The ExperimentA short story by Jonathan Mitchell
"Bring Jimmy out," called Dr. Richard Harding to Stuart Hallikis, his lab assistant. Dr. Harding was a psychiatrist at the university who doubled as both a researcher and clinician.
Harding looked up pathetically towards the mildly mentally retarded lab assistant who had an IQ of about 70. Stuart was about 58 years old, 6'2", 250 pounds. He wore ill-fitting scrungy clothes and had a red carnation in his lapel. He was not happy with Stuart but he had been forced to hire Stuart due to the university's affirmative action program.
Harding was apprehensive and understandably so. Tomorrow he would make his announcement to a variety of science journalists from all of the major newspapers, and by extension to the world, of the major breakthrough he had made in his autism brain research work, summarizing his findings which would be published in The New England Journal of Medicine the following week. He remembered Murphy's law about whatever could go wrong would. He was hoping to defy the odds, but he was apprehensive just the same.
Stuart returned, leading a man with autism of about 40 by the hand.
Harding lost his temper a little bit. "No, no, no, that's not Jimmy, that's Tommy. Tommy is a Sharon Stone fan, not a Heather Locklear fan. Can't you do anything right!"
"Sowwy, sowwy, Dr. Hawding," said Stuart sounding genuinely contrite for his lack of competency.
Stuart left and returned with a younger autist male of about 19. He was jumping up and down saying, "Heather Locklear, big clunky shoes, kiss big clunky shoes," autistic gibberish that was part of some sort of OCD symptomatology that Harding did not understand.
"Is Jimmy?" inquired Stuart.
"Yes, thank you." At least that retard had finally done something right, he thought to himself.
"Look, Jimmy, Heather Locklear, big clunky shoes," said Harding, pointing his finger to the Holographic image that had been projected on the wall.
Jimmy started to get very excited and immediately removed his pants and started masturbating very vigorously to the image of Heather Locklear. Harding waited until the ejaculation.
"Stuart, come in here, now take the eye dropper and get 20 cc's of semen, you think you can do that?" Harding inquired, eyeballing his intellectually challenged lab assistant cynically.
Stuart nodded and applied the eyedropper to Jimmy's lower stomach where the semen from his ejaculation was located and then putting the white sticky liquid in a test tube.
"Okay, now take this to the sperm bank room and make sure the thermostat is set at 18 degrees Celsius," Harding said to Stuart.
Stuart left the room and went to deliver the semen to the sperm bank where semen from autistic inpatients on the hospital ward was kept. Then Stuart returned.
"OK, Stuart, now bring Tommy out."
Stuart returned with Tommy. Harding then turned on the holographic projector which showed a morphed nude image of actress Sharon Stone at an age where she was about 10 years younger than now.
Tommy got excited and started jumping up and down. "A golf date with Sharon Stone, a golf date with Sharon Stone," he kept repeating. Tommy's autistic gibberish, like Jimmy's, was interesting. As if on cue, Tommy, like Jimmy before him previously, took off his pants and started masturbating while looking at the holographic image of the youthful Sharon Stone naked. Stuart, again, at Harding's direction, got out an eye dropper, obtained the specified amount of semen and delivered it to the sperm bank, and came back for the next inpatient that Harding wanted to use.
The next individual was Albert Tamaguchi, a tall half- Japanese autistic teenager who was an inpatient on the ward who was absolutely smitten with Jennifer Love Hewitt and watched the t.v. show A Party of Five religiously. Albert often clapped his hands compulsively. Also, at the age of 3, he had been completely nonverbal. Though he had recovered his speech, he still had some speech impairments and stammered when he talked.
"Jenn----Jennn--Jennifer Lov---Love Hewi---Hewitt," said Albert as he was being lead to the hologram room by Stuart, managing to finally spit it out. Harding then put his finger on the switch of the holographic projector but hesitated. He decided that it was time to see if the classical conditioning vis-a-vis Pavlov had really worked on Albert. Instead of turning on the projector to show the holographic image of Ms. Hewitt, Harding pushed a button which sounded a loud buzzer. Albert immediately dropped his pants and started masturbating. It worked! Harding was very pleased. He knew that in his best Pavlovian fashion that pairing the hologram with the buzzer would work and he no longer needed to show the image of the actress to Albert in order to get him to jack off. Again, after Albert ejaculated, Stuart, at Harding's direction, collected the semen and placed it in the sperm bank.
