The Psuman Factor
The Psuman Factor9 mins 8.9K 9 mins 8.9K
I walked up to Dr. Guha's clinic with some trepidation. It was after a great battle of wills with my counselor that I had agreed to visit the doctor. Laying bare one's innermost thoughts and feelings to an unknown person took courage which I didn't think I had. But it was my worsening condition which had finally convinced me to visit the best psuman psychologist in the city.
Maybe a bit of an explanation would not be out of place here. I am one of the first specimens of the psuman race. A psuman, or pseudo-human is an engineered being, superior to humans in every respect. I am already more than three hundred years old, and still in the prime of youth. Our race has been increasing at a closely controlled rate, to replace the depleting human population. Mankind has simply lost the will to live. Birth rates have fallen to abysmally low levels despite all the incentives provided by the government. There will soon be a day when there are no humans left.
As I entered the clinic, my presence was detected by the scanners. A matronly voice announced, "Welcome to Dr. Sujit Guha's clinic Mr. Shivanand. He will see you in approximately thirteen minutes. Please make yourself comfortable."
Though this was a psychologist's clinic and there was not much chance of any patients with infectious diseases, standard protocol dictated a thorough cleansing, for humans as well as psumans – just in case. As I walked in, the passage glowed a dull orange, and I felt my skin tingle. My clothes and sandals crackled, and my hair stood on end. It took just a few steps before things returned to normal, by which time I was in the waiting room.
This room was like no doctor's waiting room I had ever seen before. There were individual cubicles, shielded from view by darkness, so one could only see faint outlines. A blinking display with my name on it could be seen down the third row, and I went in. There was a comfortable divan with cushions on it, so I sat down. Where I had walked through, there was now black space, and I was in an island of light about three meters square. It was a bit disorienting but the light was soothing, and I felt drowsy. There were twelve minutes to go which gave me time to ponder some more.
It was the socio-biologist Meera Sayani, who half a millennium ago, had the foresight to predict the current human condition. She was the first to propose the creation of pseudo-humans using human DNA in virtually indestructible bodies, to keep mankind alive via proxy. However, the technology to make this possible took a few decades to materialize.
There was a string of failures for a few years before the first stable batch lived. We were genetically engineered to be resistant to all known diseases. Built to be virtually physically indestructible, we were capable of feats beyond imagination. Our design had also removed all undesirable anti social, criminal and aggressive traits, since a superior race with such tendencies was a danger not only to humans, but the Earth as well.
My train of thought was interrupted by the disembodied voice announcing that the doctor would see me now. I began to get up to look for his cabin, when a hazy figure, back lit by a faint glow at the doorway, walked in.
He greeted me with outstretched hand, "Hello, I am Sujit Guha. I hope you didn't have to wait long."
My surprise must have shown on my face, for he smiled as he sat down. "We work differently here. I come and see the patient, not the other way round. Anyway, I have familiarized myself with your case, but would like to hear it in your own words Mr. Shivanand."
"It’s a long story Doctor. I have lived many years. I will try to be as brief as psumanly possible."
"Oh, don't worry. We have all the time in the world. You are my last appointment today, and I'm in no hurry to leave."
Where should I begin? Should I tell him of the discrimination we still faced and the fear and distrust we were viewed with by some people? Or tell him of the thankless lives we led, doing what humans couldn't do, but still being brought into this world as per their policies? What future did we have of our own free will?
"I am sure you are aware of our history. The human-psuman relationship has been a symbiotic one. We are incapable of harming anyone or committing any crime. We are model and upright citizens and we will still be around when mankind has ceased to exist, growing at a steady rate. Seems ideal doesn't it? But what is the point of it all? What's in it for us as a race? Even the word psuman itself reminds us each day that we are less than human, not the real thing.
"You know our original designers were not sure if psumans would have either emotions, or for that matter a soul. It was all uncharted territory. The promise of continuation of the species though second hand, was too alluring to bother with such minor issues. And for quite some time, nobody thought about it either, me included. For the first seventy years of my life, I served humanity unquestioningly. Then slowly, doubts began to creep in, and cracks began to show."
