Chuck Wendig has done it again - instead of writing for the 24 Flashes when I have the time, I write for his Flash Fiction Challenge. I like challenges with strict rules.
This time, we had to roll the dice four times, for two subgenres and two must features. Here's what I got from the random number generator:
Subgenres: 9 - Nanopunk and 17 - Picaresque.
Must Feature: 10 - a forbidden love.
Must Also Feature: 1 - a mysterious stranger.
Only 793 words and no sex this time.
A few years back, when all that nanotech stuff really started cracking, I was happy I couldn't afford any of it. How can you trust things so small you can't even see them? Who knows what they'll do to you, intelligent as they are sometimes supposed to be. Now, though, now they are my only hope.
Fanny looks fragile, her face as white as the sheets and coated with fine sweat. She's the only thing I care for, my Fanny, and I couldn't let the cancer take her away from me. I had to do it, I had to use the little buggers, even if I didn't trust them.
After the diagnosis, I begged her to talk to her family, and when she wouldn't, I did. Or, well, I tried. They didn't even listen to me! They could have paid for her treatment in a heartbeat, but ever since she chose me over them - the guy who wasn't good enough - they'd cut her out of the family tree, and they wouldn't let her in again; not even to save her life.
I asked for help everywhere, dragged Fanny to see all kinds of doctors, but without money they wouldn't do anything for her. Robbing a bank was suddenly worth thinking about, and I had already got a team and almost a perfect plan when Fanny caught us and dragged me back to legal ground. I still have to answer their demands for payment for the days they spent planning with me, but they have to wait.
Can you imagine my relief when the Professor called me? He had heard about our problem from one of the doctors - although I didn't quite recognise the name, we'd been to so many - and he had a solution! They were testing new nanites that could destroy cancer, and they needed test subjects like my Fanny. She could get the treatment for free, he said, because it was still in testing. By then she was so weak I couldn't ask for her consent, so I signed the form for her and he agreed to come and treat her at our home.
He came in a dark grey overcoat and brimmed hat, with thick glasses and a moustache. He didn't look like a professor to me, because in my mind they always wore white lab coats, but I guess they don't do that outside their labs. I showed him into our bedroom, where Fanny lay half unconscious and half asleep. He noticed her fever and did a few checks before saying how lucky we were to get a place in his trials. Then he explained to me what the nanites would do, but I didn't understand half of it. I just nodded and hoped it would work, so he gave her the injection and was gone.
Now I am waiting for them to work. It's been only an hour since the Professor left, and he had said it could take a few days, but her breathing is calming down already, getting slower and deeper. What a relief! I go and make myself something to eat, feeling hungry for the first time in weeks.
I settle down on my chair next to Fanny's bed with a sandwich, not willing to leave her alone even while I eat. Her breathing really has calmed down by now, I can't even hear it any more.
My mouth is waiting for the next bite, but my hand isn't moving. From the depth of my mind, a thought creeps up: is she still breathing? I strain myself to get out of the chair and over to Fanny, looking so peaceful, her face now dry. No movement, no breath, no pulse. Oh God.
I have to call the Professor, get him back here to save her! The phone is already in my hand when I realise I don't have his number. There is nothing I can do.
I wake up on the floor, disoriented and confused. Fanny! Is she really dead? I sit up quickly and her face is suddenly next to mine, her dead eyes looking at nothing. Fanny dead... Rigid with shock I continue to stare into her eyes, for minutes or hours, I don't know.
My love is dead, and I am alone. What now? I can't say good-bye, I can't let her go. Instead, I lean towards her for a kiss. Her lips are cold, they feel strange, wrong, and they don't even taste of her. My lips tingle as I move away from her, a sensation that spreads across my face and from there to the rest of my body. My breath is slowing down, I feel calm and relaxed. Why? It didn't... make any... sen... se.