A long short story
Kristi was intrigued by the design of the necklace and the dangling pendant. It looked old — like something out of the historical romance novels she liked to read. “What can you tell me about this?” She pointed at it and tapped on the thick glass of the display case.
The proprietor of the pawn shop lifted the necklace from the display case. “Just got this in yesterday, Miss.” He gently lifted the pendant and chain off a stand and laid it out slowly onto a black velvet cloth. “An interesting fellow in a tux and top-hat came in with it. He didn’t talk much. All he said is it was time to pass it on.
The tightly weaved silver chains of the necklace glittered against the black of the velvet. The pendant was a circular silver cast of a feline animal with very tiny jewels for its eyes. Its body circled around a multi-faceted translucent gem with a layer of light blue at the surface turning to a deeper blue inside. The tail of the cat curved around an axle for two optic lenses of glass hovering over the top of the center gem — magnifying the deep sparkle of blue from within. Kristi slid the top lens off to the side and then the bottom lens, revealing the smallness of the center gem. “Wow. The lenses make the center gem look like it’s several carats.
“Yeah. It’s actually one third of a carat.
Kristi had to have it. There was no doubt or question about it. “I’ll take it!
The proprietor paused for a few seconds, startled by the lack of discussion about price. “Um, okay. That will be thirteen hundred,” he stated cautiously, already wondering if the price would scare her off.
“Fine,” she replied, pulling her parent’s credit card out of her purse and flipping it down onto the glass counter. She knew it was tapping into her allocated college funds, but she didn’t care.
Throughout the day at college, Kristi was thrilled to talk about her new found necklace. Everyone commented how unique it was, where she found it, and how much was it worth. By the time she arrived at her dorm room she was worn out from the reiterations of descriptions, but still excited about finding it. She found herself unconsciously toying with it throughout the evening while studying her homework. Her roommate had asked if she could borrow it for her date tonight, but there was no way Kristi was going to let it go.
“Ugh, finals,” she exclaimed. She went downstairs to the dorm kitchen and made herself an espresso to help get through a late night of cramming the books. Continuing to play with the pendant, she unconsciously twirled the magnifying lenses to one side while feeling the texture of the gemstone in the middle. Applying a little pressure to feel the bevels of the gem, she felt it give a little, and it sank down into its base with a click.
Kristi was instantly, totally engulfed in darkness. She felt panic start to set in, wondering if she was having a stroke or some other type of health issue. She felt like she was floating with nothing beneath her. Lifting her hand to her forehead, she found some comfort in being able to feel her own hand and forehead. Looking down, she could see a very faint glow of blue from the center of the pendant. Again, another sense of relief at knowing her vision was okay as well. She grasped the pendant with one hand and slowly felt for the center gem. Rubbing a thumb over it, she applied slight pressure until it clicked.
The cup of espresso was still steaming in front of her. She looked around at the kitchen area. A couple students were sitting at a table enjoying a snack and talking. No one noticed anything different. She wasn’t sure if she should mention what just happened to her or not. Actually, she wasn’t really sure what happened. She grabbed her espresso and nervously headed back to her room.
She sat down at her desk, took the necklace off, and laid it down. Her hands were shaking as she moved the pendant lenses around and gently touched the center gem. The deep blue tint seemed to glow more as she touched it. She pressed the gem. Nothing happened. Maybe she imagined the whole thing. She shook her head. It was too vivid. Had to be real. She put the necklace back on, took a deep breath, and pressed the gem.
The darkness enveloped her again. She quickly pressed the gem and found herself sitting at her desk, facing her laptop computer. The time on the computer clock said 9:47 pm. She pushed the gem and entered back into the darkness. She felt disoriented, like she was floating in outer-space, but without any stars. There was nothing to touch except herself, her clothing, and the necklace. She cradled the pendant in the palm of her hand and raised it up to eye level. It glowed a deep blue and pulsed slightly, like a heart beat. She released it and watched it slowly drop to the center of the necklace chain, below her neck.
