Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rebirth (Flash! Friday entry #2.3)

The planet had been almost entirely vacated. Only those too poor, too ill, or too crazy to leave remained. Christa supposed she fell into the last category. She wasn’t like the cultists who’d elected to stay because they thought God had returned; Christa stayed because she was curious. She stayed so she could see the heart of a black hole.

Christa slept during the day, wandering deserted streets at night and taking inventory of the stars. Fewer and fewer burned through the black veil each night, devoured by an even deeper, more permanent blackness.

It happened during one of her midnight walks. Christa cartwheeled into the sky, consumed by a blackness so cold and complete it was like being unborn. She collapsed, falling inward and inward and inward, until she was one with the heart and there was nowhere left to fall but out.

Christa exploded through the darkness.

She became the light.

A new heart for a new world.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Answered Prayers (Flash! Friday Flashiversary entry)

Sometimes, Nahla thought, the dreams and wishes of childhood became the nightmare realities of adulthood.

When she was eight, Nahla would have given anything for a dragon baby. Lying awake at night, she prayed to the goddess Echindna to send her a fire-breathing beast with eyes like emeralds and wings of gold. She would be the envy of the village, a mother to a god.

As Nahla grew, those dreams were replaced by more practical desires—a husband, a home, and children of the human variety. When she ceased to bleed and her belly began to swell, Nahla lay awake at night, praying now to the goddesses Eileithyia for a strong and healthy son. She would be the envy of the village, a mother to a prince. The whimsical yearnings of youth were all but forgotten. She’d forsaken her childhood prayers, but they’d not forsaken her.

Nahla pushed and wailed, and as her child’s head emerged from her womb, the midwife, Sita, shrieked and fled the room, abandoning Nahla to deliver her baby alone. She staggered to her feet and, reaching between her legs, pulled the screeching infant from her body. A hand flew into her mouth, blood and sweat mingled, choking back a scream.

In her arms, Nahla held the dragon baby she’d so desperately wanted as a child. But instead of beautiful onyx scales and golden wings, his body was covered in sickly diamond plaques. His fingers were misshapen, ineffective claws. Instead of emeralds, his eyes were soft, swollen things that wept angry red tears as he cried. No ears. No nose. Only hollow black holes where both should be. He was an abomination.

Outside, the villagers were gathering. Unintelligible murmurs seeped through the windows like vapor and shadows born of torchlight writhed on the floor like mad spirits. Nahla’s husband entered the birthing chamber. His eyes fell upon the malformed infant wailing in his wife’s arms.

He cursed her. Turning slowly, he left to confirm his people’s worst fears.

Nahla wept for answered prayers.

She would be the shame of the village. A mother to a monster.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hypothesis (Race The Date #5 entry)

“You know, in some cultures they cut off your hand for stealing.” Daniel paced up and down the rows of incubators and centrifuges. During the day, as many as thirty investigators might be working in the lab at any given time, but now it was deserted, and Daniel’s voice echoed off white boards and epoxy resin countertops, making it impossible to tell exactly where he was.

Richard’s irresistible cobalt eyes ricocheted inside their bony sockets like a pair of tandem pinballs. They were the only things he could move. His wrists and ankles were securely fastened to his chair with zip ties, and his mouth was stuffed with filter paper and secured with several strips of rainbow lab tape.

“But you didn’t steal with your hands. Did you, Richard?” Daniel stepped from behind a tower of deionized water. He wore a face shield, safety goggles and insulated gloves. In one hand he carried a coffee-can sized container labeled LN2, in the other a glass pipette.

“No,” Daniel said, “You seduced my lab assistant with greedy eyes that lapped up my research proposals when her back was turned.” He set the container on the counter; the lower half had sprouted a lawn of frost.

“I don’t think losing your hand would do much to stop you from stealing again.” Daniel removed the lid; frigid fog boiled over the edges. He placed the pipette into the container and drew up 6 ml of clear, bubbling fluid. Richard’s eyes bulged like rubber stops under high pressure.

“But I suspect that a few drops of liquid nitrogen on those icy blue peepers might just do the trick.” Daniel peeled back Richard’s eyelids and positioned the pipette above the first writhing globe.

“As we are both men of science, let’s test that hypothesis. Shall we?”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Smart-Attack (Finish That Thought #22 entry)

There was only one thing left to do.

Shelly unscrewed the lid and swallowed two mouthfuls of cherry wine. She’d chosen that particular bottle, hoping it would taste like kool-aid. It didn’t. Her entire face puckered and Shelly set the bottle on the counter so her hands would be free to flap at her face as if she were a southern belle with a sudden case of the vapours. The moment passed, and Shelly couldn’t help but wonder why anybody would ingest alcohol voluntarily, let alone to excess.

She eyed the wine.  She’d consumed less than a quarter of the bottle. She frowned. Shelly had been instructed to consume at least half a bottle that evening, working her way up to two bottles a night over the course of a week. It seemed an impossible task. Shelly gagged down an additional three mouthfuls. It was like any medicine, choke it down and get it over with.

The alcohol was a supernova in her belly, propelling waves of heat through miles of soft tissue. Shelly took the remaining wine, wove her way into the living room and sat down beside a pile of books in front of the fire. She picked up a medical pamphlet and giggled. It wasn’t funny, but the neurotoxin was making her giddy. Shelly read the pamphlet for probably the hundredth time that day.

Malignant Cerebral Hypertrophy, commonly known as Hyperintellectualism,  is a rare pathologic state of knowledge acquisition in which affected individuals compulsively amass knowledge such that their brain assumes the phenotype of a tumor. The pseudotumor preferentially utilizes body energy stores resulting in symptoms typically associated with malignancy ie: fatigue, weight loss, and night sweats.

First line treatment consists of behavioral modification, including withdrawal of stimulating activities (ie: cessation of reading) and substituting less intense undertakings. Video games and movies are both safe,  effective alternatives. In more advanced cases, medical intervention may be necessary, requiring administration of alcohol, marijuana or other medications previously considered “recreational.” Rarely, surgery may be required.

If left untreated, MCH is universally fatal.

Shelly let the pamphlet flutter to the floor. Live dumb or die smart. What kind of choice was that? She swallowed another mouthful of cherry wine. It didn’t taste as awful as it had half an hour ago. She grabbed a book from the pile. The Collected Works of William Shakespeare.

“Sorry, Bill. But it’s either you or me. You understand.” Shelly tossed the book into the fire. She wept as pages curled and all the bard’s magnificent wordsmithery was reduced to ash. He was followed by Chaucer. Sagan. Poe. And Darwin. Shelly fed books into the fire until the wine bottle and bookshelves were empty.

Just after ten, as she watched the last traces of Grey’s Anatomy transforming into black carbon, Shelly’s phone vibrated. A text message from her mother read: How’d it go at the doctor’s this afternoon?

Shelly typed back: Remember when you said I was too smart for my own good?