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art by Ron Sanders

Gnostalgia

Ronald D. Ferguson writes and lives with his wife, a dog and four feral cats on two acres of the hill country. This is his third story with DSF. More of his stuff can be found at sites.google.com/site/ronalddferguson/home. The "Short Stories" link in the left column connects with his published stories available online.
"I told the boy's parents there was no hope, but so long as he has brain activity they won't give up. Poor kid. He's only fourteen."
"Doesn't matter. His body is shutting down. Kidneys are already gone. We can prolong it for a few days, but we can't repair so much trauma. Still maybe there's something...."
Play.
Karl's jaw hurts from trying to cram his tongue into Linda's mouth. Slobber drips down his chin--he doesn't know whose-- and that distracts him. Is he doing this right? Todd told him to cop a feel if she lets him stick his tongue in her mouth, but Linda wears braces and Karl's tongue is getting sore--
Reset.
Karl slides his hand from Linda's shoulder towards her breast.
"No." She pushes his hand away. "That's twice. Don't try again."
Reset.
Karl touches Linda's breast. She smiles and runs her hand across his thigh. He can't undo her blouse. Are the buttons backwards? He squeezes his hand into the gap between the buttons. One pops off.
"Karl! You tore my blouse. My father's going to kill you."
Pause. Realign.
"I don't like any of those. Can we edit or combine? He deserves something better."
"I can try, but this is all experimental. What do you have in mind?"
Redact. Play.
Karl shoves his hand between the buttons on Linda's blouse. The top button pops off.
"I'm sorry." His face goes hot at his clumsiness.
"It's okay." She undoes her blouse. "I'll help you."
Store. Pause.
"What a tragedy. What's his name again?"
"Karl. He won't recover."
"Damn. He saved all those other kids. Who knows what he might have become? What a tragedy."
Skip.
"Karl can you hear me? Just move your hand. A finger will do. Very good. I'm giving you something for the pain. You'll sleep better as soon as it takes effect. What? I can't hear you? Who am I? I'm uh, Linda. You remember Linda... Karl... Karl...."
Play.
Karl holds his diploma overhead and waves to his parents.
"Congratulations." Dr. Cullen smiles from the front row of faculty when Karl passes.
"Thanks." Karl stops to shake hands. "I got my acceptance to graduate school."
"I knew you would."
"Gotta go now. Linda is waiting."
Store. Redact.
"Looks pretty good. But..."
"I know that tone. What else do you want? Remember, we have to be fast."
"If his girlfriend graduates with him, and they leave the stage holding hands.... You know?"
"Sure. I can do that."
Play.
Karl wraps his arm about Linda's waist and watches the sunset fade from pink to lavender.
"Beautiful wedding." She snuggles her head against his shoulder. "Beautiful sunset."
"And a beautiful honeymoon with my beautiful wife." He pulls her close and kisses her. "I'll never forget this moment."
"I know." She smiles. "Neither will I."
Store. Pause.
"That was perfect. Damn it. You've got me crying."
"You care so much about the kid, I wanted to rip something special. Padded out the scenes we already have, but we're cutting this close."
"You are an artist. No doubt about it. A real artist."
Play.
After the nurse took the baby away, Karl sat in the birthing room and watched Linda sleep. What a trooper. What a wonderful woman. What had he done to deserve her? Tears came to his eyes. "I must be the happiest man alive."
Pause.
"Time is running out. I don't think we can hold onto him much longer."
"One more. Please. Squeeze in one more. Complete him."
Play.
Karl is dying. Only eighty-nine years, but it's been a terrific life. Fortunately, he feels no pain. The children and grandchildren dutifully troop through his hospital room and encourage him to get well, but he knows he won't. The last five months since Linda died have been too hard, too lonely. He yearns for... not more, the time was enough, but he wouldn't mind reliving his life. He closes his eyes to remember the day he first met Linda.
Upload.
"Karl's parents are here. I told them the end was near. They want to know about the electronics you've connected to the boy's head. I didn't know what to say, so I told them it was monitoring equipment. Surely, you're not experimenting on this poor kid."
"No experiment. He deserves a gift before he leaves."
"What can you give to a dying boy?"
"What we all want. Memories of a full life. We transcribed dreams into his mind--dreams constructed as the highpoints of his life. His imagination will fill in the details until it seems like more than just dreams."
"Is this ethical?"
"I don't know. I don't care. It damn sure wasn't ethical for a madman to take an automatic weapon into a school to kill innocent students. Except for Karl's bravery, dozens might have died. Karl deserves a life even if he never gets the full measure of years. Let me freshen the complete sequence before he's gone. Let him remember in the time he has left."
Replay.
Karl can't keep his eyes on the road. He repeatedly glances at Linda. So smart, so sweet, so beautiful. How could he be so lucky? Driveway ahead. Time to meet the parents. Karl isn't worried that his mother won't like his fiancée. After all, Linda is his dream girl.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 27th, 2014


I coined the title "Gnostalgia" a few years back before I had a story to go with it. Then I considered the question "Do our memories make us who we are?" If so, what do we remember, and whence comes that memory?

- Ronald D Ferguson

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