From my upcoming novel.
I’ve been working on this novel for a while. It describes a world in which ‘tech’ no longer implies ‘digital information technology’ which has taken a backseat to biomedical engineering. My hero is therefore a throwback to basically today, ahead of the time when something other than global warming was the biggest disaster we could think of. As science fiction, this book is aimed to show a future, partially evolved, partially dystopian in the wake of new advances in tech. Of course I don’t care so much about spaceships or digital tech, so here’s a peak at what’s next in the future world that doesn’t either.
Like most of the buildings in the Emerald City, Doctor Blondell’s offices were in a round tower. His had a pair of elevators on the outside which rose in parallel like the gantry of a rocket ship poised for launch. Molly and Zach crossed from the elevator across the open air bridge to the main building through dark green sliding glass doors. The receptionist sat behind a round desk integrated into the curving walls facing them as they arrived. Zach noticed that she had an old-fashioned nameplate on her desk. Marsha Blandings. As the entered, the doors closed behind them and enclosed them in a disturbingly abrupt silence. Molly grasped the Cert in two hands and approached the desk, Zach stood behind her with his hand on her shoulders as she wordlessly passed the magical brick. Marsha took it, waved it over a light and then handed it back, speaking in a whisper.
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“Welcome. The doctor will see you in a few minutes. Door 4 is to your left.” The pair nodded thank yous and turned to go. The outside world was subdued by the Lipson glass window walls which curved along their clockwise journey one third the circumference. Inside the door was a short vestibule that led, spoke-like to another door on an inner circle. There were armless couches on either side surrounded by miniature ficus trees. They sat facing each other reverently in the clinical light.
“Well, here we are”, they both said simultaneously and then giggled briefly. It was going to take all weekend to get through the process. The gravity of the situation started to become palpable within the claustrophobic inducement of the lozenge shaped room. A Scrub that failed would leave a patient naked to the world without one’s natural flora and immuno-compromised. Though it rarely ever happened, news of a scrubbed patient dying of pneumonia would hit the news every other month, and back in '45, there was the Honeker Clinic disaster. Twelve new scrubs all died of a SARS like infection. The new regulations required the new circular insertion protocol which operated very much like biohazard isolation. Nobody got scrubbed in ordinary hospitals any longer.
The doctor came out and described the process as Molly sat in the barber chair and received a haircut, manicure, pedicure and shampoo. In the first stage, she would shower in a relatively highly acidic wash. The tradition was to use a version of vinegar but Blondell had his own custom acid mix. Then a sort of plasticine paste would be applied to the skin and peeled off. As she arrived at this stage of her transformation, never had it been so easy for Molly to see the hair on her legs and pubis disappear. She was manually dermabraided which left her feeling very tingly and then took a second shower. She looked into the last mirror in the white room.
Next came the more rough treatments. She had already eaten the cleansing regimen for two days, and although she was hungry, it felt more like thirst. She took a handful of pills then laid down in a device resembling a tanning bed. In exactly 20 minutes she could feel her stomach begin to twitch as she swung her feet onto the warm stone floor. The attendant took her to vomit and the results were positive. They gave her a strangely yellowish colored cup of oral wash, which confused here because all her life she had used green. Then she remembered how people would look at her strangely in the Floradonna buying green Orals instead of Amber 2. Was she really that different? Was it going to work? Was her body going to reject the treatment? Would she once again be the exception? Her mind raced in circles until she started experiencing the discomforts of the enema room. Attendants placed her into a position that resembled kneeling at an alter, her armpits flopped over a leather bar. She watched them in a mirror as they tightened and adjusted room temperature lubricated lingams into her groin. The attendants stepped back as they vibrated to life and pulsed water into her. She felt as if her midsection were expanding to the point of bursting and then the flows reversed until her guts felt sucked out. She couldn’t help but feel, although she had read all of the guidebooks, that this was a humiliation for its own sake. She was disgusted by her own smells polluting the soft epsom salty warm water now splashing down on the tile floor. She closed her eyes and found the praying position more apt than she ever expected. She heaved again.
They bathed her and sponged her down gently. Although she was greatly relieved to be out of the enema room, she began to feel noticeably weaker, as if she had just gotten out of bed with the flu. Not exhausted in her muscles, but as if her core were all weak and wobbly, as if she had lost 30 pounds of muscle and was suddenly frail. Her trips through concentric circles brought her to the middle of the building she went down an elevator one floor below in her fresh white gown. The first room had a dental chair. She sat in it and within a hour had a small battery placed in her left rear molar and had her mouth thoroughly scrubbed. She then had the wax blown out of her ears and all the hair in her nostrils removed. She began to cough and spit as she entered a wider area.
More of the complexities of microbial rebalancing took place in the blood than most people knew. If something were to go wrong in the hematology section, few things would go right later. It was the unspoken understanding by all Florologists that they were mostly hematologists. Accordingly, Molly was not prepared for, and therefore did not anticipate anything dramatic to happen as she went through the blood phase of her scrub. So she rather casually ambled over into the blood transfusion center. She was asked if she wanted to run or have her heart artificially stimulated to speed up the process. Molly wasn't much of an athlete and by this time she really felt like relaxing, so she opted to go slow. This way the filter and hero transforms would take a couple hours and she could relax before going through the most frightening but final part of the scrub. Drowning.
The reason Blondell was the most sought after microbial scrubber was that he had innovations in drowning in gas. That didn’t change the fact that gas alone could not scrub the lungs. There had to be a heavier, more viscous liquid to displace more of the lung flora, so people had to drown. The body’s reaction to heavy gasses was essentially the same as liquid. Blondell however, did come up with the idea of off-gassing. He could perform a kind of controlled narcosis in which the heavy gasses were ventilated into the lungs in a kind of soupy fog at a certain pressure. This contained a cocktail of scrubbers and pre-balanced microbial flora that attacked the native flora via physical, chemical and predatory biological processes. Drowning was the procedure that he would personally oversee. It was a combination of anesthetic and sedation that slowed respiration and heartbeat coupled with a kind of nerve control of the diaphragm that physically took voluntary control away from it. The drowning reflex was suppressed and yet the patient remained partially awake.