Staring out into the darkness she tried feeling around and and then attempted to spin around. There was no sense of direction and she couldn’t feel anything. There was nothing to stand on or sit on. Her legs dangled loosely. “Hello?” The sound of her voice sent a chill through her. It was flat sounding, like being in a sound proof room, with no echoes, no other sounds. She waited, but didn’t know for what, she just felt she needed to wait.
After what seemed like an hour or more, there was no change in the darkness, even though her eyes were fully adapted to the dark. Only a slight glow from the gem in the pendant could be seen when she occasionally held it up. She pressed the gem. Her desk and computer instantly appeared. She was still sitting in her chair. The time on the computer clock still showed 9:47 pm. “What?” The computer clock eventually incremented to 9:48, proving to her it was still working — time was still progressing. Just not when she was in the… She wasn’t sure what to call it. The Darkness, she decided.
Her medical schooling research glared at her from the computer screen. “Dang — test tomorrow. This is going to take me all night.” An idea suddenly occurred to her. “Sleep,” she stated to herself while grabbing the pendant and gazing at it. She looked back up at the computer clock showing 9:53 and pressed the center gem of the pendant. The glow from the computer screen faded from her eyes as she entered the darkness. Perfect for sleeping, she thought. Even though she wanted to sleep, she found the lack of noise and gravity was uncomfortable. She continued to stare into the darkness. After what seemed like several hours, she started to hear and feel her heart beating. Flashes of images from her mind started to play out in the darkness. She knew the lack of sensory input was enhancing her hearing and her mind was playing the images. Eventually, she managed to fall asleep.
Kristi awoke with a panic. Her sleep had been so deep, she had forgotten where she was. It took her a few seconds to remember. Nothing had changed. She still floated in the dark. The sounds of her own body echoed in her ears. She felt rested, peaceful, and content — almost like the womb, or a cocoon. She chuckled at the thought while grasping the pendant and pressing the center gem.
The brightness of the computer screen and the light in the room was startling. It took Kristi a few seconds before she could focus her eyes on the monitor. The clock read 9:48 p.m. “Wow.” She laughed. She had managed to get a good night’s sleep without loosing any time. Her coffee was still warm. She giggled while pondering the possibilities. She dove into her studies and spent the entire night preparing for her test.
The college medical exam was a breeze. Kristi used the pendant anytime she felt stumped by a question. She would ponder the issue while in the dark and return to fill out the answer. She managed to actually finish the exam a good thirty minutes before the rest of the students. She then wished she had the ability to speed up time instead of having to wait on everyone else.
The rest of medical school was a breeze, thanks to the pendant. Kristi used it at every opportunity. Her friends and teachers commented on how much she had changed. She was so positive, always had so much energy, and was able to get so much done. After getting many questions on why she always wore the pendant, she started keeping it in her purse, or in her pocket. She had tried under a sweater once, but discovered it wouldn’t work if the gem didn’t have direct contact with her fingers when being pressed. She also became very possessive and worried about other people even looking at it. It became a significant concern and she found herself worrying excessively about what she would do if she ever lost it, or if it ever quit working. Her worry became so bad she finally decided to lock it away, and she tried going for weeks without relying on it. She finally found a balance and would only use it when necessary, and not for every single convenience.
The pendant became especially valuable when she started her hospital residency as a surgeon in the Emergency Room. She would breeze through the long shifts and would “blank” out to calm her nerves in a very stressful emergency, or to have more time to think about the situation. She soon gained a reputation as one of the most brilliant surgeons on staff. She felt bad about all the praise and recognition. She was just like anyone else, aside from the ability to take more time to work out her solutions. Time to think was her only advantage. Her attempts at taking a laptop or smartphone with her didn’t work out very well. There was no internet or cell coverage in the darkness. Her research was limited to the data she could take with her.
Years after her residency and becoming the Senior Director of Surgery, the most critical emergency in her life happened. A twelve year old girl had come into the ER suffering from an epileptic seizure during her shift. Medication and intubation had stopped the seizures, and an MRI showed a strange parasite wrapped around the girl’s cerebral cortex just below the base of the brain. No one had ever seen anything like it and the staff looked to Kristi for an answer. She panicked and pressed the gem.
