A streak of red and silver takes forever to roll by. Rivulets of rain meander down the glass blurring the colors, twisting their meaning: red turns to rush, amber is nostalgia, green, like Christmas candy, induces envy of the clueless souls who rush by, newspapers draped above their heads fending off the storm. When the fire-engine blares its alarm, he jumps, spilling his black tea held halfway to his lip. It splashes up against the deli window and runs sideways along the crack trying to escape.
Escaping with it, a tenuous notion that had perched at the edge of inspiration, blue with fractal spirals descending into the core of consciousness. The perfect thought pops, its soapy film dissolves into threads and vanishes. A sigh, Simon speaks primarily in sighs these days, escapes with the tea. “It would have only revealed more of the Universe.”
“What’s that?” A nurse to his right, she’s got the shoes and the clothes and the look, lifts her eyebrows and leans in. She’s got a bowl-sized mug full of milk barely tinged with coffee.
He blinks like his eyelids are stuck. “It’s loud noises. I startle easily.” Adjusting his glasses he spots her name-tag. “Hi, hmm… Trisha. It looks like you work at the gene-mod place across the street.”
“For now. I’m waiting on an offer from New Trinity.” She uses her napkin to stem the renegade tea that threatens to drip onto her lap.
“I’ve heard good things about that hospital. I’m Simon, by the way.”
She smiles. “Hi, Simon. So, what do you do?”
He sighs again. “Theoretical physics, I’m sorry to say. Surely not as practical as being a nurse.” Simon points through the glass. “What about that place? I’ve read about it, A-New-You-Through-Genetics. What do you think, any truth to it?”
Trisha gazes at the tan swirls in her mug. “If you’ve got the money. I haven’t heard of many complaints.” She sets cup to counter and flexes her bicep. “Worked for me. As a perk I got a boost in collagen generation and a micro-fix of endurance.”
“Wow, adventurous. No side effects?”
“My libido ticked up a notch…” Trisha looks perplexed at having revealed such an intimate detail. She shrugs. “You thinking about it?” She gives Simon the once over. “You should try it.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Simon runs a finger along the vein-like patterns of water running down the window. “There is one DNA twist,” he grins at his own pun, “that I’ve been wondering about.”
“Mm, hmm. Well, I’ve got to get back.” As she dons her jacket she says, “Maybe they’ve got something to patch your nerves. You never know these days. There are some wild CRISPR tricks they’ve come up with.”
Simon watches her step away, a dancers step as she leaves and jaywalks across 114th, dodging cars and delivery vans like a dangerous game of hit ‘n miss.
For months he’s struggled to sleep. Worry regarding the acceptance of the theory he’d published, ten years of work, and the constant reminder of its premise drives his mind into whorls of frenzied doubt. He knows his conclusions and the ramifications they propose contribute to his angst. Thoughts creep in, blossom in his mind and now nothing can sooth him. It’s as if this revelation has triggered a curse of his own device. He has somehow induced, within himself, permanent inescapable misery. Frequently he pines for years past when he’d been naive, unaware of the philosophical dilemmas he’d unleash later in life.
Rattled and exhausted, Simon enters through the double doors of Modern Gene-Mod. A fit looking fellow with natural poise welcomes him with a pamphlet and a knowing grin.
“We have excellent revitalization programs, muscle toning, telomere extension and sense enhancement treatments. If don’t find what you’re looking for, just let us know. The design of new mods is an ongoing process and we’d love to help you find your exact solution. One that you’ll be happy with for years to come.”
Simon’s wan smile does nothing to diminish the man’s radiance. Simon folds the pamphlet. “Thanks. Could I see a specialist?”
“Ah, already selected something custom, have we?”
“I doubt very much that my request fits any of your existing treatments.”
Mr. Radiance gives Simon a skeptical look. “What general features are you considering for your enhancement?”
“We have numerous systems for decreasing blood pressure, fat to muscle ratio, hair loss, what did you have in mind?”
“I want to reduce my IQ to below one hundred, perhaps lower.”
“My IQ. That’s correct.”
“Why on earth would anyone…”
“About that specialist?”
“Right.” The fellow presses a button behind his ear and briefly murmurs into a hidden microphone. “Please, follow me. Doctor Ganesh will assist you in the, um, design of your custom treatment.”
Weeks later, an associate professor, one who’d assisted Simon in collecting citations for his paper, stops by Simon’s apartment with news. The fellow had drawn the short straw and braces himself outside Simon’s door. He takes a breath and knocks firmly.
The door opens wide revealing Simon wearing a paint-smeared t-shirt and bib-overalls; red and yellow drops have splattered across his bare feet. “Hi there,” Simon says brightly.
“Yeah, hi, Professor Kolemos. May I come in?”
The associate hands Simon a manila envelope. “You haven’t answered any of our emails. And all my calls go to voicemail.”
“I forgot my password.”
“Ah, yes. Well, you should know, your paper on the Ouroboros Nature of the Universe…”
“The one where you describe the quantum states that continuously cycle within themselves, effectively confirming the fundamental absurdity of the Universe, how it both is and isn’t, simultaneously was and will never be?”
“Painting daisies is my favorite. Their little faces are so happy.”
“Yeah, daisies. Your paper was accepted. And, I hope you remember that I contributed, you know. Anyway, they say you may be up for a Nobel Prize in Physics.”
“I painted this yesterday. It’s big and red. It makes a loud noise when it goes by. Bet you can’t guess what it is.”
“A fire engine?”
“Fire engine! That’s right. Fire engines make me happy, too.”