Molly sat down, leaned back in her chair and accepted the mask fitted onto her by the attendant. It fit into her mouth like a snorkel and over her nose with two plugs that went a good way up her nostrils. As she breathed in the lilac scented airs she felt simultaneously light headed and heavy chested. As she became drowsy, she could feel herself coughing in slow motion. The pumping of her diaphragm was not yet on external control. This part of the process allowed the doctor to check the strength of her diaphragm. They let her actually drown. She clenched the ends of her chair and her legs attempted a vain fight against their restraints. Her body was shaking with the elephantine violence of the autonomous panic of drowning and yet she didn’t quite sense the normal sensation of burning in her chest but it was warm. As the calibration was made and the external controls locked into her nervous system, she passed from panic to mere unease. It was somewhat like watching someone being waterboarded on video. She was aware of something exquisitely frightful going on, yet she was glad it wasn't her even though at some level she did know it was her. Like a slow motion nightmare she couldn't wake up from, or woke up within to tell herself that everything was going to be OK. In her deepening anesthetized reverie she walked through the parting of the Red Sea, it crashed over her head and then rising with panic to the surface she stopped and realized she could breathe underwater. The warmth in her chest now cooled, as if she were breathing an arctic peppermint breeze. She could taste the sweet tartness in her torso and it felt like breathing for the first time, tingles reaching the back alleys and side streets of her lungs.
Now the doctor injected the new guardian and transformational microbial mix. These would live in the cell lining of her lungs and give her a standard layer of protection against various airborne microbes, especially those with the capacity for controverting Blue. This was the most important seal and combat zone of microbials and it still hadn't been perfected, but Blondell's 'gaseous diffusion' was the most advanced so far. It made his patients more 'pure' and more effectively guarded them against the effects of environmental germs. It was Blondell's experience at Floradonna staff that aided in the development of this process, and made him so bold as to require the drowning.
At the end of the scrub, Molly felt more exhausted than clean. While she sat in isolation awaiting her introduction to the balancing microbials she would be susceptible to any number of infections. It was critical at this point that she have the minimum of interaction with humans. Isolation was essentially biohazard level five with reverse pressure systems, UV, and gamma radiant filtration and a series of protocols known only to Tarsus' licensees. Blondell would feel guilty if his own enhanced drowning process hadn’t helped mitigate emphysema and practically cured asthma world wide. The money was more than ridiculous, it was obscene. He had processed so many certs. Of course his process helped embed a deeper balance and it was because of this that his microbials were called implants. The average human body could only take one or two scrubs at the level of Blondell’s balances required. But then again, Blondell could generate more effects with Blue than anyone on the planet which is why the rich, famous and powerful beat a path to his door.
What nearly everybody wanted of course, was Blue 66 aka Blue Lively. A dose and a half of the uppers. The combination that allowed people to seemingly float through life with nothing but bright, cheerful feelings. Of course it disqualified them from any number of more serious jobs, but the sort of people who wanted Blue Lively were generally trying to avoid that sort of life anyhow. Molly sat on the verge of that which was considered human perfection, the new of the now that induced the masses to ignore history. The psychocognitive microbial effect. Some people said it made us a new species, but even the very idea of species was up in the air, for what people understood now better than any time previously in human history was that much of what we considered us, was not us at all. The fixation on DNA and genomics in the earlier pat of the century had proven useful, in retrospect, only because of how it advanced the science of creating bespoke microbes, first for industrial processes and now for human ‘rebalancing’. Those microbial recipes first emanating out of the traditional biotech firms were eclipsed by Tarsus-Schmidt Industries, now the Floradonna Corporation. Floradanna took the world through a revolution in health which Tarsus likened to the discovery of vitamins and minerals. Thus, like vitamins, he named his microbials in such a way that children would come to think of them as part of their complete diet. Something odd coming from a man originating in the oil business, but now nearly as universally accepted as LastID. After all, he is the great Demitri Tarsus, the man who cured the Pox and is about to solve world hunger. Yes this was the future of all mankind, we could make ourselves in ourselves, and Blue was the mind-altering key.
Molly felt that she needed Blue. The world was indeed a better place and people were happy all over. Why should she feel afraid of people? What was it about their happiness that she distrusted? It wasn’t as if there weren’t enough things in the world that make people legitimately happy it was just that she just rather accepted it. She accepted it and that gave her a sense of satisfaction, nothing more than mere satisfaction but nothing bubbly erupted from her. She felt dead but only relatively so. She didn’t really see what there was to get so very excited about because her life was practical and successfully practical. That didn’t lead to all of the ecstasies that people seemed to be feeling around her. Maybe it was because their lives had been so terrible before all of these good times that they appeared to be so elated. Molly knew the feeling of destitution, of being put out, but it never made her drink more deeply at the fountains of refreshment. And that was the sort of feeling she could not get over. She felt mediocre and somehow incapable of feeling things so greatly. Like the lady who praised God when she found her lost keys, Molly wanted the small things in life, the things that everybody seemed to have, to give her a reason to celebrate. That was what she expected from turning to Blue Lively. That was why she was being scrubbed. That was why she was sacrificing all of the germs of her prior life to the enzymes of her new Blue You. Making the little joys enough for a lifetime of happy.
She finally was ready for her tattoo. Under her left arm she got the inevitable UV sensitive tattoo with the ISO barcode for her new balance, 61.
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I want to read the rest of the novel!