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Soft Questions Hard Answers

“So, what did I do, patch people up all day?”

“No, you aided in the most advanced levels of interrogation. We used our normal tactics. The subject would be injured, you would heal them, calm them down, ask them what we wanted to know. If they resisted you could drain their life slowly, painfully. Then you healed them up and started the process all over. It usually became clear you only die once didn’t apply anymore. Besides, you could glean the answers we needed by touching them. Even death couldn’t stop us from getting what we needed. We have others for that part of the process.”

“God that sounds awful. Why would I want to do that to somebody?”

“I don’t think you enjoyed it but the information we obtained was invaluable. You were involved in some of the outside missions too. We worked together on a lot of those, mending combat wounds and making it possible for longer missions to be completed. I was assigned to observe you, figure out medically how your talents work, and how to duplicate or exploit them. We became friends and I ignored that part of my directive.”

“Why did Richard affect me so much? I mean you have been around me every day. Why didn’t I have the same reaction to you?”

“My genetic defect, Richard doesn’t have that issue. You have never been drawn to a subject with any kind of serious genetic defect. I’m practically immune to you because of it.”

“How bizarre, how is that even possible?” I questioned.

“Survival of the fittest usually prevails. Your abilities are primal. There’s no proof for my theory, only my observations, but I believe your flight or fight mechanism fuels your ability to heal quickly. It gives you heightened awareness. I imagine you trigger this in others, tapping into the most primal aspects of our species, allowing them to heal. We have better equipment now. Our tests years ago weren’t conclusive.”

Gerald got up from his seat at the bar and went into the kitchen. He walked all the way around the room looking at the dishes in the cabinets and the appliances on the counters. He selected a glass and went to the freezer for ice then poured his bottle of water on top of it and put the empty bottle in the sink. He leaned against the sink and stared back into the living room and out the front window. He was unusually quiet.

“You look like you have something on your mind, Ivan. Why so quiet?”

“I don’t agree with pushing you to remember. As you find out more, you are going to question more. I don’t want to explain the facts that will be hard for you to hear.” Gerald looked down at the countertop and seemed to be memorizing the grout lines between the white tiles.

“I can’t imagine there is anything you will have to worry about. I’m the monster that drains the life out of people.”

“No, that’s part of the problem right there. You’re human. We are all just human. Any talents can be turned around. Every move we make can be twisted to look like something it’s not.”

“Okay have I done something, or did I say something that has you worried? Where is all this sketchy crap coming from?”

Gerald took a deep breath. “You were never in a car accident Calynn.”

“Then how did I get so badly injured? Why do I have such vivid nightmares?”

“I can’t half explain my part in this without you thinking badly of me.” Gerald’s shoulders relaxed, and the anger left his voice. I could tell this was his real issue.

“I mean, I already think terrible things about you. There’s no harm done.” I said it jokingly, but Gerald did not seem amused. “Look, this is what I know so far. I am so dangerous I can’t be trusted not to hurt my own family. I was allowed to leave, so I either royally screwed up, or I did something that got me major brownie points. I remember things you claim never happened, and I can’t remember the things you say actually did. Half an explanation is all I have. Whatever happened to me or because of me it’s over, it’s done. So just spill it.”

“You did earn your way out. You asked me to help you and I did. I saw why they can’t let you leave, and I understand why you wanted your ability blocked. I didn’t enjoy my part in all this, but I swear on my life I was as careful as humanly possible.

“When they lowered you and the car over the cliff, I was paralyzed. I couldn’t leave until I knew you were safe. I called the local police about the crash. I needed to ensure they found you and got you to a hospital before nightfall then I came back here.”

“I got all those injuries from being lowered to the base of the cliff?” I felt the need to be as close to Gerald as possible. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. I walked into the kitchen and stood next to him at the sink. His gaze was still fixed on the front window as if his next word was written on the glass.

“I researched near-fatal car wreck victims and found the common, non-lethal injuries. I recreated the damage your body would have sustained by a wreck of that type. The car’s weight, your weight, the density of the trees the car would hit, and how much it would impact the metal. I needed to estimate where the car would land and how long you could survive with those injuries. Your survival needed to be believable but look bad enough so your memory impairment wouldn’t be questioned.

“The implant was just the first step. You not having your abilities, allowed me to inflict the damage. You watched a movie of a real accident while you were under a mix of psychotropic drugs. The memory of it is vivid because you saw it happen over and over on film.

“I’m the one who physically caused all the other injuries, but I didn’t factor in how poorly the local hospital would treat you or that you might develop new allergies. I didn’t anticipate every possibility. The problems you have now are my fault entirely.”

I put my hand on Gerald’s arm he looked down at the floor. “I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you, but I’m glad you helped me. I went back home and lived a normal life. I have a family now. I wouldn’t have all that here Ivan.”

“No, you don’t understand what I am telling you. I broke your leg myself.”

“I heard you. If I wasn’t in an actual car wreck, then I must have gotten the injuries somehow. I don’t want to know how you did it. I asked you to do this for me. I can’t imagine what was so bad in my life that I would be willing to go through all that to get away from it?”

