Fortunate Son – Part 2
David C Velasco
… Continued from yesterday
‘Why not?’ Philip held the limb at one end, turning around to show everyone. ‘The tech crews are just gonna’ remove it anyway.’
Doug remained silent as Jill moved closer to Philip, herself now as curious as her friend. And like them, curious as to what a tree really looked like on the inside. ‘I wonder if they are like the ones on the ground?’
Philip wondered the same thing. Both examined the jagged edge, noting the solid white texture encased within the rough, grey bark. He then placed his hands on the very ends of the branch and began casually testing the girth of the object. While doing so, he glanced over at Doug who remained a few steps away. Perhaps a display of physical prowess was in order.
‘Think I can break this even more?’ he asked, looking straight at Jill.
Her eyes lit up in anticipation of the unexpected event, one breaking the monotony of their normal routine. She took a small step back as Philip began to apply more pressure to the unfortunate branch. Benny just stood by as he saw the look on Philip’s face gradually go from curiosity to a straining grimace. Doug said and did nothing, silently cursing himself for not doing it first.
The limb suddenly snapped. A small spray of liquid, debris and soil shot out from the break, part of it catching Philip in the face. But in his moment of triumph did not feel it. Almost immediately, he raised each part above his head.
‘Yessss … ’ he spouted, the look on his face exuding his victory over the simulated wood.
‘I knew you could do it!’ Jill was equally ecstatic. She turned to Doug. ‘I knew he could do it.’
Doug put on a small, feigned smile. He looked over at Philip to see the look of triumph upon his face, all in response to Jill’s comment. She turned back towards him.
Philip took a small step towards Jill then stopped. He began to feel a funny sensation in his head. It was odd, something he had never experienced before. As the foreign feeling grew stronger, his breathing nearly stopped. He felt himself drawing in a deep breath. Without realizing it, his body now worked solely on instinct. He dropped the branches, brought both his hands towards his face and closed his eyes.
‘Achoooo−’ The sneeze left his nose just as his hands clasped his face.
Philip stood petrified. He slowly opened his eyes and looked up from his hands. His three classmates just stared at him, wide eyed, mouths open.
‘O…M…G…What… What did you just do?’ Benny pointed at him as Jill took a step back.
‘Why did you make that noise?’ a stunned Jill asked.
‘I knew you should have left that alone!’ Doug moved in between her and Philip.
Philip did not answer. He had no idea what just happened. He looked back down at his hands, noticing the small droplets of liquid covering parts of his palms.
‘I … I … ’ For the first time in his life, he felt the unnerving sensation of fear swelling up inside him. ‘I … don’t know!’
Daring not even to move a muscle, Philip lay on his back as the scanner passed over his head.
Although given a physical on many occasions before, this time the pale blue light and slight humming sound only added to his anxiety. Even the blood pressure monitor gently grasping his slim right arm seemed more acute. The scanner plate came to a stop just beyond the top of his head. An odd, deafening silence then filled the well-lit room.
He glanced over at the pristine, white door embedded in the wall. Usually he would become slightly bored by now, awaiting the brief time before Doctor Rill would come in to pronounce him healthy. Then he could get back to whatever playful adventure he had planned for the day.
Now that usually brief moment seemed an eternity.
Philip imagined him talking to his mom and dad first … relaying the bad news … his mother starting to cry … what terrible thing happened to him …
The door finally slid open. He gasped as Dr. Rill stepped in, bearing his usual slight smile amid a wrinkle free face set below a full head of hair. The pressure monitor then automatically released its hold. Again, he gasped, turning his head to watch the clamp retract back into the side of the examination table.
The doctor walked towards Philip as the table slowly transformed from a bed to a comfortable chair, automatically adjusting itself to accommodate the boy’s small stature. The foam on his back and seat adjusted itself to the contours of his body. Dr. Rill noticed Philip’s blank, scared look. He broadened his smile to ease his patient.
‘What’s the matter Philip?’ the doctor asked as he stopped right next to him, looking over the monitor adjacent the now stilled scanner. ‘As always you are in perfect health.’
