The doctor comes into the room and washes his hands out of habit. He’s my age, young, and spiky-haired.
How’re we doing today, Ms. Nemo?
Good. I tell him. Felt better, but yeah, good.
Alright. I just wanted to talk to you briefly, about the MRI we did on you – you look very healthy, nothing was broken, just the lacerations to your head and the concussion – but while we were examining that area, we found this.
He produces a print-out of my brain. I don’t know why he does this, but he obviously thinks something’s important about it.
Now, if you’ll look over here, at the limbic system – there’s something very, very small in your hippocampus. He points it out, it barely looks bigger than an M&M. What the hell?
Is there any reason it should be there? He asks. I look at him, and I’m stunned.
There’s something that small… in my brain? I ask.
The odd thing about it, he notes, is that it’s right in the region responsible for your long-term memory. I’ve seen chips there being used for Alzheimer’s patients, but I think you’re a bit too young for that – and they were much, much bigger.
I’m thinking about it, and I can’t really put it all together. Is that how they did it? A chip?
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never seen anything like it. And I’ve seen a lot. But it wasn’t giving out a signal… it might not be on anymore, I can’t tell.
Great. Some doctor you are.
We talk some more, and, satisfied that I don’t know why it’s in my head, he drops the topic of the chip and leaves me to my mushy hospital food.
I dig in, polish it off, and pick up in my book where I left off, at the story of the Ill-Made Knight. I get about a chapter in when there’s a knock at the door. A tall man, muscular and wide, walks in, and smiles gently. He’s got a face like a bulldog – it’s young, but stretched out. I don’t recognize him at all.
Do I know you? I get defensive.
You should, he pauses, unless you feel like you’re starting life all over again. He knows.
Now I get defensive and angry. How do you know about that?
He shrugs. Relax, Seven. He turns around, and pulls down the back of his t-shirt to show four interlocking fives. It’s me.
He lets go of the shirt, and turns around. So you remember the name, but not the face. How’d you pull that one off? He smirks.
Tre filled me in on some things, but I can’t remember anything else. All I know is what he told me. I shrug weakly. I didn’t even know you were alive. How’d you find me?
Old-fashioned way. He smiles and produces a newspaper. Not too many women named Seven these days. That, and they wanted to keep us all separate. You were a little shook up after the last job, they wanted to hold on to you and make sure you were good to go before they put us all out into the wild.
Yeah. As far as Tre and I know, I went back and they wiped me a second time.
Goh looks a little puzzled. No they wouldn’t. Doesn’t work like that. They tried doing that to their test batch, drove ‘em crazy. They put limiters in if they had to, after that.
Huh. That’s it? A limiter? The doctor saw one in my head. He asked about it, and then gave up.
Goh sighed. Wouldn’t put it past him. It’s crazy stuff. Don’t try to take it out, either – It’s going to be in pretty deep.
Since I can’t get it out… can you please just answer one question?
You mean Andrey Romanovich?
So you do remember something?
No… just the name. Can you help?
Goh looks right at me, with sad bulldog eyes.
You were gonna leave the program because of him. Octo flipped out. Our medic, of all people, getting involved with a weapons manufacturer… one that kept the US in some serious artillery. And he was gonna give that up for you, and close it down. Octo couldn’t take it, the higher-ups couldn’t take it, and so they decided to end it.
They let you go early, so you could be with him. But they knew they could get to him whenever they needed to. So, they set you both up for a fall. He was diabetic, and they knew he trusted you enough to give him his medication.
I feel my heart sinking with each word he says.
I refused to be part of it. Octo said he didn’t need me. He got that son of a bitch Essex to do it. Modified the insulin needles to a killer dose, got rid of the fruit, everything. And then, it was all swept under the rug. Guy dies under suspicious circumstances right after he announces he’s shutting down his arms plant, and nobody bats an eye.
But, from what you told me, he died in your arms. You said his last words were, “I wish we could fly.”
Things start coming back. I see a man, a handsome man I love so much, laying on the floor of a beautiful apartment with a mark in his arm from a needle I just gave him, and it’s killing him. He was talking three minutes ago, and then his speech slurs as he says I wish we could fly, and he’s silent.
I’m freaking out, screaming, because I’m used to being in control of this, and the love of my life is dying right in front of me because the insulin is somehow too much, or wrong, and I can’t find anything to help him. I can’t think straight. Why is this happening? He’s going. Nothing here. I try to get some bread into his mouth, closest I can find to ready sugar, but he won’t chew, won’t swallow. Where the hell are my emergency supplies? I call for help, and the security guards get the chopper, but it’s too late. There’s no food stores for miles and he won’t make it to the hospital and the security guards have nothing, nothing that might help. The last thing we do is bring him in the chopper and in between the whirr of the blades, one fast whoosh, and that’s it.
I remember what was left of the US-8. Tre said we were the only ones who survived, but he forgot about Goh and Octo. Another memory – his grave. A black dress, a black coat, rain everywhere, and Goh tells me that our fearless leader tripped over a landmine on a holiday in Cambodia, and I want to be satisfied but I just feel angry and alone. Tre’s got his arm around me, trying to protect me from the rain, and I don’t know whether to cry or to scream, because I’ll never get him back.
If everybody could fly, everybody could go home.
And nobody’d have to die.
I start crying. You remember when you told me he tripped on a landmine?, I say, choking out words between tears.
Yeah. Goh said it softly.
That was too good for him. That was too – good – for him. I can’t say anything else. I just… I don’t have anything else in my body, but memories and tears. We sit there for an hour, and all I can do is cry.
And then, I’m all cried out. Goh hugs me, smiles, and says he’ll keep in touch. For me, the only thing I want to touch is the book. It’s all I have, the only tangible memory I have with me.
I look at it differently now, and I remember the days we spent reading that book and dreaming together. I wish I could put them on the shelf, and save them the way Polly does or Miranda does, or even have a scrapbook.
All I have is memories, and they just fall through my fingers like rain. I can’t sit and finger them, trace their faces in the frame, or look back and smile. All I have is something fluid that I’ll never be able to hold.
At least, now, I have that much.
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