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Science Fiction Speculative Suspense

CW: Reference to autism, self-harm.

All it took was a touch.

To see that the concept of time and space is an illusion of the mind.

When Fiona James woke up, she didn’t remember it though. She always woke up 5 minutes before the alarm went off.

It was her routine to mentally go through the day’s schedule while still in bed. It was not a casual tabulation but an hour to hour if not minute to minute visualization. She believed in being thorough. This was one of the qualities that had propelled her to head one of the most coveted research projects at the age of 40.

9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

A meeting with the NCED (National Child Empowerment Department) team to apprise them of the project status. In the last meeting, Mr. Shiv- a modern-day mystic had raised a few objections.

10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Work with her team in the lab where the test batch of serum was in the final stages of production.

11 a.m. to 12 noon

Interaction with the conduits of the centres that provided the sample subjects for the study. Followed by a working lunch.

12 noon to 12.10 p.m.

Meeting with the representatives from the Ministry of Education.

12.10 p.m. to 1p.m.

Interaction with the parents of the sample study group.

1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Back to the team to refine the implementation plan. The team had managed to whittle down a complex process into 3 simple stages.

Stage 1.    Test the subjects when they are 3 years old and determine where they fall behind -intelligence, emotions, energy? Calibrate and administer the first dose accordingly.

Stage 2.    Test the subjects again when they are 13. Check if they are progressing as they should and administer a corrective dose.

Stage 3.    A final round of testing was to be done when the subject reached the age of 21 years. If they have done well on a complex set of parameters, they will be administered a binding dose else they will be administered a blank dose.

4 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.

 Have evening tea. Alone.

4.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Visit one of the facilities that are keen to offer the test subjects for the next batch. Interact with or observe the potential test subjects. Pick the ones likely to benefit the most.

5.30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Touch base with her team and be updated about the day’s progress.

After 6 p.m.- a swim, a run or yoga, and dinner at 7.30 p.m. Go to bed at 10 p.m.

Satisfied with her mental run-through for the day she reached out to turn off the beeping alarm clock. Something on its face looked strange.

She jumped out of her bed.

The year on the clock was 2045.

***

Fiona was never the one to panic.

 As a 6-year-old she had seen her parents struggle with her baby brother. David looked like an angel but missed all his baby milestones. By the time he was 3 years old, it was confirmed he was autistic. She saw her parents panic, maybe that’s what led to their death in a car crash. She was sent to a foster home. David was sent to an institution for they couldn’t find a foster home for him. They found him dead before his 16th birthday.

She was heartbroken but did not panic. She was not going to start now.

Even if somehow she had landed in 2045.

She glanced down at herself. She had lost weight and her locks had turned grey.

Her screaming joints slowly recovered from the shock of her sudden jump.

Her home and furniture seemed to have changed a great deal. She wished she could draw the curtains and look outside. The curtains parted.

She drew a sharp breath.

She was in a forest! Most of the homes were built on the trunks of giant trees. There were no roads. She saw a few transparent bubbles flying with people in them. She took it all in with a growing sense of disbelief and wished for a cup of coffee. She heard the shuffling of feet a minute later.

“Good morning, Fiona. Here is your cup of coffee!” said a cheerful voice.

She jumped for the second time since morning.

A short woman with an ageless face and imperceptible eyes stood in front of her with a cup of espresso on a tray.

Fiona croaked, “Who are you? How did you know I wanted coffee?”. Her voice sounded feeble.

“I am Danielle. I knew as your MindReader is on,” said the soothing voice of the ageless woman pointing towards Fiona’s head.

Fiona noticed a light blue halo around her head. A series of questions sprung to her mind.

Oh My God, can this halo read my mind? Can I turn it off? Where am I? And who is this Danielle? I have never had any house help. Has my old age brought on this change? She looks strange, is she even human? What happened to my project?

Danielle continued,

“Yes, I can read your mind. Not all of it, only the ones that demand service or an answer. That is my access limit. You can turn it off by tapping on your halo.  You are in a retirement community. I am a humanoid. I have been your companion ever since you suffered a stroke and retired 5 years ago.”

Fiona gulped down her coffee trying to process this information. She tapped on her halo. She would keep it off until she got used to it.

“Should I tell you what happened to your project?” Danielle prodded.

Fiona felt her heart rate go up.

“Yes please, if you don’t mind.”

“I am not designed to mind, Fiona. Only to support. Where should I start from?”

“From the year 2022,” Fiona replied.

“Ah well, the first dose of BeBetter serum was administered at the selected centres for autism services across the country in June 2022. It was received with an equal measure of enthusiasm and scepticism. The test subjects’ response was good. The corrective shots were given in the year 2032. The project was hailed as a great success. All was well till 2040. Then the Rainbow Centre incident happened.”

