Publish Novellas 14 July 2021
EPISODE 2 – STANDING STILL
Dennis discovers that he has a health condition that could lead to his demise if he enters it into the database at his government job.
Recuperating from the night’s activities, Dennis feels hung over, though he didn’t drink more than two glasses of wine. There is no way he could have pulled off such a party on a weekday without technology. The average person could not afford all of the modern conveniences. He is happy that, as is the case with nearly everyone else, everything is included in his monthly lease.
Apart from eating and sleeping, his recent social life consists of surfing the internet to find out more about his symptoms. He is familiar enough with diseases to recognize the fevers, aching joints, and muscle pains are not good. Coupled with a sore throat and the pink rash on his thigh, he suspects Adult-Onset Still’s Disease.
The very thing friends were joking about just the night before is fast becoming his reality. He just isn’t sure how to deal with it. Before clearing his browser history, his digital dive returns limited treatment options. So he phones Abigail. On the third ring she answers.
“Abby?” he says with eagerness.
“What’s up Dennis?” she asks, while stretching in her bed.
“Get a small bag. Pack for the weekend and meet me at my carpark downstairs in twenty minutes.” Dennis urges.
There is a brief silence before she responds. “Whoa, we were both at the same party last night—no, this morning. I like to rejuvenate on Saturday. Your commanding tone sounds more like men of 1999 than 2067.”
“Abby, I don’t have time to explain!” His voice suppresses everything else that she wants to say.
“Yeah,” she replies with concern.
“Please, just pack and get over here right away,” he urges.
Before she can make any further protests, he ends the phone call and begins packing his own bags. Dennis doesn’t have any concrete evidence yet, but if his suspicions are true, he is in big trouble.
Going someplace where he can think freely is the best option. He has similar concern for Abigail. Having worked with her for so many years, he doesn’t want her getting hurt either.
Abigail is waiting downstairs when he gets there. The look in his eyes tells her to not ask the question yet. He takes her hand and they step into the autonomous vehicle he summoned earlier.
After they are situated, she asks impatiently, “Where are we going?”
“To have some good old-fashioned weekend fun,” he says to her.
“Does that mean we are going to a concert with that old-school music of yours?” Abigail teases.
“Perhaps we will include that too,” Dennis replies without much of a smile.
A simple scan of their wrists pays for bus and airline travel. They end up at the far-away Arches National Park in Utah, with its beautiful rock formations.
Later that afternoon, with mobile phones remaining in their hotel rooms, they sit in the open air. Here, they are less likely to have an audience. Dennis reclines on the ground, contemplating his next move.
Should he run away and find ways to get to the remotest parts of Africa or Asia where technology is not as advanced? Is it better to stay and dig out his microchip, in hopes that a cure to his ailment is on the horizon? But his boss’s callous words still ring in his ears.
Without empathy, Dennis blurts out, “You do realize that people die because of our work, right?”
With a smirk and raised eyebrow, Abigail replies, “Speak for yourself. I work in the accounting department!”
He can see that she isn’t taking him very seriously. “Accounting or not, your work makes it possible for people with rare diseases to be identified and murdered,” he says coldly.
She takes a long look at him and shakes her head. “I thought this was some sort of date. Now you’re here telling me that I’m a murderer by proxy?”
He stares at her with a blank expression, scared that she might not be able to handle the information that he knows.
“I don’t like this one bit. It feels very weird. Staying at home and sleeping would have been much better than whatever this is, especially with the things I’m facing right now!” she says.
“What things are you talking about?” Dennis asks.
“Well, among other things… irregular heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, and the fatigue we talked about.
Hoping it is not a serious disease, Dennis interrupts, “Wait… you’re pregnant? If your toilet bowl urine analysis came back positive, the company offers health benefits.”
“Not at all. How dare you jump to that conclusion. I came out here with you for a break from all the physical and emotional stress,” she says to a stunned Dennis.
“Well say something… Snap out of it!” she says to a man whose eyes are piercing straight through her. “What is it, Dennis?”
He looks away, realizing the gravity of what he must now tell her. “I think I know what you have. It sounds like something I was reading about at work.
“Dysautonomia is a rare condition I just uploaded yesterday at work. It presents the same symptoms, in addition to migraines, tremors, frequent urination, poor appetite, overactive senses, and temperature regulation problems. Any of this sound familiar?” Dennis asks.
“Yes, all of it!” It is now her turn to stare. “Are you kidding me right now? Oh my god! You need to remove it from the database right away!” she all but yells.
“Keep your voice down or we might as well put Katy on speakerphone,” he says. “It is a condition, mostly affecting women, that often takes years to diagnose.”
She gasps while placing both hands over her mouth. “You think…”
He doesn’t let her finish. “I am not confirming anything until I’m sure.”
During the subsequent silence between them, they fail to notice the ambient natural beauty of the park. Despite getting away from technology, it remains the focus of their conversation. He knows what she will ask next of him as he strokes her hair.
With fear betraying her smile, she implores, “Please delete it.”
Fighting the desire to decline, he replies, “I’ll give it my very best shot.” After all, how can he say no to Abby.
Not only does he know the near impossibility of his promise, but also that her prognosis has consequences. While looking into her eyes, he reassures, “I’ll try my best.”
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