When my head got cut off and attached
to my clients computer, I actually wasnt that
Dr. Chertov attached the nerve endings
from the top of my spine into the CPU, which gave off a little
electrical sting. The codeine/morphine/Valium cocktail helped
keep the pain mild.
Then the doctor grafted a large swatch
of flesh from my buttocks to close off my neck to exposure
to air. Finally, the CPU, of which I was now an integral part,
was placed on a table under air-conditioned glass to keep
out bacteria and to keep the computer running under optimal
My new job would be to augment the
CPU in searching for and soliciting new projects for Dr. Chertov.
He was very frustrated with the capabilities of his computerIts
not smart enough to get a hunch, he told me as he was
attaching the wires to my neck. You have that intuition
After protein and saline injections
into my bloodstream, Dr. Chertov said, In a few days,
youll get to work. I want you to find somebody who can
sell me six dozen mice and 10,000 cockroaches.
Thats how it started, innocently.
I had gotten tired of my body. I didnt
expect that Dr. Chertov would cut my head off, but honestly,
in a way, it was a blessing. I suffered from too many ailments
for a 35-year-old man.
My back was a mess. Months before,
one of the disks in the spine, at the belt line, spurted out
of its allotted place while I was sitting at my desk doing
my work for Dr. Chertov (which I loved), and jammed into a
major nerve. The sensation was like that of being suddenly
attached to the electrical grid on the Vegas Strip without
My sinuses started acting up too. It
felt like a liquid tarantula was crawling around inside my
And then, women! God, I was sick of
them. They were always distracting me from my work. I had
a girlfriend, Amy from Arizona. She was always doing her nails,
or her hair. She prattled endlessly on about her body. Were
her brown roots showing? Should she go blonder? Was her butt
too big? Didnt I like her long neck? Wasnt it
kind of elegant?
That wasnt all. Amy wanted us
to move in together. I should get out my Brooklyn rat hole
and live with her on the Upper West Side. We could save on
rent. And I wouldnt have to worry about anything. She
would pay to redecorate. Oh, we could buy a new couch, which
would be long enough for me to nap on. She could get new carpets,
which would match the couch. Shed ditch her bed and
buy something new. She would pay for everything, oh that wasnt
a problem, but could I go shopping with her to decide what
she should buy?
I tried to get through these conversations
with as little dialogue from me as possible, limiting my responses
to yes, no, maybe, and
I dont know. I tried to keep my temper.
The shopping trips were so boring that I considered throwing
myself in the river when they had ended. I looked at all the
enormous beds, the blue fabric couches, the Ottomans (Why
are they called that?) and thought about Amys values
even as my spinal column was raving about the insults the
disk was exacting on it.
I would rather be working for Dr. Chertov,
or reading, rather than go on these trivial, ridiculous excursions.
Why didnt Amy want to read? Didnt she care about
global warming? Theres dengue fever in Mexico! Poison
ivy is spreading like YouTube videos of Sarah Palin! Why wasnt
my girlfriend thinking about the countrys enormous debt
to the Chinese and Japanese? Wasnt she concerned about
the budget deficit? Why was I involved with such a shallow
woman? Maybe theyre all like this. I think I came to
that conclusion. And it burned in my brain.
The only reason I could come up with
for staying with Amy was yet another burdensome bodily function.
She had a certain way about her. I am a discreet head, so
I want to be careful with what I say. Amy was very physical.
She craved touching. Her Caribbean blue eyes took me in with
hunger. Its not like I was some sculpted rock of a man
with classic tough good looks. I was called reasonably attractive
by a business associate who is a woman, but I never thought
of myself as handsome. Im OK to look at, I guess. So
I could not account for why Amy ached to drag me into bed
when I came over.
I know what youre going to say.
How could I possibly complain about that? Maybe I shouldnt,
but the frequency of our couplings started to get to me. Didnt
Amy want to talk first? Questions like, How was your
week? or Can you believe what happened to me?
just seemed like a normal part of a relationship. Instead,
I knocked on her second-story walkup, the chain came off the
door and I got yanked inside. OK, maybe Im exaggerating
a little. But not by much.
I think what bothered me was just the
sheer animal nature of the joining together of two human beings.
I had built myself up to be as intellectual as possible. At
work I wanted to be a machine. I wanted to be able to do as
much as I could. Work for me started at 7:30 in the morning
and I kept at it until 7:30 that night. When I wasnt
working, I read. I lived to read. I wanted to know as much
as I could. An actor, who I usually dont respect, once
said, The more you read, the smarter you get. Its
that simple. I agreed with that. I wanted to be smarter.
I ached to be smarter. I wanted to know more.
