Apr 9, 2016

Electric heart

"What can you do when you're alone? When you're alone, old and tired? When every breath is a hiss? When you near your hand to your eyes and you see you can't control it's trembling?" The old man's thoughts only found their echo in the empty apartment.
Aging hands were trying to move a small statue near the old man's eyes. It was a statue of a toppled barrel in which a man lived. The old man remembered the inscription on the pedestal "How many things of this world are not useful to me."
The old man sat alone in a quaint apartment with worn carpets, chairs which creaked at every touch and oil paintings hung slightly crooked on the walls. On one side there was a pair of horses running on an endless green field and on the other an african boy was sitting on a barren rock smiling at them. On a long wall sitting with bent boards was a bookcase. Its shelves were covered things that "did nothing", rare things collected by people who had money but little time to spend them.
The old man's favorite was a glass globe that hid a boy and a girl. You had to turn it over and the children would start playing in the snow. The globe didn't hide any other technology, it wasn't a fragrance atomizer or an air filter it was just a pretty thing with no other value. One of his prized possessions was an hourglass with rose petal sand, it didn't hide a fancy receiver for voice commands, or a panic button, it was just wood and glass. The old man would sometimes take the hourglass in his hand to feel its texture, he would gently wipe the dust off with his bare fingers.
The old man had seen them all and loved them at the time, but now all the gimmicks had begun to annoy him. Too many wires, too many batteries, too many things to recharge. The old man remembered his first computer could recharge lazily at the sun, why hadn't things progressed that way. Where were all the promises of a better world: where were the flying cars, the pills that stop aging, the doctors that could cure any disease. All these things that seemed at our fingertips, but we never managed to grab them, contemplated the old man.
His house had been invaded by technology as well, his sitting chair could change its shape for any occasion but it usually just held him like a child. Arriving in the warm embrace of the chair he turned on his decrepit projector.
- TV on … news program ...
"Suicides have become the leading cause of death for minors". A graph appeared in the air, it had the old man's birth year as the start date, since then the number of suicides had increased sharply. On a separate column the number of people who decided to stop procuring drugs for chronic diseases, and then those who refused organ transplants, all subgroups of the same suicide chart.
The old man was among those who had refused a mutagen organ transplant. The thought of an animal sharing his DNA, being born, living, and then getting sacrificed for him, scared the old man.
A psychologist emerged in the middle of the room and began to explain the causes of suicide in children.
- TV off.
Leaning on his knees he pushed with trembling hands to defeat his helplessness and get up. He felt that soon he won't be able to get up on his own. He said a silent prayer and rushed forward with everything he had, thinking that it would be better to fall on your nose than to remain immobilized in the chair. The old man knew the soft and comfortable chair weakened him, each time making it harder and harder to unravel himself from its softness.
The last push was a success and the forward momentum threw him on his feet. Where did he want to go? in a brief moment of panic he started arranging his thoughts. He forgot what he wanted to do ... what was he standing up for?
He felt his heart being aided by a small device in his chest. He had reached the age when almost every heartbeat was regulated by electrodes coming into his chest. The "dead muscles" had saved his life, they tightened around his heart helping it beat. The old man had a small hole in his chest that wires went through to the external source placed under his sternum. In time, however the alloy with bio-polymeric links no longer adhered to the surrounding aging tissue. And each time he showered the old man thought he just might see his heart through the hole.
His feet carried him to the hallway that led outside. The old man smiled, he could always trust his feet, they carried him well. Many years earlier he liked to bike all over the place but not like other the kids, in the park and back home, but far out, every time further and further, feeling the need to go far away.
Back then, as now, he didn't have a destination. He kept going straight ahead until he was too tired or the road back too long. In the doorway the old man threw his tracking bracelet, took his slippers and hit the road refreshed by the cool air.
He found himself outside his neighborhood and decided to continue. His legs were strangely reinvigorated and wanted to carry him further. He saw kids hurrying down the street, something he would have done once. He couldn't remember anyone walk faster or dive headstrong into a pedestrian crossing like he did. "Those were better times," the old man thought, now the destination wasn't the goal but the course itself.
A heavy cough made him slow down, but he didn't stop walking. The nagging cough continued until it turned into "a good cough", a cough that cleared this throat. The old man spat into a crumpled handkerchief and looked, the content had already begun to dissolve.
"Have to lift my legs" the old man said hearing his feet scrape the ground. The skin on his feet was rigid and dry, it no longer stretched it just cracked. The pain made him calm his pace.
"No, not yet." he thought.
He pressed on, leaving the pavement behind and going on the side of the road. The old man still didn't understand what he was doing here and why his legs carried him this far, perhaps too far to get back without help. Tired and remembered his soft clinging chair at home and that cut short any thought of returning home. The old man felt this was his last chance to escape. One final stroll. Now he knew ... he knew where he wanted to go ... there was a grove here somewhere. He hadn't been there for long time, many things had changed but the grove had to be there.
Trying to lift his legs up he felt his knees seize up. "Not yet" he whispered and let his feet drag. He wanted to see his forest one last time, the place he used to wander in the summer as a kid.
Under the old man's feet soft fresh spring grass appeared. The old man couldn't remember how to reach the woods, and his eyes couldn't help him, but his feet seemed to know the way, somewhere in front of him there had to be a grove. The place where he used to hang on a tree branch for hours and never get hungry or bored.
When he reached the edge of the forest, the old man opened his shirt. Sweat was running down his white chest. He looked one last time at his heart regulator and ripped it out with the last bit of strength he had. The system had a backup battery deep inside his chest, the old man still had a couple of minutes left until the "dead muscles" became inert.

He was finally here ... the place where he wanted to die. Far, far away. He leaned back against the bark of an oak tree that seemed to share his age. He looked at the sky through the branches, and he waited for his heart to beat once again on its own.

Versiunea în română: Inima Electrică

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