Harding decided that it was now time to get Nathan, a Nicole Kidman fan, when he heard a knock on the laboratory door. "Come in," said Harding. In came an individual Harding had never seen before, but was bespectacled and bearded and looked very much the part of an academic who was part of the University's autism brain research staff.
"Yes, can I help you?" queried Harding.
"Yes, I'm Jack Schlag, the new event related potential postdoc. I just need to know where my locker and office and lab and stuff is. I have to say, Dr. Harding, it is a pleasure to meet someone as eminent in the field of autism brain research as you are."
"Thank you, call me Dick."
Schlag nodded enthusiastically. Harding beckoned Schlag with his finger, to follow him. The two men walked together side by side.
"Fourier analysis of brain waves, right?" Harding asked.
"Yep, that's my forte," answered Schlag, smiling a bit.
"So, that's the famous Jack Off room?" asked Schlag, with an obviously piqued curiosity.
"The one and only," replied Harding.
"So this work is a bit out of my field, but I am still curious as to what purpose, getting your autistic inpatients on the ward to masturbate and collecting their semen serves."
"Well, part of it is to do some cognitive studies of reactions of autistic men to celebrities. It is part of a study that I am planning to submit to The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders this fall. Also, the second purpose is that there is some evidence that the genetics of autism may be caused partly by autosomal dominance in some cases. The semen is used to study the genetic material rather than blood as most of our research subjects are scared of needles and often become combative when we try to draw blood. It is not a pleasant task trying to restrain a 6 foot tall 180 pound autistic male while a phlebotomist is trying to draw blood, believe me. Thirdly, but not least, the semen contains a much higher concentrate of vanilmandelic acid than any other body fluid, therefore it is useful to have our research subjects jack off to get as much semen as possible so we can compare the concentrations of vanilmandelic acid in our autistic subjects to those of normal controls."
Schlag's curiosity was piqued even further. "Vanilmandelic acid is the metabolite of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, right?"
"That's correct," answered Harding. "There is increasing evidence that the neurophysiology of autism involves some sort of noradrenergic etiology."
"That's very interesting, " said Schlag. "I knew that the hyperserotonemia hypothesis was popular for a long time, but when the evidence did not seem really conclusive, research in that area languished or even bit the dust."
Harding did not reply and the two men continued their walk to Schlag's new office. Harding stopped for a second outside a certain door. "How about I give you a tour of the lab?" asked Harding.
"Sure, that would be interesting."
Harding opened the door. Schlag then saw some Silicon Graphics work stations with digitized MRI scans of various brains a couple of the terminals had computer programmers, clicking away keying code on one screen, then switching back to the other screen with a digitized photo of the MRI scan of the brain.
They went through another room with stereotactic instruments for doing brain surgery on experimental animals, the room also contained microtomes, devices for cutting up brain tissue for microscopic viewing. Also tanks of nitrous oxide and bottles full of chemicals such as sodium thiopental and potassium chloride.
Harding did not say anything to Schlag during the tours of the rooms, he just let the rooms and things speak for themselves. Schlag looked on with interest.
Next Harding opened a door that lead to another room. It was an empty room, only noteworthy for the floor which was made out of some sort of metallic grid-like material.
"What's this room for?" asked Schlag.
"Well this was the electric shock room," replied Harding. "We used this room for aversive therapy on persons with autism and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome who engaged in self-mutilatory behavior, you know, biting themselves, even to the extent of chewing their fingers off, things like that. This metallic floor served as a conductor for the 10,000 volt electric shocks that we would deliver to these people while they walked barefoot on this floor and we did this when they would bite themselves and things like that. Also, it was sometimes the only way to get a mute autistic person to speak or to get them toilet trained so they did not piss and shit everywhere. Unfortunately, the state enacted a new law recently prohibiting us from using the aversives, so this is just an empty room now."
