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Inherit the Future

Inherit the Future

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Inherit the Future

Lunghezza:
430 pagine
6 ore
Pubblicato:
Oct 24, 2018
ISBN:
9781642984682
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

This novel is about eight people who think they are ordinary but are to become extraordinary members of humanity. They come from all the major land masses of earth. Superior beings so far beyond our imagination, proceed to advance the bodies and minds of these eight people so that they can change the course of humanity. To many, these beings will seem to be gods, but they are not supernatural beings, merely a full star generation ahead of us. Their attempt to change our aggressive nature forces these eight men and women to establish bonds that cannot be broken. The only message of importance is that humanity's survival must come first. The main theme is science fiction. However, the elements of adventure, of romance, of intrigue, of sexual encounters, and of fantasy all combine to form a story that will touch your soul. This book gives the reader a galaxy of experiences.

Pubblicato:
Oct 24, 2018
ISBN:
9781642984682
Formato:
Libro

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Inherit the Future - Arty Schulman

Experience

One

It was a cold and drizzly night. The fog had started rolling in about an hour ago, and visibility was less than fifty feet. Most of the leaves were lying in the street. The stage was set for an accident to happen.

At the time of this incident, I, Barry Teacher, was only twenty-seven. Little did I know that the events that were to follow would change much more than the course of my own future.

I was on my way to see Dr. Ruggerman for my biweekly gold shot. I had suffered with a chronic case of arthritis for more than three years. The only relief I could get from the gnawing pain was that shot. Even though there were side effects, I just couldn’t live without that injection. No other medications worked. Even the newest biochemical agents were useless to me.

I hadn’t told Dr. Ruggerman about my hallucinations. I thought he would discontinue the therapy. Anyway, just seeing an intense pulsing light was something I could live with.

It was a Thursday in the middle of October 2003. I was driving my Acura along Village Drive. I was traveling much too fast for the road conditions. What looked like a large dog darted right in front of my car. I reacted by hitting the brakes and steering to the left. That was a really bad move. Even with traction control and antilock brakes, the car went into a spin. I lost control for only a second. In that instant, my vehicle slammed into a beautiful oak tree.

I never lost consciousness. I lay there, bent over the steering wheel. It seemed like an eternity. Finally, a man who lived in the house behind the big oak came over to the car.

Hey, Mack. Are you okay? he asked. There was concern in his voice.

Please get help, I muttered. My chest felt like it had been crushed. I hadn’t been wearing my seat belt and the airbag had not deployed. I was wedged against the steering wheel.

Someone else must have called in the accident. I soon heard the sound of an ambulance siren off in the distance. Since I didn’t know how serious my injuries were, I began to worry about my fate. The ambulance came to a screeching halt not more than fifty feet from the twisted wreck that had been my car.

A paramedic ran over to me. I had careened into the tree on the driver’s side. Because the passenger door had been previously jammed and would not open, I was trapped inside.

Listen, mister, we can’t get you out right away. Miguel! he yelled to his partner. Get the cops on the squawk box. We’ll need the Jaws of Life. Tell them to make it quick. This guy has a head injury and is losing blood.

John! Miguel hollered back a few seconds later. They’ll be here in ten minutes. Try to keep him awake.

By now a small group had gathered near me, and I could hear them talking.

I hope he makes it. Look how much blood he’s lost.

Wow! I hadn’t noticed. You’re right. He is bleeding pretty badly.

I knew what they meant. My head had hit both the windshield and the side window, and I could feel a steady stream of blood pouring down my face. I tried to slow my racing heart. It was impossible with the steering wheel pushed into my chest. The minutes felt like an eternity. Finally, I sensed someone working on the passenger door.

Hang in there, mister. I recognized Officer Crowley from my neighborhood. We’ll have you out of this thing in a few more seconds. Hey, I know you. Now don’t black out on me. Are you okay?

I’m still breathing, but I’m getting pretty dizzy.

The door was ripped off its hinges about twenty seconds later. I felt myself being lifted over the center console and gently pulled from the wreck. I was placed on a stretcher. The medics had placed one of those collars around my neck. I breathed a sigh of relief, foolishly thinking the worst was over. As they loaded me into the back of the ambulance, I heard Miguel’s voice.

Okay, mister. We’re on our way. We’ll have you at the hospital in no time at all. By the time we got to Hope General, I was about ready to pass out. Two orderlies quickly replaced John and Miguel. They rushed me into the emergency room.

