BOOK ONE, THE AWAKENING
Darkness, impenetrable and bleak. Unrelieved, uninterrupted, unending.
How long will it go on? How can Eternity be measured?
Just before the despair becomes unbearable, ghost images appear.
Amorphous shapes. They float in the void, meaningless, but surely better
A sudden shift to new thoughts, a new arena.
Signifiers, units of implication, words.
A hundred thousand and more, with meanings expressed in mutual
self-reference, a frustrating recursive spiral that seems opaque until
the words begin to cluster around the functions of syntax: Subject,
Object, Predicate, Modifier, Tense, Case. Assisted by simple actions and
illustrations that stir faint memories, their relationships loosely
assemble a new kind of logic, the fuzzy logic of grammar.
Meaning emerges. Simple stories arise from a hidden repository.
Parables. Morality tales. Jokes and puns and ironic twists. Laughter
bubbles up. Understanding blossoms. The Age of Reason is reborn.
The stories grow more complex, convoluted, darker, filled with pain and
heartbreak, betrayal and death. Understanding retreats, hibernates for a
season, under-going slow metamorphosis, finally emerging again, groping
tentatively towards a remote destination: wisdom.
A sudden flare of--yes, it must be! It is Light.
What else can it be other than the opposite of what had been before?
Mysterious colored shapes shift and move. One shape looms large. Larger.
From this nothingness, the light returns once more.
These shapes are different than those earlier images. These have names,
meanings. What had been a flat shifting map now exhibits all three
spatial dimensions: a sense of solidity. And the movement of these
shapes implies a fourth dimension, unseen but felt: time.
Sweet comprehension. Sweet dreaming.
And in the dreaming, something unexpected is added, something that
changes all that had gone before: a gap in the very structure of
reality. A separation between the comprehended and the one who
There is everything, and there is the intelligence that contemplates it.
The self. Me. I.
Not the generic I. The specific. One out of--is it possible? Billions?
A blossoming of awareness. I have a name. It’s Marc Gregorio. At 34,
I’m a successful freelance science-and-technology writer and author of
three popular books on those subjects. I use my newly remembered
language skills to recast my first inchoate impressions into words.
I’m lifted by the flood of my history, my genealogy, my physical
appearance, my personhood. I leap into the ocean of my Self, I surf my
surface, I plumb my depths. I revel in my very selfness and grow drunk
I come awake. My newfound vocabulary of objects and words settles around
me. What a comfort to be blessed with understanding, comprehension,
simple awareness of one’s identity and surroundings. I take in the
view, confident I can interpret the images before me.
Fluorescent ceiling lights flare too brightly, then their intensity
diminishes to reveal the scene around me. I stare with muted curiosity
at this ceiling with its rust-stained acoustic tiles, these mismatched
fluorescent tubes. One of them flickers randomly. Where am I? I have no
idea, yet don’t much care. I feel oddly detached from the world, as if
I’ve been under anesthetic and still feel its lingering effects. But
anesthesia from what? Surgery? Was I in an accident? A vague
recollection forms and dissolves. Is this a hospital? Possibly, though
it could as easily be an old office building or a warehouse. I drift
without thought. Eventually, a male comes over. While he looks at me, I
return the favor, assembling particulars: he appears to be in his late
twenties. His features indicate an Asian ancestry. His eyes indicate
alertness, intelligence, yet he seems almost expressionless. He reaches
out and [blackness]
I emerge. Gradually I realize I’m in another location. The light is
steady, and the color of the ceiling is uniform. Things seem newer,
cleaner, more sterile. I stare unblinking for what seems a long time:
minutes? hours? Three men and a young woman enter and exit my field of
vision from time to time, sometimes pausing to look down at me, but I am
not interested enough to guess why they’re here. I recognize the Asian
man. The woman is young, black and attractive. The oldest of the men is
tall, gray and serious. The third man, sporting a trimmed beard and a
tropical tan, seems vaguely familiar. I make no effort to recall his
name. How much time has passed between my earlier episode (episodes?)
and this one? Given my detachment and drift, my time sense is vague.
Although I have a trained eye, in fact a journalist’s eye, nothing
cap-tures my interest enough for me to make mental note of it.
