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Transparent: A Short Story


This story has nothing to do with the Portals of Destiny or the Alexis Davenport books. Just a little something I came up with 🙂 Enjoy!

“Thanks, Doc. See you later.”

Doctor Reye Strand handed Mr. Abernathy a prescription for an old-school statin and a newer drug developed from a team on one of the moons of Sero to treat his high cholesterol.

“Make sure to follow the instructions I gave you to the letter. That includes the part about getting a bit more exercise and watching your fat intake.”

“I will.” His brown eyes darkened at being reminded about the instructions.

Reye rolled her eyes at the rather large back walking away from her. The man had been warned of his impending need for prescription drugs if he didn’t comply with a diet and exercise regimen. He would most likely continue his unhealthy ways until his coronary arteries clogged and he ended up needing a bypass surgery.

Reye walked to her office for a quick bite of lunch before her next patient. As she munched her chicken salad, she roamed the internet for the latest research papers regarding type II diabetes, heart disease, and several forms of cancer, mostly those affecting the lungs and brain. She was astounded at the number of clinical trials for various drugs to treat the maladies that plagued most of humanity.

And humanity couldn’t believe that these ailments had yet to be cured. None of the pharmaceutical drugs or the natural remedies had so much as put a dent in the number of people suffering from these diseases, and the numbers grew with each passing year.

It was this steady increase that prompted Reye to go to medical school. Her parents had pushed for a career that wasn’t considered a dying field. Most people claimed that it was only a matter of time before mankind would be immortal. After all, hadn’t they beaten things like the common cold, Alzheimer’s, HIV, and a host of others things? They truly believed that there would soon be a cure for everything.

Only that wasn’t how it worked out. Modern medicine had come a long way, from the amazing drugs used to treat various ailments, better technology to view the human body, even extending human life to nearly two centuries. However, the cure for the three most common causes of death continued to elude the most brilliant of minds. It baffled Reye and she wanted to know the answers, perhaps help those suffering from these debilitating diseases.

Most of her colleagues thought she was mad for going into general practice and told her she was wasting her time, that she should specialize in something like nanosurgery so she could make a decent living and retire early to someplace like the moons of Jupiter or the dazzling shores of Ceto. Reye would smile, nod her fiery red head as though in complete agreement, and continue on with her work.

Patients like Mr. Abernathy that made her want to pull out her hair. It was a similar patient she had treated nearly four decades ago when she first began practicing in her own office ago that had given her the idea for her current project, one that was going to revolutionize her practice and the practice of medicine altogether. When she had first spoken of the idea to her husband, Thomas, he had been astounded.

“It’s so simple, Reye! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” he asked.

“I have no idea but I am going to find a way to make it work,” she said.

“If anyone can figure it out, you can.”

Reye checked her watch and sighed. Her lunch break was over and it was time to get back to work. She put on her pristine lab coat, grabbed her portachart, and exited her office. With deft fingers, she pulled up the next patient’s information as she walked to the examination room. It was a young woman who had been suffering from emphysema for several years. Her portachart flashed with an incoming message from the pathologist.

Stage IV small-cell lung cancer.

Yet another patient with a condition that could have been prevented. Even cigarettes being illegal hadn’t stopped this woman from purchasing them off the lucrative black market.

She steeled herself to give her patient the bad news, hurriedly flipping through screens of information of the portachart for the best treatment for her cancer. Reye knew the patient would have questions and she wanted to have a plan of action ready.

Reye took a deep breath to counter the tight feeling in her throat and entered the room.

“Hello, Sue.” Reye walked over to a chair next to her patient, moving the woman’s oxygen tank out of the way so she could sit.

“How bad am I, Doctor Strand?”

Reye sighed and clutched the patient’s portachart on her lap so Sue wouldn’t see her hands shaking.

“I wish I had good news for you. Unfortunately, the pathologist confirmed my initial fear. You have a very aggressive form of lung cancer and it’s likely spread.”

Reye reached out a steadying hand as the woman crumpled. Reye let her cry, rubbing her back, unable to give any words of comfort. She clenched her lips in frustration at the futility of it all.

Reye waited until Sue had regained her composure before she spoke. “We need to discuss treatment options. I am afraid that with your weakened condition, you will have a difficult time with the either option.”

“What are my choices?” Sue asked, wiping her eyes with a tissue.

