The single light scarcely managed to illuminate the attic with a warm glow, revealing the array of vibrant butterflies displayed beneath the glass of a coffee table centered in the cramped room. Calder breathed the rich aroma of the espresso Tristan presented him with and raised it to his nose.
His companion rummaged around beneath his bed against the right corner and rose with a spark in his eyes and a corked bottle of russet soil in his grasp. He returned to his seat to plant it beside his tea.
"So what shall we discuss today?" Calder asked with tongue in cheek sarcasm.
"Man and dirt."
Tristan dropped into his seat and leaned his arms eagerly against the mahogany rim of the table. "After all our discussions on the creation of God, we have come to the pinnacle. Here we have His masterpiece, the apples of His eye.
"The word adamah means 'red soil,' and that is where ha-adam, or 'the man' derives. And as the word for mankind derives from the word for the dust of the earth, so mankind is made from the dust of the earth. As Genesis 2:7 states, 'And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.'"
Calder snorted and replaced his mug on the coaster. "Your Bible is a compilation of ancient legends to explain the origins of life when science could not."
"Actually, science can," Tristan rose and dialed a combination into his jukebox, and moments later, "Child of Dust" by Thrice streamed into the attic. With a smile of satisfaction, he reseated himself and leaned his elbows on the table with an exhilarated spark in his eyes. "We learn in chemistry that man is indeed composed of the same elements as the earth, in various amounts. Our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1 % carbon dioxide, water vapor, argon, and otherwise. Our oceans are two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. And the crust of our earth is 62% oxygen, 22% silicon, 6.5% aluminum, and bits of iron, calcium, potassium, sodium, and such. People are 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10% hydrogen, 3% nitrogen, 1.5% calcium, 1% phosphorus, .35% potassium, .25% sulfur, .05% magnesium, .70% copper, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, fluorine, chlorine, iodine, manganese, cobalt, and iron, and traces or lithium, strontium, aluminum, silicon, lead, vanadium, arsenic, and bromine."
"Has it never occurred to you that perhaps we are made of the same elements as the earth because that is what we evolved from? Especially when one considers the fact that we have about 98% identical DNA with chimpanzees. When one desires to know their biological relation to another, do they not test their DNA to see how much they have in common?"
"Should you were to unravel your DNA entirely, it would stretch from here to the moon – which, by the way, is 238,854 away. And if the code of information in each of the one hundred trillion cells – each with the average diameter of ten microns – was to be laid out, it would consume a 920-volume Encyclopedia Britannica. And noone has been able to sequence them entirely. People have 99.9% on their DNA in common with each other. We are closely related, yes, but that sliver of a percent difference is also enormous. So even two percent is a stunning variation. Besides, we have learned in the last several years that we share 3% less DNA that originally believed. You are designed to be you alone. And Psalm 139 states that God knows every single hair on your head."
"Please. You're smarter than to believe some Santa Claus in the sky knows who I am."
"You remember when we spoke about the alleged evolution of DNA and how such a process would require enzymes."
"And that enzymes have been assembled invitro with naïve proteins."
"And that such a process occurring naturally goes against all odds."
Calder seethed at the confidence in his voice, but sipped his espresso and said evenly, "Back on the subject of mankind. According to you, Adam and Eve were to die when they sinned, but they did not. Is that not a direct contradiction?"
"When God originally created mankind, He proclaimed them to be good. They were perfect in ethics and physically, with no disease or death. He explained to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:17 that they may eat the fruit of any tree, except the fruit 'ofthetreeoftheknowledgeofgoodandevil[they]shallnoteat,forinthedaythat[they]eatofit,[they]shallsurelydie.' Adam and Eve sinned anyway, and God said to him in Genesis 3:19,
'In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shal lreturn.'
The second Adam and Eve sinned, they died a spiritual death that separated them from the presence of God (which is why we now need reconciliation through Jesus Christ). Eventually, they degraded and died a physical one as well. And when one dies, one disintegrates, and essentially returns to dust."
"But your Book of legends and folklore describes people as living for hundreds of years – impossible."
"On the contrary, there are a variety of theories on how this came to be. One is the theory that a vapor canopy encompassed the earth at the time of creation, as potentially implied in Genesis 1:6-7, which states that then God said, 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.' Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. Such a canopy would control the amount of radiation that reached the people and the earth would be a much more temperate climate to support life and sustain agriculture. Radiation kills the DNA of a person over time, but if it doesn't reach them, that is not an issue. There is, however, the argument that a canopy such as this would insulate the earth and make it unbearably hot, and another argument that states the stars would not be visible when the Bible clearly states that they are. But on the assumption that this is the correct theory, we can also explain where the Flood rain came from (seeing as there was no rain prior, as implied in Genesis 2:5-6). It is possible that the canopy down when Genesis 7:11 states that "the windows of heaven were opened." After the Flood, the maximum ages of the people decreased dramatically and continued to do so. One may suspect that the water canopy was what rained upon the earth and changed the landscape, which is what I believe carved that majestic Grand Canyon.
