Peer Review by bride124 (United States)

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By: A Breath Into Silence


It had been almost five days since anybody had visited Karin, and she was beginning to get lonely. The constant day-to-day normalcy of the hospital was lulling her into a stupor, and she was afraid that if she let herself get lost in it she’d never be truly awake again. Not to mention that a wall can only be stared at so much before being dismissed as boring. So Karin not-so-subtle people-watched people outside the hospital.

And sometimes, doing this, Karin felt an ache - the type you get when you are left out. The sun shone outside her window; the days were beautiful, even when it rained. Sometimes there were children playing in the distance that she could see from her 13th floor window, and she wondered if one of them might have been her long ago if she hadn’t gotten sick. People walked around together, all of them bound with unbreakable bonds… unlike her family- all torn up and full of sharp edges.
Karin would never admit it, but sometimes she just wanted to have a group of friends to fit in with. To joke and play with. To fill that funny aching hole in her heart no amount of medicine could cure.
In 2045, the world was suffering. The already limited resources of water and food were disappearing faster than could be imagined, and with 15 billion people to take care of the world leaders were taking desperate measures. It was agreed a truce was better than nothing, and so the world leaders got together and agreed to an action plan. The first need of their peoples was fresh water— even the seas had dried up, the desalination processes claiming almost all of their once blue oceans. The water remaining was under extreme environmental protection and couldn’t be touched. The ice on the poles had become a thing of the past. Temperatures rose, and with the heat came a great drought.

So the world leaders turned their eyes to the famed ice of Mars.

This was their first mistake.
Karin lit up when she heard her brother’s footsteps in the hall. She knew they were his footsteps because there wasn’t much else to do in her spare time but listen to everything. Including all of the nurses and doctors walking down the hallway. She had gait-recognition down to an art.

Her brother slipped in almost sheepishly, and Karin pretended not to notice he was there. Instead, she focused on the view outside. There was a cough behind her. Without turning around, Karin said morosely, “So, Mr No-show has decided to grace me with his presence now, has he? You’ve been my first visitor in eight days, I’ll have you know. Do you know how boring it can get around here?”

Through the window's reflection, Karin saw that Timothy lifted his hands in gentle protest. “Cut me a break! I had finals this week, and before that I was studying like mad!”

“Yeah, well, try to remember your baby sister sometimes, okay? I never see anybody besides the hospital staff.”

Timothy gave a sad smile, and a knowing glance passed between them. “No Mom, huh? I guessed it was to much to hope for. I mean, she does cover treatment and everything, but after the virus claimed Dad…. I guess it’s too much to ask for her to see the one who survived and remember the one who didn’t. Even on the holidays. Happy holidays, by the by,” he added.

Karin felt her jaw drop open. “Wow. Christmas already? Where did my sense of time go?”

“I don’t know. But I do know your room needs some serious redecorating. Would it be okay if I went to the store quick? Hate to disappoint but…” He gestured towards his small messenger bag. “I’m afraid my bag, trusty as it is, doesn’t contain hidden inter-dimensional storage pockets or anything of the like.”

“Well. I suppose,” Karin said softly. “If you can, could you grab some wall decor? This wall is a very nice shade of beige, but I’ve been staring at it for way too long.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Timothy said, winking.

They both pretended not to care about the person missing from the hospital room.
The world was full of money. As the people of Earth became richer, more money printed, and slowly the worldwide currencies started to lose their values. Quintillionares were everywhere, and suddenly the money stores established by each of the world leaders was worth hardly anything. Compiling their stores into one, the leaders found they had enough money to fund a trip to Mars for their ice. But only just enough money. So it was agreed that they would attempt to contract a company who would do the job for the lowest price.

The company they chose was called RedPlanet.
“Hey, Sleeping Beauty. Wake up.”

Karin moaned and shifted in the hospital bed, burrowing deeper into her blanket. “Whaddisitgowaaay,” she mumbled into her pillow. There was a laugh from somewhere nearby, and then- “I’ll tickle you if you don’t get up….”

“Okay, okay,” Karin moaned from somewhere under her pillow. She surfaced from her cocoon of comfort, bleary-eyed. Timothy stood in front of her, grinning down.

“Anybody ever told you that you are the owner of some serious bed-head?”

Karin gave him her best glare, stifling a yawn in the process. “Yeah. You did. Did I fall asleep again?”

“Indeed. And after all that work I went through to get you some decorations!” Timothy said, looking mock-offended. “But with you out for the count, I got to set everything up. Voila!”

Karin took full stock of her hospital room. Cheery holiday lights snaked all around her ceiling in a webwork of color; on the floor were several small biodegradable snowmen inflatables; there were the wall decos she had so wanted, with evergreen trees and snowmen. On her small bedside storage shelf was a sleigh basket of the special custom-made-for-Karin holiday hard candies-cum-medicine. (It was a long story, but the result was a candy that both satisfied her sweet tooth and boosted her immune system)

And in the corner… “Oh my gosh you didn’t!” Karin shrieked. “You got me a mini tree!”

