The proceeding months after discovering Alice Davis’ unique condition and her unbelievable progress were a blur. I kept my promise to check in on her for a while, but then my caseload of investigations became ridiculously heavy. I’m not proud to admit that eventually I forgot about her. In my defense though, I never felt her doctor was being malicious or unprofessional in his ‘tough love’ therapy. He had her best intentions at heart and wanted her to achieve a complete recovery. If I thought for even one minute that what he was doing was sadistic mistreatment or pointlessly cruel, I wouldn’t have allowed his experimental approach to continue. In hindsight however, I recognize now that it wasn’t my place to decide. Her wishes should have taken precedent over his well-meaning ambition to fully cure her.
Regardless of any moral ambiguity or failings on my part, it was a complete surprise when my credit rating took a massive, unexplained dive about six months later. I’ve always been a fiscally responsible person but according to my credit report, I had several large, unpaid hospital bills. Frankly I was furious. Incorrect billing errors are the number one reason for financial problems. I attempted to straighten out the apparent clerical mistake because it was destroying my credit score but I ran into a brick wall of accounting bureaucracy. It seemed to be unending.
I spoke to a half dozen people in billing and accounts receivable to straighten out the issue but I got nowhere with any of them. It was the same with the credit bureau. They obviously have people lie to them everyday and are jaded to claims to innocence. At the end of each call, they ignored what I told them and asked me to contact a specific web page ‘to pay my bill’. After demanding to speak to the manager on duty, I assured her that neither I, nor any member of my family had been a patient there. The billing manager acted a little more sympathetic but she still didn’t seem to believe me. Instead she read aloud an internal office memo related to the charges.
“The outstanding charges are for ‘the treatment’ Alice has received.”; It read in full. It’s double meaning and the individual behind it hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Alice Davis had somehow extracted revenge against me from her hospital bed! She had cleverly monkeyed with my credit records to send a message and damned if it didn’t get my attention. I couldn’t even publicly acknowledge that I knew what the memo meant without incriminating myself in a coverup conspiracy. It was a masterfully executed move. In awe of her ingenuity, I accepted the webpage URL. It was obviously how I was supposed to communicate with her now.
I tried to put aside my own anger at the masterful credit attack. I had sided with her Doctor so I knew she was furious at me and felt betrayed. On the website there was a chat interface field to communicate. I apologized sincerely for my actions and reiterated what I’d said in my official report. As brilliant as she obviously is, I was pretty sure she had already gained access to it. I didn’t waste time trying to reaffirm or justify my reasons. Alice clearly didn’t agree and it would have only devolved into an argument from that point. We were never going to see eye-to-eye on what was best for her. Instead I offered to come by and pressure her doctor into accepting that she didn’t want to be forced to keep trying anymore.
I won’t waste time divulging the minute details of her livid response but I can tell you she was furious. Beyond furious actually. She’s had nothing else to do for months, but to stew on her seething anger at I and the doctor, night and day. She was bound to make some technological breakthroughs with all that time on her hands. After finding a hole through the hospital firewall and breaching the FBI’s hopelessly out-of-date server, she read my report and plotted her retaliation.
As bad as I had it in Alice Davis’ angry crosshairs, it was nothing compared to the venom she had arranged for the doctor. She figured out his laptop password and planted a number of incriminating photos on it before contacting the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They seized his computer and arrested him on numerous child indecency charges. The beauty of her revenge is that no one would believe either of us if we tried to accuse her of faking the evidence against us. It was perfect.
After she had a little time to cool down and absorb my apology, I attempted to reason with her. Her new doctor had no knowledge of the surgical implant in her brain or her cyber communication breakthrough. I offered to undertake the considerably difficult task of convincing him about her lucidity, in exchange for reversing the billing charges against me. I didn’t even try to get her to uncook the doctor’s goose. She was still incredibly angry at him.
To my surprise, she didn’t want me to inform the new doctor. I think she was terrified he might remove the WiFi chip from her head from good intentions. Instead she wanted a stronger guarantee of stability for her internet connectivity. It was the only thing that mentally kept her going, she explained. As the only connection she had with the world, it was too precious to risk in her mind. I could relate to those fears but I still wished that she would snap out of the mental trap she was ensnared by. She was obviously a brilliant and talented person. It was such a shame to go through life trapped in a virtual world.
As our ‘chat’ continued, her attitude seemed to suggest a certain level of forgiveness toward me. That was a huge relief. Her tone itself softened considerably; but there was another strong indication. According to what she revealed, I was the only person in the world (except the jailed doctor himself) who knew her bizarre truth. It was both startling and revealing. While she had reached out and formed some online friendships with her internet freedom, none of them knew of her locked-in condition. She must’ve anticipated a heavy level of skepticism and hid that secret to avoid the possibility of crushing rejection.
I got the feeling she felt uniquely able to open up to me, because I knew about her absolute physical handicap. Obviously I knew and still humanized her. Truth be told, I had nothing but respect and admiration for Alice. Despite my past betrayal, I believe she knew that. No matter how many two dimensional social media friends she had, she was still desperately lonely in her physical isolation. Only I knew the full truth and ‘accepted’ her.
Each time I hit send on my phone, I couldn’t believe the speed that she replied back in the chat window of the website. There were always a massive amount of words that she typed. I’ve always been a very fast typist myself but Alice out-typed my responses three-to-one, in sheer volume of text. She explained that without the physical limitations of having to press the keys with her fingers, she only had to ‘will’ the words in her mind. She had a direct digital connection to the computer processor. It was instantaneous throughput. It made me marvel at her intellectual growth and adaption prowess.
