“Damien, did you hear me?” the physician’s voice faded back into the forefront of his patient’s attention, replacing a deafening ring that had taken hold. “You have cancer. That’s why you’ve been having headaches. What you experienced the other night - the flash of light, and sense of déjà vu - it was a temporal lobe seizure. Damien, it’s extremely aggressive. We’re still waiting for the results from yesterday’s blood tests to see if it spread, but based on the MRI, well…here’s what we’re looking at.”
The doctor handed Damien the tablet upon which he’d been reviewing the results; a time-lapsed rendering of the cancer’s expected progression that showed a tumor spidering out from the side of the organ slowly at first, then exponentially faster until his mind was consumed entirely. Damien stared down the man blankly for a moment, reclaiming control of his focus just long enough to ask, “How do you treat it?” before the ringing set back in and obliterated the doctor’s narrative.
The next two minutes saw Damien vie for control of his own mind as it raced at light speed, attempting to answer to this new problem in the same way it might approach algebra. When when no solution rose that could offer comfort, his mind turned against him. It’s the drinking thought one voice, And my diet! another identical voice added. ’I’m an idiot’, “I did this to myself’… A parliament of identical voices each gave their opinions as to how Damien had brought this on himself, their din drowning out the doctor’s voice almost entirely until one of them heard him utter the words “Nine months”, and his mind fell silent.
“To live?” Damien asked.
“With treatment, Nine months is probably what you’re looking at. I’m sorry to be blunt about it, but it’s unusually aggressive, as you can see from the render.”
Damien stared down the tablet. “How accurate is that trajectory?”
“It gets slightly less precise the further out it forecasts, but it’s still fairly reliable.” He corrected himself. “It’s extremely reliable, actually, I’m sorry to say. We took the data from your MRI and ran it through a new type of AI fingerprinting software. I believe it’s actually run on the servers created by your company, One Computers?”
“Former company.” Damien’s gaze set locked on the looped animation as he corrected the man.
“Oh. I’m sorry. Former company.”
Damien put the tablet face down on the doctor’s desk and pushed it away.
“How long will I live without treatment?”
“Maybe two, three months? Look, Damien, you’re only thirty-three. Years old. You’re in reasonably good shape, and you sure as hell have far more resources available to you than most people going through this. I’m not going to pretend I’m not confident in the diagnosis, I am, but it’s still just a probability. I’ve been doing this since before you were born, and some people, a few people have surprised me and go on to live for a year or more with similar diagnoses.”
“You’re sure that was rendered by One?” Damien’s voice fell flat.
“I believe…” the doctor swiped through the tablet to confirm. “Actually, it says this was run through a company called Aion. I could have sworn—”
“That’s One.” Damien let his head fall back to his shoulders “Aion’s the name of our… of One’s operating network.” He chewed his cheek and stared at a stain on the ceiling while the voices in his head sang an obscenity in unison. “It doesn’t make mistakes - not with this at least. So. What would treatment involve? If I wanted to get a few extra months in, what would I be going through?”
“There are a few preliminary genomic studies we might be able to get you into - CRISPR editing, that sort of thing - but, our primary weapons are chemotherapy and radiation.”
“Of course they are.” Damien mumbled. A postal drone buzzed passed the office window and deposited a package at the doctor’s stoop before flying off, high above the self-driven cars delivering their occupants to work. The promised technologies of the past were beginning to arrive in the present, and were doing so autonomously, yet somehow poison remained man’s strongest ally in the fight against cancer.
Damien began to laugh. A week ago he was healthy. He was at the helm of one of the fastest growing companies in America, and on the verge of a breakthrough in artificial intelligence that was poised to change the world. Now, as he tried to recall whether the doctor’s name was Bach or Chopin, and as that doctor read him a death sentence issued by the by the very machine Damien had created, he couldn’t help but appreciate the humor in the scenario. If nothing else, he was impressed at how quickly and completely he’d found himself in an entirely unrecognizable reality from that which he’d woken up in a week earlier, one so far removed from what he was used to that it almost felt like he’d teleported to it.
“Look, Damien,” Said Dr. Bach. “I’ve thrown a lot at you. Why don’t you take today. Go home. Call your family. Think. I’ll send an overview of everything we discussed after you leave, follow up with the bloodwork when we get it, and we can set up a time to go through your options when you’ve had a chance to process it. Now, I really am sorry to have to add insult to injury here, but the State of Massachusetts requires me to notify the RMV for any patients who have experiences seizures. Even if their cars are self-driven. It’s an outdated law, but I still have to follow it. Do you have someone to drive you home today?
“Yes” Damien lied, and made no attempt at discretion as pulled out his phone and summoned his car to pick him up “So…Is that all?”
“Yeah.” The doctor’s voice broke perceptibly, and a tear formed at the corner of his eye Yeah, that’s all.”
“Ok. Well…” Damien clucked his tongue “Thank you for your time?” He said, and did his best to suppress laughter as he exited to the curb, and stood impatiently as he waited for his car to arrive.