Echoes of Tomorrow's Past - Part 12 (An Original Novella)

in #steemit2 years ago

”Doctor! Doctor! He’s coming around…”

Those words echoed around his head like a pinball. Heavy lids opened to a blurry haze of unfocused objects and confusing colors. ”Where… Am I?” He mouthed as if in a distant stupor. Squinting out of the corner of his eye, a black smudge in the distance took form. It was the entrance to a doorway. Two shadows rushed through, one of them lurching around to his other side. A warm hand rested upon his forehead. The soft, familiar feel provided immediate comfort to the growing ache in his head.

”Don’t worry, darling. It’s all alright now. Just take your time.” The voice was that of his Dolores. He pushed the back of his head up from the cushion, straining to accentuate her facial features. Brown strands of hair hung in brown bangs either side, the pale complexion giving way to a sharpening face. He honed in on her eyes. They were a deep green. They were Debbie’s, his mother. ”God, I love you.” She whispered. A sliver of green slime fell from the corner of her mouth into his.

”No!” He yelled, flailing arms almost pushing her to the floor. ”Get away from me!”

Another figure rushed in to grip the sides of his shoulders. This time with a renewed muscular force. ”Calm down, James. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and relax.” James fought against the hands pinning him down but succumbed to the calming voice and strong pressure. Replenishing consciousness flowed back into his mind. He remembered. The horrifying visions at their home. The twisted, cackling creature that mocked him, claiming to be his mother. The paramedics who arrived at the scene and administered him with a sedative. All the while, the dark figure leering over them, watching and grinning. A vision sent straight from the depths of hell, he thought.

”I’m OK.” James called out. His heavy panting receded to quiet, controlled bursts of breath. He repeated to himself that what he was seeing was simply a figment of his imagination. Over and over again, he fed the same line to himself. Dr. Grey looked over at Dolores who was being consoled by the assistant nurse.

James opened his eyes, clawing at the bed-sheets in a fevered anxiety as to what other horrors would appear before him. He found the Doctor staring back at him, studying his every move. ”You OK now, James?"

”Yes… Yes, Dr. Grey. I see you now.” He replied, gulping down a mouthful of air.

”Good.” Said Dr. Grey. ”As you may recall, we had to put you out for a while so you may feel a little groggy in the meantime. The after-effects shouldn’t last too long though.” James acknowledged this with a tipping of his head. ”The nurse will help you get dressed and on your feet again. There are some urgent matters we need to discuss.”

Dr. Grey had just finished bringing him up to speed regarding his take on the seriousness of the situation at hand. James took the news as well as anybody could have expected. The walls of the back office where they all sat seemed to be closing in all around him. James held a clenched fist pressed up against his lips, a wave of nausea passing over him. ”I can’t believe this is happening to me.” He whimpered. ”All this time, she thought I was being gifted with some unique and powerful ability when in actual fact I was being offered up nothing but a death sentence. I'm going to end up like Herbert. Maybe even worse.”

”Not necessarily, James.” Dr. Grey comforted. ”I think we may have a chance to halt your condition in it’s tracks. Keep in mind that "human blockchain" technology has advanced greatly over the last several years. What was looked upon as impossible then is considered feasible now.”

James looked over at Dolores next to him. She sat, arms folded, hunched over in the seat. ”Listen to the Doctor, James. He’s here to help us and knows what he’s talking about.” The air about her was that of sympathy and concern. He turned back to Dr. Grey.

”Tell me you’ve figured out a way to take these things out of my head. Those are the new advances you’re speaking of, right?”

The Doctor saw the pleading in his eyes, to which he began rubbing at his temples with one hand. ”I’m sorry, James. That’s just not possible. And I’ll be totally frank with you. Most probably never will be. The surgeons fused the main chip deep within your medial temporal lobe, where the limbic system is now…”

”Then what next, doctor?” James interrupted, running out of both patience and answers. ”Please tell me what you can do to help me.”

”I’ve already filled your wife in on the details of my solution.” He responded. Dolores was heard voicing her acknowledgement in the background. ”I propose this. If we cannot physically remove the microchips then maybe we can modify the actual file structure within. The tools we have at our disposal now allow us to not only read stored data, but also alter the blockchain itself. To some extent.”

A look of confusion surfaced upon hearing the Doctor’s words. ”I see. Can you elaborate on that any further?”

”I do apologise.” Dr. Grey remarked. ”I want to give you the information in bite-sized chunks so you can understand and digest everything I’m saying to you.”

James shook his head. ”You don’t need to say anything twice. I’m all ears. If I’ve got a question, I’ll ask. Please, just lay everything down on me.”

”OK, that’s fine.” He responded. ”Now, I take it you know what a "hardfork" is?”

”Yes, of course. From a few decades back, when digital currencies were all the rage and big-time investors were able to retrieve all the cash they poured into bad ventures because of it. Until the government put a stop to such practices, that is. Why do you ask?” Before he had completed his last sentence, James froze on the spot. Piecing together where this conversation might be headed.

