Accept me for who I am

A panicked scream filled the air as Yvon tripped over her own skates for the umpteenth time that afternoon. But the scream was soon replaced with laughter by a boy as he skated to a halt beside Yvon who was tending to the newest addition to her collection of bruises.

“Hey, here.” He offered to help her get back on her feet but she refused.

“I don’t wanna do this anymore.” Yvon was sulking.

Rick sat down beside her. “So what do you wanna do instead?”

“Let’s just sit here and enjoy the view.” She grabbed his arm and pointed at the sunset. “Look how pretty the sunset is when it goes into the ocean.”

“Not as pretty as my sunset when it goes into your ocean.” Rick realized it right after he said it. That was not something appropriate to say on a first date.

The perfect first date should be skating followed by some ice cream then, if he’s lucky, maybe a kiss. But Rick had just given up all hope of that last item on his itinerary.

“What did you just say?”

Rick winced. He was hoping that she may not have heard it. No such luck.

“Yvon, I- I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have said pervy stuff like that. Uh, I didn’t mean it. I’m really sorry…”

He fumbled around for the words to make this awkward situation less awkward. Again, no such luck.

“Rick, if you’re gonna yap away like that, you’re not even gonna get a shot at seeing your sunset entering my ocean.”

“I- what?”

“I like pervy stuff.” Yvon was admiring the sunset with a flawless smile on her face, looking every bit like the perfect girl- except for what she just said.

“You do?”

Yvon nodded and looked at Rick in the eye. “I’m actually glad and relieved that you brought that topic up on our first date. I would never know how to break it to you otherwise. It’s a part of me and I know it’s a part of you too. And I accept you for who you are. I don’t find you weird or anything.”

Rick was grinning from ear to ear. He really struck the jackpot this time. This girl is a keeper.

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Accept me for who I am

At the age of 18 you are permitted to redistribute your twenty skill points around into whatever skills you want permanently. You decided to put everything into LUCK and leave the rest at 0 points.

“That’s not a good idea, Zane. For one, we don’t have great data on the actual effects of enhanced Luck…”

“Look, can you do it or not? I need this.”

The gene tech sighed in the quiet office and swiveled his chair back to the computer. He was looking at a fairly standard representation of a human genome, red highlights in the mass of blue to indicate genes with likely altered function from human baseline and green to indicate potential areas for change.

“Let’s see, we have some modifiable options at rs2981205, rs730882133, rs423454-”

“Yeah, man, I get it, lots of fancy words. Bottom line it for me?” Zane shifted impatiently in his chair; flipping his phone from hand to hand.

“Based on population-level studies and retrospective analysis of lottery winners, survivors of freak accidents, etc, there’s about 20 genes we could modify in you to try to make you luckier. I’m obligated to point out that we don’t know for sure that these genes actually cause better luck, and frankly the latest research is casting some doubts on the validity-”

“Yeah, yeah, I signed the waiver already, do what you got to do; I have a lot riding on this.”

“Um, you already made the bet? And you want to get lucky now?”

“Not exactly, I don’t really want to explain.”

“Whatever, they’re your genes. Sign this form here, some more standard stuff. Given the specific genes we need to modify, you are looking at 85% chance for significant loss in strength, 90% chance for loss in fine and gross motor skills, 100% for loss in intelligence, 60% chance for loss in overall body aesthetic and symmetry, and 50% chance for loss in short and long term memory.”

Zane, took the tablet, skimming over most of the form. When he had scrolled to the bottom, he pressed his finger on the fingerprint scanner, acknowledging his agreement. He let his shoulders relax afterwards, like a weight had been lifted off.

“Okay then,” he said to himself in a quieter voice,”that’s settled.”

“Not quite, Zane. Given the severity of potential deficits you are required to provide a sperm sample on the chance that you would prefer to have unaltered children in the future. Furthermore, while we strongly suggest implantable birth control for all men and women that undergo elective alteration, per the 2024 SAFEGene act, prior to sexual intercourse with any potentially fertile partners, you both must be screened for possible gene incompatibility.”

“Yeah, everyone knows the rules.”

“OK, here’s your sample cup; I’ll give you some time to provide the sample and I’ll get the CRISPR transfer virus ready.”