Hello, said a young doctor. I’m Dr. Russo. He looked like he had just graduated from medical school. You’ve lost some blood, and it appears you may have a concussion as well as some fractured ribs. I’m sending you for X-rays as soon as we take care of that laceration on your forehead.

They cleaned and stitched the gash. It looked worse than it was. Then they wheeled me over to the X-ray department. The technician tried to be careful, but the pain in my chest was excruciating. First, he took pictures of my chest. Then came X-rays of my head. Each time the X-rays passed through me, I saw that intense pulsing light.

Back in emergency, I had a chance to study what was going on around me. There was no shortage of cases that night. Some came there on their own, while others had to be assisted by their family or friends. A few had arrived there by ambulance. One man had amputated some fingers with a table saw. Another man had burns on his face. A little girl had broken her leg. I could see the bone just beneath the skin.

Finally, Dr. Russo came over to where I was and gave me the news.

Okay, Mr. Teacher, here’s the story. You have three fractured ribs, one right near your heart. You also have a mild concussion. There is evidence of some internal bleeding. I want you to sign some papers for me. Then we can send you to the OR for exploratory surgery. I don’t want to take any chances where there’s the possibility of hemorrhage. I’m going to have Ms. Jennings help you fill out the forms. Then we’ll send you to the operating room.

By this time, I was hooked up to a cardiac monitor, a temperature monitor, and an IV. I could barely see the screen. I had very poor vision, and my glasses were destroyed in the accident. Even with my impaired eyesight, I could see the temperature slowly rising. First it had read 99.5 then 100.7 degrees.

Hi there, handsome. The words floated down to me from an astonishingly attractive woman. She was about thirty years old, had a slim waist, and was very self-assured. You could tell she wouldn’t let anyone step all over her. We’re going to take our time and fill out these forms. By that time, the OR will be ready for you.

I watched her eyes dart to the monitor. There was concern in her look.

Let’s see. I need your date of birth.

April 20, 1976.

And what is your height and present weight?

That’s 5 feet, 10 inches, and 170 pounds.

I had already started to feel discomfort from my rising temperature. I shifted my body in order to see the monitor more easily. My temperature had risen to 102.4. The look in Ms. Jennings’s eyes told me that something was radically wrong.

What is your blood type?

I’m A positive.

Do you have any illnesses for which you are presently being treated? Are you allergic to any medications? She continued to gaze at the temperature monitor, hypnotized by the green LED as it did its dance up the scale. Excuse me, Mr. Teacher. I’ll be right back.

I saw her cross to the other side of the room.

Dr. Russo, I think you better take a look at this patient. There’s something wrong. His temperature keeps climbing. It just passed 103, and it’s still going up.

I saw Dr. Russo come strutting back with Ms. Jennings on his heels.

Let’s see what’s going on here. His voice was calm, but the look in his eyes said he was worried.

My temperature was more than 104 by this point. There was nothing to indicate that it was going to stop increasing.

Nurse, get Dr. Coleccia stat! Dr. Russo found a regular thermometer and began checking my pulse and temperature the old-fashioned way.

By now I was really burning up. The lights began to flicker. Ms. Jennings came running back. I had heard her page Dr. Coleccia. She had a horrified look on her face. Dr. Russo couldn’t figure out what was happening. The lights continued to pulse around me.

Dr. Coleccia arrived. He too stood there, stupefied. By this time, the LED read 105.5, and I felt like I was on fire.

This is incredible, commented Dr. Coleccia. Let’s get him packed in ice before his brain fries.

It’s hitting 107. Ms. Jennings stammered. He can’t take much more of this.

My body started convulsing. I lifted off the table every few seconds. Other staff members crowded around. Everyone was trying to help. But all they could do was pack ice around my body. Nothing helped.

I heard Dr. Russo say, It’s hitting 110 degrees. We just lost him, people.

That was the last thing I heard.

Two

Something was probing my brain. I could feel activity, as if someone was sticking me with a pin. First, I felt a twitch at the base of my brain. Then another twinge started near my forehead but deep inside. Soon I noticed a sharp ache in my left temple. The signals became more frequent. Something was trying to communicate with me, but I was unable to respond.

All of a sudden, I heard a voice. It sounded like it was coming from inside my head. But at the same time, it sounded like it was coming from far away.

