by Chris Morton
“Mr. Tao, Mr. Tao.”
The eyes blinked.
“Mr. Tao. Can you hear me?”
The first doctor clicked his fingers against the side of the man’s head. Haphazard; almost carelessly; then looked across at his colleague. “Looks like we’ve got another one.”
The second doctor muttered while the head, the head of Mr. Tao, began to moan – first low and barely a sound but soon that sound had grown to become nothing short of a desperate roar.
The first doctor’s face came forward, against the eyes: he had some sort of instrument. A light that he shone deep into what was left of the subject.
“He has cognition.”
“Don’t they all.”
This reply came from slightly further away. A third doctor, there were three of them – but then there was panic and much of it growing.
“Can’t we shut it up?”
“It bother you?” said one doctor to another.
Yes, there were three of them. Three doctors. The room was white. Blue. White. And the instrument was a strong, shining silver. Their clothes were white, so he assumed they were doctors. One of them looked away, at a right-angle to the other two who were each staring at him and he tried, tried his best to understand.
“Dump it, then?”
“That’s the fifteenth already.”
“Not even lunchtime.”
Laughter. Shuddering, reverberating laughter.
“I don’t understand it.” This came from the female. The woman. One woman, two men. Doctors … The female, the second doctor, seemed more interested than the other two. They were showing unkindness, discursiveness, like this was some sort of routine and they couldn’t have cared less for him … for Mr. Tao …
That’s my name, he thought.
“The problem is not physical, per se. The head itself is fully recovered.”
“Functional,” put in the third, still staring away at a right-angle.
“It’s the mind,” continued the first doctor, regarding the woman with slight … he was being patronising, superior, informing her as if she were a junior. “The mind cannot cope.”
“With the body,” she replied.
Mr. Tao tried to look down. At what body?
And then he saw it, the reflection in the wall opposite that was a huge, giant glass mirror and the three doctors with him, but it was too much to handle.
The woman, her back arched – she was bending at him. She had black stockings under the white coat and her hair was brown; long, brown and soft. Mr. Tao wanted to touch it, to reach out and he could feel where his arm and hand should have been.
“Wait a minute, we’re getting something.”
The two other doctors were older. One grey-haired, the other black. The grey haired doctor was the one staring off at a right-angle.
“Movement in the left temporal.”
Mr. Tao recognised his face. So familiar. Bathroom mirror, he thought. He remembered shaving, and of times when he’d just stared – why? But he had looked. So often he had looked at his reflection.
The head, the head was his, but attached to something metallic; artificial and spindly.
“Mr. Tao, can you hear us? Do you understand where you are?”
Spindly, from the neck down to a shining, elongated scaffolding of circuits. There were legs, arms, and long, metallic fingers.
“Mr. Tao, do you understand.”
“Not getting anything.”
Mr. Tao began to scream, then realised in the strangest way that he’d already started screaming much sooner – his mouth was open, like a fish.
“Mr. Tao. You are alive.”
But the woman, she seemed worried. She turned to the black doctor. “Is there anything we can do?”
The black doctor said nothing but his eyes, they rolled dismissively.
“Nothing at all?” the woman repeated.
The grey-haired man’s lips were moving ever so slowly. He was talking to the wall – there was something there, out of sight. (Mr. Tao reasoned that it may be some kind of computerised interface).
It was the black doctor addressing him – it was he, the first doctor, who had been addressing him all along.
“Mr. Tao, this is the year 2333. You were put into cryogenics …”
But Mr. Tao, the head, was no longer taking notice for it was the woman he was focussing on. Only she could save him now. Tears, bright blue – they were flooding from the ducts in her eyes. Her lips opened and a surge of memories flew at him in a dense, rushed groan and he tried again with his right hand, to reach out to her, begging for help. For understanding.
He knew he’d made a connection.
Help me, he screamed. Help me … My God …
“Another dud,” he heard.
The black doctor looked to the woman. “Fifteen it is, then.”
Hand at her mouth, the tears continued to flow.
“Kill it,” said the grey-haired doctor, turning finally to face the head.
“Another one for the pigs,” agreed the black doctor, patting the woman on the back.
Laughter. Horrible, reverberating laughter. They were mocking him. Giving up on him.
I’m right here. Help me, my God.
“Says here, he paid a fair fortune for this.”
“Didn’t they all?”
Their words became distant: “A … CEO … Symantec … crash … too much blood … ironic … automotive …” A crash, yes! he remembered. A CEO. He had risen to the top, and controlled … he’d been in charge of … self driving … and then … there’d been an accident …
With a jerk he was being carried across the room.
“Another head for the disposal.”
More laughter, and ever so slightly less reverberating.
The song continued: Each day … while you can … flying there and … float …
Staying conscious for barely long enough to project three hail-Marys, Mr. Tao took in the other heads; he took in their punctured, rolling eyes – though rather than feeling the horror you might imagine, Mr. Tao, once inside and when the lid had closed, decided that in a way it was like returning to the womb. Like home, he decided.
The moaning roar ceased and the head began to convulse in what could only be interpreted as laughter.