El Programa de Chat

By Carlos Pazmino


Chapter 1 (English)

Translation provided by JR/Persuivant

The day began with a rain storm. The raindrops had momentarily visible forms as they disintegrated on contact with each hard surface...... Destiny had granted them each but a single second of life, and they enjoyed those tiny moments in all their fullness.

I had gotten up reluctantly and, to make matters worse, my cheerful awakener, with its acute and shrill sound, intensified my bad mood.

It was the beginning of another weekend like many others, but with one difference: This was the weekend that I'd been given permission to complete my research. The National Instititue of Mental Health (NIMH), where I worked, had granted me permission to clarify my ideas with respect to an incredible new drug we had given to our specimens. The preliminary findings had been entirely positive, and everything appeared to promise extremely exciting results.

I was well-suited to being the young scientist, but the institute to whom I rendered those services, seeing a quite promising future that would be full of work for me to do, decided to give me the luxury of a day of rest so that I could put my work aside and have a life in the world that was passing me by.

The first thing I did to calm my bad mood was to fire-up my computer and look for the Chat program that a friend at the institute had installed for me, so I could kill a little time and look for a blind date. I hadn't managed to find the girlfriend of my dreams so far, but there was nothing to lose in trying.

As it thought through its instructions I felt that within the computer program about to begin navigating - searching for perhaps some twin soul that shared my problems, was something that included/understood me.

I began with the main panel, looking for an interesting chat partner, and I saw all the names to the right of the screen. The names they had went from the unimaginable to hilarious. People could be very creative when trying to avoid exposure before a million people - all talking at the same time and speaking everything but the truth. And by this way I got to know people, who, more or less, got along with me - never asking for my real name - it always felt more sincere if they didn't want to know it. I knew a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher of mathematics, an economist - all ready to tell his own history, his own theories on life and his experiences - and his own suggestions for getting the girls.

But there were no girls. I believed that they all slept, trying to replace energies spent the night before.

I think that my nerves were beginning to get the better of my common sense - to such a point that I started to think one of my chat partners was a girl, although they disguised it very well. I chose not to find out - to have asked would have spoiled the surprise.

It flies. Time rapidly flies away, and the bad thing is, one becomes addicted to Chat. I had not eaten a mouthful in five hours, and the natural reaction of my suffering stomach was to begin a twisting feeling that would force me to stop my search for the perfect match.

I was getting ready to leave, already trying to plan what I was going to eat, when in the lower part of the screen appeared a name that grabbed my attention: NICODEMUS.

It cried out 'some kind of fanatic or art critic' - but something indescribable - not a mental force, but a kind of attraction or impulse of curiosity, made me decide to speak with him.

But what would I find? Not my match, I thought.

I did click twice, as my computer instructed me, and suddenly my monitor went completely blank.

I started with a simple "Hello" to see if I'd get an answer.

The screen responded almost right away.

"Hello - who is it?"

Now I stopped for a second and considered if I should give my true name or not. In short, I had talked with many people, and it didn't really matter if you gave your name or not, and besides, it was all just a charade, a diversion.

"I am called Charlie. Nicodemus can't be your real name, would you tell me yours.............?"

The reply took me completely by surprise.

"Already knew that you were called Charlie - to be precise, Charlie Factsmith. You've no idea how hard I've been looking for you, and now I've finally found you."

"You know my name?" I asked filled with curiosity "You've been looking for me?"

One assumes that when someone who you've just met for the first time knows your name they must be police of some kind - or something similar?

"Do I owe something? Who do you work for?"

"No, nothing like that." I felt as if the privacy the game once offered had vanished.

"You need not be concerned, you can trust me. Now my question is....... can I trust you?"

How can I trust someone when I don't even know their name? This game was beginning to make me feel a little uneasy. Also my mind was becoming so confused as to go blank for a moment. Then a clear recollection - I quickly remembered news articles about girls who had recently been murdered by the types that use these kind of programs. It was definitely a good idea to cut this chat short.

"You know? - I'd better speak with you another day. I have things to do. Look for someone else............. 'Ciao'."

It was then that my right hand, in a quick and nervous movement, clicked on the screen twice, so that my anonymous companion would disappear.

After this disquieting encounter I shook my head, as if badly wishing to remove the moment from my mind. I carried on looking in the main panel, but in the lower part a shape appeared automatically - coloured in a vivid display of red, the self-same name: NICODEMUS.

I made it disappear again, but it didn't stay gone. And it carried on that way, reappearing with great insistence, and I in turn erasing it. This lasted for some seconds.

The situation was already beginning to give me a nervous cold sweat. My breathing got faster as adrenaline began to flow through my body like an injection of ice water in my veins. I tried to calm myself with deep breaths and, with an automatic reflex, exited the program, to see if I could end this nightmare that way.

When I thought that everything was over I began to close the connection - and with it, now that I no longer had any wish to use it, the active Chat program. At this time NICODEMUS was still my only option of conversation.

