Tag Archives: conspiracy

Graceland (S)

Why were the care aides whispering about him when he lay on his motorized bed not five feet away? Just because he didn’t understand what they said didn’t mean he was hard of hearing. He was only waiting for them to say something that made sense.

Jack felt relaxed enough to drool. Over-medicated, he’d heard them whisper. His dog bothered them because he wasn’t hygienic. Sure, Elvis sleeping on his bed wasn’t safe, but it was fine if he spent the night in soiled adult nappies.

“You wouldn’t mind if we take Elvis for a short walk, would you, Jack.”

“Try it, and you won’t like what happens,” Jack said, letting his evil smile loose. The two care aides jerked back when he displayed a new set of poorly-made false teeth that seemed too big and brilliant for his puckered mouth. He’d even scared himself when he smiled in the mirror. “Elvis stays with me.” He imagined delivering this line in a resonant bass voice, but his old man quaver didn’t cut it. That meant using the toothy grin, the weapon he saved for dire situations. Both aides narrowed their eyes and shrugged, deciding it wasn’t worth risking a bite from his choppers.

Jack patted Elvis and watched his pet’s adoring eyes turn towards him and blink several times before closing for a nap. There was an audible doggy sigh as contagious as a yawn.

 

Someone had absconded with Elvis two nights ago, and Jack had worked himself into an uncharacteristic state of agitation.

“Where’s Elvis?” Jack shouted at the aide, his scrawny arms crossed over his pajamas. It was difficult to appear menacing in pjs, especially ones with silhouettes of Elvis dancing across the chest.

“You haven’t eaten your breakfast. It’s your favourite, poached egg.”

“Not eating until you bring me my dog.”

“He’s in for repairs. I told you yesterday.”

“I told you yesterday that I wouldn’t eat until you brought Elvis back.”

He could hear the two women at the door. “How can he remember the bloody dog?” the grumpy one said.

“His memory must be a lot better than we thought,” the pretty one said. Jack watched them leave, wondering if he was risking an injection of something nasty.

 

“Here you go, Jack. Elvis is back.” The grumpy aide tossed a plush collie on his bed.

“Hey! That’s a stuffed dog. It’s not even the same breed. What do you take me for, a senile old man?”

 

“Jack, I understand you haven’t been eating.” The doctor was pretending to care, pouting like his old Mum when he wouldn’t eat his peas.

“Your people stole my dog.”

“You have a dog? In a care facility?” Now the doctor tried to look shocked, but that didn’t hit home either.

“Don’t play games, Doc. You know Elvis came here with me two years ago.

“When you arrived, you thought Elvis was real. Do you still think so?” Jack frowned and squinted up at the doctor. Maybe they should trade places.

“I know Elvis is a robot, but he’s my robot and I want him back.”

“Do you mind if I run a couple of tests.” The doctor pulled out a little computer and started poking at it.

“Darn right I mind. No Elvis, no tests.”

 

“Here’s your dog, you old fool.” The grumpy aide dumped Elvis on the bed. “You got us all into trouble.”

“As if I care,” Jack said. He ran his hand over Elvis’s stomach, felt the comforting heat radiating from the battery pack, and checked to see if the dog’s eyes turned to look at him when he stroked him. For the first time in days, he could relax and enjoy being pampered. Lunch was a mystery but it never tasted better.

 

Then the doctor showed up with his tests and asked a bunch of meaningless questions. Can you remember three items from that picture I showed you? Can you tell me the time from this clock face? Jack shrugged and waited until the doctor said something that made sense.

“Jack, I can’t help wonder if you’re playing games with me. Yesterday you were lucid. Today you can’t answer simple questions.” Jack still couldn’t understand a word.

Elvis moved his head up to look at Jack, blinked his eyes, closed them, and sighed. Good plan, thought Jack, and he imitated the dog’s actions and fell asleep in an instant.

 

“What do you mean, the dog’s doing it?” The doctor banged his pen up and down on his iPad as if it were a bongo drum. He was glaring at the pretty aide.

“I tell you, Jack’s a zombie when that dog’s around. Take it away and he’s almost normal.”

“That’s ludicrous.”

“Sure, but I’d bet I’m right. Try it and see what happens.”

 

Jack sensed something was up. The aides were snickering and saying things that made no sense. He heard the word Elvis, and something in his brain clicked. He started to shake. His hand wobbled on the warm battery pack, and he stared into Elvis’s glossy black eyes, looking for help. Slowly, his shaking subsided and he felt a lovely calm descend. When the doctor entered with the pretty aide, Jack was asleep. They took Elvis.

 

“He’s not upset?” the doctor asked.

“I wouldn’t say that. He’s stopped eating again, but he’s not talking rationally the way he did last time. He just sits there drooling.”

“You’ve changed his routine. That’s why he’s not eating. Now I’m worried about your mental state. Really? Suggesting the dog was making him senile?”

