Woodrow was showing visiting professors around the facility. They were eager to learn all they could, in the quest to increase production of SaltyNectar®, the much sought after finite resource.
Pointing to the subject, Woodrow began to explain his findings:
“EL-AINEDOB150816 is responding well to memory convergence. Synapses effectively returning to previous points of extension, resuming plasticity. Connections have been observed, with neurons firing in response to simulated seasons visible through the ‘window’. Relics have also been left in the mock bedroom, including a basket full of sentimental assortments, such as printed images of people known to the subject, and the shell of a nautilus, held dear to her, according to her file notes, as a treasured memento from her childhood that it is likely to conjure memories- a conjuring nautilus.
“Conjuring nautilus” he repeated. Woodrow liked the sound of these words. He was one of the rare re-births who had the ability to program himself to register small pleasures, in this case resulting in a curious upturn of his lips and crinkles at the corners of his eyes.
“Now, if we move to the next hologram chamber, allowing us to see how the subject reacts to temperature, you’ll note a sensitivity, causing her to lift the blanket, and leading to a change in the appearance of her face, with an asymmetrical positioning of her lips and furrowing of her eyebrows. Floating sensors just out of view in the canopy confirm that preconceived notions have been retained, with the subject making a connection between the simulated season and her expectations of a range of outcomes associated with that season – remembering that her lifetime was pre- climate-plateau, when seasons were a regular phenomenon. Sections of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that register surprise light up when the ‘season’, viewed through the ‘window’ fails to match the temperature sensed in the room.
“She is of course, a pre- Digi sapien, a rarity in our field, as cryogenics hadn’t become widespread until a century after her death. She is of a time when private thoughts were not so readily discerned by an observer and the brain held tight to a riddle of secrets- still impenetrable in this age. As some of you may know, there is no instrument with sufficient sensitivity to decipher the thoughts of a Homo sapien, hence the species’ saying ‘a penny for your thoughts’. With funding cuts, it seems unlikely that such an instrument will ever see the light of day.
“Based on the stimuli the subject has been exposed to, it appears memory reintegration is encompassing all senses. The next phase will be to merge emotions with memory. We have already seen promising signs in response to music. File notes for EL-AINEDOB150816 stated a favourite song by Sarah Vaughn.
“Busch, could you please check the airfiles and line up a concert? I believe Ms Vaughn is stationed on one of the moons of Jupiter and happy to engage in memory re-simulation, albeit it at the outlandish fee of an ampule of single source SaltyNectar®, and a stipend for light travel and accommodation.
“Okay, let’s break, and I’ll take questions after the song.”
As the huddle of professors erupted in excited discussions, not for a minute taking their eyes off the hologram, Woodrow glanced at the headlines he’d uploaded in his mind’s eye. It seemed every ‘paper’ as they were still quaintly referred to, was on the topic of elections on Earth that resulted in a predictably unanimous victory for President Drumpf, now on the eve of his 112th term as President of the United Continents. Woodrow blinked to rid the image and flick to the next news story, as the muttering under his breath threatened to belie his liberal leanings which technically were illegal, even in one’s head If only we’d kept him frozen in 2016.
Fortunately, the laboratory was a black spot for thought reception. He loved his job for this fact alone- it was the only place where he could freely think and he never seemed to find the time to rectify the cause of interference – issues that were easily resolved with a coating of phosphorescent PX-67t on all machines.
No time to ponder and fume, though- he blinked and folded the paper as the ageless sounds of The Divine One reverberated.
East of the sun and west of the moon
We’ll build a dream house of love dear
Near to the sun in the day
And near to the moon at night
We’ll live in a Heavenly way dear
EL-AINEDOB180816 could be seen crying though she had no cognition of the cause. That would come with phase 2 of the project. Once blurring of the memory/emotion receptors was complete, they’d be able to successfully tap into and extract her tears- the saline liquid that was the currency of the day- registered trademark SaltyNectar®.
In the mean time, the fempto-tech wicking fiber of her bed sheets and duvet were quickly absorbing and transferring precious crude into the pressurised reverse osmosis piped coils of her mattress, to produce the concentrate known as SaltyNectar®. Any filtrate (essentially low salt tears) being recirculated to get just the right salinity for the market, with not a drop wasted.
The professors applauded, congratulating Woodrow on his breakthroughs. What should have been a high point in his career- the respect of peers- only left him with a deep sadness that he couldn’t share with anyone around him. He had no tears, as his well had run dry many moons ago. All these months of observing Elaine through the chamber had been hard. His plan for phase 2 was to dim the sad and amplify the happy memories, to cut short her time as a font of tears. Once she was released from duty, they could pick up where they’d left off.
Living on love and pale moonlight
Just you and I, forever and a day
Love will not die, we’ll keep it that way
This piece was in response to a prompt using Wyeth’s Chambered Nautilus (pictured), a challenge set and also taken by my blogging friend Wayne at the recently re-booted Cave of Fame. Wayne and I exchanged a couple of emails about doing an art as prompt challenge, and as I like surprises, I left it to Wayne to pick the pic. Great choice Wayne, I am glad to have my world expanded now with awareness of Wyeth’s amazing work! If you’d like to write a story or poem inspired by this painting- please do (sometime in March 2016) and let Wayne know once you’ve posted it, so he can link them all together.
It was fun to write a longer fiction piece again, with a bunch of serendipitous gems uncovered in ‘researching’ this story (e.g. searching ‘songs of 1935’, I stumbled across a couple of songs with the name ‘Bess’ in them, which is the name of the lady sitting in this painting – Wyeth’s mother in law Bess James). Anyway, ‘East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)’, composed by Brooks Bowman that year, caught my attention for the title, and when I heard it and listened to the lyrics, I decided it was perfect! Picking Sarah Vaughn’s version, recorded in 1949, was a no brain-er after hearing it (I confess- I haven’t heard any other version). Oh, and it also happens to be the title of a Norwegian fairy tale. Perhaps Elaine and Stephen Woodrow will free other prisoners in the facility, take all the un-cried tears with them, and leave the lab east of the sun and west of the moon. During all that ‘research’, one thing led to another, and I’m currently slightly obsessed with The Divine One’s version of ‘A Lovers Concerto’- is there a more joyous song that makes you cry with happiness and longing and just a tinge of sadness? Totally blows The Toys’ version out of the water. Now if I could just pay off my mortgage with these tears…
Woodrow has appeared in another of my stories, in a different life, where he was a geneticist. You’ll see that even then, he was an independent spirit who subverted the system for the greater good.
First published 8th March 2016.