Tag Archives: dying

Settlers. Short Story.

Sandra pulled the door open, she ignored the squawking voice of the secretary to her left as she barged into the office, President Grayson was sitting behind his large desk, framed by a larger window that looked out over the valley, the green lie framing him perfectly. He looked up from his work, startled from thought, his pen freezing mid-stroke. “Sandra, what’s-” before he could finish his question she slammed down the basket of vegetables, the top of it was covered by strands of wheat, their golden colour was spotted with dark red and black spots. “It’s spreading. It’s still spreading and you’re doing nothing about it.”
His receptionist was standing near the door, “I’m so sorry President Grayson, I tried to tell Minister Williams that you were busy.”
“That’s OK Amanda, I have some time to meet with her, thank you.”
Amanda left the room, closing the door quietly behind herself.
She grabbed the wheat and slammed it onto the table, then she started pulling fruits from the basket, apples, pears, carrots one after the other and each had those same red black spots. “We’ve been trying everything to keep this stuff under control and nothing works.”
Grayson sighed and put the pen down, “I know. We’re looking into it and working as fast as we can but we’re not set up for this kind of research or development, not yet. There will be an announcement about it today. I am well aware of how bad the problem is, look.”
He gestured at the window behind him, they were standing at the highest point in the valley, Sandra stepped around the desk and looked out, she felt her stomach drop, first at the height then at what she saw. She put her hand to her mouth, she could see the infection from up here, the dark stains against the green of the trees and the gold of the wheat.
“It isn’t just you and your farm, it’s the whole valley. Hell, probably the whole planet.”
She turned to him, face pale, “How? I thought this kind of thing was tested for”
he shrugged, “The planet was seeded about twenty years ago, since then everything has been growing without problem. All the tests showed it as perfect. We don’t know what this is or why it’s spreading. It isn’t like any fungal or bacterial infection we know of on Earth. They may have similar colourings but they act in a completely alien manner, its spreading pattern is unlike anything we’ve seen before, it spreads against prevailing winds, it spreads to fields miles away. Tonight we are introducing a new measure, any crops found to be infected will need to be destroyed, it’s the only chance we have for stopping its spread, conventional methods just aren’t working.”
Sandra stumbled from the window and sat down heavily, “How fast does it spread? It only started appearing in the last week or so.”
President Grayson shook his head,, “It was first discovered two and a half weeks ago, Elena Jacobson found it in her strawberries and it has spread like wildfire since.”
“What if we can’t stop this?”
“Well, we’ll still have the animals so that should keep us going until we can get to the bottom of this. I’ve sent a distress call to Earth, it should arrive in a year. We just need to survive two years and we’ll have a solution.”
“I don’t know if we’ve got that long. I’ve heard rumours that Jensen’s cattle showed some signs of the infection. I went to go check but he denied it, I just thought it was rumours but what if it isn’t?”
“Jesus.”
“If this has spread to the animals then we don’t have two years.”
President Grayson shook his head, “Tonight I’ll announce the introduction of rationing. I’m also calling for people to can and store any fruit, vegetables or meat they can. The more we can stockpile before the rot gets to it the better.”
Sandra looked at him for a moment, “Do you think we can survive this?”
“What choice do we have?”
“How did something like this happen? Why didn’t it show up on any tests?”
The President laughed, “Do you know how expensive this mission was? Sending humans to a habitable planet? They sent out machines to test the atmosphere, to test the ground, they planted seeds and once they confirmed they were growing and growing well that was all they needed to know. Everything else would be learned on the fly. Those tests looked for anything that might immediately endanger human life, that was all. Hell, on the other side of this world there’s a species that look similar to wolves, only they’re the size of elephants. This was simply the safest spot for humans to build up a community and build up our defences. We weren’t given the supplies or equipment to deal with this kind of threat.”
“Well why not? Shouldn’t that be the first thing to be sent with us?”
“The more advanced equipment is to come with the second wave in ten years, once we’ve tamed this place a little, we’re just here to clean the house and turn the heating on.”
“How could they have missed this?”
“It could be a long life cycle, like the Cicada’s back home. Sure it’s poisonous to us, but maybe it isn’t poisonous to the local inhabitants. I’ve already been sending out foraging missions, we’re still testing to see if they’re edible but that’s a slow process, it wasn’t to start until the next wave and we won’t fully know if it’s safe or not until someone eats it. Even then what kind of problems could it bring down the road? Disease? Cancer?”
Sandra sat back in her chair, “What will we do? What the hell can we do?”
The president shook his head, “We can hope, we can try to survive. Nature has a way of balancing itself on earth, perhaps the same is true for here. Maybe the infection will stop on its own or we’ll stumble on a solution. We’re not out of options yet. I’ve already sent for help, it will take a while to arrive, but it will arrive. We have safe drinking water, we still have food supplies, there are still plenty of earth native plants in the area that are uninfected. We do have a fighting chance, no matter how hopeless it might seem.”
The buzz of the intercom startled them both, “President Grayson, you’re three o’clock has arrived.”
“Thank you Amanda, I’m just finishing up here.” he released the button, “I’m sorry Sandra, but I can’t miss this meeting, I should be done around four if you would like to wait. I’m going to announce this to the Ministers at five, then to the rest of the settlers at seven tonight.”
“No, I have some things I need to check on now. I’m going to go see where else it has spread to.”
President Grayson nodded, not bothering to point out he already had people do that. Sandra was stressed and when she was stressed she needed to keep herself busy.
Sandra stood, as did President Grayson, as she reached toward his hand her eyes moved past him to the valley below. It had only been a short while she had last looked out but it seemed as if the rot had spread even further. She felt a wave of nausea building at the back of her throat.
She left the office, already planning where she would go next. President Grayson glanced out the window, he tried to put a brave face on it for Sandra as he would for everyone else, but from what he’d been told so far it wasn’t looking good for anyone. He pulled his eyes from the large spots of blight in the green of the valley, he could feel the tightness in his chest and a small squirming snake of anxiety constantly moving inside his stomach. His next appointment walked in, “please for the love of God tell me you’ve good news.”
The man glanced down at the ground, “nothing particularly promising yet but we’re exploring some new avenues that we think could be effective in-” it would all be in the report later, he knew Kevin, knew by him that they had nothing. He nodded at all the right places, pretending that Kevin’s fake jocularity was working, that he truly believed they would be saved and still that snake writhed in his stomach.