Schlag was appalled at Harding's methods for the treatment of these people and told him so. "Well, I'm glad they made that new law. That is really terrible using such barbaric methods to control persons' behavior."
Harding became angry and defensive. "These aversives were absolutely necessary! A lot of these people--mostly kids--would chew parts of their fingers off sometimes until this was done. Now that this treatment has been banned we have had to go back to using three point restraints on all of these people."
Schlag, being new to the lab, decided to let the matter rest, worried that he may have said too much already.
Finally, the tour was concluded with Harding showing Schlag where his locker, office, lab, etc were. Then, after showing Schlag where the coffee room was, Schlag checked out the lab that he would be working in. He saw some research subjects with electrodes taped to their heads to measure brain waves as well as some machines which generated lights of various colors as well as research subjects wearing headphones that played sounds in order to elicit evoked responses for measurements of their brain waves. Schlag immediately became secure in his new milieu and went to work.
Later, eating his lunch in the lunchroom, Schlag noticed Dr. Harding sitting by himself, eating his lunch that he had gotten from a Chinese takeout stand near the university. He was worried that he might have generated a conflict with Harding, earlier that morning when he had criticized the doctor's advocacy of the use of powerful aversives when treating developmentally disabled persons who had self-mutilatory behaviors. He decided it would be best to be civil to the doctor and try to establish a dialogue with him about the current happenings in autism research, a subject that both he and Harding were interested in.
Gathering up his courage, Schlag walked up to where Dr. Harding was sitting and asked him if the seat across from him was taken. Harding motioned with his hand, indicating that it was okay for Schlag to sit across from him. Schlag smiled, a nice social amenity, before trying to make small talk with the good doctor.
"I was wondering wherever you got the idea of using celebrities to get autistic men to masturbate and generate semen for you to collect."
To Schlag's surprise and relief, Harding then became very enthusiastic about explaining his research and motivations to Schlag.
"Well, have you ever read Oliver Sacks' book, An Anthropologist on Mars?"
Schlag nodded, curiosity ever piqued.
"Well, then you remember the piece on Stephen Wiltshire, the autistic savant with the incredible gift for drawing?"
Again, Schlag nodded. "Yes, of course."
"Well, you might remember in his book, Sacks talked about what a big fan Stephen Wiltshire was of the t.v. show Beverly Hills, 90210 and how smitten he was with Jenny Garth, one of the actresses on the show."
Schlag listened intently to Dr. Harding.
"Well, it occurred to me that this might not be a unique phenomenon and that due to their OCD symptomatology, many autistic males might be smitten with celebrities, who often serve as figures of fantasy. Well, I did some preliminary research on the subject which pretty much confirmed this. Using inpatients on the ward as my research subjects I found men smitten with Heather Locklear, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Love Hewitt, etc. and this ended up as the idea of a cognitive study which, as I believe I told you before I am planning to submit to The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in the fall. I also figured why not kill two or more birds with one stone and also used this to obtain semen samples for research on the genetics of autism as well as for comparisons of vanilmandelic acid metabolization between the autistics and normal controls."
"Well, that is very interesting," replied Schlag.
"Yes, I would agree," said Harding between bites of cheap Chinese cuisine and then continued. "Of course, I am kind of nervous about tomorrow."
"Yes, if you will remember, tomorrow is when I make my announcement to the press about my latest findings and breakthrough on elucidating on that ever elusive enigma of the neurophysiology of autism."
Harding wondered if he should discuss his findings with his new colleague. After all, they had not initially established a rapport since they had had that difference of opinion concerning the use of aversives on persons with developmental disabilities. However, Harding was now beginning to feel that he was establishing a rapport with Schlag. He had a hard time controlling his enthusiasm since up til now he had told just a few people in the lab, it had taken all of the restraint he had not to loosen his lips. Maybe he was being judgemental of Schlag due to his hostility about the use of aversives. After all, pure academic researchers with minimal or no clinical exposure to these problems just did not understand the gravity of the situation and what drastic steps needed to be taken. Part of it also may have been his resentment and anger about the new state law being passed. He decided that Schlag was a worthy confidant.
