~ a short story
Jace gazed into his own reflection in the tainted water of the toilet, roiling with some of the gore previously vital to his insides. Sickened, he retrieved his pulsing skull from the innards of the bowl, turned away sluggishly, and rose from a routine kneel within the bathroom.
I can’t miss it. I can’t lose it…
Back on the balcony, he peered through his custom-made scope and up into the night sky. Where are you? The canvas of the cosmos beckoned him once more. Fiery swaths of interstellar regalia popped and strode over the void. Distant planetoids twinkled. Constellations unseen before the city’s haze became alighted through his special looking glass. Jace let his gaze linger over the scapes and their stars, searching for his final mark.
The word hung within his mind. He sighed at the prospect of his mortality. But what is more grand than a finale? My finale.
Black claws clutched at his insides once more, urging him back to the bathroom. Jace was in the terminal stages of the Terminal Stage. Death awaited him. Likely within the night. An end to this consciousness here on this world. And the beginning of another…? Jace held no hard-and-fast beliefs on that front. At the stead of his great triumph, there was no doubt he felt weaker than ever, physically. Mentally, he felt stronger, more certain. Life’s grand irony striking him down one last time.
Back in his bedroom, a final resting place was already prepped by family and friends. Clean sheets amidst a palace of pillows and easily-ingestible drugs to calm and to numb. He’d asked to be left alone on this night. But they’d certainly be here in the morning.
Will they find me in permanent repose? Finally cured of all this pain…
Or just a temporary one?
With a bloody cough, Jace retracted his good eye from the scope and looked back into the guest room. Jali, his sister, had brought the big, damned, complex box into the house, set it there, and explained in detail why getting into it would be a good idea for him. A lottery. He’d ‘won’ the opportunity to be frozen in time — in “cryostasis”, more specifically — to await an age where his sickness might become curable with more advanced medicines. “Experimental” was an understatement.
What a tedious death…
If he climbed inside and hit a button, from there, the company with a name that sounded stupid to say aloud would ‘take care of everything.’ His body, mind and soul would be seized in time, and consequently, he’d be placed into an uncertain future. The next time he awoke, he’d lay in a hospital bed in a different age with (hopefully) different — and more effective — remedies for his mortal malady.
Alive but in a different world, with all of my friends and family long gone? Likely with the seas risen and an apocalyptic crisis of one kind or another chaos on the rise? … Might that be a worse fate than death? If I am going to live or die, it will be on my terms, in my own age. I will live or die with my own power, that which was fated to me…
That decision already made, Jace turned from the bio-box and returned to the sky. In the central axis of that upward gyre, a small blue flame licked into view.
There you are.
Jace’s heart began to pound, painfully so. A shooting star. My shooting star. Jace was interested not just in the sight of its fall, but in its destination. He wriggled his toes in his boots, tightly laced for a short journey soon-to-be. He watched the azure flame become larger and larger, going from speck to ball to rocking and rotating meteorite. A long-awaited friend was coming to him. She sparkled unto his eyes.
He looked down from the balcony of his home to the edge of the lake below. There on the shore, another option for his potentially final resting place tonight.
A diving suit.
The family never understood why I wanted so badly to shack up here, in rural Montana, so far away from the world and all of them for these final years. They assumed it had something to do with my penchant for misanthropy. Only half that. The truth was that this particular shooting star’s fall had been calculated for decades. It was one set to eventually land. On earth. Right smack dab in the center of Lake Koocanusa.
Jace brushed the grime and debris from the knees of his skin-tight wetsuit and hobbled down the stairs. He downed more stolen, clinical-strength adrenapills on his way out of the house. Need to be awake and aware throughout, of sound enough mind to make the right choices…
He’d been thinking of this moment ever since he was a child. Some strange and powerful connection to time and space, as the grandson of a stargazer and revolutionary, long ago heralded this twilight journey. By the time his steps hit the shore, the blue flame from the meteor’s descent bathed his lake in a transcendent glow. It shed its rocky edges of stardust as it broke through the barriers of the planet, burning down to its most essential component. Its crash would be little more than a splash by the end.
With trembling hands, Jace got into the suit and waded with robotic movement into the lake. The old, dying man submerged himself into the depths and powered the suit’s machinery toward the vicinity of its destined drop.
By the time the ‘star’ struck into the lake, it’d be pared to its core. A perfect cube, translucent but tinged with an azure hue and a grid of electric, ever-flowing energy in perpetual motion. Perpetual power.
As he expended himself into the effort of the swim, blood from his face leaked onto the inner glass of Jace’s suit from his body’s latest lurch to the edge of its span. He licked the blood from his lips and did not cringe. The pain and relative uncertainty were nothing now. Soon, he’d have the cure…
Truly infinite in its potential and arriving right at the travails of The Sixth Extinction, as all the legends foretold, The Tesseract would be the cure to much more than just Jace’s cancer. ~