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June 1, 2038, 2:00 p.m.
13 Years, 186 Days Ago
Paul fidgeted in his seat teetering between rage and fear. Yet again people brought his mother into the lab. Yet again his mother was carted around like a delivery of groceries some new employee couldn’t quite get to the right shelves. They even sent them back to the original hospital.
This time, they shoved his mother in at least three machines that he knew of. Each time they would walk in, mutter a few words about how something just had to be wrong, and then they’d cover her in another machine.
They’d been working since 5 a.m., and not a single person cared to do much more than mutter about how they’d get everything set, and then start over again. Paul passed the time reading the Bible. He was careful to hide that fact from his mother. A part of him kept having questions he wanted to ask, but simply revealing that he’d turned to scripture would lead to anything from some sort of elation that he’d turned a corner to pointed questions he didn’t have a single answer for. So he kept the Bible in the bag they brought his mother’s change of clothes and snacks in, and he was careful only to pull it out when he was sure they were moving her to and from one of the machines that apparently refused to work.
However, with his mother suddenly sitting and waiting right there with him, Paul found himself out of things to do aside from sit and/or stew. He bit his lip, trying to avoid asking his mother if they’d said anything to her. He’d already asked the question a number of times, so there wasn’t any point in asking again.
She was reading her own copy of the Bible, which was projected from her PID. That created a new stress. Every now and then, she’d mutter a verse out loud that Paul had questions about.
It wasn’t the same as it used to be, though. Instead of wanting to disprove every passage he heard or reveal it as nonsense, Paul wanted to see how one verse connected to another. Given he hadn’t so much as looked at the Bible in years, he may as well have been reading it for the first time.
Paul stood up to pace, if only for some reason to be moving, but Doctor Feniker burst through the door, giving both Paul and his mother a shocking jolt.
“Good afternoon.” Feniker stepped over to a backlight and flipped it on. He opened an off white folder and started hanging MRI negatives up. “Frankly, I don’t know how to explain this other than trying to show you.”
Paul listened as each image slid out of the folder and flopped on the back-lit portion of the wall.
Feniker hung the last one and stepped back, pointing at the first image he hung. “Do you see that dark spot?” A bony finger pointed at a spot on the right side of the image.
“Yeah,” Paul said.
Feniker nodded. “Huh, so I’m not seeing stuff.” He actually sounded relieved. “So here’s the question. Point out the same spot, or anything at all, in the other images.”
Paul stepped up to the remaining five images. He looked intently in the same area. “I can’t make anything out.”
“Neither can we,” Feniker said. “When our techs here failed to find anything, they assumed our machines were broken. That’s why we gave you a referral for another lab. We genuinely thought we needed to order repairs for our machines until earlier today, when the technicians over there called to ask me why I thought I had time to prank them.”
“Prank?” Paul repeated the word as if he didn’t know what it meant.
“I’d have thought the same thing if I took these images of someone who’s supposed to have a tumor.” Feniker smiled.
Paul scrunched up his face in confusion. “I don’t understand. My mom’s been in treatment for months. Everyone here knows she has brain cancer.”
Feniker shrugged. “Which is why we were trying to figure out what was wrong with our machines. But you’re a scientist. You know that if five tests show the same result, it has to be true.”
Paul practically fell onto his chair. “You’re not saying … Doctor, are you really saying.”
Feniker gave another shrug. “We had had some small hope for these treatments. Tests showed they had a great impact on reducing the size of a tumor. Which is why we tested your mother’s blood as soon as you got here. Apparently, this treatment worked better than we could’ve hoped.”
Paul heard the doctor mutter under his breath. “Or I would have thought possible.”
“You’re saying,” Paul sucked in a deep breath. He didn’t know what to think or feel. “Doctor, I need you to say it plainly.”
Feniker gave a huge grin. “If you wish.” He looked over at Paul’s mom. “Mary, I’m happy to tell you that you’re in full remission.”
She brightened, and her eyes shone with unshed tears. “You mean, I’m cured?”
Feniker looked from her to the images and back again. “Honestly, if I hadn’t have seen it myself, I would have thought the same thing that other lab did. I had to send the original scans with all your information just to prove to them I wasn’t playing a trick on them.”
“What are you saying?” Paul wished he’d remembered any other word in the English language than those four.
“If I’d looked at any of those five images, I’d say whoever that patient was had a clean bill of health. There’s just no evidence anything was there to begin with,” Feniker said.
… to be continued …