VirileMail - Chapter 8[edit | edit source]
MRI[edit | edit source]
Dr. Klein came into the room. "Well, Joe, you gave me a real scare. Do you have a history of seizures? You did not indicate it on the form when you made your appointment."
I'm not sure if I had fallen asleep again. It took me a moment to become alert and remember who this ranting woman was. Dr. Klein, of course! "No, I do not have seizures," I replied.
She asked, "Do you remember in my office? Do you remember when you stopped talking? I think that was a seizure."
I replied, "Yes, I remember, but I don't think it was a seizure."
She smiled, "Well, that is why we are going to do some tests, so we can figure out exactly what happened."
I was tempted to ask if she was working for the aliens, but she was speaking again, very fast. "I've arranged for a brain scan. We'll look for the cause of your seizure. In these cases, be can often see a little bit of abnormal tissue that is the source of the problem."
An orderly arrived and soon they had me rolling down the hall in my bed. It sure looked like the hall of hospital, but I was watching closely for aliens. In just a few minutes they had me positioned in a huge Magnetic Resonance scanning device. I could hear Dr. Klein's voice, "Okay, we just got a baseline scan. It looks normal. Now I want you to do what you did before when you had the seizure. Do you remember?"
I knew what she was talking about. In her office, I had tried to tell her about the aliens, but then they had clamped down on my brain, not wanting me to tell anyone about my discovery that Earth was being invaded by aliens. I again tried to talk about the aliens, but the aliens were waiting for that, and I could not say the words! I kept trying, but I was getting frustrated, clearly not in control of my own speech centers. I heard Dr. Klein's voice again, "Wow, that's amazing! We just got huge spike in brain activity. Oh, my, I've never seen a pattern quite like this. Let's try..." But that was the last I could remember hearing.
When I woke up again, I felt much more normal. I barely remembered being in the Magnetic Resonance scanner, trying to follow Wanda's instructions and trying to talk about aliens. I only recalled hearing something about a huge spike or something. I went to the bathroom and I felt very weak as I got up out of the bed. The same nurse came into my room again. “Hi, Mr. Joe. I see you are up. Please be careful! You lost consciousness again during the MRI scan but Dr. Klein thinks she got the images she needed.”
I sat on the bed. “I would like to talk to her,” I said.
The nurse explained, “She's not here now. She went to visit your company and talk to your co-workers. She said she will stop by later today to see you.”
I wondered if Wanda had believed enough of my story to want to check the facts for her self at Antler or if she just thought I was so crazy that she needed to see the work place that could so effectively drive an employee mad. “Right. OK, then I will wait”
“Yes, you have to rest. If you need to get up, ring, and I will come help you. We do not want you to fall and get hurt. These are hospital rules for anyone who has been having unexplained loss of consciousness.” She turned to leave my room.
“Thanks.” I laid down again.
My mind felt normal now. I had recovered a little and it seemed like a real hospital with real nurses. I was amused by my earlier paranoid thoughts about UFOs. But I still thought that some alien force was at work, nothing within human experience could account for the strange events of the past week. I suspected that some force still watched over me and would continue to prevent me talking about aliens. I tried a small experiment. I said, "It must be aliens." I suddenly felt a surge of anxiety and pain, like the start of a panic attack. Yes, I was still being monitored! As long as I was alone, I could speak of aliens, but with that aura of pain, I had also been warned. When would this all end? Was there anyone I could trust to help me escape this alien menace?
I slept again for a few hours and woke when it was about 11:00 am. I started speculating about the nature of aliens that would try to create an artificial intelligence program. What might they be trying to accomplish? I soon became bored and decided to try another experiment. I found my clothes in a drawer and started to dress. Suddenly I felt very hungry. I took the hint. The alien presence that was watching over me would not let me just walk out of the hospital, unless, maybe I stopped thinking about aliens.