The darkness was soothing and calming. Floating in the darkness, she pondered how she could save the girl’s life. Staring off into the darkness, the images of the MRI floated out in front of her, firmly burned into her mind. A blue glow appeared in the middle of the visions. It drew closer and became brighter. She couldn’t determine if she was imagining it or if the blue light was really there.
The light grew into a box shape, which became a rectangle, and growing to the size of a door opening. Kristi could feel gravity slowly come into normal force and she was able to stand up in front of the blue rectangle. She reached out toward the box, but before she could make contact with it, the glowing blue light dissolved to show a large white room with people waiting and staring at her. Each person had a slight outline of a bluish tint surrounding their skin. They all became excited at her appearance before them.
One blue tinted man stepped forward, extended his hand toward her. “It’s okay, Kristi. You can come through. We’ll explain everything.
Strangely, she felt comfortable with taking the man’s hand as she stepped through the opening and into the room. It looked like a medical laboratory, much like those at the hospital. Though everything had the same slight bluish tint — everything, even the floor.
“My name is Fibri. I have been your monitor.” The man guided her to a large flat screen display on a wall. It showed images of everything Kristi had seen of the young girl back at the hospital.
“My monitor?” She paused while staring at the display. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“I’m sorry if this is all sudden and a bit overwhelming.” He pointed at the display. “We are all here to help you with the girl, and with your species.” He pointed at the display and made a gesture with his hand. The display changed to an image of Kristi floating in nothing while sleeping. “During your visits, I have been able to monitor your mentality.”
“My mentality?” Kristi felt a slight pang of panic. Is this real? Am I dreaming this?
Fibri touched her hand gently and she felt a warmth and calmness wash over her. He continued. “I assure you, you are not dreaming. We are not of your universe, but we are here to help. A hired traveler placed this device…” He pointed to the pendant. “in your environment. You were attracted to it for a very specific reason. When you visit us,” He pointed at the image of her floating. “we download your images, emotions, and experiences. This is the only way we can interact with your species. Everything you see here,” He swept one hand around and Kristi looked at the people and the room, all with the slight bluish glow. “is a projection for your benefit.”
“Wow.” She had a tough time comprehending all that Fibri was telling her. Yet, she knew, and felt, in her inner being, it was all true. She faced the display, which had changed back to the view of the young girl and the MRI scans. You want to help me with the girl?”
“That is correct.” Fibri replied and turned back toward the display. He gestured with one hand and the display changed to show a rotating image of the parasite which had attached itself to the young girl’s cerebral cortex. “This is an Agmar. It’s a very dangerous and invasive species which has recently dropped into the atmosphere of your planet. If allowed to proliferate, it will eventually consume every living being on your planet. The Agmar feeds on fluids in the body, starting with the spinal fluids. As the body starts to die, the Agmar releases hundreds of it’s offspring, at a viral level. Others will become infected, and it will spread. The girl will die in around two of your rotations. We project total annihilation of your species within six months. There will be others infected due to your planet passing through a drifting stream of Agmar.”
Kristi was stunned, sick to her stomach, and almost vomited. Fibri touched her on the arm and provided a comforting sense of concern. She felt composure and confidence wash over her. Realizing the sense came from the touch, she smiled at Fibri while replying. “Thank you.” Looking back at the display, she asked. “How do I stop it?”
“We will give you instructions on how you can remove the Agmar with your existing technologies. You’ll not only save the girl, but you’ll be saving your entire race from this pestilence. However, there is a request from us for the use of this knowledge.”
“A request?” She paused. “As in a price to pay?”
“We have no need of financial units. It is irrelevant to our species. What we need is help from those who have this knowledge and experience. We need you to come back to us and assist us.”
“Ah. You mean instead of sleeping, I could come and help you?”
“Unfortunately no. The next time you use the pendant, you will be here permanently. You cannot go back.”