“We can start you on an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, but I fear that at the doses required to destroy the cancer cells, you aren’t healthy enough to handle it. The other option is to try you on nanobots but they will also put a huge strain on your body.”

“What do you recommend?” Sue asked, her blue eyes flat and lifeless.

“I’m going to refer you to a cancer specialist. They will be better able to formulate a treatment that will have the best chance of success. I’m sorry, I wish I could do more.”

Sue let loose a sob that was almost a laugh. “You did all you could. Guess I should have listened to you all those years ago.”

When she was done with the patient, Reye headed to the single restroom down the hall. She needed a minute alone to gather her emotions before her last patient of the day.

I look awful. She turned, looked at herself in profile, ran her fingers through her curls, and nodded her head. Still, not bad for a woman pushing seventy.

Just one more patient, then I can head home.

Home. And the last stage of her experiment.

#

Reye shook out another No-REM out of the bottle, wincing at taking more than the recommended dose. She had taken the pills two nights in a row without the recommended sleep and she was starting to feel the effects.

“Don’t you think you should ease up on the pills?”

Reye turned and smiled at Thomas. “I’m just so close! How can I stop now?”

“You won’t be any good to your project or your patients if you keel over from exhaustion. Here, take a break and eat something.”

Reye closed her eyes when she caught the whiff of Thomas’ home-made chili. She ate so fast she barely tasted it, but her body cried out for nourishment.

With her belly full, she had to fight off the drowsiness that always came after consuming a satisfying meal. She thanked Thomas and turned back to her computer console.

Her hands moved rapidly across the inky black horizontal surface, grabbing files and moving them to the vertical surface in front of her. She opened her hands and expanded the line of code, eyes moving quickly from left to right, searching for one line in particular.

There!

Her finger hesitated above the green key on the horizontal surface, shaking as though she had been jacked up on speed or adrenalin shots. With a deep breath, she punched the button and sat back with her hands over her face, leaning so far back Thomas feared she would topple over.

“I take it it’s done?”

“I think it is.” Reye bit her lip and hunched her shoulders.

“So what is it?” Thomas asked.

“I’m afraid. All these years and I think I finally did it and I am terrified of trying the bloody thing out,” she blurted out with a nervous laugh.

“Want to go out to celebrate? Perhaps come back and try after a juicy bit of zorg steak or perhaps some fish? I think Ceto bass is in season now.”

Reye smiled. “How about we try it first, then celebrate once we know it works?”

“Need a test subject?” Thomas stood up straight and puffed out his chest.

She giggled. “I couldn’t ask for a better one.”

Reye gave him a quick pinch on his backside as he sauntered past. Thomas gazed at her over his shoulder and gave her a smile that still made her go weak in the knees, even after all these years. She bent back over her horizontal screen.

The device was situated in the corner of the lab. It consisted of an oval platform surrounded by metal on all sides but the front. Thomas walked up the steps and opened the glass doors to step inside. Reye snorted laughter and shook her head.

He turned to face her. “What’s so funny?”

“You can’t have any clothes on while in the device.”

Thomas raised his eyebrows. “Is that so?”

“Umm hmmm.” Reye pressed her lips close together. “And you need to be standing on the left there.”

He gave her a sly look over his shoulder as he slowly peeled off his clothing, growing bolder at the giggles from his wife.  He opened the doors a second time to step up onto the device. Thomas moved to his left but stopped at a sound of protest from Reye.

“What did I do now? You said take my clothes off and stand on the left.”

“I meant my left. Sorry, dear.”

“Well, you need to be more specific. Your left is my right. You could have just pointed,” he mumbled as he moved into place.

“You’re right. I apologize.” She bit her tongue to keep from pointing out that she had in fact pointed to the correct location but he had been too busy removing his clothing to notice.

“Okay, now stand very still while I calibrate the machine.”

Reye glanced down at her console, then back up to the vertical computer console in front of her, then back down again, moving data from one screen to another. With a deep breath, she activated the Transparent protocol.

A ray of blue light shone across Thomas’ body. It started at the top of his head and slowly made its way down to his feet before returning to the top of his head. The beam made a half dozen passes before winking out.

Reye smiled when another version of Thomas appeared on the device standing only a few feet away from her husband. This version of Thomas didn’t smile or turn around when the original one did. He merely stood there with a serene look on his face, hands down against his thighs, feet slightly apart.

Using the vertical screen, Reye used her hands to manipulate the image so that she could make his skin disappear.

