Friday, March 14, 2014

Final feedback

Hello everyone. I'm looking for final feedback on the first chapter of my latest sci-fi before I send the full manuscript to my editor. If you have time to read it, any suggestions, criticism, or opinion is much appreciated.




Fifty years ago today, the United Global Army flooded Earth’s atmosphere with Furon Gas and drove the invading Tarnacki out of our world and back to their home planet. Nearly five and a half billion human beings lost their lives in the two year struggle to save Earth from annihilation and another billion from starvation when food supplies ran out in areas that couldn’t be reached by the Planetary Red Cross. Tarnacki bunkers raided by United Global Army security forces yielded incredible discoveries and I believe a lot of good came out of them, i.e. food processing machines, universal translators, and such. But I also believe some technologies created by an advanced alien society are not meant for human application, the procedure device being one of them.

Chapter 1
3:45 p.m. Tuesday

Ten more years to live?
Perhaps, a hundred?
I would know the answer to Jane’s results soon.
I shuffled nervously in the chair under hot institutional lights in the small waiting room, my underwear and T-shirt feeling clammy against my skin, while trying to get a grip on my fraying patience. At this very moment, Jane’s physical body lay strapped to a machine built by extraterrestrials while the spiritual energy that is her human life force whisks through bent celestial dimensions until it can travel no further.
The moment of her death.
Her end time.
It twisted my mind to think about it.
No matter how much I learned about the procedure at school. No matter how many times I’d read about the procedure in periodicals and newspapers. No matter how much I’d researched on my own the good, the bad, and all that could go wrong with knowing your own personal end time, I still believed I was absolutely prepared for whatever the outcome.
“Are you doing okay, Mr. Bradly?” the receptionist asked.
Mid-forties, attractive, with graying hair, and wearing a green dress too small for her figure, the receptionist turned away from typing at her computer to face me.
“Just anxious,” I replied. “That’s all.”
“It shouldn’t be much longer.”
Murmuring voices in the hallway caught my attention and the steel door leading to the procedure area opened. A male doctor wearing a white lab coat and blue scrubs stepped through. The door shut automatically behind him.
The doctor’s hair was dark and unruly. Heavy-rimmed glasses with thick lenses that artificially enlarged his eyes rested on the bridge of his nose. His face was clean shaven. I caught a whiff of formaldehyde as he reached over and placed an electronic tablet onto the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist took the tablet and resumed typing.
“I’m Dr. Menning,” the doctor said. He reached out to shake my hand and a crease formed along his forehead. “Bob Bradly, I presume?”
I shook. “Yes.”
“Jane Powers’ application form states that you are her primary caretaker for her procedure?”
“I am.”
“Before we continue, would you please take this pill? Low level cosmic-celestial radiation may emit from a patient’s body for several hours after the procedure. This neutralizes any effects on those with close contact.”
An alarm rang in my head. I’d never once read or heard anything about side effects of having the procedure. Something didn’t seem normal.
“Is everything all right?” I asked.
Doctor Menning filled a small plastic cup with water and handed it to me. He dropped the rather large, white pill into my palm.
“Ms. Powers had an unusual procedure,” he replied. “It took more energy than what’s typical to bring her back.” He gesture to the pill in my hand. “Please.”
 I swallowed it with a water chaser and handed back the empty cup.
“Right now Ms. Powers’ mental condition is quite fragile which is normal after having the procedure. It can be quite distressing witnessing the end of your own life no matter how old you live to be. This is why follow-up counseling plays such a vital role in how a patient copes with this knowledge.”
I nodded benignly. “I understand.”
Dr. Menning pressed his lips together. “And sometimes when the results of the procedure are not what one would have expected the trauma to the psyche can be even more serious.”
The back of my neck tightened “What do you mean?”
Dr. Menning looked at the floor and his glasses slipped to the end of his nose. He gave me an arched glance over them and met my eyes straight, then raised his arm to speak into a communication device strapped to his wrist.
“Bring in Ms. Powers.”
My stomach fluttered.
A moment later, an orderly wheeled Jane who was lying on top of a hospital bed through the steel door and into the waiting room. Her auburn hair fanned out over the pillow. Her face was so pale it looked as if she had no course of circulation. An unhealthy glaze filmed her eyes which were drowsy slits possessing a distant, zombie-like stare. Her chest barely moved with each breath she took.
