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Posted 7/8/08 , edited 7/9/08
Pain Tolerance


Like many of the greatest inventions of our time, the electro algepathic relay, or the E.A.R. for short, was created purely by accident. It started innocently enough as a project researching mind reading and, less innocently, mind control. They were attempting to find a non-invasive method to “read” the electrical signals of the brain, and determine what a person was thinking, then take it a step further and figure out how to control those thoughts. Luckily for us, the parts of our brain where we process thought, and memories, are pretty spread out, and hidden far from prying electrodes. The pain centers on the other hand, well those are conveniently located on either side of the head, just behind the temples. And soon after this was realized, the E.A.R. was invented. The hospital I work at was chosen for test implementation, not only for our excellent reputation at testing revolutionary medical practices, but also because we were the only one with enough people crazy enough to try it out. Most people don’t like pain, I know it sounds redundant but it’s true, and so no one was surprised that only a handful were willing to join the newly formed algedonics department in exchange for a boost in pay. Even though we were told it was completely safe.

The researchers who had invented the E.A.R. called us together the first day at our new positions as the world’s first algepahthologists; to hand out to each of us the first prototypes, housed in black briefcases. For something so far ahead in the field of mind reading, they were incredibly simple. Each E.A.R. had two steel rings with little electrodes on either side; one went around your patient’s head, and one around yours. Then you could set the “volume” of the pain, and flip it on to feel all the pain the patient was feeling. They paired us up and had us prick each other with pins to see how it worked. I was instantly fascinated by the sensation. I could feel the pain, it was real, and it sent a quick shot of adrenaline through my blood. But when I looked down at my arm, nothing, no wound, and no little droplet of blood forming on the surface. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life, and it was completely, totally, safe.

Three people quit that first day. One of them was the man I’d been partnered up with, who I think quit because I kept poking him over and over again until I realized that he wasn’t as amazed by the sensation as I was.

That very afternoon, I went to work. I was scared at first; I never had a very high pain tolerance. I had been sheltered away from danger by my parents my whole life. I had to fight even to make them let me go to college, assuring them I was old enough to handle all the “bad influences.” Even then I lived at home, going to classes at the college a few miles away, until my parents died, ironically enough, from asbestos inhalation from the ceiling of their room, a few months after I had started my residency at the hospital. At first the other doctors were skeptical of this new technology, but they quickly saw how useful it was in diagnosing patients. Pain is a very tricky thing to describe to a doctor. Is it a deep ache, or a stabbing pain? Is it in the joint, or the tendons surrounding it? These are things doctors really need to know in order to treat patients effectively, and until now there was no good way to find out exactly what a patient’s injury was, especially if they’re unconscious. My very first patient showed just how effective it was. It was a man in his thirties who had fallen through a second story window into some bushes. He was unconscious and had multiple broken bones. Within a few seconds I had set up my equipment. Still afraid of what feeling more than a pinprick would be like, I set the volume all the way down, as low as it would go. And I flipped the switch. BAM. It was incredible, I sat there stunned by the sensation for what felt like an hour, but was really only a few seconds. I could feel pain in parts of my body I didn’t know I had, in places inconsistent with the current arrangement of my limbs. I was blinded, I couldn’t tell one source of pain from another. I felt like I was about to pass out from the incredible disorientation of feeling pain that was not my own. But then the adrenaline hit, and suddenly I was charged with intense energy as it coursed through my veins. Within a few seconds I was myself again, and I could feel exactly what was going on in this mans body, two fractured ribs, a broken wrist, and a small shard of glass that had buried itself completely in his thigh, along with countless minor scratches on his torso, arms, and legs. I told this to the doctors around me and they immediately sprang into action, within the hour his ribs had been bandaged, his wrist was in a cast, and the shard of glass was dug out of his thigh. I just sat there through the whole treatment, still reeling from the slight after-feeling of the pain, the incredible rush of adrenaline, and the fact that I looked down at my own body and realized I was fine, all my bones intact. It really was completely safe, and I wanted to try it again.

Within a week I had built up my tolerance enough that I had to set my E.A.R. to it’s highest setting to get the rush I had that first day. In that first week I had experienced more types of pain than I knew existed, and my patients benefited from it by receiving care immediately instead of an hour later once all the x-rays were in. Most of my fellow algepaths, or algs as we were usually referred to, seemed to shy away from me then, they found it strange that I enjoyed it so much, when all but a few of them still had trouble coping with their new jobs, even keeping their E.A.R.s at the lowest volume. I could only feel sorry for them. They hadn’t experienced real living yet, they didn’t know what it felt like to have your leg completely crushed by a falling boulder, or to have your stomach sliced in two by accidentally swallowing a razor blade. I had felt it all, magnified twenty times. To me that was living. It was also part of my duty to my patients. At the higher magnifications, I could feel even the slightest pain. Sensations so slight the patient had never even noticed them, and yet on several occasions, these slight pains had let me warn patients that they had an ulcer starting to form, or perhaps the earliest stages of an ear infection. It was rarely anything serious, but it made my patient’s lives easier. And it was even safer than an x-ray.

I started taking my E.A.R. home with me. I made a miniature headband to fit on mice and rats I caught around my apartment complex. They were going to die anyways, so I figured it wouldn’t matter how it happened. Their minds were much simpler, and so was the pain, it didn’t give me the same rush as a injured person, but it was fascinating to see what it felt like to have a broken tail, or to have paws cut in half. From the tests I found that I could get a more direct connection to the machine, and therefore more intense, and more accurate pain, by shaving my head and putting that conductive gel they use on defibrillators on the electrodes. Unfortunately the hospital wouldn’t let me shave my patient’s heads, so I had to settle for keeping my own shaved, and a small jar of gel inside the case of my E.A.R. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to boost the output like that, so I asked the researchers, who assured me that it was still very safe.

