AntiLite: Chapter 2 | Sunset


Theodore Redding took a brief break from his array of monitors in order to  watch the sun set from his panoramic window in his office in the recently minted World Geological Survey London Branch.  The brainchild of the United States Geological Survey, it had been agreed upon by geological societies around the world that it would be much easier to survey the entire earth, and be aware of potential problems as soon as they arise, if they all shared resources.  Theodore had played a key role in bringing the World Geological Survey to London.  The amalgamation commenced two years ago and by all accounts, everything was running as smoothly as anticipated, so far, so good.

Theodore quickly gulped down a peanut butter sandwich and some milk.

“Must keep things simple tonight.”  Theodore thought to himself.  He was on the night shift and, as with every night, Theodore knew that he would need all the energy he could get.  Theodore had been anxious about this night shift all day.  He felt as though he needed to be extra prepared for something very stressful.  It was sort of like having a sixth sense, but it wasn’t very reliable and did not tell him everything he would probably like to know.

Theodore watched as the last rays of sun disappeared from the horizon in front of him and then wheeled his 5 foot 6 inch, slightly overweight frame from his desk to the water cooler down the hall from his office.  In the moment the pain of his paralysis gripped him fiercely.  Perhaps water would fix the problem if food couldn’t.

Another episode seized him.  This was going to be a long night.

Theodore wheeled himself back to his desk.  As he worked midst his plethora of monitors Theodore’s mind began to wander into a dark place.

It wasn’t always like this.  A mere six months ago, Theodore had been a very different person.  He was had worked his entire young life training as an athlete, and now he was finally proudly representing Great Britain on their Olympic ski jumping team in the great city of Pyeongchang, South Korea at the age of 22.  Dressed in a ski suit in the colours of the Union Jack.  Theodore had made some excellent jumps in the qualifying heats, and now he was jumping in the final.  A chance at a gold medal.

Theodore was on the threshold of having it all.  He even had his college sweetheart Phoebe Desmond here with him.  As far as Theodore was concerned, she had everything he was looking for in a woman.  He found her waiting for him outside the media center.  They embraced and walked in together.

When the media enveloped him before his final jump, questioning the state of his nerves and expressing their admiration for what he seemed to be about to accomplish.

Theodore stared at the crowd and cameras before him and said one simple statement in the middle of  all the pomp and circumstance.

“The things I do for England.” Theodore said confidently.  He smiled and kissed Phoebe, causing a burst from the cameras, and left the media center.  Theodore made his way to the top of the ski run and strapped into his skis.  It would be a while til he actually made his final all important run down the slope.  Theodore had scored the most points in the qualifying rounds to get to this point.  That meant that he would ski last in the final round.  This gave him time to analyze his competition.

Suddenly he was approached by his coach, Joel Rigby.  Joel was 54 years old and had been around the ski jumping industry for a long period of time.  Nevertheless, Joel was in incredible shape compared to others his age.  The fact that he could still perform the tricks he was trying to teach his young athletes made him an all the more respected coach on every level.  When he had something to say, his athletes usually listened.  Usually.

“Theo, I’m not confident in the double back flip off the jump.” stated Joel.  He was genuinely concerned.

“It worked in practice, Rigby, you know it.” said Theodore curtly.

“Theodore, this is a completely different hill, the landing angle…you’re going last…The buildup of…”

“Shut it Joel.  It’ll be just fine.” said Theodore, quite fed up.

Theodore walked back to his place in line.  The competitor just before him was making his run down the hill, performing a simple 360 off the jump and landing shakily on the ice that had accumulated from many skis being in that one area packing down the snow.  This was perfectly easy enough for Theodore to beat.

Theodore finally made his run.  Acceleration was perfect.  He lifted out of his crouch position to make the jump.  So far, so ….excellent!  He went through the first back flip just fine, just as he had predicted, now it was time for the second one.  Unfortunately, Theodore was losing altitude faster than anticipated and only made it about three quarters of the way through the second flip before he immediately crushed his shoulders and a good portion of his spinal column into the hard unforgiving ice below.

Over the next few weeks, things went from bad to worse for Theodore.  As if it was not bad enough getting used to being paralyzed from the waist down.  Theodore would soon discover that during his medically induced coma, his previously wonderful girlfriend Phoebe had left him for rising German Polo star Deiter Pferd.

Theodore would be forced to move on whether he liked it or not.  His first objective was to find work so that he could support himself.  He found an open position as an analyst on a BPE owned oil rig off the coast of the Shetland Islands.  Theodore thought this would be perfect.  The Shetland Islands were isolated, off the coast of Scotland.  He could work and get used to his new inconvenience of being paralyzed without any close friends having to see him suffer.

Theodore remembered the day of the interview well.  He had wheeled himself from his apartment to BPE headquarters in the downtown core.  He was thankful that his skiing had given him excellent arm strength.  It certainly came in handy that day.

Theodore had interviewed competently, however, Kirkland O’Flannery could not get over the fact that Theodore was wheel chair bound.

“In an emergency, I need my oilmen to be able to get off the rig quickly.  I don’t want to have to carry you off in a bloody body bag on the first day!”

Theodore graciously accepted Kirkland’s decision.  Soon after, Theodore heard of an opening at the World Geological Survey.  He interviewed there and the staff had welcomed him with open arms.  Unfortunately, Kirkland’s comment resurfaced in his mind from time to time.

Suddenly Theodore was jolted from his thoughts when he noticed an inconsistency in the thermal energy readings.  They had begun to drop steadily.

“Delbert?”  Inquired Theodore,  “You should take a look at this.”

Delbert Willis was Theodore’s immediate supervisor.  He was a short, thin man with a shock of woolly white hair that went all over the place.  He crossed the room immediately and raised his circular framed glasses to look at the monitor in question.

“Delbert, the thermal levels continue to go down at what seems like an alarming rate.  It’s almost as if the sun has shut off!”

“Don’t be crazy just yet, Theodore, sometimes the thermal levels from the sun cool for a little longer than normal, but they always warm back up.  If they didn’t, we’d be in rough shape.  Keep an eye on it, but there’s probably nothing to worry about.”  Delbert laughed and walked away.

Theodore continued to watch the thermal levels plummet.  Somehow, he didn’t think he was crazy at all.  Delbert was a smart man with years of experience in this field, however, Theodore was unsure of Delbert’s  quick dismissal of these events.  Theodore eagerly watched the screen.  A silent fear gripped him.

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