Maybe One Day...

tagnone

13

13

“I want you to know I’m very proud of you, David. We’ve been making excellent progress throughout our sessions here, and I hope we can keep it like that. So, how’ve you been feeling since last week?”

89-Digit symbol alternation cycle: INAN, NITO, QUIE, MUTA, and more. Each word, each syllable, each pronunciation, all carefully thought out to deliver the proper message. The cycles were changed, reviewed, reformatted or replaced by new ones. He needed to speak clear and sound: he had to. Five seconds had passed since Dr. Smith had asked him a question. David had to hurry.

The cycle looked smooth; it was understandable, similar to how he would talk. He sent it to the helmet, and into the inner LED display. The lights began flashing into his eyes, commanding his brain to force itself upon what remained of his nervous system. Forcing itself on his collapsed lungs, on his sore throat, his dried lips, his blue tongue, and then…

“I feel alright,” said David as he could feel the mechanical cords inside his throat swing back and forth.

Three words. Just three words was all he could get out in five seconds of tinkering. “What a fucking disgrace,” David thought to himself. Part of him laughed, however, at the thought of a child being able to spew out more words per minute than him. Writing out his thoughts onto a piece of paper would've been simpler and much quicker, but that would've meant that he accepted his current condition. He did not.

Dr. Smith sighed, knowing that such long periods of silence meant that David was talking to himself again. His thousand yard stare, as much as one could make out from someone with such a grotesque head piece, was another red flag that prompted him to intervene. Not too blunt, not too soft. In moments like this, it was better to have David not freak out and act out of impulse.

“Magnificent pronunciation David. I heard from SOUTHCOM that the guys working on 727 have found something called “VECT.” Director Elias wanted me to inform you first, ‘said it may help to structure longer sentences. Even with the recent budgeting issues, he says that his team may be able to manufacture and send a copy to you. Good news, isn’t that right?”

More bits and pieces scraped off from that wretched pillar of doom, even when people were losing their jobs all around the Authority. But the Presidium still decided to siphon all of the region’s money into that minuscule, hellish island. He cursed GD-SCHL for ever uttering the message that led to the further analysis of the monstrosity. Just thinking about it made him lightheaded; or maybe he had forgotten to breathe again. Inhaling just in case, David pondered about the poetic implications of needing the thing that killed him just to keep borrowing time. But he had a PhD in “Brain and Cognitive Sciences," not philosophy. As such, he left the existential questioning for another day. Instead, he focused on that single word Dr. Smith had said to him earlier: “proud.”

What was Dr. Smith even proud of? Was he proud that his putrid corpse was tidily held together by flashy lights and duct tape? Was he proud that everyone in Prolab hesitated utter a word near him, to call him: to call the thing he now was, a doctor? Or maybe he was proud that David hadn’t broken down already, kept locked in his former site like just another abomination for the world not to see. Not that the latter mattered, anyway. David was single and everyone who could care about his disappearance either worked with him or died a long time ago or-

“Are you OK David? I’ve been wanting to ask you about your relationships in your workspace. See if you’re adjusting correctly and all. We can always leave the previous question for later.” The calm voice of Dr. Smith ripped David out from his depressive trance and back into reality. Another question to answer; another set of words. He kept his response short:

“Yes,” he blurted out. A short word he had learned to put out quickly a while ago, no more than 30 digits. Of course this wasn’t the truth: He was not adjusting well, nor were his peers. His old friends turned their back against him once they saw him walk into the room — too scared to gaze into his grey and mechanical eyes. The only person who seemed to retain an ounce of respect for him was his friend Cassandra. Maybe it was a result of her smug attitude towards life; Maybe it was the result of a general uncaring nature that allowed her to commune with the thing he had become; Hell, maybe she just found his condition funny to look at.

“I’m glad that's the case, David. So… what do you say we go back to the previous question: Anything to say about the good news?” Dr. Smith leaned in David’s direction, eagerly awaiting his answer.

It had been too much self loathing already. He needed to speak up. 122-Digit symbol alternation cycle, same as before but he was now pulling up the big weights. LAND, TERY, OPRT. It was far from easy, but that never discouraged him from doing anything. Six iterations, three reviews, and it was ready to go. The TERY had been a recent addition, and he could feel how even just a single glimpse made his jaw rack from side to side; almost preparing itself to rocket out from his head. LAND, on the other hand, simply amplified previous glyphs, but David rarely used it.

