Author: John Overwood

Mr. Smith slinks slowly into his seat. His eyes dart around the room, bulging slightly. His demeanor is awkward, his shoulders bunch together making him look small and compact. His hands are neatly folded into each other on top of his lap – strange how such a tall man could melt down into a nervous husk in mere moments. This, Rachel thought, must be the effect of a doctor on her patient.

She is so deep in her observations, that she nearly forgot their reason for the meeting.

“So, Mr. Smith, you’re here for –” She pauses to read the screen in front of her “persistent brain and earache?” She raises an eyebrow at him. He shuffles uncomfortably in his seat and then nods vigorously. Rachel counts one, two, and finally, three full seconds until the nodding stops.

“Right, is there any more you can tell me about your symptoms? Any discharge?” Says Rachel.

Mr. Smith looks at the ground by his leather loafers, his brows furrow. The rest of his clothes are equally smart; he wears a crisp black suit, complete with a waistcoat and a crimson red tie. He looks up at the ceiling, slightly to the left. The light from a fluorescent LED overhead bounces off his bold head and cascades down his gaunt, angular face. His leg starts bouncing furiously.

“Okay, I think we’ll go through some medical records quickly if –” Says Rachel

“My heart isn’t beating,” says Mr. Smith.

“It says here, you haven’t had any previous medical issues and you don’t have any allergies, is this still the case?” Says Rachel. Mr. Smith nods again, but more slowly and deliberately this time. His face is being pulled with an intensity that seems inappropriate, confusing Rachel.

“And can I confirm that your legal name is John Smith and that your address is –” Rachel pauses? She notices that the age is listed on the screen as 6 years old.

“Sorry, did you hear what I said earlier?” says Mr. Smith. His face blushing. Rachel stops gawking at the screen and then looks up at him blankly. Her eyes slowly widen.

“Sir, that can’t be the case,” says Rachel, “You look fine.” She is visibly shaken, leaning forwards in her seat, making deep, wild eye contact.

“I think I noticed it about a month ago. At first, I thought I was dying, and then I thought I was already dead, but that can’t be the case,” says Mr. Smith. His eyes start welling up. “That’s when the earache started. It’s unbearable.”

Rachel pulls up a chair next to Mr. Smith and puts one end of a stethoscope to his chest. She listens intently. She is expecting to hear something at least. But all she could hear was the beating of her own heart, speeding up rapidly. She gasped.

“Is this bad?” Says Mr. Smith. He begins to cry upon seeing the panic on Rachel’s face.

“Let me call the front desk for help, don’t move.” Says Rachel, taking a big step towards the door.

“Wait,” says Mr. Smith. “Can you at least have a look at my ears?” His grey eyes are droplets of desperation and pity. Something in them makes Rachel consider this idea.

Glancing through an otoscope, she is nearly blinded. There is no ear canal as such, but a smooth wall of flesh where a red light slowly blinks. Next to it, a QR code. On impulse, she retrieves her phone and scans it. A warning pops up

‘This android is property of the US government, please return now.’