Not in this timeline

When I finally got out, the world was…It wasn’t the same. Everything was painfully dull. After you watch so many people die, it’s hard to be focused on washing dishes, or brushing your hair. The world is flat and heavy but I feel lighter. Like something otherworldly, floating through it. I have no roots any more, nothing grounding me. Everything I was before, everything I became has been erased. And the weirdest part is, I have no desire to start again. I’m spent. I’ve had enough of trying. I just exist now. Living my life on mute. So when it finally comes time to take me out, I’ll have nothing to miss.

When I meet people their mouths move but I can’t hear anything. When I’m working, I turn the keys and I stack the shelves and I walk up and down with my clipboard, but my mind is elsewhere. I just do what I’m told and live in my head.

I can’t really describe it. This french guy who fixes the vans told me about the idea of multiple timelines. I think that’s close to it. In my head, there are many timelines and I can tune into whichever one I want. There’s this one, where I’m siting in a four by four room with no furniture, smoking cigarette after cigarette until I fall asleep. And there’s another one, where I’m living in a log cabin. Or another, where I have a dog.

My favourite is the one where V and I- I suppose actually we have normal names in that timeline, names like Ben and Rebecca – but we make it. We meet for the first time somewhere normal, at work or at church maybe. We fall in love in a romantic way. Candlelit dinners and picnics and holidays and smiles. We get married, we buy a house. We have arguments, sure, but they’re about such inconsequential things, like what colour to paint the hall or where to host the wedding reception, that they’re more fun than destructive. We get pregnant. Have a child. Have four. We’ve got photos on the walls. Family videos. Tricycles are lined up next to bicycles int he garden. Little clothes hand on the washing line. When we go out we walk hand in hand, kids running ahead.

It is the best part of my day, visiting that timeline. It’s always warm in the house. It smells like pastry. There’s always chatter, always giggling and excited exclamations. As I walk into the living room, someone runs up to me. The youngest, maybe. She has my eyes, and V’s smile. When I hold her, she smells like baby powder and biscuits. She clings to me and I choke up. She’s lost her first tooth, she tells me. Asks me if I’ll stay up and make sure the tooth fairy knows where to find it. Eventually she falls asleep on my lap, and V is beside me on the couch, and we’re just watching TV. It’s getting quiet now. Calm. I carry her up to bed. Swap her tooth for a two pound coin.

Then we’re finally alone. I play those scenes out slowly. They’re part foreign, part memory. I tell I love her over and over. Sometimes she says something back, sometimes she just looks at me. It doesn’t matter. She’s here. She’s here with me. We are wrapped around each other. She’s so soft and warm and mine. Mine, mine, all these things are mine. And no one can get to them. Not even me.

I would never be sick there. I would never be high. Never think about my adopted father, or my dead brother, or all the shit and piss and pain and blood I’ve seen. I’d never wake up in the night screaming. Never hurt anyone. Never leave V.

I’d just enjoy it.

Really, finally, enjoy being alive.

Third Deposition

CERTIFIED EXCERPT

Transcript of Witness G.

Date: May 27, 2012

Case: The Royal London Research Institute -v- European Court of Human Rights

 

ON BEHALF OF PLAINTIFF:

LAMIA GRAHAM, ESQUIRE

JAMES F. BROOKS, ESQUIRE

MICHAEL GEERHADT, ESQUIRE

ROMILY J. ORFANEDES, ESQUIRE

THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

 

ON BEHALF OF DEFENDANT:

ILANA WILKINSON, ESQUIRE

RONAN BERMAN, ESQUIRE

STEVEN A. MYERS, ESQUIRE

LORNE NICOLS STERLING, ESQUIRE

ROGER ABRAMS, ESQUIRE

CARROLL NOBLE, ESQUIRE

THE ROYAL LONDON RESEARCH INSTITUTE

 

VIDEO SPECIALIST: The court reporter today is Brenda Huff. Would the reporter please swear in the witness.

WITNESS G. having been duly sworn, testified as follows:

 

EXAMINATION BY COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF BY MS. ORFANEDES:

 

Q: Good morning, G.

A: Good Morning.

Q: Due to the sensitive nature of the information you have, your identity has been changed a few times, hasn’t it?

A: Yes

Q: I imagine that has been quite troublesome.

A: That is an understatement.

Q: But on the scale of things you suffered while at the Institute’s facility, probably not the most painful.

A: I don’t have a scale. I live in a constant state of wretchedness.

Q: Of course. I apologise. For what it’s worth. I ask you to think back to point where you were rescued form the Facility. Or more, the point when you thought you had been rescued.

A: Which time?

Q: The first time.

A: Okay.

Q: You had been living in general population, at this point?