He did not like how OPRT made his head feel. He had studied EGs long enough to recognize this as a close cousin of TERS. Each time he used it he could feel its presence looming over. He was right back on that small calligraphy cube, and felt as if he was staring back at the monolith: Its darkness towering over it all as he fell dead on the floor. It made him remember those agonizingly endless minutes until the Trauma Team arrived. It made him remember how there was nothing but him, NITO, and the pillar. Almost as if he was still there, almost as if that thing was still laughing at his misery. Laughing at the irony of David's own continued existance, his death only propelled its study onwards: Laughing at the thought that his accident may occur again. On his peripheral view, David could see Dr. Smith quickly scrolling through his phone, perhaps a bit too fast. "The best the OAS has to offer" he thought to himself, couldn't care enough to wait a minute for him to speak.

His body contorting again, his lungs, mouth, lips, and then…

“They are good news. Keep me informed.” The words came out smooth as butter from David’s mouth.

Seven words, two sentences. Not great, but an advancement nonetheless. He didn’t care if the wording was a little clunky, nor did he care about the memories either. He knew it was possible as long as he could perfect his craft — perhaps he could hold a full-on conversation again sooner than later. Then he noticed that the lights on the room were… dimmer. How long had he taken to say that? It couldn’t have been that long, right?

“Took you a while David, but that was simply… impressive. I believe that with just a few more adjustments to the helmet and some practice, you may even return to normal.”

David’s brain began operating at full capacity. All the glyphs he could find; all the shortcuts on the grasp of his theoretical fingertips. He needed answers. No time to review, no time to double check. He needed to say something quickly, he needed to know.

“How much?” The words slurred out of David’s mouth, sounding more like an “Ow’moch?” than anything else. The tone had also come out a bit louder than he expected, enough to make Dr. Smith raise his eyebrows.

“Take it easy David. It was only 10 minutes. It's nothing to worry about. I’m sure most of it was thinking about other topics.”

David didn’t take it easy: In fact, he was worried. How in the world did that take 10 minutes? What even took him so long? Had he lost himself in memories? He didn’t need this, not now. Just like conducting heavy machinery, David pulled all the necessary levers to get his body out of the chair and out of that hellish room.

“David! Please, sit down. We can work this out.”

David didn’t want to sit down, and Dr. Smith wasn’t built to attempt and stop the 70 or so kilograms of dead weight that made up his body. He slammed the door open, scaring a nearby janitor. David had no time to excuse himself as he made his way across the hallway. Lab Coats, engineers… batteries, they all looked at the pale monster storm across the site, followed behind by a small man.

“David! Use your head, this can all be fixed and you know it,” said Dr. Smith, far too old to try to outrun David’s mechanised pace.

Yet, David didn’t hear him, or rather, didn’t want to hear. He was already in the living quarters area. Mostly reserved for ASF personnel and CSDs, this was the place they gave him to occupy until the Presidium thought of something better. He saw his door; his room, all right in front of him. Sluggishly, he entered it, and closed it shut. Waiting a few minutes to check no security guard tried to break it open, he then laid down on bed.

It was at times like this that David wished he could just close his eyes and go to a better place. But his new eyes weren’t able to close. His new brain wasn’t able to shut down. His decrepit body wasn’t able to rest.

But would I be able to if I take this thing off?

David bounced the thought around his head for a moment. Why didn’t he just rip it off? He knew he was strong enough to do it, and it wouldn’t hurt either: Nothing hurt him anymore. The flesh finally becoming free from the grasp of metal and wires. But just as many other things, he laid the thought to rest. Even if people didn’t like him anymore, they needed him. Prolab needed his expertise, he was afterall a useful asset. “Maybe another day,” he thought. Maybe another day.

For now, he just laid in bed as the banging on his door slowly faded away: Dr. Smith having given up on his attempt to reach him. ”A topic for next week,” he thought. Calm and still, he rested atop his blanket. Only three more hours until his shift began. The calm routine of keeping his heart rate in check made killing time easier. He thought of times long passed, of his life before it all went down the gutter. Maybe one day, he wouldn’t need to worry about it anymore. Maybe one day.

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