I was still ice-cold. My hands didn't touch the keyboard and I was beginning to think how all of this would make a great movie. Maybe there was a book in the library about this kind of thing. Fear was eating away at the entrails of my nervous, turning stomach and my eyes had become so dilated as to have become borderless. I tried to convince myself that none of this was happening. I brought my hands to my face in a gesture of astonishment, and then after checking I was in my own house and not somewhere else, made the mistake of accepting the conversation. I knew that the right thing to do was to call the police, but in this case - when someone could be watching me from anywhere, or looking out from the floor above or below for movements outside - it would have been a very bad idea.

"Charlie, please pardon my insistence. Relax, I don't mean any harm. I know its wrong to pressure you this way, but don't worry. I only want to speak with you on a matter not only of interest to us, but also to you. Stay at your screen."

"Very well, I'll stay, you can trust me. Now, if you want to speak with me that's OK, but I must know your name before we can go on."

There was a silence that, in my state of anxiety, seemed to go on forever.

"You're right, forgive my lack of manners. "My name is Justin.......... and I am a rat"

My outburst of laughter almost made me fall out of my chair. It was like a release mechanism. "Just what I needed" I thought - "a psychotic, a lunatic with an identity crisis that's become an animal or something. I had to end this nightmare right now."

I turned on him with my reply.

"Listen 'Jus' or whoever you are, if you're trying to make a sick joke you've succeeded. I'm loving it. You asked me to be open and trustworthy. I have been. If you're not going to be with me then I swear you'll be sorry when I call the police and they drag you............"

"No, no really - I AM a rat. Charlie, you must believe me. You made me. What I'm saying to you I say in all seriousness. It is not a joke."

I knew the answer wasn't true, but what was it he had to say? Who was I really speaking with? I felt like I had entered an unknown area, then had a gigantic door slammed unexpectedly behind be, making me feel the reverberations of the echo - giving the feeling that I could no longer turn back, and must follow on ahead. It was not a wise thing to do - this could be someone very dangerous. Again my pulse began to race, and I was again gripped with fear. I knew without a doubt that I should shut down the computer.

There was again a silence that seemed to create an endless void.

"Charlie - are you there?......... say something, please."

I couldn't do it.

"Charlie! I beg you not to leave!!............."

Without being concious of it, my movement became static. The only thing I had to do was stretch a finger and press a button and it would be over. But something or someone other than 'Charlie' seemed to mentally give me the command: 'you will not turn off the computer. I must show you something right now............'

I saw my appointment diary, a personal photo of mine, and all my data, as if someone had meticulously investigated my whole life. The data included my years at university and my time working at NIMH. I was left bemused. This person really knew me. My hands were tied. I couldn't think what he could want to ask - he already knew everything.

"OK - you win. I can see you know who I am. I commend your investigation - you've accounted for the smallest detail. Tell me what you want so we can get this over with......... Whatever you want."

"Nothing material, I just want a favour."

"What favour could I do? That answer doesn't make sense. You know that nobody does something for nothing. The situation doesn't make sense either - supposing you really were a rat, how could you possibly write with a computer?"

"Because I've adapted it so that it works by my voice. That sounds a little strange, but that's 'about the size of it'."

This was definitely unbelievable. A computer activated by a 'rat'. I decided to continue investigating so see where my curiosity would lead, although I might not like what I was going to find.

"And how could you have adapted it? This I know - rats don't have enough grey matter to read, let alone build a computer............" This question would prove the lie. It was time to stop talking, call the police, track it down and look it up - and to erase this terrible experience from my memory once and for all.

"You are mistaken, we rats do have intelligence. As a scientist you must know that, but a rat's intelligence is mainly limited to instinct. Now if you inject them with a fluid that stimulates the brain and changes the organism you'd be surprised what they can do. In this case it allows us to enjoy a language that permits us both to communicate."

"Very interesting - you have a very active imagination Justin, but I really don't believe you. You won't convince me this way - I'm just displaying my natural scientists' scepticism, the first rule of which is never to recognise anything but absolute truths - do you have any to tell me?"

Another silence. "This is where the story collapses" I said.

"OK. I think you win that one. My comrades and I studied computers and decided to prove our theories. To that end we joined together computer pieces gathered from different locations until we managed to construct a surprising model that is activated by voice, because obviously keyboards our size do not exist."

This was just what I needed, one or maybe a whole filthy band of malcontents, a gang without an identity - until they perhaps became communists. I knew it was a bad idea, but I was going to get to the bottom of all this.

"What remains unacceptable to me is how a group of rodents like you (supposing that is true) can read and construct an apparatus of such magnitude?"

"OK Charlie - perhaps you can answer your own question. Recall a NIMH experiment you took part in many years ago, kept secret ever since, on a group of rats and mice that were injected with a drug that, once its effects were discovered, was destroyed and with it all the related records, ensuring no evidence remained."

"Wait, Jus, where did you get this idea? That there were some * special * drug injections? Everything at NIMH is well-ordered. The drugs are developed, are injected into a number of laboratory mice and rats, properly sterilized and taken care of, and never once have any of them shown any abnormal reactions.......... besides, if there had been any unusual results the samples would have been calmly handled by experts to establish in detail any reasons for the abnormality, and properly treated to avoid later contamination." I wanted him to know that my work was first-rate.

