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like a fish

From the novel Monopole [formerly Theodorus in Excelsis]

The tone coming from the device on the floor beside Teddy’s head stops and the electric-lady voice tells him that, if he’d like to make a connection, he’ll have to please terminate the communication signal and try again. The electric lady repeats herself, then again…and again. It’s maddening with the device still levitating above the floor beside Teddy’s head, still so close to his ear––the sheer repetition is insanity itself. Teddy groans once, then flops like a fish. The electric lady won’t shut up.

I can’t take it, Teddy thinks. Then, in an instant, without really considering the action, he throws himself over with a hard kick to roll his body. His right hand lands on the device beside him. In another instant, Teddy sits up just enough to throw the device against the glass window-wall of his accommodation, which looks out over the gray city as the rising sun begins penetrating the thick polluted sky.

A small metallic piece breaks from the ALLpod and its touchscreen display cracks when it collides with the window, on which it leaves a scuff. The metallic piece ricochets off the window, striking Teddy’s face, leaving a small cut on his cheek below his left eye. The ALLpod falls to the floor at the foot of the window and hovers there silently. The window looks out across the city from the thirty-seventh floor of the large accommodation complex. This neighborhood is filled with similar ones. They are the architectural equivalents of urban filing cabinets. Teddy is aware of the presence of the pain from the cut on his cheek, though it bothers him very little. In fact, it is practically imperceptible relative to the emotional anguish he has amassed from being so long in loneliness and decrepitude.

You see, as there was no damage to the brain itself (remarkably enough), Teddy is still quite capable of cognitive thought; however, he can’t quite manage to will his body to move. When he did gain some sense back after the coma, the doctors tried to get him to take medication, but he refused vehemently, confused and suspicious from his dilapidated condition and severe amnesia. Teddy remembers almost nothing of his life before the coma—except for his name and brief flashes of his youth—and finds only remnants lost amongst his dreams of who he had been more recently. His mind always seems to find a beautiful woman, her sharp smile, her look of sincerity, and the sense of guarded release he feels when she is present in his dreams. Teddy hasn’t yet been able to hold onto the thought of her long enough to place her in his past—if she was ever there at all. Teddy often wonders if perhaps she’s just a projection his subconscious has conjured to remind him what his life could have been.

Teddy has come to accept this decrepit, amnesiac life to a degree. He doesn’t know who he is or how he got here, so he goes along with everything for the most part. In his condition, it’s not like he could do anything about it anyway. And so he allows the doctors to administer pills during each of his regular visits, the most immediately forthcoming of which Teddy should really be getting to.

If Warner would only get here to scrape me off the floor, Teddy thinks. How pathetic and helpless I am. But I suppose we all have one handicap or another that we must cope with through the day-to-day. There’s always some vice, physical or otherwise, that prevents us from accomplishing the things for which we truly strive. What is it for which I truly strive? Teddy wonders.

Thus far, his habitual practice of derogating his own handicap by comparing it to the simple shortcomings of others isn’t really serving him. Thus far, it just gets worse—his handicap and how he feels about it. Teddy does his best to maintain some semblance of optimism and control, but he often doubts how much longer he’ll be able to persist like this, so he tries his best to avoid thinking of the past and future. He tries his best to live for each moment. Come what will, he tells himself. It never does.

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