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Authors: L. E. Henderson

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Becoming the Story

BOOK: Becoming the Story
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Becoming the Story
and other tales

By L.E. Henderson

Text copyright © 2014 L.E. Henderson

All Rights Reserved

To Donnie, with love; infinite thank yous
for all your support and giving me the idea for this book.

Introduction

Recently I began a project in which every
weekend I would allow myself to work on a short story. It has been
wonderful fun, and I look forward to weekends now because of
them.

On Saturdays I exist in a world of “what
ifs.” What if a girl meets the misfortunes of her life by telling
stories to the point that she begins to create herself as she would
a fictional character What would a cat think if she became human
and encountered a Christian determined to save her? If I could
write a journal entry right after my death, what would it say ?
What would a futuristic race of immortals think of a human baby if,
by some freak accident, immortal parents gave birth to one of them:
a mortal atavist?

All of my weekend "what-if” experiments have
been exciting. But beyond momentary fun, is there another, more
pressing drive to tell stories?

Fun aside, I believe the title of my book is
apt. For many years now, I have written almost every day, through
depressions, vacations, financial disasters, holidays, and moves to
other states. And the more I have written, the more the way I view
the world has changed.

I could not help it; writing is a focused
form of thinking. When I think, my perspective changes. When my
perspective changes, I change. Putting ideas into words forces me
to observe; to imagine how things could be different; to
re-evaluate; to wonder. No one can write every day in an honest and
concentrated way and
not
be changed.

In a way I am the girl in the title story,
“Becoming the Story.” For her, telling stories is a matter of
emotional survival. But the same is true of everyone, writers and
non-writers alike. Few people are able to accept life as the jumble
of meaningless details that it sometimes appears to be.

Most people seek context and meaning, and
that is what stories are, whether they are read, written, or told
aloud; the quality of our lives rests upon the kinds of stories we
tell ourselves or let others tell us, whether they are “deep” or
shallow, good or bad. Writing stories turns the natural human
striving for context into a focused and deliberate activity; turns
empathy into a lifelong occupation; and promotes the quest for
understanding.

Furthermore, every good story belongs to
everyone. Regardless of the specifics, they all deal with the
problems of being human and the emotions such as love, fear, anger,
and sadness that come with it.

I like being part of that effort, and I am
excited about sharing these stories with you. Though many of them
have appeared on my blog, those of you who subscribe will find
unpublished stories here as well.

Since my weekend project continues, there
are sure to be more books of stories coming from me. Although I am
happy to present these, I am even more excited about the stories
yet to be written that will keep pace with my life as it changes
and I learn more.

Until I get back to you with more stories,
whether in a few weeks, a few months, or a few years, enjoy.

Table of Contents
The
Atavist

At 44 Maxwell was the most ancient person on
the planet. Behind the curtain he waited uneasily for his name to
be called.

“Hi there, Ladies and Gentlemen,” the host
began. “A special treat for you tonight. Heartbreaking, yet
fascinating as any of you who have been following the story of Baby
Josie and Maxwell Farnsworth already know. Without further ado,
please welcome to the stage our favorite mortal and inspiration to
all, Maxwell J. Farnsworth.”

Max swept the curtain aside. Applause
thundered in his ears and bright lights stung his eyes. He moved
toward the host, who welcomed Max with a grin, looking down at him
from his elevated chair near the edge of the stage. Max stopped
short of the identical guest chair.

He shook his head. “I prefer to stand.”

Lenny tossed his head back and bellowed
laughter toward the ceiling. “Are our 10 foot chairs a bit high for
you?” he said. “No worries, my friend. We thought of
everything.”

A second man emerged from behind the curtain
wearing grey overalls and rolled out a padded swivel office
chair.

“There, is that better?” Lenny asked. “Our
research indicates that this type of chair was common in the U.S.
circa 2051. No stilted chair legs for you, no sir, and no need for
a ladder. We want you to be as comfortable as possible.”

Max settled into the padded chair as Lenny,
looking down, shot him a winning moon-bright smile. “Can you hear
me from way up here?” Lenny chuckled. The audience rippled
laughter. “Well, just let us know if you change your mind and
decide to join us.”

The smile faded softly. “As I believe any of
us here would agree, you are quite an inspiration. You are a relic,
a symbol of our past, our distant ancestor, and even a different
species as examination of your DNA suggests.

“When you froze in the Arctic wasteland, you
were engaged in a scientific expedition. You were an engineer
recruited as part of a team searching for undiscovered organisms
able to endure extreme conditions. Our technology allowed us to
resuscitate you, and it has turned out that you were one of those
organisms. We unearthed you, of course, for a reason other than our
historical curiosity. Two of our audience members, Myrtle and
Wilhelm Banks have given birth to a curiosity. An
atavist.

“As you already know from your reading,
here, in the year 7056, what you call humanity has changed quite a
bit, to the extent that when we first exhumed you, you were unable
to understand us. Our experts of ancient history had to teach you
our language and, despite your primitive brain, you absorbed our
current syntax.

“Afterward you shared your fascinating story
about the day you froze. We learned about your depression, and how
you lost your trail, and how the sheets of snow blinded you, and
how at the time you were too depressed to fight the onslaught of
cold. It all sounded like a quintessentially
mortal
problem
and therefore, hard for us to understand.

