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Fatal Exchange

by Jess S. 11 months ago in science fiction

Between two worlds

Fatal Exchange
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

It is 2072 and Jake is dying. It is late winter and Atlantic city is supposed to be covered in white. A white dream which had faded a long time ago. Science had developed a way maintaining an 18 degrees celsius temperature. There are no more winters, no more summers. The grounds have flat even surfaces, there are no plants and no stones, no wind, no clouds, and no sun. Everything is still and artificially bright, the only thing that moves are human shaped cocoons, floating in the air. Some of the cocoons are bigger than others. Some only as big as one person, some can be as big as a house.

The humans who live in these cocoons, call them Isolation cocoons. Due to a virus in 2020 large parts of the population were erased along with the memories of the few thousand remaining children. The world has been segregated into two parts. The rich part, which is sterile and the poor part, which is still battling the virus.

The government has reduced human contact to a minimum and invented floating cocoons for residents and sterile islands to meet. Meetings can take place once a day, 6 feet apart of course.

Jake opens his eyes. He feels hungry. He wonders if there had ever been any other way to satisfy hunger than shooting an injection into his head. He shrugs his shoulders and lifts the gun to his head. He pulls the trigger. Unable to sit up in the cocoons, science had to invent something a new way of feeding by injection into the brain as swallowing had become difficult. it is the fastest way to meet the central nervous system.

One minute is left until he is going to meet his friend. “Social contacting while social distancing” they call it. Mostly designed to create new memories.

He closes his eyes and counts to 30. The roof of the cocoon opens, and he floats out, still in a lying position. He then gently lowers to the ground on his feet standing up right. He opens his eyes and looks around. The sterile island is a huge platform, devoid of colour. He would spend 2 hours walking over to the other end to look over the edge. He tried that once and did not feel too well. He didn’t know how to describe it. The feeling passed when he came back to the centre of the platform.

“Jake!” Jake turns around and sees Barry shooting over the platform towards him. “Hi Barry”, Jakes says in a low voice. “Wow don’t you look miserable”, Barry says and winks at him.

“My head is hurting again.” Jake complains.

“Did you do another scan?”, Barry asks.

“Yes, it is the size of an orange now.”

“Well, I am sure the computer will give you plenty of pain shots when you die.”

“I don’t want to die” Jakes eyes starting to fill with tears. He wipes them away, doesn’t really know what they are.

Barry looks at him, folding his arms across his chest. “You know the rules Mister. You either be healthy and live or you are sick and die. There are no hospitals or doctors anymore. It is self-preservation. You got your own little hospital in your isolation cocoon”.

Jake nods sadly. Barry told him all about what it was like before this part of the earth taken over by the rich. Barry’s parents survived and had told him of the old world. Because Jake had been orphaned so he did not have this luxury. It is as simple as that. They don’t teach that kind of stuff in school.

“Are there still old people out there, somewhere? You know, normal people?”

“As far as I know bro, yes. Only on the other side of the world a small population remains, which is still battling the virus and also living the life our parents used to live before.”

“Can I go there?” Jake sounds almost hopeful.

“No. Haven’t you been listening to the government guidelines? No travelling, not even for one second!” Barry raises his index finger, just to emphasize his statement.

He sees the disappointed look on Jakes face and sighs. “But you can call them, I guess. The other side of the world. The other half. I don’t know anyone there, so I have no idea to who you would connect to, but it is possible”.

“Can they see me? Can I touch them?” “They can see you but no! Dear me, are you still not listening? No touching and no smuggling goods”

Determined Jake walks away and enters his cocoon. He lies down and looks at the big screen above him. He feels sad and lonely, although he always had been alone and never close to anyone before.

As loud as he can Jake says “Computer, call the other half”.

It seems to take a lifetime and Jake almost hangs up, when finally a middle aged man appears in front of him on a huge screen which is only in Jakes mind. “Hello? Hello? Who is this?”

“Oh, hi! Hi, my name is Jake. I eehm…. I” Suddenly he doesn’t know what he actually wants to ask or say.

“Jake we are in the middle of dinner. What do you want?” The man frowns at him, his face fills the screen, so Jake cannot make out any surroundings.

“What is…dinner?” Jake asks. The man looks at him. Stunned. His expression changes when he realises.

“Ah you are calling from the other half. The sterile half?”

Jake nods shyly. “Are you alone? Where are your parents?”, the face asks.