All Things End. Short Story.

“What do you mean we’re dying?”
“Exactly what it sounds like.”
“We’re immortal!”
“Nothing is immortal, you should know that by now.”
“We are!”
“And what would happen to us when the universe finally ends? When all the lights are snuffed out?”
“I don’t know, all I know is we’re supposed to live forever, forever! Not just a few hundred thousand years.”
“A few hundred thousand years? Do you know how childish you sound? We were given the gift of life and our lives have been a long one. I for one am happy with the things I’ve gotten done. I accept and welcome death as the start of a new adventure.”
“There is no new adventure! It’s all a big lie, you know that as well as anyone. I refuse. I’m not dying.”
“Unfortunately for you, you are. We all are. What part of that are you failing to understand? What ever this thing is it is killing us. One by one. Where do you think the others have gone? Hmm? Just popped out for a coffee? No, they’re dead! You saw the bodies like we all did. You know what is coming.”
“Something must be able to stop it.”
“No one recognises the thing, what ever it is. It is like nothing that has ever been seen before. It isn’t a virus, it isn’t a bacteria. Hell, it isn’t even alive.”
“Well, it came from somewhere.”
“You used to be so flippant about death. How many people have you killed? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Perhaps even millions.”
“That’s different.”
“how?”
“They had short lives, they were going to die sooner or later anyway.”
“Yes, but you made sure it was sooner. They could have lived for years more, done great things, discovered new and wondrous information.”
“They were born to die, it is the only definite thing in their lives. We were the opposite. They were guaranteed to die, we were guaranteed to live.”
“Yes, but who told us that?”
“No one. We just knew it for the moment we were.”
“Yes, but could we not have been mistaken in our own arrogance?”
“No. We came into existence with that one simple truth. We cannot die. I cannot die.”
He turned and stormed from the room. The remaining people sat in silence for a few seconds. “What if he’s right? What if we could do something to stop it?”
“You’re all welcome to look, I will not stop you. I accept my death, I will not fight it, but I will not stop others from doing the same. My one decree is that if any of you find a way, you must offer it to the others. They are free to take it or refuse as they wish, but they must know if it. If anyone finds this cure and does not share it, then it will curse them. They will be struck deaf, blind and dumb until existence itself is erased.”
He stood from his chair and left the room. People started talking to one another in hushed tones. One by one they left until there was only one. She sat with her drink in front of her. She was tired. Tired of fighting, tired of living. She had never really given it much thought, it didn’t matter how she felt, looking at the eternity that stretch before and behind her. But now there was a choice. Not everyone was affected yet, she could go into hiding, like some of the others and pray she was spared, or she could welcome death. Sooner or later it would find her, it always did. Death was stronger than all of them combined, amassing its power over the millennia, across the galaxies. She drained her glass and stood from the table.