Don’t be afraid, Barry. You’re not dead, and you’re not hallucinating or dreaming. All that you have just had to endure, I caused to happen. I did everything so that this encounter could take place. Open your mind to me. You must understand what I am about to tell you.

As though a cloud had lifted from my mind, signals started pouring in. An image took shape in my mind’s eye. It was what I had been seeing for the past two years, only now with the cloud gone, the pulsing light was a remarkable sight. The colors were as nothing I had ever experienced. It seemed to be inside my skull then outside. It danced back and forth. Was I part of the light, or was the light part of me? I began to panic. Had I really died? Was this my mind shutting down? Was this the end of life? As my anxiety increased, the light changed in a subtle way. As if to reassure me, it poured forth its presence to my waiting senses.

Barry, I have been with you for a very long time. Even before you started receiving drugs for your ailment, I was in the recesses of your mind. I am not the product of a deranged mind. I am as real as you are. We exist in your universe. But you cannot normally detect us. We are just beyond your sensorial limits.

If you really are a being, my mind asked, then surely you have a title or some kind of name. Would you tell me what you are called?

My name, as you call it, is Gabril, the light answered. It seemed pleased that I had begun to communicate.

Why have you done this to me, Gabril?

In order to answer you, it is necessary for me to give you a brief synopsis of events. Humanity has been following a path of destruction for the past ten thousand years. Now that you have harnessed certain forces, it could mean the disappearance of intelligent life from this planet. I, as well as my fellow beings, do not want this to occur. I cannot interfere with events directly. We are forbidden to alter things on any planet once intelligent life has taken hold. However, it is not against the rules, if you initiate the changes and we merely coach you. Barry, we want you to help save the human race.

But why me, Gabril? I don’t have any special talents or scientific abilities.

Barry, you are special in one important way. You have the genetic composition that allows me to join with your mind. This is the only way to teach you what you must know. There are four separate factors that must be synchronized for the gate to open. These are all present on one human chromosome, number 22. A gene that controls the rhythm of the heart must be slightly out of sync. Another gene, which predisposes the body to arthritis, must also be present. A third gene, causing severe myopia, links in with the other two. Finally, a fourth element, the gene that can lead the mind to paranoid schizophrenia, has to be present for the entire system to work. The odds of all four irregularities occurring simultaneously are a billion to one. Now you realize why you have been chosen.

How do I know I’m not having delusions right now?

You really don’t know. But it makes no difference. What you will learn will not be interpreted as coming from a deranged mind. On the contrary, the thinking processes you possess will be the finest on earth. There will be others like you. Together you will force changes on the human race. This is the only way to avoid almost certain disaster. If nothing is done to bring this about, the probability of humanity surviving long enough to travel to other star systems is close to zero.

If I’m not dead, how will you get the doctors to revive me? My brain was just cooked at 110 degrees.

The gold injections merely teased the edges of your mind with my presence. It took the astounding temperature of 110 degrees to open all your nerve synapses. That is how this exchange is taking place. I will be able to shift you back with no ill effects.

So positive were the thoughts of Gabril that my questions became bolder.

If you have such tremendous powers, why waste them on us? Why do you want to help my people? Why have you really come here?

We are a race of beings that originated in another part of this galaxy. By your concept of time, we are an entire star generation ahead of you. This makes us approximately a billion and a half years old. Although we are not immortal, we live for a very long time. I myself am millions of years old. I realize this is difficult for you to believe, but I cannot lie. A billion years ago, it became impossible for any of us to lie. Just as you have genes to control your molecular composition, we have sensons to control our relationships with others.

How did you happen on this planet?

Let me give you a brief history. The planet we came from was known as Grindor. It circled a star that we called Trantis. One billion years ago, it ceased to exist. The entire system is now a gaseous cloud, once again beginning to coalesce. Our course of development was no accident. We were set on our path by an even older race, the Ranthors. You see, Barry, we planned the development of the human race. This is why we want your people to succeed so very much. The guilt that weighs on our sensons is truly unbearable.

I don’t believe you, Gabril. My mind rebelled. I was trying to hold on to that special sense of purpose that we, as human beings, had cherished. The notion that humanity was a special breed of beings had always been in every form of folklore. The information being pumped into my mind damaged my self-esteem. I bristled at this onslaught of facts from Gabril. But I knew in my heart, as I had always known, that we were not unique, not the children of a benevolent god.

