ParaShift 2: 05 (Gregor Tierney/Dylan Park, mm, scifi, a/b/o, mpreg, State Rule) #HarperWCK

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Dylan felt a bit of pity for the foolish boy but it was overshadowed by his anger. There was a reason he was having no real part of Micah’s case. Others would be assigned to unknot the mess that had been made.

He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. He pitied Micah Figworth, but there was nothing he could do for him. The boy had committed the sin the Inquisition would seek answers for. The case was out of his hands.

There was the insistent 5-note beep of a timer alarm. He tapped his ear, finger unerringly finding the implanted mic button. “Magister Park,” he said. “End timer sequence. Order the aircar be brought around.”

There was the familiar acknowledgement sequence of notes. He could feel the sound vibrating along his jawbone and up into his skull. It had taken him time to become used to the shivery feel of it. Now the implant’s use had become a familiar kind of strange.

It helped that the personal AI within the implant was tuned enough to know when to use voice function or not–he preferred not.

Dylan shrugged on his coat, gathered up his briefcase, and left the office. There was a lot he needed to get done before he could return to Gregor’s side.

And how hard had it been, to leave not only the warm comfort of the bed but a gently breathing Gregor?

After writing Gregor a note explaining where he was going, Dylan had reluctantly left him behind.

If he could have, he would have stayed in the bed, but his extended time off was over.

The Project was essential to the safety and protection of the planet. There was an invisible timer counting down to the next incursion, the next attack of the Outsiders.

Dylan longed to be back in that bed with Gregor. He would love to enjoy a lazy day. Yet duty had been drilled into him from birth and he knew he had an important job to perform.

The start date of his new posting had been pushed back a few days to allow him time to bond with Gregor, but there was a lot to be done. He was scheduled for half-duty to start, then he was to take over command of The Project.

Even with the events of the night before, there really wasn’t time to rest.

They could very well be facing the end of the human race in two years time. And it was up to Dylan to stop it.

Even if he still wished he were back in bed wrapped around a warm, slumbering Gregor.

There were times when he could do nothing but envy the still ignorant masses. They didn’t know it hadn’t been random nature. They didn’t know the Earth had been attacked three times.

They were able to sleep easy with the hope that tomorrows could be better days. They slumbered unaware of the sword hanging over their heads.

But Dylan knew.

And that’s why he’d reluctantly left a sleeping Gregor alone in bed. Because even though he’d wanted nothing more than to rest beneath those sheets, he had a job to do.

A world to save.


ParaShift 2: 04 (Gregor Tierney/Dylan Park, mm, scifi, a/b/o, mpreg, State Rule) #HarperWCK

And how terrifying was it to know that he would be a father. It hadn’t been part of the plan–Gregor had been expected to Bond with Zero–yet here he was: a father-to-be.

A revelation and a terror rolled into one. All he knew was that he felt a spark for Gregor Tierney. He thought it might be love, though what did he know? He’d never felt romantic love before. Yet when he looked at Gregor, he thought he was seeing his future happiness. As though everything he wanted and needed had been distilled and encapsulated in one distrusting but charming person.

He’d thought he was bringing home a Bondmate for his younger brother. He’d been blessed instead.

“Blessed Gregor Tierney,” he whispered to himself simply to hear the sound of the words. The name of the life-changer that had entered his sphere and decided to make a place for himself.

Whatever the future held, Dylan’s life was forever tied to Blessed Gregor Tierney. There were invisible strings bound between them pulling them into each other’s gravity.

Even without the child-to-be, there was a connection that could never be severed.

Because Gregor Tierney chose him.

And that was an amazing thing. To be chosen first and most favored.

He pitied Zero–Jaisuyen Park–who had never been told “No” to something he wanted and wasn’t taking it well.

Baby brother is most distraught, he thought. And there was a bit of disgust there, overshadowing the love he felt. Zero was behaving like a child throwing a tantrum and it was winning him no favors.