"Charlie, just tell me one single thing: What do you do when a laboratory *sample* is infected?"

"It is only properly treated, as I already told you" I said. I didn't understand the question. I'd never felt it necessary explain the procedure to a layman before.

"The don't make it disappear?"

"Is that what you're accusing me of? I know the question you're really asking, even if isn't the one you asked."

"You know very well what I'm talking about, Charlie. When a specimen provides contaminated samples they put it in quarantine until they discover the reason for the contamination, and if they do not find a remedy they incinerate it. Sure, after sucking out all of his blood so they'll have enough to research the cure." His words sounded very assured, as if they came from experience, although the way they came out was quite crude and sarcastic. I expected an answer, but not that one.

"OK, if everything you're saying to me is certain, what's your point Jus? It's something that involves you, but what does it have to do with me?" - The one single question that would solve this riddle.

"Very well Charlie, I'll be direct: I, personally, descended from the generation that NIMH used in an experiment which utilized mice and street rats to prove the effects of a drug that could be used to regenerate neurons lost by human beings as they develop, and to summarize, it was used on my mother when she was pregnant. She gave birth contaminated with a lethal solution. With a contamination unknown and undiagnosed the specimens were put in quarantine and exterminated - your people *disappeared* them. While they were unaware of what was happening our group began to transform into a society of hyper-intelligent rats, able to do everything that the humans take for granted: to read, to speak, to think, to pass judgments and laws. We also inherited the bad qualities too, such as envy, wrath, ambition, and treason, among others, and these qualities were used by one of our members to kill our great leader, Nicodemus, in order to inherit his supreme position. You know of him because it was his name I used. Obviously the scientists were unaware of the results of their experiments until it was too late, as we were able to escape. Regrettably, although the rats all survived, of the mice there were only two who were able to avoid being swallowed by the ventilation shaft. And by your side we built our kingdom. Now, if you do not believe this story of how you created me I invite you to investigate it."

"Your history is very interesting, Jus. But I really cannot conceive of how rats would be able to think so well. As for your companions, I am a scientist and cannot accept the facts at face value. Supposing your history is real, how come you were not contaminated along with your mother?" - I was a little uncomfortable asking this question, but I decided to all the same.

"Because the effect of the drug was such that it changed her metabolism, and logically, also affected mine, lowering the natural defenses of myself and my brother, making us become susceptible to all kinds of infection. Unfortunately they separated us from our mother, placing her in a cage with the others who'd been given the solution. Through that small act of negligence the contaminated children of the rats escaped being *disappeared*, but were now in considerable danger. Happily my brother and I were taken care of by another rat. For reasons no-one could explain, after the death of our mother our metabolism began to react to infections and create new antibodies. That is to say, we became immune. Believe me, Charlie, I do not harbour any resentment towards those who did this to my mother because I have learned to forgive. Even so, if I did not need your help so much I would have approached some other ordinary person instead. My history is very sad, as you shall discover."

Inside I did feel great sorrow. If this had really happened - had happened to me, I do not think that I could have forgiven so easily. I would want vengeance on not only one ruthless form, but against all the authors of similar atrocities. Humans compare themselves with animals in may ways, but I think that the winners will always be those who's behaviour is worthy of imitation rather than those who act on their instincts.

"Justin, I just want to say........ I'm very sorry for what happened to your mother."

I tried to make my words sound right, but I was bad at situations like these.

"You must must have gone through a very difficult time, although I see that you overcame it, but I still have difficulty believing you are a thinking rat, and also you have not explained to me why you need my help. To be honest, all of this has done nothing to take away the confusion."

"Charlie, I'm going to tell you something - if you really want to know about us. I'm going to leave a journal with you that has in it the file and code numbers with which they identified us during the days of our captivity. You can use these as a reference for your investigations and to discover if you really want to help me - or if you want to follow another course." Already I was beginning to become involved in this experience. I would have to choose the right time to go into the archives and a dose of risk-taking and cleverness would be required - qualities I already possessed which enabled me to conduct my experiments. I would find out if these things existed, if I should help Justin, and would bring an end to it all. This would stand out as my greatest investigation - into the construction of an entire species of intelligent rats, and the book would tell me how it was done.

"Justin, I'm going to propose a course of action: Give your journal to me and I'll investigate and try to find the experiment of which you are the product, and I'll help you, regardless of whether you're a rat or not, although I'm worried about where your request for help is going to lead. I'd speak to you again outside working hours."

I prepared myself for the reply.

"Ah Ah! Charlie, you must be present. I will not leave the journal where it can easily be taken. You must be very careful which people get near it. The journal that I'm going to give you is quite attractive, has a dark coffee-coloured leather cover, sheets of paper with gilded edges and would easily fit in the palm of your hand. Anyone could mistake it for an antique, which would be worth a lot of money. I must ask that you are careful and that you will guard it with your life if necessary because this journal is the unique document of our existance."

I felt like Jim Phelps when an Impossible Mission was assigned to him. The only thing missing was the famous phrase 'this recording will self-destruct in five seconds". My body began to sweat a wonderful substance, as if I were playing a boyish prank, and I loved it.

