Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Dax found his usual seat in the back corner of the cafeteria and unpacked his lunch.
He laid out a sandwich, a can of iced coffee, and an orange on the table in front of him, then fished a lock-blade knife from his jacket pocket and set about peeling the orange.
“Hey, army kid!”
There were snickers, and Dax looked up to see a crowd of the school football team gathered behind their quarterback.
“I’m not an army kid,” Dax continued slicing the orange, drawing the knife blade from pole to pole, reducing it to equal sized wedges.
“Well, you lost your arms didn’t you?” Again the laughter and the boys exchanging high-fives and shoulder punches in amusement.
“It was an accident, just leave me alone.” Finished with the orange, he rested his hands on the table, still holding the knife.
“They look pretty real army kid, I heard they tore off at the shoulders, that must have been gross!”
Dax twitched visibly, the memory of a summer job cleaning metal fabricating equipment, and a machine that jolted to life when it should have been offline was burned forever into his brain. The sudden searing pain, the shock, the blood-loss, and waking up in a hospital feeling like his life was over.
“Can you punch really hard?” The quarterback was talking again. “Can you crush things with your bare hands?”
The company, to avoid a lawsuit, had flown Dax halfway around the world and had him fitted with the latest in prosthetic tech.
“They don’t work like that,” he glared, just wanting to be left to eat his lunch in peace, “I’m not like that.”
From a table nearby someone spoke over the crowd. “Show him the knife trick, the one from that Alien movie.”
There was a murmur through the group.
“What knife trick?”, the boy was determined now, “Show me!”
Dax slouched, staring at his untouched lunch before pushing his seat back, standing up and walking around the table. He stopped in front of his tormentor who, wary of the knife, took an involuntary step back.
Dax turned and put his left-hand flat on the table, fingers slightly apart.
“Put your hand on top of mine, just like this.”
There was a moment of hesitation before the rising chatter of the crowd forced him, and the boy placed his hand on top of Dax’s.
Dax yanked his hand out from under, and slammed it down on top again, pinning the boy’s hand beneath his.
“What the…?” he started.
“Don’t move, or this will hurt,” Dax instructed, not looking up.
With his right hand, he tapped the table with the tip of the knife blade in a downward stabbing motion between the thumb and first finger, then lifted the knife to bring it down again between the first and second.
He repeated this, slowly from one end of their hands to the other, tapping the table lightly each time with the blade between the fingers, close but not touching flesh. He paused for a moment, looked sideways at the boy. The growing silence was suddenly replaced with a deafening staccato as he repeated the stabbing circuit, moving back and forth between their fingers with blazing speed and uncanny accuracy, tearing holes in the tabletop but never once looking down.
After what seemed like an eternity, he raised the knife to eye level and drove it down with as much force as he could muster, aiming for the thickest part of the back of his hand.
His prosthetics engaged full safeties, stopping the knife blade mere millimeters before breaking his skin, and freezing his arms in place.
The boy yanked his hand away, staggering backward.
“You’re fucking crazy man, you stay away from me you fucking freak!”
The rest of the group backed away, and Dax closed his eyes and waited for them to fade from his awareness, and for his arms to unlock.
After a few moments, he sat down, closed the lock blade and put it back into his coat pocket and stared, no longer interested, at his untouched lunch.
He didn’t want to hurt himself, he didn’t want to hurt anyone at all, not really. He just wanted that to be his choice.
It’s not good to have choice taken away by those who ‘know better’
Consider how dependent we are on external technology now: cell phones for example, something we conduct so much social interaction through and yet have zero real understanding on what makes the technology work, or how to change it, or worse, stop someone else from changing it without our knowledge. What happens when we have advanced tech integrated with our bodies that we can use, but don’t understand, and have no idea how to prevent someone externally from interfering with it? That’s a little terrifying!
Excellent story. It works on a human level — Dax’s story — and also raises questions about the intersection of morality and future technology.
Thank you! That’s a topic that fascinates me, and one I may dwell on a little too much in my writing.
We all have that choice. It is good to remember this
Sometimes choice is all we have.
I like this one. Especially the last line… I think it gave Dax so much depth in so few final words. Not wanting to hurt himself (a thought that must have gone through his mind as he struggled to deal with the loss of his arms) and not wanting to harm others (not really at least), this gave him a darkness as he weighs lashing out violence towards others up as being a valid option. An option that is there but one he will not be goaded into. Or, of course, you meant it to mean something different entirely :). Which is an ambiguity I love in this genre.
There was a whole thrashing sea of feeling running through my head while writing this one, which I think is exactly how Dax finds himself too. I’m glad you liked it!
We all are, sometimes. Hopefully we’re loudly ecstatic more often though.