Felt the need to get back into writing a bit. Those looking for technical observations or pithy commentary on social media, feel free to skip this one.
A knock at the door announced that Dr. Johnson was here and Ryan quickly muted the TV.
â€œSorry to keep you waiting, Ryan, i had a devil of a time getting here today. The roads were a complete mess.â€ Doc Johnson was an older man, possibly mid 60s at most, who seemed to come from a different age. He wiped a few stray drops of water from his round framed glasses from the pocket kerchief he kept in his pin-striped jacket. He still carried a worn leather briefcase, preferring written notes rather than typing. Ryan found him charmingly quaint and grown fond of the man.
â€œIt’s quite alright, Mike.â€ Ryan responded warmly. â€œIt’s not like i’ve got anywhere i can go.â€
Johnson smiled at the shared joke. â€œNo, i do suppose that is true. Still, i don’t like wasting anyone’s time. Makes me feel all the superior to those folks that waste mine. Come, have a seat and let’s chat shall we?â€
Ryan and Johnson took their respective seats at the table. It was a small room, with the sort of spartan dÃ©cor you might expect from a minimum security hospital. Johnson spread the folder a bit and leafed through a thick folder full of random documents. He pulled out a few that looked like they were recently printed. Ryan guessed that because, unlike most of Doc Johnson’s other documents, these had relatively few scrawls and staple holes.
â€œJust to let you know, i’ve finished up the 60 day report on you.â€ Johnson began. â€œThere’s no surprises here, but i want to let you look at it before i send it to the court, in case you feel i missed anything.â€ He slid the pages to Ryan, who stared at them for a bit longer than he wanted to before picking them up.
Doc Johnson was, as always, true to his word. The report listed things that they both had agreed were problems. Ryan was reasonably sane with the notable exceptions of occasional bouts of face blindness and odd memories about historical events. He had no idea how the judge would take the report, but at least he had confirmation that he wasn’t out of his mind.
After a few minutes and two complete reads, Ryan sighed and handed back the report. â€œYep, no surprises Doc. It’s a good report. Thanks.â€
Johnson sat back as well and fixed Ryan in one of his solid stares. â€œi have to admit Ryan, you’re… not one of my usual cases.â€
â€œi’m not sure how i should take that, Doc.â€ Ryan half smiled.
â€œWell, a good many folks i see are usually trying to hide something or are just, well, crazy. You’re not one of those.â€
â€œUhm, thank you?â€ Ryan smiled again, a bit confused and embarrassed at the same time.
â€œYou’re a smart boy, Ryan. Smart enough not to do something stupid like try to break into a major company in broad daylight.â€
Ryan’s smile dropped instantly at the reminder of why he was here. â€œi suppose there’s no way to convince you that i didn’t.â€
â€œYou mean your story that ‘the company changed’ that morning? No, it’s very hard to believe that. Still, there are a great many questions to which there are no answers.â€
Ryan had told the story a hundred times to at least as many people. Two months ago, he woke up, drove the same 20 minute commute he’d been driving for years. He pulled into the parking lot around 8 AM, same as normal into the same spot he usually took. He got out, grabbed his bag and coat, walked to the front door and entered the pass code that unlocked it. Two flights up, grab some coffee, three rows down, into his cube and logged in. He browsed a few sites to get his brain working then switched over to the code he was working on the night before. In fact, he figured out what the bug was in the shower that morning and was re-running the test when a woman named Becky Reilly started screaming what the hell he was doing on her machine.
Security arrived a few minutes later while he and this Becky person exchanged insults and questions about who the hell they were. Turns out Ryan’s employer no longer existed. Well, that’s not quite right. Turns out they had never existed. Ryan had managed to gain access to, apparently, a different multi-billion dollar social network that used exactly the same buildings, access codes, coffee machines and source code as the one that he used to work for that no one ever heard of.
Oddly, though, it wasn’t the first time that something like that had happened. Ryan had been having fits of what he had been calling inverse Deja Vu. Sometimes he’d look at a map and swear a city was named something else. Another time he’d clearly recall being out of cookies when he found a nearly full bag.