“Pipe down. It took some serious staring contests with the nurses to even get that thing in the hospital,” Timothy hissed.

“Well, thank you. But… the tree looks all sad.” In fact, the tree was completely decoration free, and sat in the corner almost forlornly.

“I was actually hoping you might help me decorate it.” From somewhere in his shopping bag he produced some of Karin’s favorite ornaments from back at home. “I’ll admit that I took them from our ornament stores and now they aren’t gracing our tree but…” Timothy shrugged “Mom’s not exactly going to miss them.”

“There’s no time to lose! Your assistance, dear sir, in getting over to the tree.”

Timothy pulled out her wheelchair, muttering about Karin’s old-fashioned heart as he did so. “Can’t believe you’d rather have this prehistoric thing than a hover-chair.”

“I’ll have you remember that, contrary to popular belief, the twenty-first century started fifty-four years ago. Not fifty-four thousand years ago,” Karin replied primly as she propelled herself into her wheelchair.
    RedPlanet was not in itself malicious, even though it was the source of the mishap leading to the Virus of 2046. It was simply a company full of people who were a little lax on protocol, and therefore a little more prone to accidents. This didn’t become an issue until, after harvesting several thousand 1000 cm3 blocks of ice, the RedPlanet rocket set course for Earth.

    The ice was melted, boiled, and examined for bacteria. However, the Virus slipped through… due to the fact that not only was the equipment for checking water contamination almost fifteen years old, it was quite sub-standard for fifteen-years-old equipment. This, coupled with the fact that the virus of 2046 is able to survive in extreme temperatures, was a recipe for disaster.

    When RedPlanet’s bottled water began to be distributed to people in need, nobody had any idea that what they thought to be their salvation would actually spell their ends.
To: Timothy McAnsle, Lillian McAnsle
Sender: Heatherfield University Hospital
Subject: Patient update: changing rooms
[Do not reply to this message]
As of 1:27 12/29/54, [Karin McAnsle] has [suffered a relapse in condition]. [Karin McAnsle] has been moved to the [Intensive Care Unit] [with an unstable condition]. New room number is [173].
Heatherfield University Hospital
    As of May, 2046, there have been over 2.5 million reported cases of the virus of 2046. It is an indiscriminate virus, attacking any who catch it with a merciless tirade of symptoms. It begins by paralyzing limbs and soon moves into the nervous and muscular system. It releases a byproduct toxin that stops the aging process as it continues to consume cells. Eventually it kills its host.

    It operates much like any normal animal cell, albeit a little differently. It consumes host cells and uses the DNA in the cells as its fuel. Every once in awhile, it goes through its own version of iPMAT. The general scientific consensus is that this virus used to prey upon the ancient algae of Mars (perhaps even in a symbiotic relationship, with the toxin being the algae’s main food source), but when the temperature plummeted some specimens of the virus were frozen in time.

    It is proving extremely difficult to treat. The longest any person has survived this virus is 8 years. Typical lifespan after you contract this virus would be around 1 to 2 years. Without any treatment, you have months.
  • Excerpts from What We Wrought In Our Greed- An Account of How the Earth Became This Way by John Sanders

“Hey. It’s New Years. Make a wish,” Timothy said, poking his sister softly. Around her, a thousand machines beeped and hummed and whispered. Karin’s eyes fluttered open, seeming so very dark in her pale face.

“Hey. You came,” she whispered.

“Make a wish, Karin,” Timothy said, holding her limp hand in his firm one. She was so strong, the doctors told them. So brave. She was a miracle. But now, she looked like nothing more than a scared teenager, trying to hang on for her life.

“I wish I had more time…..” Karin whispered to the stars outside the hospital. “I wish... I could be a normal teenager for once,” she told the machines. “I…… wish…… Mom would at least……. say goodbye when it’s time……..” she told her brother, giving his hand the strongest squeeze she could muster.

“Happy New Year, Timothy,” she said into the darkness.

“Happy New Year, Karin.”

I originally wrote this piece a year and a half ago, but subsequently rewrote it. This is the original version, which, in an astounding reversal of normal turnout, is actually better than the rewrite.

I wrote it for the FPS Scenario Competition (check them out here if you want - they're great)

Message to Readers

Keeping in line with my 2019 writing resolution, I've published a new short story!

Peer Review

EVERYTHING!!! Karin seems like a great person with a amazing personality that just go very bad luck. I mean, she doesn't gets to see anyone, and she is stuck in the hospital. It was sad to read.

Are Karin and Timothy's dad dead? (just checking) Their mom works at the hospital, right? IS THERE GOING TO BE A SEQUEL?

Reviewer Comments

Keep on writing! It is evidently paying off!