The Angel of San Diego

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Chapter 5 - The Quick and the Dead

While the doctor regained his composure, Robin took a closer look at him. Dr. Noah Sr. was built much like Robin, about the same height and weight, but his hair was almost completely gray. It matched his eyes. His goatee still had some dark areas in it that gave him a distinguished look. He wore gold-rimmed glasses that he would remove and hold in his hand as a prop when he spoke.

“We’ll have to begin with some questions, Mr. Oracle. Do you remember anything about how you got so badly injured? What’s the last thing you remember?”

Robin thought for a moment. He wasn’t about to tell the doctor about the lightning planet. He figured he was in enough trouble already.

What do I remember?

“Let’s see…I remember being homeless…” Robin began. “It was raining, so I abandoned my usual cardboard box in the alley to take shelter in a storm drain. They’re usually safe when it rains in town here – at least I thought they were. I was washed out by a huge torrent of water. I remember thinking, ‘I wonder where that came from?’ That thought immediately went out of my head as I started to swim for my life. There was a lot of debris floating along with the swift current and I tried to make for a large branch before I drowned.

“Just as I reached out for it, the current slammed me into one of the bridge supports in the middle of the causeway. I was dazed, but still had the thought that I had to get to that branch. It had jammed itself further down the causeway on something below the water and I managed to get a hold of it. I remember being so glad that I escaped drowning that I yelled at the river like a hero in a movie, ‘Do your worst!’, but that was an idiot mistake because it didn’t take to kindly to my words. It hit me in the back of the head with something and I lost consciousness. The next thing I know I’m here in this place with what looks like a lot of money in electronic gear and hospital bills – none of which I can pay for by the way – so what’s your story, Doc?”

“That explains your injuries, anyway,” Dr. Noah said ignoring his last question. He tapped his glasses against the front of his lips in thought. Finally he said, “Let me continue from there. After that final blow knocked you out, the rushing water carried you to the ocean. You washed out of the causeway and the tide deposited you on the beach. A jogger found you and phoned nine eleven on his cell phone. He performed C.P.R. on you while he waited for the ambulance. The paramedics managed to revive your vital signs and transport you to this hospital. When they brought you into our emergency room your heart gave out. They tried for several minutes to revive you again, but failed. You were pronounced dead at seven fifteen on Tuesday morning.”

“D… dead?” Robin said surprised. “What do you mean dead? How could I be here talking to you now if I were dead? With all this money wrapped up in fancy machinery you’d think there would be at least one of them that could tell you I wasn’t dead!”

“Until a few moments ago, Mr. Oracle, I can assure you: You were quite dead. All this machinery here was hooked up to your body to keep it from decomposing while our experiment was in progress.” He pointed his glasses at Robin’s throat. “That tube in your neck pumped oxygen to your lungs. The wires in your chest have been making your heart pump blood to keep your brain from decomposing as well. Until now, the only time the EEG registered any activity at all was during, and for a short time after, the impulse injection machine fired. I turned them all off as soon as I realized you had …” Dr. Noah stopped talking. He could see that Robin was having a lot of trouble assimilating all the information.

Robin took a few moments to try to digest what the doctor had told him. “How long…?” He asked finally.

“I beg your pardon?”

“How long was I…?” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. “How long has it been? You said something about last Tuesday?”

“Not last Tuesday. You died Tuesday, April third of 2004. It’s the end of November, 2005 now, so that makes it about eighteen months ago.”

Robin was stunned. He sat motionless for a minute and then broke into a laugh that became a coughing fit because of the breathing tube in his throat. When he could speak again he said, “Okay. Where’s the camera? This is a great joke Doc. I don’t know who put you up to it, but it’s great.”

The doctor just stood there looking at Robin in a concerned way.

The smile slowly disappeared from Robin’s face as reality started to sink in. The Doctor wasn’t smiling and nobody opened any curtains to show him the hidden camera. He said quietly, “It isn’t a joke. Is it?”

Dr. Noah Sr. shook his head. “I only wish it were, Mr. Oracle.”

“Great. So if anybody asks how my summer was I can just say, ‘Wonderful! I got a lot of rest because I spent the whole time dead!’ By the way, someone owes me a Christmas present and two birthday presents since I missed both.”

“Calm down Mr. Oracle. I realize this is a severe shock to you. Let me get you some water.”

“If I were a drinking man – which I am – I’d rather have a bottle of port; rubbing alcohol if you’re out of port.”

“Please take it easy, Robin. Let me give you a shot to relax you.”

“The only shot I need is whiskey – and I hate hard alcohol.”

The doctor opened a syringe pack and tried filling it from a small glass bottle. His hands were shaking so badly he almost stuck himself with the needle. Robin stopped him by saying, Okay. Okay. I’m calming down. I don’t need your shot. I’m relaxing. Please forget about the shot. What I do need is some explanation.”

“I’ll answer any question you have if I can, Robin,” he said as he put the syringe and phial on a table. “This is all new to me. I’m still not quite sure it’s really happening.”

“You, too? Well, let me ask you the obvious one first: Who gave you permission to wire me up and play mad scientist with my body?”

“You did.”

“Excuse me? If I was dead how did I do that?”

