“The Surgeon” by Deepak Bharathan

Scrub, scrub, and scrub. Repeat. Mirza drifted into a soothing song from a long time ago. 

Mes amis, que reste-t-il?
À ce Dauphin si gentil?
Orléans, Beaugency,
Notre-Dame de Cléry,
Vendôme, Vendôme!

Just the way her mother used to hum to her. She still loved it. But she snapped out of it. She needed to focus. Even though the surgery was supposedly routine, it was different each time. 

Her eyes were heavy. She shook her head vigorously to ‘get the sleep out of her head’, as she had often described this action to her peers. This was her twenty-seventh, and last, procedure for the night. Around thirty surgeries a day were the norm at the hospital. She was used to it now.

Obviously, the only way that was possible was because bots did all the heavy lifting. And not having to be distracted with the very human flaw of banter helped efficiency. There was still a lot that the surgeon had to oversee. Brain surgery, despite all the advances, remained brain surgery.

Her glasses popped up the details on her next patient. The stats were normal. Male; Caucasian; AB+; Normal brain pattern; fifteen years old. He was young, but she wasn’t surprised. The center had told her that the patients would keep getting younger. The wars had made that a certainty. Traumatic stress was not easy to treat. This kid had tried to kill himself. And he was hardly the only one.   

“How are you feeling, Matt?” she asked him. Understandably, he looked nervous. 

“How long will this take?” he asked feigning a curt tone that was meant to hide his nervousness. Mirza had seen that many times. 

“Thirty minutes,” she assured him. She picked up the small implant in her right palm. She knew that the orb weighed 12 milligrams. But every time she also felt the weight which couldn’t be measured on the scale. 

“Is that ugly thing the replacement for my sorry childhood?” he asked her. 

“It’s more than that. It’s a new beginning,” Mirza told him. And she believed it too.

“You’re going to implant false memories in my head. And somehow, it’s called a new beginning,” Matt said with scorn large in his voice. “Let’s just get this over with.”

***

“How are you feeling?” she asked cautiously. 

“I’m good,” he said a bit unsurely as he sat up on his bed. Mirza could see his pupils adjusting to the lights. “It’s funny. I know that I didn’t have a mom who taught me geometry. I know my dad wasn’t a performer at the photon studio. I know I never owned a black Labrador named Truffy. I know all this. At least I think I do. But somehow it doesn’t matter. This feels more real than the life I had.”

“That’s good,” Mirza told him. He had recovered well.

“My old life,” he said frowning as if he was trying to remember.

“There will still be glimpses. With time even those would fade.” She looked at him. He seemed to be almost glad that he wouldn’t remember.

“Do others have similar memories?” he asked.

“We customize,” she replied cryptically. There was no need to go into more detail. 

“I – feel happy. Now that’s a strange feeling.” 

Mirza stayed with him for a few minutes. He talked about his life, his dreams – he had dreams now! This made it all worth it. Almost.

***

She was still feeling some of that afterglow when she walked into Myra’s office. She waited for Myra to come back in. Her friend, and colleague, was still finishing up with her previous patient. Myra collapsed into her chair as soon as she walked in. Both did not say a word for a few moments. 

“I know we’ve discussed this, but I need to do it once more. You know that if we remove the orb, putting it back is risky – and expensive. It’s a terrible world out there. Are you sure you want to remember?” Myra asked Mirza. 

Mirza had asked herself that question many times.

“I don’t remember her, Myra. And, surprisingly, that is tough,” replied Mirza quietly. “I don’t know that woman who is supposed to be my real mother. And she’s dying now. I just want to remember,” her voice trailed away. 

 Both surgeons stayed silent for a moment. Myra keyed in a command on her console to get the operating room ready.

“I’m going to miss that song,” rued Mirza.


Deepak grew up on a staple diet of veggies + science fiction. His work has previously featured in various publications including Daily Science Fiction, Terraform [Vice Media], Allegory, Sci Phi Journal and science fiction anthologies ‘Where the stars rise’, ‘Unrealpolitik’, and ‘The Internet is Where the Robots Live Now’ . When not imagining up stuff, he has published many times about technology in avenues like Consulting Magazine, CIO Update, Search CIO, PC Today, and CIO Decisions. His Philadelphia home is run by his four year old daughter. His wife and he are just along for the ride. It’s a pretty good one though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.