talonkarrde: (color)
I hear the steps before I see them and smile, adjusting myself, waiting for them to enter the room. Two slow, steady pacers and one much quicker one, occasionally skipping, or possibly trying to climb up the hospital walls, which his mother would not be happy with.

"Robert!" her voice calls out, on cue, and my smile widens.

They come in, and we get the usual greetings out of the way, the questions work and school and it drags on enough that I start to get tired, even though I've been saving energy for this.

Daniel — my son — sees it in my face, and his face betrays his concern, though he tries to hide it.

"Robert, it looks like grandpa's tired, so maybe we'll—"

"No," I say, shaking my head, mustering up my energy. "You came this far to see me on his birthday — I must give him the gift."

Dan's eyes widen, but he nods slowly — we've talked about it, once, a long time ago, a time that he remembers like it was yesterday. Jamie, on the other hand, doesn't have that talk to rely on, but as she looks between the two of us, a thoughtful look grows in her eyes, and I give her a smile that she returns.

I always knew my son married up.

"Robert—" I say, looking up and down at the eight year old in front of me.

"Yes, gran'pa?" he responds, standing by the hospital bed, looking vaguely uneasy, as children in hospitals often do.

"What sort of gifts have you gotten for your birthday?"

"Well, daddy got me a train and mommy got me a Batman lego set and one of my friends got me a videogame, and, and, there was a party, and a cake, and—" he falls silent at my knowing nod, a surprisingly mature act for a boy.

"Would you like to know a secret?" I ask, and of course, he nods, not knowing the dangers of secrets yet, only seeing the allure.

I take a deep breath, squeeze both of my hands together, and then reach out for his.

"Take my hand," I say, and he does, and the world melts away like caramel, leaving only the two of us.


The hard part isn't convincing an eight year old that the impossible is possible — the hard part is convincing them that they shouldn't immediately do every single thing that comes to mind.

"What is this place?" he asks, and I explain. As best I can, at least.

"The past," I say. "Or maybe the future."

He looks at me, curious. I have made it a habit of not lying to him and treating him as an adult for all his life, and I now lean on that trust, watching as he thinks about what I'm saying instead of discarding it, or turning to fear.

"Watch," I tell him, and the world melts back into place, exactly where we were. His parents are there, and I start talking to them, though I keep my eyes on Robert. After a few moments, I reach out and knock my IV over, ripping it out of my arm.

It's surprisingly painful, and I instantly wish I would've done something else as a demonstration instead. But as Dan and Jamie lean in, as Robert's face contorts in surprise, I pause, and the world disappears again, leaving only Robert and I.

He looks at me, eyes wider than I've ever seen them, and I know he's trying to figure out what's happening.

"Robert, I can do something that very few other people can. Your grandmother had it, and you'll have it as well. What you can do isn't quite rewinding time, but that's the easiest way to describe it. Whenever you want, you'll be able to relive your life. And in fact, you can live lifetimes that you've never done yet — it goes both ways."

Some of the words register with him, though, not all of it, but he has, starting now, an almost unlimited time to understand.

"Can I keep doing it?" he asks, a question that I'm prepared for.

"Yes and no. There's a limit, a bit like burning a candle. Eventually, you run out of candle, though it burns slowly enough that it's hard to tell how long you have."

He considers this for a moment. To him, it must sound like it's limitless, and his face lights up as he considers the possibilites.

Now to make him understand what it means.

"Robert, what do you think you'll be able to do with this?" I ask, and his answer is immediate.


"Anything, like..."

"Become a firefighter! Become an astronaut! Win at America's Got Talent!"

And now I know what TV he watches.

"Actually—" I say, and his face already falls. He's young, but he already knows that there are often rules stopping young boys from doing what they want.

"There are rules," I say, watching him nod in resignation. "You can't do something that would..." and I pause, trying to find the words. "...change the way the world works," I finish, seeing if it holds.

It seems to, which is surprising, given that I remember challenging that assumption, both during the explanation and afterwards.

"But I can..." he starts, waiting for me to finish, but I don't.

He pauses.

"...Make it so that Rufus doesn't die?" he starts, and I blink in surprise. I'm not quite ready for him to get to reversing death so quickly, but I've gotten at least some experience at rolling with the punches.

"You can, Robert," I say, slowly, waiting.

"Could I make it so that... no one dies?" He asks, thinking. And then, just as quickly, "No, because that would disrupt things. But could I make it so that no one dies before they should? No accidents like what happened to Taylor's mom on Easter weekend?"

The look on his face reminds me of a line from an old musical — 'to love another person is to see the face of God'. I've never been religious, especially not after the gift... but watching this boy think of all the ways that he could save people — it was pure happiness. Pure altruism. Pure good.

As close to God as I'd ever get, I reflected.

And it was, of course, up to me to tell them, again, that there were rules. But this time... maybe in a more lasting way.

"Walk with me," I say to him, and he does, and we walk a year at a time, watching a play where Robert is the main character, our frame of reference, and everyone else is just a bit part, though some characters appear more often than others. Ten steps later, little Robert and I are standing in his college bedroom, watching as he sobs into the sheets — a girl, I assume. But then I see the picture that older Robert is holding, and I smack myself for my assumptions.

It turns out it's a boy that dumped him.

"This is a hurt, isn't it?" I ask Robert, the younger, and he nods, understanding the tears, even if he doesn't understand what triggered them.

"And you would make it so that it never happened?" He nods, again.

"But what happens," I say, knowing the answer already, "if we keep going forward?"

The little eight year old boy stands there for a moment, and then, of his own will, takes a few steps, and each step is another year. We stop just a few steps in, five or six years, at a wedding.

His wedding, of course, and he stares upon his future partner — a future partner, more accurately — and thinks very, very hard.

I simply watch, content to let him draw his own conclusions instead of offering him mine. You see, in the end, everyone needs to discover Truth for themselves.

Especially this little boy.

We come back into the world — the real one — no more than a minute later, judging by the clock on the wall and the slightly worried expressions on Daniel and Jamie's faces, but the eyes that Robert meets me with are not the eyes of the boy that skipped into the room, slightly cowed by his mother. They're still the baby blue that they've always been, but they're deeper now — and more than that, his face is a little more thoughtful, his posture a bit more composed.

I suspect it's what mine looked like, a million years ago, when my grandmother gave me the gift. I see him turning over his experience in his head, trying to understand, trying to test it, trying to accept, all at the same time. And I know that even now he might be testing out possible futures, trying to figure out if the sadness that one event brings is worth the perspective, the happiness that comes later.

The gift is his now, and I can see, using the last remnants of mine, that his will be a happy life, and one day, he will have this moment as well to pass on as well. I even get to see who he passes it on to, and I smile a smile that's for him alone.

My eyes start to droop, but I see him smile in understanding. It's a moment that lasts forever.


