LOST IN TRANSMISSION • by Shane D. Rhinewald

Nosebleed again. I dab it with a tissue, but this time, the blood looks more black than red. Perhaps it’s just the flickering streetlight playing tricks with my eyes as it wages war between light and dark.

“Did you enjoy the movie?” Samantha asks, slipping an arm through mine. She presses herself to me, but I barely feel it. Still, I catch the scent of lavender on her skin, maybe a hint of lemon. The smells remind me of Earth.

“Yes, I enjoyed it,” I say, though I barely recall seeing a movie. Was it in black and white? I thought they stopped making those centuries ago.

“Do you want to walk down by the shore?” she asks. It’s only our third date, but she already clings to me like some space barnacle. Still, I wish I could feel her warmth against me; I could use an anchor in this place.

“The shore. Yes,” I say, and she leads the way. Her heels click on concrete as we walk, and I count her steps in my head. For some reason I lose track around twenty, which not long ago seemed like such a small, insignificant number.

The shore proves not to be much to look at, just some cracked asphalt running along a band of water more stream than river. Samantha calls it beautiful, but I picture a real body of water in a place I barely remember.

“Is your nose okay?” Samantha asks. It’s only our third date — or is it our fourth? — but she already knows about the nosebleeds.

“It’s fine.”

We stop underneath a lamppost that flickers. While Samantha strokes my face with a hand that feels like mist, I wonder why no one on this damn planet fixes all these bulbs. She whispers, “Tell me more about Earth.”

The blood flows more steadily from my nose now, more forcefully than the sad stream beside us. I can taste salt and copper on my tongue. I wipe the blood away with a hand, but when I look at my palm, I see nothing but the shadows cast by the flickering light above.

***

I awake in a white, sterile room feeling hung-over, my head a whirl. My mouth wants for water, but I find nothing beside the bed except a man in a chair looking at me with slits for eyes.

“What happened?” I ask.

“We had to call you back,” the man says. He has a balding head that shines under all the lights in the room. None of them flicker.

“It was only a month. You said I’d be there at least three.”

“Your nosebleeds concerned us but you seemed otherwise okay, so we let you stay. Then we noticed you drifting.”

“Drifting? How come?”

The man shrugs. “Something must have gotten discombobulated in transmission. Not all your molecules got put back together correctly over there. Sometimes it takes awhile for us to notice. If it was easy to zap a person halfway across the galaxy, I’d already be rich.”

I sit up and notice the silver tracking band on my wrist. “What about now? Did you put everything together correctly this time?”

The man shrugs again. “Let’s hope we got it right.”

“Shitty technology,” I say, unclasping the band and tossing it to the linoleum floor. My entire body hurts: eyes, bones, even skin. “Next time I leave Earth, I’ll take a ship.”

“Be lucky you didn’t end up like our first test subject. He’s a billion pieces in space now. At least you got to date a pretty girl and go on a quick vacation.”

I have trouble remembering her name. Samantha. That’s right. She hated when I called her Sam.

“Now what?” I ask.

The man points with his clipboard. “You can collect your payment from the aide outside the office. Thanks again for your participation in our program.”

I walk on wobbly legs from the room, answer a few questions about how I’m feeling (the aide seems unpleased by most of my answers), and exit the building.

As I walk, I take the check from my pocket, unfold it, and count the zeroes. It will be more than enough to pay for two years of college, well worth the month away from home. Plus, I even met a pretty girl, though I can’t seem to remember if she had brown or blonde hair. Maybe black.

My nose starts to bleed.


Shane D. Rhinewald was raised and continues to live in Western New York. He’s a public relations professional by day and writes speculative fiction by night (except when there’s hockey on TV, of course). His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, Big Pulp, and the Short Sips anthology.


Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • An intriguing, strangely melancholy tale.

    Having been to college with folks who subsidised their student grants through taking part in medical trials, this story resonates.

    Nicely done.

  • [misappropriation of name redacted]

    I’m afraid that unnecessary comma in the third paragraph really killed the story for me. It’s the same reason David Copperfield sucks – there’s an en dash in Chapter 27 where an em dash should be.

    One star.

  • I don’t know what #2 is talking about, and I’m a copy editor.

    I thought it was a good story. It could probably (and I don’t say this very often) even benefit from being a bit longer, with more explanation about the transmission program.

  • ajcap

    Well, of course. Go Leafs.

    Poor lad seems to be missing a few molecules. I wonder which ones you can live without. Not sure why but I didn’t get emotionally involved with any of the characters. I would expect the MC to be more worried, or scared, more human.

    Interesting premise and good writing, but not enough of an impact for me.

  • I really liked this — great concept, smoothly developed. It may be a little distant in the characterization, but I think it actually works as a strength: Like many contemporary college students, the narrator maintains a detached attitude while undergoing drastic, potentially life-threatening experimentation — meanwhile the reader comes to realize just what the narrator has risked and that there are severe repercussions brewing.

    Great story, Shane!

    (And I trust P.M. in #2 is just being tongue-in-cheek; perhaps trying to make a point about how some of the comments on EDF stories may occasionally over-focus on minutiae and nitpicking.)

  • Oonah V Joslin

    I enjoyed your story Shane.

  • There’s not much I can add to the other reviews. They pretty well sum up my thoughts on the piece (sans #2, which seems a bit too extreme for me to take serious).

    All in all, a well written and engaging story. My only complaint is a desire for more.

  • Rob

    Nicely done. reenforcing that life sucks when you’re a lab rat.

  • JenM

    This was definitly dark but I loved it. Made me wonder if the near future might end up like this. The poor couple. Four stars,

  • I kinda liked it. I would have given it three stars, then I read comment #2. Really? Killed it? Hopefully the five stars I gave helped balance out the grognard.

  • I suppose that’s it – the perils of the medical trials?

    With more characterisation it could have developed more of a story.

  • kathy k

    Really well done. I enjoyed this piece very much. En dash and em dash be damned. I gave it a four.

  • defcon

    Feels like this should have been a longer story. First part was dreamy, which makes sense since he wasn’t all there, but then the second part is nothing but a reveal. More characterization would have given the reveal part more oomph. But this wasn’t a bad story.

  • Erin Ryan, Chris Fries, I don’t know what #2 is talking about, and I’m the real P.M.Lawrence. No doubt some impostor is trying to make me look ridiculous. For what it’s worth, I have never used the star rating system, so if the webmaster can sort it out that vote should be removed.

  • joannab.

    oh my, an identity stolen in the comments reflects the hero’s identity stolen in the story.

    very good story plot. the hero’s predicament and what will happen to him once he is back on earth with money and a bleeding nose will stay with me for awhile. i too wish it could have been longer so as to get to know the hero better.

  • I really liked this. A rather sad, disoriented vibe.

  • Chad

    Very different, but I liked it. I hope I get to read something else you’ve written in the future.

  • P.M., I have removed the misappropriation of your name from comment #2, and we will be taking action to block the offending IP address from future comments.

  • Thanks; my guess is that it was the troll who recently cropped up on another thread.

    Interestingly, I get caught in faulty data matching as my first name, middle initial, last name and date of birth are not unique, and my first name and last name together are far more common than many people suppose, though they might expect that of “John Smith”, say.

  • Syd

    Blocking IP addresses doesn’t work. There are only about 50,000 ways to bypass those blocks.