Ryan Wheaton is a writer. He wrote the following bit of flash fiction, for example. He likes Twitter and sirwheaton.com.
Samantha, you were in the garden again today. I watched you from the window. It rains most days, today wasn’t an exception, but it was only a light drizzle and you had that ridiculous sun hat on. Who knew sun hats could do more than offer shade.
I try not to dwell on it. I try not to think about it anymore. But you still smile at me, smears of dirt on your cheeks. And that smile, it only reminds me how much I miss you. How desperately I wish you were here—or even gone entirely. That smile isn’t yours. This one, though. The picture on the sill. If only I had let you stay there, as you were. Frozen in that moment, content in your garden, happy as daisies.
I’d only been on the Ethics Board for a year. At the time, the world’s leading surgeons and scientists gathered to attempt an impossible feat. Technology had far surpassed practiced implications. Abhorrent, vulgar violence trampled our court systems behind the guise of mental disease. Once potent minds toppled like redwoods. They’d lie to rot while doctors poured water and sunlight through IVs hoping to bring them upright again. Glorified gardeners shameless pruning over-ripened vegetables.
The Board partnered with a dozen private developers in search of a fix. Within the sterilized bunkers of bioengineering corporations, pharmaceutical firms, immunological task force factories, dwelt answers. We plucked the worst cases from their beds and brought them in. Poking, prodding, drilling; we treated them like what they were: animals that didn’t have the faculties to resist or even squeal.
We’d lived together so happily in some nowhere town where street lights turned on one by one as the sun set. Kids hid and hollered, skinned their knees, fell from trees, and smiled. You taught elementary school, just 12 kids at a time. Almost all of them lived on our street. Our life was picket-fenced. So secure, so perfect. But, when the Board took me up, without a sideways glance, you left it all.
I was never much for remembering the days. It must’ve been a couple years after the move. I’d been coming home later and later, and one night the house was dark, your car was gone.
You’d been in an accident. The hospital took you through surgery, hours and hours of cutting and clamping and sewing. You were so broken. Pale as the starched sheets. Quiet. So, so quiet and still.
I spent hours, days tearing through files, cases, notes, documents. Each moment struck like a hammer, minutes driven into my memory likes nails. There’d been someone. A vendor? Scientist? Some greasy-haired executive. It was months ago, a passing meet up at a conference or a hotel bar. I’d been alone when he gave me his card. I remember his hand was so cold, stiff like leather. He rambled about some biosensor, transducer, or isolated analyte. His number, his card, it was somewhere here. And I found it.
In a fevered sweat, I called.
It hadn’t rung once before a voice answered. “Hello. Is this—” he paused. “Ah, yes, mister, excuse me, Doctor Howard, wasn’t it?”
“Ye—yes,” I fumbled, my tongue thick. “Yes, it is. We met some time ago. We spoke of—”
“Of course, of course! Dr. Howard, please. You talk as if we’d met in passing. My, you were almost an entire ream to the wind. Hell of a day you’d had. Pulled … how many plugs was it? God himself would have knelt to Jameson without a second thought.”
“Who—I’m sorry, I—,” I labored for words, some kind of response.
“My apologies, though, a bit brash considering the circumstances. You’ve changed your mind then? I doubt any of your colleagues would agree, but empathize, certainly yes. They’re not monsters,” he laughed. A wet, hoarse bellow. “Again, so, so sorry. But, yes, the implant, hmm,” his inflection inviting.
“Y—yes. What … does it, can it do. Once more, I only vaguely recall,” I lied. It was was like a sleeper recalling the shade of black inside his eyelids.
“A biosensor, Dr. Howard. Well, of sorts. It’s a capacitor, biosensor, and microprocessor all in one. If I might boast a moment, it’s truly delightful,” he squeaked. “My associates and I have isolated the, I guess you might call it, flavor of electrical analyte that … oh my! Dr. Howard, you sly hound. You’ve let my tongue wriggle all about, my cheeks are absolutely aflame. Shame on you,” he giggled impishly. “Trade secrets come floundering like salmon over the falls. You’re some kind of wizard, doctor.”
“I’m, of course, yes. I was just unsure of … well, there’s been an accident. My wife—” I’d spent years working atop the summit of medical brilliance. Some of the world’s greatest minds that had saved countless lives, bore the weight of impossible decisions with resounding strength and conviction. But, not once, had we glimpsed a solution. We’d set out to research and develop our understanding of utilized technologies so we might advance outdated principles of ethics and conduct. After which we could further the development of solutions. But we’d failed. Failed so perfectly that none of us had ever noticed when it’d happened or what we’d become. We sat like supreme judges in a high tower.
“Dr. Howard? Hello? Blast this cordless phone. It’s more magic than function. Hello? Hello, Dr. Howard can you hear me,” he hollered.
“Yes! So sorry. My wife has been in an accident and is—”
“I’m fully aware of the situation Dr. Howard. We only need your approval to move forward,” he said.
“Approval? I don’t understand.”
“Well, we can’t very well proceed with such things in the light of day, in a manner of speaking. With your approval, your wife will awaken tomorrow, credit given to whomever poked and prodded at her. You know, the ones that spoke of waiting and praying, perhaps even hoping. All that nonsense,” he muttered.
“Yes. Please. Whatever has to be done. I’ll pay whatever amount, whatever I have is yours.”
“Doctor Howard! I am astonished. Money? Such trivialities! We do this for science! For humanity! We only request that you never speak of our little conversation here to anyone ever,” he said.
“Oh, and before we part here, just a few minor dots and crosses. Your wife has been brain dead for some time. The device will work, of this I can assure you. But it will take some time for your wife to regain, well, herself,” he said. “Now, please declare clearly, ‘I approve of the aforementioned discussed herewithin.”
“I approve of the aforementioned discussed herewithin,” I declared.
You awoke the next morning. Confused and unable to speak. You’d retained motor function, which was even more of a miracle. The doctors kept you for a more days to run scans and tests, but you woke so suddenly, the life took some time to come back.
The day I wheeled you out of the hospital, the day you wobbled like a newborn deer up the driveway and into our home, I was beyond thankful, happy, elated. It wasn’t until weeks later that I began to see the changes. The differences.
I cry for you every night and miss you every day. I’m sick with regret for not spending every moment with you. Angry that I chose my job, chose to uproot us from a life we could’ve had. But, as I watch her out in your garden, trimming your roses, pulling your weeds, smiling at me with your mouth, I’m disgusted. I hate myself for trying to bring you back to me. And I’m sure of it now, that God exists. Because I see the Devil reflected in her eyes every night.