“Is that really what I look like on the inside?” Thomas asked.

“Sure is. Just connective tissue and muscle now. The real fun comes when we get rid of the muscle and bone and all that to see the internal organs.”

Reye moved her hands again and the muscles disappeared. Her heart raced as she looked at the real version of her husband on one side of the device and his computerized doppleganger on the other as nothing but a skeleton and internal organs covered by fascia and greater omentum. A quick flick of her wrist and the latter two disappeared, giving her a clear view of the visceral organs.

“Wow. This is…I mean, it’s…just so weird. Oh my God, my guts are moving! And you can see my heart beating!”

Reye laughed at her husband’s enthusiasm. His work in marketing was a far cry from her work as a medical doctor. While he had always been supportive, he had never really understood her fascination with the human body and the need to make it well if it was diseased or broken.

“Now let’s see if my new code will work to zoom into the vessels, shall we?”

“Vessels?”

“Your blood vessels, namely the coronary arteries. I’m going to see if I can find evidence of early atherosclerotic plaques. Your cholesterol levels and all that have always been really good but that doesn’t mean your pipes are necessarily clean.”

“What will that mean if I do have whatever-you-called-it in my…pipes?”

Reye gave her husband an exasperated look. “Atherosclerotic plaques are made of fat and other stuff and build-up inside your blood vessels. If untreated it can completely block the vessel and no blood gets to the tissues downstream. If I find small ones today, it could mean you are looking at heart disease in the future. If it’s not bad there’s really no need to worry. But if I can show a patient what’s slowly building in his or her arteries, maybe they will comply with the diet and exercise regimen I give them.”

“Great, so if I show gunk in my vessels, you’ll have me eating tofu and lettuce for the rest of my life.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic, dear.”

Reye grabbed the zoom feature off the horizontal screen and moved it to her vertical screen. She placed it over the chest and enlarged it with her hands. The image standing next to Thomas went from man size to gigantic chest size in seconds. She moved past connective tissue and focused in on the heart. She stopped for a moment and gazed at the enormous image of Thomas’ heart pumping away tucked safely away inside the pericardial sac.

She zoomed in further, moving past the pericardial sac and zeroing in on the coronary arteries snaking their way over the surface of the heart, bring necessary oxygen and nutrients to the hard-working cardiac muscle. As Reye zoomed in using her right hand, she was astounded at the level of detail she was able to gain as she focused the image with her left. Pulling from many years of experience with using these types of computers to view tissue slides, she was managing to perform the same feat using a living, breathing person.

“What’s that?” Thomas asked.

“That, my dear husband, is the blood rushing through your arteries that feed your heart. And very clean arteries if I do say so myself.” She scanned several inches and did not detect any build-up of plaques in the arteries.

“So no tofu and lettuce? Yes!” Thomas did a fist pump in mid-air and stood with his hands crossed over his chest looking very pleased with himself.

Reye zoomed out and focused next on her husband’s lungs. He had suffered from asthma as a child, though his symptoms had resolved themselves by the time he was a young adult. Still, she worried about him getting a respiratory disease as he got older.

She zoomed in to view the microscopic bronchioles and alveoli, breathing a sigh of relief when she saw no obstruction.

“What that stuff there? It looks like it’s waving at us.” Thomas pointed.

“That would be mucus and little hairs called cilia. Helps to keep your airways clean.”

Reye continued to delve into her husband’s inner workings, fascinated by each new level of exploration. Each exclamation of excitement from Thomas at seeing his body in a whole new way brought her to giggles.

She zoomed out and focused on Thomas’ head.

“Now we’re going to see what’s between your ears,” she joked.

“Psshhtt, probably the latest sports stats and a lot of empty space,” Thomas said.

“Finally! A man that admits he knows too much—”

Reye tried to draw a breath but her throat was locked up tight. With shaking hands, she zoomed the device in closer to the anomaly she had found.

“Reye? What is it? What wrong?” Thomas took a few steps forward.

“No, stop right there! Back up, back up.”

“Reye, you’re scaring me.”

She didn’t answer. The heart rate and pulse of Thomas’ doppleganger increased. Reye wanted to tell him it was nothing but it wasn’t nothing, it was something and she had never been this terrified in her life. Reye took several screenshots of Thomas’ head.

“We need to go to the hospital. Right now.” Reye reached into a drawer and grabbed a portachart.

