His body was a battleground.
His name was Adam Wright.Â He grew up on Long Island, went to college, got a job, all the things typical American boys do; and at some point, he grew up.Â He became a full-fledged, card-carrying, honest-to-God Man.Â He found a wife.Â He fathered a child.Â He earned promotions and sacked away a fair cache of money and took his family on vacations every summer.
His wife, Jen, put up with him and his Manliness.Â She earned half the money in the house, and spent more time with their little girl.Â And they loved each other as best they could, which is to say quite a bit.
The girl, Robin, was only three, barely walking, hardly talking, cute as buttons, a true joy.
None of them, not even the Man himself, knew the truth about Adam Wright.
He’d been born, yes, of course, that much was true.Â But he’d been made, too, and fostered, and cared for in unimaginable ways, on an extremely small scale.Â Terra-forming, of a sort, made his skin a perfect field–on the level of microbes.
There was a reason Adam had no memory of prolonged illness.
They ploughed his skin, reaped and sowed, designed and built.Â It wasn’t until Adam’s fortieth birthday that he noticed a growth on his hip: a tiny nodule, hard, painless, worrisome.Â He made an appointment with a doctor who told him it was nothing, but perhaps they’d remove it and do a few tests just in case.Â Make sure it wasn’t something malignant.
What had been known as the Tower of Babel, on the surface of Adam Wright’s skin, was removed by an act of God, or so it seemed, and a thousand little little people disappeared with it.Â A crater marked the spot.Â Flowers were brought, and other monuments.Â Prayers were given.Â And that was where it started.Â Some people, quite frankly, didn’t believe in the power of prayer, not in this instance.Â It was their own hubris that had brought this upon them.Â Their unfailing belief in their manifest destiny.Â Onwards, upwards, everywhere, the culmination of hundreds of generations’ worth of work and study and effort and innovation.
Protestors arrived.Â Then police.Â Then the military.Â Sides were drawn.Â First blood came, for the little little people, near Adam Wright’s bellybutton shortly after midnight three nights (three years) after the doctor’s small cut.
He woke from a fitful sleep with a horrible itch.Â In fact, the war between the little little people had already spread.Â To his nipples.Â His fingernails.Â The lobe of his ear.Â He heard ringing, and buzzing, and really nothing at all.
Adam Wright checked into a spa.Â They catered to his every need, made him feel warm, secure, comfortable.Â They massaged the tension out of his muscles.Â They played sleep-inducing New Age music, flutes and violins without any edge, some all-girl chorus chanting nonsense words.Â They bathed him in mud and scalding hot water.Â They placed hot stones on the small of his back and along his spine.Â They burned incense and sage and scented oils.Â Yet none of it provided any long-term relief; Adam’s skin crawled, it itched, it burned, it sloughed off him in the thinnest of flakes.
When the doctor reported that the tests showed nothing, Adam turned to a preacher, then a minister, a priest, a travelling salesman, a psychic, a mystic guru, the icon of a saint.Â All save the last made numerous suggestions, pledges, and assurances.Â All save the last failed to deliver on their promises.
More doctors were brought in, specialists, internists, researchers, grad students, theorists, physicists, chemical engineers.
After years of war, the battlegrounds spread to every corner of their world, and beyond.Â More powerful weapons were created.Â Sides were official now, and deep-rooted, though no one alive remembered how the war actually started.Â Stories of the Tower of Babel were merely legends, like the monster at Sleepy Hollow, like the ghosts in the Loch.Â Sometimes, the gods struck out blindly at the little little people, ripping into either side seemingly at random; each instance fortified the one against the other.Â Millions died every year (day).Â Warriors were bred, engineered, geneticized.Â Massive machines of massive destruction rolled out.Â Armament outstripped all other arts, even poetry, though the occasional bleeding heart cried out helplessly.
Finally, one side unleashed the ultimate weapon.
It happened while Adam Wright lay upon an uncomfortable bed in another doctor’s office.Â Over the past year, things had gotten worse; he’d gone through his life’s savings; his wife, bless her soul, worked extra hours at a second, secret job, just to help with the bills were insurance feared to tread.Â Jen cried a lot more often now, as though she felt her daddy’s pain.Â They weren’t there.Â They weren’t in the doctor’s office when he died.
One side or the other, it never really mattered which, devised the weapon and, against all measures of common sense and common decency and self-preservation, set it loose.Â It moved like fire, in all directions, rising high into the heavens; it spread, and it spread, and it spread further still, scorching every inch of ground (skin).Â It went everywhere, leaving no one on either side untouched.Â The liquid flames disintegrated cities, ate up every living little little person it could find–and it found them all–and finally reached out so far in every direction that it found itself, immolated itself, and was gone.
In all of two weeks, it left nothing.
Two weeks on the skin, though, was barely an hour.Â Adam Wright’s skin charred in a chaotic, but definite, pattern, taking moist human flesh and leaving crisp chunks of charcoal.Â Spontaneous, if somewhat slow-moving, human combustion, they claimed.Â They could claim nothing else.Â By the time Adam’s skin burned completely, the pain had brought first unconsciousness and then lifelessness.Â He went without a whimper, in the end, because he’d cried all the tears that were possible to cry and his nerve endings had basically shut down.
One group of brave little little persons survived.Â In a rocket built in secret.Â The journey was long, and tiresome, and frightful, but eventually they landed on the pliable flesh of someone, a doctor perhaps, upon whom they could start afresh.