HG Wells’ view of the future, of hers in particular, was even bleaker than usual. Not only had her intricate, carefully plotted plan to revenge her daughter’s death been thwarted, but also in this future she now inhabited, humanity had managed to create even greater atrocities due to science than her dystopian writings had ever foreseen. Engineered viruses, antimatter bombs, social networking… If that were not enough, her terse tribunal with the regents had gone, how to say, less than swimmingly and she now awaited an uncertain fate.
The cell where she was being held was small and spartanly furnished, with no exposed devices or fixtures that her brilliant, deranged, mind could turn into a weapon or means of escape. Even the lighting source was recessed into the ceiling and her sleeping platform/headrest was a solid block of dense memory foam. There was no privacy shielding at an exposed commode that was little more than an empty hole but there did not appear to be any surveillance, either.
Time passed immeasurably, which Helena found ironic. Her meals appeared seemingly in the blink of an eye, consisting of fruits and soft bread, along with a broth in a small cup made from tightly woven leaves that turned out to be edible as well. The loose tunic that was her only clothing changed color at odd intervals, presumably as she slept. Once she had stayed awake as long as she could force herself in an attempt to detect the entry by her guards, but it had happened nevertheless unseen during an instant her attention had wandered.
Alone, her thoughts were her only companions as she retraced her actions of how she could have done things differently to succeed. Clearly she had underestimated the two warehouse agents’ resourcefulness and had never managed to convince Artie Nielsen of her sincerity, all of which contributed to her ultimate failure.
Failure. She resented the word, because it meant she was merely human after all.
“Come with us; it is time,” Kosan’s deep voice startled her slightly, coming from close behind, but not near enough to reach with a roundhouse kick. With a slight gasp, Helena turned to see that one wall of her cell had silently become a doorway leading into a featureless hallway. Outside, two others waited with Teslas at the ready. Another pair stood three meters away down the hallway, armed with tanglers.
Summoning her courage, she perked up with a nonchalant smirk and led the way out, leaving the stoic, nattily dressed regent to take up the rear. “Took you lot long enough!” she snapped back with false bravado, striding confidently ahead.
Their destination wasn’t far off, one turn to the left thirty meters down the hallway, where a double-door opened up into a high-ceilinged auditorium or lecture hall with terraced seating. It looked as if the entire warehouse regency was present, save one seat that would have been Valda’s. Pity, she thought, I almost respected him, up until the last. Silently, the guards led her to a raised podium at the center of the hall, a circular slab of milky alabaster about a meter in diameter and a decimeter thick cupping a few millimeters of clear water pooled on the surface. Urged by their weapons, she stepped up onto it, feeling the cool of the wet stone with her bare feet.
Kosan approached a speaker’s podium facing her, though he spoke loudly enough for the entire assembly to hear: “Helena Georgette Wells, you have been found by this authority to be guilty of a crime against humanity, as punishment for which you will surrender your life.” There was a rumble of hushed conversation from the audience that quieted quickly.
Well, there you have it; certainly not chasing ‘round the bush, she thought to herself, willing back any tears as she gazed levelly up at those who had condemned her.
“Do you have anything to say before the sentence is carried out?” Kosan addressed her once more, a hint of contempt seeping into his voice.
“Not in my defense, for if given another chance I would repeat my past actions with the sole exception being that I would prevail,” she stated boldly, causing another rustle of murmurs. “Instead, I leave the future in your ‘capable’ hands, knowing full well humanity will make an absolute cock-up of their destiny.”
Kosan, taken aback, let the resulting hubbub settle on its own accord.
H.G. spoke first: “I do, however, have one last request, if that ancient and honourable custom is still practiced?”
“What do you ask?”
She paused, thoughts fleeting over a great many wishes of limited practicality before answering. “Unbind me; surely there are sufficient constabulary present to assure my captivity for the next few minutes. After then, as you know, I will concern you no longer.”
It was Kosan’s turn to hesitate; H.G. was a formidable foe that he himself had greatly underestimated not long ago. Scenarios ran through his mind, each ending in the inevitable conclusion. She had no possible escape, not this time.
Nodding, he agreed, “Remove her handcuffs, however, Ms. Wells you are heavily guarded.” Taking the statement as a command, the bailiffs came to attention, drawing their weapons. She wasn’t going anywhere.