“The Rainbow Centre…,” Fiona mumbled to herself. It sounded vaguely familiar. “What happened at The Rainbow Centre?” she asked.

“A few subjects of The Rainbow Centre who received the third shot developed serious disorders and had to be admitted to psychiatric institutions. There was public outrage against the BeBetter program. The government suspended the program indefinitely. That was when you suffered a stroke and went into a coma.”

Fiona could not recall any of these details. Maybe her mind had blocked out those painful memories.

“Later, after a thorough investigation it was found that Ace Biotech was responsible for the incident, they had adjusted the formula to 100% concentration as opposed to BeBetter’s 80%,” the humanoid continued.

Ace Biotech, the corporate giant who wanted to buy the formula and was refused!  Fiona remembered this detail.

“Ace Biotech had somehow managed to get the formula of the serum and had tweaked it. It secretly persuaded the parents to switch over to their formula for the third dose. It promised a greater degree of boost and bind. A few parents fell for this,” Danielle revealed.

“What?!” Fiona gasped, to have used her team’s research so wantonly was a sacrilege.

Danielle continued, “There has been a growing interest and support for the BeBetter program in recent years. The new government has promised to take a fresh look at the program. There may be chances of its revival after all.”

Fiona smiled. All was not lost.

“What happened to me after I went into a coma?”

Danielle recounted, “You were in a coma for four years. In the absence of next of kin, your Living Will was about to be followed. You had clearly stated you didn’t want to live in a prolonged vegetative state. The doctors were about to set a date. Then you had a visitor”

“Who was this visitor?” Fiona asked.

“One Mr. Shiv,” Danielle replied.

Fiona thought she was going to faint. Danielle helped her to the chair.

***

The meeting was nearly over.

“I have dedicated 20 years of my life to this research, Mr. Shiv. I know what my team is doing. We are trying to eliminate the neurological factors that are making humanity suffer. I can understand that the government wants to ensure that the product is safe from all aspects but I refuse to indulge your objections based on vague spiritual notions,” Fiona had stated passionately in the meeting held on 30th January 2022.

Shiv had replied with a smile. “I understand your feelings, Ms. James. Your intentions are noble. I don’t pretend to understand the complexity of your project. But what I understand is you are planning to change the nature of the child at the cellular level by fixing it by 100%. All I am asking you to consider is to bring it down to a much lower percentage. We want to give a chance to humanity to raise its consciousness by its efforts, don’t we? Trying to fix everything would take away the new possibilities”

Fiona gritted her teeth and replied “I don’t think you can understand the pain of the parents who have to raise differently-abled children. Or see the children drifting off due to lack of proper care”

“I do, but have you thought about what will happen if it is misused by the corporates to increase their profits or governments to further their agenda?” Shiv asked.

“For a mystic, you have quite a poor view of humanity,” Fiona retorted.

Shiv smiled, “I look at things as they are, that is all.”

“You talk as if you have seen the future,” Fiona said sarcastically.

“Yes, it is not that hard to see. I wish you could see it too. I have spoken my mind; I will take your leave now.” He stood up.

“Thank you,” she said as she offered a handshake.

All it took was a touch.

To see that the concept of time and space is an illusion of the mind.

Fiona James remembered it now.

***

September 17, 2021 09:26

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4 comments

Jane Ruth
22:48 Sep 22, 2021

I enjoyed the story. I was confused in a couple of places as to what exactly did Shiva have to do with showing up before she was almost let go, how did that stop the docs from not following her LW? I assume he "saved " her somehow? When did the meeting take place? Before the coma? When she asked if he knew the future?I liked your story showing there are still people who care about making life better for the unfortunate. I also liked that you had someone who was concerned about taking our innate nature to better ourselves away from us complet...

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Suma Jayachandar
04:14 Sep 23, 2021

Thank you for your appreciation. Shiv is a mystic, so it can be safely assumed he had a hand in bringing her out of the coma. The meeting did take place some time before the final formulation of the serum.

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Rangaiah Mysore
01:43 Sep 18, 2021

H G Wells , the father of Science fiction, presented scientific fiction stories with a long time perspective about time and space and the stories caught the imagination of creative writers all over. Some of the concepts almost turned out to be true. But Wells had a large canvas of novels to write his highly appreciated works. To achieve something in the same genre that is appreciable too, in the form of short story requires crispy narration, mastery of the frame work of the story and ability to make vivid presentation. Here the story of a l...

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Suma Jayachandar
15:29 Sep 21, 2021

Thank you for such a detailed critique n appreciation:-)

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