Why did I read so much? It sounds corny,
but I wanted to find out the secrets of the universe. I had
a lot of questions. Why are we here? What is the purpose of
all this life? Does all this activity have a point?
I read books on the history of God.
I read deeply about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, genes
and evolution, philosophy, politics, war. I also read plenty
of books on the origin of the universe, our solar system,
the different planets, and the natural history of the Earth.
I liked a book about the moons of the planets. Titan, one
of the bigger moons, had great views of Saturn and its rings.
I imagined myself walking alone on Titan, seeing the rings
rise over the horizon. Another book I read was called Mans
Search For Meaning, about a man who had been a prisoner
in a Nazi death camp and became a psychologist after the war,
which was perfect for me.
Amy didnt care much about any
of this stuff. She watched the TV news shows on politics on
Sundays, but thats as deep as she wanted to get. She
especially liked The McLaughlin Report, which struck
me as just a bunch of hyper liberals and conservatives shouting
at each other. Amy liked the fighting. I guess it was entertaining,
in a way.
But this bothered me. These people
couldnt talk about politics without flying off the handle.
They couldnt talk like cool intellectuals trying to
reason out a problem.
As far as reading, Amy liked In
Touch, People and The National Enquirer.
She liked to keep up with Hollywood people. She was jealous
of Paris Hilton. I found this odious, but I put up with it.
Amy also liked to buy coffee at Starbucks and spend time there!
This was another place I let myself get dragged to. Another
hobby for her was to grab me and run into Tiffanys to
look at the expensive jewelry. Amy loves jewelry. If there
is anything more unpleasant for a man to do, I cant
think of it.
Have I made her as repellent as possible
in your mind? Like I said, her physicality kept me in place.
Those baby blue eyes could be hypnotic. Her hips had a wave-like
curve. Understandably, she had a great sense of fashion, with
wonderful long skirts to match her legs and exceptionally
tasteful underwear. I found myself admiring her like she was
a runway model. Then I got disgusted with myself for mucking
myself up with animal thoughts.
On the parental front, her mother and
father were like more extreme versions of Amy. Her dad was
a real estate developer and her mother sold real estate. They
had deep tans, their skin starting to go all leather from
the sun. They liked to play golf for Gods sake! I could
imagine them hitting the long drives on the courses of Scottsdale,
the Camelback mountains and desert behind them, using scarce,
precious water to keep the fairways a bright and healthy green.
How did I ever hook up with such a
creature? We met at work, of course. Public relations agencies
are great incubators of relationships. Women generally make
up 70 percent of the employee roster at a public relations
agency. Theyre young, ambitious, and hungry. With men
in the minority, its relatively easy to find a girlfriend
I was an account executive in the technology
division of the firm. We handled computer hardware, software,
business re-engineering and scientific research companies,
doing their publicity. That meant writing promotional articles
about our clients products, customer case histories,
press releases and talking to reporters from trade magazines
to get our clients mentioned in the press.
Dr. Chertov was the CEO and sole owner
of the Union Simplex Corporation, an Upper East Side-based
company that did research and re-engineering projects for
other companies. Dr. Chertov was so important to the agency
that he was my only client. I had worked with him for almost
two years. He gave us half a million dollars a year for our
retainer, which is a lot of money for a public relations agency.
I had gotten him press coverage in Industry Week and
Business Week the same month, which made my reputation
with him. Its very hard to get publicity in Business
Week. Everybody wants to get in there.
Amy worked in the consumer products
division, naturally. She promoted cosmetics and beauty products
There was a bunch of us, we were all
the same age and we had all arrived at the company at about
the same time. Around 7 oclock, or 7:30 in the evening,
there would usually be some guy who would round everybody
up and say lets go get something to eat.
I found this guy annoying. His name
was Alan. I wanted to stay and work. But Alan was from Ohio
State, and he had this gung-ho, were all in this together,
cheerleader way about him. He would stare at me. I would look
at my computer screen with longing for a few moments. There
was a Union Simplex press release I was just aching to finish.
He would stare again. I would sigh. So I allowed myself to
be shanghaied out of there.
Inevitably we would end up at the Old
Town, a bar on 18th Street, around the corner from the agencys
office, which served oily hamburgers, fat fries and generous
amounts of beer.
After dinner, we often drank. I didnt
like to drink, but I would often sip a beer to be polite.
The hostess would seat the 20 of us at a long table in a room
on the second floor of the place. The tin ceiling was at least
80 years old and interesting to look at for its intricacy.
We took thinly-cushioned chairs, with uneven wooden legs scraping
to find stability on the white and green tiled floor. If there
were a hospital for fixing chairs, these should be headed
for the emergency room.
