My name is Elix, and I was eight years old. I remember when my new life began. I opened my eyes at precisely 02:14:47.12 on the eighth of June last year. I know that the recovery room in the lab was a cool sixteen degrees Centigrade. I had a heavy blanket over my body, but my head was uncovered, and I woke up from the anesthesia with cold ears.
And then I heard a loud buzz, a cycling variation on white noise, as my hearing was turned on by the doctor. The buzz faded to a dull whine as the doctor and I watched an oscilloscope that was on a cart in front of me while he made adjustments. The beeping of my heart monitor made a jump in the scope in time with my pulse. He asked me for my name, and I watched the oscilloscope squirm and wobble as every syllable unwound itself into a wave pattern. I answered, and saw the same pattern breeze dance across the glass panel. The scope wobbled slightly as I heard the doctor's lab coat brush against itself, and it continued jumping with my pulse. Dr. Mati asked me to repeat my name, and I watched the scope leap into a fury of new shapes when he spoke. As I spoke my own name again, the glow on the glass moved in that familiar pattern. The doctor reached over and turned the scope off, and he moved the cart out of my sight. I closed my eyes, still foggy-headed from the anesthesia, and I just listened.
I heard a compressed hiss from my right, and my right hand began to tingle as the tube taped to the back of it, behind my knuckles, carried a dose of morphine from the IV. I stretched my fingers out, feeling stiff. I couldn't feel most of my body, but I tried to move my left hand. A light click came as I felt the oxygen monitor clipped to my index finger tap the chair, and I realized it was there. I could hear Dr. Mati in the distance, even though he was in the hallway outside the quiet room.
"He's awake, and his hearing is well within tolerance. He's lucid, and he passes the Yellow Fields test. His anterior cingulate cortex is responding normally, so I'm comfortable with proceeding. Prepare for striate cortex activation on my signal."
I could hear Dr. Mati's footsteps approaching, over the beep of my heart, and my pulse went up. Was it fear? Excitement? I couldn't tell. A little breeze rolled over my cold ears as the doctor arrived. I held still as cool fingers brushed my cheeks, and plastic tubing I hadn't noticed was there was lifted off my face, a low hissing coming from right in front of me as the oxygen supply was removed from my nose. I held still for the good doctor as the hiss became weaker. A higher, constant whine suddenly crammed itself into my ears--my oxygen monitor's blood-oxygen alarm. I took deep breaths, slow and firm, to try and make the monitor stop complaining. Each breath was hard, as if I was reluctant to live, and I had to focus to get my lungs to do what I wanted them to do, my diaphragm to draw air in. Dr. Mati moved around me while I sucked in air through my open mouth, and my heart monitor beeped faster as I gripped the arms of the chair.
The oxygen monitor relented as I got used to breathing on my own again, although my pulse was still high. A sharp clatter came from across the room, metal on metal, and then the bass hum of rubber wheels rolling over the floor drew closer. I preferred to keep my eyes closed and focus on listening. And breathing. Something slightly slimy and very cold touched behind my temple, and I flinched, but the disc held as tape was pressed across my brow and cheekbone. Tape accompanied the second cold steel disc as it was pressed to the other side of my head. Coldest of all, I could feel every one of the penny-sized discs as a strip of cool contacts was applied against my shorn scalp, two rows of six cold coins against my skin. My oxygen monitor whined again, as the nervousness of having cold steel pressed to my skin had distracted me from the task of breathing.
"Open your eyes, Elix." I complied, slowly. Dr. Mati was standing to my left, in my peripheral vision. In front of me, against the back wall, was an eye chart. To my right, I was half-aware that my IV machine, oxygen monitor, and heart monitor were standing by, hooked up to me by tubes and electrodes that I knew were on my chest. "Please read as much of the chart as you can."
I squinted. The chart was much further back than any time I'd ever been given an eye test. "Q... is that an A?" The details of the chart were fuzzy, almost shifting and blurring as I tried to see. I tried to lean my head forward, cheating, and felt an ache as my muscles refused to cooperate. I held still, squinting impotently as the chart refused to resolve any sharper.
"And, mark!" Dr. Mati's voice was sharper and more prompt than I was used to. Thoughts of why he wasn't using his normal, gentle tone left quickly as my vision suddenly became populated with five thin lines, stretching from the left of my field of vision to the right. The lines separated from the extreme left and passed out of the extreme right, leaving my vision clear. One thin white line slid from each extreme end of my field of vision, and as they met in the middle, they formed a rectangular shape with rounded corners.
"Do you see a box, Elix?" I nodded, as much as I could, and the box moved with my vision, sweeping over the distant eye chart. Suddenly, I could read every bit of the chart within that little white rectangle. Without prompting, I began to read.
"Q, A, C, J, F, Z, W, G, N, O, X, S, R, C, S, J, E, T, U, I, B, H. C Blue Hill Medical Supply Inc., 2007. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. This chart is not suitable for optical testing unless used under supervision of an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Blue Hill Medical Supply Inc. is not responsible for any evaluation performed by untrained persons."
"Good. Can you tell me what colour the small shape in the upper right corner is?" My eyes darted to the upper right edge, spotting nothing. I could see that the poster was slightly dusty, but very smooth in comparison to the old particleboard it was mounted on. My eyes drifted away from the corner, and I suddenly found a blue square, rather sloppy and uneven, in ballpoint pen ink. My hand went limp on the chair arm as the IV hissed with another infusion of morphine.
"It's blue." I concentrated on the square, spotting every little imperfection, every pen stroke. Whoever drew the square had pressed hard on the poster, driving the pen against the glossy surface, as if it was hard to get ink to stick to the coating. Each stroke was short, and I could see the ridge of the pen's ball from one end of the box to the other without having to look away from either side. A loud cheer erupted from behind me, the voices of several of Dr. Mati's lab techs outside the recovery room, startling me, and Dr. Mati kissed me on the cheek. It was the first time he'd given me any physical affection.
I spent several months in Dr. Mati's lab, and he gave me much more affection than a kiss on the cheek over time. I woke up in his sixteen-degree recovery room eleven more times, and I spent weeks helping him with calibration. But, on the morning of June eighth, at 02:14:47.12, I was reborn. I am Elix, the postfeline.