“And there it is. The million-dollar question. What happened, and why would you want to leave so badly? I can’t answer that yet, it’s too soon. I won’t do it”

“Then I guess we can slice up the bread and talk about something else.”

“You’re not angry. I just told you I physically harmed you, and you’re not angry with me?” He asked.

“I don’t know what I am. I asked you to do this for me right?”

“Yes, but I could have refused,”

“Then I would have been stuck here with whatever I was trying to get away from. I wouldn’t have met my husband and we wouldn’t have our son. I would have missed the years I spent with my mother and my grandmother. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t think you would hurt me out of malice.

“I can see this has caused you grief. I was very young. Obviously, I asked for more than I should have asked of anyone. It sounds like you got me out as carefully as you could. I’m grateful for my life.”

“I went over this conversation in my mind, wondering what your reaction would be. I was prepared for screaming, yelling, for you to hate me. It never occurred to me you would accept my actions as a necessary means to an end.”

Gerald walked back into the living room and plopped down on the couch in front of the bread. He tore one of the soft baguettes into smaller pieces and carefully poured the olive oil into two dipping bowls. I followed him and sat on a chair across from him.

“I have another test planned for the morning. It may help your brain work around the implant. We need you to show some measurable use of your ability and the only way I can think of is to restore your memory as fast as possible.”

“You sound like you are being rushed, why so fast?” I asked.

“Yes, we are being rushed. The agenda they are pushing is impossible. I hope you realize your happiness is not a priority. You need to show some measurable progress soon.” Ivan stared at me waiting for my response.

“Who is They? Isn’t They just Richard and maybe his boss?”

“There are those who sit above the military leaders you’ll see here. My guess would be the subcommittees who fund our particular black budget projects. They want a return on the investment they made by reintroducing you here. It’s all negotiation. At some point, you will have to live up to your end of the bargain.”

“But I didn’t make any bargains with anyone. I was practically captured.”

“Sure, you did, seventeen years ago and again four days ago. The only difference is you didn’t have a choice this time. Richard was tasked with bringing you back regardless of your opposition. We need to get you in a position where you have something they need so they are obliged to keep giving you what you want.”

“What I want is to go home and forget this place exists.” I grabbed at the pile of bread and pushed into the bowl of oil.

“You are so far beyond forgetting now. You’re here and your old life is gone. A new life is taking its place. If you are going to control what goes into your life, you need to give them something they want.”

“Ivan, I don’t know anything. I really, truly don’t remember a fucking thing. At some point, they will figure that out.” The smell of the olive oil and the sourdough was starting to sicken me. I dropped the oily bread on the table. Gerald crinkled his eyebrow and sat up straight in his chair with a low grumble.

“With no abilities, there’s no need to keep you around. Your husband will be stuck with a mountain of debt and dead wife to bury. Your family will be given some lame excuse for your death and any promises made will vanish. You wanted out. You got out. Now you have to play the game to get back inside,” Ivan explained.

“What do you want from me? There is no way to control what I don’t understand. You saw what I happily took from Richard. You should have seen your face, you looked terrified.”

“Not of you, that’s why I needed to see you. I’m not going to let them... Someone who knows nothing except the dollars and cents of this installation decided you need to be fully functional in thirty days. I’m still investigating who this person is. We made progress today. We may even have something to show them soon.” Ivan’s wide-eyed face began to turn red. I couldn’t look at him anymore.

“This just keeps getting worse. I don’t know how I was able to steal energy from Richard. I would have happily killed him. You have no idea, do you? I couldn’t stop on my own. I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t know I was hurting him, but I doubt I would have cared. What if I can’t remember how to control it?”

“I’ll wager you trained your entire childhood to use your abilities undetected. The control you showed was surgical, invisible, and I know you kept a great deal from me. I’m sure you felt you needed to. I’m confident you can get back control, it will take time, but it will happen.” Gerald walked slowly over to my chair.

“If not for the huge gash in your head, who knows how long it would have taken for you to remember this place. They were waiting for you to find your abilities again. You have to remember how to dance for the organ grinder, or they will take away everything you think you can’t live without. But they won’t kill you, not after you’ve shown progress.”

I wasn’t able to listen anymore, Ivan’s words melted into a constant negative buzzing.

Finally, I told him how I didn’t believe him, how full of shit he was, how any moment I was going to wake up and find out this was all a big fat, pain killer fueled delusion. This bullshit would all fade in the daylight and I would go on living my life. Why else was everything the same in my kitchen? Who would do that to somebody? Who would go to my home and look in my cabinets, it had to be a dream?

We argued in circles about how he could prove everything he said. He claimed to have pictures and reports. He would show me his proof, and I would have to believe him. Eventually, I stopped yelling and then he stopped yelling. After a period of agonizing silence, Gerald gave up and left.

I curled up on the couch and pulled a throw pillow over my eyes. I was warm so I didn’t see any reason to move. I fell asleep chanting quietly to myself, wake up, wake up, please God. Please let me wake up.

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