her arms around the woman. It was the only person in the world she trusted completely. Of course! It made sense now. It was Mother who told her to run and never stop.
“I’m sorry Mother. I had to stop. I found no more purpose in running. Did I do wrong?” Helen asked.
Mother shook her head and smiled, “No child. You have run further than any that came before you. We are very proud of you!”
Helen beamed at the praise then asked, “But how could I have been born yesterday? I remember childhood things, brothers and sisters and cousins and…” she shook her head, “How can I remember those things?”
Even as she spoke, she realized something was wrong with her memories. They were fuzzy and vague and there were too many of them. They swirled about in an indistinct fog resisting every attempt to separate a single face from the crowd or say how many brothers and sisters she had or even when she ate her last meal or what it was. Nothing existed before she started her run.
“You are my child, Helen, but instead of being grown in my body, you were grown in a biowomb. Running set your neural network and brought out your personality.” Mother smiled and held her daughter close.
Helen gazed into the radiant face of her mother. “Father’s job was to give me a name. What’s your job?”
Mother laughed and said happily, “As your mother, it’s my job to see that you get a good start on life, to set you on the right path.”
Her laugh did more to calm Helen’s fears than anything. It startled and delighted her at the same time. Contentment rose from deep within Helen and spread across her fledgling consciousness. There, in her mother’s arms, Helen felt for the first time a sense of tomorrow with its endless possibilities. She realized in that instant that she had a future and a desire to plan for it.
Jon swung a knapsack from his shoulder, opened it and removed a bundle of clothes. “Here, put these on.” Jon extended them to Helen, who released her mother and accepted them without hesitation, her fear completely gone. Jon watched her carefully, marveling how quickly his daughter absorbed every bit of information from the world without and within. She had never dressed herself before but did it flawlessly the very first time. It confirmed his growing belief that his kid was smarter than all the others. Better looking too!
“Thank you, Father,” Helen smiled.
Jon beamed like every new father since time began. “Your ability to talk and understand speech was hardwired into you during gestation but the process created a huge tangle of memories. Those memories, predominately your mothers and mine, provide a framework for your interaction with the world around you. They will sustain you until you can create your own memories which in turn, you will pass along to your children.”
“I understand, Father,” Helen said. It all made perfect sense to her as soon as she heard it. Both parents were geneticists, and the biology of life filled her head. The science and mathematics of DNA were preloaded in her memory, and the more Father talked, the better she understood.
Drawing Helen to her, Mother stroked her face and looked deep into eyes identical to her own. “Happy Runday my dearest Helen! Jon, let’s take our beautiful baby girl home!”