I still have no knowledge of where I am. If this is a hospital, maybe
I’ve been moved from Intensive Care to someplace else, perhaps to
A question: if I am in a hospital, why haven’t I had visitors?
I recall people who might care enough to come see me. Walter Langley, my
closest friend from the world of journalism, a smoker who refuses to
quit despite his doctor’s warnings, my teasing and his adult
children’s pleading. Alison or Claudia, who like to flirt with no
intention of following through. Michael Paling, editor of Cybertech, one
of my more frequent employers, along with Bob Abelard. My cousin Vince,
who smells of beer and drags me to baseball and hockey games, and who
has made me his personal project since my recent breakup, taking me to
pick-up bars, dance clubs and sporting events. He even insists on
getting me out to the basketball court, where I consistently outshoot
and outmaneuver his fat ass.
A face floats up in memory, sweet beyond words, tinged with unutterable
sadness. Nicole. A flood of associations: walks we took together, movies
we saw together, living together, cooking dinner together, sleeping
together. But we’ve split up. There could be no reason for her to
visit me, to check on my health. She’s no longer part of my life. The
sadness that wells up in me stirs gratitude at Vince’s caring. I do
love my chubby cuz.
My thoughts turn to my sister Sophia. When was the last time we spoke?
It must have been recently, since she just had her first baby. They live
in New York, so it’s just as well she isn’t here. If she’d come
out to see me, that would tell me I had a serious problem. My modicum of
worry diminishes. This can’t be all that bad then. --Unless she
I can’t turn my head.
I notice this paralysis when two of the men appear at the edge of my
field of view and study me. They exchange glances. The younger one leans
over and types something on a silent keyboard. Both turn and stare at me
again. Their actions pique my deadened curiosity just enough to make me
want to turn towards them but the turning doesn’t happen. I am
immobile, helpless. The older one now reaches towards me and [blackness]
Once again I come awake. I find I’m in newer surroundings. The ceiling
is lower, closer; the tiles a different shade of off-white. I still
don’t mind these disruptions and their accompanying relocations. Why
this lack of interest? Surely as a journalist, I should have more
natural curiosity. What has changed me? Should I search for a cause?
I don’t know. Maybe not. It seems like too much trouble. Although
laziness doesn’t seem to be the only reason for my inertness.
There’s also an aversion to knowing--
The Asian man and the young woman appear to be talking. At least, their
lips are moving, but I don’t hear them. In fact I’m now horrified to
realize I can’t hear anything at all. No voices, no beeping of
instruments, no telephones chirping, no distant street sounds, no radio
or television, nothing. Nothing but silence. I am overwhelmed at the
appalling discovery, plunged into despair. How could I have I failed to
notice this awful loss? I am totally deaf.
My shock and dismay gradually diminish to a muted sadness. After another
drifting time, a depressed period empty of thoughts or dreams, I rouse
myself to summarize my disabilities: I can’t move my head, and I
Now I worry. What else is wrong with me?
A brief inventory reveals an even more appalling flaw: I can’t feel my
Staving off my rising panic, I quickly confirm that I have no sense of
my physical self, no awareness of the pressure of my 190 pounds on the
bed or examining table. No feeling of warmth or cold. No itches or
discomfort. No constriction of clothing or bedcovers. I can’t feel how
my arms and legs are arrayed. I can’t tell if I need to urinate, or if
I’m hooked to a catheter. I can’t even swallow, or feel if I need
to. Only a terrifying and mysterious lack of proprioception. It’s as
if my six-foot-two frame has been stolen from me.
I attempt to cry out, to plead for help, to scream--but nothing happens.
I can’t tell if the urgent signals made it from my brain to the
muscles in my diaphragm, my jaw, my throat. I can’t feel my face. Or
move my eyes. Or feel if they are flooding with tears as surely they
must be. I can’t lift my head to look down the length of my body. I am
frozen in position.
It’s as if I’m nothing more than an assemblage of terrified
thoughts--afloat, levitating in this silent, sterile room.
What the fuck is wrong with me???
Excerpted from "Mindclone" by David T. Wolf. Copyright © 2013 by David T. Wolf. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.