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Authors: B. Wulf

Synthetics

BOOK: Synthetics
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Synthetics

By B. Wulf

 

Published by B. Wulf

Copyright 2015 B. Wulf

 

Kindle Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or distributed without the author’s consent.

 

For Hannah

 

www.boywulf.com

www.facebook.com/theboywulf

www.twitter.com/boywulf

 

 

Contact the Author at:
[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1- Life

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

“I can't breathe but... Hell, I'm still alive... It's like suffocating... It doesn't stop... I... I can't...

“Calm down Fredrick. I want you to move your fingers for me.”

Doctor Neumann stirred his lemon tea, careful not to spill any on his pristine white lab coat. After taking a sip he leant down and spoke into the microphone again.

“Fredrick? Are you listening Fredrick? I need you to...”

A low moan drifted from the speakers.

“Its too loud... Turn it off... Please...”

Doctor Neumann turned to a similarly clad man at his side.

“Cole, get in there and tell them to limit the frequency range. God only knows what he's hearing right now.”

Cole nodded and left the room. Doctor Neumann took the spoon from his tea and placed it on the desk at his side. He checked the EEG display on the wall and seemingly satisfied, spoke into the microphone.

“Now, Fredrick, is that better?”

Frederick screamed in reply causing Doctor Neumann to smile. Frederick had always been a fighter.

“Would you please move your fingers?”

Multiple screens flashed on as a 3D image of a brain and spinal column appeared. A small red haze was forming in the left cerebellum. Doctor Neumann did not look at the 3D composition. Instead he read the raw data that was displayed below.

“And now your right fingers, if you please.”

Another haze appeared in the left hemisphere.

“How do you feel now Fredrick?”

The intercom stayed silent until he heard a crash. Doctor Neumann put down his mug, sighed and started taking notes. He wrote four words.

Inner ear not functioning

Cole entered the room.

“He tried to get up and just fell over.”

“I know,” said Doctor Neumann, picking up his tea again, “Someone has made an oversight.”

Cole blinked and rubbed his eyes.

“We're gonna turn on the lights soon,” he added.

“I will leave you to it,” said Doctor Neumann standing up, “I'm sure you can handle him. Just remember to limit the frequencies...”

“To visible light,” finished Cole, “I know.”

Doctor Neumann smiled. Just before leaving he halted.

“Take the day off tomorrow Cole. You look tired.”

As the door closed behind the Doctor, Cole swore under his breath and kicked the desk. The teaspoon clattered to the floor, oddly out of place amidst the monitoring equipment. Cole laughed as he too left the room, picturing Neil Armstrong sipping lemon grass tea on the moon.

 

Chapter One

 

When you’re four years old, the line between fiction and reality is not yet drawn. I remember standing on the garage roof, peering over the edge, ready to jump. It was a good three-meter drop to the gravel below.

But I had an umbrella.

I’d watched Mary Poppins the night before for the first time. That lady was legit and the science seemed tight, so I hatched a plan to fly. I was pretty ruthless for a four year old. I didn’t just prance around on the ground with an umbrella, pretending to fly like most kids would; I went all the way.

I wasn’t afraid as I opened my umbrella and stepped off the roof. Fear would involve some degree of foresight. I hadn’t allowed for the possibility of failure in my little scheme. For the first second I floated like a leaf caught in a gentle breeze. That is, until the umbrella caved in under my weight and inverted. I was a bit concerned by this equipment malfunction, but thankfully I did not have time to comprehend my predicament as I hit the ground a second later. I remember the crunch of my left ankle as it shattered, the searing heat that spread up my leg, and the sudden urge for my teddy bear named Twitch. I passed out another second later. I was pretty ruthless for a four year old.

To coin a bit of scientific lingo my ankle was irreparably munted. So now I got a limp.

My name is Fletcher James Harris, but my friends at high school used to call me Staggers. By friends, I mean school acquaintances, and by school acquaintances, I mean people who used to steal my peanut butter sandwiches at morning-teatime. School was an interesting experience. I had to use a cane to get around because the bones had set at an awkward angle. They would pinch a nerve if I put too much weight on my ankle.

The cane was fine in primary school; my classmates got over it after a while and it doubled as a submachine-gun in the playground. It’s when I got to high school that my peers decided to inform me that my limp severely diminished my worth as a human being.

Apparently, my cane made me look like a penguin. I resented this. Not because I had a waddle like a penguin, but because my grandfather had carved my cane from a kauri branch he found on the back of the family farm.  The grey man couldn’t even see well enough to play bingo, but he had spent hours hacking away at a piece of wood for his grandson. It looked a bit sketchy in some places, but that’s to be expected with a custom build.

