Chapter 1: Sofia
You walk through the sliding door and into the office of the Semblance Modicum Facility where a man in a black suit with a police badge attached to the lapel stood from his chair and greeted you, when you reached forward he explained that he did not shake hands for he believed it was a sign of bad luck. You find this rather odd and claim that an undertaker of the law should surely stay away from thoughts devoid of reason. Detective Fallon, the undertaker, smirked and said in a cold voice, trying to remain professional, that in his line of work it always helped to hold to just the slightest sliver of superstition in fear that the morbid nature of his job would put him off the case. You look around the office, a clinically white room with window panels lining the back wall presenting a wide view of the city below and the paparazzi small as ants below crowded round the entrance to the facility which you had had to fight through to get here. Behind Fallon, where he had previously sat before you had entered, was his desk, also white as a hospital gown, with trailing wires and a computer monitor, your eyes follow the wires to the far wall featuring several drawers tagged with names, you spot the mismatching one in the centre, at about waist height.
‘Is that him?’ You ask, looking back to Fallon for approval.
‘I’m afraid so,’ Detective Fallon said, trying to stay courteous so as not to offend you, ‘I must say I’m tremendously sorry for your loss, he was a great man and- ’
‘Please,’ you interrupt, ‘don’t… there’s no need for that, we never exactly agreed completely on anything, I’d just rather get this over with.’
‘I see,’ Fallon said, ‘I’m sure you’ve had a chance to read over the reports surrounding Mr Dewitt’s passing.’
‘I had to skim through,’ You say flippantly, ‘there was an important meeting this morning so I’m afraid not everything sunk in, not that I care too much for it.’
‘If I may be frank, Miss Dewitt, I must urge you to consider this case with the utmost severity, from what the autopsy has shown we have confirmed that Mr Dewitt was poisoned, and considering how he died we have managed to rule out suicide. As of now, seventeen hours have passed since the body was recovered, this means that only the last thirty-one hours of Mr Dewitt’s life is accessible through the link and it will not last.’
‘So, this is a race against time for you?’ You say, eyebrows raised in false engagement.
‘It is, for us all, Miss Dewitt. Please understand, if you do not begin to take this case seriously this very instant, we will needlessly lose evidence that could potentially put your father’s killer in jail. Whether you care for this or not, I insist, at least do this so you can take a criminal off our streets. If you honestly feel nothing for your father’s death at least have the decency to consider the safety of future victims through your involvement in this link.’
The room fell silent, the atmosphere as still as Roland Dewitt’s corpse but there was a tension which silently returned as you accept you position, you don’t like it, that went without saying, but you figure you’d be able to put your familial difficulties aside for the duration of the case. However, this still doesn’t mean you would pretend to take a liking to the procedure.
‘Let’s get started,’ Detective Fallon broke eye contact with you, looking toward the floor as he walked back round his desk to set up the link, typing away and addressing you as if you had become somebody else and that you were no longer present, ‘have you linked before?’ his voice took on a formal, professional tone, he had evidently slipped back inside his cold and detached attitude as defence against any seething remarks that might come his way.
‘No,’ You admit, crossing your arms and tilting your head to mimic Fallon, ‘I can’t say that I have.’
‘It’s fairly simple, much more so than they make it seem on the news, all this cutting-edge technology has to be given a certain tabloid glamour for the public to accept it rather than those activists out there who fly into a rage whenever they consider what we do to be an invasion of privacy or disrespect for the dead. If anything, we respect the dead and the families by catching the perpetrators of the crimes.’ In his sudden passion, Fallon brought his head back up to face you to find you wearing a disinterested glance, seeing this Fallon resumed his professional demeanour, ‘anyway, since this is the case I will have to ask you some questions as a precaution: are you at all claustrophobic?’
‘Do you have any allergies of any kind?’
‘No, well,’ you stifle a grin, ‘none that would impede the procedure.’
‘Can you tell me what they are please? Better safe than sorry, should anything go wrong we could lose valuable time and of course I wouldn’t wish anything bad to happen to you on top of that.’
‘Pickles or vinegar,’ You answer after processing that Fallon appeared more concerned with the case than your own health, however you decide to supress your anger, and continue, ‘there was one time, when I was young, where I ate a gherkin and my throat swelled up, I had to be taken to hospital.’
‘I see, haven’t had that one before.’ Fallon pulled a fake smile, his voice rising slightly to lighten the mood, like a dentist’s attempt at a joke in the presence of a nervous patient, neither seemed to have any effect. Despite this, Fallon continued and once the questioning was over, he got up from his desk and wondered over to the drawer where the body was located and slid one out from the wall, revealing an empty slab.