Despite all my improvements I grew more and more used to the pain as the weeks went on, I grew bored with my life again, depressed even, because I wasn’t getting the same rush from my work as I had that first day. Until one day in the summer, when we work with fewer staff members, to allow some of the more family centered doctors a chance to see their spouses and kids. As I said, I work at a pretty big hospital; in fact, we have a separate E.R. just for children and teenagers. Because the procedures are usually so different between adults and kids, it makes it much easier on both patients and doctors to have a separate staff of pediatric doctors and nurses. Because of this, the staffs for the two ERs, more or less, stay separate. But on this day, both of the algepaths for the pediatric ER were out for the day, so I was asked to cover for them. My first patient was nothing serious, a pair of badly skinned knees. He didn’t need to be there, but his parents had insisted on bringing him. They reminded me of the over-protectiveness of my own parents. I had never thought about how pain feels to a child, all my patients so far had been well past adolescence, so I was curious. I pulled out my E.A.R. making up a story that this was common practice now, to make sure that he didn’t have anything else wrong with him that he hadn’t noticed yet. This excuse pleased the parents, and I slipped the ring over the young boy’s head, and flipped the switch. I was blown away. The pain, while small in size, was beyond anything else I had ever felt in terms of intensity. Even though I had long gotten over expecting my own body to show physical signs of the pain I was feeling, I instinctively reached for my knees, only to feel that they were of course still solid and unharmed. I quickly recovered my composure and soon determined that other than the knees, the kid was in great shape. I put some anti-bacterial cream over the cuts, bandaged him up, and sent him home. As soon as my work was done that day, I put in a request to be transferred to the pediatric ER. That night I slept better than I had in days, and even though I could still feel a slight tingling in my hands from all the pain, and adrenaline I had felt that day, I knew I was safe.

The next few weeks were a blur of adrenaline, pain, and under all that, the knowledge that I had really helped a lot of people. I was made the head of the algedonics program, and wore my new lab coat with pride. By now most of the doctors thought I was crazy, and maybe I was, but they knew I did good work, and they respected me at least on some level for that. I loved my work all the more. There were no great diagnostic surprises; all the kids who came in had pretty common injuries or ailments. Nothing I hadn’t seen, and felt, in the adults I’d worked with before. Yet each one was a thrilling experience, their still forming bodies interpreted pain so differently than an adult’s brain; it was raw, pure pain. I started walking home every night after work, so that the cool evening air could calm my nerves down enough to sleep, so I could wake up the next morning and do it all again. I had no life outside of my work; my work was my life. I didn’t understand how I could have lived before I had discovered how exhilarating pain could be when it wasn’t accompanied by an actual cause; in other words, when it was completely safe.

One evening, as I walked home through deserted suburban streets, I heard a sudden honk of a horn, then a loud thump accompanied by a screech of tires, and a muffled scream. I ran up to the next side street to see a car racing off into the distance, leaving the young boy it had hit by the side of the road. In the dark I couldn’t make out the car’s license plate or even the color. So I immediately turned my attention to the boy. I realized I had already pulled out my phone and dialed 911, as I held the cell up to my ear, I heard the emergency response operator answer in a calm voice. Before I could say anything, my brain caught up with my actions, and I realized that in all my months of feeling others pain, it had always been old pain. Injuries that had happened hours, even days, ago. I had never felt pain in the seconds immediately following the injury. I hung up the phone, missing my pocket in my haste to put it away. The phone shattered on the ground. No time to worry about that now. I pulled open my E.A.R. and an electric razor; within a minute, I had shaved a ring around the boy’s head, and smothered both of the e.a.r’s electrodes with the cool gel. I flipped the switch. It was everything I had hoped it to be; pain, and adrenaline, blasted into me like nothing I had felt before. My senses were keen enough by then that I could immediately tell that he had a broken rib, a concussion, and his left wrist had broken trying to stop his fall. He would live, but I was living now, and it wasn’t enough. I knew that a few more minor injuries would never be noticed, so I pulled out my medical bag, grabbed my scalpel, and cut away his shirt. By the time the doctors arrived, I was lost in ecstasy. I was keenly aware of every twist of my knee in his crotch; I almost screamed form the exquisite pain of my fingers gouging out his eyes, and I felt every last, futile heartbeat, as I pried rib after rib out of his chest.

So yeah, this is the story i submitted for the contest.
Please tell me what you think.
Posted 7/9/08 , edited 7/9/08
I must say a very good job...Excellent story telling....Ingenious use of English to convey your story....
I may be a bit sadistic but I like the ending...It wasn't the nicest ending to a story but it gives off this strange cold feeling to the bones....

Nothing bad on the contrary...English grammar and vocabulary looks perfect to me...So there is nothing to criticized......

Though it might be a bit boring for those who doesn't like scientific fictions....but very creative imagination you got there....E.A.R invention.....
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Posted 7/11/08 , edited 7/12/08
True, i so love ur story!!! But i not a SiFi it takes a little getting use to ^^ I love how u used your words................but i'm not a fan of blood either....*shivers* But i'd say, if i didn't have any problem wid blood, i think that ending was great!!!
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Posted 7/13/08 , edited 7/13/08
A beyond excellent example of Sci-fi~^^ Good job <33~ For those who don't like science fiction, this piece may seem boring or confusing, but really it's a great example of the genre~^^ Keep writing!
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