Pep Rally

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: January 28, 2018

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Submitted: January 28, 2018

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Almost every mother will attempt to convince you that their child is the most beautiful, most kind, or most intelligent in the world. For one there's Cailin He down the street, who's sent her daughter to the most expensive science camp in the state for the fifth consecutive year now. Then there's Lucy Kang, whose horde of children have attempted to jumpstart their “blockbuster-worthy” acting careers by appearing in almost every third commercial that airs on the county television channel. I think my oldest son, however, would take the cake. His name is Blaise and he would've turned 17 in October of this year. His hair was dark like nightfall can only wish to be, and when he smiled his eyes would disappear into half-moons.

Blaise was rarely a problematic infant, but he had worried me more often than not. When he first started primary school, I had convinced myself that he hadn't been reared strictly enough. The boy was deeply opinionated, fond only of daytime cooking shows, and fell asleep only when we woke. As a child he almost weekly went off on his tangent about wanting to grow up to become a journalist, just as I currently am. “A bit wordy for the public school scene, don't you agree?”, my husband had always repeated to me after one of Blaise's half-hour long dinner table speeches. An environment with entirely unfamiliar persons, rigorously set eating times, and even compulsory apportionment of toys - the entire endeavor felt, to me, a bit jarring for him to assimilate into all at once. He hadn’t appeared cut out for such a task.

What I didn’t expect was that he would thrive in such an environment, let alone survive in one. The stubborn, smart-mouthed child I'd tucked into bed every night had quickly grown into the sharp-witted, sparingly defiant salutatorian and field hockey captain of his school. I couldn’t have been more please????d.

He’d always been persistent and maybe a bit over-optimistic. Returning home from a successful competition one night, Blaise had leaned up close to me in the driver’s seat and fumbled with his resistant seatbelt boasting proudly, “I love to live.” He’d sounded as if he were intoxicated from his own happiness. And as I saw him smiling back with a lit-up grin and tired eyes, arms clenched tight around the trophy he’d earned that night, I knew that he had done just that.

 

 

?????????

 

There’s a saying that my mother used to tell me. She’d always remind me when I was struggling in my youth that, “When you are hurting, I too, will feel your pain.” I didn’t think that applied to me in the slightest, and that was probably for the better. I was fine with not throwing a fit every time my son took a small loss on the field or reciprocated feelings for some classmate of his. And while I adored my child, I’d never once felt that his pain was somehow intertwined to my own well-being.

That is, until Blaise finds himself thwarted into one of the most devastating car crashes our small town has seen, and I lose a part of me just as he has lost so much of himself.

Half of Blaise’s time is spent at his school or somebody else’s, either competing or studying. That was where he was headed when he’d been flung from the passenger seat of a friend’s - who was it? Andrew? Nathan? - car, or so I am told. The phone call informing me of this all reaches me at work from the city’s only hospital, Otesa Grace. The older friend is in fact Andrew Hyunh, as I discover on my drive over, and his parents meet me at the facility doors. They attempt to console my husband Noah, who arrives momentarily afterwards from his workplace at the city hall. I use the deflection to bombard the nearest doctor in the lobby with questions. I run through all the questions that form in my head, but can only mouth a feeble, “Where is… w-where is my…,” unable to even utter his name. Hushed whispers escape the conversations of attendings writing furiously onto clipboards. Head aching and barely able to speak, I stumble back towards my husband, hoping he would have the answers I did not. In a few moments, I find myself dizzying, my eyes succumbing to unconsciousness as my legs fold ungraciously underneath me.

 

?????????

 

My husband stands over me when I wake, as do Mr. and Mrs. Hyunh. The latter two make efforts to regain their composure while I frantically pat my aching head.

“The doctors have news for us,” Noah recites, as if he has practiced before. His brows furrow in a mixture of worry and furiation.

“Tell me, then.” I assert, sitting upright immediately. “All of this-” I motion to the growing bruise on my ankle and the swell upon my forehead, “-can wait.”

A man who I learn to call Dr. Sanchez whisks us into a room adorned from wall to wall with large computer monitors. On one is a scan of what I assume to by my son’s body, almost unrecognizable to me. On another exists a diagram, consisting of a human form demarcated in various colors for a reason I could not comprehend. “Your son is alive,” the doctor states, almost too enthusiastically. “He and his friend sustained multiple injuries to their arms and lower legs, most of which are repairable.” I hear a sigh of relief escape from my husband. “There is however, one thing that is of dire concern to us.” Sanchez then clicks to another screen, showing a scan of Blaise’s profile view, stained with labels and accompanying footnotes that are incomprehensible to me. “His nervous system is shot.” He allows my husband and I to process the new information.

“I-is there anything we can do about th-”

“There’s a simple solution, yes. One you might not be pleased with the execution of.” He swallows nervously, pushing his glasses up his nose as he answers.

“And that entails?” my husband trails off.

“Your son is stabilized, but in his current state would suffer from chronic pain and eventually lose his vision.” The doctor’s words cause me to grimace. “A neuron transplant would take care of this.” He clicks to another screen to show us a simulation, making it all too evident that Noah and I are not the first reluctant parents he has attempted to persuade. “It’d take aggressive physical therapy for time to come, but he can recover.”

“What about this is problematic?” I ask, my mind wavering all too quickly. Blaise's class rank, his various sports, his personal hobbies - everything he'd worked so hard for, enjoyed with all of his heart, would crumble to pieces if he lost his vision now.

