1. Creating a flesh-and-blood Dilbert.
My first and perhaps foremost regret is ever thinking to create a flesh-and-blood Dilbert. Though it seems obvious now, I was foolish to believe a six-foot tall, living replica of the famed newspaper character would add more to the world than it would take away. For decades, Dilbert’s office-room antics and grumbling wit have delighted audiences, but they should never in a million years have stepped off the page.
2. Making Dilbert out of zebra cells.
In my haste to create a flesh-and-blood Dilbert, I took a few shortcuts which, in retrospect, were pretty big mistakes. Chief among them was my decision to grow Dilbert solely out of zebra cells.
At the time, zebra tissue was much easier to acquire than human tissue, and the cells developed at a faster rate, allowing me to grow flesh-and-blood Dilbert in a matter of weeks instead of months. I can say now, with unwavering certainty, these benefits did not outweigh the costs — costs that became all too apparent the moment I laid eyes on what I had created.
Dilbert’s defining traits are his asexuality and earnestness, but I, for some reason, decided to give him the biological capacity to reproduce and lie.
As flesh-and-blood Dilbert limped out of the incubation chamber that first day, I contemplated suicide. Dilbert’s iconic shirt and tie are splotches of raised pigment on otherwise taught, durable skin. Moreover, in a disappointing break from the original form, flesh-and-blood Dilbert has teeth. Flat, horse-like molars used to mash and grind. Dilbert also cannot speak, capable of producing only the sounds of a malformed zebra larynx: a spectrum of whinnies and rumbling moans.
But worst of all is what happened to Dilbert’s eyes. Dilbert’s white-rimmed glasses? They’re pure bone. Thick, opaque orbs that weigh down his head and force him into a shuffle. It goes without saying. But flesh-and-blood Dilbert is blind.
3. Not shooting it when I had the chance.
Though I set out to create a faithful replica of Dilbert, what emerged from the incubation chamber can, on its best day, be described as an “impression.” That’s why, as it stumbled forward, puking development media and neighing softly, I could do nothing but gape as it shambled past me toward the exit.
Eventually, I roused myself, grabbed my rifle, and pursued it into the hallway. As it stood in the red emergency lights, yanking tubing and metal paneling from the security windows and shoving it into its moist, irregular mouth, I saw a glint of suffering in the beast's eyes. I felt pity for my creation; this wasn’t the white collar everyman that takes dry jabs at the hypocrisy of the American workplace — I don’t think it could have even vocalized a quip about the politics of storing food in the office refrigerator if it wanted to — but it was a life, and who was I to play God twice?
In that moment, I lowered my rifle just enough to allow it to flee. In response, it gurgled and spat acid at my feet, dissolving the soles of my shoes. As Dilbert hunched and bounded out the window, shrieking into the night, my blood began to boil anew. The next shots I fired aimed to kill, but my moment of confused sympathy for the creature had secured its escape.
Flesh-and-blood Dilbert was free.
4. Creating the rest of the characters from the Dilbert universe to serve as a hunting party.
This was definitely not my brightest moment, but at the time, I thought: what better assassins to destroy what I had brought to life than the characters that knew Dilbert best? Unfortunately, I was low on zebra cells, so when I placed their tissues in the developing tank, they coalesced into one collective organism.
It goes without saying, but for these new characters, fused into a single broiling mass of flesh, their agony was even more pronounced than Dilbert’s. Thus it was in hindsight not surprising that this gurgling chimera, consisting of the half-formed torsos and faces of Pointy-Haired Boss, Wally, Alice, Dogbert, Ted, and Loud Howard, would smash its restraints and flee, dripping flesh and incubation fluid in a slug-like trail as it sought asylum in the nearest forest.
5. Equipping Dilbert with the capacity to breed and making him cunning and sly.
I don’t know what I was thinking on this one. Dilbert’s defining traits are his asexuality and earnestness, but I, for some reason, decided to give him both the biological capacity to reproduce and the ability to lie. Laying traps and creating misleading trails of footprints, Dilbert evaded capture.
In an arguably worse turn of fate, he must have located the fleshy mass comprising the remaining Dilbert characters — my hunting party — and copulated with it. Nothing less can explain the litter of mewing Dilberts that began to crawl out of the forests, gasping, and heaving themselves onto the highway, where the sun would bake their wet bodies into the asphalt.
6. Refusing flesh-and-blood Dilbert’s attempt to make peace with me.
I definitely would have done this differently. Two days after Dilbert escaped, I was lying in bed, unable to sleep. That’s when I felt a warm gust of wind blow through the room and looked up to see a hulking silhouette at my window.
Flesh-and-blood Dilbert approached my bed slowly. As it laid a small, withered hand against my cheek and whispered “Father,” I should never have dashed its hand away. I should also never have yelled, “Be gone, wraith! You were meant to delight, not destroy! A creature of circumstance, with no consequence beyond my pleasure! Leave my chambers at once! Anathema! Anathema!”
It flew. That was when I first noticed flesh-and-blood Dilbert had grown wings.
7. Creating a flesh-and-blood Garfield.
If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and slap myself. After losing Dilbert to the wilds, I decided, for reasons I can only chalk up to wounded pride, to try my luck vivifying another iconic newspaper character. Garfield. But, when I threw the last remaining cells in my possession into the developer, I failed to notice one crucial detail. They were all neural cells.
What emerged from the incubation chamber was as much Garfield as you can call a twenty-foot brain, visibly rippling with synaptic energy, that crawls forward on thick, purple tendrils Garfield. In short, it did not look like Garfield. But in the sense that Garfield is a master cynic who ultimately despises the world he lives in and prays for its destruction, there were certain similarities.
- Five seconds after flesh-and-blood Garfield lurched into existence, it had already devised a way to incapacitate me and shatter the ceiling of my laboratory.
- In six seconds, it had telepathically searched my mind and discovered the weaknesses of the human body.
- In seven, it had disappeared.
- Fifteen minutes after flesh-and-blood Garfield was conceived, the first nukes fell.
As I look out my window now, I see a charred wasteland. What basic infrastructure remains has been reclaimed by the Dilberts. Roaming war bands, serving the all-seeing consciousness of flesh-and-blood Garfield, destroy all non-Dilbertian life they encounter, believing body symmetry to be a perversion and functional vision a demonic boon. In fact, the strongest flesh-and-blood Dilberts and therefore the chieftains of each war band can be identified by the string of desiccated eyes they wear on soapstrings around their necks.
But this is beside the point.
When I look out at the embers of our smoldering earth, I see an allegory for the importance of patience. And, though I certainly have my regrets, I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned for the world. If there was a world to trade them for.