I can’t see a thing. It is so dark in here. What happened? Where am I?
“Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”
Who was that? I can hear but I can’t see. Can I even squeeze the hand? I don’t think so. I can’t even feel my hand.
“Jade, if you can hear me, move something.”
That voice again. Jade? Is that me? Why can’t I remember? Why can’t I move? Let’s try this. Whoa! That’s bright. I think I opened my eyes. There are a lot of people staring at me.
“She’s awake.” That was a man wearing a surgical mask. I must be hurt and in a hospital. “Jade, can you hear me?”
How am I supposed to tell him if I can’t talk? I’ll blink a lot.
“Her eyes are fluttering. Is that good or bad?” A different man in a mask. I must really be bad if there are this many doctors working on me. Why am I awake for this?
“I’m not sure. Jade, can you stop blinking?” I should stop so they know I can understand. “Great. Did you do that on purpose? One blink for yes, two for no.”
One blink. Got it.
“Welcome back!” That was the second guy again. I hope they tell me some names soon. For now, they will have to be One and Two. Now there is a woman. She can be Three.
“Can you move?” One seems to be in charge of the questions. I need to blink twice. “It’s all right. The picobots are working on you. Do you remember what happened?”
Two blinks again.
“That’s not surprising. It was a high-speed rail accident. The mag-levs failed and the commuter train you were on crashed. Do you understand?”
I can’t remember the wreck or even getting on a train. Let’s figure this out. My name is Jade. That doesn’t feel right or wrong. Weird. What about the rest? Job? Family? Friends? It’s like I’m a blank slate. Nothing.
Two looks like he wants to say something. “She needs to rest. Send the command to her picobots.”
“Let her sleep while they do their thing.” Three agrees with him. I wonder what One will say.
“Agreed. Jade, we are going to let you rest while you heal. This is going to take a while. Just sleep. We will see you soon.”
He is typing something on a computer. I think I’ll close my eyes so I can sleep. Why am I not sleeping? I can’t open my eyes but I can still hear them.
“She responded. That’s amazing.” Three sounds happy.
“I didn’t think we could bring her back. No one that far gone has ever been resuscitated. This will take the medical world to a whole new level.” Two also sounds pleased with himself.
Wait. Resuscitated? Was I dead? How long?
“No. This will remain classified. No one is to know. I’m invoking the Cyber Secrets Protocol. You two are not allowed to speak of this to anyone. Is that understood?” Why is One so angry? He needs to lighten up.
They are leaving the room. What are they saying?
“Too bad to save her only so she can go on trial.” Was that Two or Three? What trial? What is happening? This is a nightmare.
“Wake up, Jade. Can you hear me?” It was the voice of number Three. How can I tell her I was never asleep? Opening my eyes is a good start.
“There you are. You look bright eyed today. Do you remember anything?” She is really treating me like I’m an idiot.
I blink once.
“Really? About the accident?” She sounds so hopeful.
Two blinks and she looks confused.
“What do you remember?”
That is annoying. She knows I can’t speak… or can I? Ok. No sounds. I can’t speak. I’ll blink a lot. Maybe then she will remember to ask yes or no questions.
“What’s wrong?” I think I can see a light bulb going off over her head. “I’m sorry. I got excited. Do you remember anything before the accident?”
“But you remember waking up?”
How do I tell her I have been awake this entire time? I didn’t sleep at all since I woke up. I’ll blink a lot again.
“What’s wrong? Is there something else you remember?”
Okay. Now I know how to communicate something’s wrong. Lots of blinks. Maybe I can learn Morse Code.
I blink once.
She picks up a clipboard with letters in rows. “Let’s try to spell out some words. I’ll point to the row. One blink for yes. Two blinks means to go back. Then I’ll go through the letters. Same drill. All right?”
This is going to take forever. I blink out: [I DIDNT SLEEP].
“You were awake since we left?” asks Three.
“How long do you think it has been since we left?” She points to the numbers. I spell out [14 HOURS].
“I’m so sorry Jade. You should have slept. Let me run a diagnostic.” She walks over to the terminal and types something I can’t see. “Your InnerLink registered you as asleep. Are you sure you didn’t dream being awake?”
That’s a strange thought. I guess it’s possible. Wait a second. How could I have known how long I was out if I wasn’t awake? What I wouldn’t give to be able to shrug my shoulders right now.
I blink twice.
“I’ll have your bots checked just in case.” Three must be a nurse.
I blink several times. She brings the board back. [NAME?]
“I’m sorry. I’m Doctor Janice Alvin. You can call me J if it makes it easier.”
