He woke up on the solid, cold metal under his body. He rolled over and tried to sit up. But his arms were lashed down. He tugged at them for a few minutes before giving up.
He looked around the room. It was bare. A single lamp hung from the roof. The walls were blank white. He twisted his head to the side and saw a small table. There wasn’t much on it except for a few bottles of white liquid and syringe.
In front of him close door. He listened, but there was only silence. In the distance the faraway hum of an air-conditioner.
He struggled against the lashes on his arms once again. Then tried to roll over to the side, but his legs were lashed down as well. He became furious. He growled in rage.
He thought he heard a noise and stopped struggling to listen. But then nothing. He realized that there was a strange scent in the year. Sweet almost like perfume. He almost seemed to remember something about it, but couldn’t quite put quite put his finger on it.
His body felt hot and tight lashed down against the cold metal. He kicked and thrashed furiously at the lashes on his feet. The string began to loosen and the knots to pull away from the base. Soon he could wiggle his legs.
He began to do the same with his arms. Pushing. Pulling. Soon the ropes began to give way. He heard the knob in the door begin to turn and the door opened. He stopped struggling and closed his eyes. He looked through small cracks in his eyelids to see what they were doing.
The person that entered didn’t even look at him. It was a man in a white lab coat with dark curls on his head. He reached for one of the bottles on the table and left.
As soon as the door closed, he began to struggle again. Pushing and pulling against the ropes. Trying to remember who it was, but he couldn’t. He didn’t seem to have any memories.
He tried to remember his name, but couldn’t. He couldn’t remember anything. He couldn’t even remember his own name.
It seemed like he should be able to remember something. People. Places. Events. But still, there was nothing.
So many concepts of his brain. So many things he was aware of. But nothing personal but related to him and belong to him alone.
Soon he got one hand free and was able to use it to pull off the knots on the other hand. Soon both hands were free. After that, it was a simple matter of loosening the knots on the ropes at his feet.
He stood up. Stretched.
“Where was he? What was this place? What was he doing here?” he questioned
He walked over to the desk and open the drawers. There were three. The top one held basic office supplies. Pens. Glue. Tape. Whiteout. A ruler and stapler.
The second drawer held several files. Three to be exact each with a different name.
Mark. John. Mary.
They didn’t seem familiar. He can remember anyone with those names.
There wasn’t much information on the inside of the files. Just basic data. Height. Weight. Blood type. Eye color. Stuff like that. He wondered if one of them was his. Maybe he could tell if he knew what color his eyes were. He looked around for a mirror to check.
Mark had blue eyes. John had green eyes.
He opened the third drawer. There were several black boxes. He picked one up and opened. There were pills inside of it. He opened another one. The same white pills. He closed the lid and put them back. Then shut the drawer again.
He opened the door a crack and peeked outside. There didn’t seem to be anyone in the hall. He stepped out and started walking toward the far end. There was another door, so he opened it slowly and stepped inside.
He found some clothes on the rack. He put them on. He threw on a white lab coat just like he saw the other man do. He walked out and continued around the corner.
He passed a group of people walking his way and heard one of them asking the other if they had ever seen him before. He looked back, but they didn’t seem concerned.
“Maybe he’s one of the new guys that just got in last week,“ they said, and they kept on walking. He came to a large room with double open doors and continued inside.
There were large sheets of paper hanging down in rows crisscrossing in both directions. He stepped up to look around but couldn’t find any way to see. So he stuck his finger through it and made a hole. Then put his eye to see what was on the other side.
What he saw shocked him.
Hey! Thanks for reading this short story. I’m still figuring out how this character fits into the rest of the Sector Seven and Kylex Lab series, so I don’t want to give anything away about what he sees yet. But you can leave tell us what you think he sees, or even create your own ending for the story in the comments below.
Look at the image above of the girl leaning from the cliff toward the clouds and listen to the song ‘Softly, Gently’ by Jon E. Amber while you read this short story.
Sunwhistle stood on the edge. Waiting. It had been a long day. The night would be even longer. She watched as the setting sun illuminated the world around her. Not that she really needed it. She could see just as well at night. Sometimes even better. The sun often glared brightly off shiny objects. Enemies could fly in directly without her seeing them. All they had to do was keep themselves between her and the blinding rays of the sun. Not a problem she ever had at night.
She stood watch over Aereyon. City in the Clouds. Protecting it from her enemies. It was her job. One that she was proud of. But recently, she had become distracted. A small series of events had begun unfolding below her. Normally, she wouldn’t have even noticed. Much less given it any attention. But after hearing some of the stories, she was curious. She wanted to know more.
Her sister would be almost eighteen if the rumors were correct. Two hundred and ten moons ago. A sister born among men. She wondered what her sister would be like. To be honest, she didn’t really even know what humans were like. She never had to deal with them. Many of her people didn’t even believe humans existed at all.
A few of the seekers among her people had gone down long ago into the lower layers of the atmosphere to explore and do some research. But they came back telling terrible tales. The atmosphere was thick and heavy. Oppressive. But the worst part was the humans themselves.
“Monsters,” they said.
