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“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” - Stephen Hawking
Two anxious parents watched hand in hand as their little eleven year old angel glided slowly away from their view. Her small body laid out on the platform was slowly swallowed up by the magnetic resonance imaging machine. They were kindly prompted to exit the room and wait behind the observation window.
“I still think it’s too early,” the mother whispered.
“Only by a year. She’ll be fine,” said the father. “Besides, this is what she wanted.”
“Our little Amelia.”
Inside the machine, the little girl's brain was scanned, her individual brain patterns observed and recorded. The process was only the mere beginning of the girl’s journey. During the small time after the scan, the parents had time to talk to their daughter.
“Amelia,” her father stated, “we are very proud of you.”
“Thank you, father,” she replied.
“You are going to do so much,” her mother cried.
She held her mother’s hand and gave it a squeeze. Her small hand barely covered her mother’s. “I can’t wait.”
A couple white-coated technicians entered the room and waited by the door. Amelia gave her parents a small smile then followed the workers to the next station. She was laid on a cold table and was given medicine to induce her into sleep. As her eyes grew weary she felt hands entangling themselves in her hair and exposing different parts of her scalp. Something cold touched her skin just as she began to fade...
As the girl slept, electrodes were attached to her scalp, the electrical signals guided on a path through her brain to her hippocampus. They started with low currents allowing the pulses to seep into her mind. They began with the English Learning, feeding information extracted and modified from the greatest young minds the government had saw fit for use. In her mind, memories were forming, memories not her own but soon to be...
After the downloading session, the girl’s new skills were examined in a short assessment. She was given a couple hours of rest until the History Learning. Her parents met her in between the intervals beaming with pride and anticipation. After History Learning was Math Learning then Science Learning. By the end, the little girl laid in a small bed her forehead hot and sprinkled with little beads of sweat. Her mind felt bigger, larger, smarter. A single light dangled over her body. Eleven year old Amelia slept.
Five years later...
She held the report in her hands, scanning the positive numbers and escalating rates. Her desk was cluttered with reports, essays, files, and notes. A silver name-plate read Amelia Rockwell , j-MD. A buzzing on her wrist reminded her that she had to make haste. She rose from her seat and grabbed her coat. As she hustled through the halls, she was greeted constantly - Good morning doctor, How are you today, doctor? Some of her greeters had to bend their necks to acknowledge her properly.
She reached the elevator, punched in the level and waited patiently. She now stood at five foot one, her plush skin radiating with youth while small creases began to form from stress and a heavy burden of work. She pressed a couple fingers against her temple as a jackhammer pounded her skull. She stumbled back and cursed. She forgot to take her pills. A beep in her ear alerted that she was getting a call. One click filled her ear with the speaker’s voice. It was a notification about the potential site for her project. Remote area, old dilapidated building. The coordinates were sent to her phone. After a quick thanks she hung up. Exiting the elevator, she walked briskly towards the double doors. Her ride was ready and the door popped open for her. She climbed in and transferred the coordinates to the car’s GPS system. She appeared small in the large padded seating but she stretched her spine and kept her back straight. Amelia Rockwell was a superior afterall.
She pulled out her tablet and reviewed the blueprints. Her latest project consisted of the construction of a new hospital and cancer research center. This was in addition to her Contribution, an extra thank you to society. It was her Contribution in the first place that was the prime reason for her receiving an award this Sunday. Her monumental developments in cancer treatments were a real game changer in this everlasting fight. She had found a way to delay cancer growth and isolate the diseased cells for proper elimination. She had achieved her Contribution in a shocking short amount of time. She didn’t waste a minute. Never had. Never will. Many wondered at her rare, speedy success and quick ascent up the career ladder. There were times when harsh accusations were made against her but they never held.
Once more a throbbing erupted in her skull, causing her to squeeze her head in hands. She quickly requested some water from the car’s refrigeration system and yanked her pills from her bag. After swallowing a couple yellow capsules, the pain began to subside. She was able to steady her breathing and relax. The chauffeur announced they were nearing the destination.