The sergeant of the guards approached and unlocked her wrist and ankle restraints warily, then retreating quickly as if she might spring some sort of ambush at the last second.
Helena’s next action was as abrupt as it was unexpected. Reaching both hands up to the scoop neck of her tunic, she tore the weak fabric apart in one motion; the pieces fell in tatters from her shoulders into a heap on the platform, leaving her completely unclothed. Helena’s pale creamy skin shone in the auditorium lighting, contrasting with the gleaming jet black of her flowing hair. Naked and totally unashamed by her nakedness, she was absolutely stunning.
Another gasp rippled through the assembled regents, along with one solitary wolf-whistle coming from the back before being hastily stifled.
“Ms. Wells! Do not make this proceeding a mockery…” Kosan blurted, reddening.
Helena had gotten their attention. “Surely you fine sodding voyeurs have seen a nude female before! In light of my likely fate and your feeble imaginations, I thought it champion to give you all something of a preview…” She did a brief turn in place, showing herself off like a model.
Kosan was nearly speechless, taken aback by this turn of events as well as by the sight of Helena’s sensuously lithe body only a little more than a meter away. Suppressing the urge to cover her with his suit coat, he decided to go along with this last bit of madness.
“Very well, Ms. Wells; let the sentence be carried out!” Without further comment, he nodded towards a man in a lab coat, who quickly injected her in the arm with an aerosol gun and stepped back.
Wells was not surprised. “Ah; no doubt a paralytic mixture of scopolamine and curare - could have come right out of the dispensary of my Dr. Moreau. So pre..dic..table…” Her voice had started to slow as her voluntary muscles stiffened in place. She slowly took a graceful neo-Grecian pose, moving her arms into an almost balletic stance. “Deli…cious sen..sa..tion, like being en-cased in vel..vet ce…ment!”
“Yes, Ms. Wells, you will soon stand very securely in the National Sculpture Gallery.”
“Not the bronze…?” Her voice trailed off, along with Helena’s last visible movement.
“No,” Kosan whispered, “something you had a hand in recovering. Ironic, isn’t it?”
Speaking loudly to the regents once more, he announced, “Shield your eyes or make use of your mirrors!” Seconds later he opened a hatbox-sized container on his podium, raising an ancient object into Helena’s full view. He could glimpse from behind the writhing snake-hair of the artifact whose cursed power had remained potent through eternity. Others looked away or were brave enough to watch.
Helena Wells however, could not look away, knowing from myth what would happen; the scientist in her was compelled to observe and experience first-hand details that had never before been recorded: How the Gorgon’s gaze at first caused a tingle of immobility throughout her body; how sparkling emerald green Medusa's deadly irises appeared; how deeply those pupils drew her in; then the numbing chill and the strange crinkling sound as her flesh turned to stone. The petrifaction seemed to flow from her extremities to her core; this was surprisingly unlike a known poisoning infusion. She watched curiously as her slim fingers hardened and paled into whitish chiseled marble with the faintest of fractal veining visible in the translucent crystals. A firm tightness in her lungs signaled her last breath as the enchanted transformation flowed through her. Then all became silent as the cochlea in her ears lithified; yet she could sense the subtle difference between the drug-induced paralysis and the taut hardness of her transformed figure in the remaining instants before she could feel nothing more. Moments later her vision faded to black as her eyes clouded into empty marble orbs. Helena was once more trapped along with her thoughts as she readied herself for another long boring eternity. Well, here I am, again… was the last thought that froze in her mind as the crystallization finally overwhelmed her.
To the watching regents, her magical petrifaction was over in seconds – Helena Wells was now an alabaster sculpture, perfectly matched to the pedestal she had become fused to.
Kosan waited a few more moments, then lowered the Gorgon’s head back into its container, latching it securely. The sentence had been carried out and H.G.Wells would no longer be a threat. Slowly, solemnly, the regents exited the auditorium to resume their everyday lives.
The vast auditorium was empty when he approached the statue that moments before had been the most fascinating woman he had ever met. “I’m sorry…” he whispered, his voice cracking with emotion. She would never know how he felt.
Had closure had been achieved?