I spell out [THANKS J]
“Good morning, Jade. I’m your caretaker. My name is Straya.” She has said that every day since she started taking care of me three days ago. Sometimes I wish she would shut up. Why does she have to talk all the time?
“Can you try to move your finger?” She asks me that constantly. I’m sure the picobots are doing their best, but there are limits. I’ll humor her and try again. See Straya. Nada.
“Jade! Your foot!” What about my foot? She is moving my head so I can see. My whole foot is moving. That is the first thing to move since I got my eyes working. I thought it was never going to happen. Why did it stop?
“Can you do it again?” Straya sounds even more excited than I feel. I try to move my foot and it lays there like a hunk of meat.
I look at the computer screen. She follows my gaze. The picobots sense where I am looking and they can spell words for me. [IT WONT WORK. WHY?]
“I’m not sure. Are you doing what you were doing before?”
[YES] Wait a second. I tried to move my foot just now. Before I was trying to move my fingers. Let me try that. There it goes.
“Great job. Jade! How did you do that?” Straya means well even if she’s annoying.
[MOVED MY FINGERS AND GOT A FOOT]
“Really? That’s not right. But at least it’s something.” She is getting up and leaving the room. Straya really needs to work on her bedside manner. I bet she went to report my improvement to Janice. I still haven’t seen either man from my first day. I don’t know their names so I still think of them as One and Two.
Don’t worry about me. I’ll just lay here and stare at the ceiling tiles. There are one thousand and twenty-four of them. I’ve had a lot of time to count them. I’m still not sleeping and they aren’t sure why.
Here comes Janice. She looks happy.
“Jade, I hear you have made a leap forward.”
One blink. Now I will put on a show. Look at the foot move. Exciting, isn’t it?
Janice really does look excited. “That’s great! So Straya says you are trying to move fingers and got your foot to move. That’s odd.” She walks over to the computer and taps a few keys. “The picobots are working on nerve fibers in your spine. They may have gotten some wires crossed. I wish they had your template.”
What’s a template? I look at my screen and it asked the question for me.
“I’m sorry, Jade. I forgot. Your template is your basic body structure saved into the conjoined memory of your picobots. All of yours were wiped out by the mag-rails. They were pretty much fried. All the bots working in you now are new to your system.”
I get the screen to ask: [NO BACKUPS?] That’s strange. Janice looks nervous. Why did that question make her nervous?
The smile on her face is fake. “There was some corruption of the data backup on the PicoTech server. You just had the bad luck to be one of the ones who lost her data.”
For some reason, I don’t believe her. Janice is holding something back. What isn’t she telling me?
Janice leans in and whispers, “Don’t ask too many questions right now. Others are listening.”
What? Something is going on. This is not right. Why can’t I remember what happened?
Janice makes some notes on the computer and waves. “Keep up the good work, Jade. I’ll check back on you later.”
It’s been a week. How slow can these picobots be? Yesterday was a banner day. I peed on command. My parents would be so proud that I’m potty-trained. Yea, me.
I can move both feet now. The best part is it happens when I think about moving my feet. Still can’t move my fingers but my sense of smell has come back.
This place stinks. Maybe that’s me. I don’t really know. At least I have my senses of smell, sight and hearing. Since I’m eating by picobot, I guess there is no need to rush taste. Touch is hit and miss. They hit me and I miss the feeling. It’s not funny, but it kind of is.
I look at the call button and a nurse I’ve never met enters my room. “Do you need something, Jade?”
No, I just like calling you down here. The computer speaks for me again. This is so slow. [CAN I TALK TO SOMEONE IN CHARGE?]
“I’ll get Doctor Alvin,” she says and runs from the room.
She looked spooked. What is wrong with her? I just want to talk to someone about everything that isn’t happening. It’s so frustrating.
Janice comes in but she’s not alone. Mr. One is with her. Now we’re getting somewhere.
“Jade, are you okay?” asks Janice.
I do my slow speech thing. [WHO IS THAT OR SHOULD I KEEP CALLING HIM 1?]
He looks at me like I’m a microbe. I don’t like this guy. “I’m Conrad Davies with LinkPol.”
ExtraLink Police? [I DIDN’T DO IT.]
“Didn’t do what?” asks Conrad. He looks so angry. What is his problem?
[WHATEVER HAS YOU SO MAD.] Sometimes a joke can go a long way to defuse anger. Other times it fails miserably. This is one of those miserable times. I think this guy had his sense of humor removed a long time ago.
