Transference

Ok, I kind of fulfilled my goal. I have my first story post, or at least part of a story. I achieved my goal of free writing the whole thing without labouring over the editing, which is a good thing. I did take a quick read/edit at the end of the first excerpt here, but it will obviously need more work once it is completely finished.  Anyway, here is the first part of the first short story posted here. I am not sure how many parts it will take to complete the story, but it might actually work better in waves, otherwise each post will be way too long. I hope you enjoy it. Any feedback is welcome.

Transference: Part 1

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Jimmy. Jimmy Williams,” a small voice answered, his tone confused, afraid. “Why am I here? Where are my mom and dad?”

A pen pecked at a sheet of paper on a wood clipboard as the doctor scratched a few hurried notes. Looking up from the clip board she pauses to adjust her stylish, black-frame glasses which had slipped down her nose while she wrote. She blew a lock of fiery red hair from her face while her left hand fished into the breast pocket of her lab coat. With practised efficiency she fished free a gold pocket watch. Freeing the clasp she popped it open, glanced at it quickly before clicking it closed and returning it to her pocket.

She ignored the boy’s question. “Jimmy? Do you know where you are,” her voice was clinical, cold, but a hint of a Scottish accent gave it a melodic tone, contrary to its aloofness.

“No. A hospital, maybe? Did something happen to me? Where’s my mom and dad? Jimmy’s voice took on a more frantic tone.

Again the doctor jotted a few notes. The tapping sound reminded Jimmy of Woody the Wood Pecker. He didn’t say so, perhaps if he had his next few days would have turned out differently.

“Jimmy. I need to go get something. I won’t be long.” She smoothed her brown slacks and adjusted the lab coat over her red blouse as she stood.

“W-w-wait.” the boy stammered. Obviously afraid, the voice became tinny, he was about to cry.

Nodding her head the doctor smiled as she left the room; her pen clicked against the clipboard.

A few moments later the doctor emerged through a sliding glass door in an adjacent observation room where a man and a woman waited for her near a large rectangular window and a television monitor.

Cheryl Williams’ green eyes were bright red and tears streamed down her face, carving black canals in her cheeks. A brown, knitted shawl was pulled tightly around a red dress and she clung securely to the man beside her as though letting go would send her tumbling to the floor.

Gerald Williams towered over both his wife and the doctor. Tears welled in his brown eyes; he leaned on his wife making it difficult to distinguish who was supporting whom. His grief made him appear small and vulnerable, belying his imposing physical stature. He stroked his wife’s blonde hair, it was difficult to determine if the gesture was for her comfort or his.

“Grace?” Cheryl began as the doctor walked in, she could not finish the question, nor could she look away from the tiny-framed boy on the hospital bed on the other side of the window. Tubes disappeared into his nose and mouth while wires were suctioned to his chest and head. Machines measuring various life signs hummed beside the bed. On some, the numbers read zero while the green lines on others were flat, dead.

“I have to run some more tests Mrs. Williams. But, my initial conclusions is the procedure was a success.” Dr. Grace O’Donnell said. Sensing the distraught parent’s rising relief she stepped forward, her mannerism authoritative. “Please, Cheryl, Gerald, keep in mind this is only the first step, probably the easiest if you can imagine. We are far from out of the woods, so to speak,” it was the first time Grace’s voice betrayed any emotion. She sounded concerned, scared. Later, if asked about whether that was for the boy who lay dead in the room next to her or her research, she would be unable to say definitively

Without taking his eyes off the lifeless body of his son Gerald’s lips moved as if to speak and then closed again. He repeated the motion three more times before he could find the courage to ask.

“Is he in any pain?”

“No, just a little confused, which is encouraging.” Grace stepped towards the flat screen monitor and pressed a button on its side. It hummed and a second later a picture sprang up on the screen.

Cheryl covered her mouth and began the shake her expression one of deep sorrow combined with joy and relief, the effect was a nearly frightening, twisted contortion of her features. Gerald pulled her close and smiled. On the screen, a boy sat comfortably on a hospital bed. Jimmy spooned red Jell-o into his mouth the treat seemed to assuage him for the time being.

“Fortunately, he suffered very little head trauma in the accident and we were able to successfully transfer his consciousness into this virtual environment,” Grace said. She tried to hide the excitement she felt as she explained the procedure, the task proved difficult. It was to be expected, however. This, as it seemed thus far, was her first fully-successful transfer. Dr. O’Donnell’s thinly-veiled exuberance was fleeting though. “As I said, this was, relatively speaking, the easy part. Our next step is to upload his brain patterns from the virtual environment into the donor.”

