To cap of a crushing year, I considered running an upbeat, optimistic story, a salve for depressing times. Instead, I opted for one that's suitably crushing to match said times. For our last story of 2016, here's a beautiful, relentlessly tragic tale of progress, hope, and forgetting. See you next year. -the Editor
TIMER: T – 60.00 minutes; SECTION: 141546.
My beautiful Mira looked peaceful. It was just like all those times when she was pretending to be asleep, but would start giggling as soon as she noticed that I was paying attention. This time she would not giggle. She would not wake up. Sana wouldn’t stop crying. But my eyes were dry. Only anger bubbled through me. If I had a god, this might be simpler. The pain was overwhelming. I needed it to go away. And I knew how.
TIMER: T – 600.00 minutes; SECTION: 298346.
Mira wasn’t moving much. She mumbled something I couldn’t hear. Sana was sitting next to her bed since we got to the hospital. Her face wore that rare defeated look. The wires leading into Mira looked grotesque. I tried to say something, but I don’t think words made it out. Sana kept looking at our baby. I tried to look away. I couldn’t.
TIMER: T – 6,000.00 minutes; SECTION: 341569.
“Sandwiches coming right up,” I said as I dropped the sandwich on Mira’s plate.
“Why do they call it a sandwich? I don’t see any sand,” she giggled. Sana smiled along with her.
“Your father should know, he ate something called a Ramen sandwich for a long time in med school,” Sana told our daughter.
“Then why did you marry him, mommy?” Mira asked.
“I ask myself that every day,” my amused wife replied. Mira started giggling.
“Girls!” I muttered walking in to the kitchen hearing the giggles grow louder. My feet froze the moment I saw blood ooze out of Mira’s nose. She felt it too. I got up and held her.
“It’s happening again, daddy” Mira said as she sobbed slowly.
“It’s nothing honey. It’s nothing.” I hugged her. My voice was breaking.
Sana grabbed a towel to clean Mira’s face. She avoided looking at me and tried her best to put a smile on her face.
“Come here, honey,” she said softly to our daughter.
TIMER: T – 60,000.00 minutes; SECTION: 457213.
“I’m sorry, Neil.” Jim said. He really was. I knew that he probably shared such heartbreaking news with patients all the time. But that didn’t make it any easier.
Jim was my classmate from med school. He had stuck with neurosurgery while I chased start-up financing right after internship.
Jim started to talk about options. Sana stayed silent throughout. I didn’t know if she was crying. It was hard to see her through the blur in my eyes.
TIMER: T – 600,000.00 minutes; SECTION: 589834.
“Mom!” Mira shouted as the sprinklers turned on and drenched us all. I picked up the water gun and sprayed her.
“Daaaaaddy! That’s cheating. You need to count first,” she shouted. I answered with another blast of water.
Sana grabbed me from behind and pinned me to the ground. She looked petite, but I swear she had a demon’s strength when she needed it. Mira grabbed the water gun from me and let me have it.
“Stop, stop! The girls win,” I gurgled. “She’s got all of her mother’s genes, where have my genes gone?”
“Natural selection, buster,” said my wife as she planted a kiss on my cheek.
“Say who wins again!” Mira shouted in my ear.
“The girls win,” I managed.
“Forever and ever. Say it,” Mira threated with water gun pointed at my face.
TIMER: T – 1,800,000.00 minutes; SECTION: 611242.
The first thing I heard was Mira’s giggling as soon as I walked in to the darkened room.
“Surpiseeeeee!” she said it before everyone else. “Happy birthday daddy!!” she quickly climbed on me and planted a big wet kiss on my right cheek. Our friends milled around. Sana walked up to me and made that face which said ‘I know you don’t like these birthday thingies but...’ without any words.
“This is so fantastic. Thank you all.” I said it loudly for everyone to hear. Everyone raised a toast to my health.
“I made you a gift, daddy!” Mira bolted out from my hands into her room. The energy in her!
“How was the meeting?” Sana whispered.
“You know how much they love funding science-based start-ups. I should have tried to create a Facebook rip-off. They seem to like those,” I managed weakly.
“If only they had even a little foresight to see what your neurotherapy solution can do,” my wife said. She voiced the exasperation that I felt.
“What do a bunch of billionaire venture capitalists know anyway?” I asked her trying to lighten the mood. It didn’t work.
“Don’t they realize that there’s nothing in the market that can target specific sections of the brain? The potential applications of this can be-,” she caught herself mid-sentence as Mira bounded back with a paper in her hands. The drawing was rather good. It showed a man, who seemed more muscular than me, holding up a big cake with a little girl and a woman on his side.
“Do you love it, daddy?”
I smiled at Sana, “What can an investor possibly give me that’s more valuable than this?” I said as I grabbed them both. “I love it. Is that Bugs Bunny?”
“No! That’s you,” Mira managed between peals of laughter.
TIMER: T – 5,400,000.00 minutes; SECTION: 732183.
The room was bright. Sana was exhausted, but she held up like the trooper that she was. The doctor handed me the delicate bundle. My fingers shivered a bit, but the little face was glowing. That glow was more beautiful than I ever imagined.
“It’s a girl.”
TIMER: T – 5,874,200.00 minutes; SECTION: 847647.
“Mira,” I whispered into Sana’s ears.
“I’m off the pill for two days and you’re naming a kid already? Talk about counting the chickens.”
“Isn’t that what you fell in love with? All that sexy pre-emptive planning?”
“And what if I want a boy?” she asked.
“Well, then that’s too bad for you!”
She hit me with a pillow. Her fingers gently rubbed on the long scar on my chest.
“Have you ever thought of getting rid of it?” she asked.
“A few times,” I said.
“Does it hurt?”
“Not physically,” I responded quietly. “But even so – it also reminds me of all the love they gave me.”
The sixteen year old scar was a remnant of my share of hurt from the car crash that killed my parents.
“Don’t you ever feel like forgetting it?”
“It never hurts so much that I have to forget all the good times.”
“It never will,” she whispered in my ear. I took her in my arms again.
I felt the strangest sensation of forgetting something. Maybe we had left the lights on back home? I ignored the thought and focused on kissing Sana.
BRAIN SCAN: 100%. MEMORY ISOLATION COMPLETE.
SUBJECT: NEIL R. WINKLETON
TARGET: MIRA T. WINKLETON
DELETION IN PROGRESS.
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