Sunday, July 29

Shutting Down


A grid flashes across his vision.


The afterimage lingers like the ghost of an executioner. It fades from sight, replaced by the teasing blue sun sparkles of Hanauma Bay.

“Honey? Are you okay?” He shakes his head, aware now that the blip in his sensory perception had affected his hearing as well. He turns to her and pats her hand.

“Yes. Just a little pause in the implant. Nothing to worry about.” He smiles. She smiles back, shining brighter than the Hawaiian sea. She reaches across the arm of his beach chair and kisses him.

“Go slow. The doctor said not to push yourself.” She smells of salt, coconut oil, perspiration, and the singular scent of a woman who has agreed to be his for a quarter of a century. She pushes his hair back with a small hand. The butterfly sweetness of the touch arouses a primal feeling of possession, wonder, and contentment.

“Really. It is nothing. Shall we go snorkeling?” he says. Before he can stand, she grabs his mask with an impish grin and runs to the gentle surf. Puffs of sand play tag in her wake in apparent delight of her beauty. With a chuckling sigh, he picks up her mask and follows.

Despite the tropical warmth, the water stings. It infuses him with its vigor, charging his very bones with life and desire. Donning the snorkeling gear, he plunges headlong into the life and death world of the reef. It doesn’t take long before he is surrounded by swirling, glinting clouds of fish, grey and purple and yellow and blue. Next to him she floats like a mermaid. He reaches for her hand, feels the laugh of the young girl he knew vibrating in her fingertips.


The fish dissolve into a mass of nonsensical shapes.


She becomes a blur of conflicting colors.


The grid appears again. In its unnatural regularity he sees a mocking smile, hears an empty laugh, feels an icy uncaring of all ending.

It is as the physicians had warned. Despite all the knowledge, all the skill, and all the miracles, chance would play its final card. The languishing disease would win, slowly at first, but with inexorable stealth. The technological marvel of the implant that promised to keep his brain connected to the rest of him would fail. In bytes and pieces he would lapse into a mind trapped in an unresponsive shell.


He treads water. She holds his hands, pulls him close, and throws her face to the sky, giggling and precious.

He blinks, capturing a picture he will hold, and hold, and hold tighter, and never let go.

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