“Reye, what is going on?”

“Please, Thomas, just do what I said!”

She couldn’t believe she had screamed at him but she couldn’t say the words out loud, she just couldn’t. That made it real and she wanted this to be a nightmare, the worse one she’d ever had. She’d wake up and it would all go away. But the doppleganger stood with the truth staring her right in the face.

Aneurysm.

#

“Your husband is a very lucky man. And you say you found this with a machine you invented?”

Reye sat in the waiting room holding a cold cup of coffee between her hands. She glanced up at Dr. Ted Meyers and gave a small smile.

“I call it Transparent. Been working on it since med school.”

“I still can’t believe it. I have never treated an aneurysm that small before. None of our instruments were able to detect it. If it wasn’t for the pictures you brought, I would never have believed it.”

“I still can’t believe it. If anything would have happened to Thomas, I don’t—”

 “No sense thinking that. You found the aneurysm early enough and the nanobots were able to fix it with no side-effects. In about a week, Thomas will be good as new.”

“Thank you, Ted. Can I see him now?”

“He’s still in recovery but should be transferred to his own room in a few hours. I’ll send the nurse to get you.”

Reye leaned forward and let the tears fall, her long red hair forming a protective curtain around her head. The image of the slightly bulging blood vessel in Thomas’ head flashed through her mind and she squeezed her eyes tight, hoping to stop the intrusion. Thomas was fine, she wanted to celebrate, not think of what could have been. Reye repeated two words, just two simple words but laced with so much meaning that fresh tears fell down her cheeks.

It worked!

#

The next five years were a whirlwind of clinical trials to test the Transparent device on a variety of patients. Researchers from many fields of study were impressed with the results and Reye found her time taken up by traveling to various universities and medical facilities to give seminars on her invention.

It wasn’t long for word of Transparent to find its way to the general public and the news of the implications to speed across the airwaves to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Each test brought the device closer to public use as it showed time and again that the machine worked with no side effects, other than catching potentially deadly problems in their infancy.

Reye found herself torn between spending time at her practice and time with Thomas. When she was at work, she longed to be home. Even though Thomas had been given a clean bill of health all those years ago, Reye still had a shadow of doubt choking her joy at seeing him smile each and every day. Paranoia ate away at her sanity and she wanted to have Thomas use Transparent every day. Reye refused to give in.

Thomas is fine.

When the day finally came to use Transparent on a patient she was seeing for the first time, Reye was nervous and excited. She trusted her machine, but there was that voice of doubt in her mind that said she would miss more than she caught and that the cost of manufacturing the devices would soon be too expensive. She cheerfully told that voice to take a flying leap off the cliffs of Terra Nova.

She asked her middle-aged patient, Janice, to step into the device, making sure to point to where she should stand. Reye had already done the typical check-up and noted the results in the portachart. The woman’s blood pressure was slightly elevated and her good cholesterol levels were down a little bit. On a normal day, Reye would have sent her home with instructions to watch her fat intake and to get more exercise. But now that she had the device, she wanted to see if she could pinpoint where the problem might be and actually show the patient the problem.

After only a few minutes of searching, she found the culprit. Janice had several small plaques building up in coronary vessels as well as several peripheral vessels in her legs.

“I found something here. See this?” Reye indicated the vessel wall. It shouldn’t be bulging out like that. You have some fatty plaque build-up. It’s not enough to cause major problems as of yet but if left unchecked, it can be a big issue.”

The woman stared at the close-up of her artery with wide eyes, nodding absently at what Reye was saying.

“What do I do?”

 “You need to keep track of your fat and salt intake and try to get some exercise. Come back in six months and we’ll see how you’ve done.”

The woman hurriedly dressed and exited the Transparent device. Reye stopped her before she left the room.

“Can I ask you something? And be honest. If the machine hadn’t shown you the plaques in your arteries, would you have complied with my instructions? Please don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings. I’m compiling some data for a paper.”

The woman looked at the ground sheepishly. “I’ve been warned about my cholesterol numbers and high blood pressure from another doctor. I just figured that since I felt fine, that it wasn’t a big deal.”

Reye nodded. “That’s why I created the machine. I hear that a lot from patients, especially from those that stop taking a drug regimen, all because they feel fine. It’s difficult to convince someone they have a ticking time bomb in their bodies when they can’t see it for themselves.”