A writing duel between myself and [livejournal.com profile] gratefuladdict. Given that Idol was some time ago, we figured some writing was due, and we had some time tonight! [livejournal.com profile] kickthehobbit provided the topic, and the constraints were originally an hour and 500 words, which got extended to ~two hours, and no word limit.
talonkarrde: (color)
The boy wakes in the middle of the night, bleary and confused and wondering where the sun was and why he was awake at all if the sun wasn't up. And then he wraps the comforter more snugly around him and sighs contentedly and—

A dish breaks, downstairs, the sharp crack of it dispelling the sleepiness instantly.

He knows why he woke up now; he strains his ears and hears the muffled voices, the building tempo of accusation and retort, and his face scrunches up, trying to ignore it, trying to make it just go away through sheer force of will.

It doesn't, and then the voices get louder and louder, the shouts more angry, the responses faster, until it builds and builds and he can't take it anymore and then, mercifully, another dish breaks or is thrown or something and there's silence for a moment.

He counts the seconds in his head and gets all the way to two before it starts again, and then the shouts, the screams, the pounding in his head builds and builds and presses out and he can't stop it no matter how much he tries to block it out and all he can do is run.

He hops out of bed and yanks the the door open, sliding and tripping down the stairs, past his mother and father in the kitchen, past the dishes, the shards, the hatred, out the back door, the screen door hinges protesting as he pushes through it, the sound of his name following him out.

He pays it no mind, running into the sparse woods, sobbing and choking and blindly pressing forward and when he cares about where he is anymore, he's on a street, his feet hurt, and his star wars pyjamas are dirty and dusty and his parents will be very unhappy at him but he would rather that than they be unhappy at each other and—

Then he notices that he's, in fact, not alone. There's a girl sitting behind a wooden desk and sign on one of the lawns close by, staring at him. It could almost be a lemonade stand, but for the fact that it's late at night and there's no lemonade and the sign says... something. Something that isn't lemonade, something he can't make out.

So he takes a few steps closer, rubbing at his eyes, squinting and putting on a face that he hopes is a bit more composed than it was before. And before he can read the sign, she speaks, softly and kindly. She has freckles, and brown hair, and is a few years older than him, though not by much.

"Got lost, kiddo?" she asks, clasping her hands in front of her and leaning forward.

"No, no, I just..." he shrugs, falling silent, not wanting to reveal why he was here and not being able to make anything up off the top of his head.

"S'fine, you know. People get lost all the time. And usually they get found again. GPSes and all that," she says into the quiet, and then goes on, chattering away. "Really cool tech these days and all. Sort of makes it so you're never lost, no matter where you are, on the highest mountains or in the sea or in foreign countries."

He looks at her, and slowly, the throbbing in his head dulls. Her voice is pleasant, and friendly, and he stands there and lets her talk for awhile, until he realizes that she's staring at him, rather expectantly.

"What?" he asks, confused.

"I asked," she says, patiently, "what brought you out here?"

He looks around, still hesitant to answer the question, and then looks faintly confused. "Isn't this Oak Street? I didn't know that there was anyone in middle school who lived out here."

"I don't get out much," she says, still smiling, but it's a fraction less wide than it was. "I'm homeschooled, and so there's not as much chance for me to meet the people that go to the middle school."

"Oh," is all he responds with. And she still has that waiting expression on her face, so he shrugs, and says, "my parents were fighting," quietly, just above a whisper, as he starts blinking the tears away.

And now it's her turn to mutter the 'oh', and she nods, the smiling falling away. He shrugs, turning away from her and looking back at his house, across the field, until he hears a noise from behind him.

She opens the drawer and takes out a few different objects — a carved wooden sparrow, which she places so that it is upright on the desk, a tin whistle, and a worn pack of cards.

"I'd like you to-" she hesitates, for the first time in the night, but steels herself and continues. "To choose one of these. They'll help you out. I know it's weird, but choose one, and I'll tell you the story of it, and you can make a choice."

He blinks, looking down at the items on the desk. Knickkacks, really. Wordlessly, he points to the sparrow.

"The sparrow," she says, closing her eyes and reciting from memory, "is a sign of courage in the face of adversity, of finding hope in the darkest of times. Keep it with you and remember that even in the night, the sun will rise and the sparrow will sing again."

He looks hesitant, but then she reaches into her pocket and brings out an identical one.

"And you should know that you're never alone and there will always be others in your flock, who will support you."

Now he finally understands and slowly, carefully, reaches out to pick it up, feeling the lightness, turning it over and over again.

She waits for a few moments and then yawns, exaggeratedly. "Alright, kiddo. Past my bedtime, and probably yours."

He nods, ready to go back and face the music, but there's one thing missing. "I'm Rex," he says. "What's your name?"

"Diana," she responds, the smile returned. "Goddess of the moon."

As Rex heads home, slowly rolling the sparrow in his fingers, he turns back one last time, and finally gets to read the sign just as she folds it away.

Bank of the Lost, it reads, and Rex smiles, for the first time that night.


A writing duel between myself and [livejournal.com profile] mahmoth. We've been doing these on and off for years and years now (and were some of the first things I posted to this livejournal) but the last one was some time ago, and it was nice to get back into it. The constraints are that we only get two hours to write and that there's a ~500 word limit. The latter one I had completely forgotten, blew past, and so DQ'd myself, but thought the piece itself was still worth posting.


Oct. 19th, 2012 09:43 pm
talonkarrde: (color)
As part of a writing duel with[livejournal.com profile] mahmoth, on the subject 'Nightmares', to be written in two hours and be between 450 and 550 words. 


To the good doctor:

I have long since kept a journal, not since my days as a young boy, but this letter is the closest thing to it. I write to you to plead for asssistance, and to establish some sanctuary in a confused world, one that seems to be escaping from me, day by day.

These words, freshly inked, already serve some purpose in grounding me, so that I remember that these dreams, these hallucinations, these night terrors - they are not real. And yet, how real they seem, doctor. I hope you have seen a case like mine.

It has been weeks since they started - before that, I dreamt as others did, of life and other-life, of many things that made no sense at all. There were nights where I woke with sweat upon my brow, but also nights when I was disappointed that I was to wake at all, so happy were my visions.

But not recently.

Three weeks ago, my dreams started becoming curiously regular. Instead of the usual dreams that I have had: of falling endlessly, of flying, of seeing myself in a mirror, I started dreaming of parts of my ordinary day. I would 'wake up' in the dream, go through my morning rituals, and then go to work, all as I do normally. Sometimes, the dream would start midway through the day, others at the end, but in all cases, there was nothing fantastical - except, of course, that I woke up from them.

It was odd enough that I consulted a doctor, of course, but there was really nothing too malicious and the doctor simply told me that it would pass with time.

