1st November, 2038. 3:16pm.
Leaves, breaking free from clusters, gently blew across the streets. Buses sped up and down the busy avenue, filled with oblivious travellers on their daily commute home from work.
An authoritative woman waited at the lights, eyes staring intently into nothing, awaiting the go-ahead to cross. Craving some release, her fixed gaze moved slowly to the near-but-so-far Cooke's Coffee House. She'd not had a more stressful day than this one in a long while. It was the first day without a case in a little eternity- how did people even live without work?
A bus thundered past her. The violent rush of air pulled her back to Earth.
A tall man sat at the front of the bus, right behind the driver. Head buried in his own notebook, he failed to notice anything outside the world of his thoughts.
Scrawled onto the page was everything from single, contextless words to fully blown, intricate fan theories. The man's lettering was minute, and flawless.
He closed his eyes, the words and the mysteries he himself had created, swirling like a pulsing mass in his brain. He freed his eyes from the black, and gazed up at the bus's grey ceiling, it turning into an imaginary sky in an imaginary world full of smoke, steam, and intrigue.
The bus made its final stop at the placid Armstrong Station. It was here that the tall man exited the cramped bus, and slunk into the convenience store, quietly looking forward to the new set of reduced children's copybooks he'd soon be purchasing.
He paid no attention to the disheveled man who exited as he entered.
The disheveled man slugged his way outside, the relative brightness of the street irritating him. He missed his sunglasses. Longing for a reprieve, he kept his head directed at the grey pavement. He needed everything- yet, of course he didn't.
He supposed he could probably afford a few more nights at the shelter.
Then, he'd bite the bullet, and sell the old violin that was gathering dust in the velvet case on his back. That'd get him a month's rent somewhere, if he was lucky.
He'd scour Charlesburg for a job, and get himself back on track. He'd just passed a coffee house with a "now hiring" sign in its tinted window.
There was hardly a shortage of work.
The shelter was almost ten blocks away, though, and the disheveled man gave himself a brief allowance to feel sorry for himself. He could wait for some time alone before he cried.
If he was lucky.
The disheveled man didn't even notice the "delivery man needed" sign in the pizza place he had just dragged himself past. He simply stared onto the neat and tidy street and at the fog engulfing the faraway CBD, sitting slightly higher up on the mountain.
He wondered if it was worth it.
Fuck myself, he thought.
It probably wasn't.
Lounging in the dusty pizza place was a teenager. Sitting thoroughly bored among a giggling group of boys his age wearing party hats, the teen preferred to watch the window, and attempt to make some internal obsvervations about the outside world. That was lame too, but anything was better than this.
The others were slouched over a smartphone, watching some video about the latest Elder Scrolls game. Whoever was narrating the spiel seemed to be saying "titties" quite frequently, in response to which, his company would burst into a chorus of uncontrollable sniggers.
He was better than that. More mature.
The disheveled man passed by as the teen watched- immediately knowing that that guy was not the plan.
He'd prove his parents wrong, and his "friends". The Elder Scrolls had nothing on pure gaming. Indie games were pure. They came from the heart. Not like their Bethesda crap.
He was just about prepared to put his future on the line to do what he loved.
He could only hope that wasn't what had happened to the teary hobo who'd passed Carlo's by.
A sinking feeling only told him one thing. When his gut spoke, it was usually right.
It probably was.
He dragged his headphones off, and carefully stretched himself up into a stiff sitting position. The light was piercing his eyes violently, having laid static in the dark for an hour. He could breathe properly again too. He savoured the sharper, colder air.
The abundant crowd of doctors all appeared to be glancing at him with a disheartening expression of bafflement. One doctor who looked no older than 25 bounced a small and familiar hammer off his knee, looking for a reflex action. Satisfied with his inevitable jerking movement, the doctor nodded and slipped back off to join the small army of others, who were huddled in front of a tiny computer on the other side of the room, all bunched together, their faces scrunched up into expressions of utter disbelief.
Not paying much attention to them yet, Trevor nonchalantly played with his light blue hospital gown while waiting on somebody to address him.
He wasn’t as nervous as he felt he should be, and this was worrying him exponentially more than whatever the results of this scan were to be.
Ever since the last Tuesday, Trevor’s feet had been growing weaker. Each morning when he awoke, it was prominently noticeable that they were losing feeling and function. Perturbed, but not overly worried, he’d decided that a scan was the right course of action. It most certainly wasn’t normal, but /it was hardly going to be anything bad, right?/.
A smidgeon wary, he looked up as the doctors called his name. He thought he heard a tremble in the young doctor’s voice. That same doctor stumbled towards him, helping him off the table, a grave and tense expression etched onto his face.
Trevor honestly felt like he had no feet at this point. He felt odd and detatched- looking at them, but feeling nothing. The only things keeping him standing were his KAFOs and the sweaty hands of the youthful doctor, who was doing most of the walking for him. Trevor took no reassurance from the young doctor’s growing expression of resignation.
