Chapter Seventeen: Perceptions
She felt, not so much a physical as a spiritual sensation, a stretching, an expanding of consciousness . . . a tugging, an attraction, as if an incorporeal magnet were irresistibly drawing the iron atoms in her very cells ineluctably to its pulsating poles. The obscuring mists wisped away, leaving her all but breathless at the vista thus revealed to her inner perception. Accustomed as she was to tall grass, plants and trees, this vast, horizonless, empty area was inconceivable to her. All her instinct, all her acquired knowledge would occupy only a tiny, insignificant corner of this space.
What is this? What has happened to me?
You have been connected. Bioelectronic links have been formed between your brain and the chip. You now have space to accumulate much more knowledge than you could ever before have done, and you have access to much knowledge that has already been amassed, by myself and by others . . . see, little one.
In the illimitable distance, there appeared before her eyes a distant violet spark, sliding along a shining string, scintillating like the image of a lamp reflected in a mirror hung upon the far wall of a long, empty hall. It approached at a dignified pace, moving slowly nearer to her, until, halting, it hovered before her, spinning and emitting tongues of blue-white energy.
What is this?
It is a repository. It is called a node. Data is stored in it.
What am I supposed to do?
You may enter it. It is not dangerous; it is in actuality only a visualization, a frame of reference to spare you confusion. (She stared at him with utter incredulity and awe at his breathtaking display of cluelessness.) Once you have fully adapted, this illusion will be unnecessary.
She moved slowly forward into the spinning sphere, not without trepidation, for despite the assurances of the white mouse, this was so totally outside her experience that she instinctively quailed. She passed through the crackling surface and stopped, staring. She felt as if she had stumbled upon a limitless burrow of innumerable cubbies, each filled to the ceiling with nourishing food . . . not for the body, but for the mind, or the soul . . . like the spokes of a great wheel, passages radiated outward from this small space, each lengthy tunnel studded with manifold apertures revealed by a diffuse but bright incandescence emanating from the very air itself. She started down the passage directly in front of her, curious to see what the spacious chambers contained. She halted before the first opening on her right, peering wonderingly within. Ranged along both sides of a central aisle, a number of spheres, about the size and shape of a hazelnut, were ensconced, each in its separate niche. Faintly luminous, each 'nut' appeared to be tethered to the next by a series of tiny colored threads.
She entered and selected one at random, brushing it with the tips of her whiskers as she sniffed at it. Before she could determine whether it had an odor, she was startled by the scene which suddenly manifested itself. It was one she had seen previously - the vision of the white mouse - only now it possessed clarity. The silvery sticks formed some sort of enclosure, and there were four other white mice contained within it. A round contraption was occupied by one of the mice, rapidly rotating as the mouse ran and ran. She thought that it might be some form of torture device until one of the other mice trotted to it and attempted to climb into it. At first its paws would slip on the rim and it would tumble backward as the first mouse continued to run, but it eventually attained its goal and clambered into the wheel, which began to rock to and fro as the second mouse tried to run in the opposite direction from the first.
There was a shiny hemispherical item containing a number of dull, olive-colored, unappetizing rods or pellets, at which two of the mice were gathered, in one corner of the enclosure and a long, clear, tubular object, holding a large quantity of liquid, suspended from two of the sticks. The floor of this (cage) was covered by short strips of pale bark.
So smooth, so seamless were the incremental adjustments which were occurring, steadily acclimating her thought processes to the functioning of the data retrieval systems, that she was unaware of the exact moment when her perceptions altered. She had at first viewed the scene as if she had been standing at the mouth of her burrow, watching the world pass by. But now, without any noticeable change, she found herself fully immersed in the vision. She looked again at the exercise wheel, food bowl, and drip feeder, now knowing them for what they were, and understanding their purposes. Much more data bubbled to the surface of her mind, including the name of the director of the laboratory, the designation numbers of each of the mice, and the types of experiments in which they were currently employed.
This was how it was for me, this was my life.
(So wrapped up was she in the ongoing vision, the unexpected interjection startled her. She had not realized that her mind was in constant contact with that of the white mouse.)
This? I see it, but . . . no grass, no trees, no . . . sky? No freedom?
I knew nothing of freedom, had no concept of it. I was born in that laboratory, lived my whole life in that cage, and was happy. I had nourishment, shelter, entertainment, friends . . . what else was needed?
But . . .
It is difficult, if not impossible, to mourn the lack of a thing that you do not realize you may possess. When enlightenment finally dawned upon me, it was far too late to act.
What happened to you?
I cannot truly give you my perspective, because I was anesthetized, but the data is stored here. Watch . . .
Story copyright Malcolm Mott 2005