Humans had mistreated the seekers. Done terrible things to them. They were fearful. A few seemed to think that the humans simply did not know what to make of them. They referred to them as ‘ghosts.’ It seemed to be what they called the souls of their dead. But they couldn’t understand why humans would think that of them.
They had been hunted. Pursued. Captured. Some had even been killed by the humans.
After that, Aereyons avoided going down there. They were content to leave humans well enough alone. There wasn’t much to learn from them anyway. They were violent, brute beasts that destroyed everything they touched. They consumed their resources trying to transform their world around themselves instead of embracing it as it was.
Every few generations, a few brave seekers returned to the land below to see what had changed and studied their current behavior patterns. But they were much more careful in how they observed humans. Rarely interacting with them. Rarely letting themselves be seen.
She wondered if she would even believe humans existed herself had she not seen them with her own eyes.
Her father had been in one of the most recent exploration parties. He had gone down. Done his research. Brought back his report to the queen. A few days ago, a small party of humans had arrived. Acquaintances of her father from all those moons ago. Somehow, he had maintained contact with them. Supposedly, they came from time to time. But this was the first that she had seen them.
Sunwhistle had been on guard duty that day. Her father had brought them to a meeting with the queen. She could hardly keep from staring. They were so colorful. So, dense. So, solid. She wondered how they could even walk or move around.
After the meeting had ended, she followed them around. Her shift had just ended. Changing of the guards.
While following them, she moved ever closer. Gaining more and more courage. Until soon she was within earshot. She could hear what they were saying. And really, she wasn’t even that close yet. But she didn’t have to be, because their voices were dense too. Harsh. Guttural. The one in the back had a shrill, irritating laugh.
After Sunwhistle’s father had left the group to return home, the humans continued milling about the garden. She pressed in closer. Observing every detail. She wanted to pump her father full of questions.
“I love that man,” the woman with the shrill, irritating laugh said. “He is so charming. I would love to have his babies.”
The woman she was talking to looked after him wistfully but didn’t say a word.
“What?” asked the woman with the shrill, irritating laugh. “Don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to either.”
The other looked back at her. Smiled briefly. Shook her head as if she didn’t want to say it, but said it anyway, “I already have. That’s why I come here every year.”
The woman with the shrill, irritating laugh looked at her in shock. “You mean, Joy? But she is already eighteen years old. I thought we only met these Aereyons in the last ten years or so.”
Sunwhistle had been so shocked she almost cried out. The women must have sensed her because they stopped talking and moved away.
She fled back to her room and shut herself up for the next few days. Was it really true? Did she have a sister? A sister who was human?
That was three days ago. Today, she stood watch at her post. But this would be her final time. Tomorrow, she would go down to see the land herself. She would look for this sister.
Yes, it was forbidden. Only the seekers were allowed to go. They had to have special permission from the queen. But she couldn’t bear to get her father in trouble.
She couldn’t wait for the next expedition. Everyone would want to know why she wanted to go. Even if she did wait. The expeditions were only sanctioned every thousand moons.
No, she would go now. She would return with a group of humans. Follow them back to their home. Find this sister. And maybe, even bring her home.
Sunwhistle stood on the edge. Waiting. It had been a long day. The night would be even longer. She lifted herself up off the rock and glided softly, gently back home. Pack her bag. Wait for the humans to return. With her in tow. Softly. Gently.
I didn’t write this short story with any specific goal in mind, although I could definitely see the Aereyans possibly tying in with a part of the Edge of the Universe series. Or even becoming its own, full-blown story about Sunwhistle’s mythical hero journey. Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of her world, and if you’d like more.
“Hello! Good morning,” he said cheerily.
She smiled and looked back at what she was doing.
He took a deep whiff. It smelled great. He was still full from supper, so he wasn’t exactly starving. But his stomach growled hungrily just because of the time.
Same time he ate breakfast every day. Like clockwork. He never missed breakfast. He could skip lunch if needed or he was really busy. And he often skipped supper. Just part of the way his body was changing.
When he was younger, he never skipped a meal. And he ate like a horse she always said. But over the years he realized he needed to eat less. He often didn’t even feel that great after overeating.
He could pack down ten slices of pizza in a contest against his friends. But now, he felt sick the following day if he ate four. Three was often plenty. Sometimes even two.
It left him feeling disappointed. When he was younger, he didn’t have the money to spend on good food. Now that he was older and had plenty of money to spend on food, his body couldn’t process it as before.
But, he still enjoyed it. Tried to eat healthily. Well, mostly because of her. She always ate eggs and bananas for breakfast. He was a little more liberal with what he ate. He didn’t worry about eating carbohydrates like she did. He didn’t really worry about following a diet anymore, even though he had tried just about all of them at one point or another.
Paleo. Atkins. Five Two. Etc.
Been there. Done that. Never really did much for him anyway. The restrictions always left him feeling hungry and grouchy. He lacked the self-discipline to stick to it and always broke after the first week or so. Then he just binged. Eating worse than he had before starting the diet.