This doctor slowly pulled his arm into a weak gesture, ominously guiding him to sit down in the chair facing the computer.
The doctors spoke in low, hushed tones as Trevor blankly stared at what looked like a standard 3D image of his body rotating on the screen. Nothing seemed remotely amiss at first glance, but Trevor didn’t trust the confused and worried glances of the doctors. An overwhelming sense of anxiety seemed to be engulfing them- especially the younger ones.
Eventually, the lead doctor, a tall, bald woman, spoke up in a deep tone.
"Mr. Griffith. Thank you for being patient with us…"
She cleared her throat, appearing to avoid direct eye contact. Her skin seemed to be losing colour- or was that just him?
"…your results are nothing short of… baffling."
Trevor’s brow furrowed.
“We… we have no idea what’s happening inside you…”
Trevor felt his stomach do a very distilled flip.
How could they have no idea?
This had to be the first damn time he’d ever met a doctor who couldn’t tell him what the hell was wrong with him! He’d paid money for this!
Growing slightly tense and quite irritated, he clenched his left fist.
"But we… we have a few ideas."
Still puzzled and growing more anxious, Trevor stared at the image as one of the doctors lightly touched the screen. The expressionless image of his body changed to what looked like an layout of his internal structure.
What two years of high school biology had taught him to be the nervous system was glowing a light blue- almost flickering, compared to the inky blue background colour of everywhere else.
As if they could read his thoughts, another doctor continued. “See that shimmering?”
Trevor gave a short nod, saying nothing but still staring. He could feel the tension especially in his legs. He felt like he’d just walked a mile- not laid still in an MRI machine for an hour.
"That shouldn’t be happening."
Trevor continued to stare, the tension now creeping up his entire body. He felt his brow very gradually begin to persporate and a small headache beginning to form- at least he had aspirin at home.
"We’ve ruled some stuff out. It’s not ALS. It’s not MS. Or GBS. Or Parkinson’s."
Good. Trevor knew this was good. None of those conditions sounded particularly appealing. He had a lot of work and an annoying disease wouldn’t be the best. That being said, none of the tension seemed to disperse. He hadn’t really expected any of those illnesses anyway.
"We can tell you, however, what we think it is. That being said, you might not like what you’re going to hear."
Shaking his head, Trevor made a weak gesture for the doctors to continue. Surprised at how oddly dry his throat felt, he felt his hands quivering inexplicably. He hadn’t had a panic attack since he was a boy- but he always remembered how those damn things started. This quivering was too close for comfort.
"That shimmering does not naturally occur in the human body. We’ve come to the conclusion that whatever it is, it’s, uh… manmade."
Trevor stared, having not yet processed the words.
"And no, we have no idea how it got there."
Feeling his heart beating against his chest, Trevor shook his head.
"Man-made, did… did you say?" he spluttered out, tripping over his words. "Uh… how?"
Man made. His brain couldn’t seem to process the words. He knew the meaning, but he couldn’t quite grasp them. Somebody had- *made* something that was going on inside of him?
The doctors looked at him pitifully. Suddenly, Trevor didn’t feel so lucky to not have a degenerative illness anymore.
How the devil did he get something man made inside of him? He racked his brains, but concluded upon nothing- nobody he could have set on to do this- he’d pissed off nobody- he’d irritated nobody- he had always tried not to. Unless he had to.
There was just… no way. Agonizing over the thoughts of who could have wanted to bug him, and having zero flashes of inspiration, he grunted and stared at the ground now.
He was still sweating, and his entire body felt like it was made of lead.
"It is centered mostly around your feet, Mr. Griffith. We’re not sure why. But, through some mild guesswork we’re going to assume it’s… the reason for the weakness down there. All your nerves there have… something shining… and man-made floating around in your nerves there. You realize that the nervous system controls feeling and function, I assume."
Trevor continued to stare down at the ground.
"We also detected a lot of a slightly mutated neurotransmitter in your feet. It seems to have been slightly altered, but we don’t know why. We have absolutely no idea. All we can say is that we don’t believe what happened was… an accident. Something tiny in such huge quantities, something /man-made/ and unrecognisable to us… that doesn’t just end up inside somebody’s feet."
Trevor’s brain was firing from all cylinders, formulating idea after idea.
He could almost feel the ideas pulsing from his head, and he didn’t like it at all. He didn’t like a messy mind.
Without thinking, theory upon theory, each more mad than the next, was being built up in his head. It pounded, but he stared- looking oddly calm and remaining still other than his shaking hands and scrunched brow.
No accident… no accident.
No goddamn accident.
Why did this happen?
/Who/ made this happen?
So lost in the world of his thoughts, and inadvertently shaking, Trevor was brought back to Earth by the voice of the lead doctor.
"We’re definitely keeping you to stay for more tests, sir, we’re sorry for the inconvenience. But, we can narrow down some more of the fluids in your feet, see if anything else is amiss… we’ll observe any changes… we are all of the opinion, sir, that this is necessary for your wellbeing."