A: I was living on the cell block, yes.

Q: And what did your days consist of?

A: Psych tests, Memory exercises, torture.

Q: Torture?

A: What I considered torture, Yes.

Q: And can you clarify what that was?

A: I had arrived at the facility with my brother. I was told, if I participated in the exercises, we would both be allowed to ‘return home’. It was not my own desire to participate in those exercises. In fact, they hurt immensely. But they said I could see my brother again. They kept saying that, even though my brother had died 3 days after our capture.

Q: And what were these exercises?

A: The supervisors would bring people in and have me mine them for information until I was physically ill.

Q: And how often would this happen?

A: That I would be sick or that they would bring people in?

Q: Both.

A: So, if I mined 5 people a day, I would be sick by the 7th day.

Q: And what would happen when you got sick?

A: They would give me a break.

Q: For how long?

A: A couple of hours.

Q: Sorry?

A: A couple of hours.

Q: So, you’d still see people that same day?

A: Yes. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even get a break. They’d just mop us up and tell us to keep going.

Q: We?

  1. BERMAN: Objection, beyond the scope.
  2. ORFANEDES: Your honour, I am establishing the witness’s routine.
  3. BERMAN: You’re supposed to be asking about the escape.
  4. ORFANEDES: You mean the faux escape that your clients orchestrated.
  5. HOLMES: Enough. Ms. Orfanedes, continue with your questioning.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: G, who did you mean by we?

A: All the subjects with mental abilities. The had us work on the same corridor. If one of us was unsuccessful with a test, they’d pass the test to another. We would have lunch together. It’s how I met-

Q: G?

A: Sorry?

Q: It was how you met who?

A: It’s not important.

Q: We’ll decide if it’s important or not, G.

A: It’s how I met [Witness F].

Q: I see. Were the two of you friends?

A: When?

Q: While at the facility?

A: No. None of us were really allowed to talk to each other.

Q: But you ate lunch together-

A: Under supervision, yes.

Q: So, did you not talk because you didn’t want to or because you didn’t want to be seen?

A: Sort of both. Everything was being recorded.

  1. BERMAN: Objection, beyond the scope!
  2. ORFANEDES: How?
  3. BERMAN: The witness could not possibly know that.
  4. ORFANEDES: He was there.
  5. BERMAN: Your Honour, it has already been established that information from this period is unreliable. The subjects were purposely misinformed to keep the experiment unbiased-

WITNESS G: I know what I’m talking about.

  1. BERMAN: I’m sure you think you do.

WITNESS G: I know I do. I mined members of staff throughout my time at the facility. Seeing as the only other person with the ability to manipulate memories was murdered at the facility, I am confident that the memories I gathered were authentic.

  1. BERMAN: G, you have no way of knowing if your brother was murdered

WITNESS G: I saw it. I saw it in his supervisor’s memories.

  1. BERMAN: A witness whom you murdered before they could testify, so how can anyone really know.
  2. ORFANEDES: Your Honour, Mr. Berman is hijacking my examination of the witness.
  3. HOLMES: Mr. Berman, you will wait your turn, or you won’t have one. Have I made myself clear?
  4. BERMAN: Yes, Your Honour.
  5. ORFANEDES: May we continue, your Honour?
  6. HOLMES: Please.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: How did you know you were being recorded?

A: Because I knew, despite what we were being told, that we were the subjects of the experiment.

Q: And how did you know that?

A: how do you think I knew that?

MR HOLMES: G, please just answer the questions. We don’t need you to pose them.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: How did you come to know that you were the subjects of the experiment?

A: I had mined it from a Supervisor.

Q: And how often were you doing that?

A: At first, all the time, and then after we moved to cell block, only when I could get away with it.

Q: And when was that?

A: During breaks, meal times. The kitchen staff and orderlies were not…the brightest. Sometimes, I’d take memories from the others.

Q: The others?

A: The other-

Q: G, please answer.

A: The other people like me.

  1. GRAHAM: Your Honour, may I request a recess?
  2. HOLMES: Ms. Orfanedes? Mr. Berman?
  3. ORFANEDES: I’m fine with that.
  4. BERMAN: Yes, same.

VIDEO SPECIALIST: We are off the record at 12:35.

(A recess was taken.)

VIDEO SPECIALIST: We are back on the record at 13:40.

BY MS. ORFANEDES:

Q: Let’s jump forward a little. At the point, when you thought you were being rescued, how many people were left in the facilty?

A: I don’t know. I only know who was in my cell block.

Q: How many was that?

A: Seven.

Q: What had happened to the others?

A: What had we been told or what had actually happened to them?

Q: Both.

A: They told us they had been reassigned to another cell block. That’s what they had told me about my brother too.

