Well here it is, the conclusion to transference. It’s been an interesting first project. Posting the first draft in segments has been frightening and exhilarating at the same time. On the bright side, doing it this way has allowed me the freedom just to get my thoughts to print without getting too bogged down with the minutia. On the down side, I am sure the writing is not as polished as it could be and there might be a few plot holes. Most notably, the name of the boy changed midway through the story (oops) I fixed that. Anyway, now that it complete let me know what you think. I am going to start my next project in a few days – as soon as I decide what I want to write about. Any constructive criticism or advice is welcome.
Gerard and Cheryl clung to each other in the observation room. They watched through a window as Dr. O’Connell and her assistant hurriedly hooked the boy up to a series of machines. Gerard pressed a small green button next to the window frame and a set of speakers on the roof popped on and Dr. O’Connell’s concern-filled voice filled the room.
“I need those readings now, Terri,” Grace said to her assistant. Terri simply nodded as she finished attaching a series of probes to the boy’s head. At a nearby console she activated the sensors and a monitor flared to life. Terri’s brow crinkled as she analyzed what she was seeing. The pattern on the monitor reminded her of the aurora borealis on a particularly active evening. Reds, blues, greens and pinks streamed across the screen moving like a rushing, turbulent river.
“Doctor,” Terri began.
“What are you seeing, Terri?”
“I don’t know. The pattern is erratic. Brain activity is more than double normal and…” Terri stopped and then muttered to herself as she fiddled with the diagnostic machine’s controls.
“Terri! For Christ’s sakes, talk to me.”
“I’m sorry, Grace. This just doesn’t make any sense. I am reading two separate brain patterns. First one shows up, then the other and then it’s like the they intertwine. It’s almost like a radio being stuck between two stations.”
“Can you isolate Jimmy’s pattern,” Grace asked.
“I have been trying. But it’s too chaotic.”
“What about the second pattern? Is it Philip Languelle’s?” It was the first time Grace sounded afraid.
“I don’t know. We didn’t do a scan for him. He was dead when he came to us; there wasn’t a pattern to analyze.”
Grace looked down at the boy, wires ran to probes attached to various points on his head. Although heavily anesthetized the corners of the boy’s lip twitched and his eyes fluttered violently beneath his eyelids.
“Dead? What does that even mean anymore,” Grace whispered to herself. Terri’s analysis confirmed the fear nagging at her since Cheryl called her. Philip Languelle, the boy whose body they implanted Jimmy’s mind in was still in there. She gripped the side of the boy’s bed to steady herself, the implications were shattering.
“Upload the pattern to the VR unit,” Grace said, her eyes locked on the tortured face of Philip Languelle.
“We don’t have life-support units hooked up, yet. The upload will shutdown automatic brain function, he will die.”
Grace looked up at Cheryl and Gerard who were very close to the observation window. Both clung to each other, sobbing and shivering.
“He’s already dead. They both are,” said Grace quietly as she left the room.
Terri ignored the muffled cries of protest from behind the observation glass.
“Upload initiated,” she said quietly and then she too began to cry.
Grace took a deep breath and then entered the observation room. The Williams stared at her in shock and anger.
“Cheryl. Gerard….I know saying I am sorry will sound empty, but I am. I had no choice, the procedure failed, Jimmy’s imprint was rejected.”
“Did we murder another boy so my son could die twice,” Cheryl said through chattering teeth.
Grace looked at the floor. She didn’t know what to say. Her theories had been wrong and now she was trying to come to terms with the ramifications.
“I don’t know, Grace. I do know Philip, the boy we used for the procedure, was dead. He had zero brain function. I can’t explain what is happening.”
A violent silence filled the room. The hairs on Grace’s neck tingled and she felt sick to her stomach.
“The VR upload should be complete. Would you like to speak to Jimmy before we purge the system?”
“Is there nothing you can do?” Gerard stared through the glass as he spoke.
“I am sorry. With what we know now we can’t risk another transfer. We will have to shelve the entire project until we can learn more about what went wrong,” Grace looked at the boy as she spoke.
Cheryl and Gerard looked at each other. Grace couldn’t remember seeing such deep sorrow in all her life. Finally both parents nodded to each other.
Grace turned on a nearby monitor and the image of a hospital room blinked on. Grace gasped at what she saw.
Two beds occupied the virtual room and two boys lay asleep. Jimmy Williams’ and Philip Languelle’s expressions weren’t peaceful, both seemed locked in a nightmare. They twitched, whimpered and sweat beaded on their foreheads.
“What’s happening?” Cheryl asked, sobbing.
“The VR unit interprets brain waves to create the environment. I would never have dreamed both minds would be intact enough to generate two distinct avatars,” Grace’s concern was shifting to scientific awe.
“They’re terrified,” Gerard said, moving towards the monitor.
“Before the upload, the diagnostic showed the boys’ patterns were intertwined. To the computer it must seem like two children having a nightmare.”
“Will they hear us?” Cheryl asked.
“I don’t know,” said Grace. She unhooked two pairs of headsets from the side of the monitor and handed them to Grace and Cheryl. “It’s worth a try.”
Cheryl and Gerard watched the screen for a few moments before either found the composure to speak. It was Cheryl who broke the silence. Mustering her nerve she fought to keep the pain out of her voice.
“Jimmy? Sweetie? Mommy’s here, can you hear me?”
For a moment there was no change. Then both boys began to speak, their words synchronous.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re in the hospital, son,” Gerard answered.
Both boys shook their heads. They seemed confused. Neither opened their eyes or responded with any recognition.
“Why?” was all they both said.
Cheryl took off the headset.
“He doesn’t know us,” she said, tears streaming down her face.
“The patterns are too intertwined for the computer to process properly,” Grace said. She stopped herself from apologizing again.
Gerard put his hand on the monitor, his thumb caressing the image of his son’s face. “Jimmy. Philip. If either of you can hear me everything is going to be better soon.” Gerard put a hand to his mouth to stifle a sob. He looked at Grace. “Turn it off, give them peace from our selfishness,” he said.
Cheryl bowed her head and her sobs filled the room, but she did not protest.
Grace nodded and left the room. A few moments later she was on the other side of the window. She stopped to stroke Jimmy’s head before stepping behind a computer console.
“Goodbye, son,” Gerard whispered into the headset. Just before the screen flickered and went black he thought he saw both children smile, but he was never certain if he only imagined it.
Less than a week later Grace was packing up the last of her office. As she expected the hospital immediately terminated her research and she was “released” as part of a “hospital research-refocusing plan.” It was a nice way for management to tell her they couldn’t afford the liability of keeping her.
As she was putting the last of her personal belongings in a box; Dr. Eugene Aaronofsky knocked and poked his head through the gap in her door.
Grace smiled when she saw him come in. “Eugene, it’s nice to see you.”
Eugene returned the smile, if not weakly. “Grace, I am sorry. You know it wasn’t my decision.”
She waved him off. “No worries. I need a break anyway. She picked up the box and began walking toward the door. “You know. I really thought what I was doing was going to give people a second chance at life.”
“Maybe, in time, it would have. You just rushed it,” Eugene’s tone was consoling not judgemental. “We still don’t fully understand the brain, Grace.”
She looked over her shoulder at him. “I wonder. Maybe it’s life we don’t understand.”
He looked at her perplexed.