“My colleague here tells me you have no memory of anything before waking up in this room. I have a difficult time believing that.” Conrad needs to mellow out a little bit. Are all LinkPol officers this grouchy? “I think you know exactly what happened. You do, don’t you?”
[REMEMBER WHAT? I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING.]
“Jade, please calm down.” That was Janice.
“No Jade. Don’t calm down. I want to see how mad you can get.” Conrad is a jerk.
If I could smack him, I would. That would be funny, wouldn’t it? The first time I get my arm to move and it’s to hit him. I wonder what would happen if I try. Nothing. Too bad. That would have been good.
Conrad is in my face. “I don’t buy it.” He says it slowly like that makes it true. “You know what you and your friends did and I have the proof. Terrorism is still a crime, you know.” He needs a mint.
Wait. Terrorism? What do they think I did? Dammit, I wish the direct uplink would work so I wouldn’t have to type with my eyes.
Conrad looks disgusted and storms out of the room.
I repeat the question. [WHAT TERRORISM?]
Janice turns the computer screen so I can see it better and pulls up a LinkNewsNetwork broadcast from a month ago. It shows a pile of twisted metal and plastic. The reporter says it was a high-speed commuter train between Chicago and New York. It crashed into another train. Head-on collision. No survivors. The League for ExtraLink Freedom claimed responsibility. Among the dead is a woman with known ties to the League – Jade del Santos.
So they think I destroyed a train I was riding on. That explains a lot. Am I innocent until proven guilty, or guilty until proven innocent? It looks like the broadcasters already made up their minds. Wait a second. That broadcast was from a month ago. I’ve only been awake for a week. Where was I for three weeks? Dead? That’s not possible! I must have been in a coma.
“This is odd.” Janice sounds worried but I don’t care. She thinks I’m a terrorist who destroyed a mag-rail. “Jade, calm down. Your brain waves are going…no.”
Okay. She whispered that last word. You have my attention, Janice. What’s wrong? I ask the question the hard way on the screen. When I look up Janice is running from the room calling for someone named Muhammed. I’m alone. What happened? I can’t see the screen she was using. This day gets worse by the second.
I use the call button but no one comes. Is the computer not getting the message? Call again. Nothing. Thirty-four more tries and I’m starting to think I’m on my own. That’s not a comforting thought.
Five hours later three people finally answer my calls. Janice is here with that Conrad guy. He looks worried. Good. Serves him right for being such a pain earlier. I wonder if the other guy is the famous Two.
“Hello,” says the stranger. “We’ve only met once before. My name is Muhammed Abujamal. I am the director of this facility.”
[NICE TO MEET YOU.] I can be nice. [WHAT IS GOING ON?]
Janice touches my head. “I am so sorry.”
What is she sorry about? This is not going to be a good day for me.
“Do you know your name?” Muhammed asks that question.
“Are you certain?” He is persistent.
[YES. I’M JADE DEL SANTOS]
There is a sad smile on his face. “You are truly remarkable.”
Conrad stands there shaking his head. “It’s a shame really. Is there any way to backup the data?”
What data? What’s happening?
Muhammed shakes his head. “This was a freak accident.” He turns and looks at me. “I’m sorry but you are not Jade del Santos. Jade died four weeks ago.”
What? They’ve been telling me for a week that I’m Jade. [WHO AM I?]
“It’s okay. Just relax.” Janice is still playing the peacemaker. I’m sick of peace.
[WHO AM I?]
“You are no one.” Conrad has a lousy bedside manner.
Muhammed puts his beefy hand on my arm. I can feel the pressure as he squeezes. “Jade died in the mag-rail accident. Her body was in a hundred pieces. We stitched her back together because her brain was still functioning.” He looks at the other two and then adds, “We thought it was still functioning.”
“Just tell it.” Conrad again. “You are the picobots that were left over after the accident. The mag-rail fried your memory circuits but your automatic functions continued. You have been sending electrical stimulations to her brain trying to keep her alive.”
Janice puts a hand on my other arm. “I’m so sorry. We thought Jade was still alive, but you are just a shadow of her. You are just a few hundred thousand picobots who think you’re human.”
No. I’m real. I’m alive. They can’t be right.
[YOU ARE WRONG!]
Muhammed shakes his head. “If we are wrong, then you will still be here in a few seconds. If we are right, then I should say goodbye.” He holds up a tablet so I can see what he’s doing. The button says, [Activate EMP]
Electromagnetic pulse? Fry the electronics?
“Goodbye. I’m sorry.” Janice is crying.
“Just do it.” Conrad is still a jerk.
Muhammed hits the button.
Copyright 2015 – Doug Romig