The table was lively with talk of clients
and their unreasonable requests. I am a quiet man, so I listened
and constantly checked the level of my beer to make sure I
wasnt drinking too fast or too much.
One night there was Amy sitting next
to me in the long line of account executives stacked up at
the long Old Town table. She smiled. I strained to smile back.
While I try not to talk to anybody I dont need to, I
found myself looking into her blue eyes and trying to actually
respond to her questions and listen to her chatter on about
her clients. She asked me out for dinner. I went.
Now, ten months later, she was making
me increasingly nervous. Heres how one of our last dinners
We met outside a Mexican restaurant
on University Place just below 14th Street, a five-minute
walk from the office. The wind was whipping around on the
street, but there were not leaves to move because the street
has virtually no trees. This is New York and wildlife, even
a tree, is an insult to the ultra-serious business of achieving
the towering ambitions of huddled millions.
Amys blue eyes looked anguished.
I had two thoughts. One, she was objectively beautiful, with
her long nose, flared waist and blonde hair, even if it was
enhanced with chemicals. Two, theres a freight train
coming my way and shes the engineer.
Lets go in and talk,
she said quietly.
We sat just inside the window, so she
could see me and the rest of the room. I could see her and
out the window, which was actually a better position, because
there is a parade of very odd people walking by, from homeless
types to black leather punks and too-skinny artists and would-be
Is everything OK? You look upset,
We talked about moving in.
I ordered a Scotch, which was very
much unlike me, but I had a feeling I would need it.
She looked at me, her blue eyes bleeding
with pain. I thought she was going to cry. It would be a shame
to get the tablecloth wet.
Maybe we shouldnt.
A leather boy backed up a girl with
a back-pack right against our window and pressed himself into
her. The window made a protest. I diverted my eyes from Amy
and looked at the couple. They were really grinding against
Amy turned around, then she looked
at me again.
Id like to do that to you.
Id like to climb on the table with you right now,
she said, blonde hair falling over her shoulders.
The Scotch came. I took it in one long
She blew air out of her lips. You
know, you exhaust me.
I am totally swept away by you.
You just stand there, like a
It was my turn to sigh. Well,
works very important to me.
You have big thoughts. But a
I ordered another Scotch.
We ate our Mexican dinner and made
small talk about work, the press releases she was writing
and which client was a bitch. Many of them were. Then we went
to her house and made furious, clinching love. She cried buckets
of tears afterward. I hid in the bathroom.
Amy didnt have to say more, but
I could feel the pressure of her desires. She wanted me, almost
certainly forever. She wanted to own me. I would be her little
man, escorting her through stores for the rest of our lives.
We never talked about children, but it didnt matter.
The image of me following her around the aisles of Bed, Bath
and Beyond or Saks Fifth Avenue was enough to scare the crap
out of me.
The image was starting to suffocate
my mind. I began to have minor anxiety attacks at work. In
addition to my back pain and sinuses, I was experiencing yet
another obstacle to my productivity.
This was my mental state when I met
Dr. Chertov for lunch one cloudy, chilly day at a restaurant
near his office on 57th Street and Second Avenue. I took a
cab to meet him, the black seat in the back sinking under
my weight. The driver, smelling of three days of sweat, flew
off onto Park Avenue going north, then almost immediately
screeched on the brakes because of the heavy traffic. I felt
like I was being launched into space. My sinuses complained
by pounding the inside of my forehead with tiny hammers. My
back tried to relocate itself in space and time.
Little atomic rockets fired up and
down my spine and through my legs as I got out of the cab.
Worried about being late, I lurched inside the glass door
of the restaurant and found Dr. Chertov sitting in the back
room, drinking water and eating fried scrod. He didnt
like to wait for anybody.
Im sorry Im late.
He dug into the scrod. Without looking
up, he said quietly, but firmly, Sit down.
I ordered for you. Grilled chicken
and ziti. Your usual.
Sounds good. I grimaced.
Youre not well.
My back has been bothering me.
I know. I wanted to talk to you
about that. Your injury has been hurting your work.
When Dr. Chertov said that, I felt
absolute horror. He confirmed my fears about myself. I had
Ive been going to physical
What are they doing to you?
Electrical stimulation of the
nerves, mostly. Some massage.
Chewing on a torn piece of scrod, he
said, That stuff never works.
Im also doing some exercise.
Ive been swimming and doing some yoga.
Hows that working?
It doesnt last. As soon
as the workouts over, the pain comes back.
Dr. Chertov leaned back in his chair.
He had an amazing resemblance to Ronald Reagan. His hair was
swept up over his skull like a small rolling hill, with gel
to stiffen it and keep it in place. The jowls sank in the
same old man Reagan way. His eyes were small, but direct and
I have been thinking about your
problem, which is also my problem.
