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The Singularity, Chapter Three, The Football Player

11/04/12

  07:27:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 2478 words  
Categories: The Singularity

The Singularity, Chapter Three, The Football Player

?Are you a fan of football?? Kevin asked Claire, making her jump. She looked at her phone, and realized she?d lost track of time watching waves lap against the sand. Knowles was standing sheepishly behind him.

?I'm a fan of tight ends in tight pants,? she managed.

?I'll assume you aren't being cute about the tight end position.?

?That's a position in football?? she asked. ?Maybe it is a sport for the ladies. But I remember watching Mereta play the U of O, when he was attending UW, during the very brief period where I mistook my love of beer for a love of sports. And he had a tight enough end I did not mind him spanking my team. I think I would have let him spank me.?

?Uh...?

?Sorry, wildly inappropriate. But I'm sure you were a college perv, once. And my intern still is.?

?Hey,? Knowles complained.

Claire cleared her throat. ?Suffice to say I am not a professional football fan.?

?That's probably for the best. Chris Mereta isn't the same man who played for the Seahawks. He isn't even the same man he was when he retired a few years ago. I consulted with his regular doctor, then; we convinced him that he needed to stop playing, because of the severity of the traumatic brain injuries he'd already suffered. And unfortunately his decline since then proves we were too late.?

It was evident to Claire that Kevin felt responsibility for failing to help Chris early enough. If she hadn?t already been inappropriate once in the last 90 seconds, she would have touched his arm, so instead she smiled awkwardly at him until he continued.

?My overarching point was that you shouldn't approach him, or his wife, with any preconceptions. He isn't as physically imposing, he isn't nearly as animated or aware. He's a different sort of person from who he used to be, probably a different sort of person than you'd recognize, unless you've spent time around people suffering from dementia.?

?My granddad, some,? she said. ?But he died when I was still really young, so, really all I remember is that he confused me a lot when I was a girl- more a general feeling of confusion than anything specific.?

Kevin nodded. ?But more than anything, you should be wary of rage. In a normal, elderly patient with dementia, their rages can be pretty violent, and someone that agitated can be deceptively strong for how broken down their body is. But someone like Chris... he's still in phenomenal shape- he's six-five and two-fifty, easy. Morgan- his wife- she says exercising's about the only thing he does for himself that she doesn't have to supervise. A lot of it's muscle memory- that much repetition trains more than just the brain. But if there's ever any indication he's upset, don't force it- whatever it is. Our security's outstanding, but I really don't want to test whether or not they could subdue a human freight train like Chris. So?? Kevin asked, rubbing his hands together.

?So?? Claire asked back.

?You ready to meet him??

?You describe him in Incredible Hulkian terms, and then want to know if I'm ready to meet him??

?Yeah. No better time than when you're at your most afraid and alert.?

?You're a sadist, aren't you??

?I dabble. All doctors inflict pain. You either learn to enjoy it, or being a doctor becomes very masochistic.?

Chris and Morgan were sitting at one of the glass top tables. Two tall glasses sat in front of each of them. Morgan's was half gone, while his was mostly full.

?Enjoying the smoothies?? Kevin asked.

?They're delicious,? Morgan said graciously.

?Tastes like used seaweed TP,? Chris muttered sullenly.

?They can take some getting used to.? Kevin soothed. ?We can make them with more fruit and less vegetable, so long as it doesn't disrupt your diet.? Chris' eyebrows went up, and Morgan's grew duller. She wanted to glare at Kevin, and at Chris; she was so used to fighting him every step of the way, cooking multiple meals before he'd agree to take a bite or opening three sodas before deciding he'd finish one, that she didn't like seeing him get his way so cleanly.

?We want to get you healthy, and a part of that is trying to make you happy,? Kevin said. ?Within reason.? Kevin pulled himself out a chair and sat down. ?But Mrs. Mereta, we met last night when you and your husband checked in. It?s actually, um, I examined your husband while he was still with the Seahawks.?

