“I’m sorry. Really, I am.”
That’s all he said at first, his huge, larger than life head plastered on every television and computer in the world. He looked tired, every wrinkle and blemish lit up on the big screens in Best Buy. The domino mask looked comical against his leathery skin. For a moment we all wondered if we ran him ragged, like whatever he was sorry for was really our fault.
I kinda thought he was turning evil or something, and I was kind of right, but not really. I really felt this was the end of days as I held the boxed up video card to my chest like it was a stuffed animal, or maybe a real animal that didn’t mind being squeezed half to death.
“Do you know why I shave my head?”
Those were the next words from his mouth, and no one had an answer. A lot of people just assumed he didn’t grow hair or something. They were wrong.
“When I was… eight or so, I was diagnosed with leukemia. They told me I was sick, and to make me better, I would have to get sicker first. They told me…”
“They told me that they were going to put chemicals in my blood, to kill the sickness. They said it would make me nauseated, they said I would have trouble eating, and wouldn’t want to get out of bed. What was worse though, is that they told me that my hair would start falling out. See, that scared me, because I’d been sick before. I’d felt nauseated, or not wanted to eat, but my hair had never fallen out of my head.”
A big tear pooled in his eye, glittering in 1080p.
“They said… if I wanted to I could shave my head. They said if I kept it shaved, I wouldn’t notice the hair falling out. So I did, and that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. No matter how many volcanoes I’ve depressurized, hurricanes I’ve muted with my atmospheric manipulators, or super villains I’ve beaten to a pulp, none of it measures to being that eight year old boy, losing all control as the nurse clipped away with that electric razor, shaking my skull as I pushed back tears.”
A tear fell.
“I kept it that way, so I would never have to do it again. I told myself, the cancer made me strong. I grew into my intellect as any other boy goes through puberty, but I knew it was my will to survive that gave me real strength. It was survivalism, that taught me to protect the small, to protect the race into which I was born a burden then embraced as a hero, to use the gift I was given, to become a miracle.”
That’s what we called him, The Miracle, it came to have its own ironies later on. That bald head meant salvation to so many, it was hard to see it humanized like that. To think he had parents and… cancer. Seriously, I can’t say it enough, fuck cancer.
“So, now, I discover that the cancer I had when I was a child, the cancer we eradicated with medicine and illness, has returned. It’s in my brain now, and world… I’m dying. I have seen every specialist, gotten a second, third and fourth opinion from some of the most valuable people in the world, and they all tell me the same thing. I could die tomorrow, or a week, or maybe a few years, but the cancer will kill me.”
A collective gasp escaped all our lungs at once. The Miracle was it. He was the only thing between us and aliens, time travellers, and super-volcanoes. Without him, without his mind there would be no humanity, ten times over at least. This was big.
“So that’s all. I am dying and I am truly sorry, but I just cannot sit back and wait to die. You people need me too much, and I hope you understand why I am doing what I have to do. There’s this disease, called DFTD, that means Devil Facial Tumor Disease, it only affects Tasmanian devils, but it’s essentially a contagious cancer. I asked myself, I asked, I wonder if this has ever happened in humans?”
Right about here I started to get that cold feeling in my stomach.
“And it has! A surgeon with an open wound contracted cancer during surgery, and suddenly, it was all very clear, and I am well and truly sorry for what I have done, world, but… you’ll recall my atmospheric manipulators. They control the global climate now, containing typhoons and tornadoes, preventing drought… cleaning and conditioning the air. You all have it now. You all have that malicious, evil little machine in your blood and bones and hearts and brains now, and this time, I cannot save you.
“You have to save me, world. Take control of your fate. Come together and beat this thing. Take all our great minds and research and let survival drive you to a cure. Because, if you don’t, the human race ends now, and you all die with me. I am sorry, truly, I am so sorry, but you left me with no choice. The day I needed you, I expected you to be there for me.
The televisions switched back to some buddy cop flick and we all just stood there, dead in our shoes. People wept into cellphones, I sat in a leather recliner, dropped the video card to the floor, and pulled the pack of cigarettes from my coat. I stared at the surgeon general’s warning printed in bold ink along the box’s side and smiled.
The doctors said I shouldn’t be smoking anymore, that my lungs looked like the La Brea tar pits, but there wasn’t a doctor in the world who could stop me from lighting that cigarette in that Denver Best Buy.
Desmond Fox is a writer and musician, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife and two children. He is the founding member of the Like Titans record label and creative community, where he actively podcasts, performs music, blogs, and authors short fiction, poetry and comic books.
This story is sponsored by
Clarion West Writers Workshop — Apply now through March 1 for 2014’s six-week workshop with Paul Park, Kij Johnson, Ian McDonald, Hiromi Goto, Charlie Jane Anders, and John Crowley, June 22 – August 1 in Seattle.