Charles Fisch ©2011
A comforting warm bath was Jackson’s whole universe
Jackson had been sentenced to incarceration at the secret “LiquiCell Institution,” but not for actually committing a crime ~yet.
A recent crime-prevention law associated with public safety and security, allowed for people to be labeled criminals based on suspicion. The government was getting tough on crime. Regardless of his innocence or victimhood, Jackson was removed from society.
The new, classified, subterranean “LiquiCell” prison stored human cargo in slightly larger than body-sized clear glass capsules. They were filled with a warmed antiseptic bio-gel, which maintained hygiene. Every enclosed organism was connected to an automated neural network and all their bio-functions were monitored by the central computer. Cardiovascular, hormonal, immunological and neurological activities for each body were measured through wireless bio-nanosensor arrays ~miniature laboratories. Then the system automatically made necessary adjustments of medication through needle-free injection devices, to ensure optimal levels of biological functioning. Cordless stimulation electrodes interacted with various body parts, to elicit muscle contraction, to sustain muscle tone, to prevent blood from settling and to defibrillate the heart in emergencies. Calorie restricted essential nutrients were dispensed in liquid form through feeding tubes; waste removal apparatus was also connected. The only things the perfect homeostatic system could not control were hair and nail growth.
The new “correctional institution concept” secured financial savings for the government in the millions per year. Only one computer network operator was required for 1000 inmates per 8-hour shift, apart from a weekly maintenance crew. A medic perused the daily reports for anomalies and took care of emergencies. Real estate space, salaried personnel and food costs were greatly reduced; but added expenditures for rehabilitation, social programs, education, recreation, discipline problems, riots, or hunger strikes, were eliminated and replaced with thrifty soft restraints for wrists
Several pharmaceutical companies contributed capitol as corporate partners. Their tranquilizers, antidepressants and other medications enabled the success of the venture. Due to the large quantities of their products used daily, the projected returns on their investments guaranteed large profits. Free test subjects for experimental drugs were an added benefit. The mortality rate was not much higher than the national average for confinement facilities. Fatal medical complications were balanced out by the absence of the most common prison deaths: suicide, cardiovascular diseases, illicit drug overdoses and violence.
The bodies were sedated into a near coma state. Floating in and out of consciousness in an opioid haze, Jackson had forever to relive and figure out what went wrong, interspersed with memories of his family and friends and a life that he missed. Over and over again he asked himself how his own country could treat him like this if he had never committed a crime. How could this organization be legal? Had human rights become overshadowed by a fearful and obsessive need for security? Was his country mutating into a fascist state without anyone noticing? Would he ever get his life back? Would he ever see his loved ones again?
A one-way transparent flexible LCD screen was fitted onto each capsule above the eyes, to influence brain activity and rehabilitation through audio-visual means, as well as to block most of the view to the outside. Melodic music was accompanied by images of beautiful landscapes. Additionally, middle-aged female readers from every racial background, recited moral short stories and positive affirmation poems, with tender compassionate expressions. Listening to the soothing synthesized music was a welcome distraction from an underlying anxiety over a fate Jackson still did not understand, nor could accept.
The trustworthy maternal faces and voices of the storytellers consoled him like his own mother, who had read to him before bedtime during his childhood. It was an ironic paradox that Jackson felt ephemeral torment, yet he floated in carefree comfort, with all his needs provided. He was not unlike millions of people in the world, who feel trapped in their routine daily lives, merely existing in unfulfilled comfortable comas, sedated with alcohol, antidepressants and television ~or religion.
The lighting was consistently dim; there was no day and night punctuated by light and dark. But after some time, Jackson recognized a schedule of waking with music, followed by muscle stimulation, then medication and movement of liquid in the feeding tubes, and readings. He counted units of time through his heartbeat, which was amplified in the liquid. At 60 heartbeats per minute, each musical piece lasted 5 minutes and each reading was 15 minutes long. During the day, readings were alternated with a set of 3 musical pieces, interspersed with movement in the feeding tubes and dosing of medication, ending with forced sleep. Then it started all over again ~presumably the next day. By his calculations, he had been subjugated for 726 days ~or longer...
As Jackson became accustomed to the tranquilizers, he regained some lucidity. He tried to send neural impulses back into the system through muscle contractions using Morse code —just a plain S-O-S of long and short intervals. Due to a glitch in the system, he eventually got back a faint Morse code reply. Apparently, there was another prisoner in the building who knew the code. They sent messages back and forth. Another man was also unfairly taken from his life and confined. There was general injustice here. Something had to be done about it, but they were trapped and useless, which caused them more despair.
Jackson’s neighbours caught glimpses of him and started imitating the Morse code messages, with nonsensical meanings. They intuitively understood the mechanism of sending messages and felt the responses, but did not know the language system of Morse code. Soon all the captives were trying to communicate in the same manner. It gave them hope to know that they were not alone. These were human beings who needed something meaningful to do with their lives, something or someone to interact with, other than to just lay there like living corpses. Before the supervisors could diagnose the irregular electrical activity, the wiring overloaded and burned out. The prison was no longer functioning. As the medication wore off, more and more people kicked their way out of their glass cells, ripped off the restraints and tubes and helped others escape.
A thousand naked slimy angry men were marching down the highway towards the city. The scandal of the century was about to erupt in the news media…
Jackson awoke in the hospital in breathless bewilderment. The nurse tried to reassure him that he had been sleeping and was having a nightmare; but he was safe now. His wife and three children were sitting at his bedside waiting for him to awaken and greeted him with loving hugs and tears of joy. He had been in a coma for 3~months. During this time, his spouse, children, his parents, siblings and friends had been taking turns sitting by his side every day ~waiting and hoping. They entertained him with stories, poems, soothing music and informed him of what was happening in the world, knowing that he would hear everything. They also gave him daily massages to keep his limbs from atrophying. All his loved ones felt blessed to have him back. Since he could now eat by himself, the nurses happily removed his feeding tubes.
A doctor came in and explained to him that he had been hit by a car, which had put him into a coma. Luckily, no broken bones were found, nor was there any organ damage. Unfortunately, the results of neurological and brain imaging tests showed that he had suffered frontal lobe brain injury, for which there is no cure.
The physician also mentioned that while he was sleeping, the government had enacted a new preventative safety and security law. Jackson would have to stay at the hospital until he was well enough to travel. Then he would be moved to a new rehabilitation facility.
As the doctor was leaving, a security guard posted outside his room came in and handcuffed him. He was wheeled off to a segregated hospital wing, while his family was left behind crying in confusion. Awaiting his transfer to the LiquiCell Institution, Jackson’s nightmare was just beginning...
"There is no such
thing as perfection.
Each step is a step
towards the next step."
Thankyou to my lovely,
smart sister Susan Fisch
for helping to edit my writings
in both English & French.
She does a great job.