“They died. But I don’t remember them. My memory has been erased”

The man nods and sighs. Sometimes he thinks he seems to be better off than the people in the sterile world. “Okay, Jake, you can join us for dinner.” Ben steps aside and Jake is looking at the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. A table full of steaming hot food and beverages, tow candles are placed in the centre of a wooden oak table. A woman and two kids, one girl and one boy are sitting around the table. Ben sits back down onto the chair and points at Jakes hologram. “Guys, meet Jake. He is calling from the sterile half. Jake this is my 8-year-old son Johnny, he is your age I guess, my 6-year-old daughter Emily and my wife Carissa”

All wave happily into the camera. Jake is waving back, not knowing what he is experiencing right this minute. All kinds of warm feelings that he is unable to understand.

He only knows what food and drinks are from pictures taught in hologram school. He is not feeling hungry, but the father insists that he joins them for dinner, so he gives himself a shot.

The little boy does not look so well, he is coughing heavily, and his skin looks clammy. Carissa is constantly wiping the sweat from his forehead and is giving him hugs and kisses throughout the dinner.

They eat and talk about everything and everyone. Jake laughs about the stories Johnny is telling him from school. How he fell from a swing one day and broke his arm, how when rollerblading and he ended up in the park pond because he couldn’t stop. Jake doesn’t know if he is supposed to be laughing but it feels good. The parents ask a lot of questions about him being all by himself, caring for himself. He tells them it doesn’t bother him much because he doesn’t know any better and the isolation cocoon has everything he needs. He tells them about his tumour in his brain and that they have not found a cure yet and that chemotherapy had failed.

There was silence for a moment at the happy dinner table. “You know…” Carissa carefully looks at Jake. “Johnny is dying too. Of the virus. We don’t have money for the vaccine, which costs $20 000. So, we just hope he can spend his last days as happy as possible.”

Jake deeply sighs. His throat is so dry he feels like he is swallowing a cactus. He quickly researches the feeling on his brain computer and finds out it is called sympathy and empathy. He feels sorry for them. He feels empathy for Johnny because he knows what it feels like to be dying.

“I…I have money!” he says determined. “You can have it! I am dying anyway. But we can save Johnny!”. The family looks at him. Not in any part of the world had anyone experienced such kindness. There are no words for their gratitude.

“Finally”, the father says, “Jake, are you sure?”

“Yes…but…I need something in return before I die.” “Yes, whatever you need!” Carissa says. He can tell she is excited and tearful. He assumes these are tears of happiness.

“I want memories. Memories of Johnny’s life so far. I want to experience them like they are my own”.

Carissa and Ben both look at Johnny. Johnny, shrugs his shoulders saying “Sure, can I have them back once you are dead?”

“Johhny!!” Carissa yells at him. “You are being rude”. “What? He doesn’t feel anything Mom….urgh sorry if I offended you”

“You didn’t”, Jake smiles at him. “So, deal?”

“Deal!”, Johnny yells, gesturing a handshake.

The next day both parties meet at noon. Jake appearing as a hologram again, holding a mirror in his hand.

The family is all lined up before him.

“Soooo…” Jake says hesitantly. “The money is in the mirror, since we are not allowed to cross borders which also counts for objects, I will reflect the money to the wall behind you and you just take it from there, okay?”

Jake lifts the mirror and does as he says. A dollar icon with a text appears behind them on the wall. It says “$ 20 000. Please tap to accept”. Ben taps the icon, and the text says. “Congratulations, you have been deposited $20 000 into your account ending in 0018.”

Ben turns back to Jakes hologram. “Thank you Jake. Now lets get to the memories. Johnny you got your diary?” Johnny steps forward and pulls a little black book out of his pocket.

“Thanks Johnny, please hold it in front of the mirror and the reflection will absorb it”, Jake explains in a professional manner.

Johnny does as he is told and the diary disappears into the mirror.

“Okay, soooo…. that’s it, I guess? It was great doing business with you. I heard that phrase in a movie...haha”

Later that night Jake lays in his cell, staring at the little black notebook, floating above him. He takes out the injection gun and pulls the trigger. The memories immediately fill his brain and leave Johnny’s.

Jake relives Johnny’s memories page by page, reliving every moment he had experienced. Every movie he had seen, every hug, every kiss his mother had given him. Every fight he had at school, every emotion, every pain he felt.

When he turns to the last page, Jake dies of the result of the brain tumour, which had taken over his body and mind. Unable to return the memories to Johnny, Johnny is left in an empty shell.

science fiction

Jess S.

Carer by day, writer by night.

Always reaching for the stars and never look back.

FEAR

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