”That’s good.” Dr. Grey continued in his usual mild-mannered style. ”Well, then you’re fully aware that these activities arose with a view to right a “perceived” wrong that had taken place at some point in the past. Which brings us to you, Mr. Donnell. I believe if we can hardfork your blockchain data to a time before any corruption occurred, we have a good chance of rectifying the problem.”

James held a hand in the air toward the Doctor. ”Hold on. I need a second to process this. So, you think that by resetting my timeline, these hallucinations could be eradicated and I’d be cured?”

”That’s the gist of it, yes.” Dr. Grey answered back. ”Of course, there's no way of telling exactly how your subconscious would react to this course of treatment until we complete my proposed solution, but the theory behind it stands strong. In essence, the only drawback to any procedure like this would be that all the memories you’d accumulated up until this point would be erased. However, in your case, that would be our very goal. So it seems like the perfect time to attempt something like this.”

”Attempt?” James piped up. ”You mean this has never been tried before?”

”The technology at the time never allowed it, Mr. Donnell. But think of it as similar to cutting out an invasive cancer. Right now, your subconscious is fighting to get what it wants. It’s prime aim being to make your mother live again. It doesn’t understand or care about the concept of death or impossibility. It's as I drew the comparison with my patients struggling with various addictions. It just “wants”, full stop. And in our unfortunate circumstance, we’ve provided it with the ultimate escape mechanism. Your "personalized" blockchain.”

James let out a half-hearted snigger. ”You make it sound like this ominous threat coming to get me. Like it’s some sort of separate entity from me.”

”In some ways, it is.” Replied the Doctor. ”We humans have no direct control over our subconscious. You could say it has a will of it’s own. Hence the predicament you’re in.”

”You mentioned before about a corruption on my timeline. What did you mean by that?” Asked James.

”I was referring to your subconscious imprinting all kinds of twisted visions onto your digital track. Memories that should not exist in the first place. And the last few days you’ve endured has now caused your timeline to be littered with them. So we need to construct an impenetrable barricade to stop it from accessing your blockchain file any further. Just before Herbert’s demise, he fought hard to scour the images from his mind's eye. The harder he fought against it, the worse the visions became. Keep in mind that the greater levels of fear you experience, the more horrifying your hallucinations will be. Your subconscious is able to conjure up anything it wants. Your deepest, darkest horrors. And, with the medium of the blockchain, set those thoughts free, out into the open physical plane. Remember, the more you fight, the worse it’ll get.”

James glanced at Dolores who had, up until now, only listened in to them talking. He reached over to touch her hand. ”What do you think I should do?”

”There doesn’t seem to be a choice, honey.” She answered. ”I’ll support you every step of the way. You know that. But from my understanding, it’ll only get from bad to worse. I just want everything back to how it was with us.”

They exchanged a look of empathy and love for each other before James turned his attention back to the Doctor once more. ”One last thing. The dangers. What are the possible complications that can arise?”

Dr. Grey creased his lips before proceeding. ”I’m not going to lie. We just don’t know at this moment. But… And this is as remote a possibility as you can get. But there “is” a chance that your entire digital timeline could be wiped out, along with your actual memories.”

”What?” James shouted, leaping out of the chair. ”How much of my memory?”

Dr. Grey watched James, hands now clasped under his chin, but otherwise remaining motionless and composed. ”Due to the fusion of your physical brain tissue and the chip, it would be everything. I’m just telling you how it is. You’d be left as a vegetable.”

James glared at Dolores. ”Did you know about this too? About these risks?”

”Yes.” she implored, also rising from her chair. ”Dr. Grey told me beforehand. But you must see. We don’t have any other options left. Without treatment, you are going to die!”

He thought for a few seconds as they looked on. The scales of life hung in front of him, balancing a fine line between life or death. But the moment consumed him and compulsion took over.

”No way.” he yelled at the Doctor. ”You said yourself that fear is what controls this thing inside my head. Then I’ll do just that and control it. I’m not giving up my freedom to be laid up in some hospital ward, brain-dead for the rest of my days. I’ll fight this and I’ll win.”

”Mr. Donnell, please.” Dr. Grey said, leaning forward in his leather recliner. ”I completely comprehend how scared you must be. But Herbert went into a downward spiral very fast. I’m offering you a way out that carries with it the hope of giving you your old life back. The chances of any potential side effects to the procedure are very slim. Please, look at the facts. Look at what happened to Herbert. Don’t let the same thing happen to you, Mr. Donnell.”

James had already stridden towards the back office door and grabbed his jacket off the attached metal hook. ”To hell with Herbert. I’m doing this my way. Come on, Dolores. Let’s get out of here.”

(To Be Continued)


Hope you enjoyed this story, please look out for more on the way... (author: @ezzy)


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