By Anne J. Sumper
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. Revelation 13:18
The world was in chaos, the moral compass of humanity appearing to have disappeared. Spurred on by professional agitators, people behaved in brutish ways. Civilization ran amok. Somewhere in Europe, near Switzerland, deep in an underground laboratory, scientists experimented with cloning humans. Above ground, the facility appeared to be yet another biotechnical research compound, much like similar institutions all over the world. Concrete, glass, and granite embellishments contributed to the benign impression of yet another medical research facility.
Dr. Frederich Ehrlich, the director of the facility, had several degrees, but the only one displayed prominently in his office was in engineering. His advanced studies and expertise in genetics far outpaced anyone else in his field and were kept strictly under wraps. Even his staunch Catholic wife did not know the true nature of his work. Marianne Ehrlich would have been horrified to think that her husband tinkered with God’s creations.
For many years, the cloning of animals—all sorts of creatures starting from that famous sheep named Dolly to even an ostrich—had been gradually introduced to humanity. Pictures of the “copies,” as they were called in the industry, were regularly displayed publicly in an attempt to get people comfortable with the concept of cloning. After a while, the world went about its business and didn’t pay much attention. Even so, the idea of cloning humans was a bit out of the ballpark to folks of a religious persuasion. Who are we to play God, they argued. And for what purpose? To build immense, soulless armies to dominate the world? They believed the soul of a human being entered the body around the time of birth, but they doubted a soul would enter the body of a cloned human at term.
Unconcerned with the naysayers and sceptics, Dr. Ehrlich continued his research, employing techniques using trial and error and refining them simply for the pure joy of it. He expected “errors.” Each one was examined, studied, and noted. At any one time, numerous fetuses floated in artificial wombs in this secret, underground laboratory. The scientists assisting in this research came and went through a hidden entrance to the lab; the workers on the upper levels of the facility, deep in their own workings, were oblivious.
What no one knew, including Dr. Ehrlich’s wife, was that the great doctor directly descended from a scientist who worked in the death camps of Nazi Germany, cross breeding and studying the results of such research. Finally, the coming of the Allied Forces stopped the insanity. But Dr. Ehrlich, in the relative safety of his laboratory, persisted in the vast, dimly-lit room. Each incubator was numbered and checked every day for changes in the clones. These were noted and recorded, as were the subject’s genetic identity and parentage.
On one particular morning, something had gone wrong in the lab. As they grew, the fetuses would clasp and unclasp their tiny fingers and move about, but many of them had ceased to be viable. Visibly upset, Dr. Ehrlich approached the incubator numbered “666.” This particular fetus, almost full term, wasn’t stirring, which was worrisome.
When number 666 unexpectedly moved, Dr. Ehrlich started in surprise. The fetus opened its eyes. Checking the fact sheet on the incubator, Dr. Ehrlich noted that its cells were harvested from his wife, who was happy to assist her husband, despite not knowing the exact nature of his work. Marianne Ehrlich and her husband had had a child, a son who perished in a skiing accident years before. The Ehrlichs had never gotten over their loss. Despite his clinical devotion to his work, Dr. Ehrlich grieved nonstop over the loss of his beautiful boy. Human cloning gave his life purpose. And when the fetus numbered 666 opened its cold, blue eyes and stared at him, it was almost too much to hope for. Soon, he would have a child of his own again. Marianne would be ecstatic.