"The place will be the park, at the infants' horse ride. On the other side of the main street there is a yellow pony with a red seat. Diagonally to that, about a hundred metres away, is a trashcan with the inscription 'We want a clean city, and we hope you'll help us', and to its side is a drinking fountain. The journal is beneath the trash can. Make sure you watch the time so you get there before the trashcans are emptied."

All of the conversation was being recorded and when it was finished was placed in the computer's protected memory, in case anything bad happened. "Very well Justin I have all that, but you haven't mentioned the hour of our encounter - and its raining, you can't leave an important book in driving thunder and rain".

"Ah yes! I forgot........... the............." - a light vibration in the computer screen made the letters dance into an incoherent form - "..////.o'.// .... cl..//..o...///....ck....." - the vibrations that followed became more and more familiar - "../////.........next...//......to..../////....../.....t...h...e /" And then suddenly my department was without light and the screen extinguished before my eyes. While outside there was a frightening thunderclap, to me the fear was replaced by dark desperate seconds. The computer started up again, and went through its brief routine memory checks and control programs. Although brief, they took long enough. I tried to relocate Justin, but it was impossible. He had already gone.

I found myself so absolutely irritated with everything that existed around me that I was filled with the urge to break something, but the best thing to do, I decided, was to prepare a little food and to taste the adventure that had appeared on this rainy day - the opportunity to find out about the secret experiments conducted by the institute to which I belonged. I could see this being a true challenge.

Chapter 1 (Spanish)

El dia comenzo con una lluvia tormentosa, tanto que las gotas parecian masas de forma definida que se desintegraban al chocar contra cualquier superficie..........parecian tener vida que el destino les quitaba en solo segundos, y parecian disfrutar ese pequeno intervalo de tiempo en toda su plenitud.

Me habia levantado de mala gana y , para colmo, el bendito despertador con su sonido agudo y chirriante avivaba mi mal humor.

Era el comienzo de otro fin de semana como muchos otros, pero con una diferencia: estaba de permiso por ese fin de semana y tenia esos dias para completar mi investigacion. El Instituto Nacional de Higiene Mental (NIMH) que es donde trabajo, me habia concedido ese permiso para poner bien en claro mis ideas con respecto a la nueva droga en la cual debiamos trabajar con los especimenes, y estaba muy entusiasmado, ya que con los analisis previos de las primeras pruebas, se obtuvo un resultado enteramente positivo, y todo parecia indicar que la droga seria un exito.

Me sentia bien al ser el cientifico mas joven del Instituto que rendia aquellos resultados, ademas, viendo un futuro bastante prometedor y teniendo bastante trabajo por hacer, decidi darme el lujo de tomarme un dia de descanso y dejar el trabajo a un lado, para saber que me estaba perdiendo de la vida y del mundo.

Lo primero que hice, para calmar mi mal humor, fue encender mi computadora y buscar el programa de Chat , que un amigo del Instituto me habia instalado para matar un poco el tiempo, y buscar una cita a ciegas. Yo no creia en encontrar a la chica de mis sueños alli, pero nada perdia con probar.

Cuando mentalmente repase las instrucciones, me di cuenta que estaba dentro del programa y empece a navegar, buscando quizas, algun alma gemela que compartiera mis problemas y me comprendiera.

Empece a chatear en el panel principal, buscando a alguien que llamara mi atencion, y vi todos los nombres a la derecha de la pantalla. Habian desde los mas inimaginables, hasta los mas chistosos. Pareceria que aqui se pone a prueba la creatividad de la gente, cuando no quieres ser expuesto ante millones de personas, hablando al mismo tiempo, y diciendo de todo, menos la verdad. Y de esta manera fui conociendo gente que mas o menos simpatizaba conmigo, claro, sin preguntar cual era su verdadero nombre, porque sentia que serian mucho mas sinceros si no lo hacian. Conoci a un abogado, a un fisico, a un maestro de matematicas, a un economista, y cada cual tenia una historia que contar, sus teorias sobre la vida, sus vivencias, y hasta sus destrezas y mañas para salirse siempre con la suya.

Pero de chicas, nada. Creo que todas estaban dormidas, tratando de reponer las energias, gastadas la noche anterior.

Creo que mi ansiedad fue superior a mi sentido comun, a tal punto que llegue a pensar que uno de mis interlocutores era una femina, aunque lo disimulaba muy bien, pero opte por no averiguarlo; no queria llevarme una sorpresa.

- Vaya, el tiempo se va rapidisimo, y lo malo de esto es que uno se vuelve adicto al Chat - habian pasado mas de cinco horas y yo no habia probado bocado y, como una natural reaccion de mi organismo resentido, empece a sentir retortijones que me estaban obligando a hacer un alto a mi busqueda de la pareja perfecta.

Cuando ya me disponia a salirme de una vez y tratar de planificar que iba a comer, en la parte inferior de la pantalla , aparecio un nombre que me llamo mucho la atencion: NICODEMUS.