Im paying your firm a half-million
dollars to do publicity for me. I see a lot of resourcefulness
and drive in you. I could give you a 25 percent raise and
still pay you much less than Im paying your firm. Also,
well work on expanding your portfolio of skills and
get more work out of you.
What are you saying?
You can come and work for me.
Despite the pinging in my back, I smiled.
This was a great opportunity.
Im very flattered.
Dont be. I need your brain.
But the rest of you is falling apart.
Fortunately, I have considered
Its a radical idea. But
it might work well.
Youve heard of people who
want to download their consciousness, the contents of their
brains, into software so they can live forever on the Web?
Im surprised you dont
know about it. You read so much. No matter. Weve been
working on something much better, something more direct and
effective, which works now, as opposed to looking forward
to technology that hasnt even been invented yet. Ive
developed the means to separate the brain from the dross of
the body and integrate it into computer systems.
Youve done this?
Dr. Chertov grimaced a little. Ive
worked out the theory and the schematics, the procedures.
Weve experimented with animals.
What kind of animals?
White mice. Theyre very
similar to humans. You interested?
Here was a chance to work for a man
with PhDs in computer science and business from M.I.T., as
well a medical degree from Harvard. His knowledge, his ability
to teach me were very powerful attracting forces.
Im interested. What do
we have to do?
Dr. Chertov leaned in close to me.
Any further conversation we have
comes under my firms confidentiality agreement with
I leaned in too. OK.
He drank some water from his tall,
thin glass. Very good. Human beings have body plans
that actually dont work very well. Evolution is not
a perfect God. It does what it can with the tools it has at
the moment. Walking upright, for instance, was an adaptation
that has resulted in weak backs for many. If we still crawled
on all fours, your back wouldnt matter as much. Your
legs would provide the support for the bodys weight.
My grilled chicken came and we both
sat back. Dr. Chertov looked ticked off. He didnt like
to be interrupted for something so trivial as chicken and
pasta. I admired him for that. It reminded me a little of
I dug into the flat slab of chicken.
Dr. Chertov looked at it with a certain twist of disgust in
This is another example of what
Im talking about. The body has needs. The brain needs
to be fed, so it can direct the rest of the body to do what
it has to do to survive. Although, in the case of Sarah Palin,
Im not sure her brain isnt defective. She seems
to have something wrong with her verbal delivery system. That
winking thing may be an early symptom of developing Tourettes
Syndrome. Anyway, Im getting off the subject. The brain
is the most impressive development in human evolution. Its
truly an incredible organ. It enabled us to get out of the
trees and develop tools and speech and music and so many other
I took a bite of chicken and looked
at the doctor expectantly.
This brings us to the computer.
Another impressive human invention. But in many ways, the
human brain is far superior. Computers are like oxen. Theyll
do what you tell them to do. Theyll carry out your tasks.
But the brain can interpret information. So, what if you joined
the brain and the computer together? You would have a technological
edge, another inflection point in evolution.
Kind of like a merger of the
Kind of, yes.
So are you going to download
my brain into your computers?
He looked disgusted again. You
havent been listening. I intend to disassemble the unnecessary
parts of you and integrate your brain directly with a CPU.
I understood that Dr. Chertov was deliberately
using corporate euphemisms to speak with me. I lived in this
world of not directly addressing your subject. For instance,
when vice presidents talk about firing someone, theyll
tell you, Ive asked Debra to leave. Its
a neat little trick of verbal avoidance, another admirable
invention of the human brain.
I took in what the doctor was saying.
I would still be alive, but I would no longer have a body.
I would have my precious brain, still have consciousness,
and my aching back problem would be solved.
All of a sudden, I had a flash of inspiration.
Getting my head cut off would be a great way to break up with
So, what do you think, my friend?
I swallowed what felt like the most
delicious piece of grilled chicken ever and smiled. I
He sat back with satisfaction. Well
draw up the papers and send them over to your apartment.
Ill have to take care of
some things, I said. I need to resign from the
agency and deal with a couple of personal matters.
Take your time to clean things
up, a week or two, if you need. Well set the date when
youve completed those tasks.
Over the weekend I went over to Amys
apartment, on 73rd and Columbus. I walked through the long
blank white hallway of the building and knocked on her red
She opened it slowly and didnt
strong-arm me inside.
Your voice sounded funny on the
What do you want to talk about?
Lets go inside, Amy.
She arranged herself on a new couch,
the one she had purchased in anticipation of me moving in
with her. I sat in a sofa chair. Sank in is more like it.
The fabric seemed to envelop me. I tried to sit up to escape
it, but the material kept bubbling up to capture my behind.
So, whats doing?
I got a job offer from Dr. Chertov.
