CARLOS, have you prepared yourself for the coming of the beast-things? Revelations is the Word, and it has already been revealed to you. In the 32 MONTHS AND 6 DAYS since you last visited the house of our Lord, have you not felt the need to repent of the daily sins of man before His judgment falls upon you?
When your FATHER died of COMPLICATIONS RESULTING FROM ARRESTIVE PULMONARY DISTRESS (HEART ATTACK), HE laid his soul bare before God knowing that the final day is near. Do you want to follow him to HEAVEN?
On this day, no sin will be forgiven as the hell-creatures rise from the bowels of the earth: the man-lion who drinks the blood of innocents; the fire-lizard who devours the soul; the foul and the pestilent, the ravagers and the forsaken. read more…
I Saw You: Long flight and you looked like a perfect queen. You — gorgeous, yerba-matte fan forced to drink water. Seat 17-D. Me — quiet guy wrongly seated in the row back and across from you, with no chance at all… unless???
The wheels are in motion once again, as the cart presses on. The hard-faced attendant looks to his row. 17-A puts down the book he has been studying and buys a couple ludicrously sized packets of low-fat cookies, stuffing them in the seat pocket in front of him for later. Wald orders a ginger ale and a plastic container protecting a turkey croissant sandwich. Returning his credit card, the attendant says, It’s been some time since you flew with us, Mr. Wald – I hope you’ll consider flying with us again soon. Stephen mumbles out a reply as he returns his card to his wallet, careful not to upset the open containers on his tray. read more…
Carnival | CARLOS | Ticking Machines
The cart is finally coming around, and it is like a travelling carnival arriving in Wald’s tiny little town. A soft murmur accompanies the grinding wheels, and passengers crane their necks, struggling to overhear which juices they would be allowed and which would be denied; how much the airline had the gall to charge for alcohol; which misrepresentative image of a sandwich others were choosing from the in-flight menu. It is the adult version of an ice-cream truck covered in Chipwich and Fat Frog stickers. The highlight of the whole damn flight.
There’s no meal? It’s almost an eight hour flight! The man’s voice seems astonished. Other passengers glance at the man with the half-hidden disdain of familiarity which locals heap on ignorant tourists, as the cart’s momentum stalls a few rows ahead. read more…
The bed wouldn’t function as intended, now. The space below it was occupied by a human-sized pod, a slightly flattened cylinder of transparent white aluminum set on a rectangular base. The pod was currently opaque. Chandrasekhar had installed it himself and checked it dozens of times – he didn’t need to see through it to know what it contained: a concave well to lie in and a bank of raw medical materials. Synthetic blood, nanomedics, lasers, perfluorocarbon liquid. A high grade repper installed in the base could manufacture almost anything else required automatically. This Matsushita medipod was an extremely advanced piece of technology, designed both for complete medical care and hibernation sleep. No medical facility could offer better treatment. It had taken Chandrasekhar months to purchase one, longer than the time it would have taken to steal one, and the cost of the second, installed in the other berth, had been even more astronomical than the first.
He asked both the pod and the ship’s computers to run diagnostics and received the same positive response he had every time before. Now check the other one.
He was just delaying now – the proper time had already passed. He walked into the secondary berth and knelt by the pod’s manual display, and confirmed its readout correlated with the one the ship’s computer had given. He touched a panel, and the aluminum turned translucent in a small window that framed Siri’s face. They had spoken once more before she had entered the pod, when he explained the need for cryosleep. She had nodded without saying anything, already aware of what would happen. He could not fathom the acceptance she had displayed; not once had she protested or thrown recriminations at him. Sleep better, she had said, closing the door to her cabin. Not sleep well. Sleep better. Chandrasekhar had not slept better, laying out in the command chair while avoiding the medipod.
He had not been in one of these pods since the reconstruction. After he had emerged from it, he had insisted the lab coats apply his treatments without resorting to the medipod. Perhaps he had been wary of what might happen if he went under again, despite the pain that urged him to. He told himself it was a matter of control; he did not want to be addicted to prop and reliant on the device for the rest of his life. Chandrasekhar had taken care to reprogram this medipod to do the minimum to keep him alive for seven months and nothing more.
He reconsidered an idea he had already rejected: living out seven months aboard the ship without human company. He recycled the arguments against it and came to the same conclusion, that it was possible and yet impractical. The Boots of Steel certainly could provide comfort and sustenance for hundreds of similar journeys, and the ship’s databases contained thousands of years of entertainment. No, it was a matter of control, and he was being irrational.
Chandrasekhar touched the metal pod. The lid retracted, inviting him to lie on a subtly ribbed bed. Warm fluid surrounded his limbs, relaxing him to the point that his gag-flex failed to fire as the liquid flowed through his nasal cavity and down his throat, filling his lungs with fluid. The lid closed over him, noiselessly.