Her earpiece started to beep. A glance at her phone told her it was William Werstine, a close associate and acquaintance of hers, one of the most successful junior engineers. Like Amelia, William’s Contribution was a famous breakthrough in technology. She declined his call. For some reason he had been acting strange lately, wasn’t himself. She didn’t know how to communicate her thoughts or concern to him. Intimate interactions were a struggle for her. It was unnatural how William seemed so unsatisfied with his accomplishments as massive as they were. To him, they weren’t great enough. He wasn’t smart enough. She looked and watched as he called her a few more times as the car was pulling up to the destination. She would call him back later. Whatever was troubling him could wait until she had completed her business. She peered out the window. The area was quite large, appropriate size for her plan. It was buried in undergrowth and looked like nature had consumed the whole building. A couple trees had fallen onto the construction, crashed through the roof, and left two giant gaping holes on the side.
“I can see the potential,” she murmured to herself. Amelia waited and the chauffeur came around and pulled her door open. She stepped onto the rock-littered ground with grass that came up to her knees and extended her hand for assistance. The building was oddly shaped - it was long and wide, had many corners and protruding extensions. The walls were constructed out of bricks and were painted over with an ugly shade of brown. Green vines had sprouted over the bricks and had invaded their way into the cracks. Something in her was drawn to this building. She took a few steps forward.
“Be careful doctor,” warned her chauffeur. Amelia ignored his concern and continued on through the vegetation to the entrance. One door had broken from its hinges and hung awkwardly at an angle. A rusted plate attached to the wall beside it shimmered in the sun’s glare. She scratched some of the dirt and grime from the words. Briarwood...High School. High school? She had heard stories about such places of past - how horrendous they were. Juniors actually struggled to gain knowledge. Spend thirteen plus years of their life in educational prisons subject to intellectual discrimination and inequality.
She pushed the door open and stepped inside. Crumpled yellow stained papers littered the floors. Rusted lockers were aligned along the corridors. The building groaned, startling Amelia to a stop. She paused outside a room with a broken door. She forced it aside and climbed over some broken wood. Desks were strewn across the dirty tile floor with one long desk up front. She walked up to the large desk and dragged a finger over the wood. A pile of dust formed around it. Her knee bumped into a handle on the right side of it. She grabbed it and pulled, releasing a cloud of dust into the air. After waving it from her face, she saw old yellow files organized in the drawer. She pulled one out and spread it open on the desk. A series of papers contained numerous mathematical problems and each had a large red letter and number stamped on the front. She scanned the problems and the answers came easily to her. In her memory these problems and their solutions existed. How awful must it been for these children to struggle through confusion and ignorance. She dropped the papers and backed away, looking around. She tried to imagine the seats full of adolescents, sitting, listening to some teacher talk, trying to grasp a subject and form in their mind some kind of understanding to something she so easily can access. Why?
Her great grandmother used to tell her stories about elementary and secondary schools. Days full of exhaustion and rigor, manually trying to stretch the brain. But there were some positive aspects that were reiterated to her. Something about friendships and lessons and benefits of learning? But those are easily accessible things. And Amelia had friendships. Business friendships, acquaintances. She spoke to people, worked with people, what more was there? She steadily began to realize that the more she stood in this building the more agitated she was growing. It was a waste of time and thought pondering about his ancient place of torture. Society had no more use for such a thing. It needed to be demolished for something of actual value. Amelia exited the room and walked back outside. She gave a signal for her chauffeur that she was ready. The door was opened for her once more and she hopped inside. She left a message for her project coordinator of her approval of the location. Five more calls from William. The chauffeur got inside and looked at her for directions.
Amelia sighed. “Take me to Werstine’s complex.”
The car began to pull off. She navigated to her phone’s messages and randomly clicked one:
“Amelia...I don’t know why you are ignoring me...I-I really wish I could talk to you right about now, especially with what I’m...about to do...”
She clicked on another one.
“Amelia...I don’t know enough...my mind does not feel full...I need to fill this void...please talk to me...”
“Amelia...I realize that I have to do this...I can’t hold off anymore...I cannot survive with just what I know...I need to know more...”
“There’s so much freakin’ knowledge out there that I...don’t...know!...I need it!”
“Why do they only give us so little?...How are we ever supposed to know more?...What do they expect us to do to know more?....”
“God Amelia! Where the heck are you?”
Amelia quickly turned off her phone. Her fingers were trembling and she felt faint. She shouted for the chauffeur to hurry, go faster. Her heart was punching her chest with her nerves vibrating like plucked guitar strings.