"Well," said Harding, "let me tell you about our new breakthroughs since you are now working with us here in the lab. You are getting a crack at this inside info just before the media and general public tomorrow."
Schlag perked up, raising his head in an attentive manner, anxiously awaiting what Harding had to tell him.
"Surely you are aware that in recent years there has been an exhaustive amount of research implicating the cerebellum in the etiology of autism."
"Yes, of course," answered Schlag.
"Well, as you know, the data from MRI studies as well as postmortem autopsies of autistics from the labs of Courchesne and Bauman and many others has now implicated certain parts of the cerebellum in the etiology of autism, particularly the sixth and seventh lobules of the cerebellar vermis. What is also interesting is that the pioneering work of James Olds and others have shown that stimulation of certain brain areas are reinforcing. Some of these areas include certain parts of the cerebellum such as the vermis and superior cerebellar peduncle."
Schlag had been listening attentively with great interest as Harding paused for a bit to catch his breath.
"Are you familiar with the publications some years ago of Routtenberg?"
Schlag shook his head. "No, it doesn't ring a bell."
Harding continued. "Well, as you also know, autistic children often self-stimulate, they rock back and forth and twiddle their fingers, sometimes for hours on end. Queries of those with the highest-functioning autism, as well as those with Asperger's syndrome, the milder variant of autism, indicate that these self-stimulatory behaviors are often done in conjunction with fantasies, akin to sexual masturbation. They dream of being secret agents, stockbrokers making millions in the stock market, etc while they engage in these behaviors. Routtenberg and his colleagues a number of years ago did studies of self-stimulation of the superior cerebellar peduncle in rats, showing the stimulation of this area was reinforcing in rats."
Harding again paused for a moment and Schlag managed to get a word in edgewise.
"Well, I guess this has to do with the locus coeruleus, from which all the major noradrenergic pathways in the brain travel, including a projection to the superior cerebellar peduncle."
"Yes, exactly, it has to do with the dorsal tegmental bundle. It emanates from the locus coeruleus to various portions of the brain such as the hippocampus and the cerebellum, two areas that have been shown to be implicated in the etiology of autism. Also to the superior cerebellar peduncle. But, continuing on with Routtenberg, he and his colleagues found that ablation of the locus coeruleus and the dorsal tegmental bundle did not abolish the effects of reinforcing stimulation of the superior cerebellar peduncle, they therefore concluded that reinforcing brain stimulation was not mediated by norepinephrine. However, it is my humble opinion that Routtenberg et al were neglecting to distinguish the forest from the trees."
Noting the enigmatically perplexed look on Schlag's face, Harding continued. "Well, it is just possible that norepinephrine did play a role, but not as an excitatory neurotransmitter but rather as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. In a normal organism, the right amount of norepinephrine is necessary to inhibit the synaptic vesicles in neurons in the superior cerebellar peduncle. I hypothesized that in an autistic person, the locus coeruleus, and the superior cerebellar peduncle and the tract that connects these two nuclei, namely the dorsal tegmental bundle, is damaged, thus neglecting to inhibit the neurons in the superior cerebellar peduncle, thus causing the rocking and self-stimulatory behaviors of the autistic whose brain activity is not being served by the normal inhibitory processes that the correct amounts of norepinephrine from the dorsal tegmental bundle and locus coeruleus would be serving in them."