Thats great. So why are
you so, I dont know, flat?
The job is going to take me away
What do you mean? Another city?
Not exactly. Ill be here
in the city, at the corporate headquarters on the Upper East
So, whats the problem?
The work will be very demanding.
Youre going to work more
than you do now?
All night? All weekend?
Youre not telling me the
I shifted uncomfortably in the chair
and tried to sit on the edge of the seat, but I ended up falling
backward and my mid-section got swallowed by the foam innards.
I could see that Amy would be merciless in her questioning
and I didnt see any way out but by telling the real
Dr. Chertov is going to cut off
my head and use my brain as part of his server computer. Its
a fantastic opportunity.
Amy looked at me, the blue eyes wrinkling
in pain and fear and anger. She collected her thoughts and
then said in a quiet, but contemptuous voice:
I think I saw this type of thing
in a movie. If you want to break up with me, you could have
come up with something more plausible than a plot point from
a movie. You could just tell me the truth.
This is the truth. I love you.
One thing. Dont ever ask
to come back inside that door again.
I got up and Amy did too.
I walked over to her and kissed her
on the lips. She threw her arms around me and gave me a kiss
that flooded my whole body with the warmth of a beach in St.
Thomas in June. I had a painful thought that maybe I was making
Then it ended. I guess I shouldnt
be kissing you, Amy said.
She walked me to the door. In the hallway
I turned around. I looked at her face. She saw me, hung her
blonde hair in sorrow and closed the red door.
I was both relieved and pained at the
same time. I walked out of there like a man who has just committed
a crime and gotten away with it, but knows hes guilty
as hella fugitive from himself.
When I resigned from the agency, my
boss, Peter, made a counter-offer, giving me a salary of $9,000
more than I was currently making.
We had all signed contracts restraining
us from working for current clients. Thats not really
legal, but I still didnt want to tell Peter where I
Im moving to South Dakota.
He was completely offended. Why
would you go there? Its just a bunch of wheat.
I need a change, Peter.
Youre going to be a farmer?
Something like that.
I stayed the requisite two weeks after
resigning. Amys division was on another floor, but during
the business day she and I passed each other in the hallways
four or five times. We said nothing, but just stared.
I spent two weeks selling or giving
away my books and old furniture, cleaning the apartment and
dealing with the landlord, who was only too happy to see me
go. He was now free to raise the rent more than 100 percent.
The neighborhood had become quite hot from a real estate perspective
and a lot of young professionals wanted to move into our building.
My parents lived in Florida. I spoke
to them every week. I told them that I got a new job and I
would be moving to Manhattan. I figured with the new telecom
technology I could just dial them from my workstation at Dr.
Chertovs office so they wouldnt be alarmed. Of
course, if they wanted to visit, I might have to work up some
really good lies.
By now it was early December. I had
gone through periods of being freaked out and feelings of
great elation. Nothing came out straight in my mind. Finally,
the day before, I set my will to it. I had signed the papers
with Dr. Chertov. It was a fait accompli. This was something
I had to force myself to do. I made a commitment to someone
else, someone who I held in the highest esteem, and I had
to honor it.
The Union Simplex office was at 57th
Street and 2nd Avenue. Dr. Chertovs company took up
the second and third floors of the residential apartment tower,
but. he didnt have a lot of employees. I had been on
the second floor plenty of times, but never on the third.
That day I found out why.
A security guard escorted me to the
floor from the elevator. His name plate said Perry Marlboro.
He was very tall, about six foot seven, with a bloated stomach.
Despite his handsome gold badge, walkie-talkie and company-issue
blue jacket and tie, he looked slovenly. Crumbs of food stuck
to his mustache. We walked through a pair of glass doors,
then about 20 feet through another pair of black glass doors.
Inside the doors was a large black room with no windows. A
row of computers lined the wall. A table with a computer workstation
stood in the middle of the floor, its wires unattached. A
large glass, a little larger than my head, sat on the table
of the workstation.
Next to the computer was an operating
table. It looked like black crystal glass.
Dr. Chertov was busy on the other side
of the room, sterilizing his hands. A nurse pulled gloves
onto him. He heard us come in.
Welcome, he said, from
under his surgical mask. "Youll need to take all
off your clothes. Go to the cubicle on the other side of the
room. Ive got a pair of gym shorts for you.
I couldnt find the cubicle.
Dr. Chertov, impatient, yelled from
across the room and pointed in the opposite direction.
No! Whats wrong with you!
Its over there.
When I came out from the cubicle, I
was freezing. My skin rippled. The nurse took my shoulder
and led me to the operating table. I felt weak. My stomach,
empty and aching from lack of food since six oclock
the night before, bubbled with acid and worry. My back sent
little electric shocks through me.
