Bob stared at Huda. “What are you thinking?” A Journey through Genres Entry
|Eye of the Beholder
“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” ~ Orhan Pamuk
The first touch of dawn was painting the sky as Bob woke up. He opened his eyes and smiled as he was greeted by a pair of liquid brown eyes staring intently at his face. “Good morning, Huda.”
It’s about time you woke up! Now, let’s get you out of bed flashed through Huda’s mind.
His words seemed to break the Husky’s trance and he was immediately acknowledged by a flurry of wet kisses. “Okay, girl. Okay,” he protested, grabbing her by the fur around her neck and wrestling with her. Our morning ritual. He stared into her eyes, wondering if this was just training or if she actually had independent thought and understanding.
“We’ll soon find out, Huda.” Her ears perked up at the sound of her name. Huda – named for Huda Akil, a neuroscientist whose pioneering research led to the understanding of the neurobiology of emotions. – jumped off the bed and grabbed Bob’s shoes.
I wish he’d at least change his socks.
Bob grinned broadly. “Time for our morning w-a-l-k?” By her reaction, Huda seemed to know how to spell as well.
“Neuroscience over the next 50 years is going to introduce things that are mind-blowing.” ~ David Eagleman
Bob pulled into the reserved parking space at Harvard’s Center for Brain Study. It was one of the perks that the Director of Neuroscience Research received. He looked at Huda and said, “Well, are you ready to make history?” Huda ignored him, focusing on a squirrel that scampered up an adjacent tree.
Why doesn’t he see those evil little skittering squirrels? He should just let me out. Doesn’t he realize I’m a hunter? Some scientist he is.
Hooking the leash, he strolled across the campus green toward the imposing building that housed the Neuroscience Department. Several students waved at the familiar sight of him and Huda walking.
“Good morning, Dr. Denton. Good morning, Huda,” said the guard.
“Good morning, George.”
Hello man in blue. Do you have any treats for me?
“Professor, what do neurons use to talk to each other? A cellular phone.”
Bob stopped long enough to give George a look and a groan. “Really? Don’t give up your day job, George,” although he couldn’t help but give a small laugh at this daily ritual.
George just smiled.
No, no treats today. You’d think by now that he would know what I like.
It struck Bob as he walked toward the lab that this was the same question he had about Huda earlier. Routines. Rituals. How much of what we do is taught by routines … or do we simply categorize our life into regular patterns instinctually?
His thought was interrupted by his graduate assistant, Beverly, rushing up to him. “We’re all set, Dr. Denton. We ran the simulation twenty times and the new algorithms worked perfectly.”
Huda’s tail wagged. It’s my friend. I like the way she smells.
Bob smiled. “Well then, I guess we’re ready to proceed to the next phase. Human testing!” He laughed, turning with a slight nod toward the Husky. “No offense meant, Huda.”
There he goes, making sounds at me again. He’s smiling so it must mean something good.
The neuroscience department had been researching brain elasticity – it’s ability to change and adapt – for several years. Bob had a theory that the neurons and their patterns in one brain could be synchronized with another brain allowing the recipient to feel the eand perhapshe sender … and perhaps more. The difficulty was in translation since each brain had a unique structure so that a certain sequence – such as sadness – would need to be duplicated not only in patterns but also in the correct part of the brain structure.
“Science fiction,” the dean had said when Bob first approached him. “A waste of time and money. We are the premier school; we don’t want to become a laughing stock!” Until a researcher in India was able to send an intelligible thought to a fellow researcher in the U.K. in 2014 and the Japanese published their findings about being able to translate thoughts into numbers and words in 2017.
It had taken a year, building on the research, to refine the approach and develop the translations program. Today would be the first test of Bob’s theory.
Bob led Huda into the small room and sat on the couch. The technicians placed a cap on both. Huda’s was studded with small microchip “readers” that would sense the pattern and strength of her “thoughts.” His was crowded with small electromagnets that would mimic the activity in Huda’s mind.
