Once a radioactive isotope couldn’t wait to reach the end of its first half-life. All the attainments and delights it once was positive would come in due course appeared now to lie on the far side of the line separating this half-life from the next. The isotope understood very well that each nanosecond experienced was in fact a nanosecond of decay and that it might make more sense to seek out any means to hold back time’s passing rather than urging it on. Nevertheless, decay in future half-lives possessed a hypnotic attraction, what with their promise of release from the discontent that had cooled every joy in this one. The isotope was certain it possessed energies beyond other isotopes, powers so insistent they could be at odds with each other, even with themselves often, as they strained to be expressed. Yet all the while, the isotope had a nagging sense that something even grander was being lost, something indefinable but tantalizingly there, hovering ghostlike before it one moment then receding towards oblivion the next. The future wasn’t sweeping through it to become the past, yielding glowing opportunities in the here and now, as the isotope thought should happen. Future, present, and past might as well have vanished together, leaving the unrelieved monotony the isotope found itself condemned to. Fulfillment, scintillating fulfillment was what this half-life should be about, not a pale smoldering of frustration. So convinced was the isotope that the momentous developments expected from its first half-life had been a disappointment, it took little note of the lesser ones arising and fading away all the time. Other than to dismiss them as proof the steady clockwork of its decline held nothing more than parodies of what really mattered. Pleasures near at hand looked trivial by comparison with those imagined from afar. Either the isotope’s own half-life represented the distressing norm or else it represented nothing whatsoever and was thus an even darker nullity. If it could just hurry up the start of its next half-life, maybe then it would feel really alive at last. The uneven shimmer of its early years must then yield to a more mature self-confidence, with deeper strengths and all the satisfactions it had looked forward to from the beginning. For other isotopes to tell this one it had everything backwards and would actually reminisce upon its first half-life with nostalgia some day and long to regain what it so strained to be free of now merely demonstrated how little they must have understood of their own past. Their repeating ad nauseam that old “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” line merely added to the isotope’s ordeal. Weren’t “rosebuds” just so many seductions sung by the past, making them precisely what it must refuse to heed if it was ever to get beyond the futility of this present half-life? Hadn’t these other isotopes been young once themselves and dreamed of all that must lie ahead? What happened to them?
Copyright © 2012 by Geoffrey Grosshans