“Subject One is Richard Curtis, 54 years of age. Curtis is an unemployed, homeless male from Arkansas.” Simon read off the man’s qualifiers as if he were a lab rat. “Mr. Curtis do you have an affiliations or connections with the Vision company or any of its employees?”
“No sir, I ain’t know anyone in New York.” Richard had a certain mountain man charm to him.
“Alright, thank you, Mr. Curtis. And have you eaten or drank in the last 8 hours?”
“Only my boot wine I been makin’.” This made him chuckle, but it didn’t seem like a joke.
“This guy is a riot,” Simon said. “And to think he’s been sitting outside our building for months and we never even noticed.”
We had been trying to find test subjects to try out the Muse Box for a while now. The box was still in its early stages, but we needed someone to test it in order to know what we needed to tweak. Animals wouldn’t work as they have different cognition patterns, and aren’t able to verbalize their experience. All we had from animals were brain scans. We needed a human who would be able to tell us if the box worked correctly or not. After putting an ad in multiple papers, online, and on the local news channel with no response, Simon decided to take matters into his own hands. He walked in that morning with Richard Curtis.
Simon opened the door and walked into the room to join Richard. “Okay Mr. Curtis, we have all the necessary details and paperwork filled out. All we need now is for you to pick a dream and knock off to sleep, my man.”
Richard asked the Muse Box to put him in the middle of a family meal, with his wife and son. Simon looked back over his shoulder at me through the one-way glass.
“Poor guy,” I whispered to myself.
Simon placed the stick on nodes to Richard’s temples and laid him back on the exam table. “Mr. Curtis, you better tell me how that meal was when you wake up.” Simon winked at Richard and turned off the main light before leaving the room. We stood in silence as we watched Richard fall asleep. He stayed perfectly still the entire time, his scans remained normal. “Maybe we finally did it, aye, Cash?”
“Maybe.” I was always a little skeptical.
Eventually Richard woke up, rubbed his eyes, and stretched. He was basically a cartoon character. It was my turn to talk to him. I walked in, removed the node from his forehead, and sat down. “Mr. Curtis, could you please describe your dream in as much detail as possible for me?” I kept my eyes on the clipboard the entire time.
“Well, I think I had a job, 'cause I walked into this neat little place and I was wearing a hat. My wife looked better than ever, even gave me a smooch on the cheek before leading me into the kitchen. My boy Tommy was sitting there doing his lessons.” Richard stopped.
“Then what happened, Mr. Curtis?” I looked up to see Richard’s face twisted in discomfort. “Please, Mr. Curtis, we need to be as thorough as possible. What happened after you saw Tommy?”
“Well, he looked up at me. But he wasn’t my young boy anymore. He looked like me, like I look here in front of ya now. All dirty, and he looked mad as a badger. I, I wanted to stop looking at ‘em but I couldn’t move my head. I couldn’t move my head ‘cause my wife was holdin’ it, and then she, she…” He started to get emotional; he put his face in his hands.
I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Richard, what did she do?”
He looked me straight in the face. “She cut my gullet open like she was choppin’ down a tree.” I couldn’t look away from him. His jolly expression he had when he walked in had vanished completely. “An' then when she stood over me, it was my face on her head just like with Tommy.” I stayed frozen.
“Cash, can you come back here please?” Simon said, poking his head in the door.
“Will you excuse me for just a second, Mr. Curtis?” I slowly got up and walked out. Richard just sat there crying into his palms. Simon was pacing in the back room.
“I’m sorry, man. I should’ve known a homeless man would be crazy.”
“I don’t know if he’s crazy.” I didn’t want this to be Richard’s fault.
“He didn’t move the entire time, no tossing or turning, and never did his scans show fear or arousal. Murder must be pretty regular for this guy. I’m surprised he didn’t just shank me there on the street.” He kept pacing.
“Simon, this guy wouldn’t hurt a fly. You saw him before, happiest homeless man I’ve ever seen.”
“He’s probably a sociopath, he’s just pretending.”
“I don’t think a sociopath would drink boot wine.”
Simon stopped pacing.
“Did you just make a joke, Cash?” We both started laughing. It felt good to laugh, even if it was with Simon.
“So obviously, we have some alterations to make. And maybe we shouldn’t be using homeless people as test subjects. Richard is a nice enough guy but maybe he’s been out in the weather a little too long.” Simon was slightly hesitant. Having the homeless as test subjects came at a much lower cost than any other subject would. Plus if they broke the non disclosure agreement, people would just assume the person was insane, or as Simon liked to put it, “the only person who’d believe them is the light post.”
Eventually Simon agreed with me that we needed a more reliable test subject. I suggested we use him, mainly because he wasn’t involved courtesy of his intellect but because first floor investors thought Amelia and I needed supervision. He was quick to say no and without a real reason, but his eyes betrayed him. He was scared. I would have volunteered; however, I needed to observe from a distance.
“Amy!” Simon’s face changed instantly as she walked through the door. “How are you doing, baby?” He grabbed her at the waist and kissed her.
“I’m going to go let Richard know he can leave.”
“Cash.” I didn’t let Amelia finish, and I walked in to once again talk to our hillbilly guest. He had finally calmed down and was back to his cheerful self.
“Mr. Curtis, unless you have any questions for us, we will be able to get you your compensation for helping us with this experiment and you can be on your way.”
“I like you better than that Simon fella,” he said with a wink. It was then that I realized he could see through the glass and the PA was on. I could feel my face getting warm.
“Aye, don’t worry buddy, you can take me out to lunch to mend my feelins’, give me a break from that weather. As long as you don’t bring that Simon clown.” He gave me a nudge with his elbow. “Now about that compensation.”
I opened my wallet and gave him a $20. “Thank you kindly, sir, and I’ll see you outside at noon for that date.” He chuckled and showed himself out. I sat there for a moment to process what had just happened. I got up and rejoined Simon and Amelia.
“Hey, Cash.” Her voice was always so smooth and calm. “How’d the test go?”
“There are still a few bugs we need to work out. And we have to find ourselves a new test subject, turns out the homeless population isn’t all that reliable.”
“Ouch man, I get it. I just wanted to get the ball rolling is all.” Simon was great at playing the victim. “Cash is just mad the box didn’t work right.”
“What happened?” Amelia asked.
“Well, the subject...”
“Dude was wacked in the head. He said his wife slit his throat and plot twist, his wife was himself. You should’ve seen it, babe, he was nuts. ” Simon let out a snicker. Amelia gave me the look she had give too often, the, I’m sorry Cashous, look. “Anyway, honeybun, I’m starving. Let’s go get some grub.” Simon wrapped himself around her.
“Sure, um, Cash would you like to come along?”
“No, no you guys go ahead, I actually promised Richard lunch.” Not exactly how it happened, but Amelia didn’t need to know that.
“Ooo, Cash has a new boyfriend.” Simon laughed. “And he just might be crazier than you are, bud.” Simon smacked me on the back. “Alright anyway, we’ll catch you after then, champ, and we’ll get back to work on the toy.”
“See you in a bit Cash,” Amelia said as they left the room. I hung up my lab coat, grabbed my suit jacket, and washed up before heading out the door alone.