The Future Collection

By: Beth Revis

1. Doctor-Patient Confidentiality

2. The Most Precious Memory

3. The Girl & the Machine

4. Lag

5. The Turing Test

6. As They Slip Away






Introduction





I used to say I wasn’t a short story writer. I enjoy building the world far too much, and that takes words, enough words to fill a whole novel.

But every once in awhile I’ll get those flashes of ideas—the ones that are just a quick “what if that happened” or “what if this didn’t happen”—and all of a sudden, a character will pop up in my mind, ready to answer that one question…but no more.

The following is a collection of short stories that did just that—they answered my “what if” questions, they explored a character or two, and then they walked off into the sunset. Some of these stories became seeds for novels—“The Turing Test” was a one-off idea that didn’t let me go and became The Body Electric. The “girl with sunset hair” haunted me in “The Most Precious Memory” and became a feature of the main character in Across the Universe.

Each short story is its own tale. None of them are linked, and none of them exist outside of their few pages. But there’s something magical, I think, about a story that’s limited to such a small space. I’m often reminded of Madeleine L’Engle’s description of a sonnet in A Wrinkle in Time: Part of the beauty is in the constraints of the form, and of fitting something important within those constraints.





One





Doctor-Patient Confidentiality





Ophelia Hamilton woke up all at once. There was no yawning, gentle stretching, or slow awareness of consciousness as lingering dreams faded. Her eyes opened, and she was awake.

“Ow,” she said, looking down at her arm. A needle protruded from the soft skin on the inside of her elbow. Another was driven through the vein at the top of her hand. Thin, clear tape pulled at the fine hairs on her skin, keeping the needles in place.

She was in something like a capsule, with a transparent-blue rounded hood over her body. The hood slid away in two neat pieces, out of sight, and Ophelia blinked in the bright light.

“Hello,” a man’s voice said.

Ophelia tried to move her head but found her neck stiff and unyielding. She struggled to sit up. Her body, far too weak, failed her. Instead, the capsule she was lying in tilted up. There must be some sort of anti-grav field around the tray; she was raised to a standing position, but felt none of her own weight. She tried to take a step, but she only had the strength to do little more than float steadily within the edges of the opened capsule.

“You may be experiencing mild memory loss and disorientation,” the male voice said. “Please don’t be afraid.”

The voice reminded her of someone, but Ophelia couldn’t recall who. She strained to move her neck enough to see the speaker, but then he shifted, appearing in her line of vision.

He wore a white lab coat with a scanner sticking out of the front breast pocket and insta-gloves folded in the large pocket by his hip.

“You’re a doctor,” Ophelia said. Her words were slow and measured, as if she were learning how to speak with each syllable.

“I am,” the doctor confirmed.

“I’m in…a hospital?”

“A cryo-med wing.”

Cyro-med: Where doctors stored patients if they couldn’t find a cure quick enough to save the patient’s life.

“What…happened?” Ophelia’s words were nearly a whisper now.

The doctor drew up a chair and sat down across from her. He slid his finger across a hard plastic shell encasing his left forearm and a screen popped up. Ophelia gaped; she’d never seen such advanced, sleek tech. She tried to read the screen but couldn’t; it was dimmed on her side.

“In long-term cryo-med patients, we’ve learned it’s easier for the patient to adjust if she remembers her own past, rather than being told what happened. Take your time.” The doctor smiled at her, the wrinkles at his eyes deepening. “Start with your name.”

“Ophelia,” she said instantly.

The doctor tapped on his screen. “Your whole name.”

“Ophelia Lucille Hamilton.”

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