I paused to take a quick sip of water and to collect my thoughts. Dr. Guha had the grace not to mouth any meaningless words of encouragement to egg me on.
"I do not know about the others of my generation, but I began to question our very existence. Each of us was brought into this world by humans. We were neither allowed nor were capable of having families of our own. I realized that the turmoil in my mind was not just intellectual, but emotional. I still don't know whether I have a soul, but found out that I did have feelings.
"For the next few decades, I tried to find a reason – a reason for this life. I studied the religions of the world. I went to the Himalayas in search of a guru to guide me. In vain, for all of it was meant for humans. It addressed their concerns, their fears of life and death. How did it matter to us, whom man had created? I could find no answer.
"I couldn't even drink myself into a stupor, nor drug myself senseless, for we psumans are immune to any and every addiction. I began to feel anger, felt like destroying mankind, but my inherent controls wouldn't even let me do that."
I paused again. The doctor knew what I was going to say next, since my case paper spelt it out in no uncertain terms. Still, having to say it aloud wasn't easy. He gestured for me to continue.
"Then the anger turned inward. I no longer saw the need to live. Thought became action, and about twenty years ago, I first tried to kill myself. You cannot even begin to imagine the struggle to overcome my inbuilt survival instincts, to take this drastic and final step. It was months before I finally could push myself to do it.
"I failed. I tried thrice more from that day to this, but failed every time. Maybe I was too good to be able to kill myself, or maybe my attempts were half hearted. Maybe somewhere, the core of what I am would not allow me to harm myself. But like every other psuman, I am nothing if not persistent. I will succeed someday, in killing myself. This daily internal conflict between having to live but not wanting to, is making life a living hell for me. Which is why I am here. Help me Dr. Guha. Help me to find meaning, or at least help me find peace."
My desperation made my voice shudder. For the first time in my life, my eyes were wet, as the pent up emotion was released and I could not speak.
Dr. Guha nodded, "That's what I am here for. What you are going through is because you have the ability to feel. I would even go so far as to say, you are more human than some people I have met. Don't worry, we will tackle this together."
His words gave me a glimmer of hope, though part of my mind was skeptical. Wasn’t it human to hope against hope, in the greatest of adversity?
"Mr. Shivanand, I won't promise you any quick results. I will need complete commitment from you in terms of time and energy. What we have today should be enough for me to work on. I think we will wind up now. Would next Thursday same time be convenient?"
"Certainly Doctor. See you then”, I said abruptly, and got up to leave.
He rose to shake my hand, and walked me through the passage to the exit. I wondered if he did that for every patient, or because I was the last case of the day, and he was leaving too. I left his clinic, feeling much better than I had done in years. Maybe he really would be able to help me.
Dr. Sujit Guha was indeed leaving. As he exited the corridor, it sealed up behind him. He walked up to his apartment which was one floor above. The lights switched on and one of his favorite sarod pieces began playing. He wished he could relax, but he had to update his report first. He gestured for his recorder to turn on and began dictating, "File three nine seven dot four five seven two." The system would tag the recording to the file number automatically.
"This update is based on the conversation with a patient today. This is the seventeenth psuman case I have come across, related to attempted suicides or suicidal tendencies. Of the past sixteen, only one case is alive – so far. The other fifteen have been eventually successful at killing themselves despite extensive counseling. No known medication, either psuman or human has helped.
”As I have repeatedly pointed out in the past, the common underlying refrain in all these cases is the lack of hope in each individual, about their own future and that of the psuman race as a whole. Maybe the possibility of psumans having emotions and feelings like humans was never considered when they were designed, or the trials didn't throw up any indications that they might have any – but my experience has shown me that psumans do feel.
“Action needs to be taken, and taken quickly. The human race is down to its last million including Earth and all its colonies. The cases I have seen may just be the tip of the iceberg – these are just the reported ones that I have seen. The Committee would be in a position to check the number of cases cosmos wide. A drastic re-think to the Psuman Propagation Policy is required, taking into consideration the psuman factor. Otherwise, there will be no humans or psumans left in a few centuries.
“The Committee may evaluate this report independently to eliminate any possibility of bias, since it has been prepared by me, a fellow psuman.