Author : Thomas Desrochers
I read a lot of science fiction as a kid, and I think I made the mistake of believing that the futures I was reading about were like weather forecasts of what was to come. It’s an easy mistake to make – look at the weather forecast and see sunny skies, you look forward to sunny skies; look at the future forecasts and see miracles, you look forward to miracles.
The problem is that Saturday rolls around and that hope that you kept tucked in your back pocket doesn’t mean a thing when it starts to rain. I’m sitting in the doctor’s office with Aesha, looking out the window at all that future shit flying around, and I just can’t understand what she’s saying.
Too large for surgery.
Too diffuse to even get a good look at.
I remember learning about cancer in school. When I was young I had always thought of it as a single entity, like smallpox, playing by a set of rules that you can learn to kill it by. Turns out that’s about as true as saying New Jersey is a single being. There are over 120 kinds of brain cancer, and that’s one organ. Dive into one person’s cancer and it gets even worse, a mosaic of impatient, heterozygous cells that decided that they wanted to try out natural selection right now – no time to wait. Another student in the class asked the question everybody had on their mind: “Why haven’t we cured it yet?” The professor laughed. Cure cancer? That’s like asking why we haven’t cured viruses.
We work our asses off now just as we have been for almost a century. Better tools, better strategies, better optics. We step into that fight cocksure, thinking to ourselves:
‘Granny would have been jealous – this sure beats the hell out of mustard gas.’
And why not? It’s the future! How could we possibly lose?
I’m looking at the calendar glowing on the doctor’s wall: 5th of November, 2044. It’s a quarter to 5. The doctor’s desk is big and tidy, with an enormous holographic display to one side littered with papers, emails, and to-do’s. This is the science fiction of my childhood, and though the forecast called for miracles Aesha is dying. The doctor looks embarrassed when I ask what went wrong, mumbles something about how there’s always a small chance that nothing will work.
When modern medicine fails, when all that’s left to do is watch ourselves and our loved ones waste away, when our thoughts turn to epitaphs just like in Granny’s day – is that the future too?
Aesha takes me by the hand and we leave. The guilt is overwhelming. I’m not the one who’s dying – I’m the one who should be taking the lead, the one who should be strong.
She takes me aside in the hospital’s lobby, home to the world’s first anti-gravity fountain. Impressive once, but now it feels like a gaudy trinket slapped on a plague-doctor’s mask. She’s trying to talk to me but I can’t make out any of the words. All I can do is stare into her rich brown eyes and see the future, see everything she is wiped away and written over – and then she dies.
“Jon,” she says. “Jon. Talk to me.”
I try to find the words, any words, but I can’t. What is there to say?
Aesha can see it in my eyes, kisses me on the cheek. “Come on,” she says. “Let’s go home.”
We step outside into the humid evening; It begins to rain.