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In Dreams the Future
September 18, 2008
I’m somewhere on the East Coast. It’s that gloaming time at the end of the day, and the world where I am has quieted down. The grass on the dunes rustles in the evening breeze, and some shorebirds run along the sand.
My perspective shifts, as it often does, and I’m looking down from above at an open-air theater, much like Dionysus’s space. Yet this theater’s completely in the round with a modern look to it—chairs and carpeting instead of stone slabs; its aisles are not steps but ramps that disappear through the exits at the top.
At the center there is no stage; instead, every seat has a sightline down into an inner circle just large enough for two people to stand in.
A middle-aged woman and a wizened man in glasses are at the center. She’s wearing a navy blue suit; he’s wearing khakis and a white dress shirt. They are thin. They are smart, alert, and they’re ready to address the audience.
With the evening light almost gone, thousands of people go silent as spotlights from the rim of the theater illuminate its center.
She begins to talk about diabetes.
I cannot recall exactly what she says; instead I return to the shore. But I can hear the woman, her calming, intelligent voice addressing the audience as I sit and watch the small waves breaking along the sand, water with sand making that comforting hissing noise as both pull back to sea.
Her monologue continues. Decades of diabetes research, all of the strides taken, all of the setbacks and the failed attempts at X and Y and Z. It’s scientific. It’s somewhat boring but necessary when people of this importance speak.
And she is important. There’s exciting news tonight. That thing they’ve been waiting for for nearly a century has finally happened: She and her research partner have discovered a cure for diabetes.
Silence. The camera moves from its focus on the beach to shots of individual faces in the crowd. They are not cheering; they’re not clapping. Instead, as she speaks about how they uncovered a cure, face after face before me is caught in its own distinct reaction of joy. Tears, shock, smiles, disbelief, pure elation. They want to hear more. They’re anxious, ready to learn every last detail.
When she finishes speaking, the man beside her talks about the cure, about the formula, their early trials and most recent successes. He says they’ve brought the cure with them.
From a large case at his feet he begins to pull out and set down small, wheeled robots in the aisles. Each has in its arms a glowing vial that contains the cure. The robots begin a slow mechanical crawl up the aisles, just a few at first, but soon dozens are making their way up from the center. Then there are hundreds, then thousands, streaming toward the top of the theater and out of the exits, their vials proffered in front of them.
I return to the shore. Behind me, the glow from the theater spreads beyond it.
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