Dylan had already advised that he get hold of himself, but Zero had merely scoffed. The jealousy blazing from his gray eyes had resulted in Dylan cutting the visit short and ordering Cousin Deland to keep Zero company and prevent him from doing anything foolish.

Zero had always been impetuous. There had been times when he’d been willing to cut his nose to spite his face and only regretted things much too late afterward.

Dylan loved his brother. But he wasn’t willing to sacrifice his happiness for him.

Gregor had made the choice. Zero would have to accept it.

Just as Dr. Figworth would have to deal with the decisions Micah had made.

The fool boy had betrayed the Family. A few secrets here and there to keep his friend alive, then he’d used his father’s identicard to print the invitations that had allowed Virgil Hanson and his Acolytes into the rehearsal party. He’d even gone so far as to give them his access code to pass through Security.

It should have surprised no one that the friend was already dead. But Micah was young for his age and far too trusting. He hadn’t even realized that the Acolytes were anything more than common thugs.

Now he was missing several toes and half his left ear along with all the physical damage that would heal itself. The mental damage… that might never go away.

Some dark part of Dylan whispered “Good” because Micah should never forget or be completely forgiven for what he’d done. The rest of him could only be sad for wasted potential

The Inquisition would unmake Micah and either remake him or decide how he should be discarded. Either way, his old life was over. He could never go back to being the trusted Family member he’d been yesterday.


MASTERLIST: Paradigm Shift part 2

Title: Paradigm Shift 2
Author: Harper Kingsley
World: ParaShift // State Rule
Genre: sci-fi. AU. mm. slash. Thirds. A/B/O.

  • CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: 01. 02. 03. 04. 05.

ParaShift 2: 03 (Gregor Tierney/Dylan Park, mm, scifi, a/b/o, mpreg, State Rule) #HarperWCK

He’d enjoyed flirting with danger. Hanson had wanted to make it a life sentence.

And here Gregor was: Alone in a big bed after a night of stress and pleasure. The relief itself made him bone weary.

He had no plans to get out of bed. Not until he was good and ready.

The world can deal with itself, he thought. Today is for me alone.

Gregor thought of the things that made him peaceful or happy. He pushed away anything dreary or dark.

And with the relief of having found a comfortable position for his achy body, he fell back asleep. Someone would surely let him know if he was needed.

* * *

Dylan steepled his fingers under his chin and fought off a frown. “How did this happen?”

Second Prime Donella Miri shrugged, her armor creaking. “He was a very foolish boy. I don’t think he’ll ever be so young again.”

“What could he have been thinking?” Dylan wondered.

“Young, dumb, and far too trusting of someone outside the Family. The friend–Tiedo Rasmussen–was dragged out of the Longmarch River early this morning. He must have been killed right after the Acolytes got hold of him. The Figworth boy betrayed everything for nothing.”

Dylan sighed. “Micah Figworth is looking at some dark days ahead. There’s going to be an Inquisition. There has to be.”

Miri’s gaze dipped in momentary sympathy for the teenager.

There was no question that he’d betrayed the Duadenora Family. Even if he might not have realized the level of his betrayal when he gave confidential information, he’d still committed the act.

Lives had been lost. A rare Third had been risked along with the precious new life within.

Micah Figworth had threatened the future of the Duadenora Family. First for the life of an outsider, then for his own life, and never once did he seek out help.

“Kid’s screwed,” Miri observed.

“He most certainly is.” Dylan pushed away from the desk and stood up. “Thank you for handling this incident for me. I’ll find someone kind to break the news to Dr. Figworth that his son is facing serious legal troubles.”

“Aiding and abetting an S-class criminal and his terrorist organization isn’t the level of trouble you expect your child to get into.” Miri gathered her ePad and hardcover notebook into her shoulder bag and stood. She slung her pulse rifle across her other shoulder. “I feel sorry for the doctor. He’s a good person.”

“Yeah,” Dylan said quietly. He shook himself after a moment. “You should get back to your vacation. I’m sorry I interrupted.”

