floribund flickenheimer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

An unusual story about an exceptional pre-teen with the extraordinary ability to.......well, you'll see.

Floribund Flickenheimer

 

Floribund Flickenheimer is a twelve-year-old genius. She can dance, act, play chess, solve math problems in her head, and name every country, its capital, ethnic makeup, and population, no matter how small or obscure it may be. She knows the stage and given name of every lead and major character actor from every major movie that graced the screen in the nineteen thirty’s, forty’s, fifties, and sixties. She can name every known king, czar, emperor, philosopher, dictator, and despot that ever lived.  She knows every verse in the bible - both old and new testaments, Quran, Torah, Hindu Vida, and Bhagavad Gita.

She can do all of this, but is incapable of performing a simple task her contemporaries accomplish without giving it a second thought: Floribund cannot speak. She was born without vocal chords, the body’s mechanism for producing sound. Think of playing a violin without strings, or a piano without a sounding board. The shell is there, but without the “voice” of the instrument, only silence will result.

But nature, in her infinite wisdom, gave Floribund a gift very few among us are graced with. She has, what is called in popular culture and incorrectly so, a photographic memory. The scientific term for Floribund’s unique ability is an eidetic memory, the ability to recall words, images, sounds, and/or objects in memory with high precision. It normally occurs for a brief period of time in a very small percentage of children, usually between the ages of six and twelve, and is virtually non-existent in adults. The word eidetic comes from the Greek word eidos, meaning "seen".

Everything she reads, sees, or hears automatically and permanently becomes a part of her memory, whether purposefully or not. It’s the way her brain operates every hour of every day. No special action or intent on her part is required. Floribund’s parents recognized her special gift by the age of four and nurtured it to an extent far beyond what parents of normal vocalizing children would consider. The fact that her mother is a high school teacher and her father a college professor bode well for a future filled with learning, knowledge, and an appreciation of anything and everything worth knowing.

And how does she communicate? Her parents didn’t want Floribund to be singled out any more than necessary, and thus never exposed her to sign language. With all her other senses intact, she became a prolific writer, her way of expressing what she wants to say. Her favorite device is a combination tablet and keyboard. She has three, in case any are damaged or cease to function.

Floribund attends a special needs school for gifted children, one of the very few in existence. Thanks to her extraordinary abilities, she received special dispensation to rise through the grades rapidly, currently attending at a level equivalent to a senior in high school. She is capable of college level work, but her parents didn’t want to burden her with the social difficulties that might arise if she were cast into that environment. She will have to attend a regular university, as no special needs advanced education opportunities for gifted children exists.

Floribund is participating in a program to develop an electronic device to aid people with her disability, or with any speech-related physical problem leading to the same results. Having never heard her own voice, Floribund, called Flory by her family and closest friends, doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. In her mind the world of silence is normal, and those she sees moving their lips are using a different form of communicating, the wonder mother nature provides for some of her children.

***

One evening while watching television with her parents, Flory stands up and waves her hands to gain their attention.

“What is it, Flory?” asks her dad.

She picks up her communication device and types, “I want to learn how to sing.”

Her parents are stunned!

After catching her breath, Flory’s mother responds. “Do you mean using your communicator?”

She types, “No. I want to sing using my own voice.”

Her parents stare at each other, not fully confident they understand the meaning of her words.

“Flory, can you explain?” asks her dad.

She furiously types on her device for a few minutes, then shows it to her parents.

“The doctors and engineers I work with to develop a voice simulator told me they’ve figured out a way to merge both of your voice patterns and create the most likely sound my vocal cords would produce, if I had them. It’s all very complicated, requiring recording your audible patterns across the full frequency range, detailing the voice box dimensions, vocal cord length and thickness, plus a few other parameters. All the information they require would be gathered by non-invasive means.”

‘Okay,” responds her dad, “but how do they reproduce the resulting sound your voice would make, if you had one?”

“I’m not sure”, Flory types on her keyboard, “but it has something to do with creating a computer algorithm using the information they gather from each of you. They feed it into a special battery powered wearable voice synthesizer the engineers have created.”

“Unbelievable!” her mother responds.

“But that’s not the most amazing part of the program,” adds Flory, typing rapidly.

They’re finalizing the design of a wearable brain wave scanner that will use my thoughts to inform the algorithm what I want to say!”

“Do they really think it will work?” asks her dad.

“They seem confident,” types Flory. “A working model should be available a few months after they take your measurements and record your voices.”

“I’ve read about similar technologies creating realistic sounding voices,” responds dad, “but nothing remotely attempting to duplicate a specific individual’s voice, and certainly not to predict and duplicate the voice of an offspring from parents.”

