Volume 5 Number 4


Autumn 2007

Life Sentence

by David Tallerman

Early in the morning, Alex walked into the room, paced past her, opened the bay windows and stepped out onto the balcony. Ponderously, he climbed up onto the ledge, and balanced for a moment. Naked in the golden light, he seemed impossibly graceful and statuesque. Then he fell. She watched from the settee. At first he seemed to tumble forward very slowly, but an instant later he was gone.

She waited for half an hour or so. Time was the only luxury she had left. Or perhaps it was merely an irrelevancy. But either way she waited, doing nothing.

Once she'd filled her time with reading, studying the vast wealth of knowledge in the library. But as mankind had begun to die out, so such pastimes had seemed more and more futile. Without that link, she had come to understand that the experiment all those countless years ago had separated her and Alex irreparably. Perhaps they looked human, though it was hard to remember, hard to conceive of flesh that could tear and wither and rot. But humans, as they'd proven so irrefutably, didn't live forever. And she and Alex did, or so it seemed.

Thinking about Alex and about mortality drew her back to the present. He'd be waiting for her. Well that was arrogant and ridiculous—of course he wasn't waiting. He would be the first to point out that her presence was irrelevant to anything he did or didn't do. But there was their routine to consider: she despised it, and he more so if that were possible, but it was all that they had, all there was.

So she got up, went to the lift and pressed the button. The journey took exactly 2.32 seconds—was that quicker or slower than falling? She considered asking Alex, but thought better of it.

Outside, his spread-eagled body lay a dozen meters from the wall. She walked over to it and nudged it with her bare foot. She almost enjoyed the sensation. When he didn't respond she said, "It won't ever work." She always said this, or something like it. When he still didn't answer she paused, unsure. Then she reached down and touched his arm. He pulled away.

"It won't ever work."

Finally he pushed himself up onto his knees, shifted to a crouch, stood up. There was no scratch, no bruising, no mark anywhere on his perfect skin, only a fine patina of dust. Rebelliously, she touched his arm again, and again he pulled away. He glared at her. The hate in his eyes was astonishing—she wondered how anyone could hate so much. Why did she try?

It had been a century or more since he had shown her the slightest hint of affection. Then she'd found him late in the night, crying helplessly, choking. When she'd held him, he'd clung to her, fingers digging so hard against her flesh that it would have broken if only it could have. But that had been the last time. Why did she try? Because there was nothing else. One last time, for no reason, she repeated, "You know it won't ever work."

He continued to glare at her with that bewildering hatred. "Every machine breaks eventually," he said. Then he turned away, back towards the tower.

"This one won't. Ever."

"Maybe it will tomorrow," he replied, as the lift doors slid closed behind him.


Bio: David Tallerman lives in York, England, where he works as an IT technician, which seemed the only logical career move after studying for an MA in the literature of seventeenth-century witchcraft. His published work so far is available at Reflection's Edge, From the Asylum, Hub, and in podcast at Chaos Theory: Tales Askew and Pseudopod, with more forthcoming in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, The Willows, Aoife's Kiss, and in the British comic Futurequake. He can be found online at Son and Foe and at his home page, Writing on the Moon.