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Changing The Code

You don't know why you are anxious. It’s just life. Life is constantly anxious making.

By Wilkie StewartPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 3 min read
Changing The Code
Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

The doctor is turning the screen away. You don't know why. He isn't abrupt about it. It's not like he saw you come in and then pulled the screen to one side. He waits until you are seated, and you are having a conversation. Each time he speaks he reaches over and touches the edge of the screen, as if he is tilting it because of the reflections, or pressing on a touch screen to input an answer but every time he does, he moves it subtly away, pretending he isn't doing it on purpose. And all the time he is asking you the same questions. Do you feel anxious today? Could you pinpoint why you are anxious? Are you more or less anxious than last week?

Why would one week make a difference? You don't know why you are anxious. It’s just life. Life is constantly anxious making. Doctors make you anxious. Computers make you anxious. The thought that someone is hiding something from you makes you anxious. Don't they teach these things at Medical School?

You wonder if he's not really a doctor. He could be a computer technician testing software and what better guinea pig than a repeat patient like yourself? He could be changing the code each time you visit until - shazam! - it can guess all your answers. Learning from your input. You've read about this on the BBC website. A.I. systems that are learning to speak and act like humans, so that when you phone, or send an email, or text, they can respond in real time with a clever answer.

What if he's not even a technician but an actor? Lots of actors are out of work. You've read about that on the BBC too although some of the articles seem to be blaming TV producers for choosing the same five actors for every new drama. It must have been a blow to casting directors when John Thaw died.

An actor like him could play almost any part in the NHS. He could learn his lines, follow the questions and answers, and then play the role. If you go to him with a sore head, or neck or stomach, all he need do is lay his hands on you, and ask, does it hurt here? He could wear a fancy watch, couldn't he, or have a ring on his finger? One that transmits where he is pressing and hey presto! - the computer says what should happen next. Yes, you possibly have blah blah blah he would say in his Inspector Morse accent. We will need to x-ray that and then we'll see.

You don't do x-rays. They don't just take a picture of your bones. They actually extract stuff out of them. That's why people get leukemia and brittle bones. Too many x-rays. It's also why the more you go to the dentist, the more your teeth fall out. They are stealing stuff out of you.

He's asking you again about anxiety. You stand up so you can look at what's on the screen. See what that green light is. You hear the door open behind you and the practice nurse comes in. Here are the notes you called for, Dr Jones, she says, but they exchange a look as if he's saying have you got the chloroform ready, nurse, he's getting anxious again, and she is saying I'm a black belt, Doctor, chloroform won't be necessary.

She goes out and he asks you to sit down. You glance at the screen. He has turned the computer so that you can see it. The screen saver is on. It shows a cartoon underwater scene like something out of Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid - colourful clown fish swimming in and out of vivid green coral. The cartoon repeats itself again and again. You watch and feel yourself calm down. You know he is hypnotising you, but you know what? Maybe that's OK.

You get fed up being on your guard all the time. Fed up of suspecting people of sinister motives. So, what if they are out to get you? Is that really all that bad? At least they notice you. At least they take an interest. You could be all alone in your bug-infested room, or cowering from the other boys under the stairs in that children's home, or lying drugged-up again in an alley in soiled clothes, with no-one caring, no-one paying any attention at all. Wouldn't that be worse, being abandoned, hidden, discarded, than being someone's object of interest, the subject of some sort of mad experiment?

He’s asking if you are anxious again. You nod of course, but just at this very moment, you’re actually not.

Short Story

About the Creator

Wilkie Stewart

Writer of strange little tales living in Glasgow, Scotland. A former IT professional who loves literary fiction, poetry, Eurovision, art-house film, post-crossing, and comics. Walks daily with his camera when he can. @werewegian1 on Twitter

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    Wilkie StewartWritten by Wilkie Stewart

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