First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
Abandoned Military Base
December 22, 2019, 7:30 A.M.
I call to remembrance my song in the night.
~ Psalms 77:6
Lee woke a number of times in the night, confused as to where he was. At one point, he was convinced he was still on the plane bound for Bermuda, that he had fallen asleep, as Dr. Wagner droned on about his ungrateful patients and the “agency.” Finally, exhaustion had its way, and he fell into a deep sleep.
He woke early. At least he thought it was early. By his internal clock it was, and his head was filled with the words from a hymn. “Draw the circle wider, draw it wider still . . . no one stands alone.”
Lee lay back and tried to remember the dream that he had had. It came to him very clearly. He had dreamed of his old friend, Griff, who had hired Lee and brought him to Maine so many years ago. Griff became a lifelong friend. He had encouraged Lee and Liz to adopt. He had been there for Lee when he returned from detention in Boston. Griff was one of the few people Lee had confided in about his problems with alcohol.
In the dream, Griff was trying to tell Lee something. From the expression on Griff’s face, it must have been something important. Lee could understand the words, “You must understand.” But the rest was drowned out by the sound of static, the kind you would hear on an old television.
Lee had not seen Griff for about three years. No one had. Griff had taken his lobster yacht, as he called it, on a trip down the coast. He had disappeared somewhere near Cape Hatteras. His body was never found, nor was any wreckage from the boat. Lee sighed and took a deep breath. It was nice having him back, even if only in a dream.
Lee tried to look around the room. It was dark and cold. He fumbled for his watch, the one his daughter had given him. He found it. but could not read it. The only light came from the configuration of lights and symbols on the display panels that Lee had watched David manipulate until Lee could no longer hold his eyes open. Lee folded back the blanket he had covered himself with and slowly swung his legs around to the edge of the bed. He rubbed his eyes, placed his feet quietly on the concrete floor and stood up.
Suddenly, the room was filled with light. David appeared in the door at the end of the room, the one leading into the garage.
“Oh, I see you are awake. It’s getting late. We really must go.”
“Go where?” asked Lee.
“To visit an old friend of mine. But first, we eat. Would you like some eggs and bacon? Scrambled, I’m afraid. Government issue.”
“Well, coffee is what I would really like . . . and a lot of it,” said Lee.
“We have that. Come.” He motioned Lee to a seat at a table near the door.
“Cream and sugar?”
“Just cream. I think I’ll pass on the eggs. I’ve had government issue before.” Lee didn’t say when and where, but it was in the detention center in Boston. Lee felt the cold come over him. He tried to shake it off.
“Just coffee, then?” asked David.
Lee nodded and sat down at the table, David poured and Lee stirred. He took a few sips of the coffee, which must not have been Government Issue since it didn’t taste like dishwater.
“Now, let me look at you,” said David. He was holding a screen in his hand that displayed in 3-D an image of a man who was of similar build and had similar facial features to Lee.
“No, no,” he said with a grimace. “We must do something about your hair — or I should say, your lack of it. And the skin tone. Of course, this tone isn’t right.”
Lee was once again taken aback. “What are you talking about?”
David ignored his question and continued his inspection of Lee.
“Hmm, height and build are okay. Maybe a few pounds over, but it’ll work.” He stopped. “Well, I guess we will just have to let Edward…”
“Let Edward do what?” asked Lee anxiously.
“Match you with Emanuel, so you can get back to Boston.”
“Why are we ‘matching’ me with anyone? Does this guy Emanuel have a prosthetic hook where a left hand should be?”
David didn’t answer.
Lee paused and thought for a moment. “Okay. That sounds okay, especially the part about getting back to Boston. So where’s the toupee and the make-up?”
“Oh, we won’t need those. Just get dressed. We need to leave before the fog burns off.”
Lee splashed some water onto his face. He quickly dressed. Drained his coffee cup and was ready for Edward or Emanuel. Whatever he was ready for, he wasn’t quite sure.
