The Cough: Tinfoil Hat

The Cough: Tinfoil Hat

His beat down pickup left for dead in front of the pristine mirrored windows of the giant biotech firm ArcTech, Hugh slithered in through the lobby doors. The security guard at the reception desk rose to put a hand up, but rescinded the idea after noticing the aging white man wielding a bolt action rifle like a scorpion’s stinger. The guard wasn’t being paid nearly enough for this shit and decided not to say anything while activating a silent alarm. Hugh stepped sideways, one foot over the other, while he drew a bead on the polyestered guardian.

“You stay right there, lizard man.” Hugh croaked the line like it was one of his tangled peppered clumps of hair, dampened to his head by rivulets of sweat. “I ain’t got no beef with you. Not today.”

Hugh, in his hunter’s plaid jacket, wound his way towards the central staircase, a piece of twisting metal artistry that mimicked the double helix of DNA. A ‘coat’ – a non-descript male in a white smock – saw Hugh from the third floor, dropped his clipboard and swiped his way through the nearest door to momentary safety. The gunman reached the second floor and strode with a lightness that belied his crooked joints until he reached the nearest electronically sealed door.

“Ain’t no magic gonna keep me outta this room,” Hugh muttered as he thrust the heel of his Timberland work boot hard against the lock.

The frame cracked just a touch on the first kick, a bit more on the second, then smoked open after Hugh’s frustration saw a bullet to it. The door swung open and up against the furthest wall were two more ‘coats,’ both 30-something, one man and one woman. Sizing up the couple and moving to the middle of the room, Hugh looked down on a smattering of lab equipment – neon-colored goo in a series of test tubes, some flasks, pipets – though he knew not the names of any of it. But he knew what he didn’t like.

“Admit it!” he barked at the two scientists. The pair looked at each other, shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders. “Goddammit,” Hugh grumbled as he pointed the rifle with one hand and glanced at his watch on the other, “I only got two and a half minutes left. Now I need you to admit it!” Hugh thrust the rifle forward.

The woman, with her blond hair pulled back into a pony tail, jumped so suddenly her safety glasses went crooked, replied hurriedly, “What? We don’t know what you want us to admit.”

Hugh’s features scrunched up to a point and he jabbed the rifle closer. “Dammit, girl, I want you to admit ArcTech created The Cough. I know it. I connected all the dots.” His watch hand reached into his left pocket and he pulled out a smartphone, touched the screen with the pinkie of his rifle-toting hand and held up the phone’s face to the ‘coats.’ “There has to be justice. Someone has to be held accountable. And they will once everyone knows. Now get on with it! Admit it!”

If it meant saving their lives, she was going to give the man anything he wanted. She let out a syllable but was interrupted by her colleague.

“No, no, no. You got it all wrong. ArcTech’s actually working on a cure,” the man slipped out over his V-shaped goatee.

This was news to the woman but she figured she’d best play along. “He’s telling you the truth! Did you just have The Cough? We’ve got an experimental serum right down the hall but we’ve got to go right now.”

The man in the virgin snow white lab coat didn’t skip a beat as he admired the woman’s quick thinking. He simply nodded in agreement. He never thought they’d ever be in this situation with the guy who always sat in his truck outside the building. Jesus, how long had this guy been waiting to have The Cough just so he try and force the company’s hand?

Hugh froze for a moment. Was there enough time to save his own life or would he have to settle for being the man who exposed the biggest conspiracy in human history? Life always wins out. He opened up his mouth.

“Alright! Move! Give it to me now!” Hugh demanded through his pale yellow teeth.

Hugh moved towards them with the urgency that imminently dead men usually move and shoved them towards the open door with the butt of his firearm. They stumbled forward and almost fell over but regained their footing and a perhaps another minute. Hugh followed right behind, occasionally thrusting the barrel into the man’s back. The male scientist swiped his keycard across the lock of the second to last door on the floor and the three piled into a lab similar to the one they’d just left.

“Where is it?” Hugh shouted as he caught sight of the hands of his watch dancing. “You got three seconds, boy!”

