Science Fiction Speculative Horror

Making the Right Choice.

There are 'only two things in life all people will inevitably experience; death and taxes.' As Andrea checked the family bank account, she noticed the increasing cost of her children's medical expenses and was horrified. The 'tax demon' was always an uninvited guest which people begrudgingly accepted into their homes. Tax's companion from Hell was never invited, shoving himself into the lives of many, snatching them knowing he would suffer no punishment from a mortal.

Snapping Andrea back into reality was the evening news featuring information regarding the rising plague of the 'Ripping Disease.' The Smith family home was originally a small hotel; if noise could be heard in each room obviously the TV volume needed adjusting. Hearing negativity 24 hours/7 days each week significantly increased stress. Mr. Carl and Mrs. Andrea Smith lived on Lush Island, with family and friends in the former 'Paradise Hotel.' Nothing about their lives was filled with paradise however.  

When Andrea's father, an extremely wealthy man, bought the foreclosed hotel, he turned the disaster into a family paradise. Purchasing the dilapidated building was a risky financial investment. Nothing decent could be said about the hotel. Deceived by a social media advertisement, a series of initially unfortunate circumstances resulted in her parents first meeting. True love and having a home on a tropical island was an amazing dream coming true. They rebuilt tragedy into paradise; could the Smith family rebuild their lives too?

Banging on Emma's bedroom door, Andrea's intention was asking Emma if she would stop watching TV for the night. However, Andrea heard sobbing coming from Emma's twin, Charlotte, as their 'Auntie Jane' consoled her. Jane placed Charlotte on Emma's bed before opening the door. Shocked, Charlotte fainted shortly after her sister. Jane, one of Andrea's best friends, generally she believed the glass of life was 'half full versus half empty.' Expecting hopeful words, the terrifying and unfamiliar situation brought forth an uncharacteristic Jane. 

“Why didn't you come sooner? Couldn't you hear either of your daughter's screams? Your ignorance makes ME sick! You are heartless and should never have become a mother” Jane, growled at Andrea! If she would not get arrested, Jane might have literally pounced on her.

“I do wish you would stop behaving immaturely. Let's focus on the immediate problems and stop the blaming. Honestly, I thought your overly optimistic personality was always slightly irritating; now I wish I had the 'old Jane' back. I could not hear over the TV, otherwise I would probably have arrived first. What kind of woman do you think I am? What happened,” Andrea replied with the professional tone she used while working.

As an online counselor she balanced speaking with compassion while maintaining an emotional distance. If she felt true sorrow for all of her patient's then she would have nothing left for her closest friends and family. Luckily for Jane, Andrea's professionalism prevented her from smashing Jane into grains of sand. While grains of sand would take more effort, Andrea the android was designed with several enhancements, including 'super strength.' Her body was made with a combination of metals. Layers of artificial skin covered her body, similar to how human skin covers their internal biology. She never feared being attacked because the attacker would suffer extreme damage upon making contact.

Jane was right, for the incorrect reason. Andrea should have been there first. She had to hide her enhancements, including 'advanced hearing,' lest people discover the shocking scientific truth. Holding her children's welfare above her own resulted in a constant battle between taking the android 'easy way out' by overprotecting or letting them live and learn on their own, for better or worse. 

Having lived several lifetimes, easily altering her appearance to 'start over,' Andrea previously learned proper protocol for numerous medical emergencies. Charlotte and Jane should never have become involved. Her unfocused thoughts prevented her from noticing her surroundings. Malfunctioning in such a bizarre manner had not happened since high school, while her mother's life was ending in an extremely violent manner. She may not literally have a beating heart, yet being addressed as 'heartless' when nothing could be further from the truth was degrading. 

The escalating argument between Andrea and Jane woke Charlotte who jolted out of her sisters bed, running into her mother's arms. Tears pouring down her face prevented her from speaking clearly. Unfortunately, no explanation was required. Emma had a 'tonic-clonic' seizure. The injuries Emma suffered made R Rated film violent depictions of seizures seem like paper cuts. Blood was splattered across the floor with Emma's pale blue dress mostly dyed red. The playing cards closest to Emma also became blood red. Uncertain regarding the cause of Emma's seizure, falling off the bed, hitting the bedside table, lamp and crashing onto the floor would have caused enough damage. Adding broken glass from the light bulb and water glass cutting large holes into her upper body caused additional difficulties.

