In Mortis

He was always trying to outrun death even after he was pronounced dead, but that was just a formality. Axel Dimetri was a long distance runner in High School. He didn’t know what he was running from. He ran and that was the only time he felt free. He ran through life.

When he was nine his dog, Hero, was hit by a truck and died. A few more unfortunate accidents and a terminal illness shaped his childhood. When he was eleven he met Daisy who was a year older. It was a confusing time. Daisy became Axel’s role model. Daisy was flattered. She liked Axel and enjoyed playing dress up with him. He was beginning to discover himself in Daisy; then, she was suddenly gone, moved away. Axel felt abandoned just as he felt when his dog died.

No matter how far he ran or for how long, he always ended in the same place: a dark room deep inside his brain. His only companion was Death who came wearing disguises: a clown, a tall man, a murderer; but most of the time Death came as Daisy. “How are you little boy?” Daisy asked with a sweet smile. Her lips and eyes were smeared with black make-up. Axel never replied. Daisy continued, “I’m going to tell you about all the bad things in the world: train wrecks, burning cars, heart attacks, blemishes that become aggressive Cancers, serial killers, psychopaths, unending war. A person can trip and fall and never recover. Sometimes suicide is a relief.” Axel had to get away from Death.

He was desperate. He could never run fast enough. As a young adult he tried different forms of escape. Drugs helped, but there were always unpleasant side effects. Sex always felt good, but always ended too quickly. Axel pushed himself to extremes, but he always found himself in the dark room inside his brain.

The experiment would change everything. He was a student at the university when he met Professor Doris Exeter, a leading scientist in the field of Digital Singularities. She was working on Artificial Intelligence for the new Smart House. She wanted to use Axel as an experimental test subject. Professor Exeter never wanted to hurt or misuse anyone. Her goal was the advancement of science to create a better world. To that end she would use Axel. He was more than willing to do anything to outrun the specter of Death.

“Apparent suicide,” was listed as the cause of death. It was an outrageous claim, but the pathologist was a professor at the University and close friends with Doris. Apparently the young man cut open his own skull and chopped up his brain. Of course that wasn’t stated in the coroner’s report.

The new Smart House was a miracle of modern science. Professor Exeter invented a house with an actual brain. The house was completely self-sufficient while satisfying the owner’s every expectation.

Axel outran Death. His brain was cloned, synthesized, digitized — and installed in every new, Smart House. The brain was kept in a cylinder in the basement. Axel sat in his dark room. His only companion was Death, but he would never die.

Mortis

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