The man’s hands jazzed, not sure exactly where to go. Then he lunged for a drawer and pulled it too hard, spilling syringes across the floor. He grabbed one, tore the cap away and stuck the needle in a beaker full of radioactively red liquid. He pulled the plunger back and turned, his eyes wild with urgency, toward Hugh.

“Wait,” Hugh snapped, “How do I know that ain’t poison?”

The scientist shot a look at the woman and turned back to Hugh with his palms turned out in a question. “Why would I poison a man who’s about to die?” he asked through squinted eyes.

Hugh shrugged, giving him the go ahead. The man pushed Hugh to the side and jabbed the needle through his jacket and into his arm. His thumb thrust the fluid into Hugh’s veins. Hugh winced.

“Ow, that hurt, goddammit,” the truther said.

The woman figured the injection would probably make Hugh slightly less sick than what was about to kill him seeing how her colleague had just given Hugh a dose of ArcTech’s new fertilizing agent. Their captor would never realize it, though.

“You’ll feel a little queasy at first,” the man told Hugh. “But it’s okay; that means it’s working.”

Everyone’s breathing slowed though a glint of sweat tainted the air. Hugh lowered his rifle. The man turned around casually and slipped the used syringe into an orange biohazard bin. The woman approached Hugh carefully with motherly, open arms. Her hands motioned the dying man into her fold. Hugh hiccupped a cry of relief as he fell onto her breast. With her arms embracing Hugh, she glared at her coworker over the old-timer’s shoulder. She refused to watch as Hugh’s skin turned ghastly pale and his eyes went cataract white. The conspiracy theorist grew heavier and heavier until at last she was forced to let him go into another world. Gravity pulled the skin around her eyes down onto Hugh lying in a crumpled mess on the floor.

“I know we were just trying to save ourselves but should we have lied about there being a cure?” she asked rhetorically, bringing her stare up to a tabletop. “At least we didn’t create The Cough either.”

Her collaborator turned around nonchalantly and placed both hands behind himself on the counter. He laughed a little. “No, of course we didn’t.” He lowered his head, scratched the back of his neck, and looked up with a smile. “Why would we do that?” he said, sarcasm where sympathy should have been.

The woman had gone to pull the tie out of her hair but was left with her mouth gaping open. She watched dumbfounded as the man stepped towards the door. “Seth,” she rasped, “Is there a cure?”

“No, Maatie” the other scientist laughed again, a little more energeticly this time. “Let’s have this mess,” he circled his hand at Hugh’s body, “cleaned up.” Seth slipped around the doorframe just out of the woman’s sight and where he let out a sudden soft and arid cough.

The woman drooped her chin and nodded in the affirmative. Maatie had never know the universe to be without a sense of retribution. The scales of justice always balance out.

 

All Rights Reserved © March 2017 John J Vinacci

The Cough: The Interview

The Cough: The Interview

“Welcome back to Tabitha Talks here on BBC One. Joining me now is the world’s oldest man, Crowley McGovern,” the short, spunky, redhead bobbed, this time without losing her seat.

Beneath Tabitha’s high-pitched squeak, close-cropped spikey hair and cat-eyed glasses lurked something of a domestic tigress, the hostess always on the verge of exploding with neutered animal excitement. But today she demure and genuinely curious, open to anything Crowley had to say. After all, wouldn’t you want to know what it’s like to live to 122 despite an ever-present yet stealthy plague that could kill you at any moment?

“Thank you for coming on the show, Crowley.” Crowley gently nodded at Tabitha, his neck popping and creaking as he did so. Today, the hostess’ subdued voice was close to a whimper rather than her usual shrill. She continued with genuine wonder. “It’s been 40 years since The Cough, now known to be dormant in everyone until that fateful moment, arrived on the scene and claimed its first victim. And it was only fifteen years ago that scientists revealed that no one was dying of old age anymore and that only the virus could kill you, barring a horrible accident of course.”

“Or suicide,” Crowley interjected so softly Tabitha rolled right over him.

“So, you were 82 at the time the plague was announced. We were speaking during the break and you said The Cough didn’t change your life, not until recently. How do mean?”

