Flash Fiction: How Much Reality Can You Take?
By: Francesca Ferrauto
Year 2119, Neu Berlin
In the capital city of the European Democratic Republic, Ronda is waking up. The journey from the bed, through the bathroom, and on to the kitchen is strictly regulated by the A.I. assigned to her. Ronda’s apartment has wires and robotic arms put in place to help her move around. It has to be this way, because Ronda’s spine is broken in two non-communicating pieces. Ronda’s accident occurred three years ago. She was walking along the river during her usual Sunday hike when something must have distracted her, because she slipped and fell. She hit a rock with her back, and her spine broke in two: life as she knew it was over.
Thankfully, she was born a Neuberliner.
The technology Ronda employs every day is provided by the city welfare. In fact, as a result of the Equality Treaty ending the Third World War signed in 2045, all citizens of Neu Berlin enjoy various kinds of benefits: free transport, physical and mental healthcare, parental aid, old age security, free education, social housing, and even daily complimentary food supply.
It is truly a blessing to live in such a civilised society.
Ronda gets ready quickly; her operation is taking place at 10:00 am at the Reformed Charité. The avant-garde procedure she is undergoing has only been performed twice before, but Ronda didn’t inquire much. She had been assured that it would allow her to walk again, and that was all she needed to hear. She shows no fear while she is helped to lay down on the hospital bed.
Today is a happy day.
The nurses come back in the room to start prepping Ronda for the operation. They move her on to a wheeled bed to be transported to the OR: she feels ready and void of fear. As she lays down staring at the ceiling deep in thought, doctors and nurses come in the room and park another bed beside with a woman laying on it. This woman is roughly Ronda’s size. She doesn’t speak a word, her eyes opened wide in utter fear, her face wet with tears.
She keeps quiet, even when Ronda asks her questions:
“What are you so afraid of?” Silence.
“Today is a happy day.” More silence.
“We will walk again!”
At last, the woman reacts.
The woman sits up with effortless agility and looks at Ronda straight in the eyes. Her blue, pinched face shows poor nourishment, her weathered skin reveals a different age than her eyes, her thin lips move to let out words in a hiss:
“I will never walk again.”
Ronda’s very blood freezes in her veins while a nurse pushes the other woman down forcing a gas mask onto her face. So does another nurse — slightly more gently — to Ronda and whispers:
“Hush now, don’t ask. There’s only so much reality you can take.”
After a few months of recovery, Ronda walks again.
She is now the happiest of all the 3575 citizens of Neu Berlin.
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