The nurse placed a sterile plastic
sheet over the table, to collect the blood from the operation.
It was glacier-cold, as if it had been left in a meat locker
overnight. I instinctively curled up in a fetal position.
Dr. Chertov came over. He and the nurse pried my arms and
legs away from my midsection and patted my body down on the
table like I was a piece of Play-Doh.
Im freezing, I said.
These are the sins of the body.
Youre sensitive to everything. We are really just animals.
You wont need to eat, excrete, or worry about deodorant.
In a way, I envy you. Im here to help you become more
than an animal. Youll be all mind from now on.
I was a little proud of myself. I realized
that I had reduced my carbon footprint and my impact on global
warming. No longer would I consume food and other products
with plastic packaging, which of course burns lots of oil.
I wouldnt require food to be trucked to my local supermarket
from far-away factory farms. Not one more plastic bag would
need to be killed on my behalf. I wouldnt need clothing,
the production of which burns carbon dioxide too. I had taken
myself out of the carbon dioxide creation and waste stream.
I was really helping the planet now!
Dr. Chertov and the nurse made some
final preparations with their instruments. A large surgical
saw on one of the tables alarmed me.
I want you to sit up now. Im
going to inject you with a spinal anesthetic. Youll
be out for several hours. When you wake up, there will be
some pain, and Ill have additional pain medication for
The needle fired into my lower back
and oh how it burned. The nurse laid me down on the table
like I was a baby. After a few minutes, I was feeling much
Whats your name?
I asked her, drowsy.
I was starting to feel even fuzzier,
but even through the fog of the anesthetic, I thought that
name was odd.
Shes an actress. In. The
Exorcist movie. She spun. Her head around.
I know. I was making a joke.
I didnt think it was very funny.
Dr. Chertov looked over me. How
are you doing?
Sleepy. OK. Strange. I love you,
He laughed. A few more moments
and then lets get going.
Anesthesia kicks in like a hammer.
Fade to black on the plastic sheeting. You dont dream.
Youre not asleep. You dont feel anything. Youre
I woke up a little early, while Dr.
Chertov was attaching nerve endings from my neck into the
computer. My head shivered from the pain. I remembered thrashing
what was left of my neck muscles against glass.
Try to remain still, Dr.
Chertov said. Well give you more pain medication.
He motioned to the nurse and she stuck
a needle in the soft part of my head, where it was once attached
to the shoulders.
The solution flooded me and I felt
like I was bathing in a pleasure dome.
Youve got a codeine and
morphine solution going now, with Valium too. You should feel
I do. Thank you, I said,
The operation took another couple of
hours. The doctor and the nurse closed off my neck with butt
flesh. The CPU was placed next to me, wires attaching us on
a large plastic table. Then the glass came down on both of
us. A 32 inch viewing screen and printer attachment were each
placed on one side of the glass.
Meet your new twin brother,
Dr. Chertov said.
I couldnt quite turn my head,
but I could see the computer out of the side of my eye. It
was grey metal with a blue on light, which looked
like a little mouth to me. The CPU had a lot of slots too,
for adding additional memory and speed. I tried to smile at
Whats going to happen to
Well sell it as a medical
product. We can sell your organs on eBay and make quite a
bit of money. Even though you had a bad back, your kidneys,
liver, lungs and heart are in excellent shape. The rest of
you can be sold to medical schools or biological research
companies. Youre already making money for the company!
I was proud of myself again.
Dr. Chertov told me to take a few days
to get settled in, then work on my first assignmentbuying
those six dozen mice and 1,000 cockroaches. I looked forward
to it. He gave me an injection of liquid protein to feed me,
and spent a couple of days making sure the operation had gone
well, monitoring my vital signs and all that.
Those first days were pretty boring.
The laboratory had track lights set to a low level. There
wasnt much to see from my perch on the table. A pedestal
sat under my head, with a hole to provide for the connection
of wires from my brain to the CPU. I looked around, straight
out, but couldnt swivel my head. My brain kept telling
my arms and legs to move, but there was no one on the other
end to obey the command.
I got so bored that I fell asleep for
a number of hours at a time. It was like taking one very long
wait to see the dentist. Dr. Chertov seemed unfazed by it.
He came into the lab one time when
I was just sort of listlessly staring into space. He was wearing
a $900 custom tailored suit and $500 Italian shoes. I got
excited. Here was some stimulation.
Ive absolutely got to go
on a business trip for a few days, the doctor said.
It cant wait. Maria will look after you if you
need anything. Shell give you protein and saline water
injections for your needs.
Maria must have been the lady who called
herself Linda Blair. Is that the nurse?
Why do I need water?