“There’s one thing they’ve requested,” types Flory. “If this works, they want to demonstrate it around the country, and eventually around the world.  They need your permission for me to travel when required, and have at least one of you to accompany me. They promise the trips will not interfere with school. Only weekends and summer trips will be planned, and spread over several months. All expenses will be fully covered by them.”

***

The weeks after Flory’s parents provide voice-related data to the team developing an algorithm-controlled voice synthesizer are filled with anticipation. Her classmates, all much older than her, have taken to the idea of having a true conversation with the youngest and brightest among them. But Flory, after a lifetime of non-verbal communicating, is looking forward to just one thing – singing!

Of all the sounds she’s heard and all the conversations she’s had, singing, in all its attendant forms, has been the one vocalization she’s dreamed of accomplishing. It’s been her secret desire for as long as she can remember, expressing it to no one, not even her adoring parents. Flory knew it would hurt them, having given her everything she wished for, and providing the support to accomplish all she has with the enormous intellect she possesses. But if they knew her desire, unattainable despite everything they did, it would sadden them deeply.

***

“Flory,” calls her dad one Saturday morning, “please come down.”

“I received a call from Dr. Randston, the project manager of the voice synthesizer team. They’ve completed the prototype and request we come to their lab this evening for a test run. I said we’ll be there”.

They arrive at the lab and are ushered in.

“Flory,” says Dr. Randston, “please put on the neuro-transmitting head piece and prepare to ‘speak’. Well leave the vocal duplication device you would normally wear on the table for now.”

Flory does as requested.

“Now think of something to say.”

Flory contemplates Dr. Randston’s request a few moments. Suddenly, her eyes light up and a big smile crosses her face. She gives a thumb’s up. Dr. Randston presses the speaker button on the device, points to Flory, and nods.

“I love you, mom and dad,” are the very first words expressed by Flory in the voice she would possess if capable of speech. Shocked by the sound of their daughter’s spoken words, her parents, unable to hold back their emotions, sob uncontrollably for several minutes. The team responsible for this unprecedented break-through are no less moved by the moment, tears flowing from the corners of their eyes.

“Our success has to be shared with others,” says Dr. Randston. “And I know the best platform to do it from, if you agree.”

Dr. Randston proceeds to tell them of his close friendship with one of the US senators from their state.

“We went through college and medical school together. He was a practicing doctor before winning a seat in the US senate. I will ask if he can suggest an audience venue in Washington to announce our success.”

Flory and her parents agree to the proposal.

***

Flory is led to a podium in front of the US Senate chamber where representatives from all fifty states are gathered. The audience applause is polite but subdued, many wondering why this tender-aged young child is being provided the privilege of addressing one of the most august bodies on the planet. When the applause and idle conversation cease, Flory looks out upon the gathered throng, down at her parents seated in the first row, and ‘speaks’.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Most, if not all, of you are unaware who I am, or why I’m here. And most are asking yourselves, “What on earth is she wearing on her head?”

Many in the audience smile, chuckle, or squirm uncomfortably in their seats.

“I’m here to demonstrate a new technology capable of providing voices to the voiceless, hope to the afflicted, and a tool for parents to offer their audibly challenged child a means to join the conversation. And in case you haven’t been informed, or you believe I’m speaking the way most people on the planet speak, let me correct that assumption. I was born without vocal cords, a necessary physical requirement to produce speech.”

The audience gasps, adjacent members looking at each other as a wave of murmuring spreads throughout the assembled 100 senators.

“I’m the only person on the planet so afflicted, so I’ve been told, given the opportunity to speak with my own voice, thanks to the dedicated scientists and engineers who worked so hard to develop the technology allowing me to accomplish this feat. But the really amazing part, is the sound of my voice. It’s not just any sound, but the exact one they predict I would have if I were born with vocal cords! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you provided the means to give every child or adult a chance to hear themselves for the very first time? Please, help make this happen.”

Suddenly, the entire body of legislatures rise from their seats and let out a roar, applauding in a deafening wave of undeniable approval for what this twelve year old child prodigy has proposed. Flory walks away from the lectern, the speech synthesizer still upon her head. Suddenly she stops, hesitates, and turns around. The audience, in the process of rising from their seats and preparing to leave the chamber, don’t notice.

“Ladies and gentlemen. I have one more thing I must do before you leave.”

She takes the microphone from the lectern, steps to the front of the stage, and stands for a few moments. The noise from the crowd begins to dissipate. Then, with every ounce of strength she can muster, she takes her right hand, places it across her chest, and begins to sing.

“O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Flory stares down at her parents, sporting the broadest smile she’s ever produced. The audience, stunned by this unique and gifted child, stop, place their hands across their chests and, as if guided by an unseen choral master, respond in unison. 

“O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh  say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Of all the things Flory will accomplish in life, this will forever be her most cherished memory.


Submitted: May 06, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Vincent James. All rights reserved.

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