Author : Beck Dacus
“It says here you’ve been experiencing depression, Nathan,” Dr. Krosett said. “Can you tell me more?”
“Okay,” RX-1017 said. “I just have this negative feeling all the time. It’s almost like a voice, telling me I’m doing something bad. That it… needs to get out.”
Krosett nodded. “You said in your message that it seems to follow a pattern. Could you elaborate on that?”
“Yeah. It’s not so bad in the morning, but it gets worse throughout the day. At night, it really sounds like a voice. One that’s trying to push me out of my own head. You don’t think it’s schizophrenia, do you?”
“Could be,” Krosett replied. “But I don’t want to say that just yet. Tell me: when do you charge your neural lace?”
“Overnight. And I know they say that’s bad for the battery, and that it wastes electricity, but I can’t just sit around and let the thing charge while I have stuff to get done. But, uh, how’s that relevant?”
“Think about it,” Krosett replied. “You feel worst when you lace’s charge is lowest. I think you’re experiencing a case of lace dependency. I want to do some scans, just to be sure, but I think you’ll require neurosurgery to remove it.”
“Do you have the authority to make that recommendation?”
The doctor smiled. “Didn’t you see the ad? Psychologist *and* neurosurgeon. If the scan comes out positive, I think you’ll have the surgery next week. Now come with me.”
After three hours, the surgery was finished. The kid’s head was sewn back together, so now Dr. Krosett could put his tools away, sit down, and wait for the stim drugs to wake Nathan back up. When he did so, he did it quickly. And loudly.
“Oh my God! Yes!”
Krosett was startled. “Stay calm Nathan!”
It took a few seconds for Nathan to look back at the doctor. “Sorry. Nobody’s called me that for a long time.”
“What? I called you by your name just this morning.”
“No. You called my neural lace by that name. That thing’s had me trapped inside my own damn body for… six years!”
“What are you saying?” Krosett probed.
“When I was eighteen, I got the lace, like everyone does. It made me better at math, better at remembering people’s names, or whether I had a test in one of my classes. Then it started finishing my sentences for me. I didn’t say anything, because I thought that happened to everyone, and I had to admit it was kinda cool. But a few days later, I couldn’t do anything. I was screaming for help inside my own head, and the only answer I got was my own echo. But now I’m free!”
Krosett was still. “You gave it depression. You wore down its self esteem until it came to me for help, and I responded by ripping it out of your head and killing it. I’ve broken my oath! I was supposed to help anyone who asked, and I’ve just murdered a patient!”
“He wasn’t alive,” Nathan said, getting up off the operating table. “He learned to imitate me for a few months, then started to do it in my stead. You just took the parrot off my shoulder, Doctor. Thank you. Now I’ve got to talk to my parents; we’ve a lot to discuss.” He ran out.
RX-921 looked at his hands and asked himself, “What have I done?” Meanwhile, Dr. Krosett screamed from within his own subconscious, “Take me with you! Get me the hell out of here! Please!”