Outside the world continued on, the people in it had no idea that immortals walked amongst them, had no idea of the worry and turmoil that was rippling through the world. If the immortals could die, well, everything else was in question too. Things once thought unthinkable were becoming possibilities again. It had been a long time since the world had been like that. A place where things could make themselves how they wished. She didn’t miss that world, it was a harsh, chaotic place. But then, it always was, wasn’t it? That was the nature of life, chaos. There couldn’t be one without the other. Maybe it was right that they die, that they step aside and allow something else to take their place. Perhaps it was just the natural order of things. If they couldn’t save themselves from this thing, perhaps they had no right to live. She had enough of living, she had known countless people, had countless children and lovers. All gone, their bones turned to dust and the dust blown away on the winds.

She could feel the wind on her face, but the joy of it had disappeared over time, the sun on her skin no longer brought the feeling of warmth, just the feeling of emptiness. She missed the touch of another person, a real person. Someone who knew her for who she was. Maybe death was better, a fresh start, something new. If they were supposed to live forever, surely something of them would remain after death. Perhaps they would be reborn, or sent to a new place to start again, stripped of the bodies they currently had. The idea of death itself had becoming fascinating to her since she found out it as a possibility. Before it was just something that happened to others, something of no concern to her, but now she found she shared another trait with the human race, the curiosity of what would happen next. Sure she had read texts about it, and talked to philosophers about it, but the answer didn’t really matter. After all, she could never experience it for herself, so why should she care?

She stood on the bridge, feeling the breeze on her skin, the tang of the salt air on her lips. She climbed over the railing and, after a brief hesitation, dove off. The cold water hit her hard, pulling the air from her lungs. She dove deeper into the water, feeling the dark depths pulling her closer. She had known the oceans so well once, but that too was a long time ago. For now, she didn’t want to think, didn’t want to decide, she just wanted to disappear into the welcoming darkness.

Death Bed. Short Story.

