My hearing has returned!
With gladness so intense it borders on anguish I recognize Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. The orchestra forms a delicate background as the violin melody slides downward until it is joined by the darker viola, the two instruments braiding together in a sound that is sensuous and lush. God, but it’s beautiful! How was the miracle of hearing restored to me? Were my ears clogged? No, impossible: I’d at least have heard the sound of my own blood pumping. I’d heard nothing at all, yet now my hearing is sensitive, perfect.
I listen past the music and-- Yes, I hear the sound of air moving through the vents in the walls, the buzzing of fluorescents, the distant sounds of traffic, the nearer echoes of people talking in hallways and unseen offices or rooms, a telephone bleeping.
I revel in the Mozart, almost failing to notice the approaching voices: Richard Kornfeld has been rejoined by his colleagues. They stare at me with awe and disbelief.
Kornfeld says, “It was only a stroke of luck that made me realize the astonishingly rapid display speed was preventing us from seeing--”
“Slowing that down was brilliant,” observes the older man grudgingly. He has a slight German accent. “Have you said anything to--” He glances in my direction.
“No, of course not.”
The young woman looks concerned. “Good. This is pretty delicate. I think it has to be handled carefully.” Her voice is deep and musical. I love her voice. All their voices.
Kornfeld’s reply sounds defensive. “It’s bound to be a shock no matter how tactfully it’s handled. But he’ll have to get over his initial response. Otherwise, how stable is--his condition?”
In the silence, the Mozart recaptures my wandering attention.
I become aware they’re staring at me again. The older man says, “This goes beyond anything we’d hoped. Certainly anything I thought possible in my lifetime.”
They share a serious moment. What have they done besides restore my hearing? Is it possible they’ve found the cure for the rest of my problems?
“Whatever happens, we’ve pushed the envelope,” says the woman.
“We’ve ripped it to shreds,” declares the Asian man solemnly. “Or maybe we’ve opened Pandora’s box.”
Kornfeld shoots him an anxious look. “We’ll have to start writing this up,” he says. “I only wish the other attempts had also borne fruit.”
“Yes, so do we all,” says the older man. “It would be wonderful to have several of them, not only for comparison purposes, but to see how they might interact and, and--”
The phone rings. The older man interrupts himself to answer. “Yes? --Oh, good. I’ll send someone right out.” He hangs up and says to the others, “He’s here. I imagine he’ll be pretty interested in our latest result.”
The others laugh. The woman says, “Interested. Now there’s an understatement.”
Kornfeld stands. “I should go fetch him. I’m the one who got him into this.” He leaves.
The vigorous third movement of the Mozart begins. The young woman frowns and moves out of my line of sight. The music suddenly stops.
I revel in the other sounds: the noisy effluvia of life I once took for granted.
After a moment, I hear a door open and they greet their guest.
The older man booms, “So glad you could make it on such short notice. You might not remember me from your last visit. I’m Hans Lascher, head of neuroscience here at the lab. This is Jan Robinson, my post-doc and colleague. And you remember Kenny Ng, who assisted in the procedure six weeks ago.”
“Good to see you,” says a voice I find strangely familiar.
The five of them come into my field of view.
My mind freezes.
The visitor is wearing my clothes.
And my face.
He is me.
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