Distant Designs

Lina awakened me. I felt her two fingers tiptoe up and down my back, one on each side of my spine. She tread gently at first. With restrained but increasing pressure, she ensured that I was aware of her presence. When she was sure I was awake, she gently massaged the base of my skull, just above my neck. I rolled over to look at the clock. Eight-thirty already; I’d overslept. Normally, she would have roused me from my slumbers two hours earlier, but she must have known how badly I needed the extra sleep. I put my hands on her shoulders and began to rub them, but she squirmed a bit, her way of saying “not now.”

“Ah,” I said to myself, “she must be in a meeting. Sometimes her meetings run a bit long.”

That’s one of the problems with living nine time zones apart. Aside from the lack of a traditional affectionate relationship, distance removes the typical physical elements of one’s interactions. Though I consider myself quite progressive and receptive to concepts that challenge my knowledge of and experience with the world, Lina exceeds my receptivity. She actively embraces ideas I find, or found, very hard to swallow. Psychokinetic physicality, for example. That’s how we touch one another. I live in a 1940s ranch in suburban Omaha, Nebraska. Lina lives in a mid-century modern near Sörfjärden that backs up to the water in the Swedish municipality of Nordanstans. She has lived on or near the Bothnian Sea her entire life. I don’t know how long that is, though. I’ve never asked her age. I assume she is younger than I, but I can’t put my finger on just why I think that’s the case. Perhaps it’s because she seems so open to ideas I find hard to accept.

I met Lina through an online forum. I stumbled upon it as I explored means of euthanasia. My eldest great uncle, Uncle Scrawl Lee, was in horrific pain, around the clock. His mouth cancer had spread throughout his body and there was no possibility of cure or even remission. Uncle Scrawl had lived with me for five years. During those years, his body failed him and I found myself spending more and more time trying to make him comfortable as his body shut down. His pain affected me. Nothing seemed to diminish it. Not morphine, not sleeping pills, nothing. I felt obliged to find a way to allow him to rid himself of the agony.

When Uncle Scrawl could still talk and be easily understood, he had said, “Clap, if I am in excruciating pain and there’s nothing to be done, please find a way to end it for me. Be merciful, I beg you. Taking my life will be the most generous gift you could possibly give me.”

I had to do the research surreptitiously, inasmuch as euthanasia is considered blasphemy and a sin against God in Omaha. So I conducted my online searches from a public computer in an Omaha public library. That’s where I met Lina. She had written in a euthanasia forum that her mother had requested euthanasia when the pain of her disease became too much.

In a private message Lina sent from the forum, she explained it to me.

“Swedish doctors generally refuse to participate in euthanasia, but the practice is not illegal. I had to find someone to assist. I found a woman who said she could use telekinetic practices to anesthetize my mother and then simply telekinetically squeeze certain arteries and blood vessels to restrict the flow of blood to her brain. She said the process would painlessly lead to my mother’s death. And it worked. That’s when I became intrigued by telekinetic physicality.”

I was skeptical at first, but Lina talked me through it. “Clap, I’ve told you. With my mother, it was absolutely painless. It will be so with your uncle. If you sense even a modicum of pain in him, I will stop instantly. You will be in total control.”

Her soothing words and absolute assurances assuaged my doubts and my fears. When the  time came, she did the work.

“Uncle Scrawl,” Lina said via video Skype, “I want to be sure you are certain. Do you want to slip away from this pain? All of it?”

I had explained the process to Uncle Scrawl.

“Yes, Lina, I want to go. Please, do it quickly.” He spoke clearly and with conviction, despite difficulty speaking.

“You understand, Uncle Scrawl, this is permanent. It is irrevocable. Once you’re gone, it is over. You will be dead.” Lina peered intently at Uncle Scrawl, waiting for his answer.

“I understand. I am ready to die. Do it, Lina. Clap, you’re a good lad. Thank you for helping me. This is, truly is, your most generous gift.”

It was as if she scheduled his death for a specific time on the clock. There was no outward evidence that anything was happening, Uncle Scrawl simply slipped away while Lina peered at her screen in Sweden.

Though I witnessed it first-hand, I remained skeptical. “Lina, if you were able to control this telekinetically, why did you need the Skype link?”

“It wasn’t for me. It was for him. It was for him to know someone he considered professional was there, looking at him, helping him. He would have considered you a little too close. Even though he asked you. I just know that’s how it is.”

“Could you have done it without seeing him?” I remained skeptical.

“Of course, Clap. It would have been the same. The only difference would have been that he would not have had the opportunity to actively participate. I feel obliged to let the recipient engage, if they can and they wish.” Lina’s words reinforced my sense of her; I considered her something akin to a saint.

That morning she awakened me two hours late, it didn’t occur to me psychokinetic expression could be used not only as a means of intimacy and humanity but as a means of control. It could be used, I discovered later, as a means of accumulating power and money and, when a person became too annoying to tolerate any longer, murder. That wasn’t the case with Uncle Scrawl. But I decided it may have been the case with a rich tycoon whose death left Lina several million dollars richer.  I knew nothing of him until I read the paper twelve weeks after his death:

The last will and testament of Carbon Steel, the mayonnaise magnet who died suddenly three months ago, leaves the bulk of his estate to Lina Lindström, an expert in criminal forensics, living in Sörfjärden Sweden. Ms. Lindström, when reached about the surprise inheritance, expressed shock and surprise, saying, “Oh, my, I did not even know Mr. Steel. The only time I communicated with him was following his mother’s fall, when she broke her hip. I offered my condolences and my advice and counsel.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Distant Designs

  1. Keepo on keeping on as they say. This story must be written. You have me hooked on it.

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