Categorized as flash fiction in my own mind, Anathema is a short background story that is part of the foundation for my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel, Backtrace. It features a defining moment in the life of the protagonist.
Maxwell looked at the contraption on the table in front of him. It was about the size of a box of matches although completely smooth on all sides, not unlike a pebble shaped by centuries of a mountain streams. He tentatively reached for it but changed his mind when one of the doctors coughed his disapproval, instead returning his hand to his lap and continuing to stare at the device.
The primary doctor in the room continued to drone on about the benefits of the operation, how much better he would feel afterwards and bunch of other information that Maxwell had no doubt was important. Most importantly, he would be alive, he was told. His mind wandered towards the benefits touted by the doctor and how grateful he should be. He felt nothing but fear. Lifesaving or not, as he knew it was, the device on the table was anathema to him. He would rather die than have this artificial creation inserted into his body. Living beyond what was intended for him was sacrilege. Proceeding with the operation would violate every tenet he believed in. It was not an option. It was impossible.
Sweat had started to form on his forehead and he could tell his face was flushed. He knew he had to make a decision before his in depth questions became suspicious. He wiped his forehead with a napkin and then looked around at the group assembled in the room. The presenting doctor stood at the head of the table, walking everyone through a holo presentation of the operation that was displayed in front of each person seated at the table. Maxwell looked to his right and found his much-trusted advisor, Adan, engrossed in the presentation as if it was truly important to him. He would jump on the opportunity to augment his human body in a heartbeat. He was a true Intermediate, ready to go beyond nature whenever possible. Disgusting. To his left, Leeam, a geeky young man in his early twenties who seemed to know everything about technology and had no issue understanding new concepts. He was less adept at reading people, which served Maxwell well. He needed someone that could be his brains in that area in order to hide his own lack of knowledge in the technological realm, and to hide is utter dislike for it.
He had reviewed the procedure multiple times with both Adan and Leeam. He knew their opinion and their desire for him to go ahead with it. To them, the procedure and the device represented an opportunity to live out the Intermediates tenets, to enhance whenever possible. Physical augmentation was expected of an Intermediate, especially of individuals in leadership positions. Not to mention that doing so would save his life.
He sighed. When he accepted the mission to infiltrate the Intermediate faction of humanity, it had never occurred to him or his handlers that he would end up being their leader. This was also the reason he knew that what to him was impossible and not an option was inevitable. His cover depended on it. Yet, he hesitated. He knew that if he went through with it, he would solidify his position as the Intermediate leader. Or, at the very least, one particular faction. If he declined the operation, everyone around him would start whispering, wondering why their leader refused to participate in something they all strived for. He would also be dead before long, just like his predecessor that he had falsely accused of being what he himself was.
Although he did not fear death, he feared what his death would mean for the Organics, his people. They had, in a sense, entrusted their future into his hands. If he died, he would not be able to complete his mission, and all the work he had done this past decade would be for naught. The Intermediates would continue to grow in political and military power and would eventually be able to overturn the laws that had outlawed them half a century ago. His people would be finished.
He looked around the table once more, his heart beating suddenly pounding. He stood up and looked around the table. Everyone looked at him. He took a deep breath and faced the presenting doctor. “I’m ready.”