"Hello ? Hello, can I help you ?" I fought through my head-splitting migraine, focussed on the puzzled receptionist. "Sorry... May I trouble you for a cup of water ? I need to take my meds." "Oh..." She looked me up and down. I was clean, neatly shaven, with short, dark hair but for a slash of grey. I was thin, but not druggy-thin. Quietly dressed and politely spoken, I had neither tattoos nor stains on my hands or neck. She hadn't seen me come in and sit down, but I seemed no threat. "Oh. Okay..." Still, she stood sideways while she filled the paper cup at the cooler, did not let me out of her sight. I fumbled a pair of capsules from the Panadol's bright wallet, slurped them down. "Thank you." "You're welcome..." She murmurred as I struggled to my feet. "Have a nice day, now !" "Thank you." I stood unsteadily, took a brochure and business card off a stand as I passed, limped out of the door and looked around. I could not yet focus on my watch, but it was still day, late afternoon by the sun angle. I'd only lost an hour at most. I didn't recognise the district, but I could see a Mac in mid-block. I dragged my reluctant feet that way, wearily slumped into a corner seat. My first priority was to study the business card. As my pain meds slowly won over the migraine, the neat writing swam into focus. Interior design ? Why had I gone there ? I fumbled in my jacket's left pocket for the GPS unit, got a fix. Again, I was across town. It was too far to walk, too far for a taxi fare if I wanted to eat tonight. I sighed, dug in the jacket's poacher pocket, found the bus-route map. Yes, I could catch a bus two blocks down, then change where it crossed the Eastbound. I'd be home in an hour... My migraine was ebbing. I sniffed the air hungrily, checked my loose cash, shrugged. Five minutes later, I was slowly chewing my way through a basic Mac and a large side of fries. It was the most calories I'd had for several days, and I made it last. Finally, I slid the debris into the trash, parked my tray and limped outside. The walk to the bus stop took longer than I expected, but I only had to wait ten minutes. I was lucky, caught a prompt connection. The short, uphill hike to my small apartment block exhausted me; I had to lean on the wall for a minute, then pause for breath on each flight of stairs. I was very glad to slip my key into the lock, stumble inside and slump onto the sagging couch. Gradually, my exhaustion lifted. I stood with difficulty, limped over to the city map that covered the partition wall. I traced my day's route with a careful finger, inserted a blue pin near where I'd blanked. Then I reached across and put a red pin on the interior designer's block. As usual, I shook my head. There were now a dozen of each colour, and nothing about them made sense. I turned, peered in the tarnished mirror. "What is wrong with you ?" I asked my reflection. "What is going on ?" For once, there was no post-migraine halo. Today, that symptom must have been pre-empted by my prompt medication. I probably had a few hours before my persistent headache returned. I shucked my jacket, dropped brochure and business card on the table, limped into the wash-room. With that attended, I sat at the table and opened my small net-book. It was no comparison to the top-end 17-inch multi-core I used to have but, like my former, balconied apartment, it was a luxury I could not afford. At least I had free wifi, albeit an antiquated 802.11b. Typing slowly on the cramped keyboard, I composed an e-mail to my neurologist and gave a short account of today's excursion. It might make sense to him. Then having nothing better to do, I closed the curtains, set the locks and chain, drank a pint of tap water and took an early night. As usual, I made sure that I wore jog top and bottoms, and my waist-wallet was secure... I woke, still warm, on a bench in the park as the birds chorused the dawn. I clutched my head until the world stopped spinning, fumbled two dispersible tablets from my belt and chewed them slowly. The headache gradually ebbed. It always seemed an age, but could not have been more than ten minutes before the agony was reduced to a polychromatic halo. I looked around slowly, afraid the pounding would resume. I soon realised I knew where I was, barely a dozen blocks from home. There was something I had to check. Yes, although the morning was chill, my bare hands and feet were not cold. Cooling, yes, but not cold. There was another oddity-- The grass was dewy, the path damp and covered in gravel. My feet were clean and dry. There were footprints on the path, left by enthusiastic joggers, but none came to the bench. I looked at the surrounding grass. There were no prints there, either. Enough of the headache lingered that such puzzles could wait. I sighed, pushed myself to my feet and set off home. Luckily, I still had enough karate calluses that the hike didn't hurt much. At that time of morning, the park and streets were almost empty. To the one person who remarked on my non-existent