Frustrated, but thinking this to be the best idea, Trevor finally looked up and gave a silent nod of the head, wiping away some of his sweat.
"Uh," he began, having no clue what to say.
The doctor spoke up again, interrupting him.
"You’ll have a bed on a public ward, but free food, and we’ll try our utmost best to unravel some of this mystery, Mr. Griffith…"
She seemed worried.
Trevor grunted again.
“Yeah, uh, thank you, doctor. Can I, uh, call a friend- someone to bring me my things, maybe…?”
The end of his sentence trailed away as Trevor reverted back to speculation as to what was wrong with him, but the lead doctor seemed to understand the diminishing volume of his speech.
"Will I book you in for another MRI tomorrow at 11am, Mr. Griffith? For further testing? And some reflex testing at 1pm?"
Trevor gave a slight nod, saying nothing.
"We’ll draw up more together depending on your needs, and what the test results tell us, of course," she said, clearing her throat.
"You should be free to go home after then, Mr. Griffith. But we advise you to stay. We have a dedicated team who are more than willing to help you, and who relish in situations… like these."
Trevor coughed out a response.
/Situations like these/. What did she mean? Medical mysteries?
He didn’t like being a goddamn mystery.
“Uh, yes. Thank you.”
It was then he felt his eyes start to water from staring at the wall. Becoming aware of it suddenly, he shook his head, and grunted.
"Help me up?"
A goddamn medical mystery. Being a medical mystery was just not convenient right now. There was so damn much work and so little time. Trevor groaned quietly again, starting to feel his insides tense up.
The young doctor seized his arm, and pulled him up from behind.
Trevor struggled along the cold floor, feeling a slight discomfort now as the young man’s grip dug into his sides.
It was taking an age to heave himself across the white floor, feeling almost naked and certainly helpless without his crutches.
He groaned as the doctor led into an open but almost barren ward, with three neatly made beds on either side, and a window, with the top half open. The roof, also white, was low.
The air smelled clinical- he detected the scent of chemicals in the air.
It was probably to with the only other occupant of the ward. He appeared to be in some sort of coma. Great.
Sighing as the doctor sat him down on a bed opposite the comatose man, Trevor uttered a tired “thank you” before laying down, feeling a slight ease on the stiffness in his body.
"Do you need anything else, Mr. Griffith?" he asked quietly as he prepared to leave the room.
"Nah. Thank you, though," he murmured. He waved a tiny goodbye to the doctor, and stared now at the dull white ceiling, with thoughts of conspiracy and nanotechnology (and reflections of who could have deliberately wanted to rob him of his feet) surging through his head.
He closed his eyes after several minutes of reflection, deciding to call Evan or Ellis later. He needed to sleep- he was tired- physically and mentally. But as he attempted to relax, he felt no stress disperse. He was left to simply marinate further in the discord in his head.
He laid this way for hours in his uncomfortable, rough bed.
His plastic gown irritated his skin. The only events of note were when nurses entered the room hourly, to turn the comatose man into another position and to check his vital signs.
Only one of the nurses even noticed he was there, attempting to drift off. She gave him a friendly nod as she left, her shoes clicking loudly against the tiles.
Hours passed and Trevor took to staring at the wall again. He timed himself to see how long he could keep his eyes open as he stared. The longest stretch he managed was 101 seconds before realizing what a stupid idea it had been, his face tear-stained.
The night grew darker. He missed Evan. He missed Evan’s cats too.
He missed not being a mystery.
He could see Silence Creek Parkway from the window. Little cars bunched up together in gridlock. He could almost hear the wailing beeps in his head. The vast neon sign that boldly proclaimed “PARKWAY AHEAD” shone bright as ever. The road stretched on for miles further, but Trevor only needed to see a stretch to know that the occupants of those cars weren’t going anywhere.
Silence Creek Parkway during gridlock wasn’t exactly riveting viewing, however, and soon, Trevor’s attention was yet again lost.
Trying to block out the rhythmic beeping of the man’s life support machines, Trevor’s fist still clenched and his brow remained wet, until he could take the monotony no more. He reached stiffly for his phone.
A clear evening for the first time all through the winter season. The sky was a deep hue of magenta through crimson as the sun began to make its final descent.
The fog was almost invisible, only floating in scattered amounts at the very top of the mount. The glimmering lights of Charlesburg, from the dusty coffee shops to the constant and piercing glares of the CBD towers shone on the lake. Specks of black, tiny humans, sat and watched the sun touch the lake.
Brightly coloured lanterns shone on the wooden boardwalk. Buskers strumming on guitars created in the clear, cold air, a clean sound. A sound that could be heard from the very edge of the water.
The chorus of guitars combined for hours to soothe and excite all those who felt solace in being solitary.
I'm never gonna know you now, but I'm gonna love you anyhow...