Zane rolled up his sleeve, exposing a slightly faded tattoo; a simple heart motif with the name “Evon” on it.

“Just a slight poke, then you’ll be all set. This is your last chance to change your mind…”

“Get it over with.”

“OK”

The tech injected Zane’s left deltoid with the modified viral delivery system. Over the next 48 hours, the virus, a modified version of the flu, would infect the vast majority of his cells and re-write all of his DNA.

“It’s done. Now, you’ll probably have some soreness, fatigue, and a fever for the next couple days, similar to flu symptoms. This virus isn’t contagious, but to be safe, you need to avoid the very young and the elderly. Take tylenol if the fever or pain get bad. If you have difficulty breathing, pass out, or anything like that, get to a hospital immediately.”

“Got it. Thanks, doc.”

“Good luck.”


Two months later, Zane’s life, as far as any outsider was concerned, was pretty much unchanged. He’d had to quit his job as a barista; it was a bit too fast paced for him with his new weakness and difficultly remembering simple tasks. He’d found a perfect job, working at one of the few private libraries remaining in Baltimore. He’d only get one or two customers a day and they were usually older; if anything, Ben found himself getting along better with them than people his own age; the elderly clients seemed to talk and move at the pace he was accustomed to these days.

He settled in well to his new life; he was more lonely than he had been, but that suited him well. He had a new companion, in the form of a stray he named Tipsy, that had wandered up to his feet when he was getting back to his apartment one night. She only had three paws and occasionally fell over, but they were fast friends.

All in all, his life was stable, boring; an easy sort of anguish. And every day, as he left the library, sometimes with Tipsy peeking out of his backpack along with a few children’s books; the short ones with the easier words, he would take the 57 bus and transfer to the 23 to get to the long term care facility. There he would take the elevator to the fourth floor, his legs a bit too weak for the stairs, and sit next to Evon, who was perpetually silent except for the occasional hiss and beep of the ventilator, and read to her. Often, he would fall asleep in the chair next to her, dreaming that perhaps tomorrow would be his lucky day, and he would get to talk to her again.

At the age of 18 you are permitted to redistribute your twenty skill points around into whatever skills you want permanently. You decided to put everything into LUCK and leave the rest at 0 points.

It’s a New Year

So the year has finished running its course once more. And where was he this time? In another poorly lit room with loud music but accompanied by a different group of friends. Together, they danced the night – and the year – away.

But as the night slowed down, he began to wonder what has he truly accomplished in those three hundred and sixty five days. Or has he been running in circles. Well, he did end up celebrating New Year’s eve partying again. Has he simply spent a year just to end up where he started?

He racked his brain to rise above its alcohol-induced haze to come up with an achievement in the past year, any achievement. He came up flat. Perhaps it was the alcohol. But he did not drink pass his limit, so his cognitive functions should not have performed that poorly. So it was with some trepidation that he concluded, he has indeed just wasted a year doing nothing.

 

 

It’s a New Year

Meeting below Streetlights at Midnight

guy_sitting_on_the_pavement_under_streetlight.jpg

I tiptoed towards the door with my hands unconsciously raised in front of myself as a zombie would. The carpet padding muted my footsteps, but then again, it was really unnecessary  as everyone in my household slept behind closed doors.

I opened the door, there was no creak, and soon I was no longer in  the comfort of my own home, but enjoying the chilly winds and the eerie but serene quiet of midnight.

I headed to where we were supposed to meet. At first I didn’t see her, but as I approached the meeting point, there was a figure sitting beside the bush. She was not obvious at first because she sat in the shade cast on the bush by the streetlamp. She dressed like how a mugger would; surreptitious black hoodie, black pants, black shoes, and with her hoodie drawn. Then I looked down at what I was wearing and felt guilty for passing that judgement, for I was wearing exactly the same thing.

I sat down quietly by her side. She was smoking, something I didn’t do myself because I didn’t approve of it.

“Hey,” she acknowledged me.

I replied her with the same word. I could smell the stench of cigarettes on her breath and instinctively twisted my mouth. She noticed and mumbled an apology and cautiously exhaled away from me before continuing, “Nice to see you, Ern.”

“I wish we didn’t have to meet like this every time.”

