World Without End
G. Lloyd Helm
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When an author writes a story, creates a world and the creatures in it, does the literary world actually come into being in some parallel universe? Joshua Gordon, creative writing professor and writer of pulp fiction thinks so and is in fact so convinced it is true that when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness he sets out to find a protégé who he can convince to take over as the creator god of the world. He finds that protégé in the person of John Fisher.
Joshua Gordon, The Creator, was fifty-eight years old when he felt himself beginning to die. He was of medium height with graying hair, brown-gold eyes, a face pleasantly marked with smile wrinkles and a body with a tendency toward plumpness in the middle. The feeling was just an odd little twinge at first; a sort of pinching at the base of his neck, producing a barely perceptible weakening in his legs, gone almost before noticed, not to be thought of again until the pinching became stronger and the weakness more pronounced. His medicos said the condition was a genetic defect, accelerated neuro-myelitis, but when Gordon began questioning what the hyphen bearing Latinate gobbledygook meant, they hemmed and hawed, provoking him so he lost his temper.
"You mean you have not the foggiest notion on God's green earth what is wrong with me! Am I right?"
"Take it easy Dad," Joshua's son Lucian said, putting his hand on his fathers shoulder. Lucian, the very image of his father at the same age, had driven Joshua to the doctor, pushed the wheelchair Joshua did not really need down the hospital corridors.
"No sir! It does not!" the young doctor protested. "We know the sheathing around your nerves is growing thinner, at some places it has thinned to nothing. Without sheathing, the signals traveling along your nerves are diverted or scrambled."
"In other words, I have a short circuit in my electrical system because the insulation around my wiring isn't any good?"
The doctor smiled at his question. It was so typically Gordon and the doctor had been a fan of Joshua Gordon's books since he was a child. "Yes sir. Pretty accurate description," he said.
"So, why is it happening, and what can be done about it?"
Now the doctor was not so quick to reply. "I can't answer those questions, Mr. Gordon. We don't know what causes it yet, and because we don't know we don't--"
"Yeah, OK." Gordon said holding up a hand to stop the doctor. "How long?"
"Mr. Gordon, it’s--"
Gordon held up his hand again. "Just go ahead and say it. A year, a day, an hour-and-a-half, what?"
The doctor hated what he was about to say, he knew the reaction he was going to get, but there was no avoiding it. With a mental shrug he said, "We don't know."
Gordon opened his eyes wide in disbelief just as the doctor had seen him do on countless talk shows. He knew it always preceded the skewering of some pretentious asshole.
"You don’t know?" Gordon said softly.
Obviously holding in an explosion Gordon said, "Then get me a doctor who knows something."
The doctor blushed. "Your privilege and I recommend it, but they will all tell you the same thing, Mr. Gordon. They will say it differently, but it will boil down to the same thing. There are several related genetic conditions and we have no cure for any of them. There is an experiment going on now in Scotland where some Vets are trying to re-grow or create new myelin sheathing in dogs born without the sheathing, and there are several genetic studies going on, but there is no way of knowing what sort of success they are having. And as to how long--it depends on the rate of degeneration. Your onset was late in life, which may be good-"
"But it may be bad."
"So I could live another sixty years, or I could suddenly collapse with the galloping shakes and kick over in the next couple of minutes."
"You probably will not live another sixty years..." the doctor said with an earnestness which pinked Gordon in his twisted, ironic wit and caused him to smile despite the situation.
"Can't ever tell Doc," he said. "Can't ever tell."