Nathan curled himself around me, and the dogs fitted themselves into the spaces we created with our bodies, and everything was finally right with the world.
INTERLUDE III: METAPHASE
Oh, my precious children, what have I done to you? What kind of world have I created that you would do this to each other?
–DR. SHANTI CALE
We’re all going to wake up any day now, and this will all be a dream. Until then, why don’t we enjoy the chance to live in a science fiction novel?
–DR. MATTHEW “FISHY” DOCKREY
October 2027: Tansy
Still here I’m still here I’m still me I’m still here.
But only barely, I think. Every day I’m a little less me a little less here a little less Tansy. Pieces of me are going. He’s stealing pieces of me, one by one, and all he’s giving me in exchange is pain. So much pain. Pain like it’s air, pain that is breathing, so breathing stops seeming like a good idea. I try to stop I’ve tried over and over again to stop to let go to empty my lungs like flat paper boxes on a hill and why do I think of that over and over what is the hill what does it mean why do I want to go there what do those boxes do? I can’t remember anymore. So I try to stop breathing, over and over again I try, and every time I think I might succeed his machines grab me and bring me back again, returning me to the place where everything is pain.
It’s been long enough that I’m not sure the world has ever not been made of pain. Maybe that’s a thing I made up, like all the other things that I made up. Like running and jumping and firing a gun pow pow bang bang and being free and being happy and being home. Like Adam and Sal and Sherman. How could there be other people like me when I’m not even possible?
He’d said that to me more than once. “You shouldn’t be possible,” and sometimes he said it like it was something remarkable, something to be celebrated, and other times he said it like he was angry with me, like I had broken a rule by not being something that was supposed to exist. It didn’t seem to matter how he said it. It always came with pain, and so I’d stopped really listening to his tone, and started listening for the silences between his words. If I could just fill my ears with silence, maybe everything else would go away.
I didn’t know how long I’d been where I was. I didn’t know anything anymore. All I knew was that I hurt. I hurt so bad.
There was a click as the door on the other side of the room swung open. I whimpered. I couldn’t help myself. I hurt so much, and I didn’t want him to hurt me again. I just wanted him to go away so I could practice not breathing. Maybe this time I would do it right. Maybe this time the machines wouldn’t realize what I was doing, and they’d let me go. Maybe.
Heavy footsteps approached me, every vibration sending shockwaves through the floor and into my raw, exposed nerves. I was glad I couldn’t see him approaching. I’d never considered that blindness could be a blessing.
“How’s my girl today?” He always started the same way. Even now that I couldn’t answer him—not even if I wanted to—he still talked to me like I was going to respond. Just one more thing I didn’t understand. “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you, darling. Do you remember when I told you that I was going to learn everything I could from you before I let you go? That was the day we talked about dying. Do you remember?”
I didn’t remember. I didn’t remember anything but pain. But I couldn’t tell him that without a tongue, with my mouth wired shut to keep me from biting at myself when the drugs wore off, and so I didn’t say anything at all.
“Of course you do.” A hand touched me lightly on my throat, on one of the few intact patches of skin that I had left. “Well, my dear, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but that day has come.”
I had thought that I was past feeling anything but pain. I was wrong.
I could still feel relief. It was ending. It was ending.
It was e
STAGE III: ANAPHASE
We do not negotiate with terrorists.
–COLONEL ALBERT MITCHELL, USAMRIID
You think you’re stronger than us because nature made you that way. Science made us. Which do you think is going to win?
The bitch is gone. Ronnie decided to let the little idiot out of her cage after one sob story too many about how much she missed her family and how horrible it was for me to keep her here. I would be angrier about it, but honestly, I find myself somewhat relieved. I thought she would be my perfect mate, the one person in this world who could match me body and mind. I did everything I could to guarantee that she grew up mentally and morally elastic, capable of understanding the necessity of the things we do and the choices we make.
Alas, what I got was a frightened little girl too attached to the idea of her own nonexistent humanity to understand what I was offering her. It’s a true pity. Sal could have been one of the great ones, but she allowed herself to be slaved to lesser minds.
It doesn’t matter now. I have what I need.
–FROM THE NOTES OF SHERMAN LEWIS (SUBJECT VIII, ITERATION III), OCTOBER 2027
The situation is continuing to deteriorate. I wish that were not the case: I wish I could claim we had reached some incredible turning point in our research, and unveil it for you now at what might otherwise be considered the eleventh hour. To admit the truth of what is happening here smacks of ceding to the enemy. It smacks of cowardice. It burns me, on every level, to do either of these things. I was taught that every problem has a solution, and that it is the American way to rise up and meet those problems head-on until the solutions are presented.