At 12:30 I was staring into my lunch plate, playing a silly game of trying to provoke the alien presence into punishing me. Each time I said something about aliens it seemed to almost randomly either make me thirsty, hungry or start me towards a panic attack. I wondered if this was how I would spend the rest of my life, sitting in a hospital playing games with an alien force that was toying with my mind. And what of poor Chloe who was not even aware of what was happening? I was depressed by the thought of her going through life as some sort of puppet, being forced to do what aliens wanted her to do. Was there nothing I could do?
Finally Dr. Klein arrived.
She hurried into the room and said, "I only have a minute. I spoke to your supervisor, Chloe. She put you on a leave of absence for medical emergency. She said she will visit you here tomorrow."
I asked, "Did you ask her if she thinks something strange is going on at work?"
Wanda replied, "Yes, I did. I asked her some specific questions about your story, about things like the holes in the floors. She confirmed that, but it is strange that she showed very little curiosity about the holes and other strange events of the past week. She just seems concerned about the success of the software development project.....the team is trying to make use of that new hardware you gave her yesterday."
I explained, "There is something special about me that has allowed me to become aware that something odd is going on. Everyone else on the project seems satisfied to just pretend that everything is normal. Business as usual."
Wanda nodded. "Well, we'll sort this out. I sent your MRI scans to some experts....maybe someone else has seen this pattern of brain activity before; I have not....your brain scan was very unusual. But I must run. I want you to relax and get some sleep. My orders are: forget about work. Take a vacation and let your mind focus on other things for a few days."
And then she was out the door. Focus on other things? Ya, right. That was easy for her to say. I decided that the aliens were going to let me remember them, but just not talk about them. Rather than let my mind continue to swirl with desperate thoughts about about alien mind control, I just let myself sleep again.
Chloe visits[edit | edit source]
The next day Dr. Klein came to my hospital room early in order to do some neurological tests on me. She said that I was hyper reflective or something, but that basically I was fine. She asked me if I remembered about my work, my co-workers, my relatives, everything. She seemed satisfied that I did not have huge gaps in my mind and told me that she thought that I could be out of the hospital soon.
Wanda also had set up a complete schedule for my day. Sessions for exercise and then therapy sessions and, of course, meals....all annoying hospital stuff meant to distract me from my troubles. But there was one item of good news: Chloe would visit me in the afternoon during hospital visitor hours.
I was pleased that Chloe wanted to see me and had not just shrugged and forgotten about me when she learned that I was in the hospital. I wondered what Chloe would think if I told her my belief about aliens being the cause of all our strange experiences associated with the VirileMail project. I also wanted to know what Dr. Klein thought, but I was trying hard not to mention aliens when Wanda was within ear shot. I wanted her to only see me behaving normally, not slumping into some abnormal state of consciousness. I wanted to get out of the hospital and to accomplish that, Wanda had to know that I could control myself. I decided there was no way I could make Wanda share my belief in aliens, I had been a fool to even mention the idea to her. Still, it was possible that medical science might be able to make some sense of what was going on in my head. Maybe we could even find some treatment, a way to force the aliens out of my mind.
Suddenly I had a disturbing thought. Would I have to pay for all these medical tests and my stay in the hospital? Dr. Klein assured me that all costs were being paid by my employee's insurance at Antler Network Services. Geisler had signed a form saying that my health problems were work related. After explaining the financial matters, Dr. Klein said goodbye, leaving me to a long day of waiting for Chloe to arrive.
Even while at my scheduled exercise and therapy sessions, I passed the day wondering about my situation and what the aliens were trying to accomplish. It seemed clear that I was now "allowed" to think about the aliens, but they did not want me telling other people about aliens.
By afternoon, still killing time awaiting Chloe's arrival, I tried to imagine ways to make her at least recognize that I was not crazy. I really wanted to see her, to be able to talk to someone who could understand me more than the doctor, someone who at one time had seen the evidence showing that a software program was pretending to be a human. I was disappointed that Wanda had made so few comments about the VirileMail project and what she had seen at Antler Network Systems, but she obviously did not want me to be reminded about any of that right now. I could accept the idea that, from the perspective of a psychiatrist, for me to be completely cured of a work-related illness I should first distance myself from work. The problem was, the aliens seemed to be right here with me, inside my brain. How could I ever get away from that?
