ThanaTopiary

by

gej302

Prologue:  End at the Beginning

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A note from gej302

Thanks for starting my story.  I hope you enjoy it! 

I've got 2 weeks worth of weekday (M-F) releases scheduled, ending out February. Starting in March, I intend to settle into 2 releases a week, generally on Tuesdays and Fridays.


For those unfamiliar with "system elements",  the colored text is the ThanaTopiary system interface, much like a game might have popups and information screens.  You can also imagine that as private message from an unknown source that pop into the character's head. 


For the curious, and anyone else... ThanaTopiary is a portmanteau of Thanatopsis, a poem by William Cullen Bryant and Topiary - the art of growing and trimming perennial plants into planned shapes.  Thanatopsis could be translated as A Look at Death.  No reading of the poem is needed, but if you want to take a look at it, here's the link: Thanatopsis

Lying in the dark, I heard a steady, rhythmic bleating. I knew it meant something. Then, one final noise--a wailing, elongated beep. Man, that’s just annoying. Oh, well, no matter, it's fading out anyway.

Silence.

 

Wait?!? Silence?!?

 

It’s never silent here. There’s always something… the hum of machines, the squeak of a foot on the floor, the low voices of staff conversations bouncing from the smooth floors and hard surfaces of the rooms. There’s ALWAYS something. Plus, I haven’t felt this good in a while. My brain is working, I feel almost normal… at least I think I do. I’m not sure I remember normal, it’s been a rough couple of years.

I wish I could say there’s an upside to cancer. I spent 2 years losing my privacy and self-sufficiency in pieces. If it wasn’t chemo, it was radiation, if not standard radiation, it was proton knives, whatever those are. Those techniques bought me time, but that time had costs. Some days I wasn’t all that happy with the time, but others were a gift beyond anything I had imagined. Once they had done all they could with non-invasive procedures, radical surgery bought me a bit more time. All it cost was my ability to use the bathroom by myself. I’m not sure that was a good deal, but it was the deal I made. Life was what I knew. I wasn’t giving it up without a fight, even a doomed one.

Odd. I can remember everything.

EVERYTHING.

Man, that sounds better than it is. Some things it’s nice to have forgotten.

I don't want to remember this stuff. What the heck is going on?

The memories continue to flash by despite my desire not to see them. I'm forced to watch a recap of my best and worst times flashing like a movie made up of short clips from my life.

That time I spat a big glob of ick out the car window in the face of Jimmy Hawkins.

Or the stupid joke about Junior Frank losing 10 pounds of dead weight if he’d just cut off his head. It wasn’t my fault he made it worse by claiming it was a reference to his man-parts. The instant reply about his dead schlong being a personal problem didn’t calm things down at all. He hit me in the back of my neck for that one. I kinda had it coming, but the setup… I couldn’t resist being the smarta…..leck.

Why am I remembering all this stuff? Why won't it stop! I don't want this!

There’s the first kiss… so very awkward!

The first break-up, that was painful, and probably my fault.

The first serious love, the planned proposal, and the “Dear John” letter that came while the plans were being made. Comparatively, the first break-up was now a happy memory, which was an accomplishment.

Four years of dating flash by: the good times, the bad times, and stupid times where the wrong head was doing (or not doing) the thinking.

My proposal.
Her acceptance.
Our marriage. That one goes pretty well, she stuck around through the cancer, and that was more than I deserved!

Kids. Mostly grown, but looking inconsolate. My heart breaks again.

The memories finally stop, putting a rough end to the protracted nightmare.

Was it a nightmare? Am I dead? Oh, that's a frightening thought! Not the dead part, that’s not truly frightening. The frightening part is that I might only be dreaming. As bad as it may sound, I pray I’m not dreaming. If I’m dreaming, then I have to go back to a mush brain and a swiss-cheese body. I don't want to leave. I can't stand the thought that I'll be staying, either, at least not like this. Perhaps I'm suffering from fried-egg brain, like the old DARE infomercials used to show. Odd stuff, the TV of my childhood. Man, I’m all over the place.