The car raced down the streets, moving fast but not fast enough. Amelia hesitated then sent out a notification to emergency personnel. She tried to call William. There was a long trill and a robotic voice informed that the line was disconnected. Something had to be wrong.
Soon they were pulling up onto his property and the car swerved around Werstine’s giant fountain to the front entrance of the mansion. Amelia opened her door and ran outside. She fell against the doors and punched the buzzer until her finger was raw and pressed her ear to the intercom.
“William! William Werstine! It’s me Amelia!”
Grim realization hit her mind and Amelia took off back to the car. She turned her head and sure enough William’s car was not in the lot. She scrambled back into the car and slammed the door shut. She send a second set of coordinates, this time for the lab to the car and screamed for the driver to go.
Minutes later Amelia sprinted to the lab entrance and used her key to unlock it. She threw the doors open and ran inside. “William! Where are you?”
She heard a cry and the sound of clashing metal. She ran towards the noise to one of the private rooms. She recognized where she was heading with sick reality. Sure enough when she arrived, William had himself in a chair, electrodes connected to his scalp, furiously accessing the Learning programs and files to download.
“William,” Amelia cried. “You need to stop! This isn’t safe. You’re not authorized to do this - especially to yourself. And even worse, it’s illegal.”
William ignored her as electric pulses surged into his brain. He gave Amelia a crooked smile, his eyes were red and his hair a mess. His face was discolored and his hands were shaking like a leaf.
“All this knowledge I didn’t have...all these ideas and subjects and facts I had no information on...I’m taking it all Amelia...all my mind was deprived of...as much as I can...” he squeezed his eyes shut, throwing his hands to his head with a groan. Amelia jumped to his side and tried to pry his fingers away. She looked at the electrodes he hastily set up.
“We need to turn this off!” she shouted. “It’s not even aligned right. These pulses are not going to your hippocampus.” Williams body started to twitch.
“This is how it feels to be truly enlightened, not just smart or intelligent but the beholder of all knowledge has to give-” He cried out in pain and his body was thrown back - Amelia caught him and pulled him to the bed. William’s hand reached around her and twisted the controllers, turning up the electric currents.
“No!” Amelia shrieked, pushing his hand away. She looked at the controls and turned them all off. Williams screams continued behind her and the bed began to creak under his spasms. A faint burning scent drifted to her nose and she spun around. She grabbed his head, blood trickling around the electrodes. She carefully disconnected them from his singed skin and laid his head on the pillow. His pulse was racing and sweat was running down his face and neck. Tears sprouted from his crimson eyes.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be okay.”
His speech was very slurred as he spoke.
“I know your secret Amelia...”
Amelia tried to ignore him and worked on patching up his damaged scalp. She had already sent out an alert to EP. He gave a weak snicker and shook his head. “Everyone marvels at the great success of Dr. Amelia Rockwell....How did she get so smart so soon? How did she...zip through her training like that? What a bright child...She acquired her knowledge so fast.” Amelia didn’t respond. She finished detaching the electrodes. Blood stained her fingers. William’s body was still twitching and his eyes could barely open.
“Fraud!” he screeched. “You’re a fake, a cheat...like me!...”
Amelia was surprised by how wet her face had become. Tears were slowly falling from her eyes and no amount of eyelid squeezing could stop the flow. She turned away and threw her hands over her face.
“So what if I expedited my training. I couldn’t bear wasting time trying to learn those skills. I had to speed up the process. You out of everybody should understand that. My success is still a product of my mind, my knowledge, my two hands. And no one can ever take that away!” She listened for a reply but silence was all she received. She spun around to see William’s lifeless body. She felt for a pulse but couldn’t find one. She pressed her ear to his chest - nothing. She could hear the sounds of ambulances arriving outside. She tried CPR but she was only pushing on a corpse. One of her tears dropped from her face to land on his cheek. Headaches were returning and she had to sit down. Everything he had said was true and she hated it. Both of them had violated downloading limitations to push them to the best, to the top. Of course there were physical health concerns tied to the act but extra pills controlled the pain. Every step she had taken to get where she was now was vital and worth it. Never would she ever waste a large part of her life sitting and struggling - she was born to create, research, and discover and nothing less. She looked at William’s body. She would do the same thing if she could. She wanted everything there was to know but didn’t want to spend her life trying to learn it. She wanted that knowledge, something that should only take minutes to consume.