It was a great success
when scientists discovered
how to communicate with coma patients
through scanning their brain waves.
It would give people a way to interact
and might, in time, lead to a cure for their condition.
It was a great disappointment
when no such cure emerged.
People who went into comas
mostly came out quickly or not at all,
and that's how it stayed.
But then something different happened --
the scientists learned how to connect those sleepers,
mind to mind, through the computer
they had been using to communicate.
They didn't need to be in the same room,
or even the same country;
suddenly all the coma patients in the world
were a city unto themselves --
a city that always dreamed,
but never really slept.
They were in there,
inside the humming computer banks,
inside their softly breathing shells of flesh;
they were alive and vital
and doing the kinds of things
that people usually do.
They told stories and made art,
danced and sang and threw parties without end.
They tried to vote, were denied, sued for suffrage and won.
They were into politics and activism and religion.
They met the nicest people in their dreams,
fell in love and got married.
The doctors were shocked
when infant-minds began appearing the system,
but really, they of all people
should have seen that one coming.
* * *
People have long questioned whether some coma patients might be conscious, just unable to respond. A recent article describes using a brain scan to allow them to answer yes/no questions.
Erasure and misrepresentation are problems in media portrayals of disability. One ubiquitous trope is characters waking from a coma. I wanted to take this in a different direction: not erasing the (in this case, full-body) handicap but rather finding a way to compensate for it enough to enable people to continue some part of their lives.