The woman nodded. “This sure scared me. I’ll be more mindful from now on.”

Reye handed her receptionist, Ally, the patient’s portachart. Ally grabbed the chart, her perfectly manicured fingernails tapping on the computerized surface.

“You’re all set, Janice. See you next year.” Ally smiled, her white teeth flashing against her dark skin.

Reye walked to the room where her next patient was waiting. She felt as though she would float right through the glass roof of the building. Even though it was only one person that had seen the results of many decades of bad choices, the woman seemed genuinely concerned about her health, probably for the first time in a long time.

The next patient was a child with a broken arm. She was somewhat disappointed that she wouldn’t need to use Transparent.

There’ll be plenty more.

The chance to use the device came later that week. A man who admittedly smoked illegally came in complaining of a cough that he’d had for several weeks. Reye brought Donald to the room housing Transparent and in no time, was showing him the damage the smoke was doing to his lung tissue. Reye had begun keeping an archive of healthy tissues and organs to use as comparisons for times like these. She showed Donald what healthy lungs should look like and what his looked like after years of damage. He looked like he wanted to throw up.

“Is that really what my lungs look like now?”

“You are looking at your lungs in real time, yes.”

“Am I stuck with my lungs like this forever?”

 “Not at all. With a healing accelerant, your lungs can be good as new in only a few days. As long as you quit the smoking.”

Reye left a note for the Ally to give Donald a prescription for the accelerant in his portachart. She said her good-byes and retreated to her office. It was still early and she wanted to get started on the research paper.

A buzzing on her phone started her. She glanced down and swiped her finger across the shiny black surface. A miniature version of her husband stood and smiled at her. Reye smiled back.

“Did I interrupt you?” he asked.

“I didn’t realize the late hour. I was working on the paper.” Reye leaned back in her chair and stretched her back.

“I made dinner and it’s here waiting for you. How have the patients been?”

“So far so good. I just hope they listen to the advice I give them and when they come back for their check-ups, things are better.”

“I’m sure they will be.”

“The paper is almost done. I’ll head home as soon as I have a rough draft done.”

Reye watched the image of her husband disappear and rubbed her eyes. She was tempted to take a No-REM so she could finish the paper but knew she would pay for it by being useless tomorrow. With a strong force of will she pushed back from the desk, smiling in anticipation at how surprised Thomas would be with her arrival at home many hours earlier than he was expecting.

#

“See there? This is what your arteries looked like six months ago and this is what they look like now. Almost totally free of plaques.” Reye smiled at the woman on the device.

“I can’t believe it! I hoped things were better, you know? I felt better, even lost some weight, but to actually see the results on the inside! It’s unbelievable.”

“You’ve done really well. And as long as you keep up with your annual appointments and continue to make healthy choices, there’s no reason you can live to see two hundred.”

“My husband’s Gran lived to be 202. My grandparents died before they hit 150.”

“Do you know what they died of?”

“Complications due to several bypass surgeries.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick our genes, but you can at least lessen the risk that you will die sooner than you should.”

“Thank you so much for everything. Should I be worried about my kids since bad arteries and hearts run in my family?”

“If you would like to start them on a baseline reading, we can certainly set that up for you. Just let the receptionist know and she’ll take care of everything.”

Reye left work that day feeling like she was finally making a difference in the life of her patients. She could almost see the cases of diabetes, heart disease, and cancers plummeting as people realized the error of their ways and took steps to live healthier lives, and all because of her Transparent device. She rode the elevator down to her vehicle and practiced what she would say when she won the Stellar Prize for Medicine.

Several days later, she was surprised to see a familiar name pop up on her patient list. It was the same man she had treated for lung damage. When she walked into the examination room and saw the man, she was surprised. He looked fine to her. No sign of a cough.

“What seems to be troubling you? It’s not your lungs again is it?”

“I just need you to put me through your device and see how my lungs look.”

“If you completed the healing accelerant and quit smoking, your lungs should be fine.”

“I didn’t quit smoking but I did take the medicine you gave me. I just want to get some more of the medicine if my lungs are looking bad again.”

Reye was stunned. She replayed the conversation back in her mind to see if she heard him correctly. He sat there looking dead serious.

That’s not what the machine is for!

“The point of the Transparent device is to show you the damage you are doing so you’ll stop doing it.”

“I looked up the accelerant you gave me on the net and it only works if damage is minimal. So I just need to check and see where I’m at so I can get more. I don’t want my lungs to get too damaged to where I can’t fix them.”

