Side Effects May Vary

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It was supposed to be a clinical trial for a ‘revolutionary treatment for acute pain’, but all that he’s been subject to so far is one brutal test after another to assess ‘patient suitability’ without popping a single pill. In the first screening test, they put his hands in a bucket of ice to see how long he’d last. In the second, he was zapped with increasing intensities of electrical shocks. He suspected that he may be forced to lie on a bed of hot nails next. But he thought of his 7 year old daughter’s chemotherapy bills and the $5000 cash they offered for this experiment. He signed the informed consent form desperately. No questions asked. He may not even come out of this alive but he believed that the sacrifice was worth it.

Today he was informed of a ‘protocol amendment’, that the primary objective had been changed. He was escorted by someone in a military police uniform into a room known affectionately as ‘The Box’. Like most labs it was flanked by touchscreen computers helmed by lab serfs and generally spartan except for a contraption as the room’s centrepiece that reminded him of the cocoon teleporter in ‘The Fly’ movie. This, he realised, was no clinical trial at all.

While a nurse was getting his health parameters checked, a man in a suit came over and shook his head vigorously. “Major Lim”, he bellowed.

‘Retired’, replied Lim.

‘Congratulations for making it this far. I’m the principal investigator for this groundbreaking experiment. You can call me Stanley’.

The nurse was done with the vitals and a lab assistant was now hooking him up on what they call ‘tactile sensors’, the same gizmos they attached to him while he was being, for lack of a better word, tortured.

‘To cut the long story short’, Stanley continued. ‘This trial is no longer about treating pain’. There was a dramatic pause. ‘It’s about inflicting it. At a distance’.

‘Sounds like voodoo’, said Major Lim.

Stanley laughed. ‘You, an army man, would be all too familiar with inflicting pain on others.’ He beckoned Lim to one of the screens, and called up a CCTV screenshot of a man at an ATM machine.

‘This is our target. You probably have heard about him in the news, wanted felon known to us as the ‘Grasscutter’. Our surveillance team is onto him as we speak, but he’s a slippery bugger. Fortunately, one of our agents got a tag on him. I won’t dwell on the science behind it, but you could say THAT machine is the bridge between us and a successful capture.’

‘You mean you’re going to teleport him here?’ Lim joked.

‘No.’ replied Stanley, escorting Lim towards the machine. In the compartment where the human guinea pig is supposed to be seated lay an array of familiar electrical cables, those that Lim was mildly electrocuted with some days ago.

‘You’re going to help us in this operation, Major Lim’.

‘Why don’t you just raid him since you already know where he is this very moment’.

‘We’re trying to do this discreetly. No friendly fire. Minimum resources. But more importantly, we don’t want this to blow up on social media. This is what’s going to happen. First, we’ll run a ‘Sync’, and for a 2 minute window period, you and the Grasscutter will be, what the nerds call it, ‘entangled’. Preliminary tests have suggested that any physical pain experienced by one will be mirrored in the other. So what happens in these 2 minutes is critical.’

‘You’re making me a live voodoo doll’, said Lim.

‘You could say that’ Stanley closed to door to the compartment. ‘In short, when we say go, you zap yourself, starting from initial low setting to the highest voltage recorded during your initial tests. Hopefully, that will incapacitate the target for a while, and make him easy meat for our forces.’

‘Wait! What if he dies’, yelled Lim. ‘Will i go too?’

‘We’ve got his vitals linked up here. If his life comes within an inch of death, we will break the sync.’ Stanley assured Lim. ‘The Grasscutter is in a secure zone as we speak. Trust me’.

Lim tried to calm himself, taking a deep breath. ‘Just like the second test.’

‘You ready’? Stanley’s finger was already on the button.

Lim nodded. He suddenly remembered a line from the fine print of the consent form: ‘Side effects may vary’, but the sync was already underway and he was soon drowned in a haze of green pulsing light. He said a little prayer and thought of his daughter, and wondered if the Grasscutter would have access to those thoughts too.

‘Sync completed’.

Lim was suddenly bombarded with a series of dream-like, random images and he could barely make out Stanley’s screams. A dirty meth lab, his daughter at the playground, someone in a blindfold, someone else’s daughter running in a field. All he could hear was ‘…’. He triggered at low intensity first, but the shouting continued. The stopclock on one of the consoles already reads 1.30 minutes though he felt like it was barely seconds since the sync. From the corner of the eye, he saw Stanley frantically gesturing to ‘turn it up’.

And so he did, to the max voltage as prescribed. The last image that Lim saw was the same girl in the field now laid to rest in a coffin, its glass casing reflecting the face of what appears to be her weeping father, the Grasscutter.

Lim woke up in the same bed that he’s been resting in the past week. He wasn’t informed if the operation had been a success. The first thing he wanted to do after signing papers ensuring his confidentiality was not to check the news, but to see his daughter again. A hug from her was worth more than all the heroes’ medals in the world.

About the Author: 
Mark works for the Government, so he knows quite a bit about conspiracies. Otherwise, he's an active blogger, movie buff and loves cats.