Out with the Old

Copyright 2011 by Carl Garrett

Cettie Harper was only half-aware of the two troubled men who stood before her bed. At eighty-nine, she had one of the most extensive medication regimens of any of the nursing home's "guests," and it left her a bit detached at certain times of the day.

"Mrs. Harper," said the first (the sad one), "What I'm trying to say is, the staff... is leaving, now."

"Leaving," she repeated. The mind she had so seldom exercised pondered the word and found it wanting. "Well, then, the night nurse. The night nurse, then."

"Ms. Harper," said the second (the angry one), "That what we've been telling you. There is no night nurse. There is no more staff. The law's been changed, the government money is gone, the Qual-Care network is bankrupt, and no one's come to claim you."

"Claim me?" There was something obscene about the word. Lost puppies and overcoats got claimed. Baggage got claimed. "Who is supposed to do that? There has to be someone who is supposed to do that."

"We have proof of our attempts to contact your family, ma'am," he replied, "Which is what the new law requires. We've fulfilled our obligations." It seemed to Cettie that his words, though spoken so harshly, were making him sick. There was a nursery rhyme about that, or a Sunday school story.

The sad one said, "There may be a government care team coming to collect you and the others in the next... in the near future. But I understand they've got... quite a backlog." He placed two miniature cereal boxes on her bedside table. "Goodbye, Mrs. Harper."

They were gone, leaving an odd sense of blankness behind them. It occurred to Cettie that the lights weren't working. She would ask the night nurse about it, when she came.


Spaced Out

Copyright 2010 by Carl Garrett

Xerathol. Fourth-generation neuroperformance enhancer. Heavy stuff, sir. But you know that.

Increases the activity of the left brain. Complex calculations. Numbers. Formulas. Makes the subject detail-oriented. Pragmatic. But you know that.

Two point one five billion rivets, eighty-three point three six thousand miles of light-op cable in this Leviathan-class starship. Twenty-one point three days behind schedule. Two hundred milligrams per day. Fifty point two percent higher than the recommended daily dose for a man of my height and weight. But you know that.

Fifteen seconds a human being can be exposed, unprotected, in space, before losing consciousness. One point one two five minutes more before paralysis, convulsions, circulatory shutdown, vaporization of the water in the cells and the bursting of the tissues. Two point two six minutes - a calculated average, you understand - before death.

Eleven seconds before your airlock door opens, sir.

But you know that.


Late to Rise

Copyright 2010 by Carl Garrett

When Patience Randolph awoke to find herself back in the oak four-poster from which she had disappeared a hundred years before, she did not shout or dance or weep with joy, for she had learned, over time, the value of restraint. She sat up, breathed deeply the air of liberty, and looked with pity upon the ancient wedding portrait that hung on the wall to the left. The groom cast a black-eyed smile. The bride’s expression was blank, but Patience knew to look in the eyes, saw the blazing terror and confusion that shone in them.

“He will be very cruel to you” she explained to her deliverer, “But as you can see, some day he will find another who strikes his fancy more, and you will be free. Do your best to take comfort from that.” And Patience went out to see how the world had changed.