The Reversal (backward metamorphosis)

 

In the depths of a bustling molecular biology lab, nestled among the gleaming machines and petri dishes, was the newest member of the research team, Gregory. Unlike his colleagues, Gregory had only recently become a human; up until last week, he had been a cockroach, scuttling about in the dark recesses of the lab's basement. Fate, with a twisted sense of humor, had decided it was his turn to stand upright and carry a pipette.

Gregory’s transition from cockroach to human was nothing short of miraculous, courtesy of a bizarre genetic splicer mishap. Now, instead of scrounging for crumbs, he had to analyze DNA sequences and contribute to the groundbreaking research on genome editing. The irony was not lost on him: once considered a pest, he was now researching pest-resistant crops.

The lab was a labyrinth of equipment he couldn’t begin to comprehend. His new colleagues, unaware of his entomological origins, praised the fresh perspective he brought to the team. "Gregory, your approach is so... unorthodox," they would say, watching him attempt to operate the centrifuge with his elbows to avoid the touch of cold metal on what he felt were still his sensitive antennae.

He attended meetings where words like "transcriptome" and "CRISPR" buzzed around him like flies around a ripe banana. Gregory nodded sagely, a trick he learned by mimicking his coworker, Dr. Schwartz, who seemed to nod at everything and yet was revered as a sage.

Lunchtime was a particular kind of torture. Gregory watched in horror as his peers consumed what were once his brethren in the insect world—though in salad form—and talked about their protein intakes. He tried to fit in, clumsily handling a fork for the first time, yearning for the simplicity of his past life when a sugar crystal was a feast worthy of a king.

He also faced the challenge of maintaining his human disguise. His antennae itched under the synthetic skin he had fashioned from discarded latex gloves. His compound eyes, though now singular and less faceted, missed none of the absurdity of his situation. How long before someone noticed that he never blinked, or that he had an uncanny ability to predict when the fruit flies would escape their containment before anyone else?

The ultimate test came when he was asked to present his findings on gene splicing. Gregory stood before an audience of esteemed scientists, a PowerPoint slide behind him filled with complex diagrams and graphs he barely understood. Sweat pooled at his collar as he started speaking in a voice that was surprisingly articulate for someone who, until recently, communicated by tapping his legs on the ground.

"In conclusion," Gregory said, having skipped over most of the actual science, "our findings suggest... significant implications... for... stuff." A vague wave of his hand accompanied the last words. The room was silent, save for the hum of the air conditioning.

Dr. Schwartz finally broke the silence. "Fascinating, Gregory. Just fascinating. Your grasp of the subject is... uniquely minimalist."

Somehow, Gregory survived the presentation, buoyed by confused applause. As he shuffled back to his desk, flanked by congratulations and bemused looks, he realized that perhaps being a human wasn't about understanding everything; maybe it was about pretending just enough to get by—something not so different from his days as a cockroach, after all.

Each night, as Gregory lay in his borrowed human bed, he couldn't help but feel a pang of longing for the simple clarity of his former life. But as dawn crept in and he put on his lab coat, he accepted his new role. After all, what was more human than struggling to find one's place in a world that seemed as vast and incomprehensible as the cosmos itself?

 

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