The Ghost of a John Doe

So, this is how it ends, is it? The sirens come to pick me up from the sidewalk where I have fallen. Feeling too weak to breathe; they said the final stages of my illness would be like this.

Inside the white van now. They put a mask on my face. My thoughts become clearer, and I hear something rolling around on the floor. The medics might trip, so I give it a mental nudge and it skitters back to the corner. Good. But how bloody useless, all that I can do, all that I have to do, and I cannot keep myself from dying. The dizziness comes back, and I black out for a moment.

They're saying they couldn't find any identification, and I'm in a bed, with a tube in my throat. Idiot. Taking a walk in my condition, leaving without a wallet. Idiot. Rest.

Most of them are gone. A young woman - an intern? - takes my hand and clasps it. She is waiting for something, judging by her occasional glances toward the doorway. It's comforting. She's pretty.

A man of about thirty enters, holding a syringe. No, I want to be aware, I want to be comforted, the pain is bearable. I can't tell them this, so I focus on the syringe, and it slips from his grasp. Another mental push, and the needle breaks as it hits the floor. I probably didn't need to do that. Would he have used a dropped needle? He curses, picks up the parts, and leaves. She sighs, and turns back to me.

If only... Hmmm, maybe there is a way. To live. It's crazy, but it can't hurt. At my command, a sphere of air above me becomes a cohesive entity. No visible change, but outside influences will not affect it. I set the random motions of the molecules into predictable paths, ionize some of them, then create patterns that will affect each other. It's like programming. The exchange of electrons will convey information and instructions. If I do this correctly, the medium will not even matter, as long as it can shift charges about. Now, patterns for storage and retrieval, patterns for stability, patterns to smooth interactions between different substances, and many more.

The intern is still here. She can see nothing of this. I shift the structure of charges down, engulfing my head. Yes, I can feel it. I allow myself to be taken by it. Last-second changes fit it to my mind. My consciousness, held by this framework I have made, wills itself toward her.

For one horrifying moment, there is absolute void. I had never been aware of all the sensations I received from my body: the normal ones that say that your muscles and organs are status quo. One would not have time for anything else if those were conscious perceptions. But, their lack! It is not the loss of senses, it is the loss of everything. There can be no shuddering, queasiness, or even vertigo, and that leaves only terror.

Suddenly, light, sound, feeling, an aching back, a vision of my body from above and to the left, the texture of my hand as felt by another, and... tender compassion. Her basic thoughts I cannot tell, for we could not map our minds so exactly. But I can read the stimulations of the visual cortex, feel the emotions that are general enough to inspire glandular actions, and maybe even affect them. I give her gratitude, and conjure an image of me hugging her.

Her initial warm reaction suddenly becomes fear as she realizes who and what I am. "Are you... in my head?" she asks aloud, her voice trembling. Being able to hear through her ears, I assume that the portions of our brains handling sound are similar enough for me to answer by thinking the sound, "Yes." She nearly jumps.

"Please," she says, then pauses to inhale deeply, "Please, I don't want you in here."

"Okay," I think to her. To stay, against her will, with some degree of control... That's rape, in a sense. I will find someone else, and perhaps hide in that person for a while.

I carefully move myself out, and the void returns. I try to fight down the panic, and move toward the hallway. Where is the hallway? How far did I just move? With no frame of reference, I cannot tell. I will myself about madly, and encounter no other minds. Am I still in the hospital? Probably not. How far off the ground am I? The panic returns and I dash downward, hoping to encounter someone on the street level. No! Did I pass it? Am I still in the air, or ten miles underground?!?

The terror takes root permanently as I realize that I am lost forever, and am - in the most absolute way - alone.

- Joe Levy 12/96

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