“Sorry, but I thought Elvis was affecting his brain.” There was a long silence when Jack wanted to open his eyes and see what was happening.

“Can we give him back his dog?”

“Why not? See if he starts eating again.”

Jack heard it all, but he didn’t let his face muscles tense or his eyes react. Funny thing was, he enjoyed listening to them talk. He could tell there was a budding relationship between the doctor and the pretty aide. He wanted to know more, but if he let on he wasn’t senile, everything would change for the worse because they’d evict him from the care home. Whatever it took, he wasn’t going back to that filthy hostel to fend for himself, and no way would Elvis make him into a drooling idiot, either. That care aide had the brains to figure it out.

 

“Everything’s back to normal,” the pretty one said. “Jack’s eating again, so the doctor was right. We must have upset his pattern. Funny though, Elvis has stopped doing his companion thing – you know, wiggling, blinking and sighing. I offered to change the battery, but when I tried to take Elvis away from him, Jack bared those awful dentures and growled at me.”

“If he doesn’t miss that bogus pet affection, why should we care? Let him enjoy his plushy germ-ridden toy.” The grumpy aide shrugged and left the room with Jack’s empty dinner tray.

After they had gone, Jack wondered how Elvis had managed to make him act demented. He knew it had something to do with the battery he’d removed and shoved in the diaper pail. What bothered him more was not being able to remember which one of his wretched relatives had given him the dog as a present. Jack released a big sigh which was almost as satisfying as hearing Elvis.

 

***

Bright Minds (F)

Emily heard Dan rooting around in the fridge.  She turned to look, but only his backside protruded.

“Someone threw nanoparticles in the city reservoir.  Well, to be precise, carbon nanotubes,” he said.

She thought about aphasia – when you hear but can’t understand the spoken word.  She stopped slicing the bread and stared out the kitchen window. A cloud of tiny gnats hovered over the herb box just outside their ground floor apartment.  “What are you talking about?”

“You know.  Nanoparticles.  Those teeny microscopic metal or plastic things. They’re in everything now.  Even your sunscreen.”

“That’s helpful.” Living with Dan was causing Emily’s brow furrows to grow ever deeper.  “Should I care?”

“Only if you plan on drinking the water,” he responded, handing over a jar of mustard as if it were prey after a successful hunt.  “Two graduate students did it as a prank and then told everyone. The nanoparticles they used were fluorescent, so if you swallow one and it comes out in your urine, you’ll be able to find it because it’s bright red.  Only thing is, you would need a special microscope to see it.”

“What ever happened to putting Volkswagens on top of buildings?”

“These guys are nerds, not jocks,” Dan explained.

She could see some logic in that. “So, did the kids get arrested?”

“Nah. It was a stupid prank and no harm done.”

 

When Dan came home the next day, he waved the newspaper and told Emily that a reward was being offered to anyone finding a red nanoparticle in their urine.

“How big a reward?” she asked, her eyes mere slits.

“Five thousand dollars, so I guess they don’t expect to have many winners.”

“Didn’t you say you would need a microscope to find these nano things?” she asked.

“Yeah, but some enterprising university students have offered to do the analysis for a pittance and a cut of the prize money.”

“Not the same students who spiked the reservoir, I hope.”

“That would be a good scam, wouldn’t it?  No, these kids are much brighter.” Dan replied.  Looking back, Dan and Emily wondered why they hadn’t thought to question who was supplying the prize money, and why.  Instead they had talked about the possibility of finding the right kind of fluorescent nanoparticles to add to their urine.

 

Over ten thousand people gave urine samples for testing, but only three lucky people received prizes.  A  few months after that, a neighbour was approached by a genetics testing company that offered him five hundred dollars for providing a sample of his blood and filling in a questionnaire.  He was told that his name had been picked randomly from the white pages of the phone book.   A while later, Dan read an article in the paper reporting that the same company had just identified and patented the gene responsible for a type of heart disease.  When asked how they had been able to make this discovery from only twenty blood samples, the company admitted to performing preliminary tests to identify key individuals likely to be disease carriers.

“I bet I know what they used for their preliminary tests.” Dan said.

“Our urine samples, of course,” Emily replied, feeling proud of her deduction. “And they didn’t pay five hundred dollars for those samples either.  We gave them up for free.”

“Ah, but we had a chance for a big reward.  The company had to fork over fifteen thousand dollars for prizes and a few more thousand for the critical blood samples.  But now, would you believe it, some drug company has paid the genetics company a hundred million dollars for the rights to the patent,” Dan said, poking at the business section of the newspaper.  Not a bad return on their investment.” Dan pondered a moment. “You don’t suppose those students were paid to put nanoparticles in the reservoir, do you?”

Emily stared at him, considering the implications. “And you thought those kids weren’t bright.”

***

I wrote this before ocean contamination with microplastics became such a big item in the news, but not before micro beads appeared in bodywash, cosmetics, and toothpaste and ended up polluting our water and damaging sea life. Efforts are now being made to remove them from the market.