In 1950, the average life expectancy in first world countries was 68.2 years. Fifty years later, it was 77.1. In 2050, it was 81.3, half of the previous increase for the same period. The truth about life expectancy is that it’s a magnanimously inclusive statistic, selfishly applied. We think we are riding a wave of medical miracles, saving us from an early death when we are 30 and postponing the inevitable when we get old, and the average life expectancy proves it. Yet it’s a statistic that has almost nothing to do with the middle-aged or elderly and everything to do with babies.
Prior to 1900, death in childbirth was a common occurrence for both the mother and the child. During the 20th century, the chance of dying in childbirth dropped dramatically. New generations of children were born into a world of immunizations and vaccines, protecting them from the commonplace and fatal diseases of the past. Doppler sonography, basically the same technology as meterologists use to predict the weather, served the same purpose in both applications: it showed problems coming before they arrived. More kids grew up to die of coronary failure instead of small pox — and average life expectancy made a marked jump. What happens to that statistic when childhood death has gone from expected to extremely rare? read more…
keyboard all day, sometimes resulting in hands clenching into tight balls. Sometimes he experiences a sharp and sudden pain around the back of his neck and skull that goes away immediately but leaves him dizzy. He used to jog until he ended up with shin splints so painful he could barely move the next day. And there was always the two cherry-red spots on the underside of his lower left forearm. He couldn’t remember where they had come from; he had just woken up one day in elementary school and seen them, unnaturally bright and perfectly round. He had spent the next couple days half-worried and half-exhilarated that he had been bitten and was secretly turning into a vampire. He still sees it occasionally and wonders if he should get it checked out. Congratulations Mr. Wald — you have not inherited porphyria from vampires intermarrying into your genetic line! You are lucky enough to be a candidate for heart disease!
No, it seemed pretty unlikely he would die of something swift and spectacular like a stake to the heart, just wear out in a body that wasn’t meant to last. That’s how lucky he and 17-D were — lucky enough to die another way, another time. read more…
Nerves | We’re All Dying | Nothing to Do
The plane enters a pocket of slight turbulence. In the dimly lit second-class cabin, most of the people around Wald are napping unaffectedly, the plane’s restrained shaking lulling them to sleep like a toddler in the back-seat of a car.
17-D excepted. Across 17-C’s curled up form, Wald can see the thickset teenager polishing the aisle armrest nervously. At every bump, she turns left and right, casting suspicious glances at the areas of the plane making the most noise. Wald is empathetic. He would like to explain to her that the probability of a plane experiencing structural failure during flight is an extremely small and highly predictable number, much less likely than dying in a traffic accident or having a heart attack. He doubts this would be any consolation. Teenagers don’t think about heart attacks. They don’t watch their heart rate rising on the LED displays of an elliptical machine, and wonder if they should slow down because it is a good excuse to be lazy, or because they think they might quite literally die. More importantly, if her napping father in 17-E suddenly had a heart attack, his heart wouldn’t explode from his chest, tearing the plane into shrapnel and killing everyone aboard. If you say something, reflects Wald, don’t say that. read more…
knowledge. Siri could have created the original as it would have tasted in 1787: the approximate chemical formulas were publically available and were recreatable by even mid-range replicators. She had instead chosen a cheaply made imitation of an expensive imitation of 300 year old vinegar — a joke.
I think it’s almost time for me to a take a long nap. She turned slowly, still aware of his tense stance, and strode back to her room.
Thank you, he said, lifting the bottle. She turned and smiled. Drink it slow, she said. You’re going to get thirsty stumbling down this highway.
The door closed and Chandrasekhar was alone with steady hum of the ship, punctuated a few moments later by the crash of glass in the materia recycling bank.
He had been waiting for her to ask, but she never did. She had never asked him why.
The computer registered a replication approval request on his gauntlet. Siri had limited control over the replication terminal in her cabin; Chandrasekhar had allowed her to make meals and personal effects without interference and without the need to talk. He reviewed the request, a bottle of wine, and pursed his lips. It was a very old vintage, though not a complex construction: trace amounts of chemicals from the materia banks — nothing to worry about it — although it was destined to taste like swill to the refined palate of an heiress. It was the glass that made the prohibited materials list. The computer considered the possibility of broken glass to be a threat and suggested an unbreakable synthetic polycarbonate replacement. Chandrasekhar thought a moment and approved the original request, unaltered. read more…
tracks of cacophony into artistic harmony, if you could just hear it — a mosquito tone of compositional brilliance. That is what an audiophile would tell you.
Chandrasekhar stared, not for the first time, at the chromatically shifting disks of the drive he had built, and wondered how it worked. He considered it as a word temporarily lost from his consciousness. His brain knew the word; it was just that those particular synapses wouldn’t connect right now. Days later he would remember, and say the word aloud, instantly, unbidden. He had been expecting to say the word for months now, and it had yet to reach his lips. read more…