It was something I felt ever since the first meeting but the initial excitement from the mischief of doing something past my bedtime had faded and was eventually not enough to overwhelm the annoyance I felt from always having to meet her under the cover of darkness and at the hours when most living creatures slept.

“What’s wrong with the way we meet?” she asked nonchalantly, as if nothing was wrong, while exhaling smoke into the frosty night air.

I did not have a plan of how to confront her about all the things that were wrong with the way we were meeting, so I decided to drop the subject and change the topic instead. I asked her why she was dressed like that.

“Do you have a problem with how I dress, Ern?” She emphasized the word problem. Her tone suggested that she was not particularly fond of my constructive criticism about her dressing. She also said it without making eye contact, which made me flinch.

I was about to apologize, but before I could, she beat me to it.

“I’m sorry, Ern.” She said as she turned to me. “I’m just feeling a bit cranky now that’s all.”

I laughed nervously and told her I totally understood, although I did not understand in the slightest bit. She finished her cigarette and I watched as she tossed it into the drain-hole  that was set in the pavement. Littering was one of the reasons why I disapproved of smoking, but I kept my mouth shut.

“So, do you want to make out now or what?” She removed her hood, which revealed her beautiful mahogany brown curls, turning to face me once more.

The virgin within me perked up and began to scream at me, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” But her cold demeanor had turned me off, and I was not particularly feeling in the mood to make out with her, especially with the stench of cigarettes fresh on her breath, along with all the worldly problems I was facing at that point in my life. I politely declined her, while the virgin within me began to hurl curse words at me that I did not even know myself.

I did not realize I was blankly staring at the ground with such intensity that could have bore a hole in the tar road until she jerked me by pulling my arm.

“Hey Ern, I may not have much practice at this, but I can tell that something’s bugging you. And I may not be the right person you want to share this with, but I think you should share it with someone. It’s not good to keep all those problems bottled up.”

When I made no move to reply, she continued, “Everyone has problems, Ern. And everyone deals with them differently. For me, I smoke, I steal, I get high. And I believe you don’t do any of those things, right?”

I shook my head, although she was not expecting a reply because she already continued talking.

“So, one way or another, you have to find some sort of stress relief. Those feelings you have inside you, those bottled-up problems, they’re going to eat away at you for every day that you don’t share them and don’t solve them. You’re going to be worrying about them day in and day out, then you can’t live your life to your fullest, with those burdens on your shoulder. Trust me, Ern, I know.”

I abandoned my mission to bore a hole in the tar road and looked up. There was truth in what she said, and she was also true at suspecting that she was not the one I wanted to confide in, so instead I mumbled a lame ‘thank you’ and gave her a weak smile.

“It’s chill. Always glad to help,” she chirped as she withdrew her pack from her jacket pocket. She held it out to me.

“Smoke?”

I gave her a face which made her laugh, piercing the tranquil silence of the night. I looked around in sudden panic, glancing down the road at my own home, looking  for lights in the windows.

“Relax, Ern,” she said coolly, as she breathed out a cloud of smoke.

I calmed down and resumed my hole-boring mission while she smoked beside me. We were from such different worlds, I thought. She respected my choice to not smoke by not exhaling in my direction, but I could smell the nicotine fumes which drifted rebelliously beyond her control. It was a disgusting smell. At first. But as the minutes ticked past in silence, the fumes got to my head, and I began to feel a numbing calm.

How weak, I scolded myself. Getting numb on secondhand smoke. Seriously, Ern, get it together.

Just then, I heard sounds of gravel rubbing on gravel. I glanced up just in time to see a black box truck approach us, headlights turned off, despite the time of the night. I recognized this truck. It belonged to one of Lynn’s friends. It also signaled the end of our meeting, the end to this unlikely overlapping of two very different human beings from two very different worlds.

“Got to go, Ern.”

I waved my hand in farewell.

“Take care,” she said, blowing a kiss in my direction before entering the back seat and shutting the door behind her.

I watched the truck crunch gravel as it drove off until it melted into the inky darkness. Then I sat on the pavement for a bit longer, appreciating everything the midnight hour had to give, until there was no trace of nicotine fumes and until my butt hurt. Then I got up and trudged home, feeling like a vessel without a soul, as I returned to my own world.