“Nah, it’s fine.” She waved a hand. “I know you’re good for the reciprocity. Plus we weren’t doing anything anyway. Noah wasn’t able to get the time off.”

“Still, thanks for the help. I’ll see you in two weeks,” he said.

“Unless you need me sooner.” She gave a goodbye nod and left the office, the door clicking shut behind her.

Dylan crossed to the window overlooking the lush green and flowered herb garden. It was an inviting view; paradise bathed in the morning light. The glass blocked the jarring mixture of scents where pleasant met astringent to become near overpowering.

This office had been his father’s once. He remembered playing on the thick rug that used to be where the second couch was now. There’d been a low decorative wall that he’d removed years ago. Curled up on the rug, he would be invisible to his father’s guests and could listen quietly to the business of the Family being conducted around him. He would fall asleep to the sound of his father’s voice, comforted and safe, his last view of the drawings he’d taped to the wall near his head.

Renalto Park had been a wonderful father. Dylan had loved him dearly and still ached with the memory of him. He had died much too young. Murdered at 32 years old.

I’m older than my father will ever be, he thought. And it was an exquisite sadness that bloomed in his chest and made his throat feel tight.

With every passing year he drew further away from the memory of his father. Someday he might forget him altogether, or remember him as someone he’d never been.

Dylan had never gotten to know his father as one adult to another. He only had the romanticized image of a man whose murder had become an international spectactle. He had his childhood memories and the loving reminiscences of his grandfather. But that was it.

Renalto Park was cast in the gold of memory. He would never grow older or be anything else.

Dylan clasped his hands behind his back. This was the same place where his father had once stood. The same sort of view. It made him wonder what his own child would think of him.

Of the secrets he protected the people from.

Of the acts he’d committed in the name of Law and Order.

Of the kind of father he would be.


ParaShift 2: 02 (Gregor Tierney/Dylan Park, mm, scifi, a/b/o, mpreg, State Rule)

Burying his face in his pillow, Gregor breathed deep and let his body go limp and loose. He could feel himself drifting into lazy reverie.

Life had been moving too quick for him to handle–to the point where he’d felt the edges of him scrabble away–but suddenly everything was so much easier. The lurking darkness that had been Virgil Hanson was gone forever.

It was a darker satisfaction to know that he was gone by Gregor’s very own hand.

I killed the boogieman, Gregor thought. And it was strange, yet right.

Virgil Hanson had haunted Gregor’s every step for nearly eleven years. He’d been the first and most lasting mistake Gregor had ever made.

And now he was gone.


Gregor’s lips stretched in a fierce grin and he ground his pelvis into the mattress for the simple pleasure of it.

His changing body had needs he’d found impossible to ignore. It wasn’t just shifting biology; it was surging hormones, some of a kind he’d never experienced before. His very bones were becoming different. Shifting to relieve the ache was becoming a pleasure unto itself.

Being a Third meant having a body that was sensitive to hormones. A little testosterone, and a Third began laddering muscle. A little estrogen, and mammary tissue gathered on even the flattest of chests. And either one would push a Third into sexual maturity, where the visible changes happened.

The cocktail of drugs Gregor had used to block his puberty as a Third would have killed a Two, and damaged the bones and organs of a First.

He’d been told to eat and sleep a lot.

He was fine.

Fertile at the time. Gravid at the moment.

Fecund is the Third, near mindless in the need to mate. It’s a wild thing, riding any dick it comes across. Keep the creepy cocklet away from you, and it don’t matter what kind of Third you get. They’ll wring your dick dry. Best lay you’ll ever have, boys. You won’t be sorry.”

Those words had reverberated through his memory from the moment he’d heard them at thirteen years old. He’d stayed away from Coach after that, and kept a wary eye on all the boys that had laughed.

Before the Sterility Plague, Thirds had been a fascinating oddity, by turns worshiped and reviled. Nobody’d cared what they’d done to themselves then. Suppressants were nobody’s business but the person using them and their family.

