“Fiction is Truth’s elder sister. Obviously. No one in the world knew what truth was till some one had told a story.” — Rudyard Kipling, “Fiction,” speech to the Royal Society of Literature, June 1926
“I’m telling you stories. Trust me.” — Jeanette Winterson, The Passion
“The man is fiction, but the mask is real.” — Paul Theroux, My Other Life
He looks down at his hand, tilts his head to the left, as if a change of angle would change what he was seeing, or at least explain it.
He lifts his hand, looks at his palm, spreads his fingers. He slowly and deliberately puts his hand down. His head tilts to the right as the door remains silent.
Why did the government put these stupid access screens on the inside of rooms? As if the cameras everywhere weren’t enough. Come in for my annual gene refresh and now I’m stuck inside this hospital room. “Shit!”
“We have a situation.”
“And what is this situation?”
“A dead person in room 2042.”
“And how is that a situation? The st…”
“He’s trying to leave his room.”
“…aff. What? Wait. What did you say?”
“I heard.” She places her hand on the login panel. The screen starts flashing.
SECURITY ALERT! ROOM 1722. UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS!
“Jane. We have…”
“I thought you said…”
“… another one.”
She looks back at the screen. Now it’s flashing ROOM 2040.
“Computer, security dashboard.”
She taps the camera icon next to the latest room added to the list. The patient, alone in the room, is furiously wiping the screen with his sleeve.
She switches back to the dashboard. There are now six rooms on the list.
“Tom, send them a please be patient message.”
She starts going through the dead’s records. Check-in time; Attending Physician; Diagnosis; Treatment; Time of death — 11:01:36, 11:03:01, 11:01:30 …
“Jane. Another one. A commander.”
“Patch me through.”
The dead don’t have rooms. What happened to the patients?
“Hello? Jane Colt, Tech Ops here.”
She looks down at her screen.
“Well as you should know, this is Commander Christopher Pike. What is going on here?”
PATIENT: JOE TYLER
“We’re experiencing technical difficulties Commander.”
Back to the alerts screen.
“We’re working on fixing it as quickly as possible.”
She checks the Commander’s record. Time of Death: 11:02;01.
“I can see you’re looking down. At your screen? Why are you smiling now?!”
“My apologies. I think I have found the problem. We should have this resolved shortly.”
“I hope so. And I expect a detailed report.”
“Commander, Commander Pike? Jane Colt, here to report.”
“Come in. So you’re my jailer.”
“Jailer? No, oh no. It was a … that … literally some crossed wires, uh fibers. Maintenance guy, new. Sorry. Let me start over…”
At home, Tom opens his public diary. “Succesfully cleaned database after glitch. Relaxing at home.”
A follower, sees the update and pours himself a glass of wine to celebrate. The underground now has its first agent in place.