I sat in the chair and put the headphones over my head. I’d taken hearing tests before and assumed this would be similar. The biggest difference between this and a hearing test was the electrode swarm the team had placed all over my body. Well that, and that I would be compensated fifty dollars for my time. I wondered if there was a way I could come back another time and collect another fifty, but the way the paper worded the experiment, it sounded like a one-time only offer. Still, I didn’t have any big plans for the day and figured this would be as good a use of my time as any.
The doctor spoke into a microphone in the room next to me, separated by a pane of glass. My headphones buzzed to life.
“In a moment, you are going to hear some music. The electrodes are going to record your body’s response to this stimulus. All you have to do is sit there and listen. Sound good?”
I gave him a thumbs up sign.
“Good. Here we go.”
I started hearing a rock song. It was probably some famous band, but I wouldn’t really know unless someone told me. I didn’t listen to rock very often. The sounds of jagged electric notes crashing against harsh thumps and gravel-dragged vocals did nothing to inspire. I preferred the dissonance of jazz or the slow simmer of blues. Still, I sat there as told, closed my eyes, and listened.
When the song ended, I blinked my eyes open and awaited further instruction. To my surprise, the doctor in the adjacent room had disappeared. Three men came into my room and started wordlessly peeling the electrodes off of me.
“So, am I done?”
No one responded. One of the men unceremoniously yanked the headphones off me, unplugged them from the box by my side, and walked out. The doctor who had spoken to me earlier muscled his way into the room as the remaining two men pushed their electrode-bundled selves through the doorway.
“Well, Mr. Delavigne, I sincerely thank you for your time. That’s all we need from you. Just see Cara at the front desk to get your money.”
I was shocked. “That’s seriously it?”
He nodded with a slight smile. “That is seriously it. Easy, right?”
“I… I suppose. Well, when will I get the results?”
The doctor tilted his head, quizzically. “The results?”
“Yeah. When will I know what you guys find out? This is for an experiment on how the human body reacts to certain stimuli, right?”
“Well, yes. But you are just one in several participants we’ll see today and throughout the rest of the month. It will be some time before we actually collect enough data and are able to decipher meaning from it. Besides, this isn’t a checkup, so you won’t be getting any results.”
I was a little disappointed, but I suppose that made sense.
“Can I come back?”
Something flashed in the doctor’s eyes. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but he surprised me. “You certainly can. It will be interesting to see how the same body reacts to a different stimulus.”
I thanked him and left. Cara had my check ready for me before I got to the front desk, so I grabbed it and walked out of the building.
Later that night, I was sitting in my chair, doing some crosswords. I do this nearly every night. There was nothing unordinary about it. And yet, there was this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. The hairs on the back of my neck started to bristle. I tensed my body and waited…
I cautiously stood to my feet, slightly hunched, waiting…
What was this feeling? I couldn’t shake it. Something was happening, and I had no idea what it was.
I tried to relax, but then I started sweating. It wasn’t even hot in the room. I scanned the room, looking for the source of my uneasiness. Still, nothing.
That’s when it happened.
Suddenly, my left hand started to twitch…