“The Cure,” Marissa Davila

The Cure

“What an odd feeling…”

The skies are lighting up, and it certainly feels like a climactic moment. The winds race under my outstretched fingertips creating a gentle tickle to my skin. The skies are alight in my eyes as they perform an endlessly graceful, vivid, colorful, chaotic and yet calming dance number. Aurora beams, meteor showers, catastrophe and devastation all at once.

I have never quite seen anything like it. Even so, I am not much impressed.

My days of gazing upon sights with charming mystique and awe-stricken eyes had long since reached their dusk. But even as the far reaches of this memory grow dimmer with each passing second, I can still recall a time when I would have marveled at such a sight. I would have stared wide-eyed at such a wonder, I would have found someone to share it with, I would have let myself feel alive.

The ground beneath me shakes, increasing in intervals. If it becomes much stronger I may not be able to stand. But I have time.

Drawing upon the experience in my tens of thousands of years in life, I discern that nothing special is to come of this natural phenomenon. There is a very specific reason for all of this – one etched out in many long, complicated strings of mathematics and scientific knowledge. Given my experience with such subjects, I can easily reason this out, but I do not feel as if the situation calls for it. My awareness is enough to stabilize me.

My pulse races out of an adrenaline kick brought upon by the hectic mood. The nerves and chemicals simulate all sorts of feelings. I pay them no mind, and they eventually give up.

Standing has grown tiresome. Although I’m in a wide open field, where it is unlikely for debris to hit me, I could still be in danger; earthquakes are vicious and human bodies are not invincible. I know I shouldn’t stand, so I sit down then lay on my back. The vibrations of the ground feel almost therapeutic from here. The grass beneath me is red; if I bleed out here, for whatever reason, one will never know it.

My mind wanders to what might be considered a sorrow.

Humanity has been a dying clan for many millennia; the ever-coveted time travel turned out to be the culprit. When humans figured it out and commercialized it, what resulted was a messed up timeline and families destroyed before they were created. Everyone was out for vengeance, especially on the most highly-populated human planets, and then suddenly there were very few of us left. Because I grew up on an isolated, backworld planet, I was one of the few to survive. I witnessed as the remaining leaders of the Interplanetary Hegemony declared the ban on backwards time travel. Starships with the capability to rupture the time-space continuum and thus travel through time were quickly altered to only allow forward time leaps. This would prevent the cataclysmic consequences of splitting timelines. But there’s something haunting about only being able to move forward, in leaps and bounds, without limit. There’s something about it that I was never sure how to feel about.

After that came the immortality. Coincidentally, my home planet turned out to be the key to unlocking it. Some odd chemical compound in the air that slowed aging significantly. The compound is the cure. Our kind had always led abnormally long lives, and with the rest of us on strong dosages of the compound we halted the ailment of aging completely and were finally declared immortals.

Immortals. Such a godly term. The cure to death was humanity’s ultimate triumph over nature. Over God.

Of course, I have worked out that no such god exists. Our world is science.

I have long since reached a kind of perfection because of my godly state. It is not any form of arrogance that prompts me to declare that I know everything and can do just about anything physically possible. When one has been around this long, traits like arrogance and pride become obsolete. Knowledge gloriously triumphs over all within me. Just as I had hypothesized lifetimes ago, given all the time in the world I have been able to reach perfection.

The skies rumble violently and I am pulled out of my reverie. I can feel it approaching. A few more years may do the trick. I tear my gaze from the colorful atmosphere and trudge through the muddy red grass, back to my gray starship, its interior matte and simple. I program it to fast forward me through time. The universe is dying. I may be the last of my kind. The end is near, and the thing I seek comes with it.

I lied; I don’t know everything. There is one last thing. And I need it badly. That one thing that has always eluded me. With it, my knowledge can finally be complete.

Time plays before my eyes as I watch as the planet’s surface decays and overheats. The red grass dies a slow, parched death; the barren ground beneath it cracks and crumbles; the hairline cracks turn to fissures and chasms. Tens of thousands of years are passing in only seconds, while I hover above it all in my starship; a passive observer. The sun turns chaotic and angry. This is it, and my mind is blank.

Finally… that one thing.

I think over my life because this may be it. For once I don’t know what will happen next. It has been long, wonderfully long. Immortality sure did have its perks. Not many could have experienced so much richness as I have.

“Adonis, my child, you have such a bright future ahead of you. Stay safe and live long, okay? And I’ll always be here for you, even if you can’t see me.”

If there is one thing that I truly regret in my life, I think, it is living long enough to witness the end of love.

