Doctor Carter Ramirez rubbed her face into her hands, ground her palms against her eyes until she saw stars, before finally slicking her hair back. She had put it up into a bun earlier that day, but there were plenty of flyaway hairs, as there always were.
She felt out of her league. Everyone did, here on her team, but that didn’t stop the fact from wearing on her. It’s not that there was no support from on high to help with the Lost, because there was. It’s not that there was no one else trying, because there was there, too. It’s that no one seemed to take it all that seriously. It was a thing like addiction, or plane crashes, or suicide. Something to look at, to study long enough to say “Ah, this is happening now,” and then set aside like some work of art which was only good enough to be a conversation piece.
People admitted that the phenomenon of getting Lost was happening, but only in as much as it didn’t affect that many people. A simple number to point to.
She wasn’t the last one left in the lab, by any stretch, but it had reached that point of the night where collaboration had stopped and everyone was butting their head against their own individual problems, toiling in silence. She put down her tablet and pressed down the display on the workstation that she had been assigned for this project, sending it to sleep. It had also clearly reached the point of the night where she wouldn’t be getting anything else done.
It was as though the brains of the Lost were just elsewhere, just dreaming on some level, but there was no sense to it, no rhyme or reason to why such a thing would happen to the patient. Some of her team were working on pulling together all of the facts about the population that they could, from demographics to physical stature, searching for clues in the workstations and the ‘net itself. The neuroscientists were digging into what was going on within the brain, and what few scans they had from before someone had gotten Lost. Their two pet lawyers (actually just law students on internship, also versed in stats) were digging into both the legal status of the Lost as well as doing what they could to procure under health information law from patient medical histories.
And Carter was supposed to tie it together.
Or, that was her stated goal. The university medical center had grudgingly provided space and funding for the project in an attempt to win some much-needed kudos, but she was starting to doubt just how much the UMC even wanted her to continue. As manager, she had been met with hurdle after hurdle in trying to make any progress in the case as soon as she started to venture outwards. Colleagues assured her that all projects worked this way, but it was as though the advisory board had given her all the data that it was willing to give, and any more might put those kudos it was receiving at risk.
Carter patted her associate on the neurchem team on the shoulder and stood up, stretching her back. “Sorry, Sanders. I’m done in. Catch you in the morning?”
“Mm,” Sanders replied, rubbing at his eyes and stretching his hands out, alternating between clenching them into fists and flexing his fingers out wide. “Sounds good, Ramirez. Catch you then.”
Carter gathered up her coat and her messenger bag, taking one last look around the workstation lab, counting heads to see who would be staying later than her. She swiped her way out of the wing so as not to set off any alarms and signed out at the front desk before making her way out into the night, bundling herself up in her coat.
At home, she scoured the fridge for a bite to eat — she had ordered dinner for the lab earlier, but it was getting on midnight and she didn’t want to go to bed on an empty stomach. She settled on a few pieces of salami stacked onto a couple of crackers, enough to keep her empty stomach from complaining through the night and sat herself down on the couch in the shared living room. She left the lights off so that she wouldn’t bother her flatmates, or so she told herself. In truth, the darkness felt good. She could keep her eyes open and not be greeted with a tablet, a screen, a simulation.
She sat long after finishing her snack, listening to her flatmates sleep, thinking in the dark of all the administrivia that surrounded her task and just how she would be able to get what she needed.
Eventually, finding herself at just as much of a dead end as she had at work, Carter stood and ambled into her room. It was small, but clean, and it served her well. She changed from her work clothes into a comfortable pair of lounge pants and a night shirt before crawling into bed.
The morning’s alarm startled her awake. She had thought that the end of grad school had meant the end of six-hour nights of sleep, but apparently, that had not been the case.
Blearily, she pawed at her phone until she managed to swipe in the right direction to turn the alarm off. It was tempting to go back to bed — after all, the Lost weren’t going anywhere, she mused — but she managed to at least kick her feet out from under the covers and sit up. in bed, letting her frizzed hair hang down around her face and shield her from the world for just a little bit longer.
It was her phone, as always, that brought her back to reality. It’s mere presence, even silent as it was, was enough to draw her back into the problem at hand.
Another, this time with scans from before the incident. Another furry, you don’t think that’s got to do with it, do you :p
The brief message from her colleague left her puzzled until she’d put it together that he was talking about one of the other subjects’ past records, indicating him as a member of a fandom. Sanders didn’t honestly believe that people who pretended to be animals on the ‘net were more predisposed to get Lost than anyone else. And, to be honest, neither did Carter, even after giving it the token consideration.
All the same, the thought stuck with her through her two cups of coffee that morning, the first in the kitchen and the second out of a travel mug on the L as she headed out towards the UIC campus. Another furry, you don’t think that’s got to do with it.
She felt sluggish, and craved another cup of coffee even after she’d reached the bottom of the mug she had with her. The thought nagged at her, caught like some spinning shape against the threads of her thought in a way that the rattle and screech of the train couldn’t displace. It tugged those threads free, stitch by stitch, until it reached…what?
Until it reached the hem, and then the same thing over again.
“Holy…holy shit. Holy shit.” Carter said, startling the elderly lady next to her. She murmured an apology and fished her phone out, thumbing in a quick message to the team.