At three in the afternoon I completed my last therapy session, a small group of medical students and patients who were supposed to discuss mental health. Most of that session was devoted to the other people in the group asking me what my problem was. I did not even try to tell them about aliens. I said that I had suffered a seizure and tests were being done to try to find the cause. I almost got away with my deception. Several of the other patients were recovering from strokes and were in situations similar to what I had suggested for myself. However, one of the medical students had actually looked into my medical records and knew that my original complaint involved work-related memory problems and sleep disruption. So we ended up spending most of the hour talking about exercises that might improve memory and how to keep a healthy sleep pattern. It dragged on very slowly with me daydreaming about Chloe. Finally the session ended and I went back to my room.
There was a new nurse on duty who was watching for me as I came down the hallway returning to my room. He followed me into my room and took the bath robe I had been wearing while out and about the hospital, leaving me in just a flimsy hospital gown. He said, "Dr. Klein wants you to get some rest," and indicated the bed.
I did not put up a much of a protest. I was still trying to recover from many days of little or no sleep, but I said, "I do feel like I could use a nap, but I'm expecting a visitor." The nurse started to hang up the robe. "Hold on," I said. After lunch in the cafeteria, I had put a section of a newspaper into the pocket of the robe. Now I retrieved the paper.
The nurse said, "Well then, just relax for a while. Sometimes visitors are late or they do not show up at all. If you doze off, I'll be sure to wake you when your visitor arrives. Who is it you are expecting?"
"Dr. Chloe Meade."
"A doctor? Some specialist?"
"Not a medical doctor. She's a Ph.D., my supervisor from work."
"Now I understand! Fine, I'll watch for her. But you can rest until she arrives, yes?"
I sat on the bed. "Yes, I'll rest." I started to read the newspaper and soon felt quite weary. I leaned back against the head of the bed and continued trying to read, but I was mostly thinking about Chloe. The nurse's comment had upset me and I was now worried that Chloe might not show up.
At quarter past three Chloe came in. "Hi, Joe!"
At once I could tell she was trying to be cheerful, but she was in a state of anxiety about my mental condition. Of course, she looked wonderful. I wondered if I looked like less of a sleep-deprived lunatic than when she had last seen me....I was sure that the institutional gown I was wearing did not help give me a favorable appearance. Was it really only two days previously that I had last seen Chloe? So much had happened to me in that time! I said, "Hi, Chloe. Thanks for taking the time to come here to see me."
“I've been worried about you, Joe. On Tuesday it looked like a truck had run over you and then yesterday Wanda showed up at work and told me about that strange seizure you had. I hope you are doing better,” she said.
She sat on the bed next to me and suddenly I felt very warm. I'd often fantasized about what it might be like if I could get Chloe into bed, but I had never imagined it like this. “I'm fine. As you know, things have been a little strange lately at work, and it all caught up with me. But I'm fine and I hope to be able to get out of here soon.”
Chloe seemed dubious. “Yes, but do not feel like you need to get back to work immediately. Take a break and make sure you have recovered first.”
"The doctors are doing tests, trying to see if there is something physically wrong with my brain. Until it all gets sorted out I guess I'm stuck here." I was tempted to tell Chloe about my unusual MRI results, but I did not want to add any fuel to the fire and make it worse for her to have to go away wondering just how sick I might be. I asked, "So everything is going well on the project?"
Chloe shrugged. "Oh, it is challenging. We are not really sure what to do with that new hardware you brought over from Ormuz Computing."
This was good news! I did not want to be involved with anything that would help speed this alien-controlled project. It sounded like they had not tried to get help from Helen Geisler's team. I said, "Those new microchips are very strange, aren't they? Almost like something from another planet."
Chloe laughed. "We were baffled until Geisler put us in contact with her sister. Now we at least know enough about the chips so that we can start to work with them. I think we will be able to make use of the chips, but we still have to do some work to figure out the details."
