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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 20 page 14


kid scientist

A Time for Replication

by Katrina Johnston

After the 9:00 p.m. showing of Twistback, a sci-fi film featuring a heroic physician who travels backwards into time to prevent a worldwide epidemic which might otherwise have annihilated half the planet’s population, Jorry Peterson, aged eleven, walked home stride-for-stride alongside his Uncle Sylvan. Jorry's uncle would celebrate his 25th birthday in four weeks plus five days time. He was visiting from South Dakota.

A casual observer might believe that Uncle Sylvan was a shambling youth just in his late teens. Thin and lank, with a jumble of dark brown and stringy hair, he carried the perpetual appearance of adolescence. He was not yet married and not dating. Sylvan paced along the avenue, his head downcast, staring at the cement. The guys shared a rhythm as their winter boots slapped a measured cadence on the snow-encrusted sidewalk. They didn’t talk of the movie or of anything, and the silence hung like paste.

Perhaps each was deeply engrossed by strange recollections of the possibilities of time travel or about true heroism. But more likely they were recalling the grotesque scenes from the movie.

In the movie, the infected victims had agonized and screamed as their backbones wrenched with knotted lumps which initially manifested between the shoulder blades and writhed like thickened ropes under skin and sinew all the way down to the coccyx. Ultra close-up horrors included mass quantities of cinematic gore. When the deadly infection had progressed beyond all hope, a twisting spine would snap; heads lolled unnaturally and contorted sideways into hideous postures. The cast of characters, including the heroic doctor-scientist-saviour-and-all-around-good-guy, and a few other folks who had remained uninfected, hazmat suits the normal attire, had hastily obtained caskets and made arrangements to dispose of corpses.

The film was an oddity of the censorial rating system: “Parental Guidance Suggested.” It likely should have been “Restricted.” Jorry’s mother would have been righteously shocked and would have forbidden her young son to view such a movie if she’d even had a clue about the graphic depictions. During the frequent gruesome bits, Uncle Sylvan had shut his eyes, peered between his long, bony fingers. Jorry stared outright.

Jorry’s mother had informed her son that Uncle Sylvan (her younger sibling and her only brother) was a reserved individual. Jorry understood that this meant the dude was moody. Sylvan rarely spoke. Maybe he was lonely and his eleven-year-old nephew might be conscripted as a friend. Jorry’s mother was attempting to orchestrate the connection. “Extended families are the best,” she told Jorry. And considering she was a single mother with one lone offspring and Jorry also needed more people in his life, it seemed a good idea. At least that's what Jorry's mother thought.