“And this is Mr. Caswell..”
With that, the Senior Nurse led her newest assistant into the patient pod, leaving the Med-Droid to hover alone in the hallway. Inside, the older woman stopped just across the thresh-hold and whispered over her shoulder.
“This one’s usually sweet,” she said, pointing to the slumped figure in front of the hologram stretched across the far wall, “but you never know…”
Turning back to the small room‘s only occupant, the Senior Nurse spoke loudly, slowly, liltingly. “MR. CASWELL, HOW ARE YOU TODAY?”
The slumped form didn’t move. Squinting in the low blue light, the Nursing Assistant strained to make out a few details. The back of the patient’s head was liver-spotted and bald, except for a few coarse white hairs corkscrewing upward. A gentle breeze emanating from the pod’s enviro-bot swirled the errant hairs back and forth, their rhythm free dance backlit by the glow of the floating molecule curtain. Looking up, the Assistant watched the slow-motion loop of Polar Bears shimmering there on the dust motes before turning her attention back to the old man in the Velcro Snuggie.
“Mr. Caswell‘s one of Sunset Vista‘s longest staying guests.” the Senior Nurse said. “Been here since 2042. That even predates me. ISN’T THAT RIGHT, MR. CASWELL?”
Mr. Caswell didn’t respond, so Senior and the Assistant squatted on either side of the centenarian to look him in the eye. There wasn’t much there. Focused far past the virtual screen in front of him, his bloodshot orbs stared out at a past only he could see.
“MR. CASWELL ARE YOU COMFORTABLE?”
Assuming his lack of answer to be a positive reply, Senior stood and motioned the Assistant over to the pod’s control hutch.
“Here’s his file“, Senior said, running her thumb over a sensor in the countertop. When she did, green hi-def letters grew out of the surface. The same scrolling display also showed up on the inside lens of both the women’s iGlasses.
“GARRET LEE CASWELL” said Senior, reading aloud the green font floating just out of eyelash reach. “Age 103, Widowed, Highly Arthritic, Signs of Dementia. Says here he was a TV news cam-era-man for more than forty years. Remember when they showed news on TV?”
The Assistant didn’t, so Senior turned back to the words floating on her corrective lenses.
“Well, they did. Surely you’ve seen those old holograms with the men carrying the big cameras on their shoulders, haven’t you?“ Looking back at the pod’s silent occupant with one eye, Senior scanned his medical records with the other.
“I guess that explains the lopsided vision and carbon-fiber clavicle.” she mumbled. “At any rate, Mr. Caswell’s rarely ever a problem. Seems his son is a Homeland Security Cadet. I’ve never met him but they say he’s very nice. Mr. Caswell doesn’t get many visitors, but he does LOVE his data-pack. We don’t let him watch current events though. It always seems to upset him. Still, you won’t find many patients as easy as him, ISN’T THAT RIGHT, MR. CASWELL?”
At that point, the green lettering on the Nurses’ iGlasses turned to red; the new bright color throbbing with an urgency punctuated by a shrill ringing tone pouring from the spectacles’ tiny speakers. Wheeling around, Senior saw her longtime patient’s head cocked at an awkward angle; a sight that thrust her into action…
“MR. CASWELL, CAN YOU HEAR ME? MR. CASWELL?” She grabbed his wrist but the sensors in her own fingertips detected no pulse. Searching the red letters scroll in her peripheral vision, the Senior Nurse made a few furtive movements with her own eyeball and dug deeper into the old man’s records until she found the nickname his late roommate used to use…
“G. LEE! ARE YOU WITH US, G. LEE?”
“G. Lee? Yo, dude, you awake?”
Garrett rolled over with the bedside telephone lodged in his ear. He didn’t remember answering it, or even the sound of it ringing.
“Yo, Gee? You up?” The sound of police scanners crackling in the background registered somewhere in Garrett’s mind and he opened his eyes to see the pitch black apartment bedroom around him.
“Hey man, I know you’re not due in for a few more hours, but a semi full of stuffed animals just jack-knifed on I-40. Cops say there’s toy polar bears all up and down the highway. Can you check it out? You got time?”
“Yeah,” G. Lee said, blinking away the dream and wondering if he’d put his camera batteries on the overnight charger, “I GOT TIME.”