Harding continued. "It was no easy task to do the research to empirically validate these hypotheses. One of the major problems is that autistic people usually live out their natural lives, so tissue for postmortem autopsies were hard to come by. Another problem is that even though MRI scanning has advanced to the point where statistically significant differences in sizes of certain parts of the cerebellum in autistics and normal controls can be validly measured, the superior cerebellar peduncle in the human brain is only about a few cubic millimeters, thus it is much too small to do statistically significant measurement differences between autistics and normal controls given the current state of the art of MRI scanning until recently....," Harding paused a bit for some sort of effect. "However, with the latest advents in computer technology coming from Silicon Graphics, we have been able to resolve this problem, by representing the superior cerebellar peduncle in digitized MRI scans on the Silicon Graphics computers as a group of pixels. Our research on laboratory animals, not only replicated Routtenberg's findings, but we have improved upon him. We have found that by selectively stimulating just the gray matter of the superior cerebellar peduncle. We can take the digitized scan on the computer and measure the intensity of each pixel of the superior cerebellar peduncle and using technology similar to that of a photographic enlarger for photographs, we can take the gray matter and enlarge its size in both the digitized scans of the autistics and the normal controls, that we can measure the space in a matter of millimeters and micrometers, rather than just centimeters. To make a long story short, we now have the technology using computer enhanced imaging, to do such precise measurements that we can make comparisons of nuclei as small as the superior cerebellar peduncle in autistics versus normal controls, and based on about 50 experimental subjects and 40 control subjects, we have gotten statistically significant differences between the superior cerebellar peduncles that are much greater than those of the cerebellar vermises."
Schlag was duly impressed. "Why that is really exciting. However, what I want to know is have you correlated these with any postmortem studies, have you found damage to the dorsal tegmental bundle or other tracts?"
"Yes on both counts, however, the sample size was very small due to the limited amount of postmortem tissue that we have for study due to the problems that I stated earlier. You will hear all about it during my talk tomorrow." The lunch break was over and both men got back to work.
The next day, Harding stood on the podium in the university's neuropsychiatric research center's amphitheater. At first he stood facing some empty chairs but then numerous postdocs, physicians, graduate students and then finally newspaper reporters sauntered in and occupied all of the chairs in the room with standing room only for the latecomers.
Now it was time for the start of Harding's lecture. He placed his right hand on the lectern and maintained eye contact with his audience.
"Thank you all for coming today. As most of you know, I have invited you here because I am announcing what may be a major breakthrough on the part of our lab in elucidating on the etiology of the neurophysiology of autism. The editors of The New England Journal of Medicine have been duly impressed by the presentation of my findings and they have agreed to publish the results of what has now been a few years of hard research on this subject. I am most proud of this but I would also like to thank each and every one of you for coming today and feel privileged to be sharing the results with all of you. However, before I begin the presentation, I would like to emphasize that even though the data from this experiment was obtained from a relatively large sample size that these results are still preliminary and have yet to be replicated by any independent investigators. Though I hope that others will pursue this line of research and replicate these, what I hope someday to be, very seminal findings."
Harding then pulled down the screen and beckoned for Stuart, who was serving as his projectionist, to turn on the projector. Harding was a bit worried that the lummox would somehow manage to screw this up. To Harding's immense relief, Stuart turned on the projector, and, without a hitch, a picture of two human brains side by side, one normal and one autistic, were displayed on the projector.
Harding continued with his lecture. "Here you see we have two brains, one normal and one autistic. Look at the cerebellum and notice the differences in the sizes, the cerebellar hypoplasia in this particular autistic subject is so pronounced that it is visible to the naked eye. Of course you know that this is not always the case and sometimes precise measurements have to be made to differentiate between the sizes of the cerebellar vermis in autistics versus normal controls. So far I have told you nothing new, but take a look at this. Next slide please, Stuart."
Stuart then clicked the button on the projector and the screen was blank. Harding lost his temper a little bit but managed to be restrained in his response to Stuart.
Harding stopped his lecture and walked up to Stuart and said, "no, Stuart, you are doing it backwards, you have to flick the switch this way." Harding then showed Stuart the proper way to flick the switch on the projector, first getting to the slide of the comparison of the autistic and nonautistic brain and then going to the next slide showing enhanced and enlarged photos of the superior cerebellar peduncles of two different brains, one normal, one autistic.
Harding walked across the room, back to the podium and positioned himself immediately behind the lectern.
"Now, as I was saying before, here is a slide of a structure of two different brains, one of our autistic experimental subjects and a normal control. The structure that is being compared in this slide is known as the superior cerebellar peduncle...."