If this is death, though, it looks like nobody got it right, at least nobody I know. No bright lights, glorious music and winged androgynous harp mongers. No crackling flames, sulfur, brimstone, or cloven-hoofed pointy-stick goat-beasts. Heck, it’s not bad, but it’s kinda like the DMV, except the chair is more comfy, which is good, but I don’t have any books with me, which could be really bad.

There was one bit of color, a bedraggled grey-green shrubbery that had clearly seen better days. It sat in the middle of the room, in a large ivory-hued planter.

{Evaluation Complete. Would you like to accept your evaluation or try again?}

 

What the ….

 

I’m not sure how long I spent sitting there stunned.

{If you do not choose, your evaluation will be accepted by default in 10 …. 9 …. 8 …. }

Crap. I think I might get stuck in this grey box without any new books. If it’s this or try again, I’m gonna try again!

{

Choice accepted.

Entering into the ThanaTopiary cycle. Each death will allow you to carry some traits to the next.

}

Wait EACH death?

I wouldn’t have chosen this death. There’s the downside… living again means dying again.

Bah.

There is ALWAYS a catch.

{

First Cycle Evaluation: Adequate.

New Achievements:

Good Choice 1: Adequate leaves room for improvement. Issuing opportunity to do so.

Reward: New Life x2.

No Guide: Life lived without System Guidance. No status or statistical information.

Reward: Basic Guide
Guide integration commencing.

}

A spike of intense invasive discomfort came over me. I have no idea how long it lasted, but it hovered constantly on the border just below pain, an unscratchable itch all over my brain, which finally faded out in blessed relief.

{
Assessing...

Assessing...

Guide integration completed.

Linguistic data updated.

Expanded communication capability available.... activated.

Slow Death 1: Dying sucks. Perhaps dying faster is better, you don’t know yet, but you may find out soon.

Reward: 1 minor grafted trait.

}

One minor grafted trait?

{

One trait that can be carried into your next life, possibly altering the trajectory that life will take. Due to Basic Guide settings, information is limited and somewhat vague. A minor trait will generally provide small benefits to one or more statistics.

Choose:

Pain: It can be a harsh teacher, but a teacher nonetheless.
Regret: Some things should never be left undone, others shouldn’t have been done.
Joy: Light in the darkest of places.
Learning: Some call it epiphany, others inspiration.
Fate: Maybe lucky is better than skilled.
Health: If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.
Towel: Massively useful. Immensely comforting. Don’t leave home without it.
}

Great whatever this is… they’ve based some of this on my clearly excellent taste in farcical sci-fi and fantasy. So, they can’t all be bad.

I had a decent life, but I wasn't ready to let it go. It didn't seem like I had much choice about that part. Nobody ever really does.

OK. Focus. Clearly any bonus is better than none, but some of those options seem a bit negative. Perhaps best left for another future me. Also, not super helpful in the names, something vague may not be any better than no information at all.

Well, sorry Buttercup and apologies to Mr. Prefect. Tempting options though they might be, those aren’t the ones that catch my eye. I’m picking learning. Inspiration seemed rarer than joy in the last life, and aside from my kinda crappy ending (sorry whoever has to take care of my old shell, but at least you’re not having to scrape me off of the road), my luck was mostly decent. Everyone rolls snake eyes eventually.

{

Choice accepted.

Life begins in 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

New Achievement:

Rebirth 1: You have been born again.

Reward: -1 Life. Don’t waste it, you only have 2 left now.

}

Wait! Minus one life? How is that a reward? I don't think that word means what they think it means. I hope I get a better guide soon!


It was dark and warm and comfy. There was always some noise, but I found the thumping sounds comforting and soothing. Then it was light and cold and someone hit me. Jerks. So, I peed on them while screaming. Serves them right. Hope they have a towel.

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A note from gej302

Let me know what you think.


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About the author

gej302

Bio: Master Reader. Neophyte Author.