“Turn around,” said David.
Lee turned around. David carefully examined the uniform he had provided for Lee the night before. “A good fit,” observed David. “Now, for Edward. It’s time.”
“Okay,” said Lee, looking around, puzzled. “And who . . . where . . . is Edward?”
“Well, he’s right . . .”
“ . . . here,” said a voice from behind Lee, “David failed to introduce us last night. You were so tired.”
“Yes, I was,” said Lee, turning in the direction of the voice and looking more confused.
“Dr. Brazil,” said David, “let me introduce my assistant, Edward Zan.” Lee continued to look around the room.
“I’m standing in front of you, Dr. Brazil.”
“You’re — you’re a computer?” Lee said.
“I am what your race might call strong artificial intelligence, a label equally insulting and not an accurate description of who I really am.”
Thank God his name isn’t Hal, Lee thought to himself, remembering the super-intelligent computer in an old Sci-Fi movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“I’m sorry, Edward. I’m afraid I never met a . . . a…”
Edward finished his sentence, “Another life form like me.”
Lee was remembering that when they tried to disconnect Hal, he killed most of the human crew.
“Yes,” said Lee, fumbling for words, “another life form like you.” “I could materialize, as your humans refer to it, into a life form like yourself that you might be more comfortable with.”
“Yes . . . I . . . no, Oh, no. That won’t be necessary,” said Lee, sounding completely bewildered. Materialize, Lee thought to himself. What the hell is he talking about?
“You mean a holographic image?”
“Yes, I believe that’s what you humans would call it. Very crude. The one I can create is, as you would say, ‘the real McCoy.’
“Edward,” David interrupted, “we must leave within the next few minutes.”
“Yes. I suppose there’s no time to talk now. Okay. “
“Dr. Brazil, please sit down and face me.”
Lee complied at first and then he stood up.
“Now, wait a minute. What are you going to do to me?”
“To put it in what human beings call ‘layman’ terms, I am going to stimulate your hair follicles in such a way that your hair will grow very rapidly. Then I’m going to remove a few wrinkles and give you a suntan. All perfectly safe.”
Lee still looked quite skeptical of the whole process.
“They are very simple things to do,” said Edward. “Your race will have mastered this process in a few years. Please sit down and face me. We have no more time.”
Lee sat back down and continued to object. “I’m not sure about . . .”
Before Lee could say any more, he felt a warm sensation spread across his face and his head. His scalp tingled. It was over.
“Oh, yes. Very nice. Wouldn’t you agree, David?”
“You’re a genius, Edward,” said David.
“I know,” said Edward.
Lee felt his face. No real change. When Lee touched his forehead and his scalp, he found that he now had much more hair than he had had a few minutes before. Lee jumped from his seat and looked at his reflection in one of the screens. Yes, he had hair. It was gray and thin, but he looked years younger. And his face and hand had turned a light brown. Many of Lee’s wrinkles had disappeared.
Lee looked at David.
“We can talk about this later,” said David. “We have no time. We must get to Sharks Hole before the fog is gone.”
David shoved a fishing rod in Lee’s hand. “I’ll carry the tackle box and my rod.”
“We’re going fishing?” Lee looked more puzzled than before, if that were possible.
“Relax. We just need to look like we’re going fishing. Now, come along, Emanuel. We only have a few hours before your ship, The Saint, weighs anchor and sails.”
“I’m going to Boston on a ship?”
“Yes, it is necessary. Now we must go.”
Lee followed David. The fog was thick and the path to Sharks Hole was a difficult one, even in full daylight. Lee used caution as he picked his way along the rocky slope leading to the beach. His head was still spinning. “Hurry along, Dr. Brazil. I must insist. We are almost there.”
The sun was starting to break through the fog as they reached the rocky outcropping that marked the entrance to Sharks Hole.
Lee continued to mumble to himself as he followed David down the path of sand and rock that led into the sea cave that was Sharks Hole.