<–Back to Issue 005

Callis Praedictionem

Callis Praedictionem

By Renan Bernardo

The patient’s head bends sideways, pulled down by the fungus growing around it.

Dr. José Hutchinson tucks down his medsuit’s mask and hits “record” on his wristlet.

“Fifth decade, May 23, 5:12 Vesta time. A mild case of Callis praedictionem. It grows out of the patient’s left ear and cups the left side of his face. Stalks are carved deep in the right and back sides of the patient’s neck. Most likely prescient already. Purplish gray, ciliary cap. Smell is pungent but bearable.”

The patient’s wife weeps and shivers, her hands on the young man’s arm.

José moves to the corner of the room and whispers so she can’t hear the prognosis. “Not much time left.”

He hits “stop” and then checks the lodging’s log. Ferg Xavier, 24-years-old, Vesta native, hydroponics programmer, recently married.

 José nears and squints at Ferg. He’s unconscious, laying on a tattered cushion, eyes distant and staring upward. His glasses lay over his mouth, cracked and fogged by his breath.

His wife’s attention finally turns to José.

“Dr. Hutchinson, please take it off him…”

Ferg’s head pulses. The fungus bobs it sideways. Inner growing stalks, pressing and tearing through muscle and bone. His wife covers her mouth.

“Please, doc!”

“It’s better if you keep some distance.” José indicates the door. Not that the Forefungus would infect her. One in about 100,000 spores is infectious, and the ship’s filters manage to decrease the infection rate. But he needs her to leave. He’s about to kill her husband. Not a welcoming thought when he only had a cup of coffee. He presses his tongue against his upper teeth.

“My hubby, doc.” The wife brings her hands together, pleading, begging for the kind of miracle physicians can’t bestow. She frowns at the bottle in Ferg’s hand. “We were talking—It was so…so fast, it just inflated out of his face like a…balloon.”

Ferg’s neck curves slightly outward. His head shudders. Not much time. José has to act.

“I will need you outside now.” José tries to push Ferg’s wife to the door with a forceful hand on her shoulder. “I’ll try to remove the fungus and patch him up.” Lying often helps.

“What are the odds, doc?” The woman bites her lips. “I’ve heard about this fungus, and…not good things.”

“Not good things, indeed. But there’s a chance.” There’s not. Not when the physician is José Hutchinson. His current methods do not include that part. Tongue against teeth. “Now, please, the sooner you leave, the higher his chances.”

The door slides open, and she leaves. Curious faces already pack the corridors, trying to peek inside. He gestures in front of the panel to lock the door.

José turns back to the patient and picks up the medical bag from the floor. He types his pin, opens it, and produces his scalpel.

“Now, tell me the future, Mr. Xavier.” He hits “record” on his wristlet, yanks Ferg’s glasses from his face and slits the fungus, starting with the visible part upon Ferg’s left cheek. “Sorry for that.”

When the patients are left to die on their own, no one can hear them ramble about the future. For this reason, their death has to be provoked. It’s more merciful this way, and the chances of success increase.

José twists his nose. The odor of carrion whiffs out from the incision. His mask-protected eyes tear up. His suit whirs to filter it out. Damn. Even Ferg’s wayward eyes tear up. The cut oozes a quasi-transparent bluish fluid. Partly the fungus’s own secretion, partly Ferg’s blood.

Ferg whimpers. His chest heaves from a sudden rush of adrenaline caused by his body battling the growing stalks. The last stages of infection. José hits the timer on his wristlet.

“Mr. Xavier, I’m Dr. Hutchinson, and I’m here to save you.” Lying helps. “Tell me something about the future. Loren Hutchinson—have you heard of her? Do you know anything about the cure for this fungus?” It’s a stretch to mention anything. At this stage, Ferg’s not listening, but José always hopes something will surface from the infected’s subconscious.

Saliva trickles out of Ferg’s mouth and runs down his chin to the fungus’s cap.

Twenty seconds. They never last more than a minute.

Ferg gurgles, black froth running out of his mouth and foaming on his nose and chest.

José sighs.

Ferg widens his eyes.

“Stalks rip Adriana’s bones.”

Ferg’s eyes whirl inside their orbits. He emits a low, high-pitched moan. His neck snaps as the fungus stitches itself up, yielding stalks through the man’s body, trying to reconquer its new environment. Its tips jut out of his neck, not unlike a severe case of rash.

