February 7th, 2010
Author : Matthew Banks
“It thinks,” said the emaciated man, blinking up at the doctor with red-rimmed eyes. The doctor looked down at him for a moment, then turned to the display mounted on the wall. The multiscan of the man’s brain was mostly normal, except for the bright blob sprouting from the left hemisphere. The doctor turned to the man. He was mostly normal, too, except for the weeping ulcer on his chest. But as with all his other symptoms, the ulcer was abnormal, as demonstrated by the glossy white molars sprouting in a clump from its center. The doctor suppressed a disgusted sneer and turned back to the display.
“It probably does think,” she said, stroking her chin, “I don’t know what Dr. Glasseter told you, but it’s no brain tumor. It’s a pleurineoplasm.”
The doctor rolled her eyes. That was the problem with these longevity treatments: people got them without having any idea how they worked or what side-effects there might be. She frowned at the patient. “I think your brain is trying to grow an extra lobe.”
The man blinked. “Why?”
The doctor scowled, and the man recoiled. “Why? What do you think? It’s the Novos. How long have you been taking it?”
“A few years.”
The doctor shrugged. “Well, there you go, then. Your body is throwing off stem cells like crazy, and without any real regulation, sometimes they get confused. Didn’t they explain all of this to you after the surgery?”
The man self-consciously touched the scar beneath his armpit where a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic had pulled a fully-formed kidney out of the patient’s lung. The doctor wanted badly to shake her head at the man and laugh.
“Well…he said, looking down at the floor and swallowing loudly. He looked up with renewed confidence. “Just the price of immortality, I guess.”
This time, the doctor couldn’t help but laugh. The man squinted at her. When she regained her composure, she walked up to him and pointed at the toothy lesion on his chest.
“Immortality? You’re going to keep getting those. Dentate teratomas are the most common side-effect of Novos. How long do you think it’ll be before you get one in your brain? Or you get one in your heart that gets gingivitis and gives you a fatal blood infection? Mr. Greene, you’ve been suckered.”
He scratched at the lesion and picked aimlessly at its teeth. “I was running laps a week after the lung surgery. Whatever accidentally grows on or in me, I can have it removed and recover just fine.”
“No you can’t,” the doctor said. Her voice had grown solemn, and the patient stared at her, startled.
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t have the brain growth removed. Thanks to the Novos, it’s already forged connections with pretty much every anatomical structure. That’s why you’re hearing the voices, that’s how you can tell it thinks: you’re hearing the neoplasm’s thoughts. If we tried to remove it, we’d probably take most of your brain with it. I project you’ve got about two months before you’ve got too much brain to fit in your skull and you slip into a coma and die.”
The patient looked up at her. He scratched his toothy lesion and blinked wetly.