Philip watched Dr. Rill tap away upon the touch screen monitor. He began to breath a bit easier but still had his doubts.
‘Then … then what happened to me?’
The doctor finished entering some commands before looking down at his patient, still bearing a comforting smile. He sat down on an adjustable stool adjacent the examination chair.
‘Well, Philip … It’s called a sneeze.’
A look of puzzlement came over Philip’s face. ‘A … a sneeze? What’s that?’
‘Well,’ the doctor moved a bit closer, ‘it’s when some stuff gets into your sinuses. They lay just beyond the top of your nose. It’s your body’s way of getting rid of it.’
The doctor’s explanation ended with a broadened smile. Philip sat quiet for a moment, taking in the explanation.
‘How did the stuff get … get in my nose?’
‘Most likely just some small, tiny particles that you accidently breathed in.’
‘So … there’s … something wrong with me?’
‘Nooo … of course not.’ He patted Philip on the head. ‘It’s rare – a sneeze – but natural. It means you are special.’
At those words, Philip broke into a wide grin. He was special. Good. That meant Jill would like him more than Doug.
‘So I am alright? And special?’
‘Yes, Philip,’ Doctor Rill said as he stood. ‘Now why don’t you go out into the lounge area and play some Mahjong. I need to talk to your mom and dad, let them know you are okay. Then … ’ he raised his arm and one finger towards the ceiling, ‘you can show them what a big strong boy you are!’
‘Yesss!’ Philip clinched his fists and brought them towards his side in a gesture of victory. He’s special. Jill will like him more. He sprang from the chair and looked up at the doctor. ‘Thanks Doctor Rill.’
The doctor smiled. ‘You are very, very welcome young man!’
He walked slightly behind the boy as both left through the door. Once into the next room the doctor watched Philip head to the right, towards a small terminal table. Upon seating himself, the computer screen came to life while a keyboard rose from the tabletop. Immediately Philip set about bringing up a game of Mahjong. It was as though nothing bad had happened to him today. All his fears and apprehension left in the examination room, his young mind not desiring to question the words of the adults.
And why should he? Life was good and there were many fun things to do. And he could have a sleepover – take that Doug!
Satisfied Philip was engaged in his game, Dr. Rill turned towards another door adjacent to the exam room. It slid open, exposing a much larger room, complete with a desk and cabinets containing medicines and drugs. Philip’s parents sat upon a couch facing a large window, one allowing a view of the sky outside and world below. They turned upon hearing him enter. The other person there, a tall and slender man bearing a bit of white along the sides of his otherwise dark colored hair, looked up as he leaned against a table adjacent the window, his arms crossed, facing Philip’s parents.
Dr. Rill returned their smiles with one of his own.
‘Well,’ he said, seating himself at the end of the sofa, ‘we always knew Philip was a very special boy. We knew that as soon as I looked at the results of his biogenetics test right after his birth.’
The parents smiled at each other. Philip’s father put his arm around his wife and gave her a slight hug.
‘We know, Doctor,’ he said, looking into her eyes, drawing her in closer. He then glanced at Dr Rill. ‘I can tell you that we are both proud to do our part for our species. We … we knew this day would come … when he would have to leave. We understand.’
‘Just not this soon …’ The mother’s voice was soft, trailing off as she lowered her head.
‘That may be a plus,’ Dr Rill retorted. He gestured toward the other man still leaning against the table. ‘Would you say so, Doctor Acre?’
‘Most certainly.’ His voice was cautious. ‘He is a bit young, but that would help him build up more immunity.’
‘How long … how long do we have?’ she asked, first looking up at Dr Rill then over at Dr Acre. He spoke first.
‘We won’t be back over near the colony for a few months.’ His slight smile meant to be reassuring, given the near fatalistic, yet anticipated news.
‘Will we ever see him again? Once he’s there?’ the father asked.
‘There’s always a possibility,’ Dr. Rill said in his own cautious voice. ‘Of course, there could be no physical contact … once he leaves the ship.’
The father nodded as his wife clinched his leg.
An odd silence followed.
‘He’s … he’s going to do well.’ Dr Acre finally said. He stood up. ‘You both have been more than helpful preparing him. With you preparing special meals for him,’ he gestured at the mother, ‘and he gets to see the world in a more personal way each day.’