“Well, Tabby,” the teetering old man began to speak crookedly, “I was in real good shape back in those days, could easily pick myself up off the floor if I fell down. I attributed this to…mostly clean living.” Crowley nodded in the affirmative, or maybe was he just old. The fuzzy white-haired senior, senior citizen leaned toward the camera on his cane and began to speak a bit more firmly. “I didn’t drink alcohol, I tried to eat the best and freshest foods – no red meat! – and I made sure I did my Tai Chi every day. Started doing that when I live in China for a bit and it really kept for joints loose.”

“And do you still do those things?” Tabitha gently interrupted.

“Well, here’s the thing,” Crowley licked his lips and his eyes gleamed at the entertainer. “I sure did keep doing those things for some time. Even if I was going to have that cough and find myself with five minutes and twenty seconds left to live, I figured I might as well go in good shape and not die in some poorly upholstered chair like most older folk.”

All things considered, Mr. McGovern did look like he was in all that good of shape. But he was 122 after all and really, exactly how young can even the most ardent Tai Chi adherent stay? Crowley may be well practiced in the ancient art, but under the unforgiving stage lights he appeared a frail creature, his spine so bent it might snap at any second.

“That’s a very hearty attitude, Crowley, sir. Please, continue,” Tabitha offered.

“Yes, um, hearty,” the old man seemed temporarily distracted. Was he lost in thought or spying Tabitha’s cleavage? “Yes, anyway, so I kept on the straight and narrow for a good 25 years, habits being what they are and all, up until those biologists figured out old age wasn’t a problem anymore.”

Tabitha’s eyes widened and she sat back a bit (which lifted her bosom). She assumed her guest must have still been on the righteous path. He had managed to come to the studio under his own power and that’s not something the average 122 year old can do. Crowley continued.

“So I started thinking, ‘Why am I wasting my time staying in such good shape if I can’t die unless I have The Cough?’ Young lady, do you know what it’s like to do cocaine when you’re 107 years old?” Crowley asked rhetorically.

Tabitha’s eyes exploded and her chest heaved. Though caught by surprise she was still light of tongue. “Um, no, sir. I’ve been told I don’t need it!” the hostess chuckled.

“Well, it really gives you a lot of energy, enough energy to throw back eight pints before rounding out the rest of the night with three tarts.” Crowley grinned, saliva glistening his uneven yellow teeth. “What we did that night…”

Tabitha shoved her chest forward and immediately went flush with regret, but at least it stopped Crowley in his tracks. “So what you’re saying is that you abandoned your healthy lifestyle.”

“Abandoned a healthy lifestyle?” Crowley mulled. He rubbed his chin between his thumb and index finger. “I’m not sure what you mean, Tabby. Now it did take me a good week to recover from that night of debauchery, but that night I felt more alive than ever before. That night made me realize that my body was healthy, but my soul wasn’t having any fun. Shouldn’t a healthy lifestyle include some fun?”

“Yes,” Tabitha drew out slowly. “But there are many ways to have fun that don’t include drug addiction and venereal disease,” she said in such a high pitch that ‘drug addiction’ and ‘venereal disease’ sounded like candy. Tabitha’s producer pinched her fingers together and furiously turned an imaginary volume knob while pointing at Crowley with the other hand, indicating to Tabitha to ratchet things down a notch. Tabitha cleared her throat.

“Okay, Crowley, well, tell us more about staying fit. I’m sure more people want to know how to stay fit into their later years should they be fortunate to live so long,” the hostess sat up straight.

“There’s something to be said for staying fit, you’re right!” Crowley exclaimed. Then he turned to the camera. “But with The Cough about to kill you at any moment, you’ve got to get all your living done now, as much as possible, as soon as possible! I waited until I was 107, for piss sake! Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, ecstasy, tons of liquor, gambling, property destruction, urinating in public; and a different bird every night, at least until the money ran out.”

Tabitha shook her head. She may have looked like a subversive, but it was just a way to grab people’s attention. The hostess was as straight as an arrow. “Well I don’t think that’s a good way to live, Crowley. Perhaps you had some fun but you don’t seem as spry as maybe you once were.” Her words were dry and unapproving.

“I still have a move or two. You want to shag after the show?” Crowley croaked to Tabitha.