“Your driver’s license… You filled out one of those donor cards, which donated your body to science. You were D.O.A. and my son’s project was ready for the last acquisition needed to begin his experiment and he got it – or rather – he got you. Since you were an alcoholic, they couldn’t use any of your organs as a donation. My son needed an intact body and they gave him yours. So, although you are actually alive today, you are legally dead.” He paused a few moments. Robin sat thinking.

This has to be the weirdest conversation any human being has ever had. Legally dead? There goes my Social Security. Hold on… If I’m dead I wonder if I have to pay taxes anymore. I wonder how the funeral went…or if there even was one…kind of hard without a body. What am I thinking? There isn’t anyone who cares anyway.

“So where do we go from here, Doc?”

“I told you it was complicated. Mr. Oracle.”

“That’s another thing – my name is Robin Silvers – not Oracle. I don’t even know any Oracle.”

“I beg your pardon. We’ve been referring to you that way so long I had forgotten. Oracle is the name of the project. Since Mr. Silvers was dead, we started calling you Robin Oracle. It sounds a bit macabre, but it was a way to remind us that we were still dealing with a human body and not just a cadaver.”

Robin shivered when he heard the word, ‘cadaver’. He closed his eyes. “So where do we go from here, Doc?” he repeated a few moments later.

“I’m not sure. Legally you’re still dead and the property of this project, but since you are actually alive, we can’t legally or ethically continue our experiments…”

Robin opened his eyes and glared at the doctor. “Glad to hear it, Doc,” Robin said acidly. He shut his eyes again. The light was irritating his headache.

“Yes. Well, we’ll need to remove all the hardware after we run a check on your physical state. Then, if all goes well, you can start physical therapy…”

Robin opened his eyes again, “Why physical therapy?”

“You’ll need to exercise all of your muscles that you haven’t used for eighteen months. You will have to learn to walk and coordinate your body movements. You may even have to learn to eat all over again.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me this time. I know how to eat.”

“Yes, but your arms, hands, and most importantly, your digestive system, do not remember. Try this: Touch your nose with your right forefinger.”

“You mean like the roadside drunk test?”

“Yes.”

“That I can do… I’ve done that a few times in my former life.”

Robin tried to lift his arm and found it extremely heavy.

“That’s funny; I was able to lift it a few minutes ago.”

“Probably an adrenaline rush. You were a little agitated then. Now that you are relaxed there is less adrenaline to go around so you won’t have as much strength now; Keep trying though.”

Dr. Noah Senior watched Robin struggling to lift his arm. Robin finally managed to lift it, but he missed his nose and slapped himself in the face instead. His hand dropped across his chest.

“Okay. I see what you mean. What else?”

“Since you haven’t eaten solid food for eighteen months your stomach has gotten smaller. You’ll have to start with easy to digest food until your stomach gets used to it again.”

“Terrific.”

“We’ll also need to make sure that none of your other organs have been too badly damaged for you to survive without the machinery before we remove it entirely.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“It’s just a precaution. Starting out as an alcohol abuser and then eighteen months on machinery makes it necessary, besides we’ve never had a cadaver wake up on us before. We don’t know if your… er… recovery will last or…” He paused a moment searching for words. Noticing that Robin was beginning to look stressed out he quickly added, “Don’t worry too much. We’ve had coma patients that survived after longer periods without serious damage.” He paused again and seemed to be having trouble continuing. Robin had closed his eyes again, but he could understand the doctor’s predicament.

“Speak up Doc. Anything you say can’t be worse than what I’ve already heard.”

“While you’re healing, we’ll need to find out why you came back from the dead. Everything I’ve learned in medicine says it’s impossible for you to be alive – let alone so lucid.”

“I’ve heard of people who had catalepsy that appeared dead, but were not. Maybe…?”

“No. That’s one of the first things we check on when someone is pronounced dead. The reason cataleptic patients were thought to be dead in the dark ages of medicine was that they couldn’t discern whether they had a pulse or were breathing. Their vital signs were imperceptible to the technology of the day. The machines of modern medicine are far more sensitive. You definitely weren’t catatonic.”

“It was worth a try.” Robin thought for a moment, “Maybe it’s spontaneous remission…?” He offered opening one eye to see the doctor’s reaction.

The doctor managed a small half chuckle and a smile.

Opening his other eye Robin said, “Well, Doc, that’s what most people in your profession say when something can’t be explained, right?”

“Yes, but now I have an even bigger problem to think about.”

“What’s that?”

“Nothing you have to worry about, Robin. It’s just that I can’t help but wonder about the others.”

“What others? You mean there are more dead people around here?” He looked around the room.

“No. I mean all the other people we have pronounced dead. It’s a bit frightening to think they might not have been dead at all; or that they might have been like you and if we had waited longer before we…” His voice trailed off.

“Oh,” was all Robin could manage. He was thinking of all those donors whose organs had been harvested shortly after being pronounced dead and vowed to change his status as soon as he could. He started to ask the doctor another question but was interrupted when Lisa came back into the room. She looked more composed, but was still wary of him.

“Jonathon is on the way back, Felix. He said to tell you that you should explain things to Mr. Oracle. He’s taking the red-eye from Miami and should be here by early morning.”

“Thank you Lisa.”

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