Grub raised the lenses. 'Not bad. It's a human Western. Plenty of shooting and
'Maybe I'll borrow it when you're finished?'
'No problem, Doctor. But handle it carefully. Human disks are very expensive. I'll give you a special cloth.'
Argon nodded. He remembered Grub Kelp now. The LEP officer was very particular about his possessions. He had already written two letters of complaint to the clinic board about a protruding floor rivet that had scratched his boots.
Argon consulted Koboi's chart. The plasma screen on the wall displayed a constantly updated feed from the sensors attached to her temples. There was no change, nor did he expect there to be. Her vitals were all normal, and her brain activity was minimal. She'd had a dream earlier in the evening but now her mind had settled. And finally, as if he needed telling, the seeker-sleeper implanted in her arm informed him that Opal Koboi was indeed where she was supposed to be. Generally the seeker-sleepers were implanted in the head, but pixie skulls were too fragile for any local surgery.
Jerbal punched in his personal code on the reinforced door's keypad. The heavy door slid back to reveal a spacious room, with gently pulsing floor mood lights. The walls were soft plastic, and gentle sounds of nature spilled from recessed speakers. At the moment a brook was splashing over flat rocks.
In the middle of the room, Opal Koboi hung suspended in a full body harness. The straps were gel padded and adjusted automatically to any body movement. If Opal did happen to wake the harness could be remotely triggered to seal like a net, preventing her from harming herself.
Argon checked the monitor pads, making sure they had good contact on Koboi's forehead. He lifted one of the pixie's eyelids, shining a pencil light at the pupil. It pupil contracted slightly, but Opal did not avert her eyes.
Well, anything to tell me today, Opal?' asked the doctor softly. 'An opening chapter for my book?'
Argon liked to talk to Koboi, just in case she could hear. When she woke up, he reasoned, he would have already have established a rapport.
'Nothing? Not a single insight?'
Opal did not react. As she hadn't for almost a year.
'Ah well,' said Argon, swabbing the inside of Koboi's mouth with the last cotton bud in his pocket. 'Maybe tomorrow, eh?'
He rolled the cotton bud across a sponge pad on his clipboard. Seconds later, Opal's name flashed up on a tiny screen.
'DNA never lies,' muttered Argon, tossing the bud into a recycling bin.
With one last look at his patient, Jerbal Argon turned towards the door.
'Sleep well, Opal,' he said almost fondly.
He felt calm again, the pain in his leg almost forgotten. Koboi was as far under as she had ever been. She wasn't going to wake up any time soon. The Koboi fund was safe.
It's amazing just how wrong one gnome can be.
Opal Koboi was not catatonic, but neither was she awake. She was somewhere in-between, floating in a liquid world of meditation where every memory was a bubble of multi-coloured light popping gently in her consciousness.
Since her early teens Opal had been a disciple of Gola Schweem, the cleansing coma guru. Schweem's theory was that there was a deeper level of sleep than experienced by most fairies. The cleansing coma state could usually only be reached after decades of discipline and practice. Opal had reached her first cleansing coma at the age of fourteen.
The benefits of the cleansing coma were that a fairy awoke completely refreshed but also spent the sleep time thinking, or in this case, plotting. Opal's coma was so complete, that her mind was almost completely separated from her body. She could fool the sensors and felt no embarrassment at the indignities of intravenous feeding and changing. The longest recorded consciously self-induced coma was forty seven days. Opal had been under for eleven months and counting, though she wasn't planning to be counting much longer.
Copyright 2005 by Eoin Colfer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Penguin Group (UK). No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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