"Another theory is that because Adam and Eve were created perfect and the universe is degenerating at a gradual rate, as we discussed with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, their physical conditions may be a little less as they originated with every generation. Within a couple thousand years before Christ, Psalm 90:10 says that people reached eighty only by means of strength, and King David died at seventy, having been described as living a rich and lengthy life. But I am still suspicious of the sudden decline in age after the Flood, which seems to have been a factor – perhaps it caused such changes."
"We're living longer lives now than we did a couple hundred years ago."
"Yes, because scientists are learning about health and medicine to alleviate the effects of the Curse."
Calder raised the espresso to his lips again and drained the remainder. The earthen drink was spiced to remind him of Christmas, as Tristan mentioned at supper.
"Why would God create a species doomed to a miserable existence when He knew we'd fail?"
"Well, Colossians 1:6 says that 'All things were created by him and for him.' You are an amazing artist. And you are pleased when you sketch something on your mind, right?"
"Yes," he admitted.
"John 15:14-15 elaborates when Jesus says, 'You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.' He desires to have a relationship with each person. The relationship between God and man was shattered at the Fall, but we can have restoration through Christ. And according to Genesis 1:27, 'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.' He created us to reflect His attributes, and this gives us a sanctity the animals do not have. Our knowledge of ourselves and of Him gives us a consciousness animals do not have. They live on instinct, but we live on the decisions we make and the relationships we have. This is also why the murder of a human is a sin while killing an animal to eat is not, and why abortion is such a major issue."
Calder set his jaw and eased his weight to his arms on the table. "You can't raise abortion as an issue when the child isn't even developed yet. Leave it to a desperate man to involve a living child in a discussion where it does not belong!"
"Abortion has everything to do with a living child," Tristan answered rather severely. "There is a such a double standard in society these days. When a woman aborts her child, that is declared her own choice. If the same woman is murdered with the child inside her, the killer is charged with double homicide."
"A fetus is a cluster of cells within the mother. It has never read a book, played outside, or loved anyone. It has no emotions, has no grand ideas, has no life."
"The child is alive at conception. Day one: Every inherited attribute of the child is already set. Day seventeen: Blood vessels start to establish themselves, and future sex cells start to group together. Day twenty-one: The heart starts beating seventy times per minute, soon to increase. Day twenty-six: The lungs start to develop. Day twenty-eight: Arms and legs start to appear, the tongue grows, a face begins to emerge, the thyroid gland develops, and blood runs through the baby separately from the mother. Day thirty-six: The eye retina gains color. Day forty: The child makes reflex movements. Day forty-one: The fingers start their formation, followed by the toes. Day forty-two: There are nerve connections that lead to a sense of smell. The brain is divided into three parts to sense emotion, understand language, and one for seeing and hearing. And his or her joints start to develop. Day forty-four: Electrical activity is detectable in the brain, and a child is declared dead when these cease. Internal organs are present but immature, 99% of muscle is available and each has its own supply of nerves, elbows are molded, eyelids start to protect the eyes, and milk bud teeth appear. Day fifty-two: Spontaneous movement starts up. He or she may start to squint, hiccup, yawn, purse lips, touch the face, frown, stretch, yawn, suck the thumb, and even practice breathing—"
"About how long to you plan to go on with this one subject?" Calder demanded suddenly.
"As long as it takes to describe the process of growth for an unborn child," Tristan smiled, then stood sharply. "I almost forgot – I have a photo album of the stages. At some point, I plan to complete the creation of an application where a time lapse of fetal development can be enjoyed, but there are a couple bugs in the prototype I made."
He pulled the drawer of his desk open and sifted through its contents a moment. He then raised an album with a smile and presented it to his companion.
"You must be the strangest man I have ever met, comparable to me brother Liam."
"Here. Look through while I speak. Afterward, you can argue against me to your heart's desire."
Calder accepted the album and turned to a page where the child was decently proportioned, aside from a rather bulbous head.
