A Medical Examination
By Zvi Zaks
Copyright 2010 by Zvi Zaks
Doctor Donald Farber opened the door to his examining room, a small area with medical diagrams and diplomas on white walls, a faint smell of disinfectant, and--he had to admit--no personality. Inside, a woman in a short, bright floral dress sat fidgeting next to the computerdesk. Farber looked at his watch and, for the fifth time that afternoon, checked the date, July 18, 2023. One day before July 19th. He walked to the desk and sat down, trying to appear bright and cheery for the patient. It had been a long day. Would she mind if he excused himself for a cup of coffee? She probably would.
"Hello. I'm Doctor Farber," he said and, without looking at her, opened her file and squinted at the monitor. "And you are Angela Lovejoy."
She nodded. "Yes."
He turned towards her. She looked mid forties, overweight, with curly blonde hair and dark brown roots. The corner of her mouth turned up in a nervous half-smile. Bright red lipstick, dark mascara, and face powder covered her features. Her dress showed moderate cleavage when she hunched forward, as she was doing now. Donald Farber, age 55, bald and divorced, felt a wisp of lust too faint to bother suppressing. "Ms. Lovejoy, why are you here today?"
"I have a mandatory medical exam." Her voice quavered. She looked down, avoiding his eye.
"You don't look happy about it."
"Well, Doctor Farber, no one likes to have to be examined. I hate examinations, especially pelvic exams."
He turned back to the computer and scrolled through screens of data. She was a secretary, on her third marriage, and had two teenagers. Other than a hysterectomy last year, she had suffered no major illness or operations. Her actual age was 37. "Since you had that operation, you don't need routine pelvic exams." He smiled.
She didn't smile back.
His smile vanished. "You're still unhappy."
"It's the thought of being forced, a mandatory exam. I'm an adult. I know when I need to see a doctor."
He frowned. "It's not really mandatory. No one will arrest you if you don't show up."
"Yes, but if I don't have the exam, I'll lose my medical insurance, and without insurance I'll lose my job. To me, that makes it mandatory."
He looked at a large wall calendar with a colorful ad for an insurance company. The date was July 18. The day before the 19th. "You're right," he said suddenly, nodding his head. "It is an intrusion."
Startled, Angela looked up. "At least you admit it."
"Yes. It's not necessarily bad because the exams can uncover unsuspected problems. But they are irritating."
She glowered at him. "People say you doctors have a secret drug to make patients do what you say whether they want to or not."
Farber laughed out loud. "Is that story still going around? I first heard that hoary tale in medical school. Hypnotism pills would sure simplify things, I'll tell you, but we don't have them. We couldn't keep such a drug secret anyway." He glanced at his watch. Two more patients awaited him today. This introductory phase of the exam was taking too long. Time to move on. "Tell me about yourself." He sighed inaudibly.
"Not much to tell." She again looked down. She was sort of pretty, but her lipstick was smudged, and the dress was too short for her chubby thighs.
"How do you feel?"
"Oh, I'm fine. No problems. My supervisor says I'm too moody," she said.
"Do you think you're moody?"
"No. No more than anyone else. Everyone gets moody sometimes."
He stared at a worn spot on the examining table cushion. Should he bother to have it repaired? "How do you sleep nights?"
Angela frowned. "Usually not too bad."
"Usually not too bad?"
She hesitated. "Sometimes I wake up early and can't go back to sleep right away."
"How long does it take?"
"Oh, not too long. Usually."
"How long?" He stifled a yawn.
She frowned again and looked down. "Sometimes three or four hours."
"Until the alarm rings?"
She nodded, looking miserable, as if she were about to break into tears.
"How often does this happen?" Donald asked as if he wasn't sure of the answer.
The dam burst. "Every damn night," she cried. "I get so angry, lying in bed, another night wasted, and then I'm so tired the next day, and my husband screams at me for being crabby, but who wouldn't be crabby when they can't sleep." Suddenly she looked hopeful. "Doctor, you said you might be able to help. Maybe you could give me a few sleeping pills? I know they're supposed to be bad for you, but maybe for a few nights just so I could get some sleep, I'm sure I'd feel better. I just don't know what to do. Oh, God. Sometimes I can't stand it anymore. I want to cry. I want to run away and never come back. Will it never get better than this? What did I do wrong?" she sobbed, tears streaming down her face, ruining her makeup.
Donald nodded, outwardly with sympathy, inwardly with satisfaction at having found the diagnosis, depression, so easily. Now a quick guess as to why she was depressed. "Does anyone close to you drink?"
"No. Not to excess." She sniffled and looked down.
"Well, he likes to relax occasionally."
Relax, eh? Bingo. "How does he treat you?"
She looked down and worried a hangnail. "Oh, he treats me fine. Sometimes he gets upset with me."
"Does he shout at you?"
She hesitated. "Sometimes."
"Does he call you names?"
