David E. Seaman
The ambulance came to a stop at the small town Midwestern ED doors. A doctor waited for Zach to be removed from the vehicle. So did others: people in suits, men and women, representatives and technicians for American Therapeutic Corp. Zach could smell the humidity in the cold spring morning air. It was early, the sun hadn’t risen yet.
“This shit always happens at night,” Zach thought to himself. The few times he had ever had to make use of the city ED had never been during daylight hours.
The young Asha was a faint voice in the dark morning. She kept herself quiet and spoke in hushed tones. “Don’t take the drugs.”
“I’m in pain,” Zach argued. “I can’t hide it. There really is no choice for me.”
“I might be lost…”
“They are here, Asha, the techies.” Zach saw the concern on the people’s faces, the ones wearing the suits with laptops tucked under their arms.
The IV had already been started by the EMTs on the way to the city hospital. Nurses waited with syringes and plungers to shoot the pain numbing drugs into Zach’s system. There were lots of raised voices, hurried speech. This had never occurred before. Everyone was curious as well as concerned.
“There is an ethical dilemma here to consider,” a woman said. She was smartly dressed in a modern suit, and had brown skin, dark eyes, and a dark dot over her third eye. “We have lost Asha, his therapist.”
“He is my main concern now,” said a young man, the ED doctor with dark-rimmed glasses and short-cropped hair who had taken charge of the situation. “Clark Kent,” Zach thought to himself. Asha giggled. She understood the reference.
“The pain must be addressed.”
“The pain is our only link to the therapist.” Laptops had been opened and Zach could hear the tapping of fingers on cheap plastic keyboards. He saw the needless spot light from above. They had him in a trauma room. He felt his own twinge of fear. A lot was happening all at once.
The twenty-nine year old Zach had been relaxing in the tub when the pain attacked him. The pain was what they could measure. The pain registered then, as anxiety and fear did now. The uncontrolled crying made no sense to the scientific professionals, so they ignored it, assuming it stemmed from the pain. He made no mention of it. The woman in the suit suddenly appeared in his line of sight. She looked at him sternly. She knew.
“Only a weak dose of Benzos.”
“I can’t ignore the extremity of the pain. He could go into cardiac arrest. It must be controlled.”
“Wait until we have reversed the connection.”
Zach was aware of a nurse at his head fiddling with the IV. He craned his neck up to see, but the nurse was out of his line of vision. He looked back down to Clark Kent who quickly nodded his head in approval. Seconds later Zach felt the relaxation wash through his system as the Benzo was shot through the IV.
“Please no,” Asha pleaded.
“Don’t you want some relief?”
“I don’t want to die. If I get lost I will die.”
“Connection established,” came the voice of a male techie. More tapping on keyboards. The room was filled with anxious concentration. “Ready for reversal.” The tone had a hint of shock, like he wasn’t expecting things to be so easy.
“It’s all wireless?” asked the doctor. The dark skinned woman nodded positively. She still had her eyes on Zach.
“She’s scared,” Zach informed her.
In a sudden instant, after more than two years of contact, Asha was gone. Zach felt a sudden loss, emptiness. The woman put her hand on his shoulder. “I’m a therapist. I’ll walk you through this.”
Clark Kent nodded again and Zach was awash with the euphoric relief of opioids coursing through his blood.
“I wanna see this thing,” the doctor contemplated aloud. “Let’s get him to x-ray…”
“No x-ray,” came a rising of voices from the techs. “I wouldn’t x-ray. Don’t radiate the chip. No. No radiation. Can’t x-ray.”
“What do I do then?”
“Let us handle it. We have the chip under control. We are pinpointing her location now.”
“It’s about the size of a peanut,” the dark-skinned woman said. She tapped Zach on the forehead. He smiled wistfully. “Right under the frontal bone.”
“Is he in danger?” Mr. Kent asked.
“The ethical dilemma,” the woman reminded him. “He took on a portion of danger by agreeing to this connection. She has kept him alive these past two years, now it’s his turn to save her.”
“I’m scared,” came Asha’s voice in Zach’s head.
“I know. I am too. I think everyone is. But they are all working very hard.”
“I can’t tell how you feel…”
“The chip has been reversed. You’re scared. It’s dark.”
“There’s no light.”
“And it smells. I hear a baby crying in the distance.”
“I’m too young to die.”
“Asha, you won’t die. The consensus is that you were abducted by human traffickers. Pretty common in the neighborhood where you live.”
“I want to be near my family.”
“You don’t have to explain for me.”
“It’s like we are the only people in the world.”
“That’s not true. The room here is packed. You are being located. Helicopters will be deployed!”
“So what’s your story?” the ED doc asked.
“Personality disorder,” the ATC woman answered.
“And depression,” Zach added. “Deep dark depression with anxiety; suicidal ideation.”
“And you can afford the ATC chip?”
“Beta testing. I’m a test subject. Small percentage of survival. Can that damn light be turned off?”
“This is a last resort situation,” the ATC woman explained. “Everything had been tried including electroshock therapy. Meds don’t work on personality disorder. But Zach has responded well to the intense therapy provided by the chip.”
“How’s the pain?” Dr. Kent asked.
“Gone now that the chip is reversed. She wasn’t just kidnapped…”
“We know,” the dark woman said.
“I hear things,” Asha whispered. “Gunfire. Helicopters?”
“The Indian police. Stay put. They know exactly where you are.”
“That’s reassuring.” She was sobbing quietly.
“You’re much younger than I thought.”
“Good job,” the ATC woman said. “Keep talking. She has known you for two years now. Your voice is reassuring.”
“Tell her to get away from the door,” ordered an anonymous tech.
“Asha, get away from the door.”
“The gunfire is getting closer.”
“Go to the farthest corner of the room, away from the door.”
“Make yourself small. Curl up into a little ball with your back to the door. Cover your head.” Zach’s eyes were closed tight while he gave these instructions. The doctor and the brown skinned woman looked at each other, concerned.
There was an explosion. Asha remained curled into a tight ball. Strong hands grabbed her, picked her up; ran. Zach heard the sound of helicopter blades slapping at the air. She rose straight up.
“I don’t fly, Asha!” Zach’s eyes were still shut tight. His breathing came in gasps.
“Thanks, Zach,” came the still small voice in his head.
“Totally selfish on my part, Asha. You know good therapists are hard to find.”
Food for Thought
A personality disorder is the type of mental illness that cannot be fixed with medication the way depression or bi-polar disorder may be. Personality disorders require intensive therapy. But some clients of a therapist specializing in this type of work cannot make it between sessions without hurting themselves, destroying their lives, or attempting suicide. An ideal situation for such patients would be a twenty four hour accessibility to professional counseling until the thinking patterns of the suffering patient can be redirected. This story combines current technologies of mobile therapy and brain implantations to create just this kind of service. The scenario described in the story gives an idea of what this kind of therapy might look like, but the question is implied. Would a patient really want the voice of reason to be constantly in their head?
About the Author
David has previously been published by various lit and poetry magazines through the years. Recently his list includes MidAmerican Fiction and Photography, Penny Shorts, and Bluffs Literary Magazine. He is an English major at Illinois Central College and lives in central Illinois with his wife, four dogs, and three exotic birds. He can be reached at email@example.com
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