I realized I should not have gotten my hopes up. There was nothing magical about my contributions to the project. Clearly it was a trivial matter for the aliens to replace me and keep pushing their plans forward. The conversation died; I could not bring myself to congratulate her on their continuing progress.
Chloe ended our awkward silence. She asked, "Is there anything you need here?"
I gestured to my nearly empty room. "I am suffering from my computer addiction. I really want to use one, at least to browse the web.”
“The doctor told me that she wants to keep you away from things work-related. Particularly computers. I guess you should just try to relax and not to think about work or computers. Maybe I could bring you some good books to read." She pointed to the television. "Or you could watch some mindless TV shows.”
I said, "Speaking of mindless TV, I happened to see part of Invasion of the Body Snatchers the other day. Did you ever see that movie?"
I could see Chloe suddenly wince, as if in pain. Some tiny beads of sweat appeared on her upper lip. "Ya, I think I once saw the original version of that. I thought the plant-like pods were silly."
I suggested, "It would be more realistic to just use advanced technology to take over human brains."
I could see Chloe's hands start to tremble. She said, "That sounds like just another foolish plot device. I guess I'm just too concerned with real technology. Fantasy technology does not really seem as interesting."
It sure looked like the aliens were putting pressure on Chloe to keep her from thinking about 'body snatching' and 'mind control'. “Ya, I have to agree that those chips I got from Helen Geisler are very interesting. What are you doing with them? How do you think they can be integrated into our network?”
Chloe shook her head. “No, let's not discuss work. I promised Wanda that I would not talk shop with you.”
I put my hand on hers. “Please, I want to know. Being suddenly cut off from the project and stuck in here where I'm supposed to follow doctor's orders is no fun, believe me. I have to think about something.”
“Well, okay, but just don't get stressed by anything I say. Wanda told me that something related to the project may have made you suffer your stroke, or, no, a seizure is the word she used. So tell me if you start to feel bad, and I'll stop.”
I squeezed her hand “Thanks. I'm sure I'll be fine.”
“OK. Well, we are going to be trying to connect those Lockback chips into the net. We should have the liquid nitrogen cooling equipment in place by the end of the week. We can actually test connections in low power mode without any coolant. Brian and I were doing tons of these low power tests today, trying to learn how to connect the Lockbacks to the conventional parts of our server array. He was still at that when I left work to come over here. The rest of the project is the same, nothing new in particular.”
“Right. I just hope you don't start working yourself too hard again, the way you did right at the start of the project. Remember how you had been working so hard to set up the project that you had to take a nap in my office? You should not let yourself be driven that hard.”
“Ha, ha," she laughed uneasily. "Ya. That's part of being a computer addict, eh?”
It was depressing seeing Chloe acting like a puppet, unable to question any aspect of the project or her own odd behavior. I did not want to start a fight, but I had to contradict her. “No, not to that extent. Its not natural. Its not healthy. Look where it got me. You need to question things, Chloe. For example, don't you remember what we discovered in the router table on Sunday?”
I could see that Chloe was trying to remember, but sweat was running down her cheeks and dripping off her chin. Still she tried to act like everything was "business as usual". She replied, “On Monday you told me that you thought some data in the router table had been altered, but then you told me you did not have proof. Maybe you just made a mistake because you were so tired.”
I tried to stay calm, but this manipulation of Chloe by the aliens was getting me angry. I had seen this type of "mind control" taking place before, but now I understood what was going on. The aliens were continuing to make Chloe forget what we had done and learned. The aliens were bending her mind, making it easier to imagine that I was incompetent than to remember what she had seen with her own eyes. “No, I made no error. You saw it, too, on Sunday. We discovered that there was no 'Janek' in the Czech Republic receiving our email e-mails and doing the translations from that bizarre language used in the VirileMail documentation. Don't you remember? The server array is sending us email messages and pretending to be Janek!”
Chloe looked at me like I was crazy. “What is the evidence for this?”