I stood nearly overcome by the rush of emotion to comfort and take care of her, make her normal and happy. I hated seeing her like this, like she’d just come out of major surgery when there was no wound that had needed healing, no diseased tissue that had needed removal. I swallowed hard to subdue the lump in my throat.
I reached down to caress her cheek and noticed that my hand was shaking. She became a little more conscious and rolled her eyeballs toward me.
“I…” Her voice came out as a whisper. “I saw my death.”
Queasiness hit but I dredged a smile.
“It’ll be okay,” I assured. “In a few hours you’ll be your normal self.”
Dr. Menning gestured to the orderly. The orderly glanced at me with a troubled expression before wheeling Jane back through the steel door.
“Where is he taking her?” I asked, as they disappeared.
“Recovery includes several hours of follow-up psychological counseling paired with anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals. Will you or a family member be here to pick her up after she’s completed? She’ll be in no state to drive.”
“I’ll be here.”
“Excellent. Is your telephone number on file?”
Uneasiness swept through me. I nodded.
“Is Jane okay?” I questioned. “She doesn’t seem okay.”
“Everything Ms. Powers is going through is on par for the procedure and recovery. Knowing the date and manner by which one’s own life ends can be very distressing.” Dr. Menning tented his fingers. His gaze seemed to pierce me. “Especially when it is sooner than one would have expected.”
My body electrified.
“What are you saying?”
“Before we proceed I think—”
“Are you saying she doesn’t have much time?”
Dr. Menning removed his glasses and methodically cleaned the lenses with a tissue he withdrew from his lab coat pocket. His eyes did not meet mine.
“The patient should be the one who divulges that information.”
My muscles tensed. Heat rose to my face. “I’m on the confidentiality agreement! I have a right to know the results!”
Dr. Menning looked up and the lines around his eyes deepened. He replaced his glasses.
“You also have the right to counseling yourself, as per the contract that both of you signed. We generally schedule a follow-up session with the primary contact and patient twenty-four to thirty-six hours after the patient has returned home and had time to process what they experienced. But in your situation we can have one ready for you within the hour. Wouldn’t you rather have a psychiatrist with you when you learn the results?”
Questions pressed at my mind.
“I’d like to know before I see Jane.”
Dr. Menning shook his head. “You do have this right. Are you absolutely certain you want to hear the results from me?”
I nodded with heavy concern.
“Very well.” Dr. Menning sighed, looking grim-faced. “As I said before, it can be extremely distressing knowing the date and manner—”
“How much time?” I interrupted, feeling frazzled. “A year?” I swallowed a breath. “A month?”
Dr. Menning adjusted his glasses and appeared a bit uncomfortable. He sighed again, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
 “I’m very sorry, Mr. Bradly.” He looked at the device on his wrist as it relayed information. “The procedure shows Jane’s life expectancy from this moment forward at forty-eight hours and twenty-three minutes. Slightly more than two days.”
Strength in my legs gave way and I could barely keep my knees from buckling. I teetered and sank onto the closest seat, my whole body trembling.
“Not possible,” I said, with a despairing shake of my head. “You must have read the results wrong.”
“There is nothing to read or interpret,” Dr. Menning said, his voice controlled. “The scene, the moment of Ms. Powers’ ending, occurred and was recorded. We cannot control nor manipulate the outcome in any way. I’m very sorry.”
I stared at the carpet, at the intricate patterns of color, trying to digest the horrific information. I couldn’t process all that was happening fast enough. Reality didn’t sink in. I wouldn’t let it.
“Jane is in perfect health!” I countered. “She’s healthier than I am! How can she have just two days to live?”
Dr. Menning cleared his throat. “It is not a health related issue that takes her life.”
I glanced up, startled. “An accident?”
He didn’t respond.
“Then it can be avoided?”
His face remained stern, staring at the receptionist still typing at her keyboard. Another possibility hit and burned through my core. I shriveled up inside.
Dr. Menning turned toward me and I felt the force of his gaze as if it were a punch.
“I cannot divulge specific information about a patient’s end time even though you signed the confidentiality agreement. Only the patient who has undergone the procedure can tell you how they lose their life and the specifics surrounding the event. Ms. Powers is fully aware of the circumstances contributing to her end time. It is her decision whether or not she wishes to share the experience with you. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” He glanced at the device on his wrist. “I have another procedure scheduled in less than fifteen minutes.”