Monday, July 26, 2010

Keensight corrected

I wrote yesterday's story in the final minutes before midnight and when I'd posted it staggered off to bed.  It was a long day and a long drive and a lot of things to do and I was exhausted.

Then I woke up this morning and re-read the story and it made no sense.  I can almost remember what I had in mind, but not quite.

So here it is again, with an improved ending.  This is why I always let stories sit on the desk for a week to cool before sending them out to the magazines.

Michael Swanwick

The older he grew, the better his eyesight.  Ian Irving had no explanation for that.  It just was.  His optometrist had no explanation for it either – and it rather frightened him.  One year Irving’s vision was 20/20, a few years later it was 20/10.  And it kept getting better.  20/8, 20/5, 20/3, 20/1 . . .  There didn’t seem to be any limit to how much his eyesight could improve.

By the time Irving was in his nineties his vision had grown so acute that it became a problem.  He took to wearing blue-glass welder’s goggles, even at night, just to keep from being dazzled.

And then rejuvenation was invented.  For a fee no more than would buy a weekend at a luxury spa, anybody’s body could be restored to the health and strength and sexual vigor of a twenty-year-old.  To say nothing of the good looks.  It took no time whatsoever for everybody to realize that this was tantamount to immortality.  And only three decades after that for it to become obvious that when people keep getting born and nobody dies of natural causes, you’ve got a serious overpopulation problem.  Resources like space and water and food quickly grew scarce.

Twenty years into the Population Bloom, Irving was working for the Mont-Mégantic Observatory as a human research telescope, confirming observations made by their other land-based instruments.  By the time the Great Starvation was over and the world population had crashed from its height of five trillion to a more sustainable seventeen billion, the Canadian government had declared him a Living National Treasure, second only to the Hubble VII which, though built by their vassal territories to the south, was a wholly-owned property of l'Agence spatiale canadienne.

His eyesight continued to improve.

Civilizations rose and fell behind him as Irving’s sight pierced further and further into the universe.  He saw galaxies a-borning and the first stars coalescing out of primal smoke and gases.  He saw all the way back to the Big Bang and then, one glorious day, deep into what came before it.

Not long after, Death came for Irving.  He’d outlived everything else on the planet by then, so it was his turn.

But when the Great Anthropomorphization came to where Irving should have been, he was nowhere to be seen.  There was only a note which read:  Did you really think I wouldn’t see you coming?


1 comment:

David Stone said...

Why not make it a choose your own adventure (tm)? Then we could have both endings or perhaps even more.

I can't even remember what the first ending was, this one must be much better.