Apparently, Charlotte reached for her sister, unfortunately, unable to catch her. She fell onto Emma, the additional weight pushing the glass inwards. Picking up Emma's face looking for signs of consciousness stained her hands. Hugging Jane and her mother left bloody hand stains on their clothing. 

Panicking, Charlotte dropped her smartphone which broke instantly upon impact with the floor. With no phone to call for help and unsure if she should leave, Charlotte stayed crying out for someone. If Jane had not been passing Emma's room, nobody would have heard Charlotte. Sheer dumb luck summoned Jane. Jane scolding Andrea for not being in a certain part of the house at a certain time was pointless. Andrea disregarded Jane's words. Andrea's logic ended the fight.

Whipping her phone out of her pocket several minutes prior, Jane called 911. Living on a beautiful, secluded island is soothing, until you need emergency services. The nearest ambulance could be summoned from two towns away, taking over an hour to arrive. The 911 emergency operator advised Jane on treatment steps while waiting for Andrea. If a hospital existed at or near Tree Town, response time would have been 15-30 minutes depending upon traffic. 

“Mom, we didn't know this could happen or I would never shown her the video. Please believe me, there was no flashing! Look for yourself,” she grabbed her mother's phone out of her hand and played the card game tutorial. Her tears continued flowing as she rapidly typed, almost soaking her mother's phone. Indeed, there was nothing wrong with the video.

“SEE! We were going to try playing card games, like poker” Charlotte continued, volume rising and falling erratically. Eventually, she calmed down and spoke in a meek voice, “life has been so boring without her being as active. We simply wanted to have fun together. I'm the one who thought of the idea, please forgive me mother!” The chaos devastated Charlotte. All the yelling resulted in hoarseness; talking caused her pain. Her mother's forgiveness would comfort her. Her expression clearly conveyed the words she was unable to speak.

Although decades of work were required for Andrea to increase her emotional development, she still suffered difficulties on occasion. Avoiding her daughter's gaze or displaying a potentially blank face put her between 'a rock and a hard place.' Which would cause less pain? Visible emotions and androids did not always cooperate.

Avoiding the gaze of both Jane and Charlotte, the compassion in her voice was genuine. Yet no matter how long she spent consoling her daughter, regardless of her words, Charlotte thought her mother was lying. Why else would she avoid looking at her?

"What happened was not your fault, therefore, there was nothing requiring forgiveness. I love you both and your father above all others."

The most probable cause was Emma's post-surgical medication. Required for an unspecified amount of time, depending on various test results, there were few options. Given the choice of a medication warning 'side effects include permanent hearing loss' or medication 'occasionally' causing 'mild' seizures, the parents thought the second choice would be the lesser of two evils. A temporary requirement instead of a lifetime commitment was considered too. In hindsight, deafness might have been better.

As the ambulance finally arrived, Andrea said, "She's too young. We can't leave her home alone. I wouldn't even leave an adult alone given her emotional state." Both adults dreaded Charlotte's reaction. An hour is eternity for a child. Hopefully over an hour of hearing 'are we there yet?' might distract them.

Upon being informed of the situation, Carl, ran out of his office. Leaving so quickly, he forgot about checking out. Reluctantly agreeing to strike his whole day's pay from the record calmed his infuriated manager. Debating the matter would risk his employment. A Phd of Genetic Engineering, Humanity Health Research-Tech Branch was one of the few places he could use his knowledge and obtain a decent paycheck. Nevertheless, he set his priorities the way proper parents should; you can get another job. However, you will never get the same child. Supporting his daughters was more important than complaining about being ripped off for a single day's wage. 

Called “princess” by her own parents, Andrea and her husband continued the tradition with their adopted daughters. Naturally, as the only heir, Andrea and Carl were the Queen and King of their home. As royalty should, they took care of their 'kingdom' and subjects. As a former hotel there was plenty of space to allow best friends Auntie Jane, Auntie Mia, and their significant others to reside in privacy. Emma and Charlotte were the heirs to the Lush Island 'Castle,' they were told. Assuming they lived long enough. 

