Instantaneous Reactions

She took a deep breath, trying to place the feeling that stuck in her mind.  It was dark, she couldn't seem to open her eyes, and yet she was still aware of her thoughts.  Perhaps a combination of an out-of-body experience and a on-the-brink-of-sleep feeling?  She figured that would just have to do for the moment.

"Now then, Elizabeth."  a voice addressed her.  It sounded like Jason.  "This will be a test of your instantaneous reactions.  Your immediately-conscious mind is suspended for the moment, while your subconscious is heightened in its place.  Are you ready?"

Elizabeth felt herself shrug.  "Ready as I can be," she thought.

"Good.  Your task is this: I will give you a word, and you must simply think of what that word reminds you of.  For example, if I say 'tree'..."

"I think 'shade.'"

"Good, good.  I must tell you, whatever word you think in response to my word, and its train of thought, will be seen to me.  You understand?"

"I don't have much choice, do I?"

She could've sworn she heard an amused chuckle.  "Even your subconscious remarks are clever.  But frankly that doesn't surprise me."  Was there a note of admiration in there?  "Now then.  We begin."

Elizabeth took a deep breath.


Park.  Her mind flew back to when she was six, at the park a few blocks from her house.  There was that ancient sycamore tree right in the center of the park.  She'd decided on a whim to climb the tree, and without a thought or care she scurried up the trunk and settled nicely onto a nice wide branch.


A pause.  "Book."

Book.  The library.  The scent of  paper, ink, glue, age, and exotic knowledge all mingled.  It reminded her of a spice section in a gourmet shop she'd visited once.


Another pause, but this time it seemed bemused.  "Chocolate."

Chocolate.  For some reason, her mind drifted back to the family's visit to Buenos Aires.  A friend of theirs had given her this chocolate-cookie-dulche de leche thing, she couldn't quite remember the name.  Ah well, it was heaven in a cookie.  As she took a bite, she'd happened to look up at a cathedral as they passed.  She could barely stand it, the sweetness of chocolate and the beauty of the church.


"Interesting... Pursued."

Pursued.  Her heart began to skip, her legs tighten.  She bit the sides of her tongue, squeezed her eyes closed.



Drip.  The spigot in the neighbor's driveway.  In the summer, when her windows were open, all she could hear was drip-drip-drip-drip-drip...



Courage.  Hadn't Jason said something about her having courage just earlier today?  Hadn't that comment puzzled her a bit?


"Hm.  Export."

Export.  Her computer, crouching on her desk safe at home.  It had been trusty over the years, especially with exports.  The home row of keys felt smooth and comfortable under her fingers.



Guy.  Ah, he pronounced it like the French name.  Wasn't there an author of a short story she'd read whose name was Guy?  "The Interlopers," that's what it was... it had a peculiar ending.



Ploy.  Immediately she thought of that Shakespeare conversation she had with Jason earlier that day, but going back to 1992 seemed to alter the time-stream just enough to make it so it did not occur.



Game.  The orientation.  That first test.

Once the game starts, there will be no second chances,” the computer voice's "warning" echoed through her head. “Be careful, Ms. Quinn. It would be a waste to lose you so early in the game.

Game? Is this all a game to you?” she had snapped.

"Incredulity," she subconsciously admitted.

"Most interesting, Elizabeth," Jason's voice mused.  "Very, very interesting indeed..."  He paused for a moment.  "Now, would you care to continue testing, or perhaps begin the night session?"

"There's a night session?" her mind cried in disbelief.  She could feel her conscious mind coming back.

"Indeed.  It's not as strenuous as these tests, we simply monitor you as you sleep.  More testing simply postpones it for the moment."

"Do you have a preference?  I mean, are there certain conditions you want to test under?"

Jason considered for a moment.  "Well, the results are much more spontaneous, and therefore maybe more genuine, when your mind becomes fatigued.  How about it?  Are you up to a bit more testing?"

The End

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