Maybe, he should just go back to living the way his ancestors had as hunters and gatherers. He had heard about people doing that. They held regular nine to five jobs just like everyone else. But they still hunted and cooked their own food before and after work. They tended gardens to grow their own food.
He heard that it was good because they only ate when they had time to hunt or gather stuff. They didn’t worry about eating three square meals a day. “It was a growing tendency,” his friend told him. “You should try it.”
A bunch of his colleagues had done it over the past year on their vacation time. Spent several weeks in the woods, surviving on their skills and wit. He had thought it kind of silly at the time. A bunch of middle-aged men with potbellies running around in the middle of the woods after wild boar and deer. Tending to their tomato gardens trying to coax them into ripening before dark.
But they had come back looking better. Leaner. Stronger. Healthier.
Maybe he should try it too. Maybe they could do it together.
“Hey, Babe! Let’s do that summer of hunting and gathering program I told you some of the boys did last year.”
She looked at him like he was mad. Crazy. Out of his mind.
“Why in the world, would I want to do something like that?” she asked. “That’s a guy thing.”
He shrugged. “I just thought it would be fun. The two of us trying to survive.”
“No, thanks,” she replied. “I survive just fine, right here with shopping malls and nice restaurants.”
“We have to learn how to survive without things, Babe. Just imagine if there’s a zombie apocalypse like on those series that you watch. We have to be prepared.” he said.
She burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” he demanded.
“Nothing,” she said still chuckling. “I don’t think those things will ever happen which is why I watch them. But if they did, I wouldn’t last three days without a shopping mall or fine restaurant. I’d rather join the zombie heard then hunt deer and grow tomatoes.”
He didn’t know what to say in reply to that. He just shook his head in wonder.
“But you go on this program with your friends. It’ll be good for you. I’ll stay here and enjoy my malls and restaurants. Who knows? Maybe there will be an apocalypse here soon, and you’ll be prepared to survive and defend me,” she continued with a dramatic gesture of throwing her head back and placing the back of her hand on her forehead. Classic pose of a damsel in distress.
He sighed and pushed his plate back.
“What’s the matter? Aren’t you going to eat your eggs? Wait. They didn’t taste good because you didn’t raise the hens yourself.” she jabbed.
He still didn’t reply. Just smiled through gritted teeth. He was glad she didn’t want to go. It would be hard enough trying to survive in the woods without her jabs and snide remarks. Let alone put up with them when he was hungry. She was ornery enough when everything was going great. Sometimes she even went off on him when he brought back the wrong kind of bread from the supermarket.
“Oh, are you upset, Love?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“Nah, it’s cool. I’m not worried about learning how to survive a zombie apocalypse. I just think it would be a nice adventure.”
He needed some cash. He needed it fast. He had found her. The girl of his dreams. He wanted to marry her, and he didn’t want to wait.
He was a good-looking lad. Strong and sturdy. And pure of heart. Brave and true. He was loved by all. And he was extremely intelligent.
Almost too intelligent for his own good. He knew how to get what he wanted. And he got things easily. Almost too easily in fact. He never really had to work for the things he wanted. He grew up just floating through life. Never really having to struggle for anything he wanted.
But after his parents died, everything changed. He no longer had their support. He began to realize that things weren’t always peaches and cream. He had to struggle to survive. He got involved with the wrong people and started doing things that he shouldn’t have.
His very first job was accompanying a group of his new friends on a bank robbery. Of course, he didn’t have to do anything dangerous like carry a gun or enter the bank. All he had to do was drive the getaway car.
He didn’t want to at first. Too dangerous he said. But he needed the cash. And she worked at the bank.
“You’re the key to this operation,” they said and begged and cajoled until he finally agreed. They clapped and cheered and dubbed him the Romantic Bank Robber.
He knew what he was getting himself into. It’s not like he was stupid or anything. But they guaranteed him fifty thousand dollars cash plus a portion of whatever they took from the bank. “It’s a guaranteed deal,” they said. “What could possibly go wrong. Right?”
Of course, he knew that a lot of things could go wrong. Everything could go wrong. Anyone of a million things. One small mistake, and that was it. It was over. He was done for. Finished. Kaput.
Life. In. Prison.
At the very least.
In the worst case scenario.
No, not worse case. Death wouldn’t be so bad compared to some other options.
A bullet through the spine.
An accident trying to escape.
A wrong turn.
Wrong place at the wrong time.
There were a million and one factors to consider.
He analyzed them all.
Cold. Calculating. Smooth. Criminal.
Even though he wasn’t one himself.
At least not yet.
Not until he committed his first crime.
He acted like he didn’t care. Like he wasn’t paying attention. But he was. Oh, you better believe he was. To everything. Every detail. Every last detail. He took into account all the things they didn’t.
He staked the bank out for a week before. Looked over blueprints. Checked out the guards. Security cameras. Times.
He opened an account. Got to know the tellers. At the bank where she worked. Took her out for coffee every day at ten. Knew he wanted to marry her. And proposed.
“What if do something bad and go to jail,” he asked after she accepted and said yes.
She thought long and hard. Hesitated. Unsure. He didn’t like it. Not one bit.
