TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Marathon Runner in the Human Race
The Easy Way Down from Avernus
Homespun and Handmade
The Cookie Jar
A Raven on My Shoulder
SAMPLE – SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
My daughter killed me Tuesday morning.
I opened my front door and there she was in the hallway, armed with a wood axe.
“Cheryl—” I blurted.
“Hi, Mom,” she said, and swung the axe.
My ribs made a funny sound. Chock. The noise reminded me of a dropped watermelon striking a tile floor. Suddenly all the thoughts that come with death burst forth in my head. Memories. Fear. Denial. It’s going to miss, it’s going to miss. But it had already struck, and I was sliding quickly into shock.
My left knee banged against the doorsill; the right collapsed altogether. My face swung down over a puddle of blood. It seemed odd to discover this red, wet liquid soaking into my welcome mat. It didn’t register that the torrent originated from the vicinity of my left lung.
I suppose I felt a lot of pain, but my nanodocs have edited out the memory. It must have hurt, because my mouth popped open and stayed that way. I couldn’t say a single word. Just as well, I suppose, considering the language I would have used had I been capable.
Cheryl whacked me on the spine next. I sprawled over the threshold. I guess I must have died at about that point, because the next thing I knew my ethereal self manifested up near the ceiling. I had a bird’s-eye view as Cheryl brought the axe down like Paul Bunyan on my neck. My head bounced down the hallway and came to a stop against the potted fern by the elevator.
Cheryl regarded my decapitated body. The damn kid didn’t even have the decency to turn green. She sighed, tossed the axe and her bloodstained clothes into the recycler, cleaned herself up, generated a new outfit from my wardrobe player, and left the apartment. She stole the barrette from my hair on her way to the elevator.
My ethereal self haunted the corridor, still too connected to the flesh to disappear into the Big White Light. Below me the nanodocs initiated resuscitation.
The big choice must have been whether to put my head back on my body, or my body back under my head. The docs chose the latter, probably because rebuilding the brain would take all that double-checking. I agreed with the choice — not that my condition allowed me to have any input.
Molecule by molecule, the docs stole material from the mess on the apartment threshold and funneled it down the hallway. A grainy stream, looking for all the world like a parade of sugar ants, gathered at my neck.
Once they got going, the docs worked quickly. My spine formed, only to vanish under layers of connective tissue, nerves, muscle, and fat. The corpse in the doorway dissolved steadily. The docs didn’t neglect the blood in the carpet and the welcome mat; raw material was raw material.
Something pulled at my ethereal self. I descended.
I awoke to the tickle of a fern frond against my eyebrow. Instinctively I reached for my throat. No seam. Of course not.
Someone was standing beside me.
I jerked into a sitting position, hands up to guard my head. Then I saw who it was.
“Oh. Hi. Joan.”
I extracted the words with invisible forceps. I guess part of me wasn’t convinced my vocal cords would function.
My neighbor surveyed me as if she were a Mark Twain schoolmarm. Never mind that her body morph presented her as a stylish, if a bit voluptuous, nineteen-year-old blonde. Her carriage betrayed that she was really a prune-faced, four-hundred-year-old gossip.
“Your daughter again?” Joan asked. Her eyebrows drew together, broadcasting sympathy, yet somehow that concern did not extend to helping me up.
“Yeah. My daughter.” I didn’t offer specifics. Joan was bound to make up something even more embarrassing than the truth, no matter what I told her. Might as well not give her grist for the mill. At least she probably hadn’t seen the axe.
“The kids today — they just aren’t like we were.” The eyebrows stayed drawn.
Count on Joan for a handy cliché. Yet to my dismay, I had to agree with her this time.
“Got to run. Drop by later if you need to talk,” Joan said, putting on her confidante hat.
Once she was gone, I climbed to my feet. My reflection shimmered in the brass of the elevator door. My hair hung in disarray. If someone had shouted “Boo!” right then, my head would have fallen off again. I stumbled into my apartment, closed the door, and sagged onto my sofa.
Cheryl, Cheryl, Cheryl. Sixty-one years old and still acting like four.
The clock in the entertainment console advanced to 9:22am. Twelve minutes had passed since Cheryl had arrived at my door. That alone told me how careful the nanodocs had been as they repaired my tissues, edited the pain out of my memory, made safety checks, and kick-started my autonomic functions.
I’d been killed, one way or another, five other times in my life. But used to it or not, I could barely rise from the sofa.