“Adriana…” José whispers. The name doesn’t ring a bell. At least the slur is comprehensible and straightforward. A future Forefungus’s victim.

José raises his wristlet to his mouth. “Ferg Xavier. Time of death: Fifth decade, 5:24, May 23. Cause of death…” José Hutchinson, he thinks. He has been euthanizing Forefungus victims for a while now, without even considering putting them into the cryo-coma containment pods. But would it be worth it? Loren’s inside one, struggling with a fungus around her face, just waiting, either to die or to face a future with consequences.

“Callis praedictionem,” he stammers, almost forgetting the recorder.

He packs his things and walks out, delicately pushing Ferg’s wife back toward the throng that has crowded there, and locking the door behind him.

“I’m afraid it wasn’t possible to save your husband.”

Rehearsed bad news.

Ferg’s wife falls to her knees, trying to peek at her dead husband. José gestures in front of the panel to slide it shut and save her the trouble. He dodges the kneeling wife but stops right before taking a turn at the next corridor.

“I’m sorry.”

Never tactful. He never learned the woman’s name, and he also kept his mask on so that the version of him who gave her the bad news was just an impersonal glazed mirror to her. Families. The worst part of his job. He needs to deal with them as quick as possible, otherwise they might have enough time to wonder what he does, how he works. His impeccable methods.

He turns right and strides down the corridor toward the Med Center. People whisper inside closed doors. He’s eager to leave the residential complex before those indistinct conversations turn into the curious hum of those who discover death is around.

The antiseptic of the Med Center flows right into his nose as the doors slide open. An anesthetic comfort after carrion.

MedBots skitter all around. Mechanical spiders with flattened backs carrying medicines, PPEs, vials…It gets nauseating after a whole minute glancing at them. Loren once mapped their paths, drawing graphs showing their most probable destinations based on which equipment they carry. The MedBot team wanted her working with them. Now they will have to wait.

Dr. Gunther comes from her room, casting a worried look from over her wristlet.

“How is she?” José asks, before his counterpart can say anything.

“Stable. We’ve performed another cryoparalytic surgery in order to halt the stalks from reaching further parts of her body.”

José nods and stares into Dr. Gunther’s eyes. She lowers her head back to her wristlet. The stalks are near her spinal cord. That’s what those eyes tell.

He walks down the main hallway to Containment Pod #1255. His lips twitch whenever he thinks of it. His girl quarantined, a number on a door. The same girl who ran across the hydroponics garden to catch bee-drones and increase her personal collection. Freedom is only appreciated with hindsight.

He gestures to the door, and it opens. Dr. Gunther enters after him.

The glass surrounding the pod shows Loren’s vitals, which in this state means only her body temperature: –245 °C. A severe case of Forefungus grows out of Loren’s ears, completely hiding her shoulders and breasts, all the way down to her belly. It’s like a faceless valley filled with hills and mounds, as if the grass was cilium and the color purple.

José taps on the glass and darkens its opacity, skipping the red warnings about Loren’s condition. He’s been through it. When she comes back, she won’t speak, won’t see. But she’ll still be able to walk, move her arms and fingers, and recognize her peers by voice. Her family. Her brain will make all correct associations if all goes well. That’s enough to bring her back, enough to believe in slurs.

“Rosa came,” Dr. Gunther says, arms crossed. She gives an inquisitive glare.

José’s heart races when he hears his wife’s name out loud.

“And?” He zooms in on an augmented model of Loren’s upper torso,
manipulating the image with his fingers as a means to analyze the microscopic details. Thin stalks already curl around her ribs, but they can be excised with a couple of ultra-precise surgeries. What matters is that her bones are intact, her spinal cord is untouched—even if barely—and no crucial veins or arteries have been crushed to give way to the stalks. The stalks themselves are retarded by the cryo-coma, but they advance, nevertheless.

Dr. Gunther sighs, arms relaxing. “She told us to terminate Loren. She’s been in this state for 4 years, Dr. Hutchinson. Perhaps…”

“Heather.” He raises a finger, speaking not with the doctor under his tutorship, but with the friend who played chess with him in the Pasta Fiore at lunchtime. It’s been at least a year since they last moved a single chess piece. “Rosa knows nothing about Loren’s true condition, she doesn’t believe a word of what I say, so…Please, trust me. I’ll bring my daughter back.”

“Did you think of a treatment, then?”