A few weeks before the arrest, Ryan had filed a police report that someone had stolen his 2007 Honda Accord and parked a 2007 Toyota Celica in his driveway. They had even gone through the effort of registering it in his name several months ago and switching the remote on his keyring to match it in the middle of the night. What’s more, all of his neighbors were in on the prank because the all looked at him funny when he tried to explain what happened.
With no prior record, is trial was reasonably short, with the judge demanding that he be sent for â€œobservationâ€.
Heh, Observation. Ryan remembered reading an article talking about a guy named Jonathan Schooler. He had made a discovery that if you showed a bunch of people a video of a robbery, and then had half of the group immediately write down everything they could remember about that robbery, that group was less likely to be able to pick out the thief. In fact the study was repeated a number of times and the result turned out to be the same, for a while at least.
Then it changed. The difference became less and less. What’s more, it wasn’t just his study that things like that happened, a lot of other studies had the same problem. It got to the point where Schooler wondered if this was some sort of quantum effect where the act of observing something was making the act less likely to happen.
Ryan thought that was funny because he was just working on a Bohrbug himself. One bit of code that he had written years ago, and no one had touched since, suddenly got an error report filed on it and no longer worked, at all. Looking at the code, it was clearly impossible for the code to have ever worked at all. â€œThe act of observing changed the code.â€, someone quipped in a meeting.
The arrest hadn’t stopped the problems either. A few weeks ago he was in the social room talking to a fellow inmate who had lost a leg. He had cracked a joke about how everyone was so upset with Dukakis when he had raised taxes to pay for the American’s with Disabilities Act. The other inmate looked at him and asked who the hell Dukakis was.
â€œYou know? Dukakis? President Dukakis? Served a term between Regan and the elder Bush?â€
â€œAw man, you’re crazy. Bush had two terms.â€ They looked it up, Ryan lost $20.
â€œHonestly, Doc?â€ Ryan snapped back to the present. â€œi really just want to find out what’s wrong with me. Why do i remember things that haven’t happened with such clarity?â€
Doc Johnson looked at him and gave a slight shrug of his shoulders â€œi can’t answer that, Ryan, but i’m glad you’re getting better. These episodes of yours seem to be less frequent.â€ He gathered the contents of his folder and slid it back into his worn leather attache. â€œFor now, i wouldn’t worry about it. After all, it’s a gorgeous day out.â€
Ryan smiled lightly as the blue sky filled the window. The late morning sun stirred a breeze and whipped a light dust devil through the open meadow next to the hospital. The sheer curtains snapped and were nearly sucked out the window as they caught the breeze.
â€œRight, i’ve another appointment so i’ll let you be.â€ Johnson headed to the door, then paused to glance at the TV. â€œOh, hey, that’s my old school. Mind if i turn up the TV and hear what they’re talking about?â€
Ryan gave his own shrug and glanced up.
â€œ… using a series of high frequency lasers to force the photons into a very specific path. Dr. Mallet explains why they’re shutting down the process. ‘Well, we’ve gotten some interesting results. The photons we’ve fired into the device have not been detected so we’re not sure where they went, but we’re quite certain that they didn’t go back in time. We simply don’t have any proof that the machine was doing anything at all so we’re going to take the findings and try a few different things. We’ll try one more experiment later just to see if we missed anything, but at this stage, it’s mostly just my optimism.â€
The TV muted, and Doc Johnson chuckled to himself. â€œHeh, time travel. Glad they didn’t figure it out. Imagine the kind of havoc something like that could cause? Anyway, good to talk with you again, Ryan. Call me if you need anything else, and, seriously boy, go out and get some exercise. It’ll do your head a world of good.â€
Ryan looked across the open meadow as the breeze rustled the trees. â€œYou know Doc, your right. i think i will.â€
A few minutes later, Ryan was on the path toward the forest. For some reason, the woods were just a bit more inviting today.