The Angel of San Diego

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Chapter 4 - Awakening

Robin appeared to be standing on the surface of a strange planet. Everywhere he looked there were rock formations. It was as if the place had been pierced by thousands of meteors. Most of us think of meteors as round balls shooting through the night sky but they aren’t usually round at all until they tumble through the atmosphere and a good deal of their mass is burned away. In space they are all shapes. These were mostly layered and rectangular. Their ends were sharp and jagged. They reminded him of lava rock. Some were as large as a mountain, others as small as a Volkswagen, and all sorts of sizes in between. They appeared to have been driven deep into the landscape at all angles.

Amidst the rock formations were beautiful crystalline structures. They seemed to have grown out of the meteor rock. Again, some were smaller clusters – like twenty foot tall cacti with smaller six and seven foot crystals at their base – others stood taller than skyscrapers. Robin thought some of them must be over two hundred stories high. The crystals were shaped like the Washington monument, but their varied colors were much more striking than a drab gray. The smaller ones were green, yellow, and red, but the giants were a beautiful violet.

This place looks like the inside of a giant Geode, he thought.

The sky was black and starless, but the horizon gave off a pulsating glow of white in the form of a dim twilight. Here and there lightning would crackle down from the heavens striking the building sized crystals causing them to glow eerily for short time, lighting up large areas of the landscape, before fading out again.

That must be where the glow on the horizon comes from.

At first Robin was concerned that he might be in danger of being hit by a lightning bolt, but as he studied the strikes he could see that they were nowhere near his location. It seemed to be immune – at least for the moment.

He watched the lightning dancing in the distance.

That’s odd. The lightning seems to strike the same crystals every time. I thought that was impossible – or at least astronomically improbable. Yet there they are like the spark of a spark plug firing at the same target every time and oddly enough in some sort of rhythmic pattern.

He watched them for what seemed like hours. They were, in fact, striking the same points every time. It was as if there was someone, somewhere, guiding the strikes to their targets. The sky was too dark for Robin to see where the lightning was coming from so he couldn’t determine whether it was a natural phenomenon or manmade. There didn’t seem to be any clouds in the sky and no rain smell.

He had seen lightning storms on earth that had no accompanying rain, but there were always clouds involved in those pyrotechnic events. These bolts really did come from out of the blue – or rather, black, actually.

Man-made? I appear to be the only man on this planet and this planet looks nothing at all like earth. Maybe it’s some alien technology…or maybe I’m in some weird cave. Cave? That doesn’t explain the lightning though.

The more he thought about it he began to believe that the entire thing seemed odd. How did he get here? Where was here? And where was he before he ended up here? He hadn’t yet thought of the oddest thing of all: Why was he reacting to his strange situation as though it were a normal occurrence?

Just as this thought began to form in his mind a lightning strike hit the large crystal next to him. It erupted in a blinding light. The planet shimmered and everything went black, and disappeared. He woke up.

He opened his eyes. His vision was fuzzy, but he could tell he was in some sort of hospital. He had a breathing tube in his throat, which pumped oxygen into his lungs at regular intervals.

What a weird dream. I’ve got to give up drinking the cheap stuff.

As his eyes began to focus, he could see that he was hooked up to a lot of machinery. Focusing hard, he saw a nurse replacing his IV bag. Someone had written on it with a felt marker in large letters: Robin Oracle.

Who the heck is Robin Oracle? He thought.

He decided to speak to her. At that moment the breathing tube forced oxygen into his lungs and stifled him. He had to wait to speak between breaths.

“Where am I,” he asked when the pump stopped temporarily.

The nurse was so startled by his voice that she gave a frightened yelp and jumped backwards, almost dropping the IV bag. She spun around and saw Robin lying there wide-awake and looking confused.

“Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I…” The breathing machine forced another lungful of air and cut him off amid sentence.

I’m going to have to time my sentences a little better and make them shorter.

A look of surprise mixed with panic was on the nurse’s face. She began backing away from him saying, “Oh god…. Oh god… Oh god…”

Robin was puzzled. “No. Not God. Just me: Robin,” he said jokingly between machine breaths.

She continued to retreat – only quieter this time. She was still mumbling under her breath like a disturbed street person. She grabbed a phone from a table against the wall and dialed frantically. Robin was taken aback by this strange reaction to him. Perhaps she doesn’t have a sense of humor, he thought, or maybe she doesn’t speak English.

“Parlez-vous Français…? Espagnol…? Deutsch…? Nippon…? Italian…? Anything…?” He asked hopefully. She seemed too interested in the phone to answer. So, he took a harder look at the woman.

She appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties. Blond, pretty brown eyes, and a face that would normally be really attractive for her, except for the look of fear and panic on it. Her figure was quite nice as well. He finally realized that she wasn’t a nurse at all. She was wearing a short laboratory coat over regular street clothes. She had to be some sort of lab technician.

“Doctor, come quickly! Oh my god! Oh my god! He’s awake – my god he’s awake! It’s Mr. Oracle, doctor – he’s awake! Hurry!” She hung up the phone and stood speechless, just staring at Robin.

“Thank Goodness you speak English.” The breather began again. When it stopped he said, “This is really frustrating. Could you shut that breathing thing off? I can’t…” The breather interrupted him again. “I can’t communicate with that thing blowing up my lungs every two seconds.”

She looked scared, but she did as he asked and then slowly backed away from him.