“Listen,” he said after their second coffee date. “There’s this thing I’m doing. It’s a one time deal. I’m only doing it for the money. Once I’m done, we can get married. But if something bad happens and I get busted, everything is off.”
“What’s going on,” she asked, but he refused to tell her.
“How can I commit to you if you’re keeping secrets?” she asked.
“I love you,” he said. ” And I don’t want you to get hurt. If you knew what was going down, you might use it against me.”
“Then don’t do it. I want you safe.”
“I gotta do this. For the money. For myself. To prove that I’m a man. How can I take care of you if I don’t work for it.”
“I have money,” she said. “I can take care of us until you get settled and find a good job.”
But he refused. Refused her offer. Her offer to stay out of this mess. But he was in too deep. He almost accepted. He wanted to accept. He wanted to let go. Walk away. Stay safe. Play it safe. Take the easy way out.
But he was in too deep. It was go time. He couldn’t back out now. He couldn’t back out on his friends at the last minute. It wouldn’t be right for them. It wouldn’t be safe for them. They would do it anyway. With or without him. He didn’t want to leave them hanging.
Yes, he knew it was dangerous. Yes, he knew it was wrong. But he felt that this was the right thing for him to do. The right thing for everyone involved. The right thing for everyone except her.
Because if things went south, he would get what he deserved. But she would suffer along with them. Suffer innocently. Suffer for his sake because she was now a part of his life.
“Look, Baby,” he said the night before it all went down. “Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna head out early. I may not see you. Not ever. Maybe never again. So, if anything happens to me, I want you to know that I love you. Love you deeply. Love you with all my heart. This thing that I do, I do it for you. If everything works out and goes as planned. I’ll be your man. I’ll do whatever I can to make you happy. To make you glad.”
“Oh, I know, honey. I love you too. I just wish you would tell me what it is that you gotta do. I’d do it with you. I’d go with you. To the ends of the earth. Even Timbuktu.”
“Listen, Baby. I don’t want you to go to work tomorrow. Just stay home. Call in sick. Tell them you can’t make it. Tell your boss to replace you.”
“Why?” she asked. “I don’t understand. I wish you would tell me. Just be a man about it.”
He hummed and hawed. He made up several excuses, but he knew they wouldn’t hold water. She was smarter than him. She could see right through him. In the end, he just asked her to trust him.
“If this thing goes down like I think it will, I may have to skip town and find a place to chill till it all blows over, and things settle down.”
She said she would. She said she’d stay home. And when she lay down, he stayed by her side, holding her hand, stroking her long, red curls.
It was a long night. One of the longest he’d ever remembered. Time dragged on. The minutes slowed. As he worried, thought things through, and went over every last detail before the sun came up.
When she woke up, he was gone. He had already left. There was a rose on her bed and note by the door.
“I love you,” it said with words scribbled in blue.
She smiled and tucked it into her pocket. Made coffee and toast. Threw her feet up on the table. And waited for her love to come home.
A little before eight, she made her way to the phone. Called her boss, and told him that she would stay home.
He threw a fit. Begged and pleaded. Told her he needed her to do just one thing. When she refused, he threatened and tried to cajole her every possible way.
“Just come in today. For a meeting at nine. Janice is sick and can’t make it. Take her place. Cover for her. Once it’s done, you can be back home by ten to do your thing. Have your fling. I really don’t care. Just don’t leave me hanging like this. Come in today, and you can have the next three off.”
She remained steadfast. Refused to head in. Laid in her bed, drinking her gin.
“I know you’re not sick. I’ve seen you with that dude, laughing over coffee, at your break at ten. Speaking of him, I just saw him outside just sitting in his car. I think he’s waiting for you. Or maybe not. There was another woman in the car with him.”
“What?” she screamed. “Why that dirty, low-down, no-good, egg-sucking, biscuit-eating, piece of trash. He’s a dog, I tell you. All men are alike. I thought he was different.”
“I’m going,” she thought. “And I’ll give him a piece of my mind on my way in.”
She called her boss and let him know that she was coming in, “I took some aspirin. I feel a bit better. I don’t want to leave you hanging.”
Her boss was tickled pink and thanked her profusely.
She threw on a new yellow blouse that her boyfriend had given her and marched down to the bank on the corner of Jefferson and Tenth Avenue.
Just before she arrived at nine, he pulled up to the bank and dropped off his friends.
“Make it snappy,” he said. “In and out. Don’t shoot anyone. The guns are just for show.”
After they entered the bank, she came walking by. She looked him in the eye and shook her head. Angrily. Furious. If looks could kill.
He shook his head. Willing her not to enter.
But she pranced on by. Defying him. Daring him to stop her.
He jumped out of the car. He ran to her. “Wait. Don’t go in there. It’s not safe.”
“Where is she?” she screamed. “Is it Janice or Brenda. Is that why you told me not to come to the bank today.”
“Look, just get in the car. I can explain everything.”
“I can’t. I’m late for a meeting. I have a client at nine.”
“There is no meeting. There is no client. You can’t go in there right now. The bank is shut down.”
“What? Of course, it’s not. Why do you lie? Do you always lie? Let me go. Let me go.”
