Jake, the department head, was in my office. We had both been silent for a while now, waiting for the other party to make the first move. He looked at me with the hint that at any moment then, a storm could break the clear sky. But I had applied a protective glaze over my eyes, one that masked everything within me from the outside world. No one could peer into my soul or my thoughts now.
He looked at the engraved nameplate on my desk:
CHANG MIN CHU, AMY
Without raising his eyes it, he said, “Professor Chang, it is about the comatose case that I wish to speak to you about.”
Jake was no more qualified than I was. But he was better with people, and he had the right pedigree in the organization. And so, from colleagues to superior and subordinate, we became.
“What about it, Professor Lim?”
“I am sure you understand; you have been in our star department as long as I have. We can’t allow a singular case to use up such an extensive amount of our resources and time.”
I nodded my head as understandingly and deliberately as I could. Jake was no longer a scientist or a friend; he had become a bureaucrat. Perhaps he was always a bureaucrat.
He continued, “Management is pressing.”
I replied, “If I may, I would like to put up a case for one more trial.”
“You do know we have done twenty-five trials. A first, for our department.”
“Yes, I am fully aware of that, and I would like to put up a case for one more.”
“You know, Professor Chang, given your relationship with the patient, there is a conflict of interest. I made the appeal myself to Management to have you lead this case because you are the best in the field.”
“Thank you, I am deeply flattered.”
My mother was the first human in a coma to be plugged into the metaverse. We discovered that deep in the recesses of her unconscious mind, there was still a conscious mind or in my contemplations, a soul. It could be brought to the surface, spoken to, in the metaverse. However, we learned too that experiences in the metaverse of a comatose human did not form memories. In other words, each time my mother entered the metaverse, it was like a fresh new player entering the game. She had no memory of her previous plays. Nonetheless, it was an apparent Nobel-worthy breakthrough, but there were other things at play here.
“I know what you are thinking, Professor Chang. We need more breakthroughs and faster. Else, we have to force a breakthrough.”
Jake’s eyes softened. I was caught off guard. He said, “As you are aware, the patient was brought in here because of the stories she created in the metaverse. At the heart of her make-believe worlds and characters is the red orb, or as she termed it, ‘the flaming pearl.’ The red orb is the key to cellular regeneration, rebirth, ‘rising from the ashes’ or so is the hypothesis we need to prove. The patient needs to tell us exactly where the red orb is in the physical world or how it can be made, else-“
Jake stopped abruptly in his tracks and hesitated as though something foul was in his mouth, and he could not speak of it. After looking away from my nameplate, he finally continued, “we would have to administer Anticreatine on the patient.”
“You can’t. The drug is still in clinical trials.”
“This qualifies for exemption. I have received the order to do so.”
“From who? You can’t. The drug would kill her.”
“Order has been given.”
“On what grounds?”
“Medical improvement. Exceptional medical improvement.”
My lips quivered. On what grounds for medical improvement? I ran through everything I knew about the situation and the drug. I held onto all the science, observations, and knowledge that I knew. And I understood right before Jake proceeded to explain.
“As you know, Anticreatine was invented to bring everyone back into the metaverse. It quietens the neurochemical change of brain cells to not go into ‘creation mode.’ When the brain is not in ‘creation mode,’ it cannot go into hyperdrive, metaverse-induced delirium, and all the negative stuff that comes with the metaverse. The brain retains all its other functions- memory, processing, decision-making, etc. It is less apt to create new thoughts, feelings, and actions. And so, Management would like to see if Anticreatine can ‘quieten the active mind of the patient, and by doing so, induce it to simply regurgitate everything it knows about the red orb.’ “
“How do you know what she created was even true? She’s a Genesis 0! Aren’t they known to be highly deceptive and great performers!”
I did not even believe in my words. Those were words of emotional Amy, not words of Professor Chang.
Jake smiled and said, “You know as well as I do that everything in the metaverse is almost fictional and that every creation in there stems from something accurate and factual. This organization was built out of stories from the metaverse. Stories that were distilled, crystallized to their truths, tested, and built out. That’s how we have the empathy drug, the sonic hearing aids, the superfruits, and now, we are on our way to having the rebirth drug. “
How could I argue against this? Dreams that turn into reality. Imaginations that propel the advancement of our kind.
“Amy, listen to me. I know this is hard, but the patient only has a 1% chance of waking up. You know what that means. With or without administering Anticreatine, her legacy to this world-”
“Give me one more trial. I will get the patient to share about the red orb.”
“Else, we proceed with Anticreatine.”
“Thank you, Amy.”
“You did not need even to come here today. So thank you.”