It’s a pivotal week in the story this week. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the technology. Although the story is fictional, the technology to achieve the events is not that far away. We live in an interesting world and it’s going to get more interesting as time goes by.
I experimented this week with what a journal of the interaction between Rachel and the computer simulation of Rachel might look like. I look forward to your thoughts, as always.
Please enjoy Memories of Rachel – Part 7
By month eight of the pregnancy, the original Rachel was totally bedridden. She slept most of the day, waking only for meals. She was catheterized and used a bed pan to relieve herself. She barely communicated with Ben, her nurse or the doctors when they visited her. This did not mean that she was totally non-communicative. She was one with the appliance that linked her to Rachel 2. Ben had even tried removing the headgear and Rachel writhed in pain as if he were hurting her by doing so. The only way she would settle down was if he reattached it and she resumed her connection to her digital alter-ego.
Ben was no longer a participant in the sessions between the Rachels. He was, however, able to monitor the interaction between the two. BERTA had a sophisticated logging system that interpreted thoughts and it was almost like reading an ongoing dialog between the two. Organic Rachel was referred to as ‘Subject’ and digital Rachel was referred to as ‘Sim’ for simulation. Ben marveled at the efficiency of the back and forth as he read an excerpt from the latest log:
Sim: Most painful memory?
Subject: Death of grandmother
Sim: What year?
Sim: Favorite food?
Sim: Favorite television show?
Subject: Breaking Bad
Sim: Accessing: Breaking Bad – A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family’s future. Source – IMDB.com
Sim: Favorite book?
Subject: To Kill a Mockingbird
Sim: Accessing: To Kill a Mockingbird – The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature. Source – Goodreads.com
This back and forth went on for pages and pages in the log. Ben was amazed at the completeness. Even though the topics seemed to jump randomly, Rachel, his Rachel, kept up with the simulation without a single verbal response.
With each response, BERTA’s algorithms continued to catalog emotions and chart them. There was more of the violet color on the graphical representation of the collected data. The speed at which data was collected was exponentially faster than anything Ben had seen with other subjects. But, was there a price?
He knew his wife had cancer. Her doctors, however, were baffled by the incongruous progression of the disease. It seemed Rachel’s body was devoting all of it’s resources to two tasks, protecting the development of the baby and interacting with digital Rachel. Here brain activity was off the charts. Her doctors dismissed the notion that the protection of the baby’s development was due to Rachel ‘interfacing’ with BERTA and the Rachel simulation. Ben didn’t believe in coincidences. He also fully believed that the shutting down of Rachel’s external communication and the exponential spike in brainwave activity was directly attributable to her interface with the simulation.
Ben slept restlessly the night before Rachel’s estimated due date. He was fully convinced that childbirth would kill his wife. Her body was in such a weakened condition that he believed she would succumb to the stress of labor. She had been adamant about not submitting to a Caesarian Section unless absolutely necessary to save the baby. She wanted her child’s birth to be traditional and chemical free. Her obstetrician was convinced that this was plausible and, in her mostly catatonic state, she wouldn’t feel much of the pain of labor. He shared Ben’s concern, as did her oncologist, that Rachel might not survive the intensive act of giving birth.
Ben had horrible nightmares on this night. He first dreamt of a gruesome birth that was similar to the famous gory scene from the movie alien where, as Rachel screamed in pain, the baby burst from her chest killing her instantly. In the dream, the delivery was not of a baby at all, but of a giant cancerous tumor with fangs that attacked and killed the medical staff and then came after Ben. He shook himself awake from the dream, got out of bed and went to the kitchen for some water.
As he leaned against the counter letting the cold ice water run down his dry throat, he heard Rachel’s voice intoned with a sense of urgency.
“Ben. Ben, are you awake?”
Ben started for the bedroom and then realized the voice was coming from the kitchen. He glanced at the counter and saw the soft blue light of the BOOM device pulsating as the question was repeated.
“Ben, are you awake?”
“Yes, um…I’m awake,” he answered, still not sure what to call the voice of the simulation.
“The baby is ready to be born. It’s time.”
Ben was suddenly wide awake. He ran for the side table by the sofa to get his cell phone.
“Okay, I need to call the doctor.”
Rachel and Ben had made arrangements for the baby to be born at home. Transporting Rachel in her current condition was risky and the obstetrician was nearly 100% certain that the baby would be healthy enough to remain at home although he had arranged for transport to the hospital to be standing by in case a C-Section was necessary or in case the baby needed some kind of care after being born.
“I’ve already called him,” Rachel’s voice said from the device. “He’s on the way.”
