27 May 2011


By Curtis C. Chen

The girl didn't look happy. Her eyes were red, like she'd been crying. Her forearms were bandaged, and her wrists and ankles were secured to the bed rails with heavy straps.

She was also floating about an inch above the mattress.

"You have noticed that she's levitating, right?" Gottlieb said.

Humphrey rolled his eyes. "Of course we noticed. That's why we called you for a consult."

"Because you've been dealing with a lot of strange cases lately," Iskra said, handing Gottlieb a patient file. "And we're honestly not sure what's going on here."

Gottlieb looked through the observation window at the girl for a few more seconds, wanting to form an opinion before any of her records could bias him toward a particular diagnosis. Then he flipped through the file.

"Where are her parents?" he asked.

"Her mother's with the police," Humphrey said. "The officers found some controlled substances in the apartment when they responded to the 911 call."

"No father on record," Iskra added. "The mother's a sex worker. Got herself fixed after the first unwanted pregnancy."

"But she didn't have an abortion," Gottlieb said.

"Not for lack of trying," Humphrey said.

Gottlieb looked up. "You pulled the mother's file?"

"Yeah. Cops wanted to know if she was clean."

"And why don't I have it here?"

Humphrey frowned. "It's not medically relevant."

"I'll decide that for myself," Gottlieb said. "You want me to consult, you get me all the facts. What kind of sterilization procedure did the mother undergo? Was it surgical?"

"Artificial menopause," Iskra said.

Gottlieb blinked. "What?"

"Endocrine regulation, using a combination of—"

"I know what it is," Gottlieb snapped. He looked at Humphrey. "A teenage girl starts floating in midair, and you don't think it could be hormone-related?"

"That was the mother, not the daughter," Humphrey said. "Implants aren't hereditary. And she didn't even have the procedure until after her daughter was born."

"How soon after the birth? Did she breast-feed her daughter?" Gottlieb asked. "What kind of endocrine implant did she have? Was it HPG axis-limited? Was there a nanotech component to the treatment? I need to see that file."

Humphrey scowled, said, "Doctor Iskra can get it for you," and walked out of the room.

"Nice to see you haven't lost your touch," Iskra said, shaking his head. "I'll get you the mother's medical records. Any ideas in the meantime?"

"Has the girl—what's her name?"

"Caitlin. Caitlin Kearny."

"Has Caitlin complained of nausea, dizziness, or vertigo?"

Iskra nodded. "All three. Do you know what's causing it?"

I hope not, Gottlieb thought. "Is it persistent, or does it come and go?"

"She says it happens whenever she gets intoxicated—usually just alcohol, though she's admitted to marijuana use, too. The discomfort also seems to coincide with her, um, levitation episodes."

Shit. "I'm going to need blood and tissue samples."

Iskra frowned. "What are you testing for?"

I can't tell you that. "I don't know," Gottlieb said.


Photo: High Diver by Evan Leeson, June, 2009