Imagining their hospital/doctors visits as explorations of new kingdoms, the long lines/waiting time representing how respectable doctors/kings were for seeing each visitor individually and presenting medication as long term gifts was a task children could easily accomplish. Often kinder doctors would play along. Portraying surgery as a kingdom's ritual which they were unable to decline partaking in, lest they represent their future kingdom as rude, would no longer be possible in a few years. Age would soon make the reality of their situations visible. 

Both twins suffered from the Ripping Disease. Better known as the Satan's biological ambassador in many minds. Any terminal illness was Satan's child; the Ripping Disease was merely the newest member of Satan's 'family.' The Disease tortured and eventually murdered her mother when Andrea was 17 years old. 

Andrea and Carl always intended on adopting. The twins caught their eyes instantly. They were warned the reason they were abandoned by their biological parent's was related to their diagnosis of the Ripping Disease. Yet whether they should adopt them was only briefly given any serious thought. Providing love and care for children who would otherwise receive none, dying in an orphanage, took over their sense of logic. Neither parent was aware of how challenging life would be for the family. People adopt disabled children often and live happily. Unfortunately, they learned compassion for other people could not cure disease. 

Family wealth helped provide for the children's needs. However, until a cure could be found nothing would truly benefit them. Never would they admit contemplating 'what if scenarios' each time they took their children for medical examinations, regardless of severity. If they could, would they change their children for healthy children, was the worst and most prevalent thought. Andrea and Carl loved their daughters with all of their hearts. Worry caused their paranoia and overprotective behavior, an issue the girls would strongly desire addressing as they matured. 

Although their present visit focused on Emma, Charlotte had past difficulties too. She frequently needed organ transplants. A genetic match, their adopted father contributed bits of himself into each of their daughters. As an android, there was nothing Andrea could do for them. Simply stating she was not the biological mother nor a genetic match explained her behavior, not an unwillingness 'to go under the knife.' Both girls had been given less anesthesia than necessary at least once. Suffering wide awake, unable to alert anyone during surgery naturally filled them with terror. Yet if children could survive such trauma, their own mother should many claimed.

Several hours passed. Crossing her arms, Charlotte asked "did they forget us? Am I selfish for wanting us seen before others mommy?"

Sighing, "perhaps; yet everybody feels the same, princess."

While waiting, Charlotte noticed the pure white hospital. Previously told the surrounding white represented angels protecting the patients, the doctor's faces told today's story. The angels forgot Emma, painting the room black in the eyes of all present.

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I'm sorry I must inform you little can be done for Emma. Currently, she is on life support. However, her end is near.” Both doctors had addressed the medical needs of each child multiple times, yet the family never bothered learning their names. 

“Records indicate both your daughters suffer from Ripping Disease,” they continued sitting down across the grieving couple. Stopping her surgeon from continuing, the neurologist placed her hand on his. Both Doctor's behaviors disturbed all present; unlike neutral or kind doctors met previously, they seemed suspicious. 

 “Excuse me, I would prefer discussing the matter with the parents, could you both please stay in the waiting room?” Her surgeon escorted them out, his glaring frightening Jane and Charlotte into complying. Upon his return the two doctors continued the conversation, displaying a small amount of hope in their eyes. 

“It has not been tested thoroughly, and may be costly,” the neurologist commented, clearly nervous unlike other professionals who could disguise their fears. “There were several trials, most proving successful, performed based upon the research of geneticist Dr. Jacob Houghman. Few professionals regard his work as factual, yet a potential 'cure' was discovered."

Realizing neither were medical doctors, she tried simplifying the discussion.

“Imagine putting all the pieces of the puzzle together using as much 'living organic material.' Treating any current problems and taking extreme preventative measures for the future led the participants on the road to a slow recovery. Many unaffected individuals can live with only one of certain organs, yet 'completing the puzzle' requires 'filling in the gaps,” the neurologist continued rambling before finally reaching the worst section. 

