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       Memory, Light & Medicine, p.1

          
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Memory, Light & Medicine
Memory, Light & Medicine

  Brian S. Wheeler

  Flatland Fiction thanks you for your purchase of this ebook. This ebook remains the copyrighted property of the author and may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed for any commercial or non-commercial use without permission from the author. Quotes used in reviews are the exception. No alteration of content is allowed. If you enjoy this ebook, Flatland Fiction encourages you to send us a review at letters@flatlandfiction.com. Unless otherwise instructed, Flatland Fiction reserves the right to post such reviews online.

  Your support and respect for the property of this author is appreciated.

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

  Copyright © 2017 by Brian S. Wheeler

  For Kate.

  If you enjoy this story, please consider purchasing one of the following novels available at your favorite distributor of ebooks. Flatland Fiction welcomes your feedback at letters@flatlandfiction.com.

  Mr. Hancock’s Signature

  The dead walk in Monteray. The corpse of a nearly forgotten farmer named Hancock arrives via train. Ian Washington remembers Mr. Hancock and vows to return the body home. Yet Mr. Hancock's body will not rest while Ian works to reopen a cemetery, and the corpse found each morning upon the doorstep forces the town to choose between the isolation of their fear or the hope of their fellowship.

  The Sisters Will Dance

  Blaine Woosely claws his way back to the living. He has cleaned his blood of his addiction, and an unexpected, family farm home rewards his efforts. Only the country acres isolate Blaine when a sharp-toothed monster hunts to bring Blaine back to the dark. The sad history of Blaine's blood brings magic to the country home's new master, but in the end, only Blaine himself can break his chains.

  Fallen Stardust

  A boy, an outcast and an alien must find salvation in a world of ruin. Samuel must find a medicine to cure the fever ravaging his village. Markus must find the motive that murdered those he loved. And an angel must find a future in a city crumbled into debris. But something lurks beneath the wasted world, and waking it may doom what little of humanity survives.

  The Light Floats Slowly

  Hugh Simms looks to find hope amid the stars when he fails to find any on Earth. Heartbroken by the loss of his only love, Hugh loads his great spaceship with ash and glass before launching his Starchaser into the cosmos. Miraculously, that spaceship finds an alien civilization in the vast dark, and Hugh might deliver that civilization the salvation he failed to deliver to the Earth.

  Vanity and Stars

  Rise to grasp new worlds, and fall with the tragedy of human and alien frailty. These ten stories underline the potential seeded throughout the galaxy, while never denying that humankind’s flaws will surely tarnish the stars. With the vain and the foolish, buckle into the rocket seat and hold a breath while the cosmos unfolds.

  Contents

  Chapter 1 – Medicinal Light

  Chapter 2 – The Skeptic

  Chapter 3 – The Father

  Chapter 4 – Cruel Children

  Chapter 5 – Darker Sparkle

  Chapter 6 – Dutiful Daughter

  Chapter 7 – No Retreat

  Chapter 8 – Magic and Miracle

  Chapter 9 - Faith

  About the Writer

  Other Stories at Flatland Fiction

  Chapter 1 – Medicinal Light

  Thousands of small, blinking lights surrounded Thomas Voss, kneading his memory, searching for the for the man others believed Thomas Voss to have been.

  Thomas’ wife, Elaine, and oldest daughter, Vicki, stared through the small window of the viewing chamber at the man illuminated by so many flashing diadems of silver, pearl and gold. They said nothing. They concentrated to maintain the regularity of their breath. They regarded the ceremony of those lights to be as solemn as any magical practice that summoned the dead. Staring through that window, they prayed that the man they loved, and not the monster they feared, would rise and return to them.

  Vicki glanced again at the blue, digital clock whose numbers retreated towards zero. “What if it doesn’t work?”

  Elaine smiled. “It’ll work. The lights are already bringing him back to us. We only have to be patient and give the therapy time to take hold.”

  “That’s not what I mean, and you know it. What if father rages again?”

  A soft hum of melody escaped Elaine’s lips. “Then we’ll just have to wait until whatever memory is making him angry fades before we start another cycle with the light.”

  Vicki stepped back from the window and leaned against the cold, metal wall. Her hopes had been much higher when her father started his light therapy many months ago. Vicki had hoped that the lights might’ve brought better results, would’ve returned more than just fleeting glimpses of the Thomas Voss the man’s family desired. Yet the lights failed to provide any lasting balm, and Vicki grew tired of the spectacle. All those small LED lights dulled in her eyes.

  “How can you put him through another turn so easily?” Vicki shook her head. “You’re only putting him through more. You’re putting us through more. Don’t you think it’s time that we consider letting him go?”

  “I won’t do that. Not when the doctors tell me it can keep at any time.”

  Vicki sighed. “And what if that memory holds after the light brings back another monster?”

  “You know better than to worry about that. You know there’s still a loving man in your father.”

  Vicki peeked again at the lights blinking in that small window. “You always believed that. Nothing that ever happened beneath our roof ever threatened your faith. But I’m not so sure. I don’t think Logan is sure.”

