The pool of blood slowly formed on the tile. Tess stared at it, willing herself to continue cutting. The knife moved slowly across the bridge between her ring finger and her palm. Gradually, with each drop of blood, her finger came closer and closer to falling off, until finally, the finger hit the tile. Tess stared at it, now feeling satisfied. Even though the pain had been torturous, it was the only emotion she could feel these days.
Tess suffered from pain addiction; she was a part of the Paindicts. While her parents had taken her to see many different therapists, none of them had given her the satisfaction she desired. When Tess first felt the compelling desire for pain, she began reading books explaining that one way to treat her condition was to inflict pain upon herself. Thus, she started creating small marks on her skin; these only took her so far though, as the skin continuously grew back and the pain became easily tolerable. It was then that she became bold enough to go further and cut in deeper, more gruesome places. In her opinion, it worked out so much better to cut her fingers or arm because every time she cut off a limb, the intensity of the pain was very high. Even more, due to her special powers, she was able to regenerate the limbs within 24 hours, allowing her to repeat the pain every day.
Cutting herself had become a routine for Tess. For her, fingers were the smallest cuts, usually meant for okay days. On the really bad days, she cut off her entire wrist or foot. Her parents often yelled at her for hurting her body like this, but in Tess’s opinion, if they didn’t want her to, why did they inject the virus in her body in the first place?
When Tess was born, her parents chose to inject a virus into her that enabled her to have the power of regeneration. She was part of the Regens, a group of individuals capable of regenerating their limbs and organs. Tess knew she wasn’t very special, as almost everyone in her town, children and adults, had that power given to them.
The way that power was inserted was through a virus. A few decades ago, no one on Earth knew how regeneration could ever be possible. A few years later though, scientists had found the gene that codes for transcription factors which facilitated the expression of the regeneration gene in humans. While the gene that codes for the transcription factors was absent in humans, scientists realized that if they cloned the gene, they could use the process of infection by a virus to insert the gene into human cells. Using a non-harmful, fully infectious virus, scientists founded a plasmid containing the gene that could be inserted in humans through the virus; once the gene was inserted, the cells expressed the transcription factors, allowing for the downstream expression of the regeneration gene that was already present.
Following the invention of the virus, the world changed dramatically. The military benefitted from having a regenerating army, but this also led to an increase in potential war-threats. Moreover, over-population became a slight problem as people could live longer. Beyond all these problems, though, was a long-term issue that very few chose to investigate. It began with the Paindicts.
The Paindicts were a group of people who suffered from pain-addiction; they could frequently be caught cutting themselves, giving way to fallen limbs. At first, this wasn’t a problem because the limbs merely grew back. However, as the Paindicts began cutting more often, scientists discovered a side-effect of frequent regeneration.
On one of Tess’s doctor visits, she learned a surprising piece of news. The doctors knew of Tess’s cutting experience, and while they had often tried to warn her about it, they had never gotten through to her. But on this day, they presented Tess with a new piece of information. Something that did cause her to rethink her life.
Dr. Ain, a renowned DNA specialist, had been studying the consequences of regeneration on the human DNA, and he had a surprising piece of information to share with Tess. As he walked into the room, he greeted her and her parents. Sitting down, he turned to face them, getting ready to give the bad news.
“Tess, I am afraid that I must inform you that you are suffering from a condition we have recently diagnosed as post-regen mutasis. It means that your genes are slowly altering due to mutations caused by constant cell replication. By the looks of it, your regeneration gene will soon be nonfunctional if you continue to cut at the same rate.”
Tess was shocked by the news given to her. She thought her power was infinite; she had always believed that no matter what, immortality was practically on her side. It was why she had fallen in love with the pain of cutting in the first place. After hearing the doctor, she couldn’t fully process the information. She asked, “How so?”
Dr. Ain responded by saying, “It has been a recent development, but we have realized that in the process of regeneration, there is a large amount of cell division that must happen in order for new tissue and a new limb to regrow, and in this cell division, the chances of mutations become very high. It appears that in your case, with the amount of regeneration that has occurred, too many mutations have happened to the point that the regeneration gene is approaching a state of non-functionality. Therefore, as your doctor, I must urge you to stop the cutting because, in a few weeks, you are likely going to die because your body will not be able to regenerate.”
Once the information finally sunk in for Tess, she understood what was happening. She looked up at her parents, both of whom had sad, hopeless faces. Tess knew that deep down, her parents didn’t believe it was even possible for her to stop cutting. They had given her the injection so that she could have a safe life, but instead, she had become a Paindict, finding love in hurting herself. No wonder her parents were disappointed in her.
Tess said to her doctor, “I don’t think I can stop cutting. It’s a part of who I am. I wouldn’t be a Paindict without it.”
Hearing this, Dr. Ain said, “I know you think that now Tess, but in a few weeks, you won’t even be alive to be a Paindict. Please seriously consider what I have told you.”
With that being said, Tess thanked Dr. Ain and walked out with her parents. In the car, her parents told her, “Tess, please don’t do this to us. We didn’t give you the injection for you to hurt yourself. It was only for emergencies. We only wanted you to live a long life, not a destructive life.”
Tess heard them, but she didn’t respond. She didn’t know what to do. As she closed her eyes, she thought of her options: stop the cutting or give up her life. She knew that answer seemed clear cut to just about everyone, but for her, a Paindict, it wasn’t. She couldn’t imagine giving up the pain she felt from cutting, the satisfaction it gave her. She didn’t know if a life without the pain was worth living.