Olivia’s fingers tighten on the steering. She inhales; toluene, ethylbenzene, styrene, xylenes, trimethylbenzene, new car smell. What happens to facts when you die? Do they compost into new ideas? Could cremation be dangerous for flammable thoughts? Could she unknow the formula, to avoid detonating?
“16 years as an analytical chemist, doesn’t do light conversation”, Rob had introduced her to the hospital chaplain at his works party like that, the one time she’d gone.
“Hi, I’m Olivia and I’m an atheist”. He’d said there was cold comfort in science for the dying.
Soon she would be dead. He’d had a point.
“ 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds”, Frank the salesman shifts in the seat.
He worries about the cream leather interior, sticky fingers, discoloration from dark clothes. She wears indigo denim jeans, watches his catapult smile quiver as she slides into the driver seat.
Rob sat at the kitchen table for 10.5 seconds the morning she’d asked him to leave, hands rasping up and down his face, shedding over his daily c.40,000 skin cells. She would’ve liked to roll-up the scaly rug, added it to the tower of cases at the front door, but didn’t want to appear cold. She drafted an email outlining her rationale, scheduled send in 7 months.
Critical illness cover, stage 4 cervical cancer, the only insurance payout she’d ever got…first car she ever bought. Her hands tingle, she looks at her sweaty palms.
“Thermal steering for cold mornings”, Frank boomed, “ they’ve got it all covered.”
She remembers her first physics lecture, thermodynamics- Energy cannot be created or destroyed. The first law of thermodynamics would… NOT, could NOT…allow… her… to disappear.
She’s not going anywhere, just changing states. She beams at Frank, “they sure have”. A lifetime’s devotion to science, a guaranteed eternal life.
Margaret Timoney writes from Donegal on the Northwest coast of Ireland. She has been published in The Ekphrastic Review.