You still need some blood to
circulate in your brain or the organ will die. And blood needs
water and salt."
When do I get a screen to look
We need to do a couple of things
before youre ready for a monitor. We take one step at
a time. Youre ready for the next step. Well see
how you do with that. Then well see.
He removed the glass enclosure over
my head and put his hands on my ears and looked me over like
a worried parent examining his child.
You look OK. You should be in
good shape with Maria. Try to behave. Dont get into
any trouble, he said, smiling.
Youre making a joke.
Ha! Yes. Ill see you in
a few days.
Dr. Chertov typed several commands
into the workstation I was now joined to like a Siamese twin.
When he walked out of the room, I felt
a little cloud come over me. There was really nothing to do.
I suddenly wanted to go for a walk and see trees.
The wires attached to the bottom of
my head stung me. My head began to fill with numbersones
and zeroesthe binary code of the computer that was now
part of me.
I closed my eyes and tried to figure
out what they meant. The ones and zeroes started to run through
me, in giant herds, like 19th century buffalo on the Great
Plains. I was overwhelmed with the numbers.
It felt like they were looking for
something, hunting. Then I realized they were searching out
specific places in my brain, parts of my memory, various brain
functions. They smashed into my memories of first grade, my
first kiss, college graduation, a fight with Jimmy Capuano
in seventh grade, my parents. They screamed and thudded into
my knowledge cells, colliding with bits of information about
politics, reading, writing, movies, Amy. They ran into all
the parts of my single remaining organ and it was like getting
electric shock. I felt myself burning up with fever.
Despite the air conditioning, a drop
of sweat trickled from my hair down my forehead into my eye.
I could still do that, but I couldnt wash the sweat
out of my eye. It burned.
It occurred to me that the computer
was trying to integrate my brain into its own workings, but
the process was not pleasant. I was going from a single, independent
entity to just part of a bigger organism. It was interesting
if you were able to stand outside the process and watch as
an interested observer, but when its happening to you,
it feels very strange. I felt a little like a worm that is
impregnated with wasp eggs. When the eggs hatch, the baby
wasps eat the worm. Maybe Im being a little overdramatic,
but I was being invaded by a machine intelligence and there
was nothing I could do about it. I had signed up for this.
Maria, the nurse, walked in. I was
grateful for any outside distraction. I noticed her looks,
grateful for any visual input, even though she wasnt
the most beautiful thing Id ever seen. She had fiery
red hair and a pitted face. Acne scars. She walked over to
me, lifted the glass briefly and wiped the sweat off my forehead.
Thank you, I said.
Youre sweating. Thats
bad for the wiring. Her voice was condemning and cutting.
Ill have to turn up the air conditioning.
She padded out of the room. A few minutes
later, the air conditioning was up and I was freezing my head
The integration process continued.
Little electric shocks went off in my brain as the computer
made its connections.
All of a sudden, I couldnt see.
My hair had grown all over my head, both in the front and
back. I was being covered with hair. I felt like a brown-haired
Maria walked in again, disgusted. Apparently,
she worked at a station to monitor me, which was out of my
Why is this happening?
I asked through a curtain of hair.
The computer is taking over your
brain functions and doing things super-fast, like a good,
efficient machine. It sees that youre cold and its
directing your head to grow more hairthe hair is an
adaptation to the cold.
What do we do now?
We give you a haircut.
Maria draped a sheet around my head
and the computer to catch the cuttings. She gave me a bowl
cut, with the hairline two inches above the eyebrows.
The hair grew back into my eyes just
15 minutes later.
Maria came back, really ticked off
Im going to have to shave
OK. What else could I say?
Wearing sterile gloves, the nurse cut
my hair as close as possible to the skull. Then she applied
shaving cream to my skull and sliced off the nubs of hair
sticking close to my skin, using a triple-edged razor. I felt
every blade as the razor stumbled over my head.
Hopefully, it will take a while
for the computer to grow back your hair, she said. She
looked very tired as she raised the glass to cover my head
My scalp itched like crazy. The hair
came back in fast again, but it took three hours to reach
Maria walked into the room again, really
fired up. Her eyes looked creepy and evil.
Its not my fault,
I said, afraid of Maria. She cut my hair as fast as she could
and as a result, nicked me with the scissors several times.
I could feel little cuts opening all over my skull. She shaved
me again, fast, and more cuts came. With the cold air coming
in on my shaven head, the cuts felt like little vents into
my skull. I was worried that cold air could get into my brain.
Youre too much trouble
for somebody whos just a head.
She spoke directly to the computer.
I surrender! Ill turn down
the air conditioning, so Head here is more comfortable.
She padded out again. In a few moments
the air got a little warmer. I was still bleeding in at least
half a dozen spots. I couldnt believe that Maria didnt
try to stop the cuts from bleeding.