  “I promise that the lights will only bring back the best of him. The rage will be gone. You’ll see, Vicki, and we’ll all be happy. Even Logan will be happy.”

  Vicki found a plastic chair of her own in that small viewing chamber and returned her attention to the blue digital numbers that continued to blink towards zero. That clock would buzz. The lights would extinguish. The doctors would open the door to that treatment chamber and escort whatever shade of Thomas Voss their medicine lights summoned into that small viewing room, where Vicki and her mother would hold their breath as they gauged how much anger returned with their family’s father. How many more cycles must they all endure? How many more times would the lights need to flash before Elaine finally retrieved the husband she mourned? How much more hurt would her mother’s heart endure if she was forced to watch more memories recaptured by the light fade again into the fog? Vicki’s shoulders slumped. She had said her farewells to her father a long time ago. Wasn’t it best if her mother finally said her own?

  Elaine hummed in her plastic chair. “The lights are dimming. We better hurry to his door and greet him the moment he steps out of the room.”

  “Be careful, mom,” and Vicki followed Elaine out of the viewing room. “Be ready, just in case the lights don’t summon what you’re hoping for.”

  * * * * *

  Chapter 2 – The Skeptic

  Logan Voss scowled through his windshield. He should’ve booked a plane ticket. He should’ve spent a single afternoon flying home instead of investing a full day and a night driving across all the interstate miles separating his shallow career from his lost, childhood home. The drive exhausted him, and the miles would make it no easier for his mood to tolerate the insistent sound of his mother’s humming.

  But Logan couldn’t bear the thought of putting any more anxiety upon his shoulders by competing against airport traffic and hurrying through security gates, only to sit in a metallic tube and wait for the captain to announce a delayed time of departure. A quicker arrival home would’ve made his mother happy, but Logan long ago tired of pleasing Elaine.

  “They should draft a law against farmers clogging the highways with their equipment.” Logan edged the nose of his car into the oncoming lane, but the road curved ahead so that he couldn’t gauge if it was safe to pass.

  Why did he still feel the need to hurry home? Why did he desire to move so much faster as his destination approached? Why did a trip through the country so enflame his temper?

  Logan reminded himself that he would miss nothing. There was little reason to suspect another session of light treatment was going to have any lasting effect on his father. His mother had called him many times in the middle of the night, euphoric with news that the lights healed his father. She had pleaded with her son to hurry home many times with assurances that Logan’s father was eager to see him. Nothing had come of those previous trips home, no matter how quickly he covered the miles. He had no need to rush. The man who stepped out of the light was never the man Elaine claimed him to be.

  “Asshole farmer!”

  Logan blared his horn as the tractor pulling its wagon of manure refused to make any room for him as he passed. He knew that farmer couldn’t hear his horn’s protest over so much machinery, and so Logan slowed in front of the tractor to give that farmer ample time to consider the rude finger Logan extended. Logan cringed when he returned his gaze to the road in front of him. That gesture was something his father would’ve done.

  His mother had always been the faithful one. Thomas Voss believed in few things, and so his wife believed in almost everything. Elaine believed that simple, blinking lights could heal the memories hurt in her husband’s mind. Yet the medicine of light could neither be tasted nor touched, and so Logan was skeptical that the treatment would bring anything back. Logan suspected that all those concussions his father suffered moving a football down a playing field caught up with him after so many years. All that trauma finally numbed Thomas Voss’ mind, so that ephemeral light wouldn’t be enough to return his memories.

  Logan feared his mother refused to accept that the light treatment couldn’t continue without end. He was determined to finally convince his mother of the folly of sending Thomas Voss again and again into the light chamber and expecting that medicine would deliver a result any different than the ones before received. And if his arguments were not enough, then he was more optimistic that his sister would finally come to his cause.

  The remainder of the trip taxed his patience, but Logan arrived several hours later in the town of his childhood without new eruptions of his temper. He located the large, black semi-trailer housing the travelling light chamber camped in the parking lot of a half-abandoned strip mall, an ironic setting, he thought, for the miracles the doctors promised to come from their treatment. Logan distrusted such an ugly trailer that travelled from one town to another, offering all the magic that was needed to heal minds afflicted by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Real medicine wasn’t administered before the rotting billboards of strip-malls, nor in the parking lots of fast-food franchises and all-night laundromats.

  The wind scraped Logan as he stepped from his car. The gray sky appeared heavy, and Logan worried it would ice instead of rain, and so force him to spend more time than planned in his boyhood home. He lifted a hand to pound at the door installed into the side of the trailer, but his mother flung open the passage before he had the time to strike.

  “What took you so long, Logan? Thank goodness you’re finally here. Your father’s almost back to us. You’ll see. The lights have just started blinking again, but it won’t be long before your father smiles at you, and tells you how happy he is to see you again.”

  But Logan didn’t believe that would happen at all, even if all that magic of his mother’s faith turned out to be true.

