Every time I watch this old video it makes me laugh, it’s fun to see Mom again. It’s almost like being there with her. She lives in Sanfrancorp and I live in Portlandcorp with my husband, Orson —the severe travel restrictions mean we rarely get to see each other anymore. I haven’t seen her for two years.
My mom used to be a journalist and she wanted to record one of the last physical exams she was given by a real person. You know, before the CARE Units took over. That was twenty years ago.
Talk about the dark ages. It’s hard to even imagine all the microbes everyone carried around and passed back and forth—shaking hands, hugging, and all that stuff.
Oh! All those germs crawling all over you.
Of course, we’re civilized now. We know better than to touch each other unless we absolutely must. I don’t even like to mess around with Orson much anymore. Those decontam showers are no fun.
Strange how I always feel compelled to pull Mom’s video out the day before my Well Exam. Mainly, it’s reassuring to see how medicine has advanced and how we take better care of ourselves today.
I look at the video again and there’s Mom being brought into a cubicle by someone wearing purple pajamas—they’re pretty funny looking. Speaking of funny, the woman has a big, smile on her face. I think she’s bored because that grin never changes—it looks pasted on her face. I’ll bet what she really wants to do is roll her eyes. I mean, she doesn’t, but I do when she asks my mother a bunch of stupid questions that any decent robot would already have the answers to. Before the woman leaves the room in her colorful getup, she squeezes my mother’s arm and there’s something in her expression that always makes me … I don’t know … it makes me feel strange.
Mom has a real sense of humor and when the woman turns away, she sticks her tongue out at the camera she’s placed on a table across the room.
It’s nothing like that today. I don’t need anyone to bring me into a sterilizing cubicle. Shoot, I can read the signs, can’t I?
I stare at Mom undressing and watch her put on some kind of paper gown. Back then you could cut down trees, use them for any silly thing. That was before the already depleted rainforests started suddenly dying off. Mom wrote a lot of stories about it then, but now she works for Newscorp which runs all the information feeds globally, and my mother is a blogger for State of the Art.com, a subsidiary. She doesn’t seem as happy as she used to be when I was a little girl and she was chasing after live news.
“You do what you gotta do,” she always says.
Each time she says that, I think she’s going to cry, instead she always bursts out into a hearty laugh. I really miss my Mom, even though she’s old-fashioned and makes fun of a lot of the things we do or don’t do today.
It’s late so I close everything up, take the first of my bedtime pre-exam pills, crawl under the covers, and look over at Orson who’s already asleep in his bed.
I think of my last robot exam and try to remember all the details. For some reason, whenever the exam is finished, my memory of it fades. My friends say the same thing. They don’t remember much either.
It makes me uneasy.
I hope nothing is wrong with me. Some people seem to disappear after they’ve had their exam. Where do they go? Do they change jobs or what? There are rumors …
A sudden jolt of fear runs down my spine, but it’s gone before I can really think about it anymore.
I try to relax. I remember the CARE Unit door enclosing me into a dark, small examination chamber.
It seems surreal standing there with only blue, purple, and green indicators blinking and a disembodied voice hanging in the air:
“Please remove all your clothes and place the second and third fingers within the outlines of the DNA sensor on the panel in front of you.”
Colored lights blink faster. That’s when I get really sleepy.
“Thank you. Now place your fourth finger on the adjoining indent.”
It stings as a drop of blood is extracted from my fingertip.
“Please remove your hand.”
Don’t really remember much more. Just flashes of pictures in my head that could be real or not real.
I do remember a faint aroma of disinfectant surrounding me as the floor begins a slow rotation. Cold tentacles slide across my skin and wrap, enter, and touch every part of my body. They pinch, then squeeze and relax, squeeze and relax. Almost in the blink of an eye the chamber lights comes on.
“You may dress. We are pleased to inform you there is nothing wrong requiring treatment. Thank you for visiting CARE Unit Number Three today. Rx is deferred.”
Is that what it really said? I can’t remember.
As I drift into sleep I think about the woman with the purple pajamas in the examination room with Mom.
Her eyes were soft.