foot-wear, I mumbled something about a sole breaking off. It had happened to me, I could sound convincing. It sufficed. I had to stop at the apartment entrance to catch my breath, then picked my way up the cold, dirty stairs. There were spare keys in my waist-wallet. The surprise came when the door stopped on its crash-chain. There was no way to set that from outside, but it was set. I deployed the rarely used chain-key, let myself in. My feet were cold, wet, dirty and sore. I had to use the nail-brush to remove ingrained grit. Then, with my feet cleaned and dried, I limped out and sagged onto the table's better chair. My head had slowly cleared enough that I could think. My shoes were still in the room. I could see my trainers peeking from under the bed. Somehow, the door's chain had been set. That was the only exit from my tiny apartment unless a ladder-truck hooked onto the escape window's rail. I tried the window. As usual, it shifted two inches then stopped at the breather-block. If released, that could not be reset easily. I checked, it still had a layer of grime. It had not been opened recently... I sagged on the couch and stared at the map. I'd sleep-walked before, but this was a lulu. How had I set that chain ? How had I got to the park in clean, dry feet ?? I shrugged, put a blue pin in my apartment, a red in the park. After glancing at the clock, I rolled back into bed, hoping to get a few more hours before my headaches returned. It was only as I was settling down that I realised my bed still held some heat. It was warmer than it should have been, given the time to walk to the park and back, then scrub my feet. It was a minor mystery, though, and I soon slipped into a dreamless sleep. The clock's alarm woke me at nine. I made a miser's breakfast of two stale bread rolls and a mug of water then dressed for the day. I had a hospital appointment at twelve. I'd learned to allow time for inadvertent detours. Again, it took two cross-town busses and an uncertain connection. Today's was not prompt, but I arrived with plenty of time to spare. After following the bewildering signage through the hospital complex's maze then riding a lift up a dozen floors, I showed my appointment letter to the smart receptionist. "Tony Brown, noon." "Thank you for being early, Mr. Brown. Please take a seat, the doctor will see you soon." "Ah, Mr. Brown ! Come in ! Take a seat !" "Uh, hullo..." "Dr. Crawford is attending a conference. I'm Dr. Smithe. With an 'e'." "Uh, hi..." "I've been looking through your notes, and I'm quite concerned that you are still getting migraines..." "Savage, blinding migraines." I clarified, the beginings of one pulsing at the edges of my vision. "And fugues." "Ah..." Dr. Smithe leafed back several pages. "They began after a car crash ?" "Drunken ijit jumped the divider." I shivered. "I braked and swerved, but his SUV clipped the near-side wing, spun me into traffic. Last thing I remember was the seat belt tensioning, air-bags deploying, a truck looming..." "You have a titanium plate in your skull..." "Plus a clear kilo of hardware in my leg, knee and hip." I gently patted my heavily scarred and still-tender right thigh. "At least they saved the leg." "You have memory problems ?" "I used to be our senior programmer for the Android platform." I shrugged. "Now, I'm only able to think straight in the gaps between migraines and meds." "The fugues ?" "They're a problem: When a migraine gets too bad, I seem to switch off and go walk-about." I shook my head slowly. "I sleep-walk, too." The doctor peered at several scans and charts. "To be honest, Mr. Brown, the pattern of your symptoms does not match the locus of organic damage." I'd been told that before. "Psychosomatic." "I... I would not go that far..." "My counsellor did. She claimed it was a reaction to my loss of status and capabilities." "I--" "Yes, I'm bitter: That ijit's lawyers are still fighting the damages. My insurance barely covers the medical expenses. I've no job. I've had to sell my nice apartment at a loss and live in poverty. Between the pain meds and migraines, I can't think straight for more than an hour or two a day. And the fugues-- I wake up miles from where I was, have to figure a way back..." "Still..." "Worst part is my mental capacity tests all come back 110 % or better: If anything, I'm smarter than I was at college-- In between the migraines, of course, of course..." I took a careful breath. "Uh, I've got one coming on, I'd better take my meds..." "Mr. Brown, there is no report in your notes of an E.E.G. being taken during a migraine." "Yes, I'd wondered about that." "That seems to have been an oversight--" "If you think it will help," I said quickly, "I'm in." "Thank you." Dr Smithe tapped away at the desk's phone, spoke with authority. "Could you prepare an E.E.G. suite for Mr. Brown ? Yes, immediately." He cleared the call as a tap came at the door. "Please follow the nurse. I'll review your results after the session..." I followed the specialist nurse to a side