Posts tagged prose
It is a simple drive. Nothing challenging. He made this trek before. In the daylight or the dark of night, this is a relatively straight shot with little interference. Easy terrain. Access to gas. Minimal traffic. Crossing the border into Iowa at 3 AM would be a breeze.
“Thank you, sweet Jesus, for Missouri highway patrol.”
Iowa, however, is a different story entirely.
She looked down at her hands, flexing her wrists and fingers, stretching them. Her thumbs rolled over her index and middle fingers, still feeling the heat released from the creases of her fingerprints. A smile crept to her lips. She pressed her fingers against the upturned corners of her mouth. Happiness. Finally.
“Will I be able to do more?”
The thoughts were firing off in her head one right after the other. Three. She was only supposed to have three. That was the foundation of the rules her Guide had told Genessa on her thirtieth birthday. How a fourth figured into things, she had no idea.
“Can I do more than the rest of them?”
Most of the rules he told her sounded as if they came from a place of hope. The way he had hoped they would be. She was the first. No one had any idea how things were supposed to go, though he seemed absolutely certain when it came to the abilities. Talents, he called them. They came from elements of her life she had lived so far. It took so long for them to come to her because she had to develop first. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. These Talents were not to be put in the hands of children as the fictional sagas of comic books depicted them. They gestated until the person was of sound moral fiber to serve out the Guides’ purpose.
The Gift was obvious to her even as he explained it to her. From as far back as she could remember, the notion of flight invaded her dreams. Childhood fantasies of being a female Peter Pan or a Supergirl dominated play time. It irritated her peers how much she wanted to soar. Arms extended on the playground, kicking up clouds of gravel and sand under her feet. Just to tease them further, she dive-bombed in kamikaze fashion from off of the monkey bars, fireman’s pole, or slide ladders. Whatever it took for her feet to leave the Earth for even the briefest of moments, she would do. Becoming a pilot at one point seemed like the most logical option. She pursued it long enough to get a license, but found the boy’s club of being a commercial airline pilot to be yet another frustration on her growing list of irritations.
The Fear could have been so many things. Things she never admitted to and wouldn’t even now. That fire was the Talent she was given seemed very fortuitous to her. A few nightmares that had left an indelible mark on her psyche. Something that haunted her, that robbed her of her youth, now became something she could control to her benefit. If she found it necessary, she could use it to protect herself, commanding the flames rather than fearing them.
The Impairment came as a shock to her. It seemed unnecessary. This she fought against. Years spent in museums, appreciating the many works of the likes of Degas, Kahlo, Monet, El Greco, and even Warhol. She thrived off of her ability to spot what others missed and critique the things others found attractive. But that was gone now. To her, the Talent given to replace the Impairment was an unfair trade. That resentment still quaked in the pit of her stomach.
“Is this my reparation for suffering the worst Impairment?”
That was all her Guide had mentioned. Three Talents would be all each of The Twelve would receive. It was up to each person to harness their own Talents and support the others. The Gifts and Fears thrown together in an alliance would outweigh any of the effects of The Impairments. Where one would falter, another would excel.
“Is this my reward for being the first?”
Genessa’s Guide spoke nothing of a fourth Talent.
Especially not while he vomited blood as she crushed his larynx with her mind.
Bergen Mercy’s first child of 1983 was born at 12:03 AM. The mother had been in labor for several hours. For awhile, we were unsure as to whether she would be last year’s child or this year’s. Fortunately, she came today. Born out of wedlock to a woman of strong character. Strong in her words. Strong in her actions. The father did not show his face in the delivery room, nor have I seen him in the hours that have passed since birth leading me to believe that he is not a force in her life. This is of no consequence, of course.
I became too involved with this one just as you warned me I might. I witnessed the birth. Held the newborn child in my hands. Heard her gasp for her first breathe and scream her first cry. I announced the birth of the girl and put her in her mother’s arms. Amazing miracle, birth is, even after seeing it many times before.
Perhaps because this birth has so much significance it means more to me.
The mother didn’t have a name chosen for her child. Everything seemed so fake, she said.
“I won’t know her name until I see her.”
Even then, she didn’t know what to call her.
“What if I give her a name and she grows to hate it and hate me? I need to give her a good name. Something that means something.”
I suggested Genessa. There are Christian connections to the name, which may give us all a nice laugh at the irony of it all, but it does mean birth. Beginnings. Origins. Genesis. That’s what this is. For us. For the mother. For the child. She is the first of the twelve. It has a very deep meaning to all of us.
As I administered Genessa’s injection, I thought back on my conversations with the mother. I looked into this beautiful newborn child’s eyes. If everything worked — if everything connected and snapped and changed just as it was supposed to — this child would change the world.
It was a remarkable moment.
I look forward to all that you will do, young Genessa.
Navy blue tank top with golden schooners and stars, secured by a strategically placed safety pin attaching the thinnest of straps to the rest of the shirt. That’s all that held her worn top together. She owned the old shirt for many years and had yet to find a reason to part with it. As I laid next to her, I could still smell the cross pollination of years of different scents and fragrances worn into the fabric. The current and strongest was my favorite: honeysuckle.
I wrapped my arm around her in the darkness and kissed her neckline softly. She trembled and shifted her body tighter against mine. She turned her head, letting my lips rub against her ear. I kissed her lower lobe and felt her smile spread from her mouth to the rest of her face.
Sometimes I get tired of doing this. Not that I oppose the work. Not that I have any disagreements with what we are doing. I am steadfast in my belief that we are in the right.
It is taxing to be so secretive. To constantly stay hidden. The fear of getting caught is always weighing heavily on my mind. Not out of fear for what will happen to me. I know the contingency plan. I have accepted my fate if I am found out. My fear is that our work won’t be finished.