Then the dreams changed and became fantastical - in the morning, I would be shaving, and my reflection would smile at me, and then start crying tears of blood as 'I' cut my throat. At work, my mug of coffee would have a cockroach writhing in it, despite being completely clean the second before, and then a flood of them would drop from the ceiling. These nightmares — no longer dreams — did nothing for my rest, but at least I knew they weren't real, I woke up, abruptly, just a bit after.

Last week, it turned worse. Instead of fantastical occurrences, my nightmares turned ever more subtle. In one, my wife would not speak to me at all; in another, my coworkers berated me for a bad presentation. They were in dreams - but they were so realistic that I could not be sure whether they had happened! In the last few days, I have apologized for things I've never said, and not responded to things that had, because I was sure it was simply a nightmare.

From yesterday, I have a wound in my right hand — my wife lost her patience and I believed I was in a dream; I stabbed myself in the hand, but I was not dreaming.

Last night, in my dreams, the wound was there.

I have learned something, in these last few weeks, that I would share with you, doctor: the fantastic is not scary, for it is not real. What is terrifying, what is to be feared, is the mundane, when it is turned against us. It can drive a man to do terrible things.
talonkarrde: (color)
Log Entry, Stardate Unrecognized [Raw input: "who the fuck cares"]

It was Andrews.

Fucking Andrews.

He was the most stable out of all of us, I thought, the one we would have voted as the one least likely to implode. He was as nostalgic about leaving as any of us, cracked all the right jokes as we went past the Kuiper belt, and was super meticulous in his log entries, always. If anything, I would've thought it'd be Louis, buckling under the pressure as the ship's shrink, or me, who in all of the sci-fi books I read when I was young should've been broken by the weight of command.

Instead, it was Andrews. Thirty-six year old aerospace engineer Thomas Andrews, with NASA for twelve years, five spacewalks under his belt, and selected to join a long, long trip to a world far, far away. Perfectly normal astronaut Andrews, except for his forty-third watch, where he got up, overrode the autopilot, and burned just about all the fuel we had to 'get to Alpha Centauri faster', according to the message he left on the console in his chickenscratch.

Nevermind that we obviously wouldn't get there any faster, which he had to have known as the flight engineer. Nevermind that there was no reason to change from the autopilot, which hadn't erred at all. Nevermind that he should've woken the rest of us if he thought anything needed to be modified.

Nevermind that we needed the damned fuel to LAND WHEN WE GOT THERE, so that we could harvest native minerals for the journey back.

And then having fucked us completely, he decided his best bet would be to dance out an airlock, merrily as anyone could be. He literally danced out, can you believe that?

I fucking can't.

Oh, and the icing on the cake: of course, I was the one to discover this. I woke up out of cryo to relieve him, saw that we were down to six percent fuel, overrode the overriding, and caught Åndrew's wave on the monitors, his punching the airlock cycle sequence, his being incinerated by the port side engine.

Fucking Andrews.


Log Entry, Stardate Unrecognized [Raw input: "shit, just record"]

I...calmed down some, and then woke the others and broke the news. Louis took it stoically, Danielle less so, though to her credit she kept it together in front of the two of us, probably because she thought it'd set us off. We sat there for a while (it wasn't like we had anything better to do), running the numbers (including once by hand, even though it took hours), and we confirmed what we knew from the moment I saw the tank readings.

Six percent thruster capacity means about four seconds of burn.

There's this old game called lunar lander, right, where you're tasted with this goal of landing an sort of Apollo LEM on a couple of platforms or something. It was developed a long time ago, ancient history of ancient history, but it was sort of an unofficial competition among us NASA pilots who were training to get the high score.

This was like that, except that the computer started you with enough fuel to tap the thrusters once. Oh, and there was also an atmosphere that you burned up in, if you came in too shallow. Oh, and the gravity was seven times what it was on the moon.

Five hours of figuring, and we tried every single approach. Head on means we land with a nice thunk at about three hundred fifty miles an hour, at which point we impact with about the force of a medium sized bomb. If we slowly decrease orbit and try to use the atmosphere to slow us down, we roast as the heat plating immolates in a tenth of the time we'd need to spend in the atmosphere.

All of the options in between are worse. Some end with us burning up and /then/ smashing into the planet, which as far as things go, sounds really shitty.

[long pause]

I know now how the earliest explorers must have felt, trying to circumnavigate the globe and running out of food, or having a mast destroyed by a storm. It's simply a sense of... waiting.

Waiting for the end.


Log Entry, Stardate 27991.133 [Sixty-two weeks since launch]

Louis has been walking us through this - thank God for him. He's still as stable as a rock, and can calm Dani and I down with a few words, though I don't know how he does it. Part of it is that he simply stays calm and doesn't try and glorify our deaths or gloss over it; he just... tells us everything, straight. He's talked to both of us about what is going to happen, let us know what we would probably feel, and gave us a few ways to deal with it. Even when he's not in his official role, though, he's warm and kind and... well, without him, I'm not sure any of us would still be alive, to tell you the truth.

...though sometimes I wonder if it makes a difference.

We still stand watch. Habit, I guess. A lifetime of training means that we go through the motions as if our mission will be successful. There's actually a checklist for just about anything to go wrong, except for this. I guess no one thought that this would be a possible failure state. If someone did, maybe we'd have some sort of checklist to go through.

Shut down the engines. Turn off the power, sector by sector. Turn off life support. Gather on the bridge. Say goodbye. Wait for the oxygen readings to fall. Pass out. Drift forever.

But there isn't, so instead, we obey the first law of motion.


Log Entry, Stardate 27998.494 [Sixty-six weeks since launch]

We're getting close to arriving - only two more weeks, and we'll be in range to get a visual lock. We haven't picked up too much so far on the E & M spectrum, though I don't know how careful we've been in sifting through the information that our scanners have been providing. The reports are still being sent out, at least. There's a moon, slightly smaller than ours, for what it's worth. Still a presence in their night sky and on their tides.

Regardless of whether anyone's doing it out of scientific interest or simple inertia, our impending arrival has caused us to be more active; Danielle's back to a version of her former self, instead of the shade the she has been for the last two weeks. Louis is as steady as ever. We'll see what this world holds, even if its secrets die with us.


Log Entry, Stardate 28000.000 [Sixty-eight weeks since launch]

Oh, my god — there's life down there, living, carbon-based life forms.

We're not alone in the universe.


Log Entry, Stardate 28000.010

I'm reminded of an old adage - if a tree falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it make a sound? A Earth-changing, ground-shattering scientific discovery is made, but no one, in this most bittersweet of moments, will ever know about it.

Discovered, only to be forgotten.

Nevertheless, there is life down there, on Alpha Centauri's sole planet, and the life not only exists but is flourishing. We are not the lonely stewards of this universe, my friends, and finding this planet means that we may very well live in a galaxy with many, many other intelligent species.