My family was gone, dead from a strange condition by the time I was 13. But I had a girl in my day. Those days when her name was Lucille and mine was Adonis. I was just a young man, barely an adult, but things were so simple. We knew we were of the last of humans, but we didn’t care. All we needed was each other. And our love was so passionate, comfortable, unquestionable. We could lay in a field and talk for hours on end. We knew every detail about each other. After all that time, my heart still raced when we embraced. The feeling of her lips on mine was so soft and wonderful. Despite all my ignorance, I was so happy with her by my side. Immortality looked like a treat, and we were starving for it. Anything that meant never having to leave her.

For hundreds of years we did everything together. It was remarkably perfect. To never have to leave or be left by the love of my life.

It wasn’t until 8021 years of our life that we experienced a fundamental shift. By that point, we had experienced all there was to experience. Every taste had been tasted, every sight seen again and again, things began to blur even in the present. And I realized that I no longer felt anything that could be considered emotion. The strings that had intertwined our fates irrevocably, laced with each promise, each memory, each loving moment, had disintegrated to dust.

Before I could confront her, she was voicing my thoughts out loud. The feeling was mutual, so that day we parted. We smiled for each other, for one last time. It was not a smile of love, but it was sincere. “I wish you a grand life,” I had said. Then I turned my back and walked away, never faltering or pausing to look back.

“We’ll always be together, right?” She said.

My head rested on her lap, I looked up at her. We had just confessed our love for the first time ever. Our eyes were bright, and as we locked gazes I grinned hugely. “Always,” I promised.

I had never looked back since then, the day we parted. Until now, as I realize how horrible it was that I lost her not to circumstance but to the end of my humanity.

If I still had her, what did it matter how ignorant I was?

Because that’s what it was. When we no longer have the capacity to feel, what are we? I frowned, a foreign expression on my usual blank slate face. If I am not human, what am I? What am I living for? What have I become?

I haven’t come across any question in my head for which I do not have the answer for in ages. It disturbs me. The quickening of my heart feels foreign, and very disturbing.

“Why won’t you take the cure? Aging is a disease. You can save yourself from it! You won’t have to die!” I argued desperately.

Cicero, my best friend, shook his head sadly. “It just doesn’t sound appealing. Not my plate, you know? I don’t have anything to do with that much time. I don’t really share your curiosity.”

I could not comprehend his argument. Admittedly, I wasn’t trying very hard. I knew that I was right, and that his side defied all logic and instinct. I was beside myself with frustration. “How about Hellen! Did you think of her? She’ll watch you die! It would destroy her. How could you do that to her?”

“She’s not taking the cure either. We’re in this together.” He replied calmly.

“Auugh… well then… how about me? I’ll watch you… die…” I mumbled, feeling defeated.

“I am sorry… but…”

“But what? You are making the biggest mistake of your life! I’m worried about you, Cicero,” I said.

He had the nerve to chuckle discreetly. I pretended not to notice, but I inwardly seethed. “Worried about me? Addy, I’m worried about you. I… its just I…”

It crosses my mind that perhaps I should have never volunteered so greedily for immortality.

Maybe… maybe… but, that one last thing.

Or maybe nothing was worth the agony of losing the capacity to love. It was so much worse than the agony of losing her while I was still in love. Falling out of the strongest love was a nightmare come true. Falling out of feeling.

What have I become?

Why all these questions? Why all these memories? Why now?

“You what? Stop beating around the bush! Out with it!” I yelled, impatient with him.

Cicero looked sad, disappointed somehow. “I hope you have some sense about this. The cure is not all bad but… When you’re cured, immortal, enlightened, or whatever… I hope you can quit while you’re ahead… or at least, know when to cut your losses. The problem with the cure is tha-”

“Whatever, Cicero, whatever,” I waved his statement off and walked away. I would hear no more of his nonsense, and this subject would never be discussed between us again.

Irritated, I crank the machine into full-fledged fast forward speed. The years will go by faster now. I will finally learn this one last thing, and the cure will all have been worth it. In an impulse decision, I break the intricate lever in the control panel for good measure. There will be no going back now. The planet before me is turning to dust; the skies above are darkening as the stars go out, one by one.

That last piece of the puzzle… will I find it now? Is this what you want me to do? Have I done well?

The perfection I have reached is false. A jaded perfection, I realize. And now, in this jaded nightmare, I wonder…. Where is it? That one thing?

The closest sun is flaring. I am powerless to do anything but sit and watch. I am utterly helpless and nervous.

In all honesty, I don’t want to die.

“I don’t really like embracing the unknown… it is unwise,” I stuttered as Lucille tugged on my arm.