Meeting below Streetlights at Midnight

Her

It was the way she sat. It was the way she sank into the chair, heavy with burden, yet sustaining an impossible air of grace. She leaned towards the floor, reached for her backpack and began to rummage for unfinished homework.
It was one in the morning, and she was weary, but this is her life now. Textbooks found, she pulled it out of her bag and placed it on the table, squarely in front of her. But instead of opening it, she placed a hand across the book, and sighed at the man at the opposite side of the table, me.
“What are you studying today?”
I half-pouted and told her I needed to study for my upcoming mid terms.
She mirrored my pout and reluctantly removed her hand from the textbook and flipped it open.
It’s been almost a year since I last saw her. But time has blessed her well and she’s now even more beautiful than before. Her hair was now a length that finally allowed for natural curls and it was dyed a fierce and passionate deep red. She was definitely the best view I’ve ever had for months.
Perfume emanated from her and floated in the air. It lingered mischievously in the air, seeming to disappear when I inhale deeply, then teasingly returning when I take an unconscious small sniff.
We studied for a while, before she left the room, saying she needed fresh air. I put my pens down and abandoned my work to follow her. We walked out of the deathly silent room and it was as if we had entered an alternate world altogether. This new world we entered was silent too, but it was the peaceful quiescence of the night, not the oppressive quiet of students cramming for an exam that will not matter at all five years down the road. This silence is blissful, and it calmed our senses down, despite us being one of the few beings awake amongst a slumbering majority.
She answered nature’s call as I waited at the top step of a flight of stairs that faced a small thicket of trees. She joined me shortly afterwards, playfully flicking water towards my face. We laughed heartily together, ignorant of the fact that we were guilty of puncturing the night’s tranquil.
Then we quieten down, as if an invisible guardian of the night robbed us of our childish jubilation. We were forced once more to face our own realities. Hers, of her exams, and mine, a more current problem, how to figure her out? I wanted so badly to hold her hand, which I was strongly aware of, through furtive glances from the corner of my eye.
But I could not. She is not and will never be a lover of mine for reasons complicated beyond explanation; I felt like the male lead in my tragic literature books that were all governed by the rule ‘So near, yet so far.’
She stood up. And so did I. Then she walked back to the room, and so did I, with the undying question on my mind – never wishing more than I did then for the ability to read minds – how does she truly feel about me?

Her

Kaleidoscopic Vision

(C) pricelessjoy.co . Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) August 09, 2015. This photo brings you to the challenge page. Hosted by pricelessjoy.
(C) pricelessjoy.co . Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) August 09, 2015. This photo brings you to the challenge page. Hosted by pricelessjoy.

Things seemed like they were the same. The world seemed as bright as it always was, with the leaves as brown as they were in the autumn, and the kids sounded as joyful as they always were. I could see the trees in the distance, at the opposite side of the park, and I can even see the gray skies in the distance which meant that it was raining somewhere far away.

The thunder boomed, and it sounded the same as it got closer and closer. But when the rain began to pelt on me, the world started to look different with every drop. My vision was clouded by splashes, and it dissolved into a blur of colors.

Kaleidoscopic Vision

The Thrill

It just did not seem to want to give way! But then again, neither did he. He fiddled a bit more, chewed a bit more, and twisted a bit more. Finally, the chain gave way. It broke loose and he let his hand drop with the weigh of the chain-cutter, landing on the floor with a resonating, but victorious thud. He straightened his back, which ached from being bent over the bicycle for an agonizingly long period, and his spine made popping sounds as he twisted it.

Triumphantly, he grabbed the handlebars and eased it out of its parking. The rubber felt firm and fit nicely into his palm, just as if it was designed specifically for him. He smiled and hopped onto the bike. Glancing around once, checking for any signs of human life and not noticing any, he cycled off.

(C) bikocity.com
(C) bikocity.com

The exhiliration of the wind through his hair was a feeling he had missed and welcomed. His left hand let go of the handlebar and dug his pockets for his earphones and music player and he deftly put them on with a single hand, while controlling the bike with his right hand. With music in his ears, and his goal accomplished, he rode off into the night. There was no turning back now.

The Thrill