Author: Michael Anthony Dioguardi
“Forever,” the doctor replied.
The patient breathed in slowly, swallowing before he spoke, “The view’s incredible from up here! What did you say the name of this quadrant was?”
The doctor activated the patient’s interface on his forearm, “Enoch Spalding, Saiph system, I’ve gotten a bunch of patients from that area — oh, your question, well, we’re in the front row of the Pegasus Nebula Cluster. They say every fifteen minutes another star goes supernova,” the doctor paused, observing Enoch’s age on his interface, “I worked for years to get my offices here. It’s the best view in the galaxy and it’s far away from the Central Authorities.”
Darkness surrounded the theater of cosmic fireworks. Stars exhaled their final breath and engorged themselves with the neighboring galactic debris.
Enoch shuffled his body in the bed, “Doctor, why should we be bound by mortality?”
“You and the big questions,” the doctor scrunched his brow, “Usually my patients aren’t this chatty before the procedure, I think—”
“Why is there no end to this!”
The doctor leaned back in his seat, nodding his head. He showed his finger to Enoch, “Hold on, I’ve got something for you to see.”
The doctor reached into a drawer and pulled out a box-like apparatus. He blew off the dust and wiped the front of the box, revealing the words: Newbury Public Cemetery Manifest.
“You’re probably wondering what this is…I’m still trying to figure it out myself. I’ve only seen a few of these in my lifetime. They were called books, some millenniums ago.”
The doctor handed Enoch the book. From the spine, a thin rope dangled with a plastic tube attached at its end. Enoch rubbed his finger against the tube’s point and watched his skin darken with its inky residue. He opened the book and flipped through its pages, “What is all this stuff? They’re just peoples’ names, and numbers and letters.”
“These people are all gone now,” the doctor peered over his shoulder, “From what I gather, folks used to stow away their family in these things called cemeteries. I reckon this was before the Infinity Initiative.”
Enoch tapped his feet against the table and placed the book by his side, “Will this really work?”
The doctor adjusted the machine behind them, “My last patient was over one thousand years old when he came in. You’re but a mere 314. Your question shouldn’t be whether it works, but rather, if you’re ready for it to work.”
Their eyes met. Tears rolled down Enoch’s face. Looking out the viewing chamber, Enoch asked between breaths, “Forever?”
The doctor smiled and attached Enoch to the syringe, “And not a day more.”
They clutched their hands together; their pulses increased with each passing second until the grip from Enoch’s fingers loosened.
Another star expanded in the cluster. Fiery bolts of crimson spread like tentacles reaching for the heavens. The red turned to black — and the darkness, forever opaque, welcomed Enoch to its abode.
Sweat beaded underneath the doctor’s eyelids. He reached for the book and flipped through its pages. He lifted the tube from its string and pressed it against the page. As he wrote, he whispered, “Enoch Spalding, Saiph system, 314 years old. Final words: Forever…”