Gregor’s mother had been a Third. She’d known not to trust Desmond with Gregor’s biology (there’d been a lucrative market for young Thirds) and Gregor had always been grateful for her paranoia. She’d saved him from Hell.

Desmond Tierney had never met a temptation he’d bother to deny. Fatherly loyalty would only go as far as his greed would allow it.

And it was fear of that greed that had allowed Gregor the extra years of freedom he’d enjoyed. So he couldn’t really hate it, could he?

In another life, he would already have had three or four kids for the State. Or maybe a dozen for the lifestyle his father would have forced him into.

Or maybe you would have been a trusting fool and let Hanson know about you. He winced away from the thought, refusing to let himself go down that idea path. He couldn’t imagine any version of himself being that kind of trusting.

Virgil Hanson had been sexy and exciting and had made a young Gregor feel special and in some way important. He’d also been the kind of blood freezing terrifying that couldn’t be overlooked for long. Gregor had run away rather than gift him any truths.


ParaShift2: Interlude + 01

Where to find Chapters 1-20? They’ve been published in book form as “Paradigm Shift” by Harper Kingsley.

Available at Amazon as kindle and paperback, and everywhere else (Smashwords, Walmart, Overdrive, Scribd) as ebook.

If you buy a copy, your money goes toward keeping me alive. So thanks for that.



“Readings are holding steady, Dr. Fowler. We’re ready to begin the test.”

Egan pushed his glasses up his nose and gave the young astrophysicist a tired smile. “Well then, we shouldn’t keep them waiting much longer, should we?” He stood and picked the tablet computer off his desk. His back made an unpleasant popping and cracking sound when he twisted his shoulders, and he sighed at the relief of tension. They’d all been cooped up in the lab for too long. He hadn’t directly seen the sun in over two weeks.

The base had been cut out of the side of a mountain and was reached through a 10-mile-long tunnel bored through the rock. Since the beginning of the Janus Project, nobody had been allowed in or out of the mountain and wouldn’t be until the experiment was complete. They were all beginning to feel a bit of cabin fever, though none of his scientists would ever sacrifice such an amazing opportunity by asking to leave early.

He made a mental note to have the infirmary hand out extra vitamin supplements. The last thing they needed was to have someone suffer a meltdown when everyone was in such close quarters. He still remembered the drama of the Antarctica expedition, when Carruthers put everyone on edge with his Hannibal obsession and 10-hour marathon of cannibal movies. Nobody had slept comfortably around him after that.

Striding purposefully toward the heavily armored test chamber, Egan forced the last tiredness from his mind and put his game face on. This was to be their fourth test of the machine and with the additional scanners there was hope they were going to collect some useful results.

With the amount of money the government had poured into their project, they needed some conclusive results. They’d been pulling all-nighters to make it happen. And now he was about to see the culmination of their hard work.

Entering the observation room overlooking Testing Chamber Alpha, Egan nodded greetings to his colleagues. Other than Dr. Olga Olemsky–who always appeared well put together–they looked as exhausted and exhilarated as he felt.

They were making history here. Their names would appear in the books as the first people to contact another universe. They were all excited to know what was out there.

Egan seated himself at his workstation and nodded toward Dr. Therese Yang to get things started. They were working on a precise timeline of activating the machine every 48-hours for steadily increasing increments.

Last time they’d kept the machine on for 5 seconds. This time they were breaking double-digits and were aiming for 10 seconds.

The military had been very hush-hush about the provenance of the machine and Egan hadn’t been willing to lose this research opportunity by asking questions.

He’d wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. He’d wanted to explore alien worlds and travel across the stars mapping new galaxies. But one bad weekend… One exposure… And his spaceman dreams died when he was 22-years old.

There was a big black stripe across the bottom of his every record and piece of identification. He was a member of a dangerous minority, his very potent blood something both feared and coveted by the humans around him. It was a wonder he’d been invited to join Project Janus, much less as a supervisor. If his stripe had been red, he wouldn’t have been allowed within a thousand feet of this place.

