Author: Elizabeth Hoyle

“What is this?” A pill rests in a plastic cup.
“It’s something to make you sleep. We have all the nodes attached so we can monitor your brain waves and your vitals throughout the night. Once we have tonight’s data, we can start a more personalized course of action.” The doctor’s smile is infectious. “I want you to take that and dream of what an extraordinary help you are by being the first to participate in this new sleep study.”
“All I’m doing is getting a good night’s sleep.”
“Sleep is incredibly important. You’ll hopefully prove an example for many more to follow. I will do my best for them, as I am for you.”
The doctor leaves the room. I knock back the pill with a sip of ginger ale. The lights go out. My back aches, so I roll onto my stomach. My eyelids get heavy. The doctor’s so young to be doing something this advanced, I think. Then again young people are so much more advanced. Sleep takes me.
When I wake up, the doctor is staring up at me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. That’s funny. I should be below him. And my back no longer aches. What’s going on?
“I’ve done it! Can you hear me?”
Movement over his shoulder catches my eye. His assistant, who told me all about his uncle’s trip to my home state of Alaska as he attached the nodes, moves my body onto a gurney.
“What’s happened to me?” My voice has changed.
“The pill I gave you wasn’t just for sleep. It held a unique machine that scanned your brain to allow me to codify your consciousness. You are now the first person to exist outside your body!”
My mind races with all I could say but all that comes out is “This is not what I signed up for!”
His laugh is a harsh bark. “Hasn’t our species been saying that since the beginning of time?”
He types for a few moments then turns to go.
“What’s going to happen to me?”
“You’ll see.”
And I do see. I am not the only one he wants to digitize. Poor soul after poor soul is lured into the lab. He mutes me so I can’t talk. There’s no way I can warn them. I probably look like an open program spouting streams of text. I try to worm my way out of the computer or at least into the other programs he works on. I can sense them, as though they were boxes on the edges of my peripheral vision. But it’s no use.
Others join me gradually over time. Our number runs into the thousands. Every time a new subject comes in, we unleash a hurricane of anguish. The doctor keeps us muted all the time. We speculate among ourselves as to why he’s done this but we never get the chance to ask.
Finally, one day, he hits the unmute button. He hands have grown knobby and spotted with age. “I’d like to posit a question to you all,” he says when all the fuss of our collected rage dies down.
“What’s the most efficient way to kill a lot of people?”
If we had bodies, I expect we’d be exchanging wary glances.
“The answer is quite simple.” He types and we know a new program has been opened.
“You make them believe you’re acting in their best interest.”
He clicks once. The program starts working, silencing our voices, one by one. He watches and listens, basking in the success of his experiment.