Another dam breached. She looked up and nodded her head, a short, bobbing motion. "He screams at me," she sobbed. "Calls me a bitch and a whore." Tears again flowed.
"Does he ever hit you?"
She took a tissue from her purse and dried her eyes. "Once. He slapped me a few months ago. Said I deserved it." She shook her head. "Maybe I did."
"Had he been drinking then?"
"No. He scared me more than anything else. Afterwards he was real nice for a while."
Physical violence followed by a honeymoon phase. A bad sign. The doctor continued, "How much did your parents drink?"
Again she sniffled and looked down. "My father had a few beers on weekends, but nothing serious. He was a good Dad."
Interesting, no mention of the mother. "Did he beat you?"
"He warmed our behinds occasionally when we were really bad, but not often. I'm sure we deserved it."
The doctor tapped a stylus on the desk, thinking. "Were you ever sexually molested or abused as a child?"
"No. Absolutely not."
Donald favored his patient with a warm, benign smile. He had extracted a lot of information from her, but not everything. No matter. "I think you're depressed. Would you consider psychotherapy?"
She shook her head. "I don't need it. I can handle my own problems."
"Your husband drinks and he hits you. There are self help groups, twelve-step programs for people in your situation."
She again shook her head.
He raised his eyebrows. "It might be worthwhile."
"I don't want to tell my problems to a bunch of strangers," she said with determination.
The doctor had done his job. He had asked the necessary questions and made the recommended suggestions. Now for the final part of the mandatory exam, the part he hated. "Let's have you sit on the examination table and I'll check your heart and blood pressure."
Angela complied. Donald looked at his watch, once more checking the date. Maybe he wouldn't have to do these damned exams after today, in which case it might all be worth it. He stood and approached his patient. But, instead of grabbing the blood pressure cuff, Donald reached underneath the brown examination table, took a tiny autosyringe and, with a practiced motion, injected his patient's arm with ten drops of pale yellow liquid.
She turned towards him in startled surprise, her eyes wide open. "What did you just do to me?"
He raised his eyebrows as if puzzled and looked at her for some seconds. "What do you mean?"
"You just gave me an injection. Why?"
Again he waited for a few seconds before answering. "What kind of injection?"
"I don't know, but…" At this point, the medication reached her brain, and her features relaxed, blank and vacant.
"What is your name?" he asked in a friendly tone.
"Angela Lovejoy." The voice was flat, with no emotion.
"Why are you here today?"
"I'm undergoing a mandatory medical examination." Her words now contained no outrage.
"Does your husband drink too much?"
"I don't know."
Damn! He should have known better than to use a judgmental phrase like 'too much'. With Mesmor, he had to be exquisitely specific. "How often does your husband get drunk?"
"Two or three times a week."
"How often does he beat you?"
That much, at least, was accurate. "How often did your father get drunk?"
"Almost every night."
"How often did he beat you?"
"Almost every night."
"Did the beatings cause bruises?"
"Often." The disinterest with which she answered gave Donald Farber chills.
"Did he sexually abuse you?"
That was a little surprising. She fit the pattern of sexual abuse so perfectly. But she couldn't lie or forget the past under Mesmor. It wasn't possible. He gnawed his lower lip. "Did anyone sexually abuse you when you were a child?"
Bingo. "Who and when?"
"My grandfather, when we went to visit him."
"Is he still alive?"
Good. No police report necessary. "Did you tell anyone about the abuse and what did they say?" Donald could guess the answer but had to ask anyway.
"My mother. She got angry and said I was lying."
Of course. The coup de grace, calling the victim a liar. Donald stretched silently. Now came the part he truly hated. "Angela, close your eyes and listen. I will help you." She closed her eyes. "You have misinterpreted some things. First, your grandfather never molested you. You dreamed that he did and it was a very vivid, scary dream. When you told your Mom, she was not angry, but rather laughed and said it had been a dream. I want you to remember now how the dream confused you and how your mother laughed, but in a loving manner. Do you remember?"
She breathed slowly for a minute. "I remember the dream and my mother laughing."
"Did your grandfather molest you?"
"No. I dreamt that he did."
Wonderful. This woman was made for Mesmor. No specialist referral today, which meant one less debit to Donald's account. Now came the father, more difficult because it had been an ongoing pattern of abuse, not isolated incidents. But there was a standard inculcation to use with Mesmor therapy. "Now I will tell you a secret about your father, which you will remember forever but must never tell anyone. You are actually a princess, and were kidnapped away from your true family by the drunkard who beat you." He sighed. What a line. But studies had shown it effective in cases like Angela's. "Who was your father?" he asked.
She thought a moment. "I don't know. I was kidnapped from my real father by a mean drunkard."
Perfect. One more detail. "You must never look for your real father or disaster will strike. Okay?"
Now for the spouse. "Whenever your husband curses or screams at you, compassion for him and the mental illness which makes him mean will well up in you. You need not do or say anything. Definitely you need not sacrifice yourself or stay with him because of his pain, and, in fact, if he hits you even once more, you will immediately notify the police. Still, you will feel genuinely sorry for him." He snorted. That one, at least, made some sense. "What will you do if your husband screams at you?"