“We’re ready,” Dr. Shandri Tadum announced. Her finger hovered over her mouse button. “On your mark, Dr. Fowler.”

Egan glanced at the digital display on the wall counting down. 22. 21. 20. 19…

He licked his lips and wished he’d taken a drink of water. He didn’t want the historical records to include his voice croaking and fading out because of a dry throat.

He swallowed. 12. 11. “Ten. Nine. Eight.” So dry. Here was this amazing moment and his tongue felt like a dry towel in his mouth. “Seven. Six. Five. Four.” Here we go. “Three. Two. Mark.”

Shandri clicked her mouse. In Testing Chamber Alpha, the machine was activated by the AI-driven waldos attached to the walls.

There was a mechanical hum that started in the air and vibrated against every surface, flat or curved. Fu-fu-fff-fuuff. It built and built, until even protected within the observation room, Egan could feel it in his bones. He had to consciously unclench his jaw as his teeth tried to rattle in his head.

The hum built and built until something had to give.


The air itself split open and light shot out in strings of white and blue, so bright only the protective glass kept Egan’s team from being permanently blinded. More and more stings, crisscrossing and weaving an ovaloid of solid light that began to twist and spin faster and faster until heat built and became energy for the machine to create a stable portal.

There was a POP! and the air in Testing Chamber Alpha rushed into the suddenly open hole in spacetime.

12 feet across by 12 feet high, the opening was mere inches in front of its power source, but that square of inky blackness swallowed all light. The chambe became shadowed and dim, the emergency lights struggling to compensate.

“Okay,” Egan said, then cleared his throat before continuing. “Okay. Make sure those sequencers keep running.” They’d begun hardening all electronics after the second portal opening had rendered their very expensive machinery into so-much garbage. The three-star general in charge of their budget hadn’t been amused.

“Frequencies are stabilizing,” Dr. Amador Ortiz announced. He was the youngest PhD in the room, and even through the mask of professionalism his excitement shone. His fingers were steady and quick on his keyboard as he controlled the machine’s energy output. “Ready for destination code.”

Egan eyed the black void that was the active-yet-unopened portal and took a shaky breath. Here’s one for the history books. “Do it.”

Amador did it.

The portal opened like some kind of eye of Sauron, a sideways slit of roiling blue-white fire that was also a trail of stars journeyed so quickly as to be a blur.

If Egan squinted, he almost thought he could catch lines of demarcation, though they came and went so fast he couldn’t decide the shape of anything.

To stare too long was to invite nausea, but he couldn’t force himself to look away. He heard one or two of his colleagues gag quietly, but he didn’t have the attention to spare them more than a “Don’t puke on the equipment.”

The “eye” of the portal steadied and locked on the programmed destination and began to expand. It was like gazing into water: white edged blue darkened bluer and bluer until the portal was a rich azure. It was like a floating gem, beautiful yet frightening. It was so many things.

Egan was terrified, though he wasn’t sure if it was fear of failure or fear of what lay beyond the portal. All he wanted was to know.

“Signal is locked,” Amador announced. “Focusing on tightening the beam.”

Egan glanced at the wall monitors to verify the stability of the power source. It was spinning effortlessly in the air behind the portal. Two cameras caught a view of the space in-between, where blazing light touched the swallowing darkness and disappeared into it.

“How’s the power flow looking?” he asked.

“Steady,” Olga answered. “That last upgrade got rid of that hum we’ve been fighting. It’s green across the boards. The last warning light is gone.”

“Good,” Egan said. They’d been fighting that ghost hum with no clear answers until Glasser had come up with the idea of using a diamond lens for the anterior particle accelerator module.

He would have loved to see this, Egan thought, before brushing aside the wistfulness of his now-dead friend. The testing chamber had failed two Turn Ons ago; Leo Glasser had been atomized. He was gone-gone.

The only thing Glasser had left behind was his name for the history books. It was up to Egan to make sure those books got published.