Reye held up her hands. “You’re not understanding me. You need to quit smoking in order to keep—”

“As long as I’m paying for the service, I don’t see that it’s any of your business.” The man stared her down.

“As your doctor, it is every bit my business. Not to mention the fact that you want to use my device for a purpose other than what it was designed for.”

“I can always get another doctor if you refuse.”

She bit back an acerbic remark. “Just wait here a moment, please.”

Reye practically ran down the hallway to her office. She hurriedly dialed her best friend, Brigitte, who also happened to be a lawyer. Reye filled her in on what had just occurred.

“What do I do? Can I refuse to treat him?” Reye was near tears.

“I wish I could give you the answer you want, but unfortunately, if he’s paying, he can get whatever treatment he wants.”

“But that’s not what I invented the machine for!”

“I know, honey. But unfortunately, your intentions won’t be those of the general public. I’m a lawyer and I can tell ya that most of the time, they suck.” Brigitte made a sound of sympathy. “I wish I could tell you what you want to hear. If you need to chat, I get off in a few hours.”

Reye mumbled a hurried thank you and hung up. Her heart was heavy and the last thing she wanted to do was go back and deal with the man in the exam room. Donald was perverting her device and using it so he could continue his bad habits.

Maybe he’ll be the minority.

Reye looked at Donald’s lungs and using high magnification, she could see some miniscule damage to the air sacs and airways. She added another prescription for accelerated healing to his portachart. She couldn’t look him in the eyes as he sauntered out of the room.

After finishing paperwork, Reye left her office, closing the door softly behind her.

“I’m heading out, Ally. See you tomorrow.” Reye said.

“I’m right behind you,” Ally said with a little wave.

Reye let the autopilot take over her vehicle as she was too distracted to drive herself home. Her brain replayed the conversation over and over, hoping to see where she had gone wrong in treating the patient. In her mind, she hadn’t treated him at all. She had merely given him the ability to continue on his bad ways.

All because of her device.

Guilt warred with anger. Her intention hadn’t been to allow people to use her device as an early detection system, treat what was wrong, then continue doing what they had always done. Reye had never even thought of the possibility when she had worked for all those decades on Transparent.

Dinner that night was a subdued affair. The excitement of her patient that had made progress was overshadowed by the one that had misused her device. Thomas held her hand and tried to console her but his words didn’t penetrate her disappointment. Reye appreciated the effort but she knew this was something she would have to wrestle with herself.

#

The weeks melted into months and the month into years. Nearly every hospital, doctor’s office, starship, and base had her Transparent device. But it soon became apparent that for every person that used the information from the device as a wake-up call, there were several more that saw it as a way to cheat and have more years to continue their bad habits that they wouldn’t have had pre-Transparent.

Reye found herself falling into a sink hole of despair. More and more of her patients were returning to take advantage of her machine and she found going to work no longer brought her the satisfaction it once did.

I wish I’d never invented the damn thing.

Ally did her best to console Reye. “I think you’re looking at it all wrong, Reye. You are so focused on the ones that are abusing it but ignoring the ones that aren’t. Plenty of your patients have a second chance at a long life because of your device. Remember those twin boys from last week? Without Transparent, their cancer wouldn’t have been detected until it was too late. They are here because of you.”

Reye smiled and nodded at her receptionist. “That’s true, but I just hate the idea that people are abusing the machine. It’s my baby, you know? I wanted it to be used for a nobler purpose.”

“Like every other inventor. I doubt the person who first thought of the internet wanted it to be used to spread pornographic images of children, aid in the slave trades, or steal people’s identities.” The receptionist gave her a knowing glance.

“I suppose that’s true. I never thought about it like that.”

“Maybe you just need a vacation. Someplace exotic and warm and with plenty of booze.”

Reye snorted. “Just what I need. Sun to give me skin cancer and booze to give me cirrhosis.”

“Know what your problem is? You spend all your time worrying about what can potentially cause you harm that you never really live.” Ally walked away with a sad shake of her head.

Reye stared after her receptionist, wishing she could deny what she had said, but the words hit like punches to the gut.

Is she right?

She brought it up with Thomas that night, knowing that he would be honest with her. It was one of the things she loved most about him.

“Is she right about me?” Reye asked, near tears.