Kristi paused for a long minute while observing the faces of the various people, or aliens, in the room. The looks were of anxiety, anticipation, concern, and possibly a little desperation. “Um, I…” She paused. “Can I have time to think about it?”
“Of course.” He replied while giving a look and nod to the others. “You can still take our knowledge of this resolution with you. Just be sure to save the girl, and share the solution before you come back.”
“I understand.” Kristi responded solemnly.
Fibri and his team showed Kristi the necessary processes for detaching and killing the Agmar. While it was fairly detailed, it did utilize technology which could easily be found at the hospital. They reviewed the process multiple times until Kristi was certain she had the process memorized. Certain that Kristi was now capable of saving the young girl, each member of Fibri’s team approached her, held her hand, and stated, ‘Alams kre damas mouel.’ Fibri was the last in line to hold her hand and repeated the statement.
“Is that a ‘So long and good luck?’ Kristi asked.
“It means: May our knowledge help you to be true to your efforts.” Fibri
waved a hand and a portal opened up into the darkness behind Kristi. Tears came to her eyes as she turned and faced the opening. Turning back toward Fibri, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for giving me this knowledge and ability to save our race.”
“If you come back to us you can also help to save others in our universe.” Fibri stated and gestured toward the portal.
Kristi stepped through the opening and was instantly swallowed by the darkness. She allowed herself to float awhile, to ponder all she had learned, and to consider her options. When she felt she was ready to step back into the emergency room with the little girl she pressed the center of the pendant.
Sounds of the emergency room abruptly flooded her. The nurses, assistants, and other doctors were staring, waiting for her decisions. She had it all down in her mind. “I need this girl moved back to the MRI. Prep her for a scan. No injections except for the saline. Myers, go to pharmacy and get me an ounce of colloidal silver. If they don’t have it, drive to the drug store and get it. Sue, I’ll need a laser guide bracket. Jones, get video. We’re going to record this.” She paused and noticed the team was stunned by the sudden list of instructions. “Stat! That’s now, people!”
The various team members scattered to their assignments while Kristi leaned over the young sedated girl and lightly brushed her hair off her face. “Hang in there sweetie. We’re going to make you better.”
Kristi watched the monitors while the young girl was being scanned by the MRI. A grey haired doctor stepped up beside her. “So, what is it Kristi?” He asked while checking the images on the monitors.
“Ah, Director Ferguson. It’s an invasive species.” She replied calmly.
“Excuse me? An invasive species? How do you know?”
“In all your training, your years of experience — have you ever seen anything like this?” She pointed at the MRI image on the monitors.
He stepped closer to the monitors and studied the images for a few minutes before responding. “No, I guess I haven’t.” He paused for another minute. “What’s your plan?”
“Well, this specific creature is highly sensitive to light. Normal exposure will cause it become ill and will slow it’s aggression. But to kill it, we’ll increase it’s sensitivity, then we bombard it with laser light. This will overwhelm it’s defenses and it will die. Any other process will cause it to release toxins and kill the patient.”
“I see.” The doc contemplated Kristi’s diagnosis for a few minutes. “How do you increase it’s sensitivity to light?”
“Colloidal Silver injection into the patient’s bloodstream. We give it a couple hours to fully saturate and via incision we expose the parasite to a carbon dioxide gas laser. As it dies, it will release it’s grip on her cerebral cortex, and we extract it via the same incision.”
“How do you know this will work?” The doctor removed his glasses and gazed intently at Kristi.
“I stumbled across some research leading me to this conclusion.” She could tell he was skeptical. “It’s very conclusive.”
“Why have I not come across this research?”
“Do hospital Vice Presidents have time to read all the new research?”
“I suppose not.” He put his glasses back on and turned his attention back to the monitors. “I hope you’re right. I expect to see your papers on this procedure, ready for release, in my email by tomorrow morning.”
“What?” She gasped. “Those usually take a week or two for me to submit. Why the big rush?”
“CDC has reported twenty-one new infestations matching this one and no one has any clue of what to do about it.” He gazed back at her over the top of his glasses. “I guess they don’t read the same research you do.”