- algun fanatico, un critico de arte, o algo asi - exclame, pero algo indescriptible, no se, una fuerza mental, una especie de atraccion, impulso o curiosidad, me hizo decidirme por hablarle.

Pero lo que encontre, ni yo mismo lo crei.

Hice click dos veces, como mis instrucciones mentales me lo pedian, y de repente, aparecio una pantalla en blanco que cubria todo el monitor .

Empece con un simple "Hola " para saber si obtenia respuesta.

La pantalla respondio casi al instante.

- Hola. Como te llamas?

Aqui me detuve por un segundo y pense si dar mi verdadero nombre o no. Total, ya habia conversado con tanta gente, que no cambiaria en nada si lo mencionaba o no, y ademas todo lo que estaba haciendo era solo una charada, solo diversion..........

- Me llamo Charlie, se que Nicodemus no es tu nombre real, asi que me gustaria saber como te llamas..........?

La contestacion me cogio por sorpresa.

- Ya sabia que te llamabas Charlie. Y , concretamente Charlie Factsmith. No tienes idea de lo mucho que te he estado buscando y por fin te he localizado.

- Como sabes mi nombre? - pregunte con mucha curiosidad - y como es eso que me has estado buscando? . Se supone que primero concretas una cita para conocer a la persona con quien hablas......... eres alguna especie de policia o algo asi? Acaso te debo algo? Para quien trabajas?

- No, nada de eso - me sentia como si la privacidad que brindaba este juego se hubiera desvanecido - no te pongas nervioso, puedes confiar en mi, ahora mi pregunta es......puedo YO confiar en ti?.

- Como puedo confiar en alguien si ni siquiera se su nombre? - este jueguito ya me estaba poniendo un poco incomodo, ademas estaba tan confundido que mi mente se quedo en blanco por un momento. Entonces, la lucidez se hizo presente en mi memoria, dibujando rapida y detalladamente los reportajes de chicas que habian sido asesinadas por tipos que estaban en esta clase de programas. Definitivamente, era mejor cortar la charla . - Sabes? Mejor hablo otro dia contigo, tengo cosas que hacer, buscate otra persona............Chao - .

Fue entonces que mi mano derecha, en un movimiento rapido y nervioso hizo click dos veces en la pantalla para que desaspareciera mi anonimo compañero.

Despues de este incomodo encuentro, sacudi mi cabeza, como deseando sacar de mi mente este mal momento, y segui buscando en el panel principal, pero en la parte inferior se plasmo de manera automatica , y colorizada en un rojo bastante llamativo, el mismo nombre: NICODEMUS.

Lo hice desaparecer nuevamente, pero volvio a mostrarse. Y, de esta manera, siguio apareciendo insistentemente, y yo lo seguia borrando, y asi pasamos por algunos segundos.

Esta situacion ya me estaba poniendo nervioso, empece a sudar frio , mi respiracion se acelero, mi adrenalina empezo a fluir por todo mi cuerpo como si me inyectaran agua helada por mis venas, así que trate de calmarme, respire profundamente y, con un reflejo automatico, sali del programa , para ver si de esta manera, se acababa esta pesadilla.

Cuando crei que todo habia terminado, me disponia a cerrar toda comunicacion, y , sin yo desearlo, el programa de Chat de nuevo se activo, y esta vez, solo aparecio NICODEMUS como unica opcion de conversacion.

Me quedé helado. Mis manos no tocaron el tablero y me puse a pensar en la proxima jugada que debia hacer. Yo debia librarme de este tipo de alguna manera; el panico me estaba carcomiendo las entrañas y el estomago se me revolvia de los nervios, mis ojos se abrieron a tal punto que se querian desorbitar y trate de convencerme de que nada de esto estaba pasando, me lleve las manos a mi rostro en señal de asombro, y , despues de un pequeño lapsus en el cual pude reconocer que estaba en mi casa y no en otra parte, opte por aceptar su conversacion. Claro que por mi mente paso la idea de llamar a la policia, pero en estos casos, no sabia si me estaba vigilando desde alguna parte, o si estaba en el piso de arriba o en el de abajo, esperando algun movimiento que para el fuera clave para actuar, asi que lo mejor seria esperar para ver que pensaba hacer este individuo, y que diablos tenia que ver yo con el.

- Charlie, por favor, perdona mi insistencia,tranquilizate, no quiero hacerte dano, se que hice mal en insistir de esta manera, pero no te preocupes, solo quiero hablar contigo de algo que nos podria interesar, mas a mi que a ti. Quedate en la pantalla -.

Sus palabras sonaban muy sinceras y calmadas, que, poco a poco, mi estado de tension fue transformandose en un avido sentimiento de curiosidad por saber que era eso tan importante que tenia que discutir conmigo, asi que acepte y me quede, claro, desconfiando hasta de la mas minima cosa.

- Muy bien. Aqui me quedo, puedes confiar en mi; ahora, si quieres hablar conmigo, esta bien, pero por educacion tienes que decirme como te llamas para poder seguirte......

Hubo un silencio que, para mi estado de ansiedad, me parecio eterno.

