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Rob glanced around the elevator, and wondered if there were many germs on the buttons. He looked at his watch: Four-thirty in the morning. The Martian Flu had messed up his internal clock, and now that he was fully recovered, he could head home at his "earliest convenience". He snorted at the language of his medical plan, and wondered for the thousandth time why they didn't have computerized forms and simple voice recognition instead of pen ink on triplicates.
The elevator stopped on the third floor, and an older gentleman in blue scrubs entered. The man looked at the lit Ground Floor button, and leaned against the back of the elevator. As soon as the door closed, he turned to Rob, smiled, held out his hand, and said, "Hi, I'm Doctor Elliot Sharpe."
The doctor's smile grew wider as Rob shook his hand. "I couldn't help notice, your form is perfect in all wavelengths. Even your body language says, human."
Rob raised one eyebrow. "I am human. Are you coming on to me?"
Sharpe chuckled. "Of course not. I'm asking if I can learn from you. You've obviously got this life thing nailed down. I wouldn't have even noticed if it weren't for the EM pulse."
"Look," said Rob, turning to stare the doctor in the eye, "I don't have any idea what you're talking about. I just got over the Flu, and now you're striking up some weird-ass conversation about EM pulses and nonhuman specimens and whatnot." The elevator stopped, and the little bell dinged. "I'm out of here."
"Wait a moment," Sharpe exclaimed as the door opened, "You really don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"
Rob walked out of the elevator, ignoring the doctor. He went out the door, turned the corner, and headed for the parking structure. Weird conversation, he thought to himself as he absentmindedly fingered his keys in his pocket. Was the guy some sort of Star Trek nut, or just weird?
"The stars look nice at this time of morning, don't you think?" said a voice in front of him. Rob froze.
At the entrance to the parking structure stood Doctor Sharpe. "I asked if you knew what I meant, and it's clear you don't. It's also clear you might be unique among SCABS victims."
Rob raised one hand, and pointed at the man. "Look, I don't want trouble, and I ain't no freak."
Sharpe put up his hands in a "calm down" gesture. "Mr. Fontaine, I would like to explain this to you calmly and rationally. There are two types of SCABS victims, those who are alive, and those who aren't. You are the second."
Rob's mind refused to believe what it was hearing. "You're crazy, man, I'm as alive as they come."
The doctor shrugged. "Your heart is beating, you are eating solid foods again, and if you die, you die. However, I would like you to think about this: Were you resuscitated at the worst point of the Flu? Because if you were, you could have died with a copy of your brain, or your soul, we haven't figured it out yet, bonded to your atoms, and your current brain could be the result of simple biology."
"Could you please try to explain what the FUCK you are talking about, old man?"
The doctor stepped closer, and said quietly, "You are possessed by your own soul, created at your death and bonded by SCABS to your body. Able to see and hear everything you do, from every angle, on every wavelength from visible light to radio, but unable to control a single atom, a duplicate of your mind is going slowly crazy. He won't be able to sleep, he won't be able to move, he won't ever be hungry or tired, he won't be able to warn you if you are about to be hit in the back of the head, and if you don't do something about him soon, he might swear vengeance for your casual disregard of his existence. Some day, he could gain control of the atoms of your neck, and tear open a vein, just so you'll die, and he'll live."
Rob blinked. This guy was over the edge, and yet...
He remembered feeling his heart stop, his lungs not working, an alarm ringing as everything faded to grey. He remembered hearing someone yell, "Clear!" He had felt he was on the edge of knowing everything, of being freed, and being pulled back. He remembered the feeling of being grabbed as he fell, of something else falling through him, past him. Then he was back in his body, in the hospital room, with a doctor standing over him.
"Okay," he said, "Could you run that by me one more time. What do you mean about SCABS?"
Sharpe took on a grim expression. "He's listening. The pulse has stopped. Okay, I'll explain slowly. When someone is infected with the Martian Flu Virus, there is a possibility that they will be changed by SCABS, a phenomenon unexplained by science. Some people are altered in form alone, their cells rearranging to form those of an animal-person, or someone of another gender or age. Others, like me, have their minds bonded to themselves. I don't know if it's the soul, or a copy of the brain at the moment of cell death, but my brain died, and I'm still here.
"You, on the other hand, were brought back, and now you have both a biological brain, and a mind that is probably an exact copy of yourself at the moment of death. We don't know when SCABS makes a person an inanimorph, but death probably triggered it for you, a time of great emotion most certainly. He doesn't seem to have a great degree of control, but he's you as much as you are you. Your mind is an incredibly complex chain of chemical reactions at the cellular level, but his is whatever lives inside a person turned into a pencil or a piano or a plush animal."
Rob nodded, fascinated by the bizarre nature of the conversation. "So you're saying I've got two souls, but I'm the one controlling the body."
"Something like that," said Doctor Sharpe, "We don't know if it's a soul, or a copy of your memories and consciousness stored in another dimension. The one without biological control can jiggle the iron in your blood to make a tiny electromagnetic pulse on a wavelength of about seventy megahertz."
"That's funny," quipped Rob, "I don't feel hertz."
Sharpe started to speak, looked at him, blinked, and said, "Ouch. Like time, puns wound all heels. Okay, here's what we'll do, I'll make a device that can pick up the frequency, and you two work out a code. I suggest one beep for yes, two for no, three for restate the question, and whatever else for warmer, colder, and so on. We can schedule therapy for him, so he can learn to control parts of you that aren't delicately balanced chains of chemical reactions, like your hair and nails. Imagine growing or shrinking your hair and nails to any length instantly, and never having to find a comb. Study of the therapy could also help those inanimorphs trapped in their own undecaying corpses. If it works, and if it leads to a cure, you could be famous, both of you. How does that sound?"
"I'm a little freaked out at the moment. Do you have any proof of any of this?"
"I'll level with you. I can make myself into complex electronics, and break them off. Here," Sharpe grew a small black wand from his hand, "Have this. It runs on one double-A."
Rob edged away nervously, now having proof that the man before him was a SCAB. A moment later, he remembered that he already had the Flu, and those public service announcements said you can only catch the Flu once, and SCABS itself is random and uncatchable. He took a leap of faith, and grabbed the wand's gripping end. "Maybe I should learn Morse code," he remarked.
The smooth half of the black wand lit up bright red, for less than a second, then turned black again.
Rob's eyes opened wide, then his cynical subconscious suggested it was a hoax. "Okay, other Rob, what's Barbera's phone number?"
The wand started blinking, and Rob counted. "... nine, two, three, zero. Okay Rob, I believe you. Do you want to accept his offer?"
The wand blinked three times.
"Do you want therapy, I assume with other inanimorphs, to learn how to control yourself, and help others in your predicament?"
The rod glowed red for an entire second, and turned black.
Rob put the rod in his left hand, held out his right, and said, "Doc, you've got a deal. Are Mondays at three good for you?"
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