Most of my high school career was spent willing the laws of physics to collapse so that the ground might swallow me up, or that I might be transported to one of the unexpressed dimensions. Yes, I read up on string theory in my spare time, just like any other red blooded teenage boy. In fact I did a lot of reading. It was a case of, I reject your reality and substitute my own. High school, to me, was a twisted invention crafted to mass-produce mindless automatons which would go on to work in the fast food industry. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, so I left high school early and got accepted into university at the age of fifteen. Now I am twenty years old and I have my Masters in Neuroscience.

I found friends at university. It was a novel experience.

After I got my masters I applied for a yearlong internship at the American research initiative for Cognitive and Neural Advancement, commonly referred to as CANA. Everyone loves a good acronym don’t they?

Instead of handing in your résumé along with a couple of paragraphs detailing why you are the best thing since spreadable chocolate and oh so deserving of the position, they sat us down in a room for five hours to do a test. It was a tad repetitive but apparently I aced it, probably because it was multi choice. Two months later I was offered the prestigious internship. Note well the prestigious part. They wrote it about twenty times in the congratulatory email. Apparently, I was being given a chance to ‘make a difference’. Yay.

To be honest I was pretty chuffed. I'd won awards before, chess champion, top of the class, but never an award that I was actually proud of. They were all the type of awards you can't show off to girls. I’m not a nerd by the way. It's just that my leg prevents me from doing your typical sports. I did do table tennis for a year. That's cool in China. And chess of course... Chess is a sport, a very technical one at that. I'm pretty much a jock- a jock sporting a waddle and a very fashionable kauri wood cane.

 

***

 

“Gotta keep your energy levels up Fletch. Keep that brain in prime condition. It’s your bread winner.”

My dad had spent the past ten minutes searching the airport for a vending machine that sold nuts and raisins.

“Cost bloody five dollars,” he told me before handing them over.

My mind was elsewhere as he gave me a terse handshake and patted me on the back.

“Your doing good Staggers,” he said standing back.

We exchanged an awkward look before he swore softly and gave me a full on hug. I guess it was a man hug. I’d never seen my dad cry, and I suspected that the little speck of moisture pooling in his right eye, was the closest I’d ever see him get to tears.

My mother had reacted differently to my impending departure. She had been a blubbering mess for the past hour but had now regained her composure (mostly) and was lecturing me on the dangers of America, like crocodiles and obesity. My mum acted like obesity was a disease I would catch just by stepping onto American soil.  After dad released me, mum gathered me up. Amidst sobs and sniffs she gave me a last minute drill on international travel.

“Don’t leave your bags lying around, do your washing every Saturday, call us every night and Fletch,” she took my head in her hands, “If you find a nice girl you have to send us a picture.”

“Mum, I’m twenty. I know when to do my washing and I think I’ll be too busy to be chasing after girls.”

“Good luck chasing any girls with that limp you got there, son,” said dad.

Not in a mean way. My dad didn’t understand subtlety.

“Oh leave him alone Peter.” Mum started checking that the zips on my bags were done up. “It makes him look like that doctor on TV.”

Gripping my cane, I started to drag my bags away.

“I have to go and check in. I’ll see you next Christmas.”

I left my parents behind, both looking particularly despondent.

“We’re proud of you Fletcher,” my mum called after me, “And we love you.” Her voice had risen to a shout. “Remember to call.”

“I love you guys too. I will be fine.”

Fine is an interesting word, subject to many different connotations and interpretations. I would be fine, just not in every sense of the word.

 

***

 

I wish my girlfriend were there to see me off at the airport. I also wish I had a girlfriend. The flight was boring. It was also monotonous, dull, insipid and cramped. That is, until I transferred flights at Los Angeles and was switched from economy to first class, courtesy of CANA. Then I was in heaven. Which is kind of sad. I guess my definition of heaven is a little compartment with leg space and a retractable table.

The city was hidden in a morning mist when we landed, so when I video-called my parents later that night my description of Washington was almost entirely based on photos that I found on the Internet.

 

***

 

I met Doctor Neumann after catching a corporate cab from the airport to CANA’s Washington Headquarters, which were situated close to Georgetown University. He straight out struck me as a good dude. Immediately after walking through the massive entrance, he rushed down a spiralling staircase, across the wide expanse that separated me from the reception desk and started slapping me on the back.

“Fletcher my boy, it is so good to see you!”

