Jack knew something was wrong the instant he woke up. He felt different, somehow, and not knowing exactly the reason made his heart beat faster. He sat on the edge of his bed for a moment, thinking, feeling.
“Good morning, Jack,” said his apartment. “Your coffee is ready.” He had chosen a soft woman’s voice when he bought the apartment, the realtor telling him it was their most popular selection.
“Thanks,” said Jack, trudging dully toward the bathroom. He stood in front of the toilet and relieved himself.
“Will you be having breakfast this morning?” asked the apartment.
“I don’t know,” answered Jack as he stepped from the toilet to the vanity and leaned on the sink. “I’m feeling – odd today. In a fog.”
The toilet flushed. “Urinalysis complete,” reported the apartment. “No adverse conditions noted.” Jack stared at himself in the mirror and noted immediately that his eyes were red and weepy-looking – that wasn’t normal. And he felt something tickling his left nostril. He tentatively explored the nostril with one finger.
“What the hell is this?” he said. A thin, clear liquid was beginning to drip from his nose. Mucus – it was mucus, he realized. “Vitals, please,” he asked the apartment. Translucent words and figures appeared on the mirror in front of him.
“Blood pressure is a little high, but still within normal range,” commented the apartment. “Heartbeat seventy-two beats-per-minute, oxygen levels ninety-five percent.”
“Get me the clinic, right away,” Jack ordered in a squeaky voice. A holographic screen, about three feet square, materialized on the mirror as his vitals were moved to the side. A middle-aged, male face appeared on the screen with the caption “Marlon Winters, M.D., Family and General Practice” and a license number emblazoned below.
“Mr. Givens, how can we help you today?” smiled the doctor.
“Something’s wrong,” said Jack. “With me. I feel – different. And I have mucus running from my nose. Mucus!”
Dr. Winters squinted to look at Jack more closely. “Yes, I see,” he said. “Why don’t you have a seat in your MedChair and we’ll have a look.”
“Yes, okay, thank you,” said Jack. He left the sink and walked out of the bathroom. The holo-screen with Dr. Winter’s face went with him, hovering always about thirty-six inches in front of him. They entered Jack’s office and Jack sat down in the MedChair, leaning his head back into the cranial support and placing his right arm and hand on the diagnostic armrest. He pressed the hand down into the spongy gel that lined the armrest. The holographic screen came to a rest slightly higher than Jack and tilted at an angle, so that it remained in his line of sight.
“Okay, then,” said Dr. Winters, “let’s see what we have here.” His eyes looked away for a moment as he read something off-screen, and then returned to Jack. Jack sat nervously watching him.
“My blood pressure’s high, and my heart’s beating a little fast,” offered Jack.
“Yes, I can see that,” answered the doctor. “But those could be a result of tension, and both are still within reasonable levels.” He consulted another reference off-screen. “Mr. Givens, I believe you have the rhinovirus.”
“Oh, God,” said Jack.
“Used to be called ‘the common cold,’” the doctor added. “Funny. An illness so prevalent as to be called ‘common.’”
“Doctor, I don’t care about funny,” complained Jack. “What do I do? I still have so much to live for.”
“I’m delivering the antidote as we speak,” replied the doctor. “You should be feeling better right about – now.”
Jack felt his nose dry up and the cloud leave his head. He heaved a sigh of relief.
“Oh, thank you,” said Jack. “Dr. Winters, you’re – you’re a life saver.”
“All in a day’s work,” replied Dr. Winters modestly. “But I think it would be wise for you to make an appointment to come in and have your nanobots evaluated. They never should have let this virus establish itself. You may need a tune-up.”
“Yes, I will,” said Jack. “Thank you so much.”
The screen disappeared and Jack stepped out of the chair feeling fresh and alive. It was going to be a good day.
“Now how about that breakfast?” asked the apartment.
Mark Jabaut is a playwright and author who lives in the Rochester area with his wife Nancy, a dog named Max, and occasionally a son or two. Mark’s play IN THE TERRITORIES premiered in May 2014 at The Sea Change Theatre in Beverly, MA. He has also been published in The Ozone Park Journal and POST, a Rochester magazine.