prompt: refuse, title: the post-modern prometheus in "the next big thing" flash fiction

  • May 22, 2022, 12:08 a.m.
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  • Public

But you must also understand why the scientist was doing what he was doing. Taking a creature that wasn’t supposed to exist and yet existed, a creature that believed himself the last of his kind, chaining him up to a metal slab to siphon out his very life. Standing outside of the situation, we can tell ourselves they are the villain of this story but there are no villains, really, and no heroes either. Just women and just men, with their own motivations, with their own reason, stuck as we are inside these infinite stories. To the scientist, yes, it was awful but it was entirely necessary.

When he was a boy, he could quite nearly fly as he ran. As he got better and better at the game of baseball, as the rumpled old men called “scouts” started showing up for Legion ball then his high school games, telling him that he could well become a star, he began a peculiar ritual. He started every warm-up before a given game on just his bare feet. To feel the dirt and grass beneath him, to ground him to the task, to the sacred earth below him, so he could focus in stillness on the task of being a little bit better each time. Continue to improve. Move further toward greatness.

Eventually, though, greatness was as the horizon in the flatland beyond the Berkshire Mountains of his birth. The faster you ran, the further the horizon receded, the distance between him and the end of the sky ever constant. The tremor started, just a little at first, in just his throwing hand. He convinced himself for a while that it was just from overwork in practice, he was just pushing too hard and it would go away with a little rest. It did not. The shaking did not stop, it got worse and worse no matter what he did. His body was betraying him. His dreams of soaring over grass and dirt like a child in the fields, and becoming a goddamn millionaire along the way, were gone.

As an adult then, as an academic, taking a longshot that the blood of an extraordinarily quick to heal sasquatch might get him back his body, even as he inserted the needles in himself and into Frank Yetti, his fingers would refuse to cooperate completely. He had to jab at both himself and the miracle monster multiple times each to get the tubes connected right. He could not help but think back to a class once, where the professor autopsied a man who had committed suicide by stabbing himself to death. How the man had flinched involuntarily so many times while trying, shallow cuts around the gouge that finally performed the deed.

The teacher called them “hesitation marks”. As he was not a villain, because no one is really, he couldn’t help but think about it as he worked. As he was a desperate man, however, that thought did not stop him, either.


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