Mr. Rupert

Dr. Chen made like she was adjusting her glasses, but she subtly pressed the record button. Sure, it wouldn’t get by the ethics board, but that only meant she couldn’t publish it. She would keep the recording just for her own research. It might prove invaluable. And any breakthrough could help a lot of afflicted people, not to mention their families.

“I’ll get right down to it, Mr. Rupert. You’ve suffered a compound fracture to your M-box.”

“Oh, thank goodness! I thought I was going crazy!”

The doctor leaned forward. “This is a rather serious diagnosis. To be frank, albeit a touch unscientific, you are going crazy.”

He chuckled. He was unfazed. From his expression to his posture to the tone of his voice, he was relaxed. The holographic display of her glasses showed her the measurements it could make: pupillary response, skin blood flow, perspiration, autonomic microgestures. He wasn’t the least bit alarmed. But was that a coping mechanism, or a symptom?

“Not really,” he said. “It’s just a hardware problem.”

“Mr. Rupert, in a very real sense the M-box is a part of your body. You could go so far as to say you are your M-box. The finer points are a bit philosophical, but from a neurological perspective it is as inseparable from your nervous system as your spinal cord or your prefrontal cortex. It’s much more than an enhancement; it plays a vital role in creating, storing, retrieving, and interpreting your memories, and the shared memories you’ve inloaded from others. The human brain is a tremendous thing. It will naturally attempt to compensate for the severed connections by creating new ones. But the M-box isn’t designed for that. You have no way to distinguish which memories represent your own experiences and which do not. Do you understand?”

Now he looked more thoughtful. He crossed one leg over the other and rubbed his chin. “I see. Still, that makes me feel a little better.”

Perplexing. “Mr. Rupert, I have to ask: what about this makes you feel better?”

He smiled crookedly and averted his eyes. “I’m sorry; I should have said something sooner. It’s just that I’m not Mr. Rupert. You have me confused with someone I know. The funny thing is that we don’t even look alike.”

One of them was confused, but it wasn’t Dr. Chen. She opened a desk drawer and produced a mirror. She handed it to Mr. Rupert. And continued recording.

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