Chapter Eighteen: Unknowns
A green-gloved hand, somewhat similar in appearance to the paw of the monkey that had picked her up, reached into the cage and selected one of the mice, which squirmed feebly, but seemed to be able to offer little or no resistance. It was carried through a series of rooms and hallways before being placed in a tall, glass-walled tank. A small anesthetic device was briefly placed against the throat of the mouse and then withdrawn. The creature moved desultorily around the sides of the tank, sniffing at the walls, but gradually came to a halt and, falling onto its side, lay motionless. The hand reappeared, removing the mouse and placing it upon a metal tray. A miniature razor was used to shave the mouse's head and an apparatus, quite similar in appearance to the torus, was placed thereupon and briefly manipulated. The man to whom the hand belonged moved to a brightly-lit display and studied the readouts. He pressed a number of buttons and examined the screen again, then moved to a boxy machine and operated various controls.
A period of time passed during which the man, whistling softly and tunelessly, moved between the machine and the computer screen, adjusting and inspecting. Eventually, satisfied with the results, he shut down the machine, returned to the tray, gently removed the instrument from the mouse's head and moved to another panel, where he placed the torus upon a short spindle and fiddled with more knobs and dials. The ghost of a smile formed upon his lips as he removed the torus and placed it into a foam insert in a marked cabinet drawer. Proceeding to the mouse, he applied a needle to its neck, checked his watch, and sat at a desk where he busied himself with paperwork. A few minutes passed, at which point he consulted his watch once more, went over to the mouse and placed the tip of a finger against the mouse's neck. Detecting no pulse, he picked the creature up and dropped it into a biohazard burn bag.
What was all that? What happened?
The process is called 'digitized memory transposition'. It converts the brain's electrical impulses into a data stream, and transmits it to the chip where it is imprinted and stored virtually forever.
Was that you?
Yes, a digital record of my operation was created and is stored in this chip.
I'm really confused by all this. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. How will I be able to understand anything when I can't relate to any of it?
You must be patient. The information contained in this chip has been collected over periods of time and dimensions of space that would amaze and perhaps frighten you, were I to go into detail. It is a vast repository of information, but presently you can access only one portion at a time, as you can eat only one nut at a time. As you accumulate experience and confidence, your proficiency will increase and you will easily be able to create and control multiple links, combining unrelated elements to . . . I am sorry, little one. I have been alone, with none but myself with whom to converse, for so long, and my enthusiasm is so great, that I fear I have forgotten what it was like to serve as an unwilling audience to a blowhard. This has likely been an ordeal for you, and you should rest.
There is one more thing you should know. At this moment, an energy field emitted by the chip surrounds your physical being. As you have already divined, contact with the chip creates a connection. If you wish to maintain the connection, you should insert your head into the central opening. The polymer of which this chip was manufactured is malleable and will atomically adjust its shape and size to accomodate your neck. In effect, it will become a comfortable collar. In this way you can transport the chip without difficulty. Rest now, and when you once more wish to speak with me, envision my likeness and I will appear.
There's so much I want to know, so much I have to learn. I never realized that there was more to living than sleeping and eating. I don't know whether I'm dreaming, or whether I've just awakened from a dream.
She looked about her, seeing the rough walls of her cell as though through a haze, still dazed from her experience. Nothing in her short life had prepared her for anything as bewildering as what she had undergone. Neither her mother nor father had told her that such things could be. She felt . . . altered, as if she had been delivered anew, reborn into a world she didn't know and couldn't understand.
Shedding her funk with a shake of her body, she considered the torus. If she placed her neck within that opening, the chip would, in some unknown fashion, adjust itself to fit her, and she could easily carry it anywhere. But . . . did she want that? So much of what the white mouse had said had been mysterious and confusing, but she remembered the words "single organism" with a slight shudder. Did that mean what she thought it might? "Completely connected". What would that mean to her? What might it do to her? Should she wait before committing herself? Could she trust that white mouse?
A tingling sensation encompassed her body, raising her fur as would a vagrant breeze, which faded and died even as it registered on her consciousness. This must be the effect of the "energy field" of which she had been told. After she had donned the "collar", would she always be conscious of that curious feeling or would it become undetectable? So many unknowns! Could she make a leap of faith?
She sniffed at the torus once more, her nose entering the opening, but detected nothing untoward. She moved her head further into the hole. Still nothing. As her throat reached the center of the artifact she felt slight pressure, but it was in no way uncomfortable. She raised her head and looked at the floor. The talisman had disappeared and now, smooth and rounded, encircled her neck as a ring encircles a finger. She could not feel the infinitesimal wires as they swiftly insinuated themselves into her pores, burrowing through her flesh and adhering to her nerves.
She wondered what time it was. She had fallen asleep not long before the sun rose, she thought; upon awaking, her stomach had indicated that it was likely evening, but she had no idea how long she had spent inside the chip (as she thought of it; it had been more like an altered state of consciousness) save that she was once again hungry, so a goodly amount of time had passed. Turning about, she trotted to the crack and peered down the passage, but could detect no glimmer of light from the far end. She crawled back to the pile of figs and once more set about filling her belly before seeking the softness of her fluffy bed.
Story copyright Malcolm Mott 2005