?I remember. You answered a prayer of mine.? She was kind enough not to mention that the answer hadn't been what she hoped for- or at least that it had come too late. But time had not been kind to her. She was still attractive, but the vibrant woman who had helped argue his case with her then boyfriend was tired, and he knew the look well enough to know it wasn't only from lack of sleep- though that was undoubtedly a factor, as well.

?I've read over Chris' file, and I already know his transfer comes from Dr. Hollerman, which is already one of the best names you could have in your corner. But before I start talking at all about your husband and his myriad problems, this is a colleague of mine. Sort of. If she was just a consulting doctor, then the paperwork you've already filled out would cover any run of the mill specialists I might call in. But she's different, in that she?s a physicist that wants to look into an entirely disparate issue.?

?Physicist?? Morgan asked. ?And you didn't just misspeak, when you meant to say, ?physical therapist??

?No. She's a physicist, monitoring exotic, um,? he gave her a helpless look. ?Doctor Banks, I'm going to let you explain it.?

?Uh, yeah. I'm studying extradimensional particles. Quantum physics basically says that every single possible quantum state exists superpositioned on top of every other, like a stack of transparencies. In quantum decoherence, as the waveform collapses- as those possible quantum states are trimmed away, leaving only the single, reality we observe- that because of the quantum nature of all of those superpositioned states, all of that information from the unobserved possibilities is disbursed- and some of it leaks into the observed reality. You can view it as pollution, if you want, or like energy lost as heat- only in this instance, it's more like it's gained, since it's coming from basically nowhere.?

?Most of the time we're totally unaware of these small bits of data, but I believe your husband represents a porous point where this information is collecting and leaking out from other worlds- or maybe, and probably more likely, really, just different times and places in our same, contiguous spacetime.?

Claire could tell that she was losing Morgan, so she tried to switch from the theoretical to the practical. ?This data points to the existence of wormholes, which could have any number of practical considerations, from cheaper, faster transport to interstellar and possibly intertemporal travel.?

Morgan furrowed her brow. ?That sounds great, and everything, but what does it have to do with my husband, or his care??

The question puzzled Claire, and she had no idea how to approach it. ?Fundamentally,? Kevin said, ?it doesn't. I'll be taking charge of your husband's case for the foreseeable future, and whether or not doctor Banks stays with us, I'll be responsible for his medical care.?

?I sense an unspoken but in there.?

He grinned at her. ?But- and maybe I was just reluctant to openly shill for scientific research- but articles that get press get attention, and attention, drives research dollars and can get talented doctors to focus on your husband's issues instead of somebody else's. This would definitely be a boon to others suffering from cognitive disorders, and may even yield some definitive help for him in the future.?

?So you think I should do it?? Morgan asked. Kevin felt bad for her, because it was just one in a long line of questions, which had steadily wearied her. She had put on weight since he'd seen her last, stress weight, and her hair was now streaked with newly gray hairs.

?Yes. If I weren't convinced there was a potential to help people like your husband, and even potentially, though perhaps less likely, your husband himself, then I would not have let Ms. Banks speak with you.?

Morgan pursed her lips, and furrowed her brow. She didn't want to expose Chris to any new difficulty, but she knew that whatever trouble there was, she'd bear the brunt of it. And she was desperate for even the slimmest hope of helping him. ?Okay,? she said.

?Good,? Kevin said. ?After this, we can get you a release in my office. But you two should pull up a seat,? he said, gesturing to the free chairs to his left. ?Having taken care of that business, I think I'd like to forge ahead, and do the admitting interview. If you want, I can toss Ms. Banks out for this part, but if you want him to have the best chance of benefitting from whatever she might find, I'd say you're better off letting her stay, too.?

?That's fine,? Morgan said.

?Mrs. Mereta, when I saw your husband last I offered my services full time to monitor or rehabilitate him as necessary, and at the time you declined. What's changed??