Although he had been excluded from the process, Ben was actually thankful that the simulation had acted so quickly. He hurried to Rachel’s side in the bedroom to be with her as she faced the birth of the baby. He couldn’t suppress the thought that this might be the last time he spent with her alive. It saddened him deeply.
As he sat by the bed and held Rachel’s hand, he heard the sound of the doorbell. He went to the front entry and let the doctor in. The nurse that had been helping Rachel had been spending the night for the past couple of weeks and was already in the room checking Rachel’s vital signs. She passed information to the doctor as he entered the room.
“Doctor, her heart rate is elevated, as expected. Her BP is normal as is her respiration. She’s already in the transition phase. She’s 7 centimeters dilated.”
“Well. We aren’t wasting any time. This baby will be here soon.”
Rachel did not open her eyes or appear to wake up at all. In fact, her eye movement behind her closed lids indicated that she was in some kind of intense dream state during her labor. This was something that surprised all that were here to observe the phenomenon.
While the doctor and nurse prepared for the delivery, everything progressed normally for a woman in labor if you disregarded the fact that the delivering mother was totally silent. Even her facial expressions were minimal, but the rapid eye movements continued.
After another 45 minutes, the nurse examined Rachel’s cervix once again.
“Doctor, she’s fully dilated, the baby is crowning.”
The doctor pondered the situation before he took a look for himself.
“What is it, Doctor?” Ben asked.
“Well, normally we would be coaching the patient to push at the right times. With Rachel being in this state, I thought we might have to manually intervene, but somehow, she’s been pushing at the right time. It’s almost as if she knows what to do despite her state of consciousness.”
This continued for the next 20 minutes and finally, the sound of a healthy, squalling baby filled the room. Ben looked down at the healthy, pink infant and realized he was the father of a perfectly healthy daughter. Once this realization hit him, his concern switched to his wife.
“Doctor, how is Rachel? Is she…is she okay?”
Again, the doctor’s silence indicated that he was pondering something.
“She seems to be fine. Her vitals have settled back to normal. Her body seems to have tolerated the labor. We’ll have to see what happens over the next several hours, but, for now, she seems to be stable.”
“That’s great. Maybe she can undergo some kind of treatment and…”
“Let’s slow down here,” the doctor cautioned. “Her body is still in a weakened state after having devoted its resources to producing this healthy little girl. We’ll have to wait and see how it recovers. We wouldn’t want to do anything that might compromise her condition.”
Ben suddenly realized that he was now responsible for another human being. The nurse had cleaned up the baby and swaddled her in a pink blanket. She handed her to Ben and he marveled at how small and helpless she was. He also realized how unprepared he was to take care of her at this moment.
Of course, his planning nature had made sure that he would have help. Rachel’s nurse would help him until morning, just a few hours away, and then Ben had arranged for a neonatal nurse to help with the first days of taking care of the baby. Ben had made this arrangement because he assumed he would be dealing with what he thought would happen to Rachel. He thought about not calling the agency since Rachel was hanging on, but he thought he might welcome the help in case the assumed eventuality came to pass.
As he was gently holding the baby, she began to stir and then began crying. Ben heard Rachel’s voice coming from the computer in the nearby room.
“Bring her in here, Ben. I want to see her.”
It was the simulation. Ben was confused and then he realized the computer’s camera acted like eyes for the simulation. Still confused, he brought the baby into the room and held her at an angle in view of the camera.
“Oh…she’s beautiful, Ben. Our baby is beautiful.”
This statement made Ben a bit uncomfortable and just as he was about to say so, the baby’s crying subsided just a bit at the sound of Rachel’s voice. Then, eerily, the simulation began to sing a lullaby in Rachel’s slightly off key singing voice.
“Hush little baby,
Don’t say a word.
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”
The baby wriggled and snuggled into the soft blanket and drifted off to sleep. Ben looked at his daughter and felt a calmness come over him. The calmness was interrupted by the voice of the nurse.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I can put her in the bassinette in my room for tonight so you can sit with your wife if you want to.”
“That sounds good,” Ben said as he handed the baby to the nurse. As she turned to leave, he asked, “Is Rachel still okay?”
The nurse hesitated to form her answer.
“Right now, she’s stable. Nothing has changed. That being said, she’s a very sick woman. Things could change rapidly.”
As the nurse turned to leave, the voice of the simulation spoke in a hushed tone.
“Don’t worry, Ben. Rachel will be fine for a little while.”
“How…How do you know that?” he asked.
“It’s simple. I’m not done with her yet.”