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Comments(32)
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AGUX ago

Enjoying the start! My only suggestion is changing the color of the system text. It isn't too bad, but it causes me some slight discomfort against a bright, white screen :)

Zelda_Anne_Link ago

Hi! im here for the reveiw swap. So far im enjoying the story, and I do appologise if i sound rude in my comment, im terrible withexpressing myself through text. Ive spoilered this just to be safe.

What i liked:

 

 

 

What i think could be improved:

 

 

Edit sugestions:

 

 

    gej302 ago

    um, nothing came through?

      Zelda_Anne_Link ago

      Huuuu :\

      Guess I used the spoiler wrong, im sorry. Ill just post all of what I was saying here

      What I was saying is i liked

      1. It isnt another "hit by a truck" isekai

      2. The hitchhiker refrence, even if it did break verisimilitude

      3. The magic system is my favorite part. Its use of physic energy as opposed to mana is unique, and realistic. Its inconvenience makes it perfect for a world to allow technological innovation, and given it is built on scientific principals as apposed to its own whole thing I theorized that when computers are made in this world they could make magic as well and even optimize the process so long as there is an underlying process to it. This could be accelerated by having the MC use what fuzzy memories he had to help dr.stone the computer into existence

      4. Simply the renameing of the university hints at this cultures importance on the cultural differences of this world and our own. Little details like this bring the world together

      5. I loved your passion for maths in chapter 2 and suggested since you obviously have a deep love of it that you could have it aid in your magic system, and since the two seem to be a main focus of the story (magic being this worlds stand out feature, and maths being the MCs area of expertise)

      6. Your use of first person is great, allowing a relatable view into the world

      Things I think could be improved

      1. The system AI seemed a bit inconsistent. Its general info dumping came off as robotic but its analasys of his mife was almost human

      2. Lack of detail such as the parents name, and what his home or school freinds are like. On thst note, I knkw MCs appearance is discrived in ch. 3 but aside from his size, it would have been a perfect time to discribe it in chapter 2 when he said he was average in apperance

      3. We dont really learn anything about the world until chapter 3 such as its approximate time frame in comparison to our own world I surmised 1920s+ and landed on 1930~40 by the end of but.only because of my knowlwsge of history

      4. As far as I read the whole story has been inner monologue which is great for knowing the narrorator but takes away the chance for any plot or character development outside the MC. Having Dialogue is very important to first person as it is the readers only view into other characters thought processes, or learning what the people truely think about MC.

      4. The tone is hard to pin down, the prelude was trying to mix funny and melancholy, and chapter 1 was very matter of fact so kt wasnt untim chapter 2 that I figured that the story definitely was ment to be read with a comedic tone.

      gej302 ago

      Thanks! FWIW, I do address some of this as the story progresses, but the comment on the system is spot on. It was supposed to transition from purely emotionless to more personally tailored after the Basic Guide upgrade which has to be "integrated" with the MC which is part of why it shares some of the MC's references, but I missed that. I have added some detail there to indicate the why. As you surmised mostly basing on the early 1900's, only some tech is more and some less.

Dan Lane ago

Beginning is a bit slow, but not unreadable. Pace picks up once the life review completes. Characterization and plot aren't bad at all, still forming. Reincarnation stories are not my main purview but I can hum the tune, so take these suggestions with a grain of salt:

 

Edit suggestions:

"Each death will allow you to carry some parts to the next."

"carry some *parts*" seems an awkward word choice. Alternatively: "Each death will allow you to retain some knowledge, skills, or abilities to the next." Something more concrete might help here. Up to you.

"Wait EACH death? I wouldn’t have chosen this death. There’s the downside… living again means dying again. Bah. There is ALWAYS a catch." smarta.....lek

Missing "Then." This is minor, but a hitch point where the flow hiccuped a bit.

smarta.....lek

Smart alek -> smart aleck.  I haven't seen the spelling without a 'c' before, so that may be my own ignorance.  Searchengine brings up the spelling with a c, for what it is worth.

Brights ago

they may but due to ya poor choices YOU don't have a towel ^-^

flowerpower6286 ago

Laughed at the towel line! Thanks!

DoomAlsoDoom ago

I didn't even realize you had started your own fic.

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