Tabitha withdrew body and soul while her producer’s lips twisted deciding whether to pull the plug on the shoot. The hostess stood up and peeled the mic set from her lapel and waist. “I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you you’re a dirty old man,” she huffed and threw down the mic. “I don’t care if you have dementia or, or whatever. I hope you get The Cough.”

“Ain’t had it for forty years!” Crowley crowed and stomped his cane on the floor while Tabitha turned her back to him. His laughter was deep and the heartiest he’d acted all interview. But as if the universe had its own moral code, before Tabitha had even taken a step away, a quick, dry wheeze abruptly interrupted Crowley’s glee. He unfolded his crooked back and straightened up his spine as if Jacob Marley’s chains had been lifted off of him.

“Finally,” he breathed. “Start the clock!” Tabitha’s producer started a timer on her smartphone.

Tabitha turned around and scrunched up her pixie features. She didn’t mean to invoke some secret power, not really. “Oh, Crowley, sir, I’m so sorry. Is there anything we can do to make this easier?” Tabitha asked wringing her hands, afraid Crowley might petition for a pity shag. “I mean, anything but…”

Crowley reached both arms out to be hugged. Tabitha cringed. “Oh, not that, dolly. Help me up. I need to get to the roof! Get me to the roof!” Tabitha lunged forward and brought herself under one of Crowley’s arms. Her producer wrapped Crowley’s other arm around her shoulders. The trio shuffled in a ragged line to the nearest lift while a cameraman hoisted a mobile camera onto his shoulder and pursued them.

“Why are we going to the roof Crowley?” Tabitha asked inside the stuffy lift. The producer nodded energetically at the cameraman, making sure that he was recording.

“This here’s a forty story building. Figure I’ll get at least a good two seconds of flying time in. If we time it right, The Cough will kill me before the pavement does.” Crowley craned his neck at the producer’s phone, breathing heavily as time wound down.

“What? You can’t jump of the roof! I mean, I suppose you could but what if you land on someone? Wait, why do you want to jump off the roof?” Tabitha, doing her job, asked.

“Ach, they won’t let me skydive alone, say I’m too old and I’ll hurt myself,” Crowley hemmed. “I even said I’d sign all the waivers, but they’re all wankers!”

“You could still land on someone,” Tabitha protested. “I think you should be allowed to die on your own terms,” she pouted, “but it’s not fair to ruin someone else’s life.”

“Well, someone better make a call and get the runway cleared, sweetie, ‘cause ol’ Crowley here’s going for a whirl!” He turned his head at both women and the cameraman.

“Don’t look at me; I can’t manage a call and the timer,” the producer returned. Tabitha’s phone was in her purse downstairs. The cameraman fished his phone out of his pocket and nimbly dialed with one hand while keeping the camera steady on Crowley.

“I need security on the fortieth floor,” the cameraman said. “I got this crazy old bloke who thinks he’s going to jump off the roof!”

“Oh, hell with you lot,” Crowley gruffed. He took a deep breath, let go of Tabitha, turned at the waist and swiftly came back around with a palm, knocking the cameraman hard against the lift’s wall. With the producer’s arm still around Crowley, the momentum of the spin maneuver smacked her against the wall, too. The lift rang and the doors separated to give Crowley a clear path to the far side of the office where a pane of glass separated him from his final experience.

Crowley ran halfway down the hall. A bunch of office drones popped their heads up like gophers to see what the commotion was all about. “Time?” the centurion barked at Tabitha like a drill sergeant.

Tabitha reached down to pick up her producer’s phone from the stunned woman’s feet. “Thirty seconds!” The hostess shook her head ‘no.’ “Don’t do it, Crowley,” she pleaded as the old man tiptoed toward down the hall like a ninja.

“It’s my life. Always been my life. Always going to be my life. And I’m going to enjoy my life this one last time. Should’ve done it sooner but there’s no time left for regrets. Remember that, Tabby. Your next breath could be the last,” Crowley spoke and finally turned towards the window down the corridor. “Time, Tabby?”