Yes, Barry. We are not gods either. What we have accomplished took a long, long time. Grindor followed a similar path as your earth. Like you, we nearly destroyed everything.

Why have you waited so long to make yourselves known to us?

We have been closely studying the human race for the past ten thousand years. We have tried to communicate several times with humans. Most of these encounters became known as religious experiences. All data of value was ignored if it did not go with the rituals of the time. A good example of this was the burning bush. This was really one of my friends, Jevra. Most of the data that he imparted to the tribes of Israel was totally ignored. It had no relevance to tribes of nomads. Many of the so-called miracles were scientific actions that Jevra taught to Moses. The Ark of the Covenant was a form of energy transmission, which ignorant people could not understand. We interfered thousands of years before that. The most disastrous attempt to help mankind occurred nine thousand years ago. Shastan, another one of my friends, taught the essentials of atomic energy to some tribes. They used the new knowledge to make war on one another. Everything was destroyed. The folklore of mankind is full of stories about this event. The people of India described it in the Mahabharata. Only a few of us remained in the vicinity of the earth as a result of this destruction. Some of your top scientists are beginning to understand what happened in the area that is now the Indus Valley. But this will make no difference to most of the people on the planet. Time after time, we have pushed moral values on your leaders. But everything is misinterpreted to mean something of a religious or tribal nature. The time of tribal thinking should be over. Even countries are nothing more than large tribes perpetuating the same illogical thinking.

Where are the rest of your people? I wondered.

We exist throughout the Milky Way. Some of us are scattered around earth. Because we are so advanced, all Grindorans are in constant communication with one another. Even those of us at opposite ends of the galaxy are in contact with one another. We’ve mastered space-time.

Why can’t I detect you through normal means, by using my regular senses?

Barry, I am composed of hyperkinetic energy. It is so powerful that if your people could see me, I would be as deadly as your sun. What you are viewing is like watching a solar eclipse through a phase shifted device. It is a form of reflection. As I mentioned before, other humans have encountered us. The situation today is so bleak that I am forced to go to extremes to help you. You are not the only one being contacted. I am certain you will meet the others. I hope you can work together. The solution to this dilemma is the only thing that matters.

Any thoughts I had regarding the superiority of humanity were quickly dispelled. Gabril explained scientific concepts that the Grindorans had mastered a billion years ago.

First, your concept of time is derived from the notion that the speed of light is the maximum speed in the universe. This is false. It is based on electromagnetic forces. What you cannot comprehend yet is that gravity moves at an almost infinite speed. Only when this is understood will the exploration of space become a reality. To appreciate the truth of this concept, one must return to what Grindorans consider the dynamics of creation. Electromagnetic and nuclear forces sparred with each other for eons. Each wanted to dominate space-time. But long before electromagnetism had become dominant, gravity had filled every section of the early universe. It had become the most powerful force. The electromagnetic and nuclear forces did eventually combine. This led to the formation of matter. What you detect as matter is really a combination of two distinct forces. And both of these are subservient to gravity. Once, we too were composed of matter. But as we broke the bonds holding us to our planet, we began to transform our bodies. It took countless generations to do this. When we had finished, we had become the epitome of evolution. Our forms are now composed completely of electrogravism.

But you said that you are not immortal, Gabril. I was fascinated by all this information.

No, Barry. Nothing lives forever. No matter how far we extend our life spans, eventually we will all die. I am, by your reckoning, about twenty million years old. Even electrogravism does not sustain itself forever. I will cease to exist in approximately five million more years. My race is dying out. But before we plunge back into the nexus of the universe, we would like to find a successor race to carry on our work. I think that race is the human race, Barry. Even though hormones still rule the human psyche, I can envision a time when all people will work together with a single purpose—to master the galaxy. We want your descendants to follow in our quest for continued knowledge. We hope that eventually, somewhere in space-time, you can become the coaches of a planetary race to follow in your footsteps. This is the Grindoran way. What do you think of all this, Barry?

I am deeply moved by your faith in us, Gabril. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine such a future for mankind. I will do everything I can to complete the task you have so dramatically laid out for me. Please teach me all that I have to know. I don’t want to fail. I now have something in which to believe.