Thomas took her hands gently between his own and took a deep breath. “Let me ask you this. When was the last time you did anything just for the fun of it?”

“What do you mean? I have fun all the time.”

“Such as?” he persisted.

Reye wracked her brain to come up with the last time she had read a good book, got a massage, or had gone for a walk in the park and closed her mouth when she couldn’t remember a single thing.

She burst into tears and Thomas chuckled as he held her.

“It’s not that bad, you know. You are a very driven individual. I’ve known this about you from the very start. So you haven’t been spending your days watching movies or taking vacations with the girls or visiting the hologram suites. You invented a machine that can help save people.”

“But that’s just it! I’m not really saving that many if they are just going back out there and doing the bad stuff like they did before.”

“Would they have died sooner without your device?” Thomas forced her to look him in the eye.

“Well, I guess so, but that’s not the point.”

“I think it is. Much as you’d like to, you can’t force people to adopt good habits. They either want to or they don’t. I see Transparent as allowing those who would have probably changed anyway to change sooner rather than later and those that refuse to change their habits are the ones that wouldn’t have even before your invention.”

The next morning, Reye did everything she could think of to avoid going to work. She had thought on what Thomas had said and tried accept the fact that some people would never change. Reye knew she should focus on the ones that were changing for the better but her heart just wasn’t in it.

As she stood in front of the large window above the kitchen sink watching the birds, Thomas came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, burying his face in her hair.

“I can’t help but notice that you are rather late leaving this morning,” he said.

Reye blinked back the tears. “Just putting off leaving as long as possible.”

“Then maybe it’s time to consider retiring.”

She turned to face Thomas. “Retire? I’m only eighty. I won’t be ready to retire for many decades yet.”

“Do you really want to go to a job that is no longer fulfilling? Why would you do that?”

“I spent all those years in medical school and residency and research. Seems like a shame to quit this early. Besides, can we really afford it?”

“Oh, didn’t I mention it? I bought stock in Transparent and it’s done very well if I do say so myself.”

Reye stood open-mouthed. “Stock? I didn’t even think they did that anymore.”

“Well, Earth doesn’t but plenty of other planets do. My dear, your little device has gone interstellar.”

“So how good are we talking?”

Thomas grabbed her in a bear hug. “Good enough that we can sell the practice, sell the house here, buy a travel pod, and spend the rest of our lives touring the galaxy for the next five hundred years and still have plenty left over.”

She pulled away. “Really?”

“Yes, really. You’ve spent most of your life helping other people to live their lives. Now, it’s time to live yours.”

“I suppose you’re right. But not right now. I still have quite a few good years left in me. Besides, I’m not sure I’m ready to leave all of my patients just yet.”

Reye wilted inside at the look of disappointment in Thomas’ eyes. She knew he only had her best interests at heart but she just wasn’t ready to make that leap. Sell the practice? Walk away from dozens of patients, many of whom she had watched grow from childhood? Reye shook her head.

It’s too soon.

As she continued to work in her practice, Thomas’ words just wouldn’t let her go. They wiggled their way into her brain, painting pictures of this amazing life traveling to the planets she’d only read about and seen on the interplanetary news stations.

She had always meant to go, thought about going, but her practice and work on the Transparent device always seemed to get in the way. And Thomas, dear Thomas had never voiced one complaint, never in the forty three years they had been together.

During her lunch breaks, she found herself daydreaming about traveling instead of thinking about her invention, searched the top vacation spots rather than the latest in medical research. Even Ally had voiced her concern over the changes.

“You have had your head so far in the clouds I fear it’s on its way into orbit,” Ally said.

“Is it that noticeable?” Reye asked.

“Only to those of us who have known you as a driven workaholic.”

“Maybe I have been working too hard.”

“I know you have. You are the only one in this entire office who hasn’t taken a vacation. Not once, in all the years I’ve been here. Frankly, I’m surprised you lasted working this long. Especially after what happened with Thomas. I expected you to burn out and leave long before now.”

“I wouldn’t dream of leaving…”

Ally gave her a knowing smile. “Wouldn’t you?”

Would I?

Reye smiled back when the answer reverberated in her mind. Strangely enough, it sounded an awful lot like Thomas.

I guess I would!

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2 Comments on “Transparent: A Short Story”

  1. myvitamixproposal March 2, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    Reblogged this on My Real Vitamix Reviews.

  2. cpbialois March 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    Reblogged this on The BiaLog.

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