by Kimberly Raiser

A number torments the consciousness of a man.

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E





The number kept pounding through my head.



What the hell!

What / What the hell is that? That damned number. That ridiculously insane repeating number. I can't even watch a simple television show without that damned number popping up somewhere.



...all the f-ing way home!

Ok now, enough is enough. I can't take it anymore. I need to distract myself.

I take a deep, almost perfectly timed breath. I calm and think.

I'll turn some music on. Perhaps that will distract me from my COMPLETE NUMERIC insanity! Hmm, what to pick? Should I go with serene, or something more uplifting? I know, how about some Rolling Stones? That sounds good. That ought to do the trick.

I fumble fiercely to my finely polished walnut stereo cabinet next to my finely displayed Ammonite collection that I have lined up against the wall on marble podiums. I find the CD. Of course, it actually takes me several minutes to pull the CD from its case, ever so carefully as to not scratch or smudge it. I place the CD case back into the exact spot it came from, only slightly pulled forward so that I can replace the CD without having to suffer the whole search and memory process. I place the CD into the carousel and wait for it to take its appropriate slot in the player. I press play.

Deep breath, slow deep breath, cleansing...

I can't get no... da na na, satis—


Holy shit! Shit, shit, shit! I can't believe it! I just can't believe it! I am having a mental breakdown. I can't even sing a song!

That's ok. It's alright. I'll just turn it up. I'll just turn the damned volume up.



I want to smash the stereo. I want to smash it very badly, into tiny, small, minute, shards of little little pieces; but the obsessive compulsive nature in me has instantaneously reconciled the fact that it would cause far too much damage and chaos for me to do so, and that it is not logical. So I just stand there, twitching. I press the stop button, painfully. My eyes are flitting around the room, searching for something. It is now quiet, I mean dead quiet. I can't even hear the sound of my own voice thinking. I squint my eyes, almost as if I am waiting for that screaming bloody set of numbers to pound straight into the side of my head like a drill funneling its way through the bowels of the earth. I cringe. My shoulders, feeling like they are attached to the strings of a marionette puppet, actually lift up ever so slightly to parallel the squinting motion of my eyes, and my cheeks crease, adding even more dimension to an already wrinkled complexion. I-am-going-insane.




There it is again. Only—for some reason, it seems quieter.


There, again, quieter.

Am I going deaf in my own head? Is that possible?

I slap myself on the side of my right cheek, because I am right-handed.

My eyes start that flitting thing again. Only this time they are not searching. This time, I just don't know how else to react. It is almost a physiological response to the chaos. I slap my hands to the sides of my head, and there it is again. 45623!!!!! Only now, the numbers are not spoken in my own head. The numbers are not in my own voice. They are someone else's! I am puzzled, and a little frightened. Am I that insane that I don't recognize the sound of my own voice anymore? There is no one else here. It must be my own voice. It must be.




Momentary silence falls over the room.

* * *


"45623, can you hear me?"


"I'm sorry sir, it's not responding to anything. It seems as though it has placed its neuroprocessor unit in some sort of, well, for lack of a better term, sleep mode. I can't seem to wake it up."

"That's ridiculous, Dr. Smith. It's just a machine; it's not even programmed to do that. And turn that damned music off—it's probably just causing an interference in his audio perception."

"Dr. Williams," she pauses and leans over 45623, "look at its eyes."

Dr. Williams leans over the android and stares down at the lids that hover closely over its eyes.

"My God." The aging robotics scientist stands there, jaw agape, his eyes and his body in disbelief. He has worked so many long years, so many long nights for just the simplest thing to emerge, just the simplest hope that a consciousness was possible.

Once he had come close, so close. He did not want to believe that 45623 was unique, that something had worked. He was afraid of the disappointment, the failure. Yet, hope reigns the look in his eyes.

The two doctors look at each other in aghast amazement.

Tara Smith's head turns just slightly as she observes what looks to be like R.E.M. in 45623's eyelids. Her face changes from puzzlement to pure raw emotion. She exhales a gasp and becomes light-headed. Her hand drifts over her mouth, and a small tear forms in her right eye.

"I... I don't know what this is. It... it doesn't seem possible."

45623's eyes slowly open. He looks soulfully at Dr. Smith. She is mesmerized by the new look, the unfamiliar look. His eyes move to connect with Dr. Williams.

"Dr. Williams," says 45623.

Williams' eyes overfill with a life's worth of emotion.

"Yes, 45623?" He can barely speak.

A dead silence falls across the room.

"I think... I think I would rather be called Adam."





Copyright © 2007 Kimberly Raiser

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Kimberly Raiser has been published several times with Silverthought Press and continues to be a great fan of this endeavor. She is currently working on a compilation of shorts that will be in print in 2007 titled, "Stranded". Currently her work appears in the print magazine "Outercast", "Bewildering Stories", www.cerebralcatalyst.com, www.anotherealm.com and the antholigies of "Taj Mahal Review".

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