July 6, 2016
By Yilong BRONZE, Austin, Texas
Yilong BRONZE, Austin, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The necklace was back on her neck. He did his best to put on a smile as he stepped out of the machine and through the door.

“Adam?” whispered the girl in the bed as she tried to sit up.

“Eve,” he said, relieved, as he rushed to her side. “How are you feeling?”

“You tell me,” she murmured softly, waving a hand towards the array of machines stacked around her bed. From her arms protruded a dozen different tubes, each pumping anything medically feasible known to man in an effort to try and keep her alive.

“You don’t look a day over twenty one,” he promised as he gently took her hand.

“Well aren’t you charming.” She laughed, then winced as the machines flared painfully bright in response. Even laughing had started to hurt her now.

“How’s treatment going? Have they found a cure?” he asked listlessly, knowing what the answer would be. She shook her head.

“How could they find a cure when they don’t even know what’s killing me?”

“It’s not killing you.” Adam hurried to reassure her, letting go of her hand to reach into his back pocket as he did so. “You’re going to be fine.”

“And these machines are here just for fun, are they?” she retorted. Her expression softened as she beheld his stricken expression. “Don’t fret so much, Adam.”

He took his hand out of his pocket. In his palm he held a small syringe, its plunger fully drawn back, the insides filled with a calm blue liquid.

“What is that?” asked Eve warily.

“It’s an experimental treatment,” said Adam, which wasn’t far from the truth.

“And they gave it to you?” she asked incredulously. Adam would have sighed, but he had gotten over the whole administration process after the first few times he had tried.

“It’s best administered in a stress-free environment.”

“Sounds like a bunch of placebo and poppycock,” huffed Eve as she rolled up her sleeve. Her arm was dreadfully thin, with veins as dark as brushstrokes on white canvas. It was a simple matter for Adam to line up the tip just under the crook of her elbow. It was the only spot on her arm that wasn’t already occupied. He had gotten rather good with the injection process; she barely winced as he quickly drew the needle in and out.

Adam put the empty syringe in his pocket and did his best to put on another smile.

“Well, I think I should go.” Adam turned to the door, hoping she wouldn't stop him. Of course, she did.

“Wait,” she called out in a soft lilting voice that barely carried across half the ward. Adam turned around to see her reaching up, careful not to dislodge the needles in her arm, to take off the necklace she wore.

“Why are you doing that?” he asked, raising an eyebrow as if confused. Inside, his heart began to sink.

She sighed and looked at him with a mixture of exasperation and something more tender. She held her hand out to present the necklace to him.

“I keep having to take it off when they run the MRI tests on me,” she explained. Adam knew that was a lie; she had gotten to the point where even moving her for an MRI would be fatal. He had checked the hospital records extensively. But he took the necklace nonetheless, feeling the thin silver chain slip between his fingers as he tucked it into a pocket.

“I’ll keep it safe for you,” he promised as he turned to the door again. “Goodbye, Eve.”

“Goodbye, Adam.” Her hand fell back to the bed as her eyes closed.

He left the hospital, drove home, and began to wait. Lunchtime came and went as no morsel of food or drink passed his lips. Dinnertime departed in much the same way. He did nothing but stare at the clock on the wall, watching the minutes tick down to the exact second they called. They always called at the exact same time. The phone rang, and he had answered it before the first tone had ended.

“Hello?” he asked.

“Is this the household of Eve?” inquired the voice on the other end.


A delicate pause.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” said the voice as it began reading the words off a well worn prompt card. “Eve expired on-”

Adam hang up the phone. There was no need to listen to the rest of the message. He stalked back to his office with hardly a pause. There was a large grid on the wall made up of thousands and thousands of boxes. He selected the correct one and wrote down the time of death. It was the exact same time, down to the second, written in every other box. Next, he picked up his formula list and looked at it glumly. Thousands upon thousands of antibiotic formulas and drug c***tails jumped out at him. The first hundred or so had lines drawn through all of them. He had researched all of them. Made all of them. Tried all of them. And they had failed. All of them.

He supposed that Eve had a point. How could anyone find a cure without even knowing what was killing her? The doctors had told him that her disease was very rare, potentially even unseen before in the greater medical community. They had stopped trying to save her and had instead resorted to merely studying her before her body gave out.

Which meant that the job fell to Adam.

He checked his formula list and scratched off the most recent trial, throwing the used syringe into the trash. He picked out the next formula down the list and took out the appropriate syringe. He filled it up to the appropriate amount and double checked to make sure he had synthesized it correctly. This time, the solution was a dull red. It smelled like stale wine as he shook it gently.

Adam sighed and got up from the office chair. He reset the calibration timer on the machine to the beginning of the day. It powered up, discharging a rippling light that lit up the entire office with its hopeful glow. Following the protocol he had used hundreds of times before, he tucked the syringe into his back pocket and prepared to step through the vortex. Just before he left, he made sure to take Eve’s necklace out of his pocket and set it on his desk.

That was the other part of the entire process he could never figure out. No matter how many times he went back, no matter how he played out their encounter, she always gave him the necklace. That was the only constant in his quest for a cure. The only constant in their maddening dance with variables through time. Or, as far as Adam could observe, it was a constant. Maybe this time would be different...

There was no time to dwell on it. Adam stepped into the machine.

There was a deafening flash and a blinding pop, and then-

He was outside the door of a hospital ward. He took a deep breath and opened it.

The necklace was back on her neck. He did his best to put on a smile as he stepped out of the machine and through the door.

The author's comments:

Time is often a fickle thing, presenting both hope and despair to whomever dares to venture forth through it. 

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