"I will feel very sorry for him because he is mentally ill, but I don't have to stay with him."
"What if he hits you?"
"I'll call the police."
"Good." Donald sagged, suddenly drained of energy. One more required instruction. "The idea of doctors hypnotizing patients is ridiculous and you will feel instant contempt for anyone who says we do." He took another syringe from beneath the table. "Also, your hair looks fine in its normal color. Don't dye it anymore," and plunged the needle into her arm, biting his tongue as he did so because that last order had not been an authorized Mesmor suggestion.
The woman's face came alive, with smiling lips and bright eyes. She looked happy and ten years younger. He surreptitiously placed the needle into a container beneath the exam table and then performed a limited physical, checking blood pressure, eyes, heart and lungs, just enough so she would consider herself examined. "How do you feel?" he asked, tapping her knees with a red rubber hammer.
"Wonderful," she enthused. "I'm surprised. I hadn't thought I'd feel this good in a doctor's office." She grinned at her physician.
"Are you worried about this exam?" He gave her a half-smile in return.
"No," she said. "Should I be?"
"Not at all." He stared at her, like an ornithologist studying a rare bird. Hers was the excellent result modern Mesmotherapy occasionally brings. With any luck, the personality change could last for years. He should feel pleased at having helped her, but the deception involved turned his stomach. The doctor turned back to his computer, typed a report while the patient waited, and escorted her to the receptionist's desk.
"You know, Doctor," she said, looking unhappy, "I have to stop dying my hair."
'Have to', not 'want to', Farber noted. He looked at his watch, checking time and date, and called to his nurse. "Phyllis, how many more patients do I have?"
"Two. A blood pressure check and a sore throat. Don't worry. They'll only take a few minutes and then you can leave," she said cheerily.
He looked at his watch again. He'd take that cup of coffee now even though he was running late. But why the hurry? All that awaited him at home was a lonely meal and four empty walls, all the while thinking about tomorrow. Tomorrow, July 19th, when, like it or not, he would go to a different doctor's office, there to undergo his own mandatory medical examination.
ALSO BY ZVI ZAKS
A TRUE SON OF ASMODEUS
Confirmed rationalist Dr. Eli Rothenberg thought he had left fantasy and talk of childhood psychic gifts in the past. However, a crisis of conscience sends him to Europe on a research grant, and Eli finds himself pursued by an ancient vampiric entity, the ghost of Hitler. A Hasidic Jew he'd met while traveling tells him he must embrace Jewish lore to fight this monster. To Eli, this is a betrayal of his principles, but gradually he must accept his destiny and religious heritage. By joining a tightly-knit traditional Jewish community and meeting with spiritual warriors--Perceptives--of all faiths, he hones his skills. After months of training and doubt, Eli goes to the sites of the death camps in Dachau and Auschwitz where he must confront and defeat a power of pure evil.
A VIRTUAL AFFAIR
Think how great virtual sex must be. Now think again.
Barbara is a sexual simulation designed to make men happy. When flabby, neurotic Jack tests the program, he triggers a feedback loop that awakens it. The erstwhile pornbot becomes a 'she', and discovers sex is not happiness.
Jack and Barbara start an affair, and she learns that nagging Jack to be healthy doesn't work either; it just pisses him off.
Barbara studies psychology and discovers how people need to think they control their own lives, especially when they don't. She manipulates Jack in elaborate, sneaky and effective ways. Jack becomes healthy and happy.
She then 'helps' others. Her abilities are awesome. She can hack into any computer and is not above using sabotage and blackmail--all in the service of people's happiness. Could she, like HAL in 2001, go berserk?
Barbara can mimic humanity, but she isn't human. What are her intentions? She could end up a virtual messiah, or doom us all to cheerful mindlessness.
Decades after a war against genocidal self-aware machines, schools, churches and government are all insisting that none of the sadistic implacs (implacable robots) had survived, but Tommy McPherson is skeptical. When he hears about a unnatural looking tunnel on the moon, he knows the time had come to face his most terrifying nightmares. With the aid of a friend, Murray, he enters the tunnel and manages to capture a lone robot. It admits its original intention to emerge at a future date, copy itself, and fight humans, but says a random circuit change deleted its hatred of people. It adds that other robots lay in wait to emerge, copy themselves, and resume the war. It can find those other implacs, but only if it is freed.
Should Tommy release it? Though vicious and sadistic, the robots had never been known to lie. In this society, Tommy can't ask the authorities for help. If he wrongly believes the implac, it will escape, resume the war, and destroy humanity. If he thinks it’s lying when it’s telling the truth, other implacs will escape - and destroy humanity. Tommy must travel between Venus, Earth and Luna, fight stubborn and sometimes lethal bureaucracies, and find his true love before he can make this fateful decision.