room. After hanging my jacket, I sat and tried to relax while she attached the matrix of sticky pick-ups to my scalp. As she turned on a CCTV camera, she advised, "Just sit quietly, Mr. Brown." "Migraine's getting bad..." I muttered. "Halo stage. I'll soon need my pain pills." She sucked her teeth for a moment, then said, "This won't take long. As soon as it is run, I'll bring you a cup of water to take your meds." "Thank you." I leaned back in the padded chair, tried to ignore the gorgon's hair-do of cables curling off towards the data collection system. My residual geek wanted to watch the pretty wave-forms, but my head hurt too much. I closed my eyes. Now, the halos were gone, but a kaleidoscope of colours and organic patterns swirled around the mounting pain. As my migraine swelled, I lost the room's small sounds in the growing agony of noise and light... I was on a different, harder chair. A wary blink showed my eyes were still minutes from focussing, but I could tell the migraine was easing. I kept my eyes shut, gingerly patted my head. The electrodes were gone but, oddly, the sticky patches remained. I didn't much care due to the residual pain. At least that tide was ebbing. I didn't remember taking my pain pills. I didn't even remember being led from that room. Hopefully, I had provided useful data... When the light-show finally ceased, I cracked open an eye, blinked with surprise. I wasn't in the clinic's waiting area, I was on a garden bench. I looked about. The hospital's central tower rose behind me. Around me, students and nurses sprawled on the close-mown lawn or sat on low walls. I patted my pockets automatically, realised I had no jacket. I sighed, stood with difficulty, followed the nearby path towards the tower. At least I remembered where the clinic was. I stepped out of the lift into confusion. The half-dozen nurses and ancilliary staff, several junior doctors and two security staff milling about all glanced over to me, then stood and stared. "I forgot my jacket." I mumbled. The senior nurse dashed along the corridor, burst into the office where I'd spoken with Dr. Smithe. He scrambled into the corridor, looked me up and down, then drew a careful breath and waved me along. My jacket hung on a chair, its pockets' contents lay on the desk. Dr. Smithe gestured me to the chair then almost collapsed into the swivel chair behind the desk. After a few moments, he found words. "Mr. Brown, was that a-- A typical, er, fugue ?" "I usually go further." I admitted. "Line of sight is good." "Where were you ?" "That nice garden behind the tower, the one with the students and nurses." I shrugged. "When I woke, I was sat on a bench." Dr. Smithe tried to say something, changed his mind, then came to a decision. "You need to see this--" He turned the desk computer's screen about, jabbed the mouse. A window opened, a video replayed. "Just sit quietly, Mr. Brown," the nurse had said as I tried to relax in the face of mounting pain. The recording repeated her promise of a cup of water for my pills, then showed me sagging back, trembling, as my agony grew. The electrodes fell onto the empty chair. "Huh ?" I sat forwards, ignoring residual distress. Dr. Smithe halted the recording with a mouse-click, dragged the marker back a little way, set it to slow motion. There was a stutter on the picture as it began, after which the seconds crept by smoothly. Then, between one frame and the next, I wasn't there. The camera even caught the electrodes falling. "That's impossible." I stated, as calmly as I dared. "Totally." Dr. Smithe agreed, with a distinct tremble in his voice. "Utterly." I shook my head slowly. "Conservation of energy..." "That, too." "I always end up on a seat. But no-one notices." "That's... That's..." Dr. Smithe buried his face in his hands, sobbed for a while. He surfaced, wiped his face with a paper hankie, then sought words. "Your E.E.G. became extraordinary." "I'm not surprised." "I can't ignore this." "You can't." I admitted. "But you can't write a paper for the Lancet, either." "I know... What can I do ? What can we do ?" I thought for a while. "First, password-protect that file. Use something long and pseudo-random with several non-sequential numbers. Then, after you save a dozen copies in different places, e-mail it to yourself and trusted colleagues for safe-keeping." "We don't want it going viral." He nodded. "After that..." I sighed. "After that, I'd better get used to wearing a portable E.E.G. rig and a GPS tracker... Uh, do you know any quiet, country clinics ?" Dr. Smithe developed a thoughtful expression. He nodded. "Yes, yes, I do. My second-cousin Jayne runs a small spa up near Bedford. Very restful." "You trust her." "Implicitly." He wrote an address on note-paper, handed it to me. "I'd better go home and pack..." I met his eyes squarely. "This is the greatest discovery since germ theory-- Don't screw up." Dr. Smithe stood, extended a shaky hand to meet mine, smiled. This would earn him the Nobel prize, and he knew I knew. "I won't."