Gabril went into further detail about the gravity particles. He filled my brain with formulas dealing with hormones and other elements of chemistry. Then he concentrated on economics, instructing me on strategies of stocks and bonds. Then came politics and, finally, medical technology. Various concepts were presented to my hungry mind. Ideas of extending the human lifespan to over four hundred years seemed easy to accomplish.

Barry, it’s time for you to reenter your life and find the other people like yourself. It will be difficult. They will be as diverse as people can be. But while you are searching for them, they will also be searching for you. It will take many years to accomplish what you must, but I am confident you will succeed.

How many others will there be, Gabril?

There will be seven others. All will have gone through a similar training period as you have. Seven superb Grindorans are instructing them at this very moment. There will be a resting period for you, Barry. Let all your new knowledge and power blossom slowly. This way you can expect to make fewer mistakes. Do not expect me to intervene in any way from now on. I leave the fate of earth in your hands. Goodbye, Barry!

Goodbye, Gabril! Thank you for your confidence.

Three

Let’s hit him with the defibrillator! Quickly, people! screamed Dr. Coleccia. We may still be able to save this man.

The staff moved like a whirlwind. Miraculously, after being jolted with electricity, my heart started beating on its own. The medical staff cheered with the news that I had been resuscitated. The emergency room was alive with activity.

Okay, people. We’ve got him back. Now let’s bring that temp down and stabilize his systems. I hope we have a functioning human being when he wakes up. Now hop to it!

My temperature dropped so rapidly that the medical staff looked like they were in shock. Within one minute of jump-starting my heart, it was down to a normal 98.23 degrees.

Get him up to the OR stat, said Dr. Russo.

Not so fast! interrupted Dr. Coleccia. I want to rerun the initial tests first. Something tells me we’re going to find totally different results.

Everything was redone. As Dr. Coleccia had predicted, the results were quite different. There were no longer any broken ribs or evidence of internal bleeding. There was no sign of head trauma. Even the deep laceration on my forehead had healed. It was as if nothing had happened to me. There was just one problem—I was in a coma.

I want this man put in ICU. If and when he comes out of the coma, don’t release him. I’m the only doctor who will be allowed to okay his release. Is that understood, Dr. Russo?

Yes, Dr. Coleccia, I understand. Do you think anyone would want to endanger his life by removing him from this hospital? Dr. Russo asked meekly.

Dr. Coleccia pulled Dr. Russo to a more secluded part of the ER.

Listen, Doctor. In my twenty-two years of medical practice, I have never seen anything like this. If you don’t understand what has occurred here, then I seriously question your professional competence. Now I want this kept under strict control. Do you read me, Doctor?

Yes, sir. I understand perfectly.

For the next two months, I remained in a coma. I knew what was going on around me, but I was unable to open my eyes or speak or move in any way. I thought I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life. Hospital staff wheeled me to different labs. There, dozens of tests were performed on me at the request of Dr. Coleccia. All the tests showed nothing out of normal range. Then Dr. Coleccia ordered adrenal gland tests.

Voila, he said. His adrenal glands are almost 50 percent larger than normal. I want any tests from Dr. Ruggerman sent to my personal attention. This could be the cause of such spontaneous healing. The only problem is the coma. Why isn’t he coming out of it?

It was about two in the morning of the sixtieth day when I was able to open my eyes. I sat up and looked around. It was a private room, but there was a glass wall between my bed and the central station twenty feet away. A nurse spotted me looking around and quickly came over to my bed. She looked down at me and welcomed me back to the living.

How long have I been unconscious? I asked.

I can’t discuss anything with you, Mr. Teacher. She seemed very nervous. I’m going to call Dr. Coleccia. I’m sure he’ll be able to answer all your questions.

When the doctor arrived, he rushed to my bedside. He peered down at me with an intent expression on his face.

Hello, Barry Teacher. I was wondering if this moment would ever arrive. You’ve been in a coma for two whole months. All the wounds you had when you got to Hope General have miraculously healed. You were clinically dead for thirty-two seconds. I still don’t understand why this crazy episode occurred. We do know that your adrenal glands are enlarged and are capable of producing enormous amounts of adrenaline. What we can’t comprehend is why this happened. Did this trigger the temperature spike, causing you to arrest? I would like you to sign something for me. It will allow me to conduct further tests. We certainly don’t want a repeat episode.