- Tienes razon, disculpa mi falta de modales. Mi nombre es Justin.......... Y soy una rata -.

Casi me caigo de la silla, lanzando una tremenda carcajada como mecanismo de alivio."Lo que me faltaba". Pense. "Un psicotico, un demente con crisis de identidad que se cree animal o algo por el estilo. Tengo que ponerle fin a esta pesadilla".

Le respondi con mucha rudeza.

-Escucha, Jus o quien seas, si querias hacer una broma de mal gusto, esta bien, ya me estoy riendo, me pediste que fuera sincero y lo he sido. Si tu no lo eres conmigo, entonces te juro que te arrepentiras, llamare a la policia para que te rastreen y..........

- No, no, realmente SOY una rata. Charlie, debes creerme. Necesito que me creas. Lo que te digo te lo digo en serio, no es una broma .-

Me burle de su respuesta. Pero, era real este asunto? Con quien realmente estaba hablando?. Me senti como alguien que entra hacia algun lugar desconocido e, inesperadamente, una puerta gigantesca se cierra, haciendo sentir el eco del sonido retumbante en sus oidos, dandole la sensacion de que no puede regresar y de que se encuentra atrapado y debe seguir adelante. Realmente no sabia que hacer. A lo mejor el era alguien muy peligroso. De nuevo mis latidos empezaron a acelerarse y el nerviosismo se apodero de mi. Debia apagar la computadora, sin dudarlo.

Se hizo de nuevo ese silencio vacio que parece que nunca se acabara.

- Charlie, estas ahi?........dime algo, por favor......

No queria hacerlo.

- Charlie! Te ruego que no te vayas!!................. -Me encontraba estatico sin saber que movimiento hacer. Lo unico que debia hacer era estirar mi dedo y pulsar el boton para apagarla , ya estaba harto de esto, pero parecia que algo o alguien me controlaba mentalmente- Charlie, no apagues la computadora, quiero mostrarte algo........-.Y enseguida aparecio un archivo que tenia una foto mia y todos mis datos personales, como si me hubiese hecho una minuciosa investigacion. Estaban incluidos mis años en la Universidad y el tiempo que llevaba trabajando en NIMH. Me quede perplejo. Realmente sabia quien era yo. Estaba de manos atadas, debia seguir conversando, debia saber hasta donde queria llegar este tipo.

- Esta bien. Ganaste. Me doy cuenta de que sabes quien soy. Debo resaltar que tu investigacion fue hecha cuidando hasta el mas minimo detalle. Dime que quieres de mi y acabemos con esto.........Cuanto quieres?-.

- Nada material, solo busco tu ayuda de manera voluntaria.........

- Ayuda para que y por que? esa no me parece una respuesta logica, sabes que nadie hace algo por nada. Tampoco me parece logico el hecho de que seas una rata, porque, suponiendo que realmente lo fueras, como es posible que puedas escribir en una computadora?.

-Porque la he adaptado para que funcione con mi voz. Se que suena un poco extraño, pero es asi -.

Esto era algo definitivamente imposible de creer. Una computadora activada por la voz de una "rata"?. Debia seguir indagando, para ver hasta adonde podia llegar mi curiosidad, aunque me guste o no lo que pudiese encontrar.

- Y como asi la adaptaste? Que yo sepa, las ratas no poseen tanta materia gris como para saber leer, peor construir una computadora.........- queria atraparlo en su mentira y terminar con todo este juego, llamar a la policia, rastrearlo y encerrarlo y borrar para siempre esta mala experiencia de mi memoria.

- Te equivocas, las ratas poseemos inteligencia, cosa que tu como cientifico debes saber, pero es muy intuitiva y limitada. Ahora, si les inyectas un fluido que pueda provocar estimulos en su cerebro y cambios en su organismo, te sorprenderia saber lo que pueden hacer. -Este era el idioma que me gustaba, realmente nos empezabamos a comunicar.

- Muy interesante, tu imaginacion es muy activa, Justin, pero realmente no te creo, asi que tendras que persuadirme - mi escepticismo asomo, natural en mi, un cientifico cuya primera regla es no reconocer nada como verdad absoluta - que mas tienes que decirme que yo no sepa?

Otro silencio. "Aqui vas a caer" dije.

- Bueno, uno de los logros lo estás palpando por ti mismo. Mis camaradas y yo hemos leido bastante sobre computadoras, y decidimos probar nuestras teorias, asi que juntamos todas las piezas de computadora que pudiesemos reunir, una por una, de diferentes sitios, hasta que logramos construir un modelo sorprendente, eso si, se activa por medio de la voz, porque, como es logico, no existe teclado para nuestro tamaño -.

" Que bien, no esta solo, lo que me faltaba, tiene una banda o una gavilla de malandrines, un monton de quien sabe que clase de gente, a lo mejor hasta son comunistas" Pense, pero lo que el decia era imposible de ser real. Queria llegar al fondo de todo.