Q: And what had actually happened?

A: (No verbal response.)

Q: G?

A: I heard 0504 die. She had been glitching all afternoon-

Q: Glictching?

A: It’s um- It’s a thing that happens to people with mental abilities. Sometimes it’s nose bleeds, blackouts. It’s the wear and tear we suffer for using our abilities, only it can become- I don’t really know how to describe it- It’s different for everyone. For me, I can get trapped in memories. For- For Witness F, She has episodes of dissociation. It’s basically like your ability takes over and you lose control of yourself.

Q: Hyper Disassociation.

A: Yeah, but we call it glitching. You know, from when we thought that we’d had these abilities implanted in our heads.

Q: I see.

A: Community slang.

Q: So you heard 0504 die and then?

A: And then in the morning, we were told she had been reassigned.

Q: And what did you do once you made the link?

A: Nothing.

Q: Nothing?

A: What could I do?

Q: Were you worried?

A: No. I am not afraid to die.

Q: Is that why you went along with the escape plan?

A: To a degree.

Q: What other reason was there?

A: If I was out I could find the Good Doctor and do to him what he had done to me.

Q: and by that you mean kill him?

A: By that I mean find him, bind him, torture him and kill him. Yes.

  1. GRAHAM: Can we have a sidebar?
  2. HOLMES: You’ve just had a recess. Either continue with your line of questioning or release the witness.
  3. GRAHAM: Okay.
  4. ORFANEDES: No further questions, your honour.

VIDEO SPECIALIST: We are off the record at 14:00.

(A recess was taken.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junior

There is a certain power that comes with being aloof. Some people have nice eyes or sweet voices, but aloof people, we have mystery. The mystery is what keeps you coming back for more. You wonder if today will be the day you break down my walls and find out what’s at the heart of me. And I know that. So all I have to do to keep you around is never let you in. Never. You won’t leave without an answer, so you’ll never leave me. I keep you, for as long as I want you, because you’re weak and live for a good riddle. Or probably because your dad did the same thing to you. You recognise it in me and mistake its familiarity for comfort. It’s not. It’s not comforting. You should be repulsed. You should run in the opposite direction, because this is not a gimmick. I’m not playing at being broken, I just am. You want to know, need to know why I’m so gloomy, so comfortable with being alone. You cycle through causes, each one getting more and more romantic. ‘He’s a weirdo’, to ‘He’s lonely’ to ‘His dad walked out on him’. But the truth doesn’t matter. It will never be as good as what you imagined. It will never help you find the cure.

There isn’t one. You’ll go on trying to get at me, to get to know me and I’ll keep holding you at arms length. Cos I don’t have nice eyes and I don’t have a cute smile. I have a lot of anger and distrust and fear. I wear that shame the way he did because I have his name.

Most people, when they leave you, they just leave you. Pack a bag and disappear into thin air. Recollected, if ever, in whispers. You can forget about them. You can even begin to wonder if they ever existed. But my dad, it’s like he branded me. Stamped his name across my chest so that everywhere I go I get that look. Any place he’s been before, it’s like I’ve been there before too. They look at me like I’m something familiar even though I’ve never met them before.

What’s your name again?

I mumble it, but it still clicks. Still registers. I get a knowing smile and dig in the ribs.

Freddie’s son.

No. Not Freddie’s son. Just Freddie. I am Freddie. I am not his son, not just his son. But it’s no use. When you hear that click, watch it register, it’s already too late. Freddie, the Freddie that I am, evaporates. The phantom of my father stands in his place.

It happens anywhere, everywhere. I’m never quite prepared. One time I was at the greasy spoon around the corner, breaking up with my girlfriend and it happened. Another time I was at a church for my cousin’s wedding and it happened again. The weirdest ones are the furthest away. A pub in Manchester, for example. I walk through the door, someone hears my name, and there’s suddenly a swarm. Everyone thinks they know me. Everyone wants to tell me stories. Stories. Can you imagine what that’s like? People reciting memories to you, your own memories sometimes and you haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about? You’ve deleted them. You’ve actually removed them from your mind because they’re too painful to recall.

I met you when you were a boy, just a ickle boy. So high. You were bouncing on yer daddy’s knee, dya remember?

I saw you at Southend. You had a bucket hat on, sucking on a piece of rock. You and your cousins and your uncles and your dad. Do you remember?

I bought you a silver rattle for your christening. Engraved. Real fancy. I know your dad probably teefed it, but do you remember seeing it?

That one I did remember. I did recall seeing it in its box once in a while, when we would be moving and mum would forget what was inside. And then very abruptly, I remember seeing the box empty. I remember my mum yelling at him on the phone and I remember he was dead silent.