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Apr 26, 2011 - Flash Fiction    5 Comments

Flash Fiction: Residue of Einstein

For the month of April, fellow author, Thea Atkinson is streaking through 30 blogs and flashing us a piece of fiction. I offered her a space today so she could expose a piece. Enjoy! Please follow the links at the end to see who she flashed yesterday, and who she will flash tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak

Residue of Einstein

By Thea Atkinson

History books tell us that some poor schlep from a patent office millennia ago worked out the initial theory of relativity. I read somewhere that this guy—Einstein—worked for years (until his death, actually) on a mathematical theory that would explain everything. The universal theory, they called it then, and then sometime later, maybe a bunch of decades, the string theory. But that’s all speculation now. They can’t prove that he wanted to work out a theory so all encompassing, but I believe it. Who wouldn’t want to discover something that could explain everything we are—everything we’ve done and hoped for. It’s been the search of man since the Industrial age.

Well, you know how it turned out, the same as the rest of us. Not to get into the physics or anything, but the formula is pretty easy when you know it exists as all of humankind does now. It’s a wonder the man never discovered it as he reached the threshold of his last seconds. It’s as rote at thing as the obsolete formula that has his dodgy, unreliable theory at its core.

E=MC2. He couldn’t have known how close he was. I try to imagine him sometimes as a hunched over being working with instruments to figure it all out, but it’s tough to envision; at least, it was until I streamed backwards and sideways and saw him as I wanted to see him, finally. I saw things that no one of my day has thought to witness. That man, that predecessor to all we are: what he looked like, what his work entailed, what his frustration felt like. Anyone could have gone there, if they’d cared to, if they’d wanted to: yet no one has. I know they haven’t. Of course, if they had, they’d have seen something different anyway.

Still, it changed me, that moment. That parsec. That streamtime. Seeing him bent over, sitting at something that seemed to support him. Furniture, I think they called it: table, chair, walls, floor, space, time. All those things existed in that streamtime and it was glorious. And all because of the theory some button addled cubist laser worker was able to glean from that man’s base formula: changed that Energy theory right round and gave us all the realization that at its very core and particle, mass is light.


Ah yes, a bit longer but infinitely more malleable: the circumference of the Earth cubed times the speed of light quaded. We know it, all of us, and yet only some can explain what it means and the breadth of it. Only those long lost physicists who molded it into something useful would have felt the want to, but we’ve no need for them now—them or any scientist.

And I know the universe is better off for having been able to describe all meaning in one equation: no wars, no hunger, no death.

No God.

Just light. Infinite particles of pure energy moving, coiling, weaving time and space into something indescribable, even for us here within it.

And as blissful as it is here in this nirvana, I do envy those ancient humans their sense of solidity and their ignorance. That they had to touch each other to feel, that they had to speak to know each other. I want to streamtime back and watch Einstein over and over, change his clothes, clutter his desk, whisper to him that the theory isn’t worth it. Tell him to give it up and enjoy what he has, what he will have, what his bed will feel like as he lies on it in death.

Because what good is living when there’s no struggle to stay alive?

April 25: Edward Robertson

April 27 JR Tomlin

Apr 8, 2011 - Flash Fiction    Comments Off on Flash Fiction: Pandemic

Flash Fiction: Pandemic

I originally wrote this piece for Karen Berner’s Bibliophilic Blather. Each month she has a specific theme for flash fiction submissions to her site. The theme for April is ‘Spring Fever’. I had been watching too much House MD when I read the theme, and this was the result. The original post with the story is here.


Dr John Andrews looked through the transparent wall in his office toward the hospital entrance below. Hundreds of people filled the normally clear area, all seeking medical help. He turned as another doctor entered his office.

“We’ve received another sixty-seven patients in the past two hours,” said Dr Susan Hallow. “They’ve all tested positive for Xyalo’s Syndrome.”

“Damnit.” John turned back to the window. Xyalo’s Syndrome, or ‘Spring Fever’ as the original colonists had nicknamed it due to the time of year it struck, was a disease that had once killed hundreds a year. No one had ever worked out exactly what it was that caused Xyalo’s Syndrome. Starting as a simple body ache and fever, it progressed quickly to coughing and vomiting of blood, then the lungs and brain liquefying. Death was always the result.

Fifty years ago, a vaccine had been developed on Earth. When injected annually, had proved 100% effective in stopping the disease.

Until now.

“Has the lab determined why the vaccine isn’t working?”

Dr Hallow shook her head. “We ran a comparison of the latest batch of the vaccine to some old stock we located. They were a perfect match. Dr Wu is trying to figure out what has changed, but it’s going to take time.”

John closed his eyes. He had feared that. More than a million people lived on the planet. They were all at risk.

Dr Hallow continued. “Has there been any response from Earth?”

John snorted in disgust. “Sure. They’re sympathetic to our plight, and assure us that the vaccine is fine. They’ve offered us the full services of a ‘consultative’ team via hookup to assist us in diagnosing what’s really wrong. Because we must be morons to think it’s a disease that they cured decades ago.”

“What? You can’t be serious. Eleven people have already died! What more do they want?”

“No liability.” John sighed. “While Dr Wu is trying to create a vaccine that works, have the lab start synthesizing penicillin and probenecid.”

“Penicillin? We haven’t used that in over a century. There are much better antibiotics.”

“Not in this case. The early colonists found original penicillin was the only thing that would slow the progression of Xyalo’s. Until the lab can give us a working vaccine, a penicillin with probenecid dose is our best bet at keeping people alive.”

“How long will it give us?”

“Three days. Five if we’re lucky.”

Dr Hallows nodded. “I’ll tell him right away.” She turned to leave.


Dr Hallows stopped, looking back in surprise. “Doctor?”

John shook his head. “Never mind. I’ll be down to help in a few minutes.”

She left, still looking surprised. John looked at his hand as he flexed it, the ache already starting to spread to his elbow. He didn’t think five days would be long enough for Dr Wu to synthesize a new vaccine.