“Come on, you silly boy. It’s just a dark cave. You’ve braved worse.” She said with a roll of her eyes.

I could deal with one unknown variable, but this entailed many. And I wasn’t ready to leave this world, not now and not ever, if something went wrong. There was too much at stake, in this foreign planet, while I was out of my element. The vibe I received from that cave was unsettling; I felt myself ill at ease and nervous. I was determined not to set foot in that cave, despite Lucille’s persistence.

I had wormed my way out of going in the dark cave that time. I smooth-talked the girl into staying on the beach with me. Now things are different.

Death will feel pleasant, I imagine, like closing my eyes for an afternoon nap. I tell myself this, but I know I don’t believe it. The dark cave has always loomed over me in the background of my life, haunting me. I had stayed away from it for so long – but now it was impatient and engulfing my world. Progressing towards me too quickly, and this time I am all alone.

I don’t want to die.

“Adonis, please understand our viewpoint,” Hellen tried to explain. “When you steal the power of death from nature, it comes at a terrible price.”

I crossed my arms and grimaced. Another lecture. Just what I needed.

She continued, “I’m sure Cicero told you this but… after you are ‘cured’, there’s only one way out. And it’s a terrible burden, to have to choose between suicide or insanity. Because nobody can live forever without losing their mind. Nature is merciful; it never intended for us to have to make that choice.”

I can feel it closing in. The darkness of the cave, seeping through the walls. I can hear my disembodied voice screaming out of fear, ecstasy, or relief. Not even the latest and greatest time vehicle models can withstand the impacts of a collapsing planet, ruined by its dying star.

Now I am sobbing because I see Lucille, and my brain hurts, but she’s reaching out and I won’t walk away from her this time. Because she is the key to who I used to be when I was a real human, and that’s what matters.

“You have always had such bright, beautiful blue eyes.”

My heart is racing, throbbing too violently. Threatening to beat out of my chest. Sights and smells and sounds blur together. I can hear the colors, I can see the sound of my ragged breathing, I can taste my racing mind.

“So eager to learn. You’ll go many places, young one.”

My beats are numbered and I cling onto them so desperately. What is this strong ache that’s tugging at my nerves? It feels like something deeper and more agonizing than my physical pain. This doesn’t make sense.

“Hey Addy, remember me when you’re an ancient artifact one day.”

The temperature is rising. The walls are denting, caving in. It hurts, everything hurts. Hopelessness. Despair.

“I lost my first tooth big brother! This is my last first tooth ever.”

There’s nothing left for me in this world.

It’s not a cure. It’s a poison.”

That one last thing,

“He has a zest for life,”

No longer matters.

“I have faith in this one”

I exhale my last breath, feeling lighter somehow. Relieved of my duties.

“You’ll never get it all. There’s always something more undiscovered, but you can always be content with what you have now. It’s why you’re happy and alive.”

“That may be true for you. But not for me. I love this world and I love being alive; I want to explore it all. That’s why I need the cure.”

After all this time, I am still afraid. I have been scared all along, but now nothing can possibly be worse than staying here for another moment.

The dark cave looks so enticing, frightening, beautiful. Surrounding me on all sides. Goodbye, world,

“What an odd feeling, this cure… will I really last forever now?”

I am leaving. I am….


Marissa Davila is an Economics student at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is minoring in Creative Writing, with an interest to becoming a short story writer.

Idea Generating

Sometimes we need a little help thinking of an idea from which to create a story. Luckily, we have the internet at our disposal, and there are plenty of tips abound.

One resource I found for idea generating, Creative Writing Now’s website, has a long list of buzz words and prompts that can ignite your inspiration, or give you direction. These are great for short stories or bits of flash-fiction, especially if you’re looking to write something quick as a warm-up exercise of a practicing of a new style.

But perhaps using a prompt list isn’t your style; perhaps you want the idea to be entirely your own. For this, I found a great article on Writer’s Digest titled “Inspiration for Writers: How to be More Creative.” It walks you through a few steps on how to be better at generating your own idea. It also addresses how thinking you have a writer’s block that you must overcome can hinder your creative process.

Personally, my best advice for generating ideas and inspiration is to pay attention in day to day life and whenever you see something interesting, jot it down on your phone or somewhere you’ll remember. Read newspaper articles and other people’s stories. This will get you thinking enough to have a list of ideas to work with!

World-building in a Story

Anyone who has ever attempted a story with a setting in an alternate world has encountered the monumental challenge of world-building within a story. It’s exciting to be the master of your own made-up world and the creator of your own rules, but the responsibility of it is also highly daunting. Having endless possibilities for this new world can be very overwhelming, especially when you consider all the aspects and details that surround societies, cultures, and environments. It’s hard to find where to start, and how to make all the little details fit together and seem plausible, while also matching with the characters and plot that you place within it.