Just picture a miniature Colonel Sanders in your head and you've got Doctor Neumann. He looked nothing like the front man of a scientific empire. Sporting thick glasses, brown shoes and knee-high socks, he wasn't going to win any fashion awards, but he did have his own style. I especially liked his vomit coloured cardigan and immaculate comb over.

“It's good to be here Doctor...”

“Please, call me Sasha.  Now, how was your flight?”

Before I could reply he had turned me around and was marching me out the building.

“Coffee boy, we must cure that jet lag of yours. The others are waiting.”

I let him lead me back out onto the street in search of coffee. Risking a glance back, I saw my bags being taken into the building by the receptionist. Must be a live in arrangement.

The others are waiting?

 

***

 

Doctor Neumann, or Sasha as I was to call him, led me down the street until stopping at the entrance to a quaint little coffee stall. It didn't have an indoor dining area but boasted a picturesque terrace, which was raised above the footpath. Curt business people sat at the three-legged tables, sipping lattes, thumping on laptops, or making calls on smart-phones. I felt a bit out of my league. Sasha led me to a table where two people, who looked about my age, were waiting.

“Kate, Stuart, this is Fletcher James Harris. He arrived this morning and will be joining you in the internship program.”

“Hi,” I said, waving half-heartedly at them, unsure whether a handshake was appropriate.

I hadn’t realized that there would be other interns. They greeted me with equally awkward hellos.

“What would you like Fletcher?”

“I'll just have what you get,” I said, trying hard to make my pronunciation lucid and measured. I also straightened my collar. Looks appeared to be everything in Washington.

“No, no, Fletcher,” he said, blue eyes peering out at me from beneath white bushy eyebrows, “Choose anything. It's my treat.”

He looked too genial to refuse. Reminded me of my Grandpa. When I realized he only came up to my shoulder, I almost laughed out loud. This guy was golden.

In the end I got a mochachino with a caramel shot. Sasha got an iced lemon tea.

Before sitting down he sprung to attention and said, “Oh bother. I’ve forgotten my notes. I’ll just pop back and get them.” He winked at me. “I must be getting old.”

With that, he sprung off the promenade and started jogging back towards CANA. He was surprisingly sprightly for an old feller. I wondered what age he was.

When I realized that I was alone with the other two interns my throat became dry with apprehension. I was essentially socially retarded. Interactions of a gregarious nature frightened me more than a hillbilly with a chainsaw. Not that I had ever met a hillbilly with a chainsaw. This was America though, so you never know.

After a few minutes of awkward silence I stopped pretending to inspect the architecture, and I proceeded to inspect my fellow interns. Stuart looked Asian, possibly Japanese. He had cropped jet-black hair and a stern expression, which reminded me of multiple dictators I had seen on TV. I didn’t fancy my chances of opening conversation with him, so I moved my attention on to her. She was a girl hence the use of feminine pronouns. Did I mention that she was a girl? I wasn’t good around girls. My vocabulary generally shrunk to about thirteen monosyllabic words when I was in their company.

She was sipping on a Latte while reading some fashion magazine, her face hidden behind auburn hair, which cascaded like a chocolate waterfall down her shoulders. I like chocolate…

I got quite a shock when she looked up at me and asked, quite romantically, “What are you staring at?”

She inclined her head to the side, letting a strand of dark brown hair drift across her eyes. I shrank bank from her curious gaze. I didn't expect her to be pretty. I fumbled about inside my head for a reply, preferably something funny and endearing.

“Fletcher,” I said confidently.

“Pardon?”

“I'm Fletcher, I mean.”

“Yeah, I heard,” she replied.

Then she smiled. It was quite possibly a pity smile.

“My friends call me Staggers,” I blurted out.

Why did I have to divulge that particularly sensitive piece of information? I had been given the opportunity to start again and leave my old labels back in New Zealand, but no. For someone who was apparently exceptionally smart, I was incredibly dumb.

She smiled again though, so it was worth it.

“I think I will call you Fletcher,” she said.

I was trying to keep my walking stick out of sight.

“And I think I will call you Staggers,” said a thick American voice.

I looked around, searching for the source, until my universe was shattered by the realization that it was Stuart’s. My look of confusion must have being blatantly obvious because he let out a stiff laugh.

“Yeah just because I look Asian I have to sound like Ling Ming the noodle shop owner. Sheesh, I’m half Hawaiian anyway.”

I sat there, awkwardly accepting his admonition. I was too overwhelmed to reply.

Finally his face melted into a big smile and he slapped me on the arm, “I’m just playing with you Staggers. You’re alright.”

I laughed nervously, still unsure whether I was a racist pig, but intensely relieved to discover that Stuart appeared friendly.

BOOK: Synthetics
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