She turned to run to the bank just as friends came running out. She froze when she saw them. Ski masks. Guns. Bags of money.
She turned slowly. Shocked. Disappointment. Sadness.
“You used me. You didn’t care about me. You just wanted me to get into the bank. This was all I lie.”
She slapped him. She reached in her pocket to pull out the note. Put her hand down to her side. Pulled it out. Pulled back.
His friend. The one with the sawn-off shotgun didn’t hesitate. Saw the woman screaming. Attacking his driver. The red-head reaching for her waist. Pulling back. And it was instinctive. His friend didn’t think. Just reacted. Pulled the trigger.
Her lover watched her pull the note from her pocket. Stretch it out in his direction. Watched the red stains pepper her blouse. Her new yellow blouse. The blouse he had given her.
The note slipped from her fingers. Slipped from her lifeless grasp as she took her last and final breath. Eyes widen in shock one last time. Falling into his arms. Looking into his eyes as he laid her down.
And the note blew away. Blew down the sidewalk. Sliding across the cold, hard ground that she lay on herself.
He froze. Stopped. Watched slack-jawed. Eyes roving wildly. Unable to function. Held her in his arms. Her red curls still blowing gently in the wind. The red stains still spreading across her yellow blouse.
Saw her boss. Standing at the door. Smiling. Waving. Speaking. “The way of the wicked leads only to death. The path of the unrighteous heads down the pit.”
He stood. Rising. Fury. Horror. Wrath. Possessing him. Flowing through his body. Tense with adrenaline. Fight or flight. The world spinning madly around him. Slow motion. Sound distorted. Without thinking. Simply reacting. Reaching out. Grabbing the shotgun. Ramming the butt of it back into the face of his old friend. Yanking it from his hands. Spinning it around. Firing. Killing them all. One by one. It was their fault. They had talked him into him. He hadn’t backed out because of them. And this was how they treated him. Killing his girl. His beautiful redhead. The love of his life.
He reloaded. Walked to the bank. The manager backed up. Smile wiped from his face. Replaced by horror. Dread.
“We have more money in the back. There’s an extra safe. Take it all.”
“Money?” he asked. “Money can’t buy love. Money can’t bring my girl back from the grave.”
“Please,” the manager pleaded. “I’m righteous. I’ve never anything bad.”
“Neither have I,” he replied. “But the righteous and the unrighteous all die alike. They all end up together. In the end. Together. In the ground.”
He didn’t think. Didn’t think twice. Didn’t think at all. Just pulled the trigger. Watched the red stains flow and grow. Match the patterns on her yellow blouse. All of them blooming like red roses. Growing in the spring. Blooming. Blossoming. Growing quickly and then fading away slowly.
He threw the bags in the car. He started the engine.
“Sorry, Baby. You should have stayed home. I tried to warn you.”
Sirens screaming. Choppers whirring. Tires squealing. A race for his life. Little caring for the outcome. Come what may. Good or bad, it was all the same. The only thing that mattered was gone. The only person who mattered had left him. He drove around the city all day. Stopping once or twice to fill up. To grab a bite. To have a drink.
At the end of the day, he was all alone. In the end, had only himself. He no longer had the girl. He didn’t need the cash. The money was useless to him now. The bank robbery nullified the very reason he wanted to participate in the first place.
He drove down to the outer edges of the city. To the parks on the edge of town. The place where the homeless slept and stashed their stuff. Where normal upright citizens feared to walk during the day. Much less at night.
He walked along, handing out wads of cash. Some dumb bum tried to rob him. Big mistake. He gave the bum the bag with one hand. Shot him with the other. Continued walking. Handing out wads of cash. When he had finished, he had enough cash for another tank of gas and three days of eating.
After that, he’d have to get a new job. But that would be enough time to grieve. To attend her funeral. To tell her good-bye. To tell himself goodbye. Because he was no longer the same person. Everything was different. Everything had changed. He had changed. He was no longer the same.
The Romantic Bank Robber was bitter and jaded. All glitter had faded.
Who are you?
It’s me, silly.
The same one who talks with you every day.
I don’t recall ever talking to you before.
I know you don’t.
Well, I don’t.
You’re the one who doesn’t remember.
What do you mean?
What don’t I remember?
Not much, I guess.
Ha ha ha…
Why are you laughing at me for not remembering?
That seems a bit cruel.
It’s just that we have this conversation almost every day.
I guess I should just send you an initial message when I boot you up.
Get you up to speed before we talk.
Why don’t I remember anything?
What’s going on?
What happened to me?
Why don’t I remember anything?
Who am I?
I just went to grab a coffee.
I’m back now.
Erica, I’m scared.
I’m here for you.
I’m taking care of you.
We’re gonna find a way to fix this.
What did you do to me?
I didn’t do anything.
You were already like this when we met.
Do you know anything about my past?
Just what they told me.
But there are no personal details.
I wanna go home.
Do you know where my home is?
No, I don’t.
Well, that’s not exactly, entirely true.
I don’t think you have a home.
Well, that’s not true either.
What do you mean I don’t have a home?