“I’m on my way.” Lying helps. Praying that the infected will blurt out something useful is his scientific method. Relying on the pseudo-science of prescience isn’t even ethical, but it’s what he has. Doesn’t matter how much money and time he puts into researching the Forefungus, it will take years—and Loren’s life—to find a cure. Even the gigantic healing complex of Arestas Station had postponed any research about the Forefungus. It’s an extremely localized issue, they said. Couldn’t spare the resources.

“Keep up your good work, Heather.” José leaves. This place is not for him—or Loren. She should be in the hydroponics garden or in a classroom learning about the MedBots’ optimized paths. Not inside that thing. “Take care of my girl.”

He turns back to Heather. “Do you know anyone called Adriana?”

She mulls over the name for a bit, then shakes her head. “Why?”

“Check with Command, please. See if they can find this name.”

He stares at the blackened oval glass one more time and leaves the containment room.

🍄

Rosa is late for the first time since he’s known her.

The meeting has already played out in José’s head. Rosa will hand him the divorce docs and force him to euthanize Loren. It’ll be the end of their bond for good. No marriage, no daughter, no attachments. Erasure of time.

He types on his wristlet for Adriana’s name, trying to shift his focus from the coming meeting. At least it’s clear what will happen with Adriana. It’s just a matter of finding the woman and…waiting for her slurs. Perhaps this time, Adriana will help him find a solution to the fungus, or at least to Loren’s case. It’s hard to put what the infected say in perspective, to draw meaning from the indistinguishable babble amid the obvious sentences. But he can’t deny the bone-parting fungus helps the Vesta. He’s been able to predict accidents, save lives, and discover incidents before they happen.

The Vesta databases return an empty result. No one named Adriana among the 200,000 people aboard, not even counting those dead since the Vesta left Earth fifty-six years before. He frowns. As Chief Physician, he has access to basic info about everyone. Is she a stowaway? Is it a nickname?

Rosa arrives. He presses his tongue against his teeth so hard it cuts. He cringes. Rosa’s hair is the same as when he proposed, clouding over her head in tufts of black and a bit of gray.

They nod at each other, he with a sneer on his lip. Rosa sits in front of him and straightens her skirt.

“So…” José leans forward on the table. “This meeting is for–”

“You know why I’m here.” She leans forward, too, defiant. They haven’t been this close since Loren’s diagnosis. “Our daughter.”

Rosa doesn’t even have the courage to speak Loren’s name anymore. She blames him, of course. The acclaimed doctor of the Vesta failing with his own daughter. Who else is there to blame? Apart from the air, the only other cause of Forefungus are fathers who are doctors and still incapable of applying simple guidelines of security regarding potential alien threats.

“What about her?”

“Release her from cryo.” Rosa’s lips quiver. The words ‘kill her’ were there seconds ago. “Let her go. She doesn’t deserve this.”

“She’s not feeling anything, not thinking. The cryo–”

“I don’t care.” She shakes her head. “Our daughter’s place is in space now, her ashes released off an airlock.”

“I can save her.” He almost begs.

“The same way you could keep her safe from your filthy work?”

He sighs. Bringing research into their lodgings. His life’s greatest mistake. A specimen of Callis praedictionem and a curious teenager. Of course, he tried to convince himself he couldn’t have known the fungus was a deadly threat, but that was a lie. What kind of doctor would let an unprotected alien fungus in the same environment where his daughter watches TV and calls her boyfriend? José Hutchinson’s kind.

“They tell the future.” José presses his tongue against his teeth. He hasn’t told that to anyone, not even Dr. Gunther.

Rosa scowls at him. Her head bobs slightly in disbelief.

“Who tells what?”

“The…patients. The victims of the Forefungus. That’s why I gave it this name. Forefungus. From ‘foresight.’ Callis praedictionem.”

“Fuck the names. I know my daughter is dead, and I want her to be at peace.”

Rosa produces a tablet from her purse. The divorce papers.

He raises a hand to stop her. He just needs a bit more time to explain himself.

“When the victims die, they speak.” He blabs it out. Quick. Before she can interrupt him. “They predict the future. Do you remember the problem in Paquetá Reactor six months ago? I prevented it. One of the fungus patients told me it would…What did he say, again? Paquetá will melt. So, I convinced the Chief Engineer to perform an inspection. We’d all be dead, Rosa.”

“Are you trying to make me believe in this shit?” She lets loose a boisterous laugh, her chest heaving. People glare at them. “You of all people, acting like a clairvoyant.”

“Not me. The patients.”

She brushes her skirt while regaining her composure. “Even if that’s the truth, can you save them?”