  * * * * *

  Chapter 3 – The Father

  Thomas Voss sat once again amid all those blinking lights.

  The lights calmed him. Thomas smiled in their presence. The world beyond that chamber felt faded to him, as if his inability to match the names and minds still stored in his mind somehow drained the outside world of its colors. But the lights flashing around him were bright, and those motes of silver, pearl and gold tickled his thoughts so that Thomas Voss felt young.

  A green field manifested in Thomas’ memory, and he stood from his chamber’s chair.

  “Red thirty-two! Red thirty-two! Ready! Set! Hut! Hut!”

  Helmets crashed together, and linemen grunted against one another. Thomas felt the football slap into his hands, and he quickly backpedaled away from center. His feet moved quickly. Reflexes fired through his muscle, and Thomas leapt over the leg of a teammate pushed into his path as he turned and ran along the offensive line. His mind was freed from the lethargy that choked his thoughts. His mind whirled through calculations of angle and speed. The opposing team’s defensive end drifted towards the sidelines, anticipating that Thomas would toss the football to the tailback shadowing him. Thomas’ mind and body were again lithe, and so he took the path that opponent offered, bursting up the field in a sudden rush of speed.

  Thomas grinned as his body churned. His legs were no longer old. His hips swiveled, and Thomas suddenly changed direction to elude a tackler who exploded at his legs just as Thomas separated from the field. The white yardage slashes blurred beneath his strides. None could catch him, and he bolted into the end zone for another score.

  Thomas lifted his arms in celebration. He faced the home bleachers and basked in adoration. His father, Royal, stood in the middle of the crowd, wearing the velvet hat that always set his father apart from the remainder of the community. The blinking lights fired something else in his memory, and Thomas recalled the day Royal wore that hat within his funeral casket. Thomas grunted and shook his head. A football field’s end-zone was not the place for such a sad recollection.

  The lights again blinked to return more pleasant memories. He spotted Lori Sanders among the cheerleaders, and Thomas’ blood thrilled to remember how well his hands had cupped the girl’s panting breasts on those trysts those young lovers shared while Thomas parked Royal’s sedan on the fairway to hole seven of the country club’s golf course. His best friend, Allen Johnson, appeared at Thomas’ side and lifted Thomas onto his shoulder pads while the band’s horns repeated the school’s victory song.

  Thomas shuffled around the light chamber, his arthritic knees shaping very tight circles. In truth, he moved very slowly upon his aging hips. The reality remained that he was an old man forced to watch his world recede as disease and age stole his memory. He would likely need care for a swollen ankle, or for a torn meniscus, following that session within the light chamber.

  But in Thomas Voss’ mind, the lights summoned such a splendid time, and Thomas Voss, a man who rarely smiled, laughed while he danced in silver, golden and pearl twinkle.

  * * * * *

  Chapter 4 – Cruel Children

  “Sit down, Logan. Please relax.”

  Elaine begged her son to step away from the small viewing window. She recognized the anger swelling within Logan. Her boy’s posture tightened and scowled, as it always had since he was a child, as it always had moments before Logan retreated into his bedroom with bruised feelings and bleeding disappointment.

  “Why are you behaving this way?” Elaine hummed. “You have no right to be upset.”

  Logan scoffed. “Don’t I?”

  “I don’t understand what you think we’ve done to deserve such resentment.”

  Logan pained Elaine. Logan always dreamed too big. Logan’s head was always in the clouds. The boy couldn’t be bothered to think in practical terms. He couldn’t learn to accept whatever roles the community, or the world, proffered to him, and Logan never learned how to feel thankful for what he had.

  Elaine’s children disappointed her. Her children should’ve been happy. Why were they so sullen, so petty, when their father needed their encouragement as he struggled to return home?

  “Logan, your father and I worked very hard so that you and your sister could be happy.”

  Logan’s shoulders tensed. He almost turned away from the window. “You worked half-time in the town library without benefits for minimum wage, so you could escape into your pulp romances while father screamed at high school athletes so that he would never have to grow up.”

  The humming between Elaine’s words grew louder. “We gave you and your sister a home. We put food on the table. We sacrificed for both of you.”

  Logan shook his head. “You didn’t sacrifice so much.”

  “Please, let’s not do this.” Vicki interjected.

  Elaine watched Logan’s face fill with color. His emotion was taking over. Logan would lash out at everyone when he lost his temper. Elaine knew when to hold her tongue and cease her argument. Logan was, regardless of how he might protest, very much like his father, and Elaine knew when it was best to turn still and hum in order to give the rage the time it needed to dissipate.

  Logan glared at his sister. “Don’t tell me this isn’t the time to fight. I can’t think of a better time or place for it than this foolish lightshow. Aren’t we trying to bring all the memories back? I don’t think we get to just pick and choose what we want to remember. Have the two of you forgotten so much that both of you can smile at the sight of our senile father chasing touchdowns and skirts while he shuffles through all that blinking light? I should’ve known better. For a time there, I thought father was finally finished with his football helmets, and his baseballs, and all his golf clubs.”

 
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