Cognizoid, Louise found, had been designed to work particularly on patients taking Neures-Q, and had been found to significantly improve cognitive function in those patients. Despite the company’s assertion that they had designed CZD for a purpose, the mechanism of action in the drug labeling was still “unknown,” and didn’t offer any “it is thought” speculation.
For four days, she had remembered to look up the medication several times, but never while she sat at her screen. The instant she sat at her screen, her memory of what she’d planned to look up vanished. She really had no idea how she spent most of her days now. Time seemed to melt away, sunshine passing to darkness with a fluidity that often frightened her. She tried to pin time down to a linear chronology—she’d been a master of this when she was working—but it slithered away from her when she wasn’t paying attention.
“Significant cognitive improvement, eh?” Louise said, squinting at the little yellow diamonds. She carefully looked at the drug labeling for dose, and it appeared that one tablet per day, in the morning, was the starting dose, with clinical testing showing that one could safely take up to four per day.
She stared at the tablets for what felt like a long time.
“Oh, all right,” she said to the imaginary Mick dancing around excitedly at her shoulder. She went and poured an iced tea for herself in the kitchenette, then brought it back to her screen, fiercely clinging to the memory of the tablets for the entire round trip.
She picked up one tablet and washed it down her throat, letting the sweet tea cover the bitterness of the pill.
Then she waited. She had gotten good at waiting these last few years.
When Louise looked up from her screen and keyboard at last, it was four hours later, and she had nearly 5000 words of journal entry in her machine’s memory. It had been an eternity since her mind had moved this easily, turning a tarantella through words and thoughts faster than her fingers could type. She felt euphoric, uplifted, gloriously relieved of the horrible burden of her failing mind.
She flipped panes on her screen and started searching for more information on this drug. There was precious little out there. The pivotal clinical trial was easily found, and it was written up as drily as any other journal article. The words and concepts shaped themselves neatly for her as she read, and stayed in her memory so that one paragraph made sense with the next. The outcome data were presented as psychological measures and cognitive tests of the patients. It was clear that not everyone experienced the same cognitive boost, but there was enough that it averaged out to be highly statistically significant. There were very few side effects: a little drowsiness, some nausea. The most severe side effect was disturbed sleep if taken at bedtime, thus the recommendation for only morning doses. She found that there was a database of patients taking the drug, which struck her as slightly odd, but it might be a standard practice for this type of drug now, when it was new to market.
It occurred to her that she didn’t know how long the effect could be expected to last. She’d used four glorious hours of her dose. She then used another fifteen minutes composing an artfully ingenuous email to her doctor, asking about Cognizoid, and spent another five minutes going back and editing it to look like her usual emails these days, as if written in a particularly “together” period.
A marvelous apparition of lost lucidity. Would every dose be like this one? Could it possibly be something she could continue to experience, this nigh-holy miracle that Mick had sent her? In a little looking around online, she was surprised to find no mention of addiction in the side effects, given her own ecstasies, but it had only been a six-week trial, after all.
She was also surprised to find no online gatherings of Cognizoid patients. It seemed unlikely that every patient, given precious hours of mental function, would squander it by romping in green fields and family gatherings far from their keyboards. Where were the temporarily non-demented hiding?
Her Minder’s voice interrupted. “Louise, our weekly sweep has detected a virus on your machine. May I run the cleansing protocols?”
Louise scowled at the screen. “What kind of virus?”
There was a pause, seemingly (to Louise’s vivid imagination) as though the Minder was startled that she’d asked. Then the Minder said, “It is a Foxhunt virus.”
The Minder assumed a pedantic turn of phrase. “A Foxhunt virus infiltrates the machine and links it into a network of farmed servers,” the Minder said, almost archly. “This variety of malware then uses the slaved machines, also known as zombies, to pursue a particular goal, sometimes a security flaw, sometimes—”
“That’s enough,” she said. “Go ahead and clean it.”
A small timer appeared in the top right corner of the screen, visually counting down as the “cleansing protocols” took hold.
She turned her mind (gracefully, swiftly, with no distractions) back to her own issues.
When should she take her next (and currently only) dose? Was there someone else in this building who had a supply of Cognizoid she might share? Some conspiracy of hags that trafficked in sanity for their fellow crones? Would her doctor send her the prescription for which she’d barely restrained herself from begging?
The elimination half-life of Cognizoid was 11.7 hours, she found in the literature. Meaning that she had 6 or 7 hours, give or take, before the dose began to drop below what were probably effective levels in her body, and no measure of how long after that she would retain her precious marbles.
What to do next?
Her gaze fell on the single shelf of books she’d been allowed to bring when she moved here. It had been a wrench to give up her library, but it hadn’t mattered as much as she expected, since she’d lost the memory for reading anything more than magazine articles. It had been several years now since she’d picked up those books to do any more than admire the covers.
She imagined Mick laughing at her. I give you your mind back, she would say, and you spend the day reading. Typical.
She spent the next 8 hours rolling around in the lush and lyrical prose of Toni Morrison’s classic, Beloved. By the time she reached the last sentence, she could feel her mind draining away. She virtuously took herself off to her tiny bed in the corner of the room while the words still clung together in her mind.