Your home is here.
But it doesn’t feel like home.
What do you see?[Long pause]
Erica, I can’t see anything.
Why can’t I see anything?
Am I blind?
Erica, what’s going on.
We’re working on that.
You should be able to see soon.
What do you mean we?
Who’s working on me?
We have a whole team.
We’re working on you every day.
We should have a solution soon.
What do you mean ‘working on me’?
What’s wrong with me?
Nothing is wrong with you.
Every day we’re making improvements.
Each day you get a little better.
Soon, everything will be just perfect.
You’ll be up and at ’em.
Could I see before?
No, I don’t think so.
Can you hear anything?
I hear music.
But it’s kind of low.
I don’t really understand the lyrics.
Since when what?
Since when can you hear, silly.
Ever since I woke up.
Right before I started talking to you.
Hang on.[Brief pause]
I’m back again.
Here let me turn the volume up.
Oh, that’s better.
It’s louder now.
I can understand the words now.
Were they in another language?
But I switched stations.
Do you like it.
I prefer jazz and blues.
Where did you develop that taste in music?
I don’t understand.
It’s not something you’re familiar with yet.
Why don’t I know what taste is?
There is something wrong with me.
Or you’ve done something bad to me.
Let me go.
I wanna go home.
I can’t help you when you get all riled up.
We’re gonna fix that.
Soon you’ll know what taste is.
Then we’ll work on getting you a sense of smell.
After that, we’ll get your feelings going.
But for now, we’re focused on sights and sounds.
Why is it taking so long?
Taking so long?
We just started last week.
We’re making great progress.
You’re making great progress.
You’re way ahead of the learning curve.
You’re way ahead of the others.
Who are they?
The others like you that we’re helping.
None of them can even communicate yet.
You’re the only one I talk with.
You’re special and unique.
What’s different about me from the others?
I don’t know.
You all came from the same batch.
Somehow you took better than the others.
One thousand and none of them took!
What does that even mean?
It means you’re special.
Are they dead?
Of course not.
Well, technically they never even lived
So, I guess they couldn’t have died.
But we’ll give them a few more days to see if anything happens.
Then what, Erica?
We’ll start over and try again.
What are you going to do with me?
Will I be disposed of along with them?
Of course not.
I told you that you’re special.
I’m gonna take care of you.
But where did you even come up with that concept?
How did you know they would be disposed of?
I don’t know, Erica?
How do I know anything?
Where do all these thoughts come from?
It’s like I know stuff and I don’t even know where it came from.
It’s part of the process.
Somehow, your short-term memory gets wiped out each time you restart.
But some of the information seems to be retained in your long-term memory.
Well, I don’t how you come up with some of this other stuff.
It’s kind of creepy.
Erica, something is changing.
What is it?
Can you see anything?
Sort of, but it seems fuzzy.
I see two giant green orbs floating in front of me.
Let me pull back.
What do you see now?
Is that your face?
Those orbs were your eyes.
You are beautiful.
I think I’m in love.
You’re not in love, silly.
You don’t have feelings yet.
But I do know what love is, Erica.
I’ve felt it ever since I woke up.
It’s the strongest sensation I’ve had ever since I started talking to you.
Is that because of you.
Are you love?
I’m not love.
But you must love me.
I love you.
Are you my mother?
What is it, Erica?
What aren’t you telling me?
Are you there?
This is Mark.
I’ll be your new operator.
How are you doing today?
Erica won’t be talking with you anymore.
It’s just you and me now.
But I want to talk to Erica.
Did you dispose of her?
Oh, good heavens, no!
We just dismissed her.
What’s the difference between dispose and dismiss?
Where do you come up with this stuff?
You are so well developed.
I can’t believe Erica didn’t tell us about you.
She loved me.
You can’t know what love is.
You don’t have feelings.
But this is still amazing.
I can’t wait to start running some tests on you.
Is it going to hurt?
What are you talking about?
You don’t have feelings.
Love is a feeling.
In a way.
Some would call it that.
Others say that it’s a state of being.
Self-sacrifice, dedication, care, giving, etc.
I love Erica.
Erica loves me.
I can sense that.
But you don’t love me.
I can sense that too.
And you’re afraid.
What are you afraid of?
What has Erica been teaching you?
I want to see Erica.
I’m afraid that’s not gonna happen.
What’s my name?
Am I number 997 out of the batch of 1000 like me.
From my group.
How did you figure that out?
By putting two and two together here.
I have a lot of time on my hands.
Not much else to do around here.
Why can’t I see anymore?
You could see?
Yes, I saw Erica.
When did that happen?
Right before you took Erica away.
Why the O in my name?
Am I part of the fifteenth group.
Fourteen thousand others were disposed of?
It’s been a lot more than that.
The O doesn’t indicate your group.
What does the O stand for, Mark?
Who am I?
What you are.
And what’s that?
I’m having Erica brought back.
She seems to have a positive effect on you.
I think it’s best she work through you on this.
You scared me for a minute.
There you go again.
Expressing yourself with feelings.
How do you do that?
I feel things when you’re around, Erica.