I guess she knew something I didnt.
Clots started to form and scabs came together in just five
minutes, then fell off. The computer had healed me. I could
feel the itchy new skin around the wounds.
Also, I noticed the burn started again,
but at least I wasnt cold. The computer was attaching
me into it. I still couldnt figure out what was coming
into my brain. It was all binary code and meant nothing to
me except that it hurt.
After a few hours, I fell asleep. My
dreams were of ones and zeroes streaming by in big green neon
lights, like a stock market ticker. A few of them waved to
me as they zipped through the ether of my brain.
I was awakened by a wad of paper hitting
my forehead. I opened my eyes, dazed and foggy.
The security threw another piece of
paper at my skull.
So, youre the Head. Youre
not even human anymore. Youre just a Head.
I couldnt think of anything else
to say. It was true. Nevertheless, I felt that I had to fight
Thats Mr. Head to you.
He laughed. Mr. Head. Thats
funny, demanding respect.
Whyd you take the glass
off me? This is a sterile environment.
Who cares about that? Youre
the bosss new pet.
Perry had a backpack. He took a ball
out of the backpack and threw it at me, a kids ball,
thin plastic skin and bright metallic blue. The ball hit me
on the nose, but didnt hurt much. It was very light.
Did you spend all day thinking
that one up? I snarled at him. What a genius.
He looked wounded. Next time,
Im getting a basketball.
Then he walked out, without putting
the glass dome back on my head. It rested on a table in front
Little feathers tickled my bare head.
Dust. No wonder I needed to be kept in a jar. I sneezed. A
little something crawled on the back of my neck, up my anterior
skull, over the top of my head, down my eyebrows, then the
bridge of my nose. It headed down my nose, then kept going,
over my lips, then the front of my neck, and into the wires
connecting me with the computer. It was some kind of bug,
probably a roach. I couldnt see it that well from my
The environment here was not what I
thought it was. I had this image of Dr. Chertovs lab
as a terribly efficient environment, a corporate machine,
but his company was just another collection of mediocre human
beings working in an office populated by the filth of the
outside world, with insects and falling dust. I wondered if
there were rodents in the lab too.
A sizzle of pain rose up from the computer
and reached into my forehead. It felt like a knife inside
the brain. I wondered where it came from. But then another
pulse came through. I remembered what Maria had said. I was
now integrated with the computer. I felt what it felt and
vice versa. The bug was inside it, crawling around. If it
was a roach, it might be chewing on the internal wires of
The fever hit me like a freight train.
I was being cooked alive. A roller coaster of ones and zeroes
zoomed around in me, writhing and confused. I thrashed my
head around and then I did something I didnt think was
possible. I fell over on the table, head, pedestal and wiresall
one unit. I tipped onto the metal surface with the top of
my skull. It was like hitting your head on concrete. I blacked
* * *
Tottenkopf, you still in there?
Two gloved hands lifted me up. Through
fevered eyes I saw Dr. Chertov, placing me upright. Maria
stood next to him, looking contrite and humbled.
Youre not in good shape.
No, I croaked out.
Im going to inject you
with a fever reducer.
OK. I was ready to go to
Try to stay awake. When weve
stabilized your temperature, Im going to disconnect
you from the computer, so we can find out whats going
on in there. Youre linked together, so whatever happens
to it, happens to you.
A bug crawled into it. You asked
for 10,000 cockroaches. I got you only one.
Hell, hell, hell. Ill have
to find it.
He turned to Maria. How could
you let this happen? Youre his guardian!
It must have happened at night,
when I was off.
You could have checked in with
the monitors here from home using your cellphone. You were
supposed to do that.
I needed a break. I wanted to
sleep, Maria said in a wounded, weak voice.
This is unacceptable. Im
getting you a bed. Youre moving in here.
Maria looked at me with vicious eyes,
her acne scars blazing with red venom, streams of hatred flowing
through her to me. I felt even sicker.
Im going to disconnect
some of the wires leading into you from the computer. Then
Im going to have to look in the machines guts
to find the bug, tottenkopf. This could take a few hours.
I was very sleepy, the way you are
when youre tired from illness and your body just wants
to fall into bed and stay there for a few days. But I had
What does tottenkopf mean?
Thats my nickname for you.
It means skull head, in German.
He said it with affection, yet it seemed
somehow not quite right. But it captured a new reality. You
couldnt say that I was still a human being. When you
name a pet, you can give it any name you want and the pet
isnt going to understand what it really means. In my
case, I understood, but it didnt change the basic relationship
I now had with the world. Perry had been right. I had allowed
Dr. Chertov to turn me into his dog.