She wanted to take the question as hostile, to assume he was criticizing her for delaying, maybe even blame her for how much worse he was. But she knew that wasn't his intent; she closed her eyes, and swallowed, to put away her frustration, and as much of her guilt as she could. ?I've put it off every day since then. I was happy to get Chris out of the NFL, but I... I wanted you to be wrong about his prognosis. I wanted,? a tear, hot with her anger, slid down her cheek.

?He didn't want to come,? she said, sliding her fingers into his cavernous palm. He didn't seem to notice. ?But that's not an excuse. He doesn't want to go anywhere anymore; I have to make him go everywhere except the gym in our home. And it shouldn't have mattered; I should have made him come earlier.?

?This isn't your fault, Mrs. Mereta,? Kevin said. ?Your husband's injuries, we did a full work-up last time I examined him. Getting him into treatment, it was a... a precaution. But there's nothing in his condition nor was there then, that makes it seem like admitting him into our program would have staved off his decline.?

Chris' pupils dilated, and his eyes fixed Kevin and glared. Claire watched as the anger in them melted away to sadness, and his eyes started to moisten.

?I know all that,? Morgan said. ?But it's so hard not to, find ways to take the blame. But the last few months, he's been in real pain. We burnt through a few prescriptions for some heavy duty painkillers- the stuff he was on right after his knee surgery- and they didn't even take the edge off.?

?Can you describe the pain?? Kevin asked Chris, but he continued to stare ahead.

?He told me it was like somebody jammed a screwdriver into his skull and was trying to pry bits of brain out with it.?

She hesitated. ?But if you want the one incident that made me come here, it was the day before I called. I don't leave him alone, because he... he hurts himself if I'm not there. But I can't always sleep when he sleeps, so that means sometimes I'm too tired to wake up when he gets out of bed. And I woke up, and couldn't find him, and freaked because I thought maybe he'd wandered off again- gone to the store for milk and forgot halfway there how to get to the store or back home, and just started wandering. I tore through our bedroom pulling on clothes, and I was about to run downstairs to get my car keys when I noticed him in our bathroom. He'd taken a shower- I could tell that from the steamed up mirror and the towel wrapped around his waist. His face was mostly covered in shaving cream, save for a single strip that he'd already brushed away, and when he saw me he smiled from underneath all that foam and I felt happier- lighter- because it was going to be one of his good days. Then I noticed that his safety razor was still in its case on the counter, but his toothbrush holder was empty.?

Knowles laughed out loud, and Claire elbowed him in the stomach. ?No,? Morgan said, ?it's okay. I laughed, too, at first, especially because, with that grin still plastered on his face he raised his toothbrush up again and stroked it down his jaw.? Chris angrily pulled his hand away from hers, and her fingernails clacked violently against the glass table. ?Honey,? she said, her voice immediately deeper and more soothing, ?I wasn't making fun of you.?

His brow knit, then his jaw loosened, and he leaned his head against her cheek. ?I laughed, because in that moment it was funny, and terrifying. and he got mad at me.? She stroked her fingernails alone his scalp at the temples. ?And I laughed some more, because we?d had a rough patch, before that, and I needed to laugh, and so did he. But for some reason, when he started to laugh with me, that was the moment it really came home to me, how he could have reversed it- tried to brush his teeth with his razor, instead. And that was when I couldn?t ignore it anymore; he was hurting, and we needed help.?

?Well I'm glad the both of you are here,? Kevin said. ?First thing on the agenda's going to be some diagnostic tests. There's a chance some of his issues could be down to another, simpler condition. Do you know if he's had an MRI or a CT scan recently??

?I?m here, damnit,? Chris interrupted. ?Don?t talk about me like I?m not.?

?Sometimes it?s hard to tell when you are,? Morgan said wearily, and stroked the hair on the back of his head. He jerked his head away, but she pursued, and scraped her fingernails into his scalp. The muscles on his neck relaxed. ?It's been a while since we've been to the doctor. So the only recent tests are the ones Hollerman did.?

?That's fine,? Kevin said. ?We've got facilities here to cover most needs- and we can beg a scan we don't have if we need to. In a community this size doctors have to share to get along.?

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