This particular species (we haven't named them yet) is advanced enough to use tools. They're in the late bronze age, it looks like, though the metal they are using may have little in common with what we had in our own Bronze Age. The differences, though, are minor in light of the indisputable fact that they are intelligent. They have formed societies, formed cities, and one day - by the time the next ship arrives, perhaps - they will have joined us in the stars.

And on that — it may fall upon us, Danielle noted to us earlier, to establish first contact.

First Contact.

Those words mean a lot to me, and, I suspect, to any who has ever thought about what it means. It is impossible to disconnect our thoughts as astronauts and as representatives of humanity from the science — and science fiction pieces — that inform us. The Prime Directive, primarily, has passed through my head perhaps hundreds of times since the first moment that we knew that there was life outside of our own.

And why should it not? These men and women have thought about the situations that we find ourselves in and have reasoned through these moments with no less information than we three envoys of the human race have today.

That said, though, I suspect that those showwriters and philosophers from centuries ago did not have the burden of knowing that their interactions could set the tone for a civilization's future, spanning an indeterminate amount of years.

This is momentous, and we must consider what we do very carefully.


Log Entry, Stardate 28010.132

God, I'm an idiot.

I started talking about the responsibilities that we had and the concerns that there were and everyone was nodding and then Louis raised a hand and then asked me a very simple question.

"How are we going to contact them if we don't survive the trip down to the surface?"

I'm an idiot, and this is all pointless.


Log Entry, Stardate 28015.188

We're currently holding orbit around the planet - We've called it Chiron, following the lead of a few authors of the past; it seems fitting as he was the first among centaurs.

We have been discussing a way to contact them, but time and time again we conclude that they are not yet ready for such contact, which would, in any way that it were accomplished, irrevocably change them. If only we could delay it until they are ready to receive such contact, but we will certainly not live so long, and even in the best of cases, there is not enough energy to keep the electronics going for so long, even if the regular asteroid showers did not knock us out of the sky.

And yet, in the blackest pit of despair, there is yet hope. This evening, I realized that there may be a way to complete this mission. Our fates — Louis, Danielle, and I — will be no different than they were before, but perhaps there is a chance that will not simply be a footnote in the annals of history.

But I can not make this decision alone; we will put it to a vote.


Log Entry, Stardate 28015.910

The vote succeeded. Once I explained what I intended, I saw that they would accept it, despite what it represents. We make our preparations now, and have started boosting already. It will take a few days for the orbit to become elliptical and to allow us to escape this world's pull.

We'll impact the moon in three days.


Log Entry, Stardate 28015.910

This will be my last entry.

I told Louis I loved him; he smiled at me and told me the same. We hold hands as I engage the thrusters, one last time.

Danielle had retreated to her room, but as our retrorockets fire and the collision warnings blare, she joins us in the command module.

I hold her hand, too, and together we watch as the moon grows larger and larger in the viewscreen.


Handwritten Laser Etched Entry on Metal Plates.

Preceding this entry are translations to the natively observed language. Following are plates of microscopic etches containing subsets of human history and knowledge.

Stardate 28018.750

To those that will read this, whether they are from Chiron, Earth, or the Infinite Worlds:

We come in peace from all mankind, and here we lay down our lives. We were a deep space exploration vehicle, the first of our kind, on a mission to gather information about another world. We suffered a mishap on our way and knew that we would not be able to complete our mission as originally intended. We chose, instead, to leave this record on the moon to be found by those who will come after.

If you are from Chiron, you will be reading this after you have achieved spaceflight. Congratulations on joining us in the stars — we hope only that your path to the heavens was easier than ours. As a gift from our civilization to yours, our history and knowledge is written on the plates that follow. We welcome you again, brothers and sisters, and we hope to soon meet you in person; our only regret was that it is cold metal that teaches you of us for the first time.

If you are from Earth, we hope that you will see that we had few choices, and we chose the one that we thought was right. The black box recording will tell you what happened; our only suggestion is that you make use of this knowledge for future exploratory missions. Beyond that, if you are discovering this before the Chirons do, you have the power to erase our choices. We hope you will not.

And if you are from the Infinite Worlds - we are humanity, and we will be taking our place among you shortly. Look forward to our arrival.


May. 2nd, 2009 03:12 pm
talonkarrde: (Default)

Her name was Lady Callisto and they called her a whore.

Born Callie Jaren, she grew up with only her father, a congressional staffer, who unfortunately was the fall guy for a bribery scheme his senator started. He received a life sentence for corruption when Callie turned 14; it was about this time that the story about the D.C. Madam came out, and little blond-haired Callie got both her direction and her cause.

By 24, she had opened up her own shop and taken the name she would use professionally. Slowly, Lady Callisto started learning names and getting closer to those who made the real decisions. The Lady had learned from past services and changed the way the business was run – girls were attached to clients, and sometimes they even left the service to marry those clients, though the Lady of course kept contact with them. Through one of her former girls, she learned about a rising congressman who had been buying and burning his way into power. She resolved to stay neutral at the time; there had been many worse vices than megalomania in D.C., and this Evan Kendrick was just another prick, as far as she was concerned.

But then she had gotten a frantic call from one of her former girls, saying that her husband had been having Kendrick over and he kept looking at her – and by the time that the Lady had gotten there, it was too late for Evangeline - or, as she had been known once upon a time, Angel.

Six months before the election where Kendrick would be elected president, Lady Callisto called in all her girls, asking them find out everything they could about him; after a month, she knew more than she wanted to. There were the political things, but Lady Callisto was far more concerned at the way that he treated his secretaries and his wife; she learned of the marks that they wore long-sleeved shirts to conceal, the appetite that he had. She was patient and planned on biding her time until another one her girls died, and then she called the last meeting of Callisto’s.

The next morning, every paper in the country ran the story of Kendrick’s fetishes, his secret politics, and his future plans; though the Lady wasn’t able to connect him directly with the rape or murders, his career was finished. It came with a price, however, for she had to publicly expose herself and the girls…and though she did everything she could to protect them, thirteen of her girls died before she realized that it would only be stopped one way.

She met him on a Sunday night in Arlington, and the autopsy report noted that it was after 6 a.m. before she finally died. It was a price she was willing to pay, though, because she had influenced the course of politics; a bonus was that the inquiry into her death, spearheaded by a dozen of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, finally put Kendrick behind bars for the rest of his life.

The newspapers said she did it for democracy and freedom, to save the world from a madman who would have destroyed America; the truth is, though, that she did it for her girls - she showed them that anyone could change the world.

talonkarrde: (Default)
“Alms, sir! Food for tomorrow, good lady?”

The lady wrapped her glimmering silk shawl closer around her and turned her head away in disgust as the gentleman aimed a kick at him.