“Not yet.” He smiles sourly. “But they can tell me how to find a cure. It’s a matter of patience. We can…” The words flutter on his lips. It’s hard to say it out loud. “We can save Loren.”

Rosa slides the tablet across the table, her eyes visibly wet.

“The divorce papers and a commitment to shut down the systems maintaining our daughter. If you don’t sign both of them, you’re bound to lose your job.”

He pulls the tablet closer.

“You don’t even say her name anymore,” he says. “You’re killing her.”

“You have one week,” she says, her teeth clenching in what might’ve been anger.

“It’s not enough.” He grapples with the table’s edge, his tongue pushing his teeth, damn the pain. “Please, Rosa. One week is not enough for a decent number of cases. I need–”

Rosa stands and leaves.

Families. The worst part of his job.

His wristlet beeps. It’s an audio from Dr. Gunther. He hits “play.”

“Dr. Hutchinson, we’ve got an emergency in the hangar bay.”

🍄

Ilana Eze is stuck between the seat and the cockpit of one of the Vesta’s small freighters. José’s hands tremble as he runs his fingers over where the fungus presses against the throttle sticks and the info display. It has pushed Ilana back against her seat and kept her tied in the belts. She can’t move. Part of the fungus’s cap squeezes her right cheek, slightly crooking her head up and left.

“So, you’re a freighter pilot…” José puts some pressure on the fungus with his fingers. Ilana grimaces. Mild pain. Too much would indicate an advanced state in which the stalks reach her spinal cord and probably strain her arteries.

“Yep,” she says with clenched teeth. “It gets boring, though, coming and going from so many stations and ships.”

“My daughter likes to draw the Vesta’s ships. She drew a freighter like this once.” Her most detailed drawing, weeks before his lapse. “She wanted to travel in a small freighter.”

“Wanted?”

“Wants. Don’t move your head.” His voice is harsh. He moves her chin with a finger. “We want to prevent the fungus from bursting.”

“I understand.” He tries to swivel her seat, but it’s stuck. It seems there’s an enormous purple bag swelling out of her.

“Are you aware of the Forefungus?” He glances over the info display in the cockpit just to be sure the fungus’s pressure won’t activate something that would hurl the freighter out of the hanger and into space.

“I know it’s bad,” she says. “But you’re the chief. You’re a damn good doc. You tell me how bad.”

José laughs. If he was good, Loren wouldn’t be frozen with that same cap over her face. Or perhaps his mistake has nothing to do with the job of a physician, but that of a father.

“Fifth decade, 13:19, May 23, Vesta time. A severe case of Callis praedictionem. It runs down from Ilana Eze’s right ear and fills the freighter’s cockpit. Seat needs to be removed. Scent is mild. Prognosis inconclusive.”

“Inconclusive, my ass.” Ilana chortles. “You can tell your pretty bracelet I’m gonna die.”

Not if he induces her into a cryo-coma. She’ll endure sequelae, but not necessarily death. Outside, two ships lift off, their backs lighting the hangar with their green exhaust. He squints. A clang reverberates through the ship when they launch. The fungus’s surface ripples, excited by the vibration. He has to work fast if he’s going to do something.

“Have you heard about someone called Adriana?” he says, kneeling and unlocking his medical bag. “Perhaps it’s a pilot nickname.”

“We wouldn’t–” She moans in pain. Growing stalks. She’ll lose consciousness any time now. “We wouldn’t use Adriana. Froghead, Ironnails, Lame Lips. Adriana is too pretty.” Her dimples frame a grin that rapidly reverts to a smirk of pain.

“I’m going to call for help,” he says. He has never euthanized a
conscious patient, doesn’t matter how bad their vitals. He won’t cross that line. “We’ll remove the seat and bring you over to the Med Center in order to treat you.”

“Okay, doc.” Ilana’s breath becomes ragged. Her arms fall over the sides of the seat. Weakening. José has to work faster, but the part of his brain that wants to listen to her slurs is stalling him. He should’ve dropped the log recording, the chitchat. He knew her seat needed to be removed from the moment he entered the damned ship.

He tells his wristlet to send an urgent audio to the hangar bay office.

“Bring me a small freighter technician, ASAP.”

“Doctor…”

Ilana wails, her legs spasm. The info display bursts. Its screen cracks and pierces through the fungus.

José steps back.

Carrion and melted wires. His mask filters out what is possible.

