Vital Sign Detection
You sold your bed frame, mattress, armrest-less office chair, semi-circle glass desk with the black, high-friction center patch, sold the splintered bits of soul hammered into the bedside stand and then you started anew, the reincarnated minimalist who quit a corporate job with one day’s notice and spoke eagerly of this new research job, your voice blurring the first and last letters of words; could the words fit all your thoughts before the atmosphere's mass of air no longer trapped dust and scattered light into red. The sky faded from blue to orange, streaked by clouds, billows of parallel undulations, mountains rising from behind a scattering of trees like they held up the sky, and the sun combusted and rose, forcing golden poppies to shy away, petals shut to the world and yet later, during our final trip around the office building together, the wind sprinkled pollen into our breath and our eyes watered and our noses itched. Noncontact vital sign detection, the corporate source / rationale / thesis hook-line-and-sinkered government funding–all just papers and more papers ranked by numbers of citations and you used to count these citations after your desk job drained you for the day, after your wife and children retired to bed, every night at eleven pm with a highlighter in hand, until another introduction paragraph referenced too many footnotes for foreign terms; the words lulled you to sleep–doppler radar, nonlinear phase modulation, heartbeat and respiration rate identification–extract the sinusoidal components indicating life, did you know a fetal Doppler uses sound waves to pick up on a baby’s heartbeat? fast fourier transform, a term lost to the decades-ago memory of signal processing class, when we thought elusive textbook theory might actually be seen in practice. A rabbit darted across our path as my right foot snapped a twig in two–kaboom! light diffracted through air, sun hovering above the local horizon, sky cooling to blue-white. Enjoy your new job, hope it feels more intellectually stimulating, more meaningful. If solving nonlinear least-squares fitting problems and eyeballing amplitude over time graphs meant someone saw each contraction and dilation of my heart, analyzed and computed and rendered a committee convinced of algorithmic superiority, if oxygen circulated to my alveoli and electrical impulses cycled through my sinoatrial node under watchful eyes, even if they knew exactly where to aim–air resistance factored into projectile motion, even if you spent five hours organizing your research paper in LaTeX, concentrations of Tritonal cased in metal would incinerate the poppies too.
Lucy Zhang writes, codes, and watches anime. Her work has appeared in Lost Balloon, New Delta Review, Hypertext, EX/POST, Jet Fuel Review, Third Point Press, and elsewhere. She is an editor for Heavy Feather Review and assistant fiction editor for Pithead Chapel. Find her at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.