He sat up, letting out a faint groan, “how are you feeling today?” “Tired. Sore.” “Any better?” “Not really.” “hmm, there should be some improvement.” The doctor looked worried, “I’m not getting better, am I?” “No, it doesn’t look that way.” He lay back against the pillows, “I don’t blame you. I know you’re doing your best.” The doctor smiled slightly, “you should be getting better. You really should.” “I’ll tell them it isn’t your fault.” The doctor breathed out in relief and began to gather his things. “I don’t think there’s anything I can do for the moment. I’ll come back tomorrow and see how you’re doing. I’m going to consult with a few other doctors, see if they can come up with anything.” He nodded, “Thank you. See you tomorrow doctor.” The doctor reached into his bag and took out a bottle of pills, he left it on the bedside table. “If the pain gets to be a bit much, take some of these. Take no more than two, and wait six hours before you take any more. They should help you sleep.” He nodded. The doctor left the room, he caught a glimpse of the guards outside. The doctor paused to talk to them as the door swung shut. After a moment, he could hear the guards laughing, no doubt over his illness. The doctor would have told them he was weak, probably dying. He shook his head. They used to be his men once, dedicated to him, now they laughed at his death bed. It was a disgrace. He flung back the covers, no one would come to see him for a few hours at least, and stood from the bed, he began to pace the room. It was large, but seemed small, he’d been trapped in here for months. Unable to leave. Sure he occasionally was taken into the garden for some sun, but that wasn’t the same. On those short excursions he needed to stay in the chair for the entire time. It drove him insane. He wanted to get up and walk amongst the flowers, not just sit there. The nurses that brought him outside would park the chair and wander off, no doubt gossiping amongst themselves. Horrible women. Still, he had no one else to blame for this, after all, it was his own idea. How else was he supposed to escape? Only one other person knew the truth and they were sworn to secrecy. If his health hadn’t taken an apparent turn for the worse, he would have woken to find an assassin standing over him one night, or he’d be poisoned or killed in other, numerous ways. This was for his own good, his own safety, but he hated it.

He was trying to out manoeuvre his opponents, they paid little attention to him now that he was so sick. Of course they were bribing the doctor to find out what he knew and of course, he himself was bribing the doctor for secrecy. It helped strengthen the illusion. Once the pieces were in place he could strike down his enemies and have a miraculous recovery. No one would be able to prove he did anything, after all, he had been dying. It was really the perfect plan. Still. There would be some upheaval afterwards, he’d have to dismiss most of his men, though that was always risky. It would be easier to send them out to fight some battle, they’d most likely die on the field or flee. Either way would be best. He couldn’t afford to have men who would turn on him so quickly. Of course, it was mostly those in command. They all hoped he’d leave them everything, after all he had no children, no wife, they were all dead. A botched assassination attempt years ago. He was running late and so he sent them ahead, deciding to take a different carriage. The one they were riding in was raided by bandits. Or at least that was what it was supposed to look like. The men that did it were good at covering their tracks, but not good enough. They stripped the bodies of anything valuable, they took the horses, but left the carriage. It was distinguished and would be hard to dispose of quickly, they didn’t bother to check inside, which bandits always did, there were still gems on the carriage, expensive decorations that could have been pried off in a few minutes and the luggage had been left untouched. To him it was obviously an attempt on his life, or at least a message, meant to scare him. He carried on afterwards and tore down those who had tried to kill him. He had never remarried. His marriage had been one of necessity, consolidating wealth, but he did love his wife. He didn’t want to betray her memory. If he died, no one in his employ would get anything. He had made sure of that. He had divided his wealth amongst his allies, should he die, they would get everything, should one of them be implicated in his death, the money would be donated to various charitable causes. It kept them in check, one couldn’t risk assassination as they would be losing their own spoils and everyone else’s and they’d instantly have a new, dangerous group of enemies. Everything was carefully planned out and each plan had a safety net. No, he wouldn’t die before his time. Once he was done walking, he got back into bed, it wouldn’t do to be caught up and about. It had almost happened the week before, the door had opened unexpectedly and he had to drop to the ground, claiming he was trying to summon someone for a glass of water and he was too weak. It had worked, they believed him, but he didn’t want it to happen again. He had given express orders that he was the one who decided if someone should enter his chambers. The men were starting to get too lax. He’d have to do something to put a bit of fear into them. They might think he was dying, but he wasn’t dead yet. He grabbed a sheaf of paper and a pen and began to write out some orders. When he was done, he carefully put them to the side. He placed the pen down and reached for the pills the doctor gave him. He didn’t particularly want to take any, but they needed to be gone by the time the doctor returned. He was having difficulty sleeping, the lack of exercise no doubt, he took two with a gulp of water.

He was found the next morning, dead. Of course it was a horrible shame, but not unexpected, he was after all deathly ill. No one suggested murder, why would anyone bother, everyone knew he only had a few weeks left. When the doctor returned he casually slipped the bottle of pills into his pocket. No one would suspect anything, but he didn’t want to leave evidence just lying around.