Posts Tagged ‘Condition’

Equation (Short Story Excerpt)

May 2, 2016

 

The great machine approached the dead planet with reverence, descending to the edge of its ionosphere. There it hovered with infinite patience. Searching. Recording temperatures, atmospheric conditions, radiation levels, and orbital speed. Scanning for any and all signs of life or sentience.

Just as it had been programmed to do.

In its current state, the machine appeared to be a long, trapezoidal bar; dark, metallic, and smooth. Light from the nearest star reflected off its surface, making it look aglow with energy. It waited until the planet completed one full rotation, then collated its data:

There had been life.

Once, but no more.

Noiseless, the machine began to mutate. Slats appeared along its massive length, and from its center both ends pushed outward…growing…curling…until its ends met and fused, forming a perfect circle with no end and no beginning.

Then it descended ever further, forming a ring around the dead, ring-less planet.

Again, the machine waited; every molecule vibrating from a constant stream of information. Inside its artificial imagination, the machine soared through the planet’s sky, burrowed into the crust, and immersed itself in bodies of liquid. Learning. Knowing. Understanding. It saw how the planet formed—nothing new to its memory function—and how life first appeared; also not new, but very rare. It saw how the microscopic plant and animal life became macroscopic, forming a symbiotic relationship between them. It saw great beasts rise up in a harsh, predatory world. Then, disaster. Gigantic mineral formations slamming down. Falling temperatures, crystallizing the liquid. It saw mass extinction, then rebirth. New life began. Smaller this time; less bestial but just as savage. A dominant species emerged; warm blooded, capable of thought and learning. Hence, this species evolved. In time, they began to build. They began to create. They began to change their world.

But always, their habit of enslaving and destroying each other remained.

A strange species, the machine decided. Capable of astounding visual and written works, yet capable of atrocious violence—against both themselves and the myriad species around them. Their technology focused on communication, but failed to overcome their natural divisions. Strange deities of their own design presided over them, influencing them. Even their growing knowledge of the universe didn’t help. Belief in what the machine understood as non-corporeal, non-quantifiable, and nonsensical ideas fueled this species, and somehow couldn’t be shed. In the end, they overpopulated and polluted themselves into extinction.

The cycle of this planet they in their various languages had called: Earth.

Now, having absorbed all it could, the machine had a question to answer:

Are they worth restoration?


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Thank you for reading!

JLR

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In Spite Of Her Will (Short Story Excerpt)

January 13, 2015

January 11th, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
8:49 a.m.

Nurse Vanna Meadows didn’t want to go into the room at the end of the hall, but she had no choice. She’d avoided it as long as she could, and now her job demanded it. Demanded that she complete her patient rounds. And her conscience demanded that she do everything in her power to help that poor old man.

Goddamnit…why didn’t he ask the doctor for help? Why did he have to ask me? I’m just a nurse…a lowly goddamn nurse who doesn’t want any part of this!

With a mournful sigh, Vanna left the nurses’ station and started down the hall. Toward the room. Toward the emaciated old man whom Vanna wished she’d never met.

Toward the biggest, momentous decision of her young life.

Even now, Nurse Meadows didn’t know what she’d do once she stepped inside. She knew she’d see her patient lying there, hooked up to the heart monitor and inching ever toward the end of his long life. Perhaps beseeching her again with his kind yet weary gaze. Perhaps reaching out to her in his innocent yet cruel way; gnarled hand extended like a beggar seeking alms. Except in this case, alms meant quite a bit more than money, or even food. It meant the ultimate sacrifice.

Maybe he’ll be sleeping this time, Vanna thought, scrubs rustling, shoes squeaking against the tile floor as she meandered along. Maybe I can put it off for awhile…

Though twenty-three–young by adult standards–and just seven months into her job, Nurse Meadows had never given her career choice a second thought. She’d gone through nursing school with an ease which had earned her the jealousy of her peers, and had set her sights on a position at Stark City’s most prominent hospital: Stark County Medical Center. Once hired at SCMC, she’d been placed on the sixth floor telemetry unit, and in the previous seven months she’d seen it all. Heart attack victims, stroke victims, crash victims, and every other form of rotten luck made manifest in the physical world. And none of it had bothered her. Not the blood, the sobbing of family members, or the endless echoes of grief in the sterile halls. Vanna prided herself on being just as, if not more, professional than the nurses twice her age.

But all of that changed the day they wheeled Hubert Cranleigh up to her floor and left the ancient man in her charge. That had been a week ago. Prior to this transfer, Hubert had languished in the intensive care unit following a massive heart attack. At age ninety-one, his recovery had been less than ideal. But the doctor and ICU nurses had done their jobs and gotten him stabilized. Hubert could open his eyes and talk for brief periods of time; even making sense every once in awhile. So things had been looking up for everyone involved–

Then tragedy struck.

One night, Hubert’s eighty-nine year old wife, Lois, had slipped and fallen in the rest home and broken much more than her hip. She’d been rushed to Stark County Medical just as Hubert had, but even emergency surgery hadn’t been able to save her. And the single worst moment of Vanna’s life had been when she’d stood by as the doctor informed Hubert that his wife had died. That, because of Hubert’s delicate condition, he couldn’t be moved–even by wheelchair–to Lois’s room. Which meant that poor old Hubert had already seen his beloved wife for the last time.

No book, no song, no poem could ever describe the utter heartbreak Vanna saw in Hubert’s eyes that ruinous day. Hubert didn’t just cry, he bled pure sorrow from every pore of his withered flesh. His bones rattled with every breath. His heart monitor jounced in time to the childlike blubbering which still rang in Nurse Meadows’ ears.

Damnit! Vanna thought, slowing her pace even more. Halfway down the hall now, the syringe in her pocket bounced against her leg. A heavy reminder of the heavy decision she’d almost made.

I don’t know if I can do this, Mr. Cranleigh. I really, really don’t…


If you enjoyed this excerpt, please subscribe, like, and share.

“In Spite of Her Will” was featured in The Borfski Press, Issue #2.

Buy The Borfski Press Issue #2 in both print and digital format here:

https://theborfskipress.com/2017/06/19/issue-ii-out-now/

Thank you for reading!

JLR


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