The young girl was strapped and anchored face down. Various tubes and sensors were bundled together next to the girl’s neck, feeding vital oxygen, anesthesia, and monitoring the girl’s vitals. Kristi and her team were fully gowned, and the cameras were recording. She began her dialog for the video. “Our patient is a twelve year old female. She has a parasitic infestation attached to her cerebral cortex, just below the brain. The parasite, which I’m calling an Agmar, is approximately eight inches long, elongated, similar to a leech in shape. MRI scan shows a texture of scales, similar to a fish. The patient was injected with thirty CC’s of drug store quality colloidal silver, four hours prior to surgery. The colloidal increases sensitivity to light and the Agmar absorbs it from the patient. We will now incise the patient at the base of the skull.”
Aside from a small rectangle area of skin, the young girl was draped in a light blue surgical paper. Several bright spotlights were focused on the spot. “Stand by swab and spreader.” Kristi instructed her team as she slowly cut through the young girl’s skin and epidural layers. An aide swabbed at the oozing blood and fluids while Kristi exchanged her scalpel for a titanium spreader. She carefully inserted it and slowly released it against the sides of the incision. She continued for the cameras. “Incision is three inches and spreader has been inserted. I’m now tilting the spreader to provide a visual of the Agmar.” She gently pulled on the handle of the spreader, causing the skin to lift on one side and expose a view into the base of the skull where the cortex anchored to the brain. Pulling a small digital camera closer to the opening, she checked one of the monitors to make sure the camera view had the image on the screen. Various gasps were uttered by the team as the shape of the Agmar came into view.
“This is the tail and main body of the Agmar. The body is wrapped around half of the cortex and the head is anchored to the cortex just under the base of the brain.” One of the aides pulled a sliding anchor bracket over the incision and attached a clamp onto the end of the spreader. Kristi released her grip of the spreader. Another aide attached a laser mounted in a aluminum frame to the anchor bracket. “We’re mounting a carbon dioxide gas laser to a suspended anchor bracket. We’ll be using a red laser guide to pinpoint the gas laser before firing.”
The team watched the monitors as red cross-hairs showed up on the body of the Agmar. “Preparing to power up the gas laser. The source energy will be at 300 milliwatts. The beam will be defocused to create a wider beam on the surface of the Agmar.” Kristi flipped down a laser protection shield over her clear face shield. “Beginning laser ignite in three, two, one.”
Aside from the sound of the heart monitor and the assisted breathing system, there were no other sounds. It seemed the entire team was holding their breath as they watched the intense white beam hit the Agmar and expand from a pinpoint to the size of a dime on the creature’s scales. Everyone gasped as they saw the Agmar shrivel and slowly uncurl from around the cerebral cortex.
“Disengage the laser.” Kristi stated. “I’m reaching into the incision with a suction tube set on the minimal amount of force.” She slowly moved the tube into the incision and attached it to the tail of the Agmar. There was no further movement from the creature as she slowly tugged and maneuvered it through the incision. “I’m slowly pulling the Agmar out through the incision. Prepare for saline wash.”
One of the aides held a pint size bottle of saline fluid with a directional spout close to the incision. Another aide slid the anchor bracket with the laser away from the patient. Kristi pulled the Agmar clear of the incision and dropped it into a stainless steel pan. A clear lid was clamped down over the pan. There was no movement from the Agmar and it shrunk a little after hitting the pan.
“The Agmar is contained. Flush the incision, examine for debris, then flush again before closing.”
The team applauded and praised Kristi, and each other. “That’s a wrap. Get the video over to the distribution office and out to the other hospitals immediately.” A voice stated from an intercom, sounding like Dr. Ferguson.
Kristi checked on the young girl several hours later. She was conscious and communicating with various nurses and doctors. Her parents heaped praise and admiration on Kristi, though she humbly felt it was undeserved. She only did what she was taught by Fibri. As she stepped out of the girl’s room and walked through the hallway, she continued to receive praise from staff and strangers. She paused at a TV in a waiting room as a news program talked about the mystery parasite infecting people around the world and the surgeon who came up with the innovative process for killing and removing the Agmars.