"Perfect. That is right about where we are at. Eight weeks: The liver produces blood, the kidneys do their duty, and the hearts beats steadily. The skull is coming together, and knees and elbows are forming. Bone cells are being acquired that stiffen the skeleton. Of the 4,500 structures in the adult human body, 4,000 are now present. Nine weeks: The thyroid gland starts working. The gender is now apparent, but not to doctors until a couple months later. Eyelids and hands open and close when prodded, and early muscle movements start. Ten weeks: The fingerprints start the process of formation, nails start to develop, eyelids fuse together until the seventh month. Connections between nerves and muscles has tripled since the week prior. Eleven weeks: The child practices breathing, urinates, and the stomach muscles contract. The vocal chords and taste buds develop. The child can make complex facial expressions, including smile..."
A smile. Cadhla smiled to her family during the sonogram that saved her short life. That gesture was what prevented Riley from traveling to abort her in the first place.
"… Twelve weeks: Facial hair grows, and the baby swallows and responds when the skin is stimulated. Thirteen weeks: The active child may now resemble the parents. Fifteen weeks: A surge of nerve cell production starts, and a second will happen in twenty-five weeks – "
"Your students must get bored to tears."
"Month four: The nostrils and toenails can be seen. The child can suck her thumb, can do somersaults, and has a strong grip. Around this time, the child is also developing his or her own sleeping pattern. Eggs are being produced in the ovaries of girls. And within two weeks, the child senses pain. Month five: Each side of the brain has literally a billion nerve cells. The mother can sense when he or she moves, and can identify various bulges pressed against her belly. And in the case of infant males, their private parts descend."
Calder rolled her eyes. "Be a man. Identify them."
"Month six," Tristan continued loudly. "The child sleeps in his or her own favorite positions, and stretches when waking. A week later, the child will be able to hear. Month seven: The eyelashes have grown, and the eyelids start to open again. Month eight: The complexion becomes rosy and smooths out. The pupils respond to light, and nails reach the tips of the fingers. Month nine: Voila! The world gets to see the already-living child."
The chill of the attic prompted Tristan to rise and reach for the maroon woven blanket on his bed. He raised it to Calder, who raised a hand and shook his head, and swept it around his own shoulders.
"You said they cannot sense pain until their fourth month," Calder said musingly. "Most countries have abolished the practice of abortion by then. The fetus could not even know what was happening at that point."
"Say a man sneaks a woman rohypnol and rapes her. She would have no idea what was happening—"
"That is not the same thing!" Calder answered crossly.
"True. Because chances are that if the man drugs the woman, she will be alive the next day."
Calder slammed his palms against the table. "This is absolute nonsense. You are a right lunatic."
Tristan raised his cup to his lips and drained the remainder of his tea. "I proved to you that the unborn child is alive. Ending that life is murder whether or not the child is aware of the crime. A tree crashing down in the forest makes a sound as well, even when there is no one to hear it. But the mother would know, in this case. And women are often haunted by their choice."
"And what about rape? Could you justify that child?"
"That child is still alive, and the not to be punished for a crime he or she did not commit. The pain of experiencing an abortion will not heal the pain of the original crime. Do you consider rape a crime?"
"Irrelevant. You know that I do."
"Darwinism leads to a philosophy known as moralrelativism. Such a philosophy states that good and evil is determined by society and can fluctuate with the individuals that comprise it. When a sovereign God is subtracted from the equation, man structures the laws. But you believe rape is definitely wrong."
"Our society values women and their privacy and safety."
"Some societies do not. Does that make it acceptable for their men to rape women?"
He is reaching to grasp any argument in the world. This is not reasonable. Surely he will run out of things to come back with soon. This is a waste of time."The reason we have evolved a set of social standards is to preserve the species."
Tristan cocked his head with contemplation. "I can understand how murder would land in that category. Pregnancy accompanies rape about 7% of the time, which by Darwinian standards, would result in the propagation of the species. But you still say that it is evil because it distresses a woman. Your concern for a woman transcends what could be biologically beneficial."
"The child of a criminal would not be beneficial to society."
"Children do not always do the same as their parents, I promise you that," Tristan chuckled and glanced away. "You are not the same as the people in your family, I am willing to believe."
"Everything I am genetically comes from somewhere in me family. As a biologist, you should know that. That is how genetics works."
"Identical twins share 100% of their DNA, and yet have different personalities."
Still refutable. "They may have a separate set of circumstances."
"And they may not. Even those who are raised together prove to have separate personalities."
"The child of a rapist may not even be wanted. Actually, the child of anyone may not be wanted." Calder sensed his blood pressure rising to what Liam would call the volcanic point. "Yes, I realize you will claim that many mothers realize they love the child growing inside them. But do you really want to explain the abuse of children in society, and why that should be allowed?"
