Yes or No

by Elias Jacob Singer

All he could think about were the nanobots in his skull. They were still there, millions of them, attached to various axons, always ready to sever forever any arising connections that made him human, the connections which enabled him to speak.

He remembered back to the prison where they had given him the injections, running him through lists of words, over and over until the nanobots could identify every connection of interest and ultimately the location of every word. Only a critical mass was required. Enough to enable the nanobots to find the connections since they were so tightly clustered together.

The strange thing about a graph, a collection of nodes connected by edges, is that given a certain threshold of edges, everything is very well connected. The number of jumps needed to get from any one node to any other is small. However, when one starts deleting edges, there is a threshold where it is not possible to get from one node to another through any series of jumps -- you can’t get there from here. Of course, in his mind these words are only a translation, only an allegory of what he was imagining.

In the end the only connections left untouched and ultimately strengthened by this selective process were two words, yes and no.

Like a small tree which is only allowed two branches and all others removed, his mind became dominated by these words. All thoughts which attempted to manifest themselves as speech or written words flowed like tributaries to only these two words.

He imagined this tree in his mind and tried to think desperately of the word they had used, but all he could see was the tree. The pruning, as they called it, certainly had one benefit, his imagination was more alive than ever. He had never seen such clear visions. He could see the book, the cover, the dust jacket, the texture of the page, the raised feeling of the printed text, the yellowing around the edges of each page.

He could even see the text -- you can’t get there from here -- but the words had no meaning. He laughed out loud into a dark room at a joke that he could not remember or even understand any longer.

“Honey, are you awake?” His wife rolled over facing him and put her hand on his left hip.


“Did you forget how much I love you?”


“You love me too, right?”


© 2021 Elias Jacob Singer. All Rights Reserved.