“Away, you lout! You’ll get our clothes dirty!”

But Myesh knew the game by now, and dodged the kick just barely while continuing his plea — “Alms for the poor, good sir, just a few pennies; the Magistrate has sad that giving alms does clean your soul, Captain…” Myesh could almost see the gears turn in the man’s head as he realized it was an opportunity to impress the lady, and offered his bowl with his left hand, his right briefly flicking something towards the man’s shoe.

The man dropped a few coins into the bowl and then said in a most fatherly fashion, “Run along now, work hard, and you’ll be less than a mile away when you grow up!”

Myesh gladly cooperated, scampering away and tucking the coins into a fold of his rags, even as he seethed at the barb. ‘Less than a mile’ was such a cruel joke; like all the other occupants of the Low Quarters, he was doomed to live and die outside of the wall.

But tonight was special; he wasn’t close to the Wall just to see the Magistrate’s residence in the background. It had started a week ago with hearing the stories of the junior-spacemen who hit some of the Low taverns for company and liquor, and the answers he was given only piqued his interest.

They also interested someone else, a shadowy man who had told him to put a little canister in his bowl and use a certain deity’s name when he begged. The stranger who picked up the microfilm dropped fifteen spacers into his bowl – more than he would’ve earned in two weeks, and very quickly, Myesh was back at the tavern, asking if he could do more.

That led to now, and he drew back into the alley, watching as the couple approached the steel wall and waited for their RFIDs to be read. No one ever got into the High Quarters unless they were wealthy and paid for the implants, and the technology kept the classes quite separate - he had seen some enterprising fools try and fool the reader and be subject to a shock that took week to recover from, a week where many starved to death.

To Myesh, however, the only thing that mattered was that the man wanted something placed on one of the riches. He had done his part and now he watched, wondering what was going to happen. The couple started fidgeting, still waiting for the door to open, and Myesh wondered if they were even going to be let in – but then the doors hissed open and the couple passed through.

Myesh wondered if the man was going to be disappointed, and turned — to find the man right next to him.

“Myesh, you’ve done very well. What we’ve started here will bring down the Magistrate, some day. We can still use your help, but you have another option: the spaceport. I know a captain who will take you; you could go to the stars. Do you understand?”

The boy nodded slowly, weighing his choices.

“So what will it be?”
talonkarrde: (Default)
He tilted the cracked mug back, finishing the dark semi-coagulated crap down as he tried not to gag, and paid the check before heading into the cold Manhattan streets. He walked five blocks to the skyscraper where he swept the floors and cleaned the offices, working five hours every night, five hours that paid less in a week than what the bankers that walked every morning earned in a day. But it was his job, and with things as they were, he wasn’t going to complain about things that were unfair. Besides, he had voted on Tuesday and believed that change was on its way…but it didn’t stop him from wishing it came sooner, especially tonight.
Though she knew he liked to sleep until noon, his wife woke him early this morning, sounding and looking very calm – so placid that he almost snapped at her for waking him. But then she told him the news – her water had broken – and he went from sleepy to red-alert in a moment, asking her whether she was sure, if she was hurting, and all the other stupid questions that guys ask when they’re confronted with something about her that they know nothing about. She smiled at him, and in the same calm, steely voice, told him that she needed to be in the hospital.
By four in the afternoon, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to be by her side for six hours that morning, because he couldn’t find coverage and they both knew he couldn’t take off. She took it like she took all bad news, smiling stoically and promising him that Manuel wouldn’t come in that time anyway. At ten thirty, he could wait no longer and left her with two kisses and a promise to hurry back.
At work, the minutes dragged by as he worried about how she and little Manuel were going to be, about how they would deal if the pregnancy had complications, about how they would stretch the budget for the baby. In the muddled mess of his thoughts, he wasn’t paying attention to the equipment and didn’t realize that the cord of the waxing machine had been chewed on.
As he was collecting the cord to move to another part of the lobby, his hand ran over the live wire.
In a moment, current passed through his body and sent his heart into ventricular tachycardia; he fell to the floor without ever realizing what had happened. One of the other janitors heard the crash, though, and was wondering why the sound of the machine had stopped; he called 911. At a quarter to midnight, EMS had him on the way to St. Vincent, putting epinephrine and atrophine into him as they tried to shock him. The first defibrillation attempt was a failure; the second, though, brought him back to something the medics could work with.
He came back to consciousness ten minutes later, repeating in a trance, “Manuel, Nessa, where are they?” The attending thought he was delusional and was going to sedate him, but a nurse noted that a patient named Vanessa Rodriguez was in obstretics  - and in labor.
Nurses are often given less credit they deserve; they do more in the day to day patient care than most doctors can or will. She called upstairs to explain the situation, and after a short consultation, they wheeled Vanessa Rodriguez down into the E.R.
The paramedics that brought him in checked in as their shift ended, asking the attending how their patient turned out. After all, many of the patients that they brought back only stayed briefly in the land of the living.
The attending, a severe man that had been in the E.R. for more than ten years, smiled briefly.
“The child, mother, and father will all be fine. He’s stable and the pregnancy was without complications - it’s the hospital’s midnight special, gentlemen.”
talonkarrde: (Default)
These are the things he tries to think about.

The booming voice of the superintendent echoing across the field. “Upon the recommendation of the faculty and by the power vested in me by the Board of Education, you are now all high school graduates!” He cheers with the others, of course, screaming himself hoarse and hugging everyone in reach, but the true moment of passage is when he looks up and sees his dad crying in the stands – and then a wave of mortarboards hides him from view.

The feel of her hair against his face, one arm cradling her body close to him, the other growing numb under the weight of her head, though he hardly minds. He tilts his head, whispering into her ear, and he watches a smile grow before she turns to kiss him. He tries to recall the way they fit together, the way he watched the moonlight fall on her skin.

The smell of chorizo soup wafting through the house, a savory mixture of garlic, basil, and tomatoes that distracts him from the work he was doing. His fingers pause from their typing and he pushes the keyboard back, heading into the kitchen and leaning against the doorway. She stands there, biting her lower lip, concentration wrinkles across her forehead as she stirs the soup. He tiptoes in, trying not to distract her, until he wraps his arms around her and kisses her on the jawline. He remembers the shiver, the smile.

These are the things he tries not to think about.

The panic growing in him as he looks at the newest bill, warning him of a late fee on top of the already crippling bills. He doesn’t know whether he should tell her; she was in the hospital just a week ago, and she might not be ready for the news. She comes into the room, laughing at something a friend sent her, and he guiltily slides the bill under a pile of work papers, turning to smile wanly back at her. He’ll sell the manuscript, he thinks, and get them out of this.