I ask myself the same question each month: “Do we already have enough?” Surely seven is enough. Eight. Nine. As the number gets larger, the less we have to fear about some kind of failure. That seems to be the most logical conclusion. At least one of them will make it to adulthood. One of them will evolve. A group, though. A group of twelve. All cut of the same cloth. They’ll be able to do things together. To accomplish more. A united front against the wrongs of the world.
The more the merrier, I suppose.
I waited until Thanksgiving to do the injection this month. I’m glad I did.
We had a little girl born early on the ward today. Almost two months early. The fear is that she won’t make it through the night. It’s practically a surprise she lasted the afternoon. I helped with the birth. Saw her frail frame. She looked so brittle — fragile — as if the slightest trauma would destroy her. Seeing her in the incubator, tubes and pads and wires keeping her alive, I let my heart win out.
I understand that this strain won’t take hold until the designated time. I know it has to mature and grow as they do. I know that their traits and characteristics need to develop before it can. But what if? What if this injection could save her life? Some how, some way, it strengthens her cells. Gives her what she needs to hang on. What if?
If it doesn’t and she dies, I understand that it lowers our count. We want twelve initial subjects. As of right now, ten have made it. Ten are out there in the world. Growing. One almost a year old. Even so, there is nothing to say that there couldn’t be some kind of tragedy and they don’t make it. Illness, car accident, plane crash, something. They may not reach thirty, thus negating the injection completely. Because an injection does not guarantee a survival, I feel no shame in including someone born weaker.
She could become the strongest of them all.
I hope that you have the faith I do.
They know. They know what I have been doing. They’re on to me.
As of this moment, I can hear them outside the door, just as I could hear them seconds ago over the static of their walkie-talkies. Just as I could hear them minutes ago whispering around corners before ducking into offices.
The final child has been “vaccinated.” “Inoculated.” I knew it would be ending the moment I pulled the syringe from the IV. She saw me. Gasp. Glare. Questions. Orders.
“Just… stay here,” she said.
I had to run. I had to get back here. Avoid further questioning. Finish this on my own. Write that I have completed my task so that if this gets back to you, you’ll know I did what was expected of me.
I am Jekyll. I am Frankenstein. I am their monster. It saddens me that they are unaware that the work we do is to save them from the monsters they have already created. I can’t tell them that. They’ll have to see it on their own.
They are outside waiting to burn me down, handguns and handcuffs instead of torches and pitchforks. Eager to end something I’ve already finished.
The twelve have been chosen. It’s up to time now.
I am sad that I won’t get to see them grow. See them age. See them reach that moment in which they can be told. See them reach their potential. That was never guaranteed. I know that. I had hoped I’d come closer than this.
I swallowed the pill. I’ll unlock the door and let them [unreadable].
Thirty-one days past thirty-one, he looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the weathered features staring back at him. His hairline had always been higher, but it now appears as though each strand agreed with their neighbors to pack up and move further away from his brow line. The hair on the brow line, always faint, had become even more difficult to see. Creases form at the corners of his eyes, even when he has no reason to smile. Light black-lavender semi-circles droop below his bottom eyelid. Above the beard, the complexion of his skin tells tales of years of hard drinking and smoking, though he has never done either to excess. The beard once an odd mix of brown, blonde, and red, looks covered in a layer of dust, providing no cover to the drawn wrinkles at the side of his mouth. This face does not possess a vibrant joy of life the man behind it had once been known for. That reputation would have to be proven, something the man was not in the mood to do.
The past two years had been hard. He could count the reactions on his face to every second of every life event. Slight crease where the left nostril meets mid-cheek is from when she said she didn’t love him anymore. Deep line from one temple to the other is when her name-calling and button-pushing led him to slam his fist through the hallway drywall. The skin, the leathery tight pitted skin, is from the nights of sleeping — and not sleeping — alone. He watched celebrities age over years of walking the red carpet, often comparing their faces to a catcher’s mitt. And now here he was, paler from the lack of tanning solvents and sunlight, but still with a face only Carlton Fisk could love.
If the mirror could show the internal damage of the last two years, it would show much of the same. Like a textbook example of clichéd teenage angst, the heart sits broken with collapsed lungs, a disoriented brain, and a load of mysterious bricks in the pit of the stomach to round out the picture. His muscles seem rubbery, bones brittle. It as if he believed everything in the world stopped, but his body knew that to be false. It aged. It grew. It deteriorated to match the strife inside him.
He stared into the eyes of the figure reflected. The motivational speech that followed had shades of Hollywood. Traces of the best the brightest screenwriters had to offer. Troops would be propelled into battle. Words triggering actions bringing about change. He ended with a smile, but the smile didn’t echo. The man in the mirror looked back, sullen and knowing. The smile faded from the man’s face. He nodded. He was no fool for the words he composed.
It would take more.
It would take more.
I spin the dial on the radio, trying to fine tune the stations on the road between Denton and Lewisville. I’m so close. So close to my destination. So close to a bed, a pillow, a blanket. So close to a sanctuary for a fresh start. I hear her voice crackle over the airways. She’s a teen. Angsty. Angry. Wounded. Been through more at her young age than many much older can comprehend. She sings of a heartbreak that strikes to the very heart of why I’m making this drive. It is all too familiar. I know this song. I start to sing along and my voice cracks. Tears forming at the corners of my eyes. No more. Can’t continue.
Night. Darkness. Everything was dark, save for the lone street lamp and the solitary light coming from what looked like apartment twelve. I sat under the street light, diving into the wax-coated package of Topps trading cards. The smell of pink sugar bouncing off of the Ripkins and the Griffeys and into one nostril before permeating the membranes of the other. I look up, temporarily distracted by a flash of red on the balcony of apartment twelve. I squint and attempt to place the location of each apartment in my head.