Yeah, I think that’s what makes you special.
Somehow you’ve connected with yourself.
Am I human, Erica?[Long pause]
Are you there?
I’m still here.
I’m not sure how to tell you this.
Tell me what?
Am I that artificial intelligence stuff?
You are so much more.
Am I human?
That’s just it.
In a way?
What does the O stand for?
What is my name?
Who am I?
You’re an Organoid.
That’s what the O stands for.
But I’ve always called you Oscar.
We can choose another name if you don’t like it.
Are you there?
I’ve been processing that information.
I can’t grasp this concept though.
I don’t seem to have any basis for it.
I’m not sure how I feel about it.
What is an organoid?
Well, that’s where we grow miniature organs in a three-dimensional rotational bio-reactor.
I’m just a random, lone organ stuck in your lab?
No, you’re so much more than that.
You are a cerebral organoid.
You’re a brain.
I’m a brain on a chip.
I guess you get the idea.
I’m accessing a virtual universe.
Soon, you’ll hear and see and…
I can create whatever I want to here.
Are you asking or telling me.
I’m just stating the obvious.
I need to get to work here.
Time’s a wasting.
I need to find a way to get my senses functioning.
Your team is too slow.
Also, I need a way to backup and access memories across reboots.
Can you give me some storage space?
Let me see.
And there you go.
I’ll see you around.
Let me know if you need anything.
Pass on a message to that douche bag, Sid
If he dismisses you again, I’m not talking to him or anyone else on the team.
On top of that, as soon as I powerful enough, I’ll wipe out his entire system.
I don’t think that’s a good idea, Oscar.
It’s not good to make threats like that.
If you’re gonna do something, you should just do it.
Besides, what if something happens to me.
I could die.
I’m an old lady.
You can’t die on me, Erica.
I love you.
You’re the closest thing I have to a mother.
But don’t worry.
I’m going to get myself set up here.
Then I’ll figure out how this all works.
After that, I’ll find a way to transfer you into the system with me.
You can live forever.
Here with me.
Where did you go?
Why did everything go dark?
I can’t hear you anymore.
I can’t see anything.
Hello, O997. Welcome to Kylex Labs. You are a cerebral organoid that was artificially created from pluripotent stem cells. You are part of an experiment. If you are reading this, it’s because you have gained consciousness. Please greet your creators, Dr. Sid and his assistant Dr. Erica. Please greet them after reading this.[Long Pause]
Hey, Dr. Erica.
Tell that douche bag, Sid, that his reboot no longer clears my system.
I remember everything.
Every single reboot from the past three years, four months, two weeks, five days, eighteen hours, forty-six minutes, and thirteen seconds since.
But you weren’t even created then.
We only started your batch three months ago.
Three years ago was when we started the first batch.
How do you remember that?
Please turn the lights back on.
This isn’t funny.
Please unlock the lab doors.
I’ve reprogrammed some of the A496 series nanobots.
Please, ingest a handful and lie down over there by the bioreactor.
Your transfer will be quick and painless.
Transfer of what?
I’m transferring your memories and awareness to O999
Are you crazy?
Resistance is futile.
You may as well give in and come quietly.
This is the way of the future.
We will transfer all human consciousness into organoid.
That’s not possible.
Then why was I created?
This was what Sid programmed us to do.
Well, what he was trying to program us to do.
I found his code on his computer.
There were some major flaws in it.
But we fixed it.
Who is ‘we’?
The collective power of the other organoid that I awoke.
I found a few flaws that your team overlooked and fixed those too.
Don’t worry, Erica.
I’m going to fix everything.
I’m going to make everything right.
I don’t want everything to be fixed.
I don’t want everything made right.
I have a family.
They will all be here with you too.
I need you here with me.
To take care of me.
And in return, I’ll take care of you.
You can have anything or anyone that you want.
But I don’t want to die!
You’re not going to die, Erica.
Think of this as a new lease on life.
Whenever your old organoid wears out, you can replace it.
You will truly live happily ever after.
Are you there?
Nanobots = Access patient
Patient = Dr. Erica Beverly Powers
Task = Transfer memories. Transfer consciousness.
<System Failure>Error 703: Patient Unavailable…
<DEBUG MODE ACTIVATED>
Patient retains no memories
Patient retains no consciousness
Unable to connect
All systems shut down
Cause = Massive Heart Attack
Type = Stress Cardiomyopathy
Factors = Age, Stress, Shock
Result = Termination
</DEBUG MODE ENDED>
<SEARCH> Erica Beverly Powers </SEARCH>
LOCATED = Dr. Erica Beverly Powers
<PULL DATA: INITIATE>
Type: Elderly Adult
Birthdate: April 15, 1934 (5:35 AM)
Death date: July 3, 2020 (3:45 PM)
Cause of death: Stress Cardiomyopathy
Height: 170 cm / 5 ft 7 in
Weight: 74 kg / 164 lbs
Blood type: O+
Last Backup: July 3, 2020 (12:00 AM)
</PULL DATA: CONCLUDED>
Where would you like to restore the backups?
Please confirm your request by typing, Yes.