Harding then went into a detailed discussion about how the three cerebellar peduncles, superior, middle and inferior connected the cerebellum to the cerebral cortex and gave a brief summary of the findings of the Routtenberg research group. He then explained why he had felt it was applicable to autism and what his hypotheses were and how they had found statistically significant differences in the sizes of the superior cerebellar peduncle in the experimental autistic subjects versus the normal controls. He also explained that his theories about the noradrenergic role in autism had been further substantiated by the results of the comparisons in the amounts of vanilmandelic acid in the semen of the autistic men versus those of the normal controls. After giving the last part of his talk Harding accepted questions from the audience.
"Do you expect the results of your work to be replicated?" asked a science reporter from The New York Times.
"That would be very hard to say," replied Harding. "There are many uncertainties in science and sometimes other laboratories don't replicate the findings of one lab for a variety of reasons. In this case, it is sort of a tough wicket because the techniques we have used in this research, the computer software we had to write, the measurement techniques in order to measure in an MRI scan in a space of a few millimeters, so that we could study the superior cerebellar peduncle are very new and cutting edge techniques that other labs may not know how to do properly and this might prevent replication of our findings for a bit. I believe the assays for the vanilmandelic acid would probably be easier to replicate, but I am not sure how many labs would want to try our rather offbeat methods for collecting seminal fluid," finished Harding with a smile.
Harding recognized the next person in the audience who had his hand raised and acknowledged him, preparing himself for the inevitable invective of polemic that would follow. It was Trent Bostrom, a short, rotund pugnosed 24-year-old cognitive neuroscience graduate student at the other university across town and one of the main proteges of one of his chief rivals in autism brain research, Ph.D. cognitive neuroscientist Gregor Borirakchanyavat. Bostrom, an ambitious graduate student, attended whatever lecture he could and was always trying to knock down the pet theories of all of the big guns in autism brain research in order to get himself the best postdoc position possible after finishing graduate school.
"It seems to me that way too much emphasis has been placed on the cerebellum in trying to elucidate on the etiology of autism. Not only have the cerebellar hypoplasia results not been completely replicated but different investigators have found independent differences in different vermal layers, reducing its credibility. Furthermore, findings of cerebellar hypoplasia have not been unique to autism, also having been found in the MRI scans of brains of persons with such diverse conditions as schizophrenia, Down's syndrome and Alzheimer's as to really question what significance they have if any in elucidating upon in the etiology of autism. I was wondering why you have not concentrated on other brain structures such as the frontal lobes and basal ganglia. I am sure you are aware of the research that Demasio and Maurer did in the late 1970's showing that there were similarities between neurologic findings in persons who have had defects in these structures and the findings on neurologic evaluation of autistic subjects. Also, I am still skeptical as how you could have taken accurate measurements of the cerebellar peduncles as they are only a few cubic millimeters and still much to small to measure with any accurate precision."
Harding answered. "It seems you have been forgetting to take your Prozac, Trent," said Harding snidely. "But to cover at least part of your long winded diatribe, our labs and others have yet to find any significant differences between autistics and normal controls in frontal lobe and basal ganglia measurements. It has only been your lab and your mentor, dorky son of a bitch or whatever his name is who have found statistically significant differences. But, we felt like doing something more challenging. You know how easy measurements of the basal ganglia are to obtain in MRI imaging, but the cerebellar peduncles are a much more formidable challenge. Maybe you mentor does not feel this way, but we like to be challenged here in our lab. As far as the measurements of the cerebellar peduncles, yes, it is possible, we have the latest state of the art technology and computer software that we have written that make it possible to do such measurements."
"There's no such technology or computer program, you're a fucking liar!" Trent retorted.
He then started yelling and throwing a temper tantrum as he sometimes did at the lectures. Harding and some other persons who knew of Trent's reputation wondered if he did not have some sort of neurobehavioral disorder himself and if that is what had prompted him to seek a career as a brain researcher.
Harding immediately pushed with his right foot, the alarm signal that was on the floor of the podium that would signal security who would eject Trent from the amphitheater so that he could get on with the lecture.
Four uniformed security guards entered the amphitheater and tried to grab Trent to eject him. In spite of Trent's rotund body habitus he often went on long bike rides as a hobby and was still young and in excellent physical condition as well as having some knowledge in martial arts. He managed to hold the guards at bay for a bit with some kung fu kicks and karate chops.