‘Where is he?’ You ask.
‘He is,’ Fallon paused, opening the adjacent drawer, ‘here. And this one,’ he pointed to the empty slab, ‘is for you.’ He grinned pleasantly, though to you this came across as morbidly psychotic. ‘Oh, not to worry, it’s perfectly safe, no harm will come to you at all,’ Fallon reassures you, tensing as if you would suddenly turn on your heel and decide to take your chances with the paparazzi downstairs rather than share any more of your time with this, what you assume to be, wannabe Frankenstein. ‘You can keep your clothes on if you wish, most volunteers prefer it that way, all you do is lay down while I prepare the link, though bear in mind I will have to fill both slabs with water, so the electricity can be conducted at a better rate. As you can see these lips here,’ he tapped the edge of the empty slab which curved upward a few inches, ‘will stop any spillage, the water will be cold so I’m afraid that will be a bit uncomfortable, but it’ll warm up once you’re in it, and once the link begins you’ll forget it’s even there. Now there’s one last thing I have to ask your consent for and that is a drop of blood?’
‘Blood? Are you serious?’ How much creepier could this get? You wonder.
‘I’m afraid it’s necessary for the link to be established, it has to be added to the water, so the DNA matcher can confirm a stronger link between the two occupants. It’s just a small prick on the finger, nothing more, and everything’s sterilised too, no risk of infection.’
‘Has anybody ever died in the link? Or suffered any memory loss or brain damage?’
‘No,’ Fallon confirmed, ‘you may feel some side effects once the link is finished however, such as headaches, nausea, dry mouth or itchy throat but nothing too serious, the worst we’ve ever had was a seizure, but that particular person was an epileptic to begin with turns out.’
‘Didn’t you ask them about that beforehand?’
‘Yes, but they lied unfortunately, too proud I guessed, anyway I do hope you’ve been completely honest in your answers, please do tell me if anything you’ve said in response to my questions has been false in any way.’
‘No,’ you say, ‘nothing, it was all true.’
‘Ok, good,’ Fallon sighed and returned to his desk, ‘let’s get under way, shall we?’ He returned with a needle and asks you to hold out your hand, you comply, and he pricked your finger, you lie down flat with your arms by your sides on the slab, letting the few drops of blood meet the sterilised metal. ‘Don’t worry if there’s more than a drop, it will establish a better connection, in prototyping it required a full pint, but we ended up going back to the drawing board, better use in the donor drive I figured.’
You stare straight up at the blank white ceiling, the only detail being a cubic pattern that creates the illusion of three-dimensional shapes, it brings back memories of your grandmother’s house, her ceiling had the same pattern. You used to imagine yourself in miniature, hopping up and down those shapes to either side of the ceiling like you were in a game of Q*bert. It brings you comfort, allowing you to zone out while Fallon pushed the slabs back into the wall where all sound became muffled and pitch darkness consumed you. It was as if all your senses had become muted at the same time, yet you do not panic, you just close your eyes, and pictured yourself as best you can in your cube world.
From outside the slab, you can barely hear Detective Fallon going about his business setting up the machines, the faint tapping of keys and beeping of nodes calm you somewhat despite the knowledge that it is these very things that were about to steal your consciousness away from you. You liken it to your knack for white noise, those ten-hour sound files of showers, airports and hair dryers that always helped temper your perpetual insomnia and helped keep the bills down from having to leave the fan on all night.
‘Ok Sofia, I need you to count back from ten for me can you do that?’
A cold wet feeling seeps into your body through your clothes, slow yet sudden enough for you to almost leap up until you remember about the water flow needed to conduct the process, so you let yourself relax as best you can into the awkwardness of laying in wet clothes. You begin to wonder how you would get out of here without a change of clothes, but you find yourself promptly assuming they have a drying chamber somewhere. That makes you laugh inwardly, picturing a massive blow-dryer blasting your whole body, it helps you ease up even more, linking your mind back to those ten-hour sound files. It envelops her, the low-level euphoria beginning to prickle at the top of your scalp and work its way down, eliminating the cold for the most part.
You begin counting.
Your legs feel as if they are growing slowly, feeling further away.
Your stomach feels as if it’s digesting something you can’t remember eating.
Your fingers feel as if the nails are bending inward by their own volition.
Your elbows gain feeling.
Your vision goes altogether.
You feel as if you’re hearing everything from beneath a swimming pool.