“Better get used to it.” Dr. Ferguson stated while walking up and standing beside her. “You’re a celebrity.”
She cringed at his statement. She didn’t do this for fame or popularity. She was here to help heal people.
“We scheduled a press conference for this afternoon.” He paused and glanced at her for a reaction, then continued. “CDC is reporting over a thousand cases around the world. The press is asking for you to be available for questions.”
Kristi felt the panic building up inside. “It’s all in the video. Just give it to them. They can learn from that.” She shakily replied while staring at the TV.
“We did, but they want to meet the ‘Agmar Doctor’. Just imagine the book deal you can get from this.”
“What time is the press conference?” She gently caressed the edges of the pendant.
“Five thirty. Just in time for the evening news. Oh, CNN said they would be here as well.” He turned away from the TV in time to see Kristi heading out of the waiting room.
Dr. Ferguson stood behind a lectern positioned in front of the hospital logo, next to the front entrance. A group of microphones were strapped and zip tied to the top — each with their own station logo showing, and the most prominent was CNN. He paused for a long minute, waiting for the onslaught of camera flashes to die down. It also gave him more time to formulate how he would break the news to the media.
“Good afternoon.” He stated while shuffling a few index cards. “I’m Dr. Ferguson, Vice President of Medical Operations for Southwest University Hospital.” He paused again and glanced off to the side, hoping to see that Kristi had changed her mind and was willing to speak. She wasn’t there. “I know that you’re all here to meet our Senior Director of Surgery, Doctor Kristina Mendosa. Thanks to a discovery by Dr. Mendosa, we have been able to find a way to remove infestations of a new parasitic worm called an Agmar. As you know, this infestation has affected thousands of people around the world, and was totally unheard of until a week ago. The process for the removal of the Agmar has been documented and videos have been streamed to all major medical facilities around the world.” The VP pointed to a video monitor off to the left side of the lectern. He made a another glance to the side, confirming what he already expected — Kristi was still not there.
Mir’zea floated in the darkness, pondering how he would tackle the infestation which attacked his clan. The tribe looked to him for healing and solutions to all of their sicknesses. This was something he had never seen before. He panicked in their moment of greatest need and used the pendant dangling under his neck to escape to the darkness. He needed to think, to work out a solution, as he had done so many times before. He was thankful for the barter he had made for the pendant, so many rotations ago. As he reflected on the sickness in his tribe, a thin blue rectangle suddenly appeared in the darkness in front of him.
Mir’zea could feel gravity slowly come into normal force and he was able to stand up in front of the blue rectangle. He reached out toward it, wondering if he could touch it. The glowing blue light dissolved to show a large compartment with various intellects waiting and staring at him. Each intellect had a very slight outline of a bluish tint surrounding their skin. He knew they were able to see him as well.
One intellect stepped forward, extending a hand toward him. “It’s okay, Mir’zea. You can come through. We’ll explain everything.”
Strangely, he felt comfortable with taking a hold of the intellect’s protrusion and stepping through the opening into the compartment. It looked like a healing tent, much like what he had been used to during his training. Though everything had the same slight bluish tint — everything, even the floor.
“My name is Kristi. I have been your monitor.” The intellect guided him to a large display on one side of the compartment. It showed images of everything Mir’zea had seen of the infected warrior back at his ward.
“My monitor?” He paused while staring at the display. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“I’m sorry if this is all sudden and a bit overwhelming.” She pointed at the display. “We are all here to help you with the warrior, and with your species.” She pointed at the display and made a gesture with her hand. The display changed to an image of Mir’zea floating in nothing while sleeping. “During your visits, I have been able to monitor your mentality.”
“My mentality?” Mir’zea was confused.
Kristi touched his hand gently and he felt a warmth and calmness wash over him. She continued. “We are not of your universe, but we are here to help. A hired traveler bartered with you and gave you this device.” She pointed at the pendant on his chest and smiled.