The Risks of Empathy, a Novella
Ted had learned to be unconcerned with the various things that Stan put on his head. Stan had never hurt him and he liked the attention. Earnie manipulated dials and Stan tried to relax and think happy thoughts. Ted seemed oblivious.
"I wonder how we would even be sure that he was getting something?" mused Stan. "I mean, unless there's food or a walk involved, Ted's pretty laid back."
The big dog sat up and looked at Stan. He cocked his head to one side and panted twice. Earnie broke the connection.
"I think he got something!"
Earnie scratched his head, "I don't know. Ted! Ted!" and Ted looked over at Earnie, cocked his head and let his tongue loll out.
"See. I mean how can we tell?"
"Hook him up! Jeez, we're idiots." And in just a few moments Ted was fitted with a recording net on his head, over the receiving headband. As Ted was supposed to be receiving Stan's thoughts, Earnie would be hooked into Ted's as he received Stan's.
"Do it again."
Stan and Earnie had worried about the effect on Ted if he got swallowed into a human's mental experience with no forewarning, so they had agreed that Stan should try to relax and think simple comfortable thoughts.
Earnie was Ted. And he was Ted just realizing that he was Stan. Stan ran his fingers through his hair and Earnie/Ted remembered running down a hill laughing as Stan remembered a childhood episode.
Memories are always recorded dreamily and gauze-like.
Harry Mahoney was sitting under a pine tree on a bench. A large pig was stretched out in the sun near his feet. Harry watched an odd herd of horses, donkeys, goats, and ostriches grazing peacefully on the top of a nearby hill. He thought back to the butcher shop and the decision he had made.
Harry wasn't an animal lover, and he had viewed the first animal TE out of curiosity. But Harry was kind and ethical. Harry was moral.
He had stopped at the first trash auto-incinerator he had come upon. He noticed the ubiquitous trash scattered up and down the street and mused to himself that the incinerators were not getting used enough. He pulled the door open and tossed in the surveillance tape he had taken from the crime scene at the delicatessen. He knew that he was incinerating his career even as the videodisc was turning to ash. Harry couldn't understand why anyone would or could hurt an animal after living a bit of their life. Harry couldn't understand the fact that the government was allowing it all to continue. When he heard the news about banning the Selling TEs he had realized the position that the government was going to take, and he also knew that he would never be able do anything but support any effort to stop the carnage. It had been just a matter of time before he was forced to make an ethical choice that was contrary to the interests of the state.
Harry remembered the slight scent of vaporized plastic videodisc. He remembered taking out his wallet and pulling out his police identification card. He had looked at it, put it to his nose and breathed in its own distinct plastic aroma. He had put it back in his wallet realizing that it might come in handy sometime.
Harry startled back to his bench when the pig let out a grunt. It looked to Harry like the pig was dreaming.
President John Adams was sitting on a small comfortable couch in his bedroom. He had a terrycloth robe on over his pajamas. His wife Betty was next to him in her own soft flannel robe. The President was leaning against her lightly, enjoying her familiar warmth and scent. They both had their feet up on the Louis XIV coffee table. Betty had a glass of white wine and President Adams was nursing a beer.
"You're going to have to see for yourself, John," said Betty.
"I've already been told about them, Bet. The experts told me tha..."
"Experts my ass! There are no experts in this. This is new territory John. You have to experience this for yourself."
"They say there're risks, Bet. I don't think you should use them either."
Betty shrugged her shoulder pushing her husband away. She put her feet down squarely on the floor and wheeled on him and looked him squarely in the eye. "You listen to me. Your experts can all go to hell. I'm telling you. I'm not asking. Look at the damn things."
The First Lady rarely ordered her husband to do anything, but John Adams had learned and accepted long ago that his wife had him easily beaten in the smarts department, and when she was sure about something, she was usually right.