Childhood in a Needle

The syringe lay on the table, glistening in the fluorescent lights of the clinic. “You know what this is, right?” Langdon asked. The doctor was tired, bags under his red-rimmed eyes, shoulders tense from too many arguments with the directors and the review board and his patient.

“Yes, GMBh neural replasticizer,” Mallory answered flatly. He sat opposite Langdon, draped in a teal hospital down with his arms hanging loosely by his sides. His sunken gaze scanned the small room methodically, taking in the light green walls, the lights, the two metal chairs, the flimsy folding table and the syringe. Every thirteen seconds he would start again, from top left to bottom right in smooth raster sweeps. He had been doing it ever since he had been admitted to the clinic.

“This may be the answer to your, ah condition,” Langdon said. “But the treatment is experimental. It will erase your memories, your skills, your personality. There is a very real possibility that your mind will never be restored. We are entering uncharted territory, and while I do not mean to be mystical, your soul is at stake!”

The doctor's dramatics left Mallory unmoved. “Do you seriously believe I value any part of my existence? I am an empty vessel. Once, I was a scientist, but then theories stopped making sense. I had a wife; she left me. My friends are fading from memory, we no longer have anything in common. The replasticizers are my second chance.” His dead eyes met the doctor's. “This is what I want.”

Langdon sighed, “I knew you would say that. I just wanted to offer you one last chance. Let's get this over with.” He stood up and walked around the table. He folded Mallory's ear back, placed the wavering tip of the needle against his skin. Closing his eyes, he drove the syringe home and pressed the plunger, injecting the neural replasticizers directly into Mallory's brain.

Mallory tensed in his chair, shook his head as the needle was withdrawn. “Tastes blue.” He muttered. His fingers felt like sausages, swollen with fluid. He lifted his hand to his face, turned it around and around as he marveled at the geometry of his palm. He wanted to tell Langdon what he was feeling, but he could not figure out how words worked. The doctor's concerned face melted into meaningless planes of color. His head fell back, and he looked directly into the light as half-blind eyes struggled to make sense of the word. The corners of the room stretched to infinity, Mallory's self dissolving into a million half-articulate possibilities.

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