Persy: Drapes

The thing about Aiden is- he always gets what he wants and he gets it by doing nothing. Honestly. One time we had a decade-long argument about the drapes in the front room. He insisted they were peach. I said they were salmon. He said it probably didn’t matter anyway, but he was sure that I was wrong. So I said-

‘If it doesn’t matter, then why bring it up?’

‘I don’t know, Persy.’ He replied, ‘I just thought you cared about that stuff.’

I should probably provide some context. Our living room, at the time, had a colour scheme which had been mostly informed by the drapes.  The drapes had come from the old house, a house that had never needed drapes but was filled to the brim with them. At one point, we had drapes disguised as throws, as rugs, as table cloths. Drapes on drapes on drapes, even. It had been a little joke of ours since our old, old house had been so- I suppose desolate is the only nice way to describe it- that we had made a pact to go ridiculously over the top decorating the next one.

There were many houses between that house and the very last one. And by then the drapes had completely lost their jovial, light-hearted warmth. They were instead a reminder of a place that we were both slowly realising we could never go back to. They went up with no joy. They filled the room with no love. We never walked past it and prodded the other, saying-