‘A domicile with a view to the outside world is truly a gift. Even if one will never get to actually be there,’ the father stated.
‘He’ll be less fearful of it … and I believe it has only heightened his curiosity about the outside world.’ Dr. Rill hoped to ease their apprehension.
‘He’s a strong boy,’ his mother said with pride looking up at Dr Acre.
‘Yes he is. And the other members of the colony will be there to help in the transition. He’s going to make a valuable asset to those who help support us down there in the outside world.’
All four remained silent. Each imagining what Philip might be doing this time next year, next decade, in his new life.
‘Well then,’ Dr Rill rose as he spoke. ‘Best not to keep Philip waiting too long.’
With that the parents stood up. The quartet gravitated towards the door.
‘Remember,’ Dr Acre spoke as they walked, ‘start showing him the images and digital videos from the program I gave you. They’ll be helpful for when he actually gets to the colony.’
‘You know,’ the father said, holding his wife’s hand as they walked. ‘I don’t know if I could go around having to wear those things on my nose.’
‘You mean glasses?’ Dr Acre suspected he referred to the photo of the man wearing a pair of black rimmed glasses. One of the many images few would ever see in person, having only pictures to muse about what life was once like. ‘Philip may never even need them. His genetic strength is his ability to cope with his body’s reaction to contaminates, not poor eyesight.’
The couple then left without a word. Knowing this day would come, any words, action or gestures, no matter how heartfelt, would make it no easier.
The doctors watched from the doorway as the two embraced their son. The child seemed unaware as what was to come. But it was best he enjoy the last vestiges of a blissfully, ignorant youth.
Dr Acre then paced back towards the window. A few moments later Dr. Rill walked towards his desk. As he sat, he brought up the computer screen to begin the perfunctory duties coming after an examination. He then paused, looking up to see Dr Acre staring out the window.
‘It doesn’t get any easier, does it?’
Dr Acre looked at the world beneath them. ‘No … it does not.’
He took in the shoreline below, noting how the waves crashed against the tan colored beach, how a flock of seagulls passed gracefully and undisturbed above it. ‘I envy every one of those like Philip we find.’
Dr Rill lowered his head. ‘The precious few we do come across.’
Dr Acre did not take his eyes of the shoreline as he spoke. ‘I turn ninety years old next week. My life expectancy is one-hundred and fifty. As are Philip’s parents and friends. In all that time, none of us will ever know what it is like to walk on that beach below. I will never be able to let wet sand caress my toes with each step.’ He looked over at Dr. Rill. ‘I’ll never know what it is like to hold and smell a flower –a real one I mean.’
He then crossed his arms, returning his attention to the world outside. One he would never get to experience.
‘They meant well … all those centuries ago,’ Dr. Rill glanced back up. ‘Who knew that creating a perfect human being would have such a consequence? And … ’ he paused. ‘Put ourselves into the shoes of a doctor or the lives of a parent who lived in those days. Who would want to see a loved one fall ill, or endure the suffering wrought by an infection or tumor or … or imperfection?’
Dr Acre gently nodded. ‘Super drugs … genetic tests to weed out flaws.’ He sighed and put his arms around his back. ‘Perfect people … free of genetic flaws … we lost our ability to adapt. Perfection at the price of immunity. They prized that so much back then that now we seek the slightest genetic flaw or disposition … to save the human race.’
‘As you said, young Philip will make a nice addition to the colony. His genetic predisposition will work well in helping his body adapt. And, when he meets a special lady … ’ Dr Rill ventured an envious smile, ‘pass that flaw onto their offspring.’
‘We can only hope.’
‘Ironic that the germs and bacteria they so dreaded back then … so far they are winning the war of evolution.’
At that, Dr Acre smiled. He turned and took a few steps toward the desk.
‘They may still win it.’
Bio: David C Velasco is an amateur writer, doing so mostly in his spare time as an office manager. He self published his first book, the Lofts: A Life Story, in March 2012. It can be found on Createspace here or Amazon here. He is currently working on several science fiction stories.