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[paul/sushi   tied for 3rd]

Harold Awakens

Im so very tired. I feel as though my head has been stuffed with every book in the University library. I really wish I hadnt volunteered for this foolish experiment. In fact, if I encounter that newfangled brain enhancement contraption one more time I think Ill scream.
   The technician lets me lie down on a cot. Hes a decent chap, for an American. He almost makes the place seem . . .
   I suppose I fell asleep. The wall clock reads five, so three full hours have passed. The new information theyve crammed into my skull must be integrating, just as they said it would. I now understand French, and I shall be able to speak it fluently. Simply amazing!
   The door swings open. My eyes widen. Alyssa, the professors new assistant, is coming on shift. My God but shes beautiful.
   Hi, Harold, she says as she enters the room. I cant keep my eyes off her. Even a lab coat cannot conceal the curves of her body. How her hips sway as she walks over to pick up that clipboard.
   She has such a way with men. And brains too . . . There has to be some way to win her affection!
   It is time to make a decisive move. I stand and clear my throat. Parlez vouz Francais? I ask her. Moi cherie? I put on my most appealing grin.
   She frowns! During my visits Ive watched her flirt with every man who works in this laboratory. Oh, she doesnt let it get very far, but she always acts so friendly with them.
   So whats wrong with me?

   Alyssa leaves to get a cup of coffee. The cafeteria is just down the hall, so shell only be gone for a minute. I have to find out what the problem is. I get up and tiptoe into the washroom.
   I examine myself carefully in the mirror. Gray eyes, brown hair, plain face. Too plain, Ill admit, but not unpleasant.
   Through a crack in the washroom door, I spot Alyssa returning. Shes speaking with the professor. She appears concerned about something, and hes obviously responding in kind. Then he nods directly towards me.
   I havent made a sound. How did know I was in here?
   Hes shaking his head sadly. Now hes accessing the control panel of the brain enhancement machine. He checks some readouts and frowns. Cold fear grips my heart. Is something wrong?
   The clock is just visible behind him; its six oclock sharp.
   The room fades . . .

   When Harold awoke he realized he was still asleep.
   I must  be asleep, he muttered to himself. Somehow, the wall clock still read six sharp. He was alone. Alarmed, he realized that he could hardly move a muscle.
   Much of the laboratorys equipment is made of stainless steel. Even Harolds fact-crammed brain didnt know exactly why this was so, but for the moment it served him well.
   Slowly he turned his head, until, in the side of a tool cart, he could see a distorted reflection of himself.
   He received the greatest shock of his life. His hair was now black, and his eyes a lucid green. Even as he watched they changed to blue.
   Alyssa came running into the room, with the professor hard on her heels. Harold! she cried. Are you alright?
   Im quite well, for a chap with blue eyes, he replied in a slurred voice. They were green before, you know. When Im awake theyre gray. He laughed, much too loudly.
   Abruptly Harold stood and embraced Alyssa. As long as Im dreaming youre going to be in it with me all the way, dearie.
   Alyssa pulled away. Its not what you think, Harold. She glanced at the professor with an unspoken plea.
   The professor stepped to the control panel and flipped a big, black switch. Alyssa vanished, without even a puff of smoke to mark her passing. Harold blinked, and the professor vanished as well. Then he himself went out like a snuffed candle.

   Professor Martin Thompson and Alyssa DeVries entered the conference room and huddled with the rest of the staff.
   Im afraid we succeeded too  well, Alyssa sighed. In all my life I never thought I'd meet a computer who had the hots for me.
   She threw her laboratory manual down on the table. The title sheet read:
   University Consortium Fifth Generation Computer Project
   Harold: A new virtual reality human simulacrum
   Heuristic Algorithmic Responsive Onomatoficient Logarithmic Discourser

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