Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton: Part Three

Is it read-worth? Yes. This section of the collection is a bit gruesome though. It makes you stare at human nature and not really like what you see. But it does catch your attention almost immediately. You find yourself concerned for Elise Tadd. Where is she? Why is she there? Who did this to her? Why are you so scared for a character you just met? The pure hypocrisy of this section is just jaw-dropping. And, to be honest, it’s completely believable human behavior. What happens when you warn others to stay away from the gates of hell just to turn around and storm them? Or to just buy the property next door? What happens when you become the demon? Part three is the most true to the point short story within this collection to date and I love that. I absolutely adore stories that don’t shy away from their main points and, instead, fully embrace them. 

Especially when their main points are a little bit disturbing and make you question yourself.

And, interestingly enough, this was the first part of the collection where I fully realized that each section has a title. I don’t know how I didn’t notice this before. What have I been doing? But the titles do set you up for that better understanding of what you’re going to read that I had complained about lacking in the prior section.

SPOILER ALERT

The beginning to part three of Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful immediately captured my interest. Elisa Tadd woke in a strange place she didn’t recognize at first. I was instantly concerned for her, worried for what was about to happen next. A woman waking up in a strange place? No thank you, let’s read more.

Thankfully, that strange place was her father’s old church basement so my concern lessened by quite a bit, but Dayton’s excellent foreboding tone didn’t allow me to dismiss all my worries. After all, the previous sections had shown me what an awful person Reverend Tadd is. What was he like with his own daughter? I knew his religious beliefs wouldn’t allow for a lot of flexibility.

It was interesting that, since getting to know him in previous shorts, Reverend Tadd had apparently lost his way. He was no longer a minister at his church. He hadn’t even set foot in the church for a year and a half. Elisa disclosed that they had been in Africa, trepidation in her voice. She remembered protesting with her brother, Teddy, and her mother. 

A perturbing image of Teddy claiming to love the hole in his heart, instead of getting it fixed, enters her head. It’s hard to imagine a family that would rather doom a child to a short life than have him undergo a medical procedure, but it is realistic. It just hurts to think that people would rather sentence a child to death than allow them to live. 

She also remembered a small Congolese girl who was being injected with ‘Castus Germline,’ the medical substance her family was in Africa protesting. Castus Germline is an injection, almost a vaccine, that will edit diseases out of human eggs and add protections against malaria and other infections. Any child born from a woman who had received an injection would have close to perfect health. Reverend Tadd and his family believed that this was yet another blasphemy against God’s plan. How could mankind play God in this way? 

And to be honest I don’t entirely disagree, but I have completely different reasons. What if something was wrong with this vaccination? Would they be dooming children to stunted, half-lived lives? What if it caused unexpected infertility? Overwriting someone’s genetic code sounds more risky physically than spiritually, especially if you’re overwriting everyone’s genetic codes. One mistake in the vaccination could have dire consequences for the girl, her children, and civilization at large. Of course, the injection had probably already been studied, but it is difficult to imagine the consequences of what could go wrong.

Elisa’s musings are interrupted by her father’s voice. She is frightened by him and wishes she had heard her mother’s voice or Teddy’s instead. She follows his voice to a room where he is praying, murmuring about us all being the fish. He brought her here because he was not yet ready to go home. Elisa’s mother and Teddy were dead. 

But, according to Reverend Tadd, Elisa wouldn’t need to worry nor miss them. They were not yet in heaven. Instead, they were living on in them. Reverend Tadd admits he had always been wrong about the procedures and the medical advances the human world was making. It was not wrong to advance. It was right. God would not have given mankind the ability to do such things for them to not do them. Reverend Tadd believed that God had blessed them with the ability to become all of the rest of the world, all of the animals and creatures within it. 

We are Nephesh, living beings, and all other living beings are also Nephesh. According to his sudden realization, mankind is supposed to become all Nephesh during the final stage of human evolution. And then Elisa sees him and the scene becomes extremely unsettling. 

His left eye was her mother’s. Part of his face was her mother’s. His eyebrow had changed. His hair had belonged to Teddy. It is completely disquieting to imagine his monstrous appearance. He is a chimera of loss. 

And when Elisa looks at herself? She is the same way. Her hair and her skin and her eyes do not entirely belong to her. Pieces and parts of her mother and brother have been added to her. She is equally as disturbing to gaze upon.

It is so insanely disgusting to imagine a person being made of bits of their lost loved ones, but it does get Dayton’s point across immediately and strongly. The religious beliefs of anyone will be called into question when they are given the chance to go against their beliefs to save, or preserve, the ones they love. People who call you out for bad behavior will likely exhibit the same behavior if it benefits themselves. And the people who claim your actions are against God? They can be demons themselves. 

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