Tabitha dropped her arms and her head but flashed the phone back up at her eyes. “Seven seconds,” she could just barely be heard. But like Crowley who had just mustered every last bit of ferocity, so too did the tigress. “GOOOOOO!”

“Thanks, love,” Crowley spat out as he cantered into a full sprint. Three seconds down the hall. Cubicle jockeys’ heads turned and mouths fell open. One more second to put his arms up in front of his face and leap with everything through the glass. A million shards around the crazy shit. Crowley spun around in mid-air, turned a bit pale, and just before dropping out of sight cried out.

“Geronimoooooo!”

Tabitha smiled. They didn’t get that on video but it’d be something the town would be talking about for the week to come. And that they would, because Crowley wasn’t the only one to pay the price for his life.

 

All Rights Reserved (c) March 2017 John J Vinacci

The Truth About Writers

The Truth About Writers

“What would there be in a story of happiness? Only what destroys it can be told.” André Gide

As much as we all hate clichés, I believe clichés are clichés for a reason. I abhor having to use one here, but one cannot deny their power in describing the world such as it is. All of this is to say that there are basically two kinds of people in the world, people who hope against hope that happiness is real and can be had, and people who have abandoned all hope – in other words, miserable people. We call these miserable people ‘writers.’

Fortunately, writers tent to be quiet in their personal interactions but what often passes for quiet introspection is actually a cauldron of rage and pain that typically vents its volcanic fury at the keyboard. Writers live in a constant hell that we don’t complain about for fear of being too obvious, choosing instead to create fantasies out of our misery so that others can participate in our dark inner world. Cliché number two: Misery loves company. Writers know, however subconsciously but sometimes overtly, that happiness is ultimately an illusion and therefore resign to destroy it by projecting nuclear destruction through our fingertips. Consider if you will how much the average consumer hates a happy ending. This is simply because despite everything, reality cannot be denied. No matter how many stories are created to obfuscate the horrible truth, everyone knows that even if the man and woman ride off into the sunset together, the Sun will still explode someday, even if that someday is billions of years from now.

Writers do not intend to be the way they are; it’s an ‘either you’ve got it or you don’t’ kind of thing. None of us are born intending their soul to be so black no light can escape, and a black hole cannot simply wish its nature away. And being born of rage and pain naturally must feed itself, so writers look to the darkest corners of what humanity they have to try and find a out. It’s a losing battle to be sure, but no one can live a life of utter truth and bear to take another step, let alone get out of bed another day.

Fighting the losing battle is probably what wounds the most and makes writers even more furious, mostly at ourselves. But the ego must find a way for our bodies to survive – writers are biological creatures after all – and so we create alternate realities of better and worse to channel our energy simply to avoid exploding. If this sounds overly pessimistic, maybe it is, but keep in mind a writer is saying this. It’s just that if you think about the most positive stories there are, those stories ultimately rely upon hope, the only possible salvation. There are no stories about the sheer beauty of a moment because moments are fleeting. (I apologize for letting the cat out of the bag if this is news to you; I have just flagrantly disregarded that quiet agreement among all of us not to say that.) If there were ever such a thing as a happy writer, that would be a writer who tried once, felt themselves getting too close to the truth, got up from their keyboard, slammed half a bottle of Jack and never looked back.

You can’t make a writer happy; they are a hopeless lot. Fury, rage, pain and sorrow – these things are in our nature. I’m fond of paraphrasing the beliefs of the famous occultist Aleister Crowley in regards to writers – do not make a man go against his nature or disaster will ensue. Okay, maybe it can’t get all that much worse for a writer, but by allowing us our craft you keep the pin in the grenade by letting out the pressure a bit at a time. Any happiness, any small, momentary victory in whatever form it may take may serve as a temporary respite, but no nurturing can overcome the nature of a writer, which is wrath however subtle. You can show a monster kindness, but this monster will respond by figuring out a way to tear you to pieces while cleverly making you complicit. This is the best a non-writer can hope for, this hallmark of a ‘good’ writer. And there it is again, the word ‘hope.’