- Lo que todavia me parece inaceptable es como un grupo de roedores como ustedes ( suponiendo que lo son) pueden leer y construir un aparato de tal magnitud? -

- Bueno, Charlie, tu pregunta a lo mejor la responderas tu mismo, cuando investigues en Nimh sobre un experimento que tuvo lugar hace muchos anos, y se ha mantenido en secreto desde entonces, acerca de un grupo de ratas y ratones que fueron inyectados por una droga que , al descubrirse sus resultados, fue destruida, y con ella todos sus archivos, sin dejar evidencia alguna -.

- Espera, Jus, Cuando ocurrio este asunto? Que es esto de una droga "especial" inyectada ? En Nimh todo esta controlado, las drogas que se inventan, se inyectan en muchos ratones de laboratorio y ratas , debidamente esterilizadas y cuidadas, y nunca niguno de ellos ha dado reacciones anormales.......ademas, si los resultados hubiesen sido diferentes, tranquilamente estaria al tanto; las muestras son manejadas por profesionales que cuidan cada detalle, y si una muestra da señales de anormalidad, se la trata debidamente para evitar contaminaciones posteriores -. Queria hacerle saber que mi trabajo era de primera .

- Charlie, solo dime una cosa: Que hacen ustedes cuando una "muestra" de laboratorio resulta infectada? -.

- Solo la tratamos debidamente, ya te lo dije -. No entendia la pregunta. No tenia sentido, habiendole explicado el procedimiento.

- No la "desvanecen"?

- Que quieres decirme?. Entendi lo que me queria preguntar, pero queria que el mismo me lo dijera.

- Sabes muy bien a lo que me refiero, Charlie. Cuando un especimen muestra senales de contaminacion, lo separan de los demas y queda en estado de cuarentena, hasta descubrir cual es el motivo de dicha contaminacion, y si no hallan el remedio, la incineran, claro, succionandole toda la sangre para tener la muestra suficiente para hallar la cura -. Habia mucho de cierto en sus palabras, como si el hubiese estado ahi, porque su forma de decirlo era bastante cruda e ironica. Me queria decir algo, pero no se que.

- Bueno, si todo lo que me dices es cierto, cual es el punto Jus? Que tiene que ver eso contigo, y mas que nada conmigo? -. Queria de una vez aclarar todos los acertijos.

- Muy bien Charlie, sere directo: Yo, personalmente, desciendo de la generacion que Nimh utilizo para realizar un experimento en el cual utilizo ratones y ratas callejeras para probar los efectos de una droga que habria sido utilizada para regenerar las neuronas que los seres humanos pierden a medida que van desarrollandose, y, concretamente, la usaron en mi madre cuando estaba en estado, pero una vez que ella pario, se contamino con quimicos letales - Ahora comprendia por que describia con tal exactitud la cuarentena y la exterminacin de los especimenes - Y tu gente la "desvanecio" cuando yo ni siquiera sabia lo que estaba pasando, y cuando la droga hizo efecto en todos nosotros,incluyendome a mi, nos transformamos en una sociedad de ratas hiper-inteligentes, que podian hacer todo lo que los humanos normalmente hacen: leer, hablar, meditar, emitir juicios y criterios, aunque tambien heredamos las malas cualidades como la envidia , la ira, la ambicion, la traicion, entre otras, y fueron estas cualidades las que uso uno de nuestros miembros para matar a nuestro maximo lider, Nidodemus, de quien herede la supremacia - Ahora entendia porque se habia puesto ese nombre - Obviamente los cientificos no supieron, hasta mas tarde, cual fue el resultado del experimento, porque nos escapamos. Desgraciadamente, solo las ratas sobrevivimos, porque un ducto de ventilacion se trago a todos los ratones, menos a dos. Y junto con ellos edificamos nuestro reino. Ahora, no me creas lo que te he contado, te invito a que lo investigues -.

- Tu historia es muy interesante, Jus, realmente no puedo concebir que las ratas puedan pensar tanto, pero como tu comprenderas, soy un cientifico y no puedo aceptar los hechos de buenas a primeras. Supondre que tu historia es real, ahora como tu no te contaminaste si tu madre si lo hizo? -. Esta era una pregunta un poco incomoda para el, pero debia hacerla.

- Porque el efecto que la droga tuvo en ella cambio su metabolismo y, como es logico, tambien me afecto a mi, bajandole sus defensas naturales cuando me tuvo a mi y a mi hermano, y fue muy susceptible de adquirir cualquier clase de infeccion. Desgraciadamente nos separaron de ella, colocando su jaula muy cerca de los quimicos que utilizaban , y por un pequeno descuido se contamino, y tus colegas no hicieron otra cosa que "desvanecerla", por considerarla un peligro para las demas ratas. Felizmente, mi hermano y yo estuvimos al cuidado de otra rata, quien mas tarde nos explicaria el porque de la muerte de nuestra madre, ademas, nuestro metabolismo reacciono de forma favorable ante cualquier tipo de infeccion, es decir, nos volvimos inmunes. Creeme, Charlie que no les guardo rencor por lo que le hicieron a mi madre, porque he aprendido a perdonar. Ademas, si no necesitara tanto de tu ayuda, hubiese recurrido a otro medio para adquirirla. Mi historia es muy triste, como podrás ver -.

