This snap fiction story (what’s that?) was inspired by a photo I snapped while visiting a dental clinic:

Aberrant Activity

The last thing I saw was that wan modular ceiling and the robotic grappler that had just removed the probe from my abdomen. After that, my sight went, as the pain had before it. I felt drowsy, but that was to be expected.

What was different now was that I continued to hear every­thing. This was my sixth extraction, but I’d never remem­bered anything after the initial sedation.

Is the data secure?” I heard someone ask. Dr. Kaen, I think.

I’d never seen her outside of the lab, and I only knew her from the seedings and extrac­tions. Her voice, however, was not easily forgotten. It was lispy and almost childlike, but devoid of any emotion. It didn’t match her tall, wiry frame, which she carried with an almost aristo­cratic composure.

The data is good. The pod wasn’t compro­mised,” another voice said. That was Ibdil, my handler. He was a younger man, close to my own age. Dependable and trust­worthy, but too pleas­antly profes­sional to ever be a friend.

It was good to hear his voice, but I was still uneasy. How was I listening to all this? Wasn’t I supposed to be fully anesthetized?

There is some damage from the incident,” said Dr. Kaen. “I do not know if we can re-seed.”

I’m sure we can,” replied Ibdil. “He’s been patched before.”

What did he mean? What incident? I didn’t remember ever being “patched”. Each extraction had gone perfectly. At least, I now thought, that’s what they’d said.

Leave it to me,” I heard Ibdil say, “I’ll take it from here.”

There were some beeps and buzzes, and a door opened.

Look here: aberrant activity in the auditory cortex,” said Dr. Kaen. I didn’t think she was talking to Ibdil anymore. Her voice was more measured, almost defer­ential. “He hasn’t flatlined.”

What were they discussing—the fact that I could still hear them? Could they tell?

How many scopings has he run?” A new voice, a deep male voice. Calm and delib­erate, but with an impatient intelligence.

This was his sixth,” Ibdil said. “He has at least another—”

Can you guarantee a full wipe?” the new man asked.

Not with this neuronal residue. Who knows what’s going on in there?” sighed Dr. Kaen. “The data is clean, but the carrier may have been compromised.”

What did they mean? All I’d ever done was what all of us did: take out a disposable BioScan pack to collect environ­mental data.

Can we afford to lose one?”

We have redun­dancy,” said Dr. Kean, “and the grid is almost complete.”

There was a loud banging sound, like a fist on a table. Ibdil yelled, “You can’t just—” but he fell silent immedi­ately. All I could make out was the sound of agitated breathing.

Handler 27, I believe your presence has been requested elsewhere,” said Dr. Kaen.

The last thing I heard was a door opening and closing, and the unknown man saying, “Thank you, Ariana. It won’t be long now.”

• • •



Father, son, husband, friend and writer by day; asleep by night. Happily pondering the immortality of the crab wherever words are shared.

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