“Open the gate,” he ordered.


The bone-deep vibrations were raising the hairs on his arms. He could feel the oddness in his bladder and he clenched to keep from urinating. He could feel it in his teeth, every filling letting itself be known. A taste was building on his tongue, a copper sweetness that grew and grew until it was a struggle to breathe past it.

With a snap-CRACK! the gate opened. Using the portal–the invisible “glass” through which they peered into that other world–as a focus lens, they now punched a hole through the fabric of reality. On the other side, there were mysteries unplundered. But for now, they were only going to take a little sample. Hopefully the first of many.


The morning dawned bright and clear. Gregor Tierney squinted and burrowed under the bedclothes until only a tuft of dark hair poked out. He frowned when his questing hand found a cold spot where Park had been sleeping.

Should I get up and look for him? he thought, already knowing the answer. Nope. He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself.

Magister Dylan Park was a well-trained killing machine. Given his rank, he was more than capable of handling himself in any given situation.

A well-satisfied Gregor was not going to borrow worry. Not least because the bed was comfortable and warm and seemed to perfectly enclose his body in all the right ways.


RAW: The World Changes Quickly

Title: The World Changes Quickly
Author: Harper Kingsley


I woke to the sounds of shouts and screams; boots thundered in the hallway. It was with a sense of confusion that I stumbled to the apartment door and peered out the peephole.

Soldiers in full tactical gear were herding my neighbors out of their apartments. I saw Mrs. Hernandez struggling with all the strength of her aging body. She was brutally backhanded and her limp body was carried toward the elevator.

Everyone else was being rounded up and shackled into lines of five people. The first two lines were prodded until they began walking toward the stairs.

My view was abruptly blocked by a broad chest. The man had to be a giant. There was a patch across his left breast that had what looked like a shooting star stitched out of red and gold.

I backed away from the door and looked around my small apartment. I didn’t know what was going on, but I needed a weapon. Something to protect myself from these invaders.

There was a whirring sound and a low Pop!

The lock fell out of the door and the door swung wide open.

The soldier tromped in–it was like something out of a nightmare. Heavy boots thumped against carpeting worn thin by use. The red glow of optics focused on me out of the featureless round helmet.


Into the drowny deep they’d gone

Into the drowny deep they’d gone, far past the places other men had dared to travel. Past arching cities and seemingly endless green jungle, they’d set sail from the farthest edge of the Last Isle of Men, intent on seeing all the world had to offer.

They reached the edge of the world after two years of sailing. As the sun was setting, they finally reached the place where the world ended and the curving blackness of space began.

They traveled along the invisible barrier until they found the Door. Then they left the world behind and traveled the multiverse, experiencing things they’d only ever dreamed of seeing.


Title: Ishmael
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: murder mystery, suspense, different era
Characters: Major Ishmael Dupres, Captain Etienne Barnard

I don’t know how my life got to this point. It must be some phobia of success.”

Looking at the words printed on the paper, Ishmael wasn’t sure what to think. He looked from the words to his lieutenant, then back down at the words again.

“And this was written on the body?” he asked. He was relieved his voice didn’t shake.

“Carved into the flesh.” Captain Barnard’s voice never shook. He was the steady firmament that upheld Ishmael’s command.

“That is most disquieting,” Ishmael said. “How many victims has it been? 10? 12?”

“10, sir. And he’s been getting creative with his knife. It’s a frightening turn of events. Women are scared to walk the streets alone as of late.” Barnard frowned. “The merchants are upset. It’s costing them quite a bit of business that most shopping is ending so early.”

“Ah,” Ishmael said. He stared down at the paper, the words written in an oddly elegant scrawl. “We’re going to catch you, you bastard.”

“We’ll get him for you, sir. I promise,” Barnard said.

Ishmael nodded. “I know you will. You are remarkably skilled at your job, and your squad are the best on the street. Get your kids out there and find this guy. I will reward each and every one of you.”