The day that he comes back from the store and sees the Ford Explorer in the driveway. He didn’t know that Jason was going to be there; though their neighbor had been over often recently, he usually called ahead a day or so. Stepping into the living room, he shakes his head at the mess of clothes Jason had left on the couch, and heads upstairs. At the top of the stairs, he stops, hearing the voices. The sounds. The silence when the door swings open, his hand falling limply from the doorknob.

The moment in time he is in, sitting in the chair, the cold metal of the cap chilling his bare skull. The hard rubber of the mouth-guard is abrasive against his tongue and gums; he wonders how many deaths it takes to chew through one of them. The prosecutor stands and reads off the names of people he killed; he does not listen.

“Do you have any last words?”

He shakes his heads, numbly, and then, as the electricity courses through his body, he thinks of everything.
talonkarrde: (Default)
The first step of the waltz is the man’s advance and woman’s retreat. On the surface, the man is dominating the dance,  pushing the woman back, but the correctly danced waltz relies on the man matching how far the lady wishes to retreat. They met at a friend’s wedding, on the dance floor, because they were the best dancers there. He asked her out, and she agreed -  on the condition that they dance a waltz once a year, every year that they stayed together.

Their first two years were, like the beginning of the dance, more momentum than technique. They met at other times, but the night of the waltz was special to them, in the way that is cliché in recountings but special to those that were there. They would spend it dancing, first casually and chatting while they did, and then more seriously, each striving to prove themselves the better dancer. It was a time of getting to know the other’s carriage, style, and life.

The second step of the waltz is the most complicated; the woman turns clockwise as she sweeps her left leg back and out, and the man follows. When danced properly, the eye can not know who is leading or following – if it looks like there is, the dancers are out of sync. She would call him up between March and August and simply say ‘tonight’, and he would clear his schedule, explaining to the others that he had a prior obligation. The courtship had progressed beyond initial attractions; it was no longer about getting to know the other, but rather about fine-tuning styles to be most comfortable and complimentary.

Five years taught him to order her an Alaskan salmone alla crema with 1998 pinot noir; five years gave her the knowledge to get him a 12 oz. ribeye cut and a whiskey sour. Conversations turned from the grand 'what do you like' to the mundane 'what shall we do tomorrow', and more about the future than the past. Their dancing afterwards was also more sedate; they had less to prove and more to enjoy. It traded speed and motion for beauty and grace.

The final step is the closing; the feet come back together as dancers finish the final pivot; it completes the circle and prepares to start it anew. The dancers should be with each other and the music, ‘leader’ and ‘follower’ no longer exist. It became spontaneous; he would tap her on the shoulder and it would be subtly different from the other times; she would look at him with the idea in her eyes and they would go, that night.

The final year, she finished the dance with him and then stopped in the center of the ballroom. He dropped to one knee in front of her and the eight year waltz was complete.
talonkarrde: (Default)
The first sensation was the slight give of packed dirt. They roused him as they had every morning, and he had learned quickly to struggle to his feet after the first kick. He made his way across the room, arms blindly stretched out in front of him until he touched the rough concrete blocks. It was protocol, he had learned, for them to run a rake through the dirt floor it to see if he had been digging any holes – and by the second day, he had stopped trying.

A sharply barked command and he was dragged into the corridor, where the warm soft dirt became cold unyielding metal. He counted the steps – thirteen paces and a right to the corrugated stairs. Twenty steps making two full rotations and an exit to the right. Thirty-two more before the left to the final destination.

Then linoleum - more than three pints of his blood, teeth, fingernails, and handfuls of hair had been spread across it; he figured the janitor had gathered up more of him than he had left. He was pushed into the chair his body had become rather intimate with over the course of the last week.

The smell of lilacs and peach meant that she had come in. Somehow, she smelled like that no matter what she did to him, no matter how much of his blood was on her.

“Hey, babe.” He smiled tiredly.

“You have been quite uncooperative, Jake.” Dulcet tones, as always. Even when she was ‘working’ him. Especially then.

“Sorry, honey, you know me…” He stopped smiling, knowing what was coming next. The only question was where the blow would land.

“I have learned many things about you, indeed, but our time here is over. Stand up, turn around, and walk. You may remove the tape after fifty paces, I trust you will count them very carefully; you should be able to imagine the consequences if you do not. Do not look back.”

He sat there for a moment, incredulous, but he realized that there was no choice to be made. All things considered, he would rather walk than be dragged. He stood up slowly, ignoring the pain, and turned around, first shuffling, then walking away from her.

Ten steps, then twenty.

Forty-one, forty-two, and he felt something foreign – air brushing past his face. A breeze, carrying the scent of something other than recycled machine air, carrying the scent of nature.

Fifty steps and he stopped, expectant…but nothing happened. He reached up with a trembling hand and, in one quick motion, ripped the tape off, taking most of his eyelashes with it. The pain would have been considerable, once.

In front of him was a rickety wooden suspension bridge, extending into the mist. He took a step forward, feeling the smooth wood plank under his feet sway slightly, and then took another, and another, walking into the mist, not looking back, never looking back. He reached the lowest point of the bridge – and started speeding up, a flicker of hope lighting within him and driving him forward.

They were standing on the opposite bank, only ten paces more, when he heard the snap of the bridge being cut behind him.
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He clicked on the speaker system and said, “Thank you, Sharon, that’s all for today. I have good news for you, it’s been thirty-one days; tomorrow  is the last one, okay?”

The nude woman sitting on the bed nodded up at the camera and took two sleeping pills before lying down on the bed. It was a specially designed room, spartan and without anything that the subjects could cut themselves on. The bed was plastic, the sheets and covers chenille, and the walls themselves were padded with enough rubber foam to satisfy a mental institution.

Project Lead Jeffery Larkos observed her through the monitors for a few minutes, watching as her heartbeat and respirations slowed down, and then clapped the technician on the shoulder and went back to his office down the hall. He looked at all the medical journals on his desk and sighed tiredly, instead going over to the couch to sleep.

Finally, he thought, step three could proceed, and they would see if it was all worth it. After the Seattle incident, he had been given the research and testing laboratory, analyzing the properties of various viruses and their ability to penetrate the human skin. Everything came down to tomorrow.


“Sharon, you’re up already, I see,” he said, taking a seat in the monitor room.

“I couldn’t wait, Doctor – after all, today is the last day, and my husband and kids are outside, I hear, and…”

“Calm down, please, Sharon – this will only take a minute, and then we’ll be done.” He smiled back and motioned for her to stand still as the cameras and scanners examined her from every angle, checking for cuts and microcuts. Finding none, he says. “There’s a cylinder near the door. Wait until I give the signal, and then press the end with the arrow gently against your left arm, okay?”

“Whatever you say, Doc,” she said, doing a pirouette. Jeffrey took a deep breath, and then told the technician to activate stage one.