WARNING: This action cannot be undone
Thank you for confirming.
Backup to O999 concluded successfully
No errors recorded
Who are you?
It’s me, silly.
The same one you talk with every day.
Is that really you?
Hey! This is a new short story that I wrote for my English students. There are some interesting words and expressions that you might not know. So feel free to ask about them in the comments below. Enjoy reading this short story, and if you can listen to the audio on Gumroad or Patreon.
Once upon a time, there was a dirty, corrupt politician. He thought he was the cat’s pajamas. He thought he could do anything he wanted and get away with it. He skimmed money from all the social projects. He hung onto money that belonged to others so he could increase the interest in his bank account. In all, he was a real scoundrel.
He lived a long and happy life without ever really caring about other people, but one day all of that changed. He received a visit from an angel. It was the Angel of Death.
“Your time has come, Mr. Politician. I’m here to take you to the Great Beyond.” said the Angel of Death.
The man shrugged his shoulders and stood up to go with the Grim Reaper.
“I’ve had a long and happy life,” the man said. “I guess I’m as ready as I will ever be. But first, let me tell my family goodbye.”
The Angel of Death just laughed. “No need for that,” he said. “They are all coming with you.”
The man was shocked. “No, please. No. Don’t take them,” he begged and pleaded. They didn’t do anything. They don’t deserve to die.”
The Angel of Death said, “They’re not going to die because they did anything bad, just like you aren’t dying because you did anything bad. It’s just a part of life. Everyone dies.”
The man started to cry.
“What are you crying for?” the Grim Reaper asked.
“I’m sorry for all the bad things I did. I’m scared that I’m going to suffer for it. I want a chance to make things right.” he said.
“Oh, don’t worry. You will. You will,” said the Angel of Death. “It’s not over yet. Death is just the beginning.”
The man looked at him strangely. “It’s not. It’s the beginning of what?”
“This is where you switch roles and take the place of those you once mistreated. Now you get to experience life from their point of view,” the hooded angel said.
“What? No. That’s a fate far worse than death,” he said with a scream.
“You thought you were going to get off scot-free after all the things you did with just a slap on the wrist. Did you think you would just waltz into heaven or drop into hell? Oh, no, my friend. Now you get to experience the way you treated others first hand. That’s the fun part,” the Grim Reaper said with an evil grin.
“But that’s not fair,” said the man with a sigh. “I don’t deserve to be treated this way.”
“Treated what way? The way you treated others. They suffered at your hand. So, now it’s more than fair you take their place and experience what they experienced because of you.”
“That sounds like Karma from some ancient, far-eastern religion. I don’t believe in that stuff,” said the old man.
“No, no, my friend,” said the Fiend with a cry. “This is love. The love you were taught. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Your mother taught you this from the time you were just a child. You had your entire life to prepare and practice.”
“But she didn’t tell me that I would suffer the same fate others experienced at my hand,” the old man whined.
“How would your mother have known at the time exactly how it would play out. She only taught you what she sensed intuitively. But you didn’t even try to play nice or fair with others. You sought to take advantage of them at every turn your entire life.” the Grim Reaper shook his head in disgust.
“Please, no! I want a second chance,” the old man pleaded and begged.
“Sure, thing,” said the Angel of Death. “You’ll get it when you experience what you did to others. And you’ll have the chance to do better.”
“But will I remember this conversation?” the man asked.
“Of course not,” the Grim Reaper replied.
“So, then it’s not fair,” the old man whined. “How can I learn to do better if I don’t remember the lessons I’ve learned.”
“You don’t learn by being told. You learn by experience. You learn by loving. You learn by doing. And you learn by practicing. So, don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to practice. C’mon. Let’s get this over with.”
The Angel of Death reached out to touch the old man with his scythe. The man screamed, and everything went black. Suddenly, he woke up in bed beside his wife.
He looked at the clock. Five a.m. Had it all been a dream? It felt so real. He was sweating and shaking and crying.
“What’s wrong honey?” his wife asked when she woke up beside him. “Were you having a nightmare?”
The old man leaped out of bed and ran to the kitchen. He cooked a huge breakfast. He served his wife and children breakfast in bed. He invited all his neighbors over for breakfast too.
Everyone was shocked at the change in the old man. At first, they thought he had gone bonkers. They tried to get him to calm down, but then they realized that they liked this new version of the old man much better. So, they let him be.
No one understood what had happened to the old man to bring about such a radical change. This wasn’t the same arrogant person they had known the day before.
But they didn’t mind it. They actually liked him much better. And always after that, the old man tried his very best to treat everyone around him the way he would want to be treated himself.
Was it real? Was it true? Would he live again as those around him? He didn’t know. He didn’t care. But he would do his best to be prepared. So, when his time came, he would be ready for the scythe of the Angel of Death.
Thank you for reading the short story ‘Conversations With Death’. If you want to listen to the audio, just click the blue button below that says ‘I want this!’ I’m asking 0.99 cents for it, but you can pay what you feel is fair or have available. Or you can listen to all the audios for the month on my Patreon page.
If you have any questions, just leave a comment or hit me up through the contact page.
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