Memento Mori

Posted on 17 Dec 2021 @ 9:20am by Lieutenant Commander Reginald Hawthorn Jr

Episode: From our Past
Location: Cedar Pines Care Facility, Butte Metroplex, Montana
Timeline: Date 11-10-2080 at 1830

Butte Metroplex, Montana

Stale piss and vinegar, masked with the collying fog of pine-scented antiseptic. It was the first thing Reggie’s conscious mind registered as he walked into the facility, followed quickly by the limp teal paint on the walls. ‘Cedar Pines Elderly Care Facility’ was also painted on a wall, along with the corporate logo which was not painted on. The vinyl sticker it was printed on was peeling at the corners, revealing the other logo’s that had been slapped on the wall and then covered over during corporate reshuffling.

The familiar knife in his chest slowly turned a quarter inch.

“Welcome to Cedar Pines,” an orderly said in a chipper and corporately approved tone of voice. “Ya’all here to see someone?”

“I am,” Reggie said, doffing his cover as he held out his terminal. “Got all the info you need here.”

“All right, let’s have a look shall we?” the ordeal said with a smile. If it wasn’t for the setting Reggie would have called it perky, to match the slight build and pixie-like haircut. She gently flicked through screens. “Well all your vaccinations and shots are up to date, I see here you’ve got a Federal Government wrist patch so that makes things a whole bunch easier, government health screening and all. We get folks coming in all the time trying to see their folks here with the paperwork. Must be ten years back we had some fool come in here to see their mother, brought in a case of blister rust with’em.”

She looked up, a little shamefaced at her blurted comment.

“Like I said, that was a while back and we ain’t never had another case here,” she said hurriedly. She then awkwardly handed the terminal back to Reggie. “Well all seem’s in order, why don’t you follow me and I’ll get you situated.”

She led him through the facility, winding through corridors and hallways past closed doors. Names and numbers were on them, some even had painted murals on them. Bright green hills, blue skies, a world that seemed to be on a different planet to here. Reggie reminded himself of the world out beyond the walls of the care home, the government assistance packages, the private security contractors putting in the minimum effort to keep law and order from being fictional.

“Well, here we are!” the orderly said, pulling out a terminal from her pocket and glancing at the information she scanned off of a barcode on the door. “AutoDoc prescribed his morning med’s about four ago, so he’ll be lucid. But I have to warn-”

“Ain’t my first time through this rodeo,” Reggie said with a kind smile.

“I had a feeling you’d say that,” she sighed and pressed her terminal against the door. “I’ll be outside. Just don’t tire him out none.”

Reggie gave a nod of thanks and stepped through the now opened door. It closed behind him, encapsulating him in the world of his past. Here corporate look faded, becoming warmer and more friendly. Carpet on the floor, tan coloured and rutted in places from constant motion to and from the same places. A padded recliner, side table, all faced towards a wall screen showing a bygone skyline of Butte.

No towering space elevator dominating the skyline, nor the dwarf highrises huddled in the centre of the city like knife points able to turn into the winds. Nor did the skyline glow from the refugee camps still clustered around the cities outskirts, the light emanating from countless cook fires and the ceaseless recycling work. Just modest pre-Climate Cliff buildings.

“Hey,” Reggie said to the man in the chair. He was older than he seemed to be in Reggies memory, somehow incredibly frail looking. But he could see his father in him all the same, hidden away in the laughter lines at the eyes and thick knuckles of the hands. But he could also see the sunken pits of his eyes, the thinness of his bones.

Eyes unclouded by cataracts turned to regard him, saw him, but didn’t react in any other way than to register his arrival.

“If you’r’all here for Madison he’s gone out,” came the sing-song voice of his father. “Getting groceries from down the way, should be back soon.”

“I know he’ll be back, he asked me to come check in on you,” Reggie said. He knelt down on one knee beside his father’s chair. An AutoDoc feed line was connected to a port in his arm, feeding him the anticonvulsive and prion rejuvenators as directed. It would disengage when he got out of the chair, and reconnect seamlessly when he sat back down.

“Bah,” the elder Hawthorn said and waved a hand. “Unneeded fuss that. He’ll be back soon.”

“Yeah…yeah he will,” Reggie said. “Say, Sir, you’d mind passing on a message to him for me? See I’m shipping out soon, and don’t rightly know if I’ll be back this way for a while. And I er…I just wanted him to know that…”

Something in his chest swelled, boiling up to his throat.

“That er…he always did right by me. Always looked out and made sure I was okay. He was a…good friend, good person a fella could look up to as a standard. And that I…I’m proud to know him,” he said through his grief.

“Sure. I can pass along the message,” the senior Hawthorn said, his bright eyes drawing back to the skyline of a past that had never really been. He wanted to say more, but he wasn’t in the room anymore. At least not to his father. He’d distress him now by asking another question, a rude house breaker in his mind. So he got up quietly, padding back to the door and stepping out into the corridor

“I’ll give you a minute,” the orderly said.

“No, no I’m good,” Reggie said and swallowed that hard mass in his throat. He turned almost shyly towards the ordeal. “I’m er…I’m going away for a while. A year maybe, more possibly.”

“He should still be here,” the orderly said softly. “Orsini spongiform encephalopathy is a slow-burning condition, as you know. He’ll be here-”

“More or less,” Reggie said with sad wry humour.

“Yeah,” she said. “There are treatments, procedures. They can reverse some of the effects of OSE, slow down the prion degeneration. Experimental nano med therapies-”

“And how much of that is covered by my patch?” he asked. The look on her face told him everything he needed to know. Fancy drugs, advanced medical tech, all of it had a dollar price tag on it that if you had to ask how much you already had your answer.

“We’ll look after him for you,” she said, gesturing to the other doors. “We do it for all here. OSE, echopraxia, Gorgon 4-48, we specialise in advanced neurological care and treatment. We know what we’re doing, and we do our best.”

“I know, your brochure was mighty convincing,” he grinned and turned away.

“Sir..I…I don’t mean to pry, but you have been tested for the gene markers of OSE?” she asked. Reggie turned back, that same grin on his face.

“Why ruin the surprise?”