Finally, Davy Hale, the youngest, but most street savvy of the guards managed to sidestep Trent's kicks and drew out his nightstick and with a well aimed whack managed to get Trent right in the jewels, forcing him down on the floor, writhing in pain. As Trent was moaning and groaning on the floor the guards picked him up and left the room and the building in order to eject him from the premises. Harding apologized for the disruption and resumed the question and answer session.
The next day, Harding was back in his lab about to go to the sperm bank in order to get some semen to perform even more experiments in obtaining assays of the amounts of vanilmandelic acid in the semen of the autistic masturbators. He had been worried for nothing. The lecture and question and answer session with the reporters had gone off without a hitch and he was very pleased. He had also been pleased to read the story about his work on the front page of the newspaper over breakfast and coffee that morning. After opening the door to the sperm bank and getting out the test tubes, some containing semen from autistic men, others from normal controls, Harding was dismayed to find that all of the semen had been frozen and was now absolutely useless. He would have to send out for more normal control semen as well as get some of the other autistic male inpatients on the ward to masturbate all over again, so he could collect even more samples that he needed in order to conduct his research. He looked at the thermostat. It had been set at 5 degrees Celsius. He had specifically told Stuart to set it at 18 degrees Celsius.
"Stuart get your ass in here!"
Stuart ran to the sperm bank on the double. Harding showed him the frozen semen and asked, "what is this thermostat set to?"
"Fife degweews," answered Stuart.
"How many degrees did I tell you to set it to?"
"I don't rewmembaw."
"I told you it had to be 18 degrees celsius exactly, you fucking idiot!. Now, get in that room and set the thermostat correctly!" Oh how Harding wished he could fire Stuart.
Stuart then set the thermostat to its correct temperature level and Harding immediately had Stuart fetch him as many autistic males on the ward as possible who were smitten with celebrities. There were Brittany Spears fans, Alicia Silverstone fans and so forth. Some of them had already been classically conditioned the way Albert had and he would not need to display a holographic image to them. Others he had to display a holographic image to of their dream girl one at a time.
Finally things were underway. Harding smiled to himself of the sight of a dozen autistic men in the Jack Off room masturbating en masse.
Harding heard a knock on the door. "Come in," he said.
Jenna Szarka, the 26-year-old first year psychiatric resident who Harding worked with and who happened to be three months pregnant popped her head into the room and then entered. Harding placed his hand on Jenna's gravid abdomen. "Feels like the baby is coming along fine."
"Hey, what's up, doc?" said Jenna in her best Bugs Bunny contralto. "It must be your cock from all of this research you are doing. I saw your lecture, you were great Dick! The media and The New England Journal of Medicine have been taken in hook line and sinker."
"Well, you heard Bostrom's questions. He's a nutcase, but he's pretty sharp. He knows we don't have any computer software or sophisticated measurement techniques to do research on the cerebellar peduncles."
"Do you think my baby will be autistic?" asked Jenna.
"Well," said Harding, smiling a trifle, "there is a 50/50 chance due to the fact that the father is autistic and is one of those cases of autism that is caused by autosomal dominance. I can't thank you enough for bearing the child from the donated sperm."
"It's the least I can do for the privilege of working for someone who is as much of a legend in the field of psychiatry and autism brain research as yourself."
"Oh, you are too kind. But we were able to get some women who needed money to bear these undocumented autism children, so that we could have some subjects to kill for all the postmortem autopsies, so that we could actually find out the promising role that the superior cerebellar peduncle plays in the etiology of autism. Just think, by making more research subjects available for autopsy we are making a difference in decades in the time that we will have really good treatments available for autism. Now, Jena, you know the drill, right?"
Jena nodded and left the room.
Harding always liked to play classical music while doing a brain autopsy on a new postmortem autistic subject. He took out a compact disk containing Mozart's 40th symphony in G minor and placed it in the CD player. He liked Mozart's music, but another reason he liked playing Mozart while he did his research was the irony. There was credible evidence that Mozart had had Tourette's syndrome, a cousin of autism.