Me sentia muy apenado con lo que me conto. Si realmente a mi me hubiera pasado lo mismo, yo no perdonaria tan facilmente como el, y me vengaria de la forma mas despiadada posible, contra los autores de semejante atrocidad. A veces pienso que los humanos nos distinguimos de los animales por muchas razones, pero ellos tendran siempre las de ganar, porque su comportamiento es digno de imitar, aun siendo seres que actuan por instinto.

- Justin, no se que decir.......realmente lamento mucho lo que le paso a tu madre -mis palabras trataban de sonar justificadas, pero yo era malo para estas situaciones, esperaba disculparme de la forma mas adecuada posible- y creo que pasaste por un momento muy dificil, aunque veo que lo superaste, pero todavia se me hace dificil reconocer que seas una rata , que pienses y todo eso, ademas no me has explicado para que quieres mi ayuda. Todo esto me pone muy confundido y todavia no se si creerte -.

- Charlie, voy a decirte una cosa, si quieres saber mas de nosotros, te voy a dejar una agenda con el numero del archivo y los codigos con los cuales nos identificaron durante los dias que estuvimos encerrados, asi podras investigar con una referencia y yo sabre si realmente quieres ayudarme - Las cosas parecian tomar otro rumbo, y al parecer, ya me estaba involucrando en esta experiencia, pero entrar a los archivos requeria tiempo, una dosis de riesgo y un poco de astucia, cualidad que yo poseia para realizar mis investigaciones, asi que acepte el reto, no solo por mi, sino por la incertidumbre del experimento, del cual nunca supe su existencia, y tambien por ayudarlo a Justin, que al fin y al cabo habia hecho un trabajo de primera al haberme investigado. Lo tome como una especie de competencia constructiva entre dos talentos y queria demostrarle de que estaba hecho -.

- Justin, te voy a proponer un trato: tu me das la agenda, yo investigo y encuentro el experimento del cual eres producto, y te ayudo sin importar si eres o no una rata, aunque todavia me tienes ansioso por saber en que quieres que te ayude, así que tu diras donde y a que horas nos vemos para empezar mi trabajo - ya estaba preparado y esperaba su respuesta.

- Ah Ah! Charlie, yo no estare presente, solo te dejare la agenda en un lugar donde la puedas recoger sin ningun problema , eso si, debes estar muy alerta de la gente que este por ahi, porque la agenda que te voy a dar es bastante atractiva, tiene cubiertas de cuero cafe oscuro , hojas de papel con filos dorados, y te cabe en la palma de la mano, y cualquiera la puede confundir con una antiguedad, de esas que valen mucho dinero, asi que te ruego que seas puntual y por favor cuidala con tu vida, si es preciso, porque esa agenda es lo que poseemos como unico documento de nuestra existencia -. Me sentia como Jim Phelps cuando le asignaban una Misión Imposible, lo unico que faltaba era la renombrada frase que decia "esta grabacion se autodestruira en cinco segundos". Mi cuerpo empezo a regar una sustancia que me hacia sentir estupendamente, como si estuviera haciendo una travesura de muchacho, y realmente me gustaba - El lugar sera el parque que posee los juegos infantiles que esta al otro lado de la calle principal, entre esos juegos esta un caballito de color amarillo que tiene silla roja, diagonal a el, como a unos cien metros hay un bote de basura con la inscripcion "Queremos una ciudad limpia y esperamos que usted nos ayude", y a su lado hay un bebedor de agua, la agenda estara debajo del bote de basura. No te olvides de mirar tu reloj al momento de divisar el bote de basura -.

Toda la conversacion se estaba grabando y cuando terminara, la guardaria en la memoria de la computadora, por si algo salia mal -Muy bien Justin, todo lo tengo claro, pero no has puesto la hora del encuentro -. Como seguia lloviendo, no le tome importancia a los rayos y truenos que habian.

- Ah si! Me olvidaba....... la....... - hubo una ligera vibracion en la pantalla de la computadora, las letras empezaban a bailar en forma indiferente -..////.h.//....o.//....r.///.....a...- las vibraciones se hacian cada vez más notorias y seguidas - .////..........ser..//.....á..... /////......//.........l...a..s////////.........- y de repente me quede sin luz en mi departamento, la pantalla se apago frente a mis ojos. Mientras afuera el sonido de un trueno me hacia sobresaltar del susto, por breves segundos, la oscuridad desaparecio y la pantalla de la computadora se encendio de nuevo, haciendo la rutina de chequeo de memorias y programas, que aunque fue muy rapido, me parecio como si hubiese pasado bastante tiempo, y trate de localizar a Justin, pero fue imposible. Ya se había ido.

Me puse tan irritado con absolutamente todo lo que existiera a mi alrededor, que tenia ganas de lanzar y romper cosas, pero lo pense mejor y decidi preparar un poco de comida para poder degustar la interesante aventura que se me presento en ese dia tan lluvioso, y la oportunidad de conocer mas sobre el instituto al cual pertenezco y sus experimentos secretos. Esto si se veia como un verdadero reto.