03 February 2013

Work-in-Progress: heart|STRINGS

Strangely appropriate for February, I've broken my usual tradition of only making a novel attempt in November to write a hard scifi novel with a heavy helping of romance. I'm still not sure if this is going to work, but I figure since I've advised friends to just do it (write) I can't let this sit for a year. Months. Whatever.

So here is a working title and synopsis of my idea, and (probably) the first chapter. Hopefully the CC license I attach to everything here at FTL will protect it from getting ganked by the internet's less scrupulous denizens.

I hope you enjoy. Criticism is always welcome and very much encouraged. I'd rather know it sucks and drop it for other, better, projects than spend a lot of time on something that doesn't resonate even in a rough form.



Patrick Barrett is a brilliant theoretical physicist. He has the respect of his peers, a great job sharing his beloved subject with the next generation of great minds, and he thought he had the love of a woman who shared his passions.

After his wife asks if he loves her then commits suicide before his eyes, he could have buried her and moved on. But as a man who routinely shows the world that God's dice are loaded, why should he?

He will cross the boundaries of this world and the next, and go beyond to answer his dead wife's challenge:

Prove it.


Chapter 1: Interpretations

“Do you love me?”

“Beyond the limits of the universe.”

She whispered two maddening words in my ear: “Prove it.”

I pulled away from our embrace, and in that tiny moment my world was shattered with all-encompassing light and deafening sound.

I watched my wife's brain stem explode across the empty space between her neck and the white cinder block wall of our shared office. Slow-motion spray of crimson. My chest consumed with a singularity of despair. Fear pouring from my eyes.

Her body went limp in my arms; the small handgun she insisted on owning for protection falling to the floor. I didn't hear its blue-black steel clatter against the conglomerate tiles. Didn't see her blood sprayed across the white board, making an incoherent jumble of our figures and equations written out in green and black and red and blue. The rest of reality tuned out, faded beyond perception as I locked my horrified eyes on hers.
She was gently smiling. She was as beautiful as the day I met her, but that vibrant aura she carried that made her truly irresistible was dimming. Her life was fading so quickly from her eyes, and yet through those stunning sky-blue eyes she was still giving me her “come and get me” look.

I eased her to the ground as best I could. My knees were so very weak, I nearly fell. I held her close to me, rocking her back and forth, a broken man. I cried, I screamed, I caressed her face. I moaned, I called out to God, I grasped her hand and brought it to my tear-soaked cheek. I brushed her soft, auburn hair away from her brow. I gently ran my thumb across her lightly freckled cheek.

Time no longer registered in my mind. Events were occurring around me. Others came running in, I assume when they heard the gunshot. Colleagues, friends, passersby. I don't remember who or how many. Just faceless, nondescript people. All I could see, all I wanted to see was her death-pale face, her blue-tinged lips. I faintly recall voices coming through the ringing in my ears. Oh-my-Gods and call-an-ambulances and help-is-on-the-ways.

I knew she was gone. All the hope in the world couldn't change that.

Prove it.

Her last words to me played over and over in my mind's eye, her softly smiling face still warm and pink and alive. My heart ached as I tried to rationalize what she had done. “Prove it.” I pulled her close to my chest, sobbing. Wasn't she happy? Did I miss something? Was she just putting on a brave face for me? “Prove it.” My throat was tight with anguish, my face aching with sorrow. Why would she do this to me, to herself? What would possess her to exit life like this? What the hell did she mean by “Prove it?

I looked up to scream to the heavens.

Mid-rise my eyes stopped, my voice caught before a single note of pain could be unleashed. The paramedics were pulling me away from her, or pulling her away from me, I wasn't sure and in that moment I couldn't have cared. I just stared, mouth agape. I stood and walked around the uniformed men, my wife's body. There on the whiteboard, surrounded by the arcane maths we conjured daily and spattered with her blood was quite possibly the most important symbol in all of creation.

In that moment I understood what she meant, everything she meant by the words “Prove it.”

I began laughing like a madman. Everyone present likely thought I was in shock; or that I had suffered a psychotic break when I straddled her body and held her up, shoving the medics away as I hugged her and kissed her cold dead mouth. I was Aristotle running naked through Athens. I was Galileo looking through the telescope. I was Newton and the damned apple.

Everything was so clear now. She wasn't dead. Not for me. Not yet. I looked past the emptiness in her eyes and saw the first gateway back to her. I felt many strange hands grab my arms. My heart had been broken and mended in less than ten minutes. My colleagues pulled me to my feet as I smiled at her and whispered “I will.”

Still I laughed at that silly little symbol, that ancient mark of forever, an eight knocked to its side. The key and the keyhole.



Captain Blackbush said...

Dare I say-"Fringe" meets Franz Kafka and Bill Burroughs' Alien Butt-baby. I like it!!

Emory B. Pueschel said...

Thank you!