I realized this was a ploy to keep me there. I decided to play along. After all, I didn’t have much of a choice. I was as weak as a baby.

Doctor, I’m really very weak. I need time to think. I can’t believe I’ve been unconscious for so long. I’ll sign your papers. But first I want these tubes that you have connected to my body removed. And I sure could go for a real meal.

Dr. Coleccia smiled down at me. Anything you say, Barry. Nurse, remove the IV and the Foley. Then get Mr. Teacher anything he wants from the kitchen. Barry, I’ll be back in a few hours. I have some colleagues I want you to meet.

I watched Dr. Coleccia go to the nurses’ station. He whispered some instructions to a nurse sitting behind a computer console. Then he looked back at me for a split second and walked down the corridor.

The same nurse returned and removed all the tubes attached to my body. She even disconnected wires that were attached to my head and neck. I didn’t say anything to her about this, but I didn’t remember the doctor telling her to do that.

Well, I’ll order a festive meal to celebrate your return to our world, she said.

I wondered what she meant by that remark. Had I somehow blurted out things when I was unconscious? I looked at her name tag. It read, Ann Bernstein, RN. She had sad dark eyes. She was about five feet, four inches tall and appeared anorexic.

Ms. Bernstein, would you be so kind as to help me to the bathroom? I have such a terrible taste in my mouth. I would like to brush my teeth.

Certainly, Mr. Teacher. I’ll just lower the side rail on your bed. When you swing your legs over the side, lean on me. Your first steps will be wobbly. Now be careful! You weigh a lot more than I do. I don’t want us to crash to the floor.

She laughed out loud. Her laugh was contagious. I started laughing. Even though it hurt to laugh, it did feel good to be back in the real world.

We made it to the bathroom door.

Well, Mr. Teacher. You’re on your own now. There’s an emergency buzzer by the commode. Call me if you need help.

She gave me a light tap on the behind as she walked back to her station.

I opened the door and stepped inside. The light came on automatically, temporarily blinding me with its brightness. In a few seconds, my eyes adjusted. I stared into the mirror. My heart began to race as I saw a face I did not recognize. My hair was snow white, as was the beard that had grown during the past sixty days. My ears had grown larger and turned out more than they had. My nose was more elongated. My eyes also had been affected. They were larger and focused together better.

What had Gabril done to me? Perhaps these feature changes would sharpen my senses. I opened the cabinet to get a toothbrush and toothpaste. I squeezed the paste onto the brush. When I opened my mouth, I froze in horror. All my teeth were larger, and my canine teeth were huge.

Somehow, I was able to finish brushing. I stumbled back to my bed. I sat on the side and pressed the emergency button. Ms. Bernstein reacted instantly to my call for help.

What is it, Mr. Teacher? she asked, concern in her eyes.

Please, call me Barry. I feel old enough as it is. Don’t treat me so formally. Have you been on duty since I was brought over here from emergency?

Yes, I’ve been assigned to ICU for two and a half years. Except for seven days of vacation and my regular days off, I’ve been here all the time you’ve been in a coma. Now if you want me to call you Barry, then you’ll just have to call me Ann. What is so important about my being here for the last two months?

I smiled back at her, wondering if she found my features grotesque. I had never been so self-conscious in my life. I had never been considered handsome, but my new appearance gave me an eerie look. I could sense she was a caring, sincere woman. I hoped that we would get to know each other better.

Ann, do my features look any different than when I first arrived?

Not that I can tell, Barry. Perhaps being in a coma makes certain body parts sag. Except for your beard, you look pretty much the same as when they wheeled you on to the ward. By the way, would you like me to have you shaved?

I thought about that question for a while.

No, Ann. I think I’ll keep it for now. When is that meal gonna get here? I’m starving.

The chef is whipping up something special for you. It will take a few more minutes. The kitchen doesn’t get too many calls at three in the morning.

Pardon me for being so bold, Ann. Are you married?

No, I’m not married, Barry. But we’re not allowed to fraternize with the patients.

I guess it’s kind of difficult to fraternize when one of the parties is in a coma. Right?

She cracked up over that. Her laughter set me off again. I laughed so hard the muscles in my chest began to hurt.

When she stopped laughing, she blurted out, "I was married for three years, but it ended about a year ago. I still use his last name. I guess I’m too lazy to get it changed back to Cavanaugh. Anyway, we don’t have any children

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