A Slice of Reality

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It's a highly experimental treatment, and I consent with a blink.

For seven years I've slaved over a nanotherapy to reverse amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, while the disease annihilated my motor functions. We're down to the wire, ALS and I. Yesterday I finished dictating my own cure to my husband, Marc, through a series of rapidly-diminishing eye movements. Now all I have left is the blink.

"Are you ready, Dr. Kavi?" Dr. Yee asks me, while Marc grips my hand.

I blink-- at least I try. Dr. Yee shares a worried glance with Marc, and I want to scream, Yes! Yes! Yes! Instead I fixate on my eyelid muscles. Blink, dammit!

It takes me twenty-seven tries. Dr. Yee nods at his medical team and injects the nanotherapy into my IV while Marc smiles at me through his tears--

What--?

I see--

--hear-taste-smell-- feel my senses intertwine as new connections come alive in my brain, snapping together like impatient fingers. I try to scream while time slows, stops, and the past piles up around me. My mind boggles as--my God, my God--I simultaneously perceive every thought, every event, every thing that has ever happened.

The present--the past; there's no difference. We never needed a time machine--we only had to alter ourselves--

Marc. I must tell him--tell everyone! And now I can. I suck in a breath to shout for the first time in years--

"Blood pressure dropping!" cries a nurse.

"Crash cart!" yells Dr. Yee.

"No pulse, Doctor!"

No. No! Not now! They ventilate and intubate and resuscitate. Two nurses hold Marc back as he shouts and strains towards me. My chest spasms in an agony of panic as I goggle at a triceratops through the stereoscopic vision of a Cretaceous dragonfly, hearken to the melodies of an alien wunderkind several parsecs away, slip over a black hole's event horizon and discover what is, was, and will be on the other side. Everyone else has a slice of reality; I have the whole pie.

#

I survive, but no one knows it.

"Brain dead," Dr. Yee says, while his colleagues tut-tut over my EEG. This is perfectly logical--my brain now makes particles, not waves, but-- dear God, they're going to pull the plug.

Marc refuses to consent. They battle in court. I spend my days gawking at the universe and inventing increasingly-foul expletives for the doctors who want to execute me. But it's my fault. Instead of restoring my motor functions, the nanos killed my last vestige of communication by rendering my brain quantum wetware. My input is infinite, but my output is toast.

The court rules against Marc.

The doctors come to take me off life support. They're desperate for beds; there's been a terrorist attack. You're murdering me! I scream. But I see myself through their eyes. Silent. Drooling. A vegetable.

Marc punches two security guards.

"You need to let her go!" shouts Dr. Yee. "The EEG--"

"An MRI--!"

"It's pointless. I'm sorry--"

Fight or flight fight or flight fight or flight. I can do neither and my heart monitor echoes this frantic beat. Dr. Yee frowns.

"She's alive!" Marc yells as he's dragged away. "Please!"

I sense Dr. Yee's neurons connect in the affirmative. I know he will acquiesce before he knows himself.

Inside the fMRI, my brain lights up like a Christmas tree. Dr. Yee faints.

#

I spend much of my time in the fMRI. Researchers study my particle-making brain while I try to dictate my new cure to Marc. I'm desperate to restore my voice and tell everyone of my discovery. Desperate to free humanity from its miniscule slice of reality.

But so far I can indicate only 'yes' or 'no' through the fMRI screen. And, God help me, would someone PLEASE close my eyes? They've drifted open, dried out, and burn like holy hellfire. I silently curse up, down, and sideways until the researchers realize the pain centres in my brain have lit up.

Marc yells at them; banishes them for the day. He lies beside me, kisses my non-responsive lips and thinks: Come back to me.

I will. I promise.

#

I can now spell words through the fMRI screen by lighting up a different area in my brain for each letter. Marc is out buying champagne, because I will soon finish dictating my cure. But the researchers are so close to decoding my superpositional brain. They'll beat me in the race to announce the discovery within, and humanity will take its quantum leap--

Wait.

Marc?

No.

Another terrorist attack.

NO!

My ventilator beeps. My heart monitor alarms. Nurses and doctors flood the room.

I silently scream as I sense Marc's final thoughts. She'll hold my hand and we'll laugh together--

An explosion. Pain.

Then, nothing.

Thousands are dead. I pound the walls inside my head and run several quadrillion scenarios. I wail and make predictions for humanity's quantum leap. The wisdom accompanying normal evolution will not have time to develop. Humans will leave Earth too quickly. Planets will crack, solar systems implode. I made a terrible mistake. I failed to take into account the dark matter of humanity's soul.

I sob for Marc. For everyone. No tears fall.

A slice of reality--that's all humanity can handle. Give them the whole pie, and they'll vomit on the universe.

But the researchers will discover my brain's secrets before I can cure myself and stop them.

The doctors stabilize me.

I make a final dictation to a research assistant. She thinks it's my cure. They all do.

#

"Are you ready, Dr. Kavi?" asks Dr. Yee.

Yes, I indicate through the fMRI screen. Dr. Yee administers the injection. No one holds my hand. No one knows I'm dying.

I have seconds. I have eons. I'm nowhere. I'm everywhere. I will never hold Marc again, yet I was, am, and always will be holding him.

Then, nothing.

#

Then everything.

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About the Author: 
Judy Helfrich grew up on the Canadian prairie where long stretches of nothing persisted in at least four dimensions. Since there were no smartphones, this caused Judy to do things, like writing, painting, and contemplating the universe. Her short fiction has appeared in <em>Storyteller - Canada's Short Story Magazine.</em> www.helfrich.ca/writer