Category: Science Fiction
I awake, as always, to the click and whir of a thousand hidden cameras, and the rising glow of the ambient lights. Over the next 30 minutes, the curtains on my bedroom will slowly part, gliding on mechanized tracks, and the yellow sunlight of dawn will stream into the wide circular room. Like all mornings, I entertain for the briefest moments the thought of hurling myself at the windows and plunging the half mile to the ground. I hold on to the little fantasy of wind and sky and falling for as long as it will remain, dreaming of those magnificent moments of freedom and choice.
Even if I were not a coward, there are a thousand unseen barriers and safe guards. I can not see them, but several parents are doubtlessly just outside the door, and would be between me and the window before I could leave the bed. I allow the dream of freedom to evaporate for another morning.
The woman next to me, I can not recall her name, shifts and rolls to embrace me. I wrap my arms around her and return the affection, but there is no love in it. She is young and soft, skin still stretched taut over her athletic and perfect frame. I know that in my youth I would have been buzzing with anticipation and lust simply seeing her, but now I can only take solace in the momentary ghost of affection and emotion. Her skin is warm, and her fine and downy body hair is smoother than the silk of the sheets. I draw an abstract of pleasure from this closeness, feeling something akin to happiness when our bellies synchronize in breathing, pressed close as they rise and fall in an alternating rhythm. Her breath is hot and damp on my chin and neck. It only takes me a few moments to tire of her, and I swing my legs to the edge of the bed.
There were parties that night, but I elected to spend it alone, drinking and snorting the last of my priceless heroin on a wooded bluff overlooking the sea, capturing what quiet I could on my own terms and determined to meet the last day sober.
I woke, caked in vomit and pain as the sun arose, and trickled down to the beach, relishing the cool salt breeze on my chapped face. As I plunged my face into the water, I heard a tinny wail of joy, and turned in mute disbelief. A child raced down the beach, trailed by her mother. As public opinion had slid into open hatred of those who knowingly reproduced, births had become unheard of.
I swam in a wash of emotions: raw fury at manifest selfishness, an aching nameless joy, a thousand other twinges of head and heart. In the last decade, when it was clear that nothing could divert the comet’s path, the final gasps of propaganda’s engine had repeated this final message: Don’t Make It Worse.
I rose, fists balled, but my shout of indignant protest died on my lips. The earth trembled, a passing shock wave under foot. The impact was hours ago, in the steppes of Asia; the wall of fire and pressure had made it’s solemn journey around the world to us.
The girl was swept into her mother’s arms. They looked serenely at me, twin eyes of sea green. For a moment, I bordered epiphany. Guilt washed in behind the tide of anger. Then it was gone, and I was empty at last.
“I love you,” whispered the mother, holding the child close.
I sighed, and the air grew dim and thick with the onrush of steam. My vision clouded, and I turned to the sea, one final time.
This is not the weekly story, but instead something I wrote a year ago for a “No Longer Than 300 Words Science Fiction” competition, and it’s interesting to me for several reasons. As you may have noticed, I have a tendency to use 9 words when one will do; my first draft of this piece was well over 600 words, and I spent many cycles of revisions and iterations to reduce the size so drastically. As a result, there is an economy to the language in this piece that I like very much, it’s something that I have not been effectively able to repeat. Hell, look at the size of this introduction… at any rate, enjoy!
Something is wrong.
Consciousness drifts back to me lazily, like an incoming tide as my mind and body awake in stages. At first, it is dark, and I have no form, just a terrified animal spark suspended in a featureless abyss. My primal hindbrain sends useless impulses to my unanswering body, demanding that I run and hide, but I am still. How long I drift here, I do not know, and the darkness devours time.
Gradually I become aware of muted sensory impressions, the faint hiss of venting gas, the dry taste of recycled air. It is utterly black however, darker than I would have believed possible, and I slowly realize that my eyelids refuse to open. I am aware of them now, thin sheets of flesh that tug across my face, but remain closed despite my efforts. Even without them, I can still sense the glass and metal frame around me.
With a dawning wave, I realize how cold I am. So cold, that for a hideous and protracted moment, I believe I may be on fire. I begin to panic, still trapped inside my nearly lifeless body, wanting to slither and crawl away from the pain. My lips part with a tear of flesh and I can feel blood trickling into my mouth, growing instantly cool as it runs between my clenched teeth. My jaw remains locked in place, the muscles straining weakly beneath my cheeks.