Ilana screams. Her legs pulse, her boots knock rapidly on the floor.

He turns on his wristlet’s recorder.

She opens her eyes, eyelids flapping. Not enough. She’ll faint before saying anything. Spume gurgles out of her throat, bathing the purple fungus’s cap in pitch black.

“Say something…” He pulls down his mask and approaches her mouth, inches from the frothing drool. “Loren Hutchinson. Forefungus treatment.”

“Adriana says the cure,” Ilana grumbles, spitting on his cheek.

He pivots to face her and grapples with the seat’s back. “Who is Adriana? Tell me!”

The snap is loud. It seems even louder than the launching ships in the hangar. A thin stalk crawls out of her neck, blood-red, slow, almost shy.

Something chokes him, but he manages to say, “Ilana Eze. Time of death: Fifth decade, 13:33, May 23. Cause of death…unethical procedures.”

🍄

Outside the round window of his room, stars gleam unimpressive.

José could’ve wrenched out the damned seat. Freighters have tools, and he’s not ignorant of how to use them. He could’ve brought Ilana to a containment pod instead of prattling on about freighters and performing useless examinations on her.

He stares at his terminal. It’s still on, even though he hasn’t used it for months. Texts of his research on the Forefungus are still open on it, dormant, a lampshade casting a pale, dismal light on the dark room.

His tongue still hurts, and now his head is joining the club. He turns off the terminal and sinks in darkness, massaging his forehead.

He abandoned his research when clairvoyance started to provide better results. Loren was one of the first infected, and back then, he didn’t know about the prophetic slurs. He was devastated, and as if his incompetence wasn’t enough, Rosa asked him to leave and to stay away from her. They’d been fighting a lot. Loren’s incident was only the culprit. He did as she said and drowned himself in research, crushing his hopes each time it took him toward a new dead end. The Forefungus was alien, and probably penetrated the Vesta via an exploration crew, but the Med Center didn’t have enough resources to study it. Even when new cases sprouted, it was never enough. He could give blood and life to understand the fungus, but never find a cure—not in a feasible time to save Loren. Cryo-coma was useful, but only for a limited time. One day, she would just…

His hope resurfaced, even if mildly, when he deduced the patient’s slurs were not only random mumblings, but predictions of the future. He developed theories about the prescience. Fungi with quantum properties traversing the space; spores that came out through one of the Einstein-Rosen bridges being tested in space stations; fungi that spanned multiple dimensions. But he quickly set proper science aside and started to rely solely on the madness of the infected. Pure pragmatism. It allowed him to prevent accidents, to save some people, and mainly to redeem himself for allowing a teenager to share a dorm with an alien threat…

His wristlet beeps. Dr. Gunther’s audio.

“Doctor, I have an answer to your request. There’s no one named Adriana in the commander’s databank or in the deceased’s registry.”

He sighs and stands, grabbing Rosa’s tablet and pressing his thumb over the divorce icon. Done. If Rosa sees he’s willing to do as she says, perhaps she’ll allow him to let Loren live for a few more weeks. Just enough to find out if there is someone named Adriana who can provide a cure for the Forefungus.

The tablet’s icon flashes green. Rosa has seen his response and acknowledged it. For the Vesta, they’re officially divorced.

He selects Dr. Gunther’s contact on his wristlet.

“Dr. Hutchinson?”

“Heather, I’m stepping down. Just need a few more weeks to finish some…things.” He rubs his knuckles on his brows as he wonders where in the ship retired people spend their time. Where do unethical retired physicians gather for a game of chess? “I think it’s advisable if you assume my position. I can write a recommendation letter.”

“Doctor, but…Perhaps you’re strained. Take a month off.”

“No. I’m not the best person for this job.” He’s probably the worst. “Please, just…”

“Can I ask you why?”

“When I was a child, I set up my mother’s seat on her Taxiship.” He rubs his tongue on his teeth, but now it feels numb. “Configured the ejection drive, screwed the seat down on the floor, adjusted its backrest, armrests, pistons. Damn, I polished it. It gleamed when Mom sat in it for the first time.”

“What does this–”

“Nothing, Heather. When this is all over, I want to play some chess.”

“When what’s over, Dr. Hutchinson?”

He hangs up.

🍄

Rosa is already in Containment Pod #1255 when he arrives. It’s her first time there, and she keeps a distance from the dimmed surface, her hands clutching her elbows. Heather has occluded Loren’s bodily temperature and any information that might upset Rosa. Only her name gleams in a drab orange over the black. Loren Agnes Hutchinson.