When I complimented her about the incredible strides she had made, Alice demurely pointed out that trapped inside a lifeless body, she had nothing but time on her hands. She had foraged a level of artificial independence that was borne out of necessity to stay sane under those maddening circumstances. I couldn’t agree more. In the next few hours we had a continuous digital discourse via the chat feature. I learned a great deal about the woman behind the whirlwind of words. Fascinating things that were never mentioned in the original FBI case report or general background information I was given. She was incredibly bright, funny, charming and a delight to ‘talk’ with. In short, it was intoxicating.
After our marathon chat session, I didn’t know what to think. It was intellectually exhausting, but it was also exhilarating too. Alice Davis was trapped in a lifeless body with no other person she could be open and completely honest with. I was her sole source of real talk with. Honestly I always looked forward to talking with her but it was a scary, double-edged sword or risk. She had absolute power over me. If I didn’t want to, would she have me arrested too? There was almost no end to the things she could retaliate with, if I disappointed or angered her. Those thoughts weighted very heavily on my mind until a new, even more challengingly consideration came up. She asked if I would come back to the hospital and hold her hand.
Up until that point, our renewed relationship was that of unusual ‘online’ friends. There was a strong connection building between us but it bordered on a mutual obsession. I wasn’t sure what this next step would hold. Holding a person’s hand was a very intimate thing. Alice needed the feel the tactile contact of a real person against her skin but I was afraid of where it might lead. Feelings can be explosive in the mind of a person who feels rejected. Coupled with her almost ‘god like’ cyber powers and physical isolation, it could be a potent mix.
Alice must have sensed my growing apprehension. She tried to reassure me that she had already erased the hospital bills and promised to never do anything like that to me again, no matter how angry or disappointed she might become. I tried to put those worries in the back of my mind as I pushed the elevator door to her floor. She had already added me as an authorized visitor in her digital records. I was given a name tag at the nurse’s station and walked up slowly to the door. I hesitated briefly before opening it and at that instant my cell phone buzzed. It was her. She was monitoring the hospital CCD video feed and could see me standing there.
“What kind of flowers are those?”; She asked. “Mums? I love them! Please, come on in. I won’t bite. I promise. You know I can’t.”
In light of being ‘busted’ in the hallway, I went on in to her room. Seeing her there laying on the bed with that ‘vacant’ look in her eyes was jarring. It was impossible to reconcile with the incredibly smart and witty person I knew that was trapped inside the shell of her body. It was surreal and jarring. I sat down the vase on the nightstand and reached for my phone to message her. Like many hospitals, the WiFi is spotty because they use disruption devices to spare the patients the added stress of the internet and it’s users. Alice had already created a WiFi hot spot, just for me so I could get around the regular limitation.
In the chat window I asked if she could smell the flowers. She said that she could. She thanked me for them and asked for me to take her hand. I reminded her that I wouldn’t be able to communicate back with her with only one hand free. She replied that she didn’t care. I sat down my phone and took her hand in mine. It was strange at first because I was still having trouble accepting intellectually that the comatose person I was touching, was really alert and aware of my presence.
Once I’d been holding her hand for a few moments I started to admire her delicate, feminine features. For the briefest time, I felt as if she was actually holding my hand back but there was no evidence of cognition on her face. All the while, she was sending sporadic messages in the chat window but I was so deep in the visceral experience that I didn’t read them right away. Soon, the messages began to come faster and faster. The alert ding of each one snapped me out of my distraction.
“I can feel your hand! Oh my God! I can feeeeeel it. It’s sooooo warm!”; She typed excitedly. “Look at me! Please. Please look me deep in my eyes, Paul! This is helping me so much!”
I smiled as I read them aloud. It helped me make the connection between her inspired words and her motionless body. Finally I did as she asked. I looked deep into her eyes for a sign of life. For any sign of recognition. A single tear welled up in the corner of her left eye. That could easily be dismissed as the normal physical reaction to a lack of moisture from the eyelids but I persisted in constant eye contact with her. Her hand felt as if it was actively participating in holding mine. Another tear welled up. I heard the new message chime on my phone but I didn’t break my ironclad focus. I didn’t need to read what it said. I already knew.
I leaned over closer and pressed my lips against hers. At first there was no response but soon I was sure I was receiving feedback from her. It was almost imperceptible in the beginning but became more obvious with the passing of time. She was kissing me back! Her eyes were transfixed on mine. Her hand held mine firmly. I heard the sound of running getting louder. I pulled away just before Alice’s nurse burst into the room. She eyed my suspiciously.
“Miss Davis’ vitals are going through the roof! The monitoring panel at my station is lit up like a Christmas tree. I don’t know who you are but she’s not been that ‘aware’ of anyone in more than three years! It’s a damn miracle. Please step back. I need to examine her. Matter of fact, why don’t you go back out to the lobby, sir. This might take a while.”
Hesitantly, I went back out to the lobby. I felt like Alice was about to experience an amazing medical breakthrough but her heart rate was completely out of control. Any sort of recovery takes repetition and hard work. I intend to come back as soon as possible to further assist with her amended ‘therapy’. With time, I hope the two of us can walk out of here together, lovingly hand to hand as Mr. and Mrs. Paul Morgan.