Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 36 of 61

I wasn’t nuts after all.

The doctor’s office in the Main Street infirmary was clean and white and decorated with posters of Jiminy Cricket in doctors’ whites with an outsized stethoscope. I came to on a hard pallet under a sign that reminded me to get a check-up twice a year, by gum! and I tried to bring my hands up to shield my eyes from the over bright light and the over-cheerful signage, and discovered that I couldn’t move my arms. Further investigation revealed that this was because I was strapped down, in full-on four-point restraint.

“Waaagh,” I said again.

Dan’s worried face swam into my field of vision, along with a serious-looking doctor, apparent 70, with a Norman Rockwell face full of crow’sfeet and smile-lines.

“Welcome back, Julius. I’m Doctor Pete,” the doctor said, in a kindly voice that matched the face. Despite my recent disillusion with castmember bullshit, I found his schtick comforting.

I slumped back against the pallet while the doc shone lights in my eyes and consulted various diagnostic apparati. I bore it in stoic silence, too confounded by the horrible Waaagh sounds to attempt more speech. The doc would tell me what was going on when he was ready.

“Does he need to be tied up still?” Dan asked, and I shook my head urgently. Being tied up wasn’t my idea of a good time.

The doc smiled kindly. “I think it’s for the best, for now. Don’t worry, Julius, we’ll have you up and about soon enough.”

Dan protested, but stopped when the doc threatened to send him out of the room. He took my hand instead.

My nose itched. I tried to ignore it, but it got worse and worse, until it was all I could think of, the flaming lance of itch that strobed at the tip of my nostril. Furiously, I wrinkled my face, rattled at my restraints. The doc absentmindedly noticed my gyrations and delicately scratched my nose with a gloved finger. The relief was fantastic. I just hoped my nuts didn’t start itching anytime soon.

Finally, the doctor pulled up a chair and did something that caused the head of the bed to raise up so that I could look him in the eye.

“Well, now,” he said, stroking his chin. “Julius, you’ve got a problem. Your friend here tells me your systems have been offline for more than a month. It sure would’ve been better if you’d come in to see me when it started up.

“But you didn’t, and things got worse.” He nodded up at Jiminy Cricket’s recriminations: Go ahead, see your doc! “It’s good advice, son, but what’s done is done. You were restored from a backup about eight weeks ago, I see. Without more tests, I can’t be sure, but my theory is that the brain-machine interface they installed at that time had a material defect. It’s been deteriorating ever since, misfiring and rebooting. The shut-downs are a protective mechanism, meant to keep it from introducing the kind of seizure you experienced this afternoon. When the interface senses malfunction, it shuts itself down and boots a diagnostic mode, attempts to fix itself and come back online.

“Well, that’s fine for minor problems, but in cases like this, it’s bad news. The interface has been deteriorating steadily, and it’s only a matter of time before it does some serious damage.”

“Waaagh?” I asked. I meant to say, All right, but what’s wrong with my mouth?

The doc put a finger to my lips. “Don’t try. The interface has locked up, and it’s taken some of your voluntary nervous processes with it. In time, it’ll probably shut down, but for now, there’s no point. That’s why we’ve got you strapped down — you were thrashing pretty hard when they brought you in, and we didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Probably shut down? Jesus. I could end up stuck like this forever. I started shaking.

The doc soothed me, stroking my hand, and in the process pressed a transdermal on my wrist. The panic receded as the transdermal’s sedative oozed into my bloodstream.

“There, there,” he said. “It’s nothing permanent. We can grow you a new clone and refresh it from your last backup. Unfortunately, that backup is a few months old. If we’d caught it earlier, we may’ve been able to salvage a current backup, but given the deterioration you’ve displayed to date. . . Well, there just wouldn’t be any point.”

My heart hammered. I was going to lose two months — lose it all, never happened. My assassination, the new Hall of Presidents and my shameful attempt thereon, the fights with Lil, Lil and Dan, the meeting. My plans for the rehab! All of it, good and bad, every moment flensed away.

I couldn’t do it. I had a rehab to finish, and I was the only one who understood how it had to be done. Without my relentless prodding, the ad-hocs would surely revert to their old, safe ways. They might even leave it half-done, halt the process for an interminable review, present a soft belly for Debra to savage.

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