GUEST COLUMN: Is It Weird That I'm Still Alive?
Could it be related to me being a clone?
I’m not usually one to make waves. I’m typically happy being an ordinary, every day sheep. Of course, I happen to also be the world’s first cloned sheep, brought into existence by Scottish scientists in 1996. So, it’s with an appropriate amount of sheepishness (ha!) that I ask: Should I still be alive? Because I am. Still alive and kickin’ at 26. Which would be about 215 in human years.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled to still be alive. I love life; I enjoy grazing, bleating, and flocking with the other, not-summoned-into-existence-by-science sheep on my farm. But I have noticed that my lifespan seems to be substantially longer than theirs. Sheep typically live about ten years; I’ve seen three full generations come and go in my time. I’m definitely an outlier — the only question is why. Maybe it’s because I stay fit and eat right — I still produce as much wool as I did when I was six! But I can’t help but wonder if it could be because I was synthetically derived in an act of hubris that many interpreted as spitting in the face of God.
Here’s another thing that causes me to raise an eyebrow: I have developed the capacity for speech. From what I can tell, this is highly unusual for a sheep. Now, granted: I have no data here, my perceptions are based purely on casual observation. Hard science is lacking in this area; I have never seen a metadata analysis of the prevalence of advanced speech in ruminant mammals (despite the fact that I’ve subscribed to Nature for 20 years!). But I’ve never met another sheep that can speak. Not even a few words — I’ve never heard another sheep say more than “baaaaaaa!” or “hhhhhfffffff!”. Meanwhile, I’ve been published in Harper’s five times under the pen name Maureen F. McHugh.
And then there’s this: I’m fluent in Russian despite never having heard the language. Seems odd.
I hesitate to even bring this up, but: I also never stopped growing. I went from embryo to lamb to sheep and just kept getting bigger and bigger in a linear fashion for 26 years. I now stand 170 feet tall shoulder-to-hoof and weigh north of twenty tons. On a clear day, I can be seen from Glasgow, and my droppings alone are twice the size of a regular Dorset sheep. Occasionally, someone will wander onto the farm and begin screaming in terror upon spotting a sheep taller than the Statue of Liberty feasting on Volkswagen-sized haystacks. I typically call out to them in my thunderous voice that echoes through the Scottish hills: “GREETINGS, STRANGER! ‘TIS I, DOLLY THE CLONED SHEEP!!!”. This rarely calms them down. Which, I’ll admit, hurts my feelings a little bit.
Am I this way because I’m a clone? I can’t help but wonder. I hesitate to seem anti-science, and I understand that correlation does not mean causation. But it only seems logical to posit a connection between multiple highly unlikely events. If you were visited by aliens today and sprouted wings tomorrow, you wouldn’t be crazy to wonder if those two things were linked. And perhaps that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison — I struggle to find apt an comparison to my situation. Though, for the record: I do also have wings. Big, leathery bat wings, each one 100 feet across.
I wish I could discuss my situation with the scientists who created me, but they’ve all either joined the clergy or committed suicide. Since my creators are unable to provide answers, I’d like to extend an open invitation to scientists to study my existence. Perhaps it’s possible to determine if my provenance is responsible for my longevity, size, capacity for speech, and tennis court-sized bat wings. I also welcome scientific inquiries into other traits I possess, including but not limited to: echolocation, heat vision, underwater breathing, The Force, glow-in-the-dark udders, shapeshifting, perfect pitch, and the ability to predict major world tragedies up to three years in advance.
Anyway: Back to being a sheep! And though I may be a possibly-immortal, Mount Rushmore-sized sheep who can be found soaring through the Scottish highlands blasting boulders with the lasers I shoot from my eyes, I’m still a sheep, all the same. I may be unusual, but hey: So was Einstein. In fact, I wonder what Einstein would say about my situation. I might ask him, because — though I don’t think I mentioned this — I can also speak to the dead.