"Abuse should never be allowed, but that does not mean a child should be aborted. Benjamin Franklin was considered an undesired child, as he was abused by his one of his brothers. But where would the world be if he was aborted?"
Calder snickered as he seated himself again and leaned forward on his elbows. "You were a Christian as a child. I assume you were raised with your convictions, and with the perspective of a child who has no notion of what it is like to be unwanted. So how could you really speak on their behalf?"
Heat surged to the cheeks of his companion, who leapt abruptly to his feet."Me father hates the idea that I am alive at this moment instead of me mother. Because I killed her. The only reason I have come to be where I am is because Mr. Power realized I surpassed his knowledge of mathematics and sciences in secondary school and sponsored me as I earned me education. The reason I live here is not only because we were penniless already."
Calder stared at him in incredulity. "You killed your mother?"
"She never lived past the hour of me birth. That is why I was given a name that means sadness."
A Mozart concerto emerged from the briefcase propped against the table. Calder reached into it and extracted his cell phone. "Excuse me," he answered it and pressed it to his ear. "Calder McCallister… Yes, I'll be there shortly."
Tristan gave a nod of understanding as he hung up.
"Garda station. I have to go."
. . .
"He tried to rape her, but was unsuccessful," said nurse Kendra. "She was pinned to the ground before a Good Samaritan caught sight of the situation and chased him away, shouting. They already warned me you are awkward when the victims are uncomfortable, but they also told me you are the best artist they have. So be gentle with her. She is remarkably strong for her age, but she's still shaken."
"I promise I will be steady with her."
With a nod of approval, the nurse poked her head through the hospital room door and ushered him inside. "Miranda Finch, here is the artist we mentioned earlier. His name is Calder McCallister."
The young woman propped against the headboard of her hospital bed stared at him with forlorn aqua eyes, the left of which was surrounded by a ripening bruise. The pallor of her complexion made the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose stand out all the more. A small cut was visible between her pursed lips. She maintained her gaze until he seated himself on the chair beside her, at which point her eyes flickered toward the nurse.
"Will you stay in the room with me?"
The plump woman smiled and made her way to the opposite side of the bed to reach for her slender hand. "Of course I will."
Calder reached into his briefcase for a pencil and positioned his arm over the sketchbook on his knee. "Miranda, first of all, I am so sorry you have to go through this."
She sucked in a deep breath and sneaked him a glance. "Appreciate it."
"Could you describe for me the man that attacked you?"
Miranda sneaked another glance at her nurse, who gave her hand a squeeze. "He was a reddish man, maybe five feet, nine inches to six feet tall. And I – I don't really know, he was wearing a black scarf around the lower half of his face. B-but his head was perfectly oval. Yes, yes like that!"
She pointed triumphantly at the sketchbook as Calder penciled a soft edged shape on the page.
"And what were his eyes like?"
She squeezed her eyes shut as she struggled to recall them. "I think they were blue, maybe mixed. But they were definitely light. And they had a slight almost shape, with really dark lashes. No, darker and longer," she corrected and pointed to the preliminary lines. "But you got the shape right."
"What else could you see?"
"His nose. It wasn't pointy or anything. I could actually see some of his nose hairs. It was strange."
"You are doing so well," Calder gave a small smile. "Do you remember anything else?"
"Erm," she squeezed her eyes shut again. "His hair was really short, like it was shaved. There really wasn't much of it. And there was a scar… somewhere on his face…"
A tear squeezed from beneath her eyelid and trickled down her cheek. The nurse smoothed the brown curls back from her cheeks and laid them on her shoulder. "You're doing well, Mandy."
"I can't remember where is scar is. It was crescent shaped, but I can't remember where it is!"
"We can continue this later on, if you remember," Calder assured as best he could. She released a sob and sat up to be received into the nurse's arms. Calder cleared his throat and pushed to his feet.
"I think it would be best to ask her again later," said the nurse.
"But you got it," Miranda pulled away and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "Aside from the scar, that looks just like his face. Thank you. You did well with that."
"Much obliged, Miranda," Calder smiled. "You don't have to fret about that scar. Should you remember at any point, you can give me a call. I'll leave the number of the Garda stations that hire me."
"Good night," she called feebly as he exited through the door and closed it softly behind him. He stepped aside and pressed his back against the hall. A doctor wheeled a patient past him in a chair, and a nurse held the hand of a child as she led him to his mother. The receptionist answered the phone again, and a wail peeled through the air from an infant being carried over his mother's shoulder.