Blind Control

“I’m not sure what else you hope we can do, sir.”

Alan Barter leaned forward over his mahogany desk. “In my experience, Mr. Davies, the impossible exists only for the lazy, or the poor, normally one and the same. I assure you, I have more than enough money to invest in your organization to find a solution.”

The white-coated hologram of the scientist looked at Alan uncertainly, eyes blinking rapidly behind wire-framed glasses. “Sir, your money has – is extremely welcome, but you’ve refused both cyberization and bio-tech methods for life extension, and –”

Alan shook his head. “Not good enough. What about transference?”

Davies’ face contorted in disgust. “With all due respect, I’ve told you before. Aside from the fact that it is highly debatable whether or not the technique actually exists, let alone works, our bioethics laws would never permit it.”

“Unethical! How many animals do you slaughter for research? What about saving my wife – is that not ethical enough for you? Where are your ethics in letting me die slowly, day by day?”

Davies’ mouth opened and closed like a ventriloquist’s puppet. “B-but sir … we can help you both, just please reconsider your fears about cyberization.”

“I will stay one hundred percent human!” shouted Alan, standing up and thumping his hand on top of the desk, scattering pens and knocking a photo frame over.

Davies took an involuntary step backward. “You? Perhaps you should think about what your wife would want.”

Breathing heavily, Alan slumped back into his leather chair, and glowered at the hologram, greying eyebrows knotted together.

“Mr. Davies, if I am unable to convince you to do what I ask, then I’ll have to seek help elsewhere.” Before the flustered scientist could respond, Alan disconnected, and the apparition of Davies disappeared.

The tick of the clock on his desk cut the seconds away. Alan reached out a slightly trembling hand and lifted the wooden frame back upright onto the desk surface. He stared at it longingly, remembering. The sun had been perfect that day, the sea flat, and the breeze gentle, as he and Annette sat there, holding cocktails, on holiday in Cuba at the Varadero Best Western the day it had opened six years ago. It seemed a lifetime away, but that was how he always remembered her: freckled skin, thinning, auburn-dyed hair, and a red lipstick smile full of life.

Not like now.

Did she dream in her cryonics chamber, he wondered – not for the first time – of her life with him? Was she waiting for him to come home, each day passing with the same emptiness he felt? Or was it like a paused film, everyone frozen within the frame at some point in time, waiting for someone to push play again?

He wanted her back, the way she was in the photo, not some … hybrid machine.

Leaning across the desk, he buzzed the old, worn out intercom that he’d kept since his first business in the early nineties.

“Yes sir?”

“Janine, I need you to clear my calendar for the next few days.”

“Is everything alright, sir?” She knew him well enough to know that he hardly ever avoided work, even holidays.

“Everything is fine; I just have some … private business to attend to. Call the airport and have them get the jet ready to fly out to Vilnius at five.”

“Yes sir. Will you be travelling alone?”

“No. There’s one other passenger. I’ll also need a few suits, the usual. I’ll be there for a few days.”

“Will you be eating on board the flight?”

“Yes, something special I think; maybe include something Russian for my guest. Surprise me. Oh, and make sure there is some champagne onboard.”

“You’re celebrating something, sir? Really?”

He paused, thinking. “Yes, Janine. Life.”

“Sir … It may not be my place, but I’m really grateful to hear you say that, because I’ve – we’ve all been a bit concerned about you. Ever since Annette –”

“Thanks, but I’m fine.”

“Yes sir.”

He hung up the intercom, got up from the leather chair and walked to the window that spanned the room, his footsteps echoing gently on the marble floor. Water streamed across the glass. The lights of Canary Warf and the rest of London looked like blurred splotches of flickering, blinking, and painted colour amidst the cloudy, dark-grey canvas of the sprawling skyline.

He tried to remember when it had last rained, but couldn’t; it must have been a few months at least. The sound of the rain drumming gradually emptied his mind and he closed his eyes, listening. It felt good not to think, but eventually a nagging sense of urgency began to grow.

Reluctantly, he snapped out of his reverie, and took out his phone.

“Dima,” he commanded. Barely audible beeps showed it was connecting, and then, a ringtone.

“Ah, Mr. Barter,” said Dima in his harsh Russian accent. “You call with good news?”

“I accept your offer. We leave this evening from Heathrow at five.”

“Yes, yes, very good. You make a very good choice. I will arrange for a hotel, a very good hotel.” Dima paused. “And, you have the money?”

“Of course … but, I must ask you a question.”

“Again? Mr. Barter, please –”

“Do you know what it’s like to get old? Wondering if the people who are now dead ever really existed?”

“No, I do not think about such things.”

“Reach my age, and that’s all you think about. That’s why I need to be sure.”

“How many times must I give the same answer? I assure you, transference is real.”

“It had better be; otherwise, no money.”

“Trust me, there is –”

“Even the Pope can’t be trusted when it comes to money, Dima. That’s business. If you want trust –”

“Yes, yes. I understand. I will see you at five,” Dima said, and hung up. As Alan put his phone away and turned towards the window again, the intercom buzzed on his desk. He walked back, and answered it.

“Yes Janine?”

“Sir, I just connected with Mr. McManus in the States, and he would like to speak to you before you leave. He says it is urgent.”

“Tell him he can call me on the way to the airport. I wish to be alone for a while.”

“Yes sir.”

Alan sat back in his chair, and stared into nothing, waiting.

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  1. […] Blind Control It seemed a lifetime away, but that was how he always remembered her: freckled skin, thinning, auburn-dyed hair, and a red lipstick smile full of life. Not like now. Did she dream in her cryonics chamber, he wondered – not for the first … […]

  2. […] claims regarding the defeat, or cure, of ageing fascinate me. In my most recent short story, “Blind Control“, I explored the idea of someone obsessed with the idea of extending his life, but I’ve […]

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June 30, 2008