The Account of Dr. Orpheus

Fiction – Short Story Excerpt

My shaky hands grasped at splintered wood for a handhold to stand from the bare ground where I had laid in unconscious repose.  This new world assailed my feeble sanity; a stench of residual flesh penetrated the periphery of my senses, while my view was constrained to only a suggestion of space relative to the pockmarked blackness of emergency lighting.  My colleagues in my absence removed themselves from this place to reside elsewhere, and made the irrevocability of their departure evident through wet gore smeared against the ruined furnishings.  And the hallways devoid of familiar sounds of rippling footsteps had silenced in my imagination the possibility of others surviving the inauguration of this new era.

                In my cursory examination of the gut-wrenching aftermath, a thin metal device at the foot of the closest desk clattered against my wary steps.  Hardly visible but familiar in shape and function, I knew this to be of those devices worn on all persons, a Biometric Sensor, feeding data on the welfare of the wearer ceaselessly to Central Computing and piped directly to those vigilant monitors of all employee well-being.  The only evidence it offered pertaining to the consequences of the desolation about me was the miniscule red blip flashing on the outward face, condemning to death its previous owner.  I quickly analyzed my own sensor device, for fear it too had malfunctioned, but my discovery released the anxious breath in my chest, for the tiny light was a dim green and still detected my beating heart.  The autonomous loader then, the Bringer of Death, had dissociated the souls of its charge from their human frames; yet I was left untouched by its thorough execution. Some freak coincidence must have manipulated the code within Her to change the status of these biometric sensors and universally subject my colleagues under the cruel termination of impassive automatons.  And the trigger of this brutal decision?  My own sensor still functioned.  So long as this faint green beacon shone, I would remain in the realm of existence.  Those of my colleagues had failed, bringing upon them their own destruction. As to the location of their bodies, I could but surmise: since they were not here, and if not piled like a mass of filthy refuse in some certain room or chamber, then the massive incinerators deep beneath the facility appeared the most probable final place of repose. This, a single possibility extracted from the truly unsearchable ambiguities of tightly coupled system failures, was the only theory which I could support.

It appeared to me, then, that I must reinvigorate the facility with the power it had lost: with no small effort could I attempt this undertaking, nor escape by means of the service lift some miles away from my present location.  Only with power could the elevator lift the car’s immense frame that I might journey from this dark tomb to the freeing air of the surface above.  I resolved with what remained of my being’s life force to give the facility which had fostered this massacre energy enough to make well my escape.  Stumbling through the poor light, I made my heading the reactor room.

After perusing the pages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it came to my awareness that she had an uncanny mastery of the English language fairly lacking in many writers of the current era. In this story, I attempt to recreate her unique if not roundabout voice through the account of one Dr. Orpheus. A part of a longer short story, this excerpt details his awakening after a terrible accident in the lab where he worked. His colleagues have disappeared and the power has gone out, so his only recourse seems to be to turn on the underground facility’s power somehow, and then escape.

While the primary focus of this story is a study in how gothic writing styles change our perception of science fiction, there are elements throughout of the effects of isolation on the human psyche. While I don’t profess to be a psychologist, one doesn’t always need a degree to know what it feels like to be alone in the dark.