“Thanks. That was really annoying. As I was saying, I’m glad you speak English. It’s been a while since I’ve spoken any of those other languages and I was never very fluent with any of them. I have enough trouble with American English – and I was born here. Unless this isn’t the U.S…?” He trailed off. She continued to stare at him without saying anything, as if she hadn’t heard a word he had said.

“Is something wrong, Miss? Are you Okay?” He asked.

She still didn’t answer. She had her hand on her heart and seemed to be trying to get her breath.

“I know you can talk,” he said amiably, “I heard you on the phone there. Where am I? How did I…?”

At that moment a man wearing a doctor’s smock came running in.

“What’s the matter, Lisa? Are you all right? You were so hysterical on the phone that I didn’t understand a word of it. It sounded like you said…” It was then that he noticed Robin.

“What’s up Doc?” Robin said with a smile.

The doctor’s eyes widened in disbelief, his mouth opened to speak, but nothing came out. He looked at his lab assistant. She raised her hands and shook her head as if to say, “It’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything.”

The doctor found his voice at last. “But this is impossible. You can’t be … how…? No. You’re – you’re supposed to be…. I mean… they assured us that you were… Oh god!”

Not him too. If he clams up I don’t know what I’m going to do.

The doctor hurriedly shut off the other machines.

“If I didn’t know better, Doc, I’d be thinking right now that you didn’t expect me to wake up just now. In fact I’d say you …” Robin realized something. “Wait a minute… this isn’t a regular hospital room. Where the hell am I? And who the hell are you?”

“Please calm down, sir,” Said the man. He was looking at a long sheet of paper that had come out of one of the machines. It had a lot of squiggly lines on it. “I apologize for our reaction to you. I’m Dr. Noah Senior and this is Lisa, my lab assistant.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he said sarcastically.

Robin realized that his head hurt.

“Do you have something for a headache, doc?”

It took a great deal of effort, but he managed to reach up to feel his head. He discovered that it was shaved.

“Hey! What’s happened to my hair?”

He felt his bald head. His hand touched something that was protruding from his skull. There were wires attached to it. On further exploration he could feel several others as well. The effort got to be too great and he dropped his hand back on the bed.

“Be careful, Mr. Oracle, those implants…” He paused as if trying to think of what to say. “You could damage yourself,” was all he could manage.

“What is going on around here?” Robin demanded. “Why am I hardwired to these machines?”

It was then he realized that there were a lot more wires and tubes attached to his body than he realized. In addition to the breathing tube in his throat there were electrodes on his chest, an IV in his arm, and a catheter tube in a place that he knew wasn’t meant to be abused in that fashion.

“Was I in a coma or something?” He asked nervously.

“Not exactly…”

“Then exactly what is going on around here?”

“That’s going to take some time to explain. I’m not sure where to begin.”

“How about the spark plugs in my skull? Let’s start there.”

Robin was already irritated and Dr. Noah’s reluctance to tell him what was going on was starting to make him even more annoyed.

If they don’t start explaining a few things soon…

“The electrodes,” Dr. Noah began, interrupting Robin’s thoughts, “are an experimental technique developed here at Scripps Hospital. Yes, Mr. Oracle, you are in a hospital – just not in a regular ward.

“The idea of the electrodes is to stimulate the brain with low level electrical impulses so we can study what effect they have on different areas of the brain. We use them to fire little shocks into your brain at regular intervals: much like a pacemaker.”

Robin quickly looked over at the machinery where the wires from his head were connected.

“Don’t worry. I’ve turned it off. It won’t fire again. Fortunately the shock machine was in rest cycle for the last few minutes or who knows what would have happened.”

“I’m glad you had the presence of mind to shut it off. I’ve never undergone shock therapy before and I don’t think I want to start now.”

Dr. Noah continued, “As I was saying, we stimulate the brain with shocks and then we read the effect with an EEG. That’s what I was looking at a little while ago.”

Robin suddenly realized what had been going on while he was unconscious.

“Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you guys turned me into a lab rat without my permission? Since when is that legal…?”

The Dr. looked at Robin and said, “I don’t think you understand the full ramifications of your situation, Mr. Oracle.”

Robin was irritated, but he noticed that the Doctor was having trouble explaining things to him so he decided to calm down, listen to the explanation, and threaten to sue them later. “What situation?” he said testily.

“I really shouldn’t be the one to tell you all this because this isn’t my project. It’s actually my son’s – Dr. Noah Jr. He invented the electrode concept, designed the machine, and got the grants. I’m just helping him out while he’s at a seminar in Florida.” He turned to the Lab tech and said, “Lisa… Try to get my son on the phone. Explain the situation to him. He needs to come back as fast as he can. The number is on a Post-it in the Rolodex on my desk.”

She left the room at a run. Robin wasn’t sure if she was in a hurry to help the doctor or just anxious to get away from him as fast as possible.

“Are you telling me that I have to wait until your kid comes back from Florida before anyone tells me what’s going on?”

“Calm down, Robin, I’m going to try to explain it all to you – at least the parts of it that I know – please bear with me. This whole thing has become very complicated all of a sudden.”

“No kidding. One minute I’m an unhappy but willing drunk and the next I’m somebody’s involuntary lab animal. I’m beginning to understand what it’s like for the rats.”

Robin could see beads of sweat forming on the doctor’s face. He watched him reach over and take a tissue from the table to wipe them off.

“Okay. Let’s have it then, Dr. Frankenstein,” he said irritably.

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