“Given your history, it must all be quite a
shock to you that we are able to stay eternally young. We have
conquered disease and hunger, and – barring extreme physical trauma
like fire – we are as immortal as the vampires of your myths.

“Short of our devastating ennui epidemic,
which too often leads to suicide, we live for many hundreds, and
even thousands, of years, which has allowed our greatest minds time
to gain the expertise needed to colonize distant planets.

“But to Myrtle and Wilhelm Banks, a baby has
been born who, unlike us, suffers from pain.
Real
pain,
not
just ennui.”

“Please, Monique, if you will bring out the
subject.” Max turned his head and saw a white-clad blond woman
emerge from behind the curtain, rolling a rose-colored bonneted
bassinet onto the stage. Lenny nodded to her, and she gathered a
pajama-clad bundle from the blanketed interior.

“Josie, say hi to the audience,” Monique
cooed.

At first Max could see little of the baby,
except for a single unruly curl of peach hair secured with a pink
bow.

But the nurse turned Josie around. The
infant looked at the audience with large, curious eyes, but when
the spotlight struck her face, she began to cry. She turned,
latched onto the lab coat and planted her face shyly against the
woman.

Max could see how the baby had bluish
cloud-shaped markings that marred the back and sides of her
neck.

The nurse pried the tiny fingers away and
yielded the squirming bundle to the stage hand who had appeared
next to her. He held her away from his body, dangling her from
beneath her arms. The baby reached for the floor and emitted a
pleading wail.

The nurse withdrew a syringe and plunged it
into the skin on one side of the baby’s pale tender neck; the
infant screamed and kicked her pajama-clad feet. Max lifted himself
a little from his seat and looked on with horror as the audience
burst into applause.

“Pain,” the host said. “
That
is what
real pain looks like. Fascinating, is it not? And it was born to
one of us. It should be impossible, but it happened, and we all
want answers. Give a warm round of applause to the parents of Baby
Josephine, who have allowed us to conduct these experiments which
should shed some light on this mystery.” The parents nodded to the
camera, and stood smiling and proud.

“And to anyone concerned, our experts warned
us to sterilize the needle since pre-immortals have incredibly
delicate immune systems. An examination by our geneticists has
verified that this infant’s cells will one day begin to die more
quickly that they can be reproduced. As you know, this is a
phenomenon called
aging,
which will generally limit its life
span to less than 100 years. And unlike us, she is biologically
equipped to shed
tears.”

“But enough about Baby Josie for now.” Lenny
turned back to Max. “Maxwell, these concerned parents are anxious
to hear from a real mortal, a living fossil, to ask questions about
what kind of life they can expect for their infant.

“This is educational for all of us and we
are all wondering, if I may be so blunt, how could you endure it?
The
disease
of mortality. Knowing you would die within a
span of mere decades, yet going about your daily tasks as if that
day would never come? Mind you, I have only admiration for your
effort to find meaning in your – if I may say so – insignificant
lives. How did you go on?”

Max frowned. “Before I answer, I want you to
know that I am
only
answering your questions so that you
will treat Baby Josie with the respect and tenderness due to her.
Otherwise, I would prefer that you had left me where I was.”

“Quite alright,” Lenny raised his eyebrows.
“Please proceed.”

“We went about our lives as if we would
never die.” Maxwell shook his head. “We thought about death only
when it happened. We loved our families and most of us spent our
time working to cover living costs. None of us saw being human as a
terminal disease.”

“Please forgive me,” Lenny said, “but it
sounds like you were all in terrible denial. How is mortality
not
a terminal disease?”

“When we were healthy, we enjoyed our lives.
There was music and beauty and something called ice cream. When
someone was terminally ill, we pitied
them
, not
ourselves.”

Lenny gave the audience a droll expression.
“Did you hear that, Ladies and Gentlemen? They
pitied
those
diagnosed to have only a few years
less
to live than they
had. Absolutely fascinating.” He looked out over the silent
audience and then back at Maxwell. “But did you not pity
all
of your fellow humans? The undiagnosed? After all, you were all in
the same deplorable situation. You all suffered, knowing that your
lives, so important to you, would end. Did you treat each other
with compassion?”

“I wish I could say we did,” Max said.
“There
were
compassionate people. But not all.”

“One thing that fascinates me,” Lenny said,
“is the phenomenon of war. Your lives were already so short. Yet
you
took
the lives of your own species. Why were you so
angry? Why were you constantly killing each other?”

“Not everyone killed.” Max sighed and
squirmed. “But when we did, it was over a lot of different things:
land, power, wealth, and even religion. Sometimes we killed each
other over
beliefs.
Beliefs about what life meant, or who
God was, or what happened after you died.”

Lenny made a “tsk” sound with his mouth.
“Cutting life even shorter than it already was,” He shook his head,
“and over arguments
over
death itself. So terribly ironic.
Where was your compassion for each other? You were all doomed, all
on the same sinking ship.”

“We were not all murderers. There were many
good
people, wise people, and even heroic people.” Max
fought to steady the quaver rising in his voice. “But they are gone
now, all gone. I wish I could show them to you, how good they were,
how much I loved them.”

BOOK: Becoming the Story
12.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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