To Err Is Human



Scene Title To Err Is Human
Synopsis Humanity is made up of mistakes and imperfections and one man discovers that he is made up of both, equally.
Date April 6, 2009

We are born, we live, and we die. It is the natural cycle of things…

Like so many times before, the machine spits out a monotone chime that has turned into a single, flat note. What was once marked with the vibrant pulse of life in electronic form has been reduced to the funeral dirge of a heart rate monitor.

Since the dawn of time, man has sought to circumvent this natural cycle, to perfect God’s work and unmake perceived flaws in His creation.

“Call it,” the chief scientist on duty finally pulls his hand away from the young girl’s wrist, his latex-gloved fingers pressing too hard into her soft bones that flex and bend like jelly under his touch. At his side, a nurse with her face covered by a surgical mask looks up to an old analogue clock, staring up at the hands pointing to 12:05. AM or PM doesn’t matter; it’s already too late, the clock has already passed midnight, and there’s no more turning it back.

We strive for perfection in and out of ourselves, to build upon our strengths and shore up our weaknesses. But all too often we find that the things about ourselves we seek to change the most…

Stepping away from the body on the table, the doctor pulls down his mask and moves to stand in front of the plate glass window looking into the operation room. The shake of his head signifies to the man behind the glass that once more, it’s been a failure. One more failure in a long string of failures stringing back farther than anyone wishes to admit. One more life snuffed out in the pursuit of science, of perfection.

…is what makes us the most human.

Six Months Ago

”He’s dead,” a chorus of muffled sighs join the voice as the sound of rubber gloves being snapped off and thrown in the trash punctuate the statement. Moving away from the examination window, a group of men and women in lab coats move back towards a table lined with computer terminals under flickering fluorescent bulbs.

“That’s six patients in as many weeks,” turning to look up as he types on the keyboard, one of the scientists turns to their team leader, watching his back as he continues to stare through the window into the examination room. “Doctor Chesterfield,” the doctor urges, rising up from the bank of terminals, “are you even—“

“I heard you, mister Sullivan.” Tightness in the scientist’s voice comes with a hint of exasperation, that his mourning over the loss of one more was so quickly interrupted by the sharp spurs of progress. “I am aware of this team’s shortcomings, mister Sullivan – acutely so.”

As he turns from the window, the tired man standing there stares out silently at the others watching the exchange. His eyes wander behind rectangular lenses to correct those so very human shortcomings in his eyesight, they wander back and forth from every face in the team, then finally down to his own weathered hands.

“Patient thirty-seven lasted for six hours and forty-eight minutes after injection, that’s a twenty minute declination from last week’s results,” wringing his hands together, Doctor Chesterfield walks past the terminals towards the back of the room, his head hung and shoulders slouched in the way a child would approach a disapproving parent, “We’ve taken two steps forward and three steps back since this project began, and there is no sign we are any closer to making headway since I joined this—“ The words splutter from his lips, gaze upturning to look across the young and bright minds gathered here again, “this farce of a project.”

“Mason, you need some rest.” Her nametag reads Doctor Marlowe, though for all his formality Mason refuses to call her anything other than her first name, Wendy. It’s a small portion of some misguided sense of paternal familiarity, given show similar the young scientist looks to his own daughter.

He wants to bark out a rebuttal to her, wants to refute just how tired he really is, but the words only come out as an aborted half-word, followed by the reluctant shake of his head and a tired, drawn-out sigh.

“Maybe you’re right,” his fingers punch at the bridge of his nose, and Wendy’s lopsided smile is a sure sign that any time Mason Chesterfield utters a maybe, it’s usually a yes. “Alright, I—we’ll call it a day, then. Clean up from that experiment, and we’ll get started with a fresh batch tomorrow…”

Rising to stand up straight, Mason forces a smile to the rest of his team, walking past the observation window once more as he stares at the bloody mess on the examination table, pooling off of the sides in a thick red soup contained within a steadily dissolving sack of pulpy flesh. “Wendy,” Mason quietly addresses the young woman, though his eyes don’t divert from the results of their own.

“Yes?” Her footsteps are silent behind him, one hand moving to rest on Mason’s shoulder as she leans in, one lock of curly auburn hair falling down from where it was tucked behind one ear, eyes leveled up at the doctor.

He shouldn’t ask, but the curiosity and desire to discover what went wrong is more compelling than any sense of moral obligation, “Do you think you could talk Jennifer through one of these tests to stabilize a patient, if you were present in the room?” One brow rises on Doctor Chesterfield’s face as he looks down to the young doctor.

Her only response is a puzzled and silent stare.

Present Day

Walking around the table, Mason quietly reaches up and brushes his fingers over the corpse’s brow, letting his fingertips glide over pale skin. His brows furrow, feeling the softness to her forehead, the way her bones have turned gelatinous beneath her skin; spongy and weak.

With his jaw set, one index finger brushes a stray lock of curly, auburn hair away from her sweat glistened face, teeth pressing down to his lower lip to still its motion. His eyes don’t leave hers, staring deep into the widely dilated pupils that gaze up lifelessly to the flickering fluorescent lights in the ceiling.

When we seek to push out the impurities and imperfections that makes life unique, we sacrifice the very diversity that makes us as people, individuals.

Resting his palm on her cheek, Mason affords a hesitant smile, finally pulling his eyes away only once he can no longer bring himself to look at a face that will no longer smile at him in the morning. These are the risks he takes, to ensure that the future that he yearns for truly comes to pass, the sacrifices necessary for progress.

When we sacrifice our humanity for the pursuit of science, what then is left in the victory?

Reaching into his pocket, the doctor removes a cell phone, flipping it open as he turns from the table, one finger moving to brush over a speed-dial button. The rest of the lab is silent, save for the ticking of the analogue clock on the wall and the soft tone of ringing in his ear. The heart-rate monitor has been turned off, and her digital dirge has ended.

When we sacrifice everything we are, can we truly call the result a victory?

“Hey Kitty,” he murmurs into the phone, “it’s dad.”

And if we do, does that makes us human?

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