I just found gems on on Claude Nougat's blog - a bunch of short stories that are unique, eloquent, and thought provoking - a beautiful combination.
So I decided to share one with you - yep, without asking Claude or checking with the copyright police, I kidnapped a story. Read it and you'll know why I brought it to you. And don't worry I have the link to the rest of them at the of the story. Enjoy.
Friday, February 4, 2011
I AM NOT LEAVING YOU BEHIND!
It used to be that old age was viewed as an achievement and while reaching 100 years is still held in high consideration, I think most people would subscribe to Shakespeare’s unforgettable depiction of old age:
"a moist eye, a dry hand, a yellow cheek, a white beard, a decreasing leg, an increasing belly...
your voice broken, your wind short, your chin double, your wit single, and every part about you blasted with antiquity."
Yep, it’s not something to look forward to!
Have you ever searched on Internet the ways to fight old age? Amazing but true, Google gives you over six million results in 0,21 seconds. There’s even a Facebook Community Page about Fighting Old Age! It is described as “a collection of shared knowledge concerning Fighting Old Age” but if you access it you’ll be disappointed. There’s nothing in it. Not yet. I bet the Facebook community will soon fill the gap!
Because, if you look around, there’s lots and lots of ways to fight old age (with varying success): genetic manipulation and hormones (the science is still in its infancy), hypocaloric diets and vitamin supplements (much of it unproven), exercise (never a bad idea), mind stimulation with crossword puzzles or Sudoku (I prefer reading and writing), and of course plastic surgery (expensive and risky, with long lasting results not guaranteed).
Some day perhaps, in the not too distant future, Mankind might "make it". I don’t mean achieve immortality – we all know it’s impossible and would cause a ghastly traffic jam on this planet. But we might find a combination of ways to circumvent and reduce the most annoying and depressing aspects of aging, the stuff Shakespeare went on about. We might finally be able to age gracefully, right to the last instant, and disappear painlessly into a cloud. Wooofff. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Or would it?
That set me thinking…and I came up with the following short story. Hope you enjoy it!
I AM NOT LEAVING YOU BEHIND!
A SHORT STORY BY CLAUDE NOUGAT
A SHORT STORY BY CLAUDE NOUGAT
It happened in the middle of our love-making. I was beginning to fly when my watch beeped, bringing me down to earth. With a thud. I was frightened because I knew what that beep meant. I looked into his face hoping he hadn’t heard. He hadn’t, his eyes were closed, his mouth clenched as he strained towards the climax. I relaxed, trying to catch up with him and enjoy it too. I made all the appropriate sounds but my heart was not in it.
No more. A terrifying thought.
Afterwards, I sneaked out of the crumpled bed sheets, leaving him to rest. I had to get away to check what my watch said. I locked the bathroom door making sure the lock clicked in silently. I didn’t want to arouse his suspicions. But I needed to know, and I needed time for myself. I couldn’t see at first what was written on the watch’s dark screen, then I remembered to push in the side button. A string of illuminated numbers popped up: a date: 10.10.2116, and a time: between 3 and 6 pm.
The exact date and time of my programmed death.
I turned on the spotlights over the mirror and scrutinized my face. Were there any sudden signs of aging? I half-expected to find new wrinkles around my eyes or a sagging throat line. Nothing of the sort. No wrinkles at all, just a perfectly smooth skin. I poked at it, pinched my cheeks and the skin just bounced back, firm and elastic. I still looked young, precisely the way I did ninety years ago, when I had turned thirty. I had been a beautiful woman then – I still was. Unchanged.
That was a relief.
I remembered how aged my mother looked when she had turned one hundred: bent, bleary-eyed and aching all over. Unable to walk and with a voice so feeble – more like a croak – you couldn’t hear what she said. That was something I’d never wanted to go through. Better dead than old. Thank God for the advances of science – no one needed to go through the ghastly process of aging anymore. All you had to do was to join the APP, the Age-Preserving Programme that monitored the process. You paid in yearly dues and were provided with all the necessary medical attention to ward off age. Expensive perhaps, but effective. A simple procedure, just a matter of taking a daily hormone pill, adjusting the diet and wearing this watch which controlled the genetic aging. And lo, your youthful looks were preserved till the last day of your life. Neat. I had bought into it, like everyone in my generation who could afford to.
Of course, I knew you didn’t buy immortality, I was no fool. For life has a natural arc – and a limit: on average one hundred and thirty or forty years, depending on the individual. And for genetic reasons that still escape explanation, life could be shorter too. My husband had died ten years ago, when he had hit the 110 mark. It seemed my life was programmed to last a little longer, but not the full arc. Only one hundred and twenty-two years. That looked suddenly too short.
I knocked on the watch, hard, trying to budge the date. 2116. It wouldn’t move.
There it was, unmovable, Death tomorrow afternoon, between 3 and 6 pm. I had little more than twenty-four hours left.
I had better get used to the idea.
I stared in the mirror. Still no wrinkles. I leaned forward, as close as I could get to the mirror’s smooth surface. Yes, nothing. I supposed I should feel grateful I had none, but for the first time I regretted it. If only I had had some kind of warning. Time to prepare for it. But no, I had lived my life fully to the very last, as if it would go on forever. How could I ever believe it wouldn’t stop? Looking young, feeling young had made me forget that we are all mortals.
And my love for him? What would happen now? I moaned out loud. No tears came, the pain was too deep, too new. I had loved him so – he had been the first real love in my life. That’s how it felt, as if I had never been married to someone else before. As if? No one, nothing before him counted. He made me feel special. We were one: a tired cliché yet so true. I suppose that too was part of feeling young. But he really was young, only thirty-five. He still had his whole life ahead of him. He’d said I was the first woman he had ever truly loved.
I had believed him and let him plan on having me for the rest of his life. I never told him my age. He never asked.
Now there was no future left for us. None.
I could slip out of his life without saying anything, and go to the APP medical station. They would take care of me and ease me out of this world without any pain. That was part of the APP deal, a perfect death. That’s what my husband had done. One day he was gone, without a word, without a good-bye note. At first I had panicked, and with a friend I’d gone to check out the nearest medical station. When I arrived he had already passed away. Like a leaf blowing in the wind. A cool and clean death. No more than a swirl of dust. Grey and depressing.
I realized I didn’t like that kind of death. I wanted to mark the passage. I wasn’t going to go away in a puff. My death had to be big and violent and spectacular. Something to remember.
I went back through the bedroom and glanced at the sleeping shape on the bed. My love looked so vulnerable, like a child. He was breathing regularly, a half-smile playing on his lips. My heart went out to him. I would never leave him behind. I couldn’t. That’s what our love was all about.
On my bare feet, I slid away like a ghost and descended to the kitchen. I came back with the biggest carving knife I could find. The rest was easy. He never knew what happened. I slit his throat, and mine.
What a fascinating story, so much woven into so few words. Outstanding, Claude. I'll be reflecting on this for a while.ReplyDelete
Stunning! Dark, sad, terrifying. Oh the selfishness of trying to live forever. Amazing story, Claude. Thanks for sharing it with us, Bert.ReplyDelete
it was awesome!!ReplyDelete
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