“The procedure I’m trying to persuade you into is… controversial, to say the least. The neurons involved are artificially generated.” A pause follows. “They serve the same purpose, don’t doubt that for a moment. But with the passing of that new bill and the hiked prices of organic stem cells...” Dr. Sanchez’s tone softens. “The procedure was developed relatively recently, b-but is promising with current tests. Your kid - he’s still young. He’s got a much better chance of full recovery than most of the people who were involved in these trials, and even their stats are in top shape.”

According to the tall stack of folders lined up on Sanchez’s desk, the clinical trials for neuron transplant have only been published for a few months prior to today. His jargon is completely lost on my preoccupied mind, allowing me only to pick up on short, repeated concepts such as “embryonic cells” or “restored plasticity”. None of the words register to me despite their abundant repetitions.

I peer at the analog clock hanging on the wall. 4:17, it glares back at me. It has been two hours and twenty-nine minutes since the faulty brake in Andrew’s car propelled both him and my son out of their seats and onto the sunbaked pavement. Not even bothering to consult my equally distraught husband, I blurt, “We’ll do it,”. My husband’s grip on my wrist tightens as Sanchez fumbles for his form clipboard.

 

?????????

 

It has been five months since Blaise has returned home from the hospital. He frequents the physical therapist’s office, and is there more often than not during holidays and over school breaks. Part of me is fine with the fact that his sight hadn’t been restored until recently. It keeps him averted from the unwavering stares he gets walking to school or to the grocery. On the other hand, Andrew - who’d sustained significantly more injuries - required no such grafts or transplants to restore to his able-bodied self. And for that, I envied him.

The house phone rings for what seems like the umpteenth time today. All of the news portals in Otesa and even a few from as far as Oregon have been calling incessantly, wanting to know how Blaise is doing, if he’s any different from who he was before the car accident. Even after my numerous attempts to change numbers, a generous stream of interview proposals prevent silence from penetrating my home.

“Would you have done it again?”

“Are you and your family seeking counsel for this life-altering experience?”

“When can we see Blaise return to his regular schedules?”

“Your son may be living but do you truly, honestly believe that he is alive?”

I decline to respond.

The rumor mill at Blaise’s once-welcoming high school is now churning. My daughter Mira shares with me elaborate stories, such as one claiming that the better part of Blaise’s brain is made of circuits and wires.  Another theory proposes that Blaise’s injury was not accidental but deliberate, an effect of some narcotic he’d acquired from a senior on one of his competing teams. “It’s like he’s not even there, Mom.” Mira exaggerates. “I mean, his close friends still talk to him and hang out and stuff but the majority of his classmates?”. She gives me a look. “He’s a shoo-in for varsity hockey captain when he gets back to normal, though.” Blaise had certainly accumulated enough strength to resume his drills and basic practice sessions, much to the dismay of a few teammates. The last few words echo in my mind, though. My beloved son is no longer, and will never be again, normal.

 

?????????

 

Though Blaise had his share of friends and got along with others well enough, he'd always been more studious and introverted than his sister. This was likely exacerbated by the disdain he’d accumulated over the first half of the year. On Saturday mornings -for the past four years- he'd wake up at precisely eight o'clock, amble downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast, and lock himself in his room until each and every one of his homework assignments had been completed. This day was presumably no different.

Having made a generous tureen of soup, I find myself standing at his door, asking him to join Mira and I for lunch. I knocked once. Nothing. Knocked again twice. No response. When my suspicions get the better of me and I pry open the door with the key he'd attempted to hide from me, I find the bedroom empty.

I open the bathroom door, regretting my decision immediately upon the sight of bloodstained bathmats and unmoving limbs hanging from the edge of the overflowing tub. The normally unremarkable odor of the room is replaced with one that is rancid, pungent and above all, unrecognizable to me. Tiny droplets of blood accumulate in a trail that ends abruptly at the edge of his bathmat. Rushing to check his pulse, his breathing, really anything, I push his tangled black hair away from his now bloated face, to no avail. His body holds limp and cold in my shaking hands. Not a single part of him responds. Not a single part of him is moving. No, no, no. I think. No, no, no you did not endure all of this suffering just to end your story here. Unknowingly, I begin to scream louder than I knew possible, and do not halt until the ambulance arrives and the accompanying sirens drown out my own blares.

 

?????????

 

The funerary process is troubling, to say the least. An open casket was deemed unsuitable, due to the unrecognizable condition of the body when it was found. Cremation goes unrecommended, due to the fact that it would have required the crematory to remove all of the quote, unquote “different" parts of Blaise's body to be removed and dismantled. We decide on the latter anyhow. Few people show up to the service, possibly out of fear of stigmatization, or maybe unease. Despite all my anguish, the irony of that manages to make me chuckle.

Just as my son is known for being an artificial neuron recipient, I am known for loving one. A few months have passed now. While I still cannot find closure yet, I am attempting to recover. Views on my news articles have skyrocketed, and I am set to author a book later in the year. Thoughts of him still run through my mind when I least expect it. I’m not sure how long it’ll take for me to get over what happened, or if I’ll get over it at all. And frankly, I don’t care either.


Being alone with my family gives me time to reminisce, and to be honest, I still miss him. I desperately need to know how he is doing, if he is still just as diligent as when he was alive, or if he has finally found peace, in some very unlikely scenario.

I hope he does. And even if he doesn’t, I don’t know what good that’d do.
People ask me all the time, how I could care for something that was not real. For something that felt manufactured, or could never be “the real thing". But they didn’t know him. They weren’t aware of what he was. And they didn’t know that he deserved to be loved, possibly even more than I did. Blaise may have been heavily flawed, but he was just as much of a person as I am, if not more. I don’t think being human has much to do with your composition, or your past, or with much else, for that matter. I think it has to do with your heart. And if there’s anything Blaise had an abundance of, it was that.
He had a heart.

 


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