“Rosa.” Her shoulders slump when she sees it’s him. He hands her the tablet. “Here it is. Sorry for my stubbornness.”

“One year inside this…egg?” Rosa’s lips curl when she dares to look at the blackened pod. Underneath the semi-transparent medical cap, her hair is now tied with a black scarf, the same she used for her mother’s funeral. “How can you endure it? She was our daughter, José. We fucking laughed when she first crawled in Oxygen Park. We taught her how to draw and how to research about MedBots. And still, you watch your damned daughter everyday frozen inside an egg with a monster gnawing on her face. What kind of person have you become?”

“The kind that doesn’t wrench out spaceship’s seats. But I did…I’m doing everything I can so that we can all smile again.”

“It’s not about us.” She points a finger at him, grunting between her teeth. “It’s about our daughter.”

“About Loren.” He pats a finger on the orange letters. “If you want to speak about her, at least say her name. Her name is Loren.”

“That’s not the name I would’ve given her.” Rosa shakes her head. “She’s Loren because you liked the name so much, but I could barely have an opinion. I would’ve named her Adriana.”

José gulps, pushing his tongue against his teeth.

They’ve been warning him. It’s like the Forefungus wants him to know about his daughter’s fate.

“What’s bothering you?”

“You may want to leave.”

“Why?”

“It’s time to…” He can’t complete his sentence. He doesn’t need to.

Rosa doesn’t leave, but instead steps back and moves to a shadowy corner, just out of the white halo of light that falls on the pod and its surroundings. Heather brings him his medsuit. He puts it on, clumsily, stitching it up and tucking in his mask, the only thoughts in his head those about Adriana and the warning slurs of the dying. Heather adjusts the pod’s opacity and initiates Loren’s cryo-wake. The glass shows the temperature raising from -245 °C. José picks up his scalpel and forces his hands to stop shaking.

Now he remembers. When they first took Loren to see the stars in the Viewdeck, Rosa told her the universe is comprised of millions of those twinkling unnamed gas giants. She told Loren to pick one out and name it, and Loren chose a faint blue one, not the brightest, but the one more distant from the others. A lonely grain upon a black shore. She named it Adriana. When Rosa asked why she picked that name, Loren told her she’d seen it on a slip of paper in her mother’s desk drawer.

“The temperature is -40 °C, doctor,” Heather says. “Your suit’s insulation is loaded.”

He enters the pod for the first time since he put Loren there, sagging against his arms, three kilograms heavier than usual, with a purple cap dangling from her ear.

For the last time, euthanasia. Exact, almost painless. He must ensure the slice is the narrowest he can perform, the death the quickest, the slur—Loren’s final words—the clearest. A physician’s duty is not necessarily to restore one’s health, but to make sure that no one is forced to endure a life without it.

The fissure is slim, no more than the width of a hair. His gloved hand feels the slight vibration of the tearing fungus’s cap. The smell fills the pod, but his eyes are already wet this time, his nose accustomed. Loren’s feet rattle against the flat surface. She wails.

“The stalks are reaching her spinal cord,” Heather says in his ears with a hoarse, jittery voice.

The pod beeps. Loren’s vitals are back and reaching critical level. Heart rate and blood pressure are high, breathing rate fickle.

“Dad?” A squelched voice comes from somewhere inside the sea of purple and cilia. “It’s dark here and…cold. Mom?”

No. Not now. He wants to say everything is going to turn out just fine and that Mom and Dad are there to take care of her. But the time for comforting lies is over.

A shriek catches in Loren’s throat. She emits a pierced shrill, but the sound is dulled by the fungus around her face. The sound converts to a voice not her own.

“A vaccine…in Arestas’s Healing Complex.”

A constant beep from the pod. Lines flatten and numbers plunge. All comes down to her body temperature again.

He lowers his head and goes out the pod, shivering uncontrollably.

“Thank you.” Rosa whispers, and leaves the room.

Heather stops in front of him, wearing a medsuit herself. She slides a finger on the pod’s glass so that it darkens and starts to muffle the sounds of growing stalks and rupturing muscle.

“Arestas is 3,270 AU from here,” Heather says. “Command traced a route.”

He nods and hits “record” on his wristlet.

“Adriana Agnes Hutchinson. Time of death: Fifth decade, 15:53, May 27. Cause of death: Callis Praedictionem.”

About the Author

© 2020, Renan Bernardo

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