Eternal and Ephemeral
When IvoI entered the tent, the woman was already laying on the bed with her frail body connected to various wires, tubes, and machinery. Her skin was made to look sicklier by the greasy sheen from the oil bath she had just come out of, and the translucent tent fabric that washed the room in sunlight exposing her ailing body. Ivol nodded to acknowledge her intense gaze, then proceeded with the examination. He pulled up her charts on the info-server, but instead of reading the information which he'd already memorized after an initial glance, Ivol began massaging her stiff body. He started with her legs, then moving upwards, he remembered their first session three months ago. Back then, only her toes had been stricken by the fossilizing disease. Now, it wasn't until he reached the middle of her neck that he felt her flesh yield to his touch. Ivol could tell, by sight, that the line between healthy and petrified flesh was exactly 4.689° off from being perfectly straight, and everything below it had taken on a bright yellow pallor and turned stiff like hard rubber.
Ivol's team had been deployed on Orl for over six months, and they still had not found a cure for the fossilizing sickness. The entire galaxy was puzzled and enraged by the fact that a team from Iclax, supposedly the galaxy's greatest minds, were unable to save the people of Orl. The team’s leader took the criticism personally, so he kept pushing them to rapidly develop treatments. While the rest of his team locked themselves away in labs racing to see who could develop the winning cure, Ivol focused on his only patient. He didn’t care much about the galaxy’s criticism, and he certainly didn’t see why he had to be held accountable for another planet’s genetic weaknesses. After all, it was common for colony races to succumb to illnesses. No, he didn’t care what happened to Orl, but sometimes his heart would pound painfully when he considered the fate of this particular woman, Obil. He took a heated cloth and began wiping off the oil that should have penetrated into her body and reversed the disease.
"It didn't work this time either," Obil said, her voice forced out from her stiffening body.
"It didn't," Ivol replied, continuing to remove the oil.
"I guess that's it then?" she asked in an amused tone.
"Most likely," Ivol he said, and wiped off the remaining oil from her face, then folded the cloth and put it in the combustion bin. "Don't speak anymore, you are straining your body."
Obil laughed. When they first met, he was perplexed at the things she would laugh at: The color of her petrified toes, the pattern of her swollen veins, the slow and painful loss of mobility, and the loss of her ability to pick and arrange flowers. She took everything in stride. The continuous negative results that made others drop in silent agony or melt into weeping, caused her to throw her head back, and let out deep bursts of laughter in a tone that was too deep for her small frame. Her laughter now at her imminent death was a dry wheezing sound, pushed from the back of her throat.
"Our next appointment is in a week," Ivol told her, turning his back to feed the info-sever the new data he had acquired.
"I'm scared," she said. Her lips barely twitched in her attempt to smile, "I'm Scared," she repeated, as the nurses helped her into her mind-linked auto-chair and escorted her out. IvoI continued typing.
# # #
A week later, Ivol walked into the tent, and Obil was there as usual. He nodded to acknowledge her, and her eyes followed his movements as he began the examination. He noted that her eyeballs were now the only unpetrified part of her body, and her mouth was forced open by a mechanical breathing tube.
After completing the examination, he wondered how she was still alive. He suddenly felt an itch in his mind, he looked into her eyes; her eyelids had fossilized, keeping them permanently open, so the eyes were blood shot, and desperate. He wanted to look away, but the itch grew intolerant.
"what," he said, irritated by her attempted mind link. The people of Orl had a menial telepathic power to begin with, and Obil’s had grown even weaker due to the diseases. So, he connected their thoughts with his own power.
"I can't speak anymore," The thought flowed into Ivol's mind, accompanied by all the emotions she was feeling.
"Your vocal cords have petrified."
She already knew that.
"I just wanted to say thanks, and goodbye. I know you didn’t really want to be here, but you stuck with me the whole time so thanks, and goodbye"
While they were communicating mentally, her left eye had frozen and discolored. Her right eye trembled.
"Good bye," IvoI said out loud. The right eye trembled for forty-five more seconds then froze and discolored.
He didn't need to check the machine to know that her brain was also petrified; the sharp snapping of their mental connection let him know the moment she died; 11.65 seconds after her right eye froze.
Ivol turned to the info-server to complete the final log. He perfectly recalled every moment since he began her treatment, so he typed quickly. Then, his fingers froze mid-sentence. He knew what to type next, but his fingers refused to move. He shook his head, then continued typing, documenting her final area of petrification and time of death. As it happened just minutes ago, the information should have been easy to record, but his hands froze again, and for a terrifying moment, his mind went blank.
He attempted to continue typing but began to shake. He shut his eye in confusion, turning in circles, before opening them to meet the Obil's eyes, forever frozen in sadness. He stared intently at her stiff shrunken body, weak and fragile even before the disease. He stepped closer to her, the shaking growing more intense as he ran his hand through her purple hair, the only part of her unaffected by the diseases. She wouldn’t be able to laugh again or pick the wild flowers she loved to tell him about, and she couldn’t mock his metallic body anymore, comparing its stiffness to that which the disease forced on her. She used joke that she was becoming more like an Iclaxian: cold and unfeeling.
He couldn’t understand the sensation that was overwhelming his mind. He felt like something was clawing at his brain, he couldn’t form coherent thoughts, and he couldn’t speak. He thought it might be angry. Yes, it must have been anger and disgust at the weakness of colony races that caused this feeling. But then, what caused the hot green tears flowing from his eyes. Why did he feel like his heart was being clenched in fist? He touched his chest repeatedly, trying to find the source of the pain.
He could no longer hold himself up, so he fell. For the first time, his body that usually hovered touched the ground. For the first time he questioned why some planets were strong like his, and others weak like Obil's. For the first time he wondered, irrationally why he would live over a thousand times the life-span of Obil's even at her healthiest.