“On Monday I had a videotape with the evidence, I wanted to show it to you, but then I lost the videotape. We talked about this on Monday, don't you remember?” I was getting increasingly agitated because I could not get Chloe to remember. Worse, the more I tried, the more she acted like she thought I was a mad man.
“I remember you had a videotape of yourself, talking, making some wild claims. I think I better go. I'm just getting you upset.” She pulled away from me, stood up and started towards the door.
I grabbed her hand and I said, “Wait! I want you to...” I tried to say, "..think about how strange the past week has been," but I was suddenly hit by a wave of pain and anxiety.
She turned back towards me. “What?”
My subtle hints about body snatching and mind control had been ignored and now she was leaving, and thinking that I was crazy. I had to try, I had to see if I could warn her about the aliens. “Destroy the... oh, no...”
And I went unconscious again.
When I woke up again, Chloe was not there. A nurse was next to my bed and she noticed me waking up. She greeted me and continued adjusting an intravenous drip line. I realized she was using it to put some drug into me.
I had to accept my situation. The aliens had won. There was no way for me to fight against them. Whatever they were, they had Chloe totally in their grip. I was no better...I just knew enough about what was going on to attract attention and get myself in trouble. Whenever I tried to say something related to aliens being in control of the VirileMail project, I simply lost consciousness. What I had wanted to say to Chloe was that she should purge the VirileMail software from the server array, killing the 'Janek' AI and stopping the alien plan. But I had not been able to say it.
I had to find a way to fight the aliens, to get them out of my brain so I could stop their plans.
Menendez[edit | edit source]
The next day, Dr. Klein came to my room with another doctor who she introduced as an expert in analysis of MRI brain scans: Dr. Menendez. She ordered me to not have any contact with my co-workers. "We are going to keep you busy with medical tests, exercise and therapy sessions. Your job now is to get healthy and help us figure out what is going on in your brain."
I would have laughed at her, but I did not want to do anything that might antagonize her. I needed to convince her that I could control myself and stop having these seizures...that was the only way I'd ever have a chance of getting out of the hospital. But it was absurd! I knew what was going on in my brain...some alien force was preventing me from telling anyone else about the aliens. I figured there was a chance that tests and MRI scans might give us some useful information, hopefully lead me to a way to combat the aliens. I asked, "Have you learned anything useful from the scans and tests that you have done so far?"
Dr. Menendez talked for ten minutes, but basically all he said was "no". He had past experience analyzing thousands of abnormal brain patterns, but had never seen one like mine. "The activity pattern during your seizure was abnormal, but seemed to be highly orderly. I want to see if we can reproduce those results."
Dr. Klein said, "I disagree. I do not think we should allow these kinds of seizures to happen. The spike in brain activity was so high that it might cause permanent damage, death of brain cells. So it is up to you Joe. Do you want to risk inducing another seizure just to show Dr. Menendez that it is reproducible?"
I did not like the idea that more tests might damage my brain. We talked about the risks for quite some time. Finally, Dr. Menendez convinced me that the risks were small. I decided that I had to try to do something. If there was a chance of learning about the aliens, I had to try.
Dr. Menendez said, "Good. I will reserve time on the MRI scanner for tomorrow."
I asked, "Why not today?"
Dr. Klein replied, "Yesterday, after you were talking to Dr. Meade and had another seizure , she told the nurse that you had gotten agitated and grabbed her. The doctor who was on duty decided to dose you with a drug and tried another anticonvulsant, similar to the one I gave you the other day."
Dr. Menendez explained, "I want to wait for that drug to clear out of you body before we do another scan of your brain."
So I had another boring day of waiting. The following day we reproduced the MRI results. I was then an expert at triggering a "seizure". Dr. Menendez was excited that the strange pattern of activity in my brain could be duplicated upon demand. I think he expected to become famous, with my strange disease named after him. He spent two more weeks doing tests on me, then gave up, just putting a label on my condition: self-inducible seizures. All the doctors could do was advise me to avoid doing anything that would cause another seizure.