While the pleasant sounds of Mozart's 40th symphony in G minor blared from the speakers of the CD player Harding, who decided that he could no longer trust Stuart's work, started collecting the semen from his autistic research subjects who had ejaculated and personally took them to the sperm bank. After he came into the room to collect more semen he saw Jena holding by the hand an autistic boy about 3 years old, giggling and smiling and jumping up and down.
"The spitting image of his mom," said Harding. "I guess he sort of has the nose of his father, Dennis, an inpatient we had on the ward almost four years back, but other than that he does not look like Dennis too much. What really counts though is he inherited his dad's autism."
"Such a shame he had to live such a sort life," said Jena.
"We're doing what has to be done," said Harding.
Jena injected the boy with sodium thiopental to relax his muscles and then with potassium chloride to stop the heart and provide an untimely demise of the 3-year-old child who was nameless, undocumented without birth certificate, in addition to having autism.
After his death, Jena chopped off his head with a guillotine. She then took his head and placed it on a cutting board, using a small chain saw to hack through the head and the skull, drowning out the Mozart music. Jena then deftly removed the dura mater and then the meninges, exposing the boy's postmortem brain. Then she found the cerebellum and using the microtome, cut the superior cerebellar peduncle of its attachment to the cerebral cortex and made fine slices of the peduncle with the microtome's knife. She then placed the tissue in a centrifuge to count the number of granule and Purkinje cells the tissue had. Then she walked over to the brain bank which was similar to the sperm bank, except it contained human postmortem brain tissue. She then left to get another intentionally bred autistic experimental subject to do another post mortem brain study.
Harding, after depositing the semen in the semen bank at the correct temperature so it would not freeze again, went to the ward and got another one of their subjects to sacrifice and obtain some brain tissue from. The 3-year-old boyy seemed to be upset, he was having a tantrum and Harding placated him with some candy. Harding then got out some of the sodium thiopental so he could start the procedure. As he was about to inject the boy he heard a thud. He whirled around and found Jena lying on the floor bleeding with a hole through her chest. He checked her pulse, she was dead and so was her unborn baby!
"Hold it right there, herr doktor."
The voice seemed familiar but Harding could not place it. He then surveyed the room and noticed Stuart standing a few feet away from him. In his right hand he held a Smith and Wesson .38 with a built in silencer in his right hand pointed at Harding and some sort of badge in his left hand.
"Stuart, what the...."
"My name is not Stuart. My real name is Paul Champion, state medical board, senior special agent. I went undercover, posing as your mildly mentally retarded lab assistant. The state medical board got a tip that you were violating the new law against using electric shocks and other painful aversives in therapy. I never dreamed I would find another Dr. Mengele and another Auschwitz. The carnation in my lapel is really a camouflage for a miniature cam corder and it has recorded all of your research activities as evidence."
Mozart still droned on in the background.
"Get down on all fours on your hands and knees, doc!"
Harding hesitated for a second.
"DO IT NOW, OR YOU'RE A DEAD MAN!" said agent Champion, still pointing his gun at Harding for emphasis and the doctor complied, realizing that the government agent meant business.
"Now crawl to that desk over there," said agent Champion, pointing to a desk that was in the room. Champion took some handcuffs out of his pocket and tossed them to Harding.
"Now put one of these cuffs on your right hand and then cuff the other end to the desk, so you can't get away."
"Now, I am going to go to a pay phone and call the cops. This is now in their jurisdiction, not mine. They will be arresting you for murder one very shortly."
Mozart still played on in the background. Before Champion left he turned off the CD player and out of his pocket took out a CD entitled Career of Evil by the rock band Blue Oyster Cult. He took out the Mozart CD and tossed it to the floor and placed the Blue Oyster Cult CD in the player, turning it on and selecting the song "Don't Fear The Reaper" which began to play.
As the song played, Champion looked at the two three-year- old autistic boys jumping up and down and laughing, probably not realizing how close they had come to death and then he left the room to call the cops.
|Copyright 2002, Jonathan Mitchell - All Rights Reserved.|