If there’s anything writers themselves hope for – or should hope for – it’s a worthy ending. The end matters since what we want is an end to the agony. We’re already filled with an infinite sorrow inside, why make it worse? Nothing pains me more than when I rush an ending or get it wrong; I do it so often I sometimes feel someone should flog me. Perhaps that is self-loathing manifesting itself, forcing sequels out of our heads because writers are nothing if not masochists. Perhaps there is no such thing as an ending? This should be considered; there are no endings, just beginnings of ending. The ultimate end, the grand finale, only comes when the Sun explodes. So until the Sun explodes, well, I guess my brethren and I are just going to keep writing, exposing and sharing our pain, and hopefully ripping you to pieces while we do it.

 

All Rights Reserved © March 2017 John J Vinacci

Destruction

Destruction

Lay the soft pink of your

Destruction across my lips

Poison me ‘til I’m not whole

It’s the quickest path to death

Escort me down that corridor

To the far side of a kiss

To bliss beyond the noise

Take away my virgin breathes

Sweetly kill this saintly soul.

 

All Rights Reserved © March 2017 John J Vinacci

The Illusion

The Illusion

Her eyes are like the jewels dotting the sky

Skin soft as silk I like to touch

Her lips burst red, wild and untamed

She is majestic, exalted and struck by the sun

 

A cool fire burns in this savage’s hold

Her silky skin soothing but also a torch

Her lips open like a flower wanting to be known

I bask in her glory, until shot by a gun

 

Alas I should wake with dawn’s bullet in my eye…

 

Forever perhaps will she always be the

Stars and the silk but a thorn-ridden red rose

Set upon a vast, nocturnal sea

 

It is likely perhaps she always only be

A nightly, temporary and torturing illusion

That fatally blunts the woken me.

 

 

All Rights Reserved © March 2017 John J Vinacci

The Cough: The End of the Universe

The Cough: The End of the Universe

Was this what the moment of creation was like, a first kiss? Bella had been dreaming of it and the Big Bang her entire life, how everything in the universe aligned to make this happen. Here. Now. Could this go on forever? How much more could the universe expand?

It became slightly less than infinitely hot the moment after her singularity of loneliness exploded. The universe cooled quickly as the two young physics undergraduates broke their lips apart, but stars exploded into existence as their matter was unable to resist the infinite reach of gravity. A whole new cosmos is born out of hesitant touches and reticent glances until their mouths reached across a void.

Bella and Byrce drew themselves back slowly like a dual star system trying not to collapse under its own attraction. Cosmic butterflies sailed on solar winds in Bella’s heart while Bryce’s eyes tried not to flush with warm dihydrogen monoxide. Bryce lowered his head, shut his eyes and grinned.

“I’ve wanted to do that since the moment you answered Professor Ranjee’s question about the Doppler Effect,” he said.

“I know,” Bella answered though reddened cheeks. “I saw you turn around and give me that look.”

They sat crossed legged on the university lawn with their hands on each other’s hips. Electromagnetic radiation cascaded down on their heads on this cloudless day. The laws of physics, or perhaps it was more the laws of biology, saw them move towards each other once more. Their atoms were close enough now to elicit a spark between their lips though they had not touched yet.

Then Bella coughed. It was a light sound but distinct, like the lining of her throat had gone dry and peeled away. The redness in her cheeks receded at the speed of light. She withdrew her celestial body.

“Five minutes and twenty seconds,” she wheezed.

The universe is harsh and cruel and doesn’t care; Bryce loved saying that. But now, at this moment, his words were so prescient he tried to recall exactly how many times he’d said it so he knew exactly how much to regret it. This was the ultimate ‘It’s not fair’ moment. Only his love for Bella could restrain his rage. With time fleeting, Bryce laid it out.

“Bella, I love you. I love you and I will always love you and I will never forget you,” his voice cracked. “Quick, kiss me! You can die here in my arms!” Bryce hastily reached out to pull Bella into his orbit.

Bella pushed him away like a magnet of the same polarity. Bryce’s face turned green, not understanding. Then Bella pulled her shirt over the top of her head. She reached around her back and unclasped her bra. Anticipating her trajectory, Bryce watched her hands slide her khaki capris right off.