“Sir, you know that’s not necessary.” There was a tinge of pink high on Barnard’s cheeks. It was an oddly charming sight.

“I know I don’t have to make the offer,” Ishmael said, “but I have quite a large amount of money at my disposal. I would feel better using it to reward a job well done than on simple pleasures.”

“Still sir, you’re far too generous,” Barnard said.

They both knew that he would accept the money. Not just for his officers, but for himself as well.

From his earliest youth, Etienne Barnard had had a taste for the finer things. It was how their paths had first crossed in fact, when Ishmael was nineteen and Barnard was twenty-three. Barnard had been modeling for shopping money and Ishmael had been intrigued.

They’d shared a meal and a conversation, and by the time they’d parted that day they’d exchanged contact information. They’d formed enough of a connection that when Barnard found himself in a bit of trouble, he’d called Ishmael for help.

And through that help, they’d ended up in a lifelong career as police officers. It had been a strange jumble of events that led to this office and this moment.

Ishmael trusted Barnard when he said the murderer would be brought to justice.

He stared down at the words of a killer: “I don’t know how my life got to this point. It must be some phobia of success.”

“We have to get him off the streets. For the peace of mind of our citizens if nothing else,” Ishmael said.

I am not rich. I am not well off. I like to write and I want to share my stories with you.

Prompt-Fill: 016. hand 2A

Prompt-Fill: 016. hand 2A

It was gone. Only a stump remained at the end of his wrist. They’d amputated his hand.

Tears gathered in his eyes. He’d trusted them when they said they wouldn’t do anything without his permission, yet they’d drugged him and cut off his hand. The betrayal stung even in the face of his loss.

The door began opening. He hurriedly wiped his eyes dry on the pillowcase and the shoulder of the hospital gown he wore.

By the time the nurse came in, he had a stoic expression on his face. She didn’t mention the redness of his eyes, simply gave him a smile and asked him how he was feeling.

“I’m feeling like they chopped off my hand,” he snarled, then bit his lip, instantly contrite. “I’m sorry. It’s not your fault.”

She gave him a sympathetic look. “From what I understand, it’s not your fault either. A decision had to be made or you would have died.”

“I know.” He avoided looking at the bandaged stump. He looked toward the window instead. “It’s sunny out there. All those days of rain, and now it’s sunny.”

The nurse—PAM, said her nametag—moved around the room. She opened things and shut things, checked readings on the machines and changed the IV so quickly and expertly he wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t watching.

“It’s a beautiful day,” she said. She crumpled up a blue paper cloth and tossed it in the garbage can. “I think I’m going to recommend that you get some time outside today.”

“What?” He gestured with his hand at his stump. “They cut off my hand yesterday.”

“That was yesterday,” she said. “This is today. And while the stump is still tender and I wouldn’t jostle it around, it should be okay while you sit in a wheelchair in the garden. It’s a lovely sunny day and we don’t know when the sun will next decide to visit us. You should get the chance to enjoy it a little.”

He wanted to object—”I don’t want to leave my room. My hand. They cut off my hand“—but the thought of being outside with the sun on his face was too appealing.

“Okay,” he said instead, tone grudging.

“Good.” She smiled brightly. “I can tell already that you’re a fighter. You’re going to be okay. I’m sure of it.”

“If you’re sure,” he said doubtfully.

“I’m sure,” she said. She glanced at her watch. “And I’m due on another floor in five minutes. So I’m going to run out of here. If you need anything, the call button is right there. Lunch is in forty minutes. And I will see you tomorrow. Bye!”

“Bye,” he echoed, but she was already gone. The clicking shut of the door was the only sign that she’d ever existed.

“How weird,” he whispered. But he felt better.

Sure, they’d amputated his hand, but he was still alive. And maybe he could 3D print himself a cool prosthesis. It was terrible. But it was going to be all right.

“I’m alive,” he said.

And when his family came to visit he managed a tremulous smile that gradually became real. Because they loved him. They were here. They’d made the decision he couldn’t manage to make.

He was alive.