In my personal experiences with world building, it is helpful to have a set of questions to answer about your world. Thinking about specific questions regarding the world, such as what the people wear or what they eat, or what kinds of animals there are, or how the government reacts to conflicts, can help get you thinking about all the details that will make your world seem real and believable, as well as giving you specific ideas about your world instead of approaching the vague concept of ‘world-building’ without direction.

A good resource I found that has a list of important aspects to consider as well as questions to answer was this article on Writer’s Digest, called “Tips on World Building for Writers — How to Make Your Imaginary World Real.”

Another factor of creating a world is in knowing how much you really need to define and flesh out for the purposes of your story. Remember that how much the reader needs to learn about your world is tailored to the plot and characters of your story. For this, I found a helpful article by author Holly Lisle titled “How Much of My World Do I Build?”

That being said, there is another list of questions that I have found immensely helpful. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website has a master list of hundreds of detailed world building questions, organized by category and sub-category. This list is incredibly detailed and comprehensive, which is great because it aims to encompass all aspects of an undefined world. However I think this should definitely be used with the preceding article in that the author should perhaps exercise a little discretion in which questions to answer – honestly, someone could easily spend months writing detailed answers to each question but not all these details could be relevant or ever used in the actual story.

World building is a difficult pursuit, but with the right guidance it is entirely do-able!

The Snowflake Method: A Different Approach to Story-Writing

When I was just getting started and finding my place within creative writing, a lack of planning in my stories would always seem to be my downfall. My short stories would seem directionless. Any longer, multi-chapter story of mine would be full of plot holes and inconsistency and a weak plot in general. In addition I would often get stuck on what happens next because I didn’t have a good grasp on what I wanted my stories to look like in the end. This was so frustrating that I almost quit writing all together; I thought it probably just wasn’t meant for me.

However, upon reading writing advice articles one day online, a particular one caught my interest: The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel.

In this article, the author explains that good novels aren’t just created from thin air – they’re designed carefully. This applies even before the first word of the novel is set down. The author shares his method of systematically planning any story, called the Snowflake Method. This method entails starting with a single general, broad idea for the story and then fleshing it out gradually, like designing a snowflake – each detail starting off broad but then becoming an intricacy. With this type of careful planning, the author can know exactly where their story is headed before even officially beginning it, and thus will never be stuck on what happens next. This can smooth inconsistencies and create a unified, well-written story that doesn’t fall apart after a few chapters.

I get overwhelmed by the sight of a blank page and I can’t bring myself to begin a paper while having neither a plan nor direction. Implementing this method has helped me become so much more confident and prolific in my writing.

This article made me realize that good writing is like a well-designed building. Writing is essentially architecture with words instead of wood and a finished story instead of a new house. The process begins, first and foremost, with a well thought out blueprint. The blueprint progresses into a solid, tangible framework. The framework allows a strong foundation to be built. The foundation upholds the main structure. And once that’s done, there’s ample time for polishing and detailing and minor reworking without worrying the whole structure might collapse.

There’s still plenty of room for creativity; more than enough to keep writing exciting.

The Ultimate Writing Challenge: NaNoWriMo 2015

There are many writing challenges out there on the internet, but there is only one that brings together a substantial community of writers annually to each write a new novel. The real challenge: each writer has only 30 days, a month, to finish their novel.

NaNoWriMo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, which spans from November 1 to November 30. The challenge is only available between these dates, so it gives the writers a very real deadline to work on. The rules for the challenge include that the novel must be at least 50,000 words by the end of the month, it must be the author’s own work, and all the counted words must be written after November 1 (no using writing that you wrote before the start of the challenge). However, planning the novel ahead of time is permitted (such as figuring out your plot, characters, world etc.) as long as you begin the actual story at the correct time.

The website for the challenge can be found at Nanowrimo.org. More details about the challenge can be found there, as well as how to be a part of the challenge this year (November 2015).

Their website houses more than just the prompt for the writing challenge: there is actually an active community of writers who regularly contribute to the forums to help each other with their writing exploits, even in the ‘off-season’ when the challenge isn’t ongoing. Throughout the 15 years since its inception, this challenge has grown into a community with prominence in the creative writing department; many of you, in fact, have probably already heard all about NaNoWriMo and perhaps even participated in the annual challenge.

It’s a daunting task but well worth the work if you finish. You’ll have a whole novel to show for it if you do!