“What are you doing?” He put one hand out in a halting fashion while leaning back on the other. His head spun from side to side and counted the other students who forming an asteroid belt around them. “Bella, are you crazy?”

“Bryce!” she shouted in a feral voice. “I am about to die. But I am not going to die a virgin!” she explained tossing her black undergarments into the wind. “Get. Your. Pants. Off!” Now it was her turn to lunge.

“Bella, everyone’s watching!” Bryce informed her as he tried to wrestle her hands away. “Don’t fight it! Just lie here in my arms, please!” Physicists were romantics, not exhibitionists in his mind.

Not in Bella’s. She finally managed to wrangle his jeans off while he tried to back peddle. He looked like an antelope in plaid boxers trying to escape a lioness. Some of the students surrounding them broke out their smart phones and started to take video. One young man, blue dress shirt buttoned up proper, phoned campus security.

“If you love me, have sex with me! Hurry! There’s no time! Come! On!” Bella grabbed Bryce by the arms and with a force so strong it’s usually found only inside the nucleus of an atom, pulled Bryce on top of her.

Unfortunately, Bryce was a virgin, too. Worse, he performed terribly under pressure. The other students laughed as Bella and Bryce’s quantum entanglement looked more like noodles flailing in a bowl. The poor boy had gone from the throes of the most enigmatic but irresistible force known to man to the coldness of space at the end of the universe in Plank time. As he wrestled with Bella, he caught the constellations in her eyes and mustered all his sexual frustrations to pin her wrists down. He turned his head to the sky and squeezed his eyes shut so hard they would have turned carbon to diamond.

“Everyone, stop laughing! She just had The Cough! She’s about to die!” His guttural cry drowned out the sirens closing in. The students stopped laughing. Bella stopped struggling and lay still underneath him.

“Do you really love me?” Bella whispered.

“Yeah, Bella, I do,” Bryce answered and his eyes fell back to Earth. “That’s why I can’t do this. I want it to be special. I want it to be special because I think you’re special.”

“You’ll never know for sure, now,” she laughed. The sound was like a single particle popping into existence out of the vacuum of space, then quickly being annihilated by its anti-matter twin.

Bella saw Bryce smile thanks to the reflection of certain wavelengths of light. She felt his grip on her wrists soften.

“There are no certainties in the universe,” Bryce reminded her, “only probabilities.”

Bella weakened and her skin began to reflect all the colors of the spectrum. Her eyes turned opaque and her soul, if she had one, left to escape the laws of physics.

“It’s true what they say,” Bryce breathed. “Time is relative.”

He sat over her naked body and looked at her as though she were still electrified by the spark of life. All the while he could hear the quiet murmurs of the other students and the wail of the campus police car stop. Security crushed grass underneath their feet. But they were now and would forever be outside of Bella’s light cone and never get to see her the way he did. It was a few light-years later an officer finally pulled him away from the dead star.

When questioned about the incident later, the young man was truthful. He told the police about The Cough. They understood; incidents like this weren’t uncommon anymore given the recently discovered deadly virus.

“You know, there are a few ideas about how the universe will end, if it ends,” Bryce said in his official statement. “One theory thinks the universe will expand forever, growing cold after it loses all of its energy. Another thinks the universe will collapse upon itself and time will run backwards, giving us a chance to live all over again. Sort of, anyway.” Bryce nodded to affirm this idea. “I hope that’s what happens. Yeah, I hope that’s what happens.”

 

All Rights Reserved © February 2017 John J Vinacci

iDrone

iDrone

I’m something of a robot

More precisely a drone

Wires, metal, plastic

I function by remote

 

Armaments required?

From time to time, yes

It depends upon the mission

Suggestion: deadliest is best

 

I am, I repeat

A robot, I mean, a drone

Not built for higher functions

Least of all for love

 

Artificial intelligence?

That’s really not my goal

I do not dream electric sheep

I have no fear of getting old

 

I am, repeat, repeat

A machine, a mindless drone

I execute my orders

No matter who they’re from

 

Does it make me happy?

My hardware doesn’t know

I’m bound by commands I am receiving

Like the one that says you’re next

Destroy.

 

All Rights Reserved (c) February 2017 John J Vinacci