The forest was especially active today. Wyce could feel the flow of the life forces through the trees, ferns, and animal life. If he closed his eyes and focused he could pinpoint insects within a short radius. He breathed deeply and took in the rich smell of the plants and moisture around him. It was his favorite sitting spot in the immense forest - his rump in the damp carpet of leaves and his back against a tree stump as old as he was. Quiet enough to allow him to focus on how good his life had been. Yes, this was exactly where he wanted to be at this stage of his long enduring life. At the ripe old age of 176 his life had been full even though it was limited by his disease. His mind was still sharp. He had plenty of time for reflection back to his younger days.
Wyce was only 6 when the doctors discovered he had contracted Invis. Even when he was young he was able to tell he was different. He knew from how he was treated by his parents, since that day at the clinic. He really didn’t understand why until the symptoms started to become more pronounced, when he was 10. Aside from the semi-transparency of his skin, he could sense the flow of electricity. It didn’t hurt back then. In fact, he remembered he had a lot of fun with knowing how much force was flowing when the holovid was on, or when the replaprinter was generating dinner. But he was sent away, before the real pain could began.
It was pretty difficult being 13 and being told he had to move away for his own safety and comfort. His parents and the medbot tried to explain it would be for the best, to be away from the electricity. They focused on the good that would come from his disease. He could be in touch with nature. His life would be prolonged, being able to live over 150 years - unlike the 70 or 80 for the non-infected. He would have a life surrounded by others like himself. His parents explained what was happening to him, due to this incurable disease. He would eventually vanish. To where, they couldn’t say. The only answer they could give was it would be peaceful and painless. They were not sure if it was death. Their positive spin was they felt he would continue on into a different dimension - kind of a parallel world with others like him. That was the last time he saw his parents.
They were right about his having a good life. The Territory was immense, beautiful, and nothing like the life he had back in New Chicago. He had a bit of withdrawal from leaving behind his cyber games, holovid, and everything requiring electricity. He couldn’t even keep a comms tag - calls to the world outside the Territory were not possible. Sure, there were some who tried to smuggle stuff in. But the elders would sense the devices, confiscate, and destroy them, and there were the intense moments of depression when he thought about his parents, family members, and friends.
He eventually discovered that life without electricity was a true pleasure. What he once had only seen in the museums, he could now actually touch and own. Books, a bicycle, a chess set, pencils, pens, paper, and scissors. Ah, the marvel of scissors! Nothing like the automated laser cutters used outsize the territory. As he grew older he discovered he was actually quite good at carving and sculpting. Intricate designs and portraits in wood would capture the attention of all who visited his studio. When he wasn’t carving, or sitting in the forest, he could be found in the Great Library - reading everything he could get his hands on.
He fed his thirst for knowledge by learning as much as he could about Invis. Nothing he read could tell him how it was spread, or how it would pick its victims. He never really considered himself to be a victim, but rather, he felt it was a blessing. Invis never appeared until after the food wars of 2054. Some scientists speculated about it being a genetically evolved virus from food generation experimentation. Others thought it rode along with the return of the first Mars explorers. There were those who thought it was either a curse or a blessing from their spiritual entity. All he could learn about it was that his tissues would gradually become transparent, and his sensitivity to the flow of electrons would increase as he became more transparent. There was no cure, nothing to slow it down, speed it up, change or enhance any of the symptoms - even the greatest doctors, scientists, and computers in the world had struggled with the problem for over a thousand years.
Wyce continued to reflect on how wonderful his life had been as a result. He had married, had children, and had endured watching his “normal” children leave to see the world. He painfully watched as his lovely wife of 145 years vanished before his eyes. He hoped he would still be able to sense her flow of electrons, but she simply vanished. The other pains in his long life would be when the yearly storms brought lightning strikes. The pain was intense when there was a strike. The storm bunkers would help some but not enough. He also remembered the storms of pleasure. The lights that danced and glowed blue and green in the Northern night skies of wintertime. The ancient books called them Auroras.
He closed his eyes as night brought its darkness, and he reached out to feel the forest around him. His almost invisible hands clutched the damp leaves and the underlying dirt. His only disconcerting thought would be what would happen when he vanished. Where would he go? What would it be like? Would he just cease to exist? Would his mind continue or would his electrons flow into this thick forest carpet around him? He remembered he once read in the ancient Holy Word that the dead are conscious of nothing at all. Would he actually be dead? He didn’t know, but he didn’t care. He could feel the flow of the forest, the tingle from the dancing auroras above. There was no pain. Only the flow of life through the forest. He gazed at where he gripped the fallen leaves and needles of the trees. The outlined shape of his hands faded, showing only the clump of dirt and leaves. It was time - his time. He gave one last visible smile as his clothing fell to the ground and mingled with the floor of the forest.
(c) 2017, Timothy Trimble