“Has one been found,” Cheryl sounded tired, her voice soft and weak; a whisper carried on the wind.

“We believe so. A suitable candidate is en route.”

“How did he die,” Gerald ask.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Williams. I am not at liberty to divulge that information. Suffice to say the manner of his death will not interfere with your son’s life should the transfer succeed.”

“Will…” Cheryl hesitated. Grace sensed the mother was unsure if she wanted the answer to the question that lay at the tip of her tongue.

A moment passed and Grace thought Cheryl would let the subject alone, but the question was too obvious for any mother to ignore.

“Do the other boy’s parents know what will happen to their son?”

It was Grace’s turn to hesitate. “No,” she said finally. After a short pause the doctor decided an explanation was necessary. “Donation cards don’t yet cover this procedure, specifically. The boy’s body was given over for scientific research, which continues to be our purview.” Grace shifted on her white hush puppies, she knew the ethical line on which she danced.

After a moment or two of awkward silence, Grace excused herself to begin preparing for the next phase of the transfer. As the door slid open she stopped and turned to face the couple. “Forgive me if this seems inappropriate,” her voice strong, confident. “I just wanted to thank you for giving us the opportunity to attempt this. If it works…it will be the biggest medical breakthrough in human history.”

Gerald smiled thinly. “I’d have stormed heaven itself to bring back my son,” his face was so severe that Grace believed for a second, for this man, the statement was more than metaphor.

She nodded before stepping away from the door and allowing it to slide closed behind her. In the room Cheryl and Gerald held each other and cried.

Down the hall, up an elevator and down another hall, Grace came to light-green door. A gold door plate read Dr. Eugene Aaronofsky, Head of Neuroscience. Grace knocked.

“Yes, yes. What is it?”

As grace entered the room an ageing, heavy-set man with short-cropped, silver hair struggled out of his chair. Absently twirling a pencil in his right hand he beckoned Grace into the room with a wave of his left.

“Ah, Grace. Come in my dear. Very exciting, very exciting indeed.”

“Eugene! This is remarkable, it worked! You were right. Doubling the transfer rate was the key. But we nearly burned out every circuit in the neural interface,” Dr. O’Donnell’s cool professionalism evaporated.

Doctor Aaronofsky’s wholehearted laugh always made Grace smile..

“Calm down, dear. You’re babbling like an excited school girl.”

“I know. I know,” she said, a bit out of breath from her spirited outburst. “But, think of what this will mean for medical science.”

Eugene tugged at his ear thoughtfully. “I am afraid I still have my doubts, Grace. We are trifling where man does not belong. We are not just challenging death, but our sense of selves. Not to mention, what happens if we do receive full approval? We can’t revive everyone. Who will we transfer the consciousnesses into? And, do you really think donors will be as co-operative when they find out how their loved one’s body is being used?”

“You can be a real downer, Eugene, you know that?”

“My apologies, Grace. I know this is an exciting moment for you. But, don’t forget, we are scientists. We must look at an experiment from all sides. If we lose our ability to think critically, mistakes will happen.”

Grace nodded. “I should begin prepping for the next phase,” she said.

Eugene nodded. “Grace,” he called as she was about to leave.”

When she poked her head back in the room he smiled at her. “Switch from the gel cooling packs to nitroglycerine injectors, that should solve your heat issues.”

Her smile beamed back at him. “thanks, boss.” Her head ducked out and then quickly back in. “Oh, to answer your question,” she said mischievously, a tinkle in her blue eyes. “When everyone wants to come back, and we run out of donors, we’ll just have to switch to cloning.” She ducked out and closed the door, narrowly evading a pencil that struck where her head was moments before.

A few hours later the body of Philip Languelle was spread out on an operating table, the top of his skull removed to expose the grey brain matter beneath. Wires, pulsing with light, burrowed into the boy’s brain and extend out to connections in the wall where they snaked through conduits leading to a large room filled with computer equipment; the artificial synapses where Jimmy Williams’ mind was stored. A machine pumped air into Philip’s body causing his chest to rise and fall with robotic timing while another machine forced his heart to pump with equally-perfect rhythm.

Dr. O’Donnell chewed her bottom lip. Similar to blowing her hair, it was a habit she was trying to break. At 37-years-old she had maintained her almost childlike appearance. That innocent beauty, a nose speckled with freckles and some residual school-girl habits she had difficulty breaking made working in her male-dominated department frustrating.

Grace looked to a young nurse manning the console next to her. The young-woman was obviously nervous. She fidgeted and tugged at her pony tale hard enough to cause a few brown hairs to float to the floor beside her.

“Terri, begin the buffering sequence,” Grace told the nurse, who responded by entering a series of commands into her console.