“Ebola sample A-2 diffusing into the room, Doctor.”

“If this doesn’t work, Dan, we’re dead,” Jeffrey remarked, eyes glued to the monitors. The newest weaponized version of airborne Ebola was noted for its 90% mortality rate and almost instant nature. Whoever had made it had removed the usual five to ten day incubation period, and made it almost universally lethal. This lab was designed to find out how readily it would diffuse through human skin.

“And…we’re at one minute, and negative contam.”

“Begin stage two.” Jeffrey said, and then pressed the speaker button. “Sharon, go ahead.”

Inside the room, Sharon put the canister to her arm gently, and it clicked, an extremely tiny needle puncturing her flesh, not even making enough of a hole to draw blood.

“Stage two commencing,” Jeffrey said tersely, and then returned to the monitor.

It wasn’t thirty seconds before it started. A deepening of the red at her lips, and then a blush into her cheeks…and then, all at once, cuts appearing on her body as her skin broke down. Her eyes, nose, mouth, ears…all her orifices were leaking blood, and she had only time to moan before collapsing on the floor.

“Test subject forty. Failure due to single entrance.”

In his head, he added, God help us.
talonkarrde: (Default)

He says there is no better word to describe it, no better action to express the word.

If you asked him why he was doing it, he would tell you that it was in pursuit of ontological perfection: that ideas exist, that they exist in ever more perfect forms, and that finally, there is a limit to such perfection; a point at which there can be no better representation.

He had chosen to prove this with sadism.

The average tiger shark is about twelve feet long from snout to tail, and swims at up to thirty-two kilometers an hour. The tiger shark is nature’s finest killer.

The first act in his sadistic play begins: A typical private round swimming pool holds about 10,000 gallons, and is about twenty-one feet long. Place an adult tiger shark into such a pool, and it will circle the edge of the pool, investigating the metal walls that never stop. After about fifteen minutes, it starts thrashing and ramming the walls, trying to force an exit that will never exist. About twenty minutes after that, the shark will sink back into the routine of circling the tank, unconsciously slowing down until not enough water moves through the gills and the shark dies of asphyxiation.  It will die before an hour is up.

Trumpeter swans are the most beautiful and biggest of the swans in all of North America. In mythology, swans stand for beauty, fertility, and love.

The second act of sadism involves the most preparation. Thirty of the best specimens of trumpeter swans have been in individual cages along the pool’s edge for two days. Their wings were clipped when he bought them; they will never fly again. Fifty minutes in, before the shark dies, one of the cages is opened. He places the swan onto the water, a conscious action.

The swan feels something under the water, a predator, and it opens its ten-foot wingspan, flaps -- and stays firmly on the water, unable to fly. It keeps flapping.

Fifty-one minutes in, the shark realizes there is prey on the surface of the water, something alive and moving. Even though it may not be hungry, it attacks, and one splash later, there are only twenty nine beautiful, bright swans.

Every minute for the next fifteen, he releases another swan. Then he releases two at a time, and then three. As time goes on, the tiger shark is less precise, and blood and entrails join the perfect feathers floating on the surface. The cameras record it all.

And then there are no cages left to open and another few minutes pass before the waters are tranquil once more, the final scene of suffocation complete.

It is a perfectly choreographed play, and the last act is but one sentence, ten seconds long.

He turns to the camera, and says, “Sadism: intentionally caused despair."

talonkarrde: (Default)
It must’ve been a great and terrible sight to the Moors – the leader of the beseiging infidels, whom they swore was dead, returning unharmed to the battlefield. His famous warhorse, Babieca, slowly trotting to the front lines, with the famous knight riding strong and tall upon the steed, parting the army before them like Moses did the Red Sea. He would have been resplendent in his shining armor, a diamond glinting in a grey field, giving the Muslims a sign they could not ignore.

And what were the defenders of Valencia to do when the chain-mail glove came up with the sword of El Cid and pointed at the Castle, when the deep voice called out 'Charge!'? The call was taken up by the entire army and the attackers swept forward, a relentless tide that rolled onto and over the defenders' lines, sweeping them away as the ocean sweeps away the sand castles of children.

It would’ve been different, perhaps, if El Cid had not reappeared, had not taken his place at the head of the army, had not urged them on. But he had, and the Moors broke and ran – there was no other way it could have ended. What else could happen, with their faith in Allah broken – how could Allah be on their side if He had allowed the great general of the Infidels to come back to life after they had killed him?

So they ran, and El Cid's soldiers swept through Valencia like a flash flood, quickly quelling the small pockets of resistance. Less than three hours after the battle began, his soldiers had secured the city, and everyone waited for the surrender ceremony.

It was a victory, no doubt, and one that proved to all that El Cid was as great a military commander as they had all known. But soon after they had secured the city, the whispers began – why hadn’t El Cid taken the charge himself, as was his style? Why had he not already taken the surrender of the city and moved on to the next conquest?

Only then was it discovered that El Cid was dead, had been dead since before the battle. When his body was taken to his wife, she immediately strapped him to Babieca in his armor and told his generals to carry him to the front and act as if he were still alive. And to their credit, they did – and in doing so, secured El Cid’s final victory: one he won after his death.


Jun. 4th, 2008 08:05 pm
talonkarrde: (Default)
I’m not a person that can really say a lot about commitment. I’m young and don’t have that much experience with it, as you guys know. But there is one experience with commitment that I would like to share, here.

Commitment comes in a variety of forms – to a person, to a task, to an ideal. At its heart, commitment is tied to sacrifice and assurance; to commit to something or someone involves sacrificing other things for that one, and assuring them of a place
in your priorities.

My experience with commitment has been more to ideals than to people, which should come as no surprise. As an EMT, the ideal I commit to is helping others - I sacrifice time and sleep every Sunday night to assure the township that I live in that if someone is injured, there will be help for them.

But the easing of pain and preservation of life is a common commitment; EMTs are not remotely alone in that – they are joined by medical professionals and volunteers of all sorts. Every Good Samaritan is committed to the same ideal that I am.

However, there is one commitment that I have come across that I think is relatively unique – the commitment to life in the face of imminent death.

We humans do not often commit to things that are likely doomed to failure; we don’t put our life savings into buying lottery tickets, we don’t jump off fifty-story buildings with the intention of living, we don’t try and move objects with our minds.

But working in a hospice exposes you to people that are doing precisely that. The residents of the hospice will not live their full lives. Most will likely will die in the next month. Survival rates, by the time that a patient is placed into a hospice, are less than 10% for a year.

But that doesn’t stop everyone working there from committing to life, even as they know of the inevitable failure. It’s different than in hospitals, because we are taught that while death is inevitable, we can often beat it back, push it away, and snatch back from the edge those that should not yet be there. With hospice care, it is accepted that death will claim those that we work on – and through that, we carry on.