Why is he covering my head? This means we’ll be here a while so I think I’ll take a nap.
“Are you ready, Dr. Denton?” Beverly asked. “We’ll begin with three minutes. That should allow enough time for the program to map and begin the mimicking process.”
Bob gave a thumbs-up as Huda jumped on the couch, turned around twice, and began to nap. “I guess we’ll know it’s working if I fall asleep,” he said lightheartedly. Bob relaxed back into the cushions, trying to let his mind go blank.
“There’s a light crawling sensation,” he murmured knowing that his responses were being recorded. He allowed himself to drift. He felt at peace. Suddenly, Huda sat up and stared at him. He could sense that she was … curious and attentive. He felt anticipation, all of which he recorded.
What’s that buzzing sound? It’s coming from Bob’s head. Maybe a squirrel has gotten in.
Then … nothing. “Let’s try a longer session,” he said. “I think we were just coming into synchronization.”
“Are you sure?” asked Beverly.
Bob smiled. “Yes. Let’s see what happens. Remember what Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I've found it!), but 'That's funny...'.
Bob relaxed again and almost immediately found himself reflecting the emotions of Huda. “She somehow knows that we’re doing something.” He stared into the dog's eyes and knew she was curious about was going on.
There’s that sound again. I don’t smell any squirrels.
“I think the longer we’re connected, the deeper the mimicking is affecting my brain.” He allowed his eyes to close and could “see” himself projected inside his mind.
“Damn! I think I’m getting some visual cortex too. I can see myself through her eyes. It’s very ghost-like but I’m sure that’s what I’m experiencing.” Overwhelming feelings of loyalty washed over him.
Huda cocked her head and stared. Okay. Aren’t we done yet? I could use a potty break.
Suddenly, Bob laughed. “Okay. Let’s end this session.”
Beverly came in the room, a concerned look on her face. “Is there a problem?”
Bob grinned. “Nope. Huda told me she needed to pee.”
Bob and Huda left the isolation room and walked into a celebration. The technicians and other researchers were high-fiving each other. Bob raised his hand. “It appears that our theories are correct. But, this is only the first step. We know what happened but not the why. Still, congratulations to us all. Let’s finish up and we’ll meet tomorrow morning – 10 a.m. sharp - to discuss next steps.”
Everybody seems happy and excited. Now, pick up the leash. Come on Bob, you know you want to leave.
Bob bent over to attach the leash to Huda. “Whoa!” He felt an emotional wave of Huda’s excitement to leave.
Beverly looked at him questioningly.
“I think there’s a carryover effect. When I got close to Huda, I definitely picked up on her feelings. I’m sure it will wear off in time but it’s something we need to add to our list for further study.”
As they pulled out of the parking lot, Bob lowered the passenger window half way down.
Good boy, Bob. There are so many interesting smells and I love the feel of the wind.
On the way home, Bob found he could block most of Huda's feelings with minimal effort although he did have a constant desire to stick his head out the window.
“I had a thought … and then realized it wasn’t mine.” ~ Steven Wright
Wake up, Bob. Wake up!
Bob opened his eyes and found the familiar liquid brown eyes staring intently at his face. “Okay, this is getting weird. You’re not my alarm clock, Huda,” he laughed. At the sound of her name, Huda reverted to kissing mode and Bob was overwhelmed with feelings of joy and excitement.
The morning walk went without incident. Bob strolled to a nearby park and meandered aimlessly, following Huda’s lead. He was pleased by the progress that they had made in validating his theory and knew that a lot of work lay ahead. He was sure that further study would open new frontiers in neuroscience.
Huda checked the trees for squirrels, picking up an interesting scent. She followed it toward an odd shape near the curb.There have been others here. I know that smell. It’s that little dog that loves to bark at me. I’ll just let her know I was here.
Bob opened himself to Huda. He smiled at the feelings. The connection was noticeably weaker now, although … he was very tempted by the fire hydrant.
An entry for the June round of "Journey Through Genres: Official Contest"
Word Limit: 2000
Word Count: 1558