“Alright, I am going to begin neural stimulation of the receiver mind. Once we jump-start to sixty-five percent brain activity begin uploading the new host engrams.”

“Yes, doctor.”

Dr. O’Donnell flicked a switch and a deep humming that seemed to vibrate her bones reverberated through the room. The sound escalated until she pressed a red button that jolted Philip’s body causing the sound to recycle and Grace to repeat the process.

The procedure was slow and nerve-wracking. Each jolt had to be precise, if not, instead of stimulating the brain she would essentially cook it. Without blinking Grace was transfixed on her readouts, suppressing a sigh of relief each time the neural output on her monitor rose after each jolt.

“Nearing sixty-five percent. Prepare to initialize host transfer,” Grace told the nurse, without taking her eyes off her console.

“Now! Begin the transfer.”

The fibre-optic cables connected to the boy’s brain flared with white light. Through the walls the hum of computers working grew louder and louder until the vibrations were causing Grace’s teeth to ache. Her attention focused on a heat indicator. Grace’s heart fluttered and skipped every time it rose a degree. But, so far, the new cooling system was working. “Sixty-five degrees and holding,” she whispered to herself.

“Doctor,” the nurses voice was urgent.

“What is it, Terri?”

“We are experiencing degradation in the transfer rate.” I have just lost three gps and signal loss is rising.”

“Jesus Christ, boost the bandwidth. Too much build up in the buffer and we will start losing information.”

“I’m trying, Grace. It’s not working. We have lost eight gps, two more and I am not going to be able to catch up.”

“What the hell is going on,” Grace was nearly screaming. Taking a deep breath she tried to calm down, think rationally. Then, she had an idea. “Terri turn on the virtual environment monitor.” The nurse looked at her with a confused look and was about to ask why, “NOW!!,” Grace yelled sending the nurse scrambling over the controls.

A picture emerged on a nearby screen. Virtual Jimmy Williams was in a faded representation of the hospital room he was eating Jell-o in earlier. Instead of happily enjoying a snack, the boy was on the floor writhing in pain, his hands pressed to his temples.

“That’s impossible. He shouldn’t be able to feel the transfer.” Grace pulled both sides of her shoulder length hair, tried to think. She looked up her eyes darting from the monitor to Terri. “Quickly, turn off the virtual environment,” Grace said, he heart pounding in her chest.

Terri looked at her monitors, if her signal loss rose by another 500 mps the procedure would fail. Making a few quick program adjustments the screen where Jimmy was rolling on the floor in agony went dark. Terri gripped her console so hard her hands ached, her knuckles white.

The falling signal rate slowed and then stopped. “Come on,” Terri pleaded with the computer. “Come on,” this time a little louder. “Come on, you fucking machine,” this time she was almost shrieking. The signal rate began to rise, first slowly and then faster. “Transfer increasing,” Terri said, she was now gripping the console to help her stay standing, her heart was thunder against her chest.

“Boost bandwidth to maximum, and any more you can find me Terri.”

The drone of the computer was deafening and sweat covered Grace’s forehead as the temperature gauge on her console began to rise.

“70 degrees, 72, 76,” she whispered the numbers as they appeared trying to will them to stop. If the temperature out put hit 104 degrees the system would melt, literally.

“80 degrees, 84, 87….Terri, where are we at?”

“Ninety percent, doctor.”

“Please, please, please,” Grace began to chant. “94, 96, 99, 102…”

“Transfer complete, doctor.”

“Shut it down!” Grace’s breathing was laboured; her whole body felt tired; sweat drenched her clothes. Her eye’s locked on the temperature gauge,”104 degrees,” she whispered.

Cheryl and Gerard Williams sat in a small waiting room down the hall from the operating room. For two hours they were silent, waiting, hoping, praying. Both were so lost in thought they didn’t hear Grace’s soft footfalls down the hallway nor did they react right away when she stood in front of them.

“Mr. And Mrs. Williams,” she said softly. They looked up. For a moment she just looked at them, not knowing what to say.

“Mommy, daddy,” a small voice yelled from down the hall. Grace closed her eyes, she couldn’t have said it better than that she thought.

Cheryl and Gerard jumped to their feet. They stared down the hall at the little boy. His brown hair, green eyes and build were so much like Jimmy’s. His nervous fidget as he shifted from one foot to the other, identical, but, all the similarities didn’t make this child any less a stranger.

For a moment the boy who was now Jimmy looked at his parents with confusion and then he started running towards them. He grabbed his father by the leg and squeezed. Cheryl and Gerald looked down at the little boy. A moment later they were both on their knees crying and holding the boy who was now their son.

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