“Dr. Houghman discovered taking as much as possible from a living donor improved each patient's chances. Why this worked contrary to typical medical science is unspecified. I've noticed you previously donated organs Mr. Smith, leaving you with nothing left. I sympathize with you Mrs. Smith for not being a match.” 

“GET TO THE POINT! Explain 'living organic material'” shouted Carl, suspecting why the doctor was not direct. Dr. Houghman was Andrea's father. She personally witnessed the research/results. Why his research was presented decades later initially confused her. Given the ultimate requirement, the doctor's vague explanations were made clear.

“Excuse me Doctor,” Andrea inquired “Are you proposing we take Emma, nearing death, operate on her while she is in a coma, finally taking what's required from her and placing the missing organs into Charlotte? Emma would die because of the removal of several vital organs, all the missing pieces placed into Charlotte. Recently deceased donors would not suffice? I'm familiar with the highly unethical research and results.” 

“You want us to 'gut' Emma for Charlotte essentially! I can't believe we got placed here. I DEMAND a second opinion, from a different hospital!” 

Shocked by Andrea's knowledge, not surprised by Carl's reaction, the surgeon calmly indicated “You can have one, if Emma is alive. The wall clock's ticking indicated “time is not in Emma's favor. You have until tonight to decide; choose wisely.”  

Both doctor's strolled out, Emma merely another assignment. Most would have instantly declined such an offer. Disgusted by recollections of past and present tragedies, Carl and Andrea considered the possibilities.  

“How do you know about such research Andrea? I thought you were a counselor!” Outrage turned into horror as Carl recalled 'Houghman' was Andrea's maiden name. 

“Dr. Jacob Houghman was one of my relatives. I read his research out of curiosity. Charlotte's life could be risked too. He learned performing many operations rapidly may prevent post-surgical treatments from working, assuming the patient survived the first steps. The results were accurate, yet obtained unethically. He lost his medical license because of his decades of research.”  

Turning into a wild animal, he yelled “You're the counselor, yet you have nothing useful to say? How do you make so much money? Staring in dumbstruck silence at your patients must be incredibly helpful for their recovery right?”

Realizing she was not visibly upset, she ignored her husband while focusing. Using Emma as a tool for saving Charlotte's life, or risking loosing both together? Her mother's suffering inspired her father's research. Unable to have children, her mother created Andrea. Untested on children, if Charlotte lived she would live in an overprotected bubble, loosing as much of her life as she would if she learned to cope, facing each challenge when it came. 

Violent memories of her husband loosing control flashed before Andrea. “'Death and taxes! I'm going develop an illness too; everything is going wrong and I don't know how we will overcome our problems!”

Emma's death would significantly relieve financial difficulties. Furthermore, Charlotte might be cured. Stress and grief would disappear. Until Charlotte inevitably learned the truth. Yes, the girls would give their lives for each other. Realizing how she was 'cured' however, would destroy Charlotte.

Escaping the suffering each family member faced might be worth giving up on Emma. Why not make the most of her? Why not give up what they loved most to make a deal with the Devil?

Facing her husband, finally displaying appropriate emotions, Andrea stated, “we've considered the matter, when we shouldn't have. No decent person would. I believe our choice is unanimous.”

"I'm disgusted with myself... yet the 'needs of the many outweighing the needs of one' is not how families should regard each other. I know you thought the same." He nearly threw up as he spoke.

Taking her husband's hand, "you're right about me. The Devil can be tempting, but nothing is worth the price asked of us. I'm grateful we agree. Stay calm."

Infuriated they were unable to experiment, both doctors left making the Christian Cross. Introducing a third doctor, “here is the second opinion, take it or leave. Rest in peace Emma.”  

Compassion and love cannot cure the sick, yet the Smith family was rewarded. Taking the previous doctor's advice would have prevented Emma from receiving a promising, albeit time consuming, treatment for this incident. Avoiding giving into temptation would be worth while. Hopefully, finally addressing a 'what if scenario' in real life would remove such thoughts from their minds in the future.

While assistants made final preparations, everyone spent time hugging. Later, Jane asked about the previous doctors. 

Relief and joy quickly left Andrea's face, “you don't need to know. Not just yet...”

April 08, 2021 07:59

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.