06 February 2009

"Better"

BETTER
By Curtis C. Chen

On his eighteenth birthday, Jadrew Linbitter stayed home from work and, as tradition decreed, made a dagger out of his leg bone.

The replacement ceremony had been unremarkable. The medicos had numbed his lower body, and Jadrew hadn't felt any pain as they sawed into his left leg just above the knee. He had looked away, toward his father, and aped that proud paternal grin while screaming on the inside.

His fibula, stripped clean of flesh, was now resting in a diagenetic solution which would replace the hard tissue with a durable polymer for preservation. His similarly prepared tibia would be metallized after he had whittled it into a ritual blade and carved both sides with scripture.

The viewscreen on his bedroom wall blinked. He put down his cutter and engaged the telemet. His sister's face appeared.

"Enjoying your day off?" Konri asked.

"Billions," Jadrew said. He held up his sharpened tibia. "I'll be ready to kill someone soon."

Konri laughed. "Hey, remember those cableman figurines you sculpted for grandfather? He's just had them resin-cased for display in his office."

Great, thought Jadrew. Another piece of my crummy life preserved for centuries.

"Everyone here is so proud," Konri said.

Jadrew felt himself blushing. He could imagine how the family would gawk at his new bionic limb. "I'd better finish this. Father will want to see it tonight."

"You always were a good boy." Konri smiled. "And now you're a good man."

She switched off, and Jadrew threw his tibia against the wall, half hoping it would shatter. It didn't. He sighed and retrieved the bone, wondering if he would ever get used to the clacking of his bare metal foot against the floor.

He could see his whole life laid out before him, predetermined, choiceless. In two years, the medicos would replace his right leg, and he would enter conscripted service. If he survived that, he would earn his arms. And his father would be so happy.

Jadrew stared at his cutter. It would be easy to end this charade of obedience before it smothered his will. He just had to dial up the laser, place it against his temple, and push the button.

But where was the significance in that? If he was going to kill himself, he wanted his last act to have meaning.

He looked down at the flat of his bone-blade and smiled.

His uncle Sidrav had taught him the words, years ago, before being exposed as part of the underground. Sidrav's execution had shamed the family, but Jadrew had never forgotten his uncle's seditious tales, whispered in darkness before bedtime.

He turned his cutter back to the bone and worked with new purpose. He made an elegant, serrated blade and etched it with the ancient rebel slogan:

DEESTROY ALL MASHEENS

Jadrew's father found his body, pierced through the heart with the bone dagger. The first thing he did was to abrade the blasphemous message from the exposed blade. Then he sat on the bed next to his dead son and cried into his metal hands.

EOF

8 comments:

Stephen said...

1. This story may cause Restless Lef Syndrome. Seriously, my leg is trying to run away.

2. There's a whole world here, less than 500 words. Part of me wants you to write more, and part of me desperately hopes you don't because I don't want the world in my head to evaporate.

Nice work.

CKL said...

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

LC said...

Chilling. A beautiful story about all sides of progress. The one thing I might remove because it telegraphs a little too bluntly and the lines following it deliver the story much more effectively: "But where was the significance in that? If he was going to kill himself, he wanted his last act to have meaning." The way you describe Sidrav and Jandrew's reaction "shows, not tells" the story.
I would love to see this develop into a story. I think the world you've created in all our heads could only get stronger with more of your words.

CKL said...

Thanks for the feedback, LC. I can always count on you to zero in on the weak points in my writing. Must be all your years of martial arts training. ;)

lahosken said...

If this story was about super-evolved whales, then you could coin the term "scrimshandicide," which would be awesome.

Corby said...

Like LC, I wanted to read more. I was drawn in by that first striking sentence, and in 0.5k words, you had me feeling for this character. I was disappointed that you killed him off (because I wanted to read more, not because of your style). I was imagining the genesis of a rebellion with friends and strife and betrayal and victory... but there's the poor guy lying dead at the bottom of the page. Please insert three books between the first and last paragraphs :-)

DeeAnn said...

Jadrew's got a sister, a father, and all those friends you mentioned, Corby. CKL can do his three-book series with one of them. No retcon necessary. :)

Chris Dunphy said...

Intense. Disturbing.

It hints at a larger world that is ripe with story possibilities.

I like it.

- Chris