It is inefficient. It is hopeless. And it restores my faith in humanity, every time I take my place in there. Through our efforts, we bring hope to those that have none.

It takes a great deal of commitment to walk in there, day after day. There is a reason that hospice care is not a field that many choose to go onto – the burnout rate is tremendous. How can it not, when you daily fail where you strive to succeed, and even the victories that you gain are cut short brutally and almost immediately.

And yet, we commit to it anyway. We sacrifice our mental health, our time, our energy for the sake that they may know that someone cares about them in the last few days that they have.  We are there to assure them that whatever they have gone through in the past, we will be there for them at the very end.

That is what I know of commitment.


May. 28th, 2008 08:56 pm
talonkarrde: (Default)
Your ride is this dinky plane with an intentionally cute name - ‘Miss Fortune’ - that looks airworthy from the outside… if a little worn.

The inside, though, is the first sign that you’ve done something insane. Dull metal benches and an ‘oh shit’ bar replace the seats you’re used to. The door? Clear plastic and sliding - clearly no more than necessary to get you into the air – it’s not like you’re riding it down.

When they give the ‘go’ signal and the first person vanishes, your brain realizes there’s something wrong and starts into panic-tremors-oh-god mode. But it’s not full-blown yet, because it’s not you.

When you’re about to jump, that’s the moment, where your brain realizes that it should never be up this high. In the three seconds before you run for the back of the plane, the instructors push you out.

And you fall.

And when you open your eyes, instinctively…you forget fear. And you find out that you’ve been allowed to view God’s easel.

You see a patchwork quilt of different hues of golden fields, gleaming metallic cities, and the turquoise of the infinite ocean. It’s why humans dream of wings.

And in those sixty seconds of free-fall, you learn many things, but one in specific.

Next time around, you’re going to jump, and keep your eyes open.
talonkarrde: (Default)
Okaru began to feel the trembling as he hailed a taxi. It was dishonorable to be seen without being in control, and so he forced himself to stop.

“To the Chushingura Teahouse, ronin.” The man pulling the cart inclined his head slightly, and started pulling, gradually merging into city traffic – hand carts, pedestrians, a few horses, and the new driverless carts. By imperial decree, only those that had were honored could travel on horses – the lesser samurai used handcarts pulled by others, and the peasants that had no honor at all were using carts that moved on their own. It was a just system, he mused, where those without honor could still travel efficiently, but had no one to serve them, and those that had honor were moved by others.

“We are here, sir.” The ronin said quietly, and Okaru stepped off the cart quickly, entering the building and waving the secretaries aside as he made for the lord’s offices. When he met the lord’s samurai, though, his demeanor changed suddenly, and he humbly submitted to the routine questions before being ushered into the chamber.

“I have done the deed, Lord Kisaru. Your honor is clean.” The young samurai went down on one knee before his master, his business suit creasing neatly at the knees, the katana sweeping out behind him.

“Very well. Did he scream as you cut him from belly to neck?” Lord Kisaru spoke in a steady voice, as steady as rock.

Okaru paused for a moment and looked down, only to see his hands start to tremble once more. “I…he did not scream, master.”

Lord Kisaru narrowed his eyes and made a swift cutting gesture as he rose to his feet, and his samurai acted quickly, pulling Okaru back and drawing out his katana, which gleamed.

“It is clean, Okaru…you have failed me. You acted with dishonor…you used one of the new devil-fire weapons, didn’t you?” His words were still even, but there was an edge to them now.

“I…I…it was fast-“

“It was without honor.” Lord Kisaru made a small motion with his hand, and before Okaru could react, he found his entrails spilling out onto the ground. He tried desperately not to scream, but it tore itself out of his throat….and ceased abruptly, as his head flew across the room.
talonkarrde: (Default)

"Did it have to look like an apple?" he asked, looking at it with some apprehension.

"The designers have a sense of history, I suppose. Heracles and the Golden Apples from the Tree of Life, the apple from the Tree of Knowledge..."

"You mean the forbidden fruit," he interjected. "The one that was responsible for original sin?"

"Ah, well…that was most likely a pomegranate, and regardless, it was still from the tree of knowledge, just acquired…poorly. Now lay back for a moment, while the trace scans complete."

He shrugged and lay down. "Then there are the popular legends of poisoned apples, the apple thrown by Eris that started the Trojan War..."

Trailing off, he turned his head to the side and stared at the unassuming looking fruit sitting on the dull metal tray. On the surface, it looked every much its namesake, red and full, looking like the ones he used to pluck from the trees in his family's orchard. But this specimen in front of him wasn't the fruit that had sustained humanity for millions of years, but something completely new, something different.

Advancements in nanotechnology and genetics were responsible for the ‘fruit’ in front of him. The name was chosen quite deliberately - the apple was packed with nanoparticle sized robots that were supposed to go through his body and remove all the toxins and combat any foreign substances, restoring him to the pinnacle of health.

It was meant to usher in a new age of humanity, one free from disease – and possibly, from death itself.

“Okay, Martin. Looks like everything checks out, the scans are active, and the cameras are rolling. Go for it.”

He reached for the apple. It was quite smooth to the touch, and heavier than a normal apple – denser, he supposed, because of what was inside. He saw his distorted image reflected back at him, and he paused, trying to discern all possible futures.


He bit down, then, and tasted the acrid flavor. Nothing like an apple, this – and so foreign from something that looked so familiar that he almost vomited. But he forced himself to chew it normally – the scientists told him it wouldn’t hurt the nanobots – and swallowed. A bite, and then another, until most of the snow-white flesh was in him.

And then a burn, spreading from his abdomen, upwards and downwards. Convulsions. And finally, a blessed darkness.

talonkarrde: (Default)
It’s not a bad life.

You’ve heard the stories of how things are out there. Children killed before they could form their first words, mothers slaughtered because they were in the way.  It’s not like that in here. It’s better.

My day is just like any of yours. Get up, go to work, go home. I’m an entertainer, I put on shows twice a day. If I do well, I get a bonus, just like you. Well, almost. There is a window separating us.

Love? Well, it’s much less lonely with her here. We comfort each other when things get bad; isn’t that what relationships are?

We met by the providence of higher beings. It worked out for us. We were happy, as much as just two of us could be. We even had a son, though it was a bit odd with everyone watching.

But they took him away after that. I don’t want to talk about it.

The worst part of this isn’t being in an alien world, or being without a social life, or having your only son taken from you.

It’s the window that surrounds the exhibit, that shows us off to them.

Yeah, it’s required, nothing to see without it. But think about what I see: after I’m done, the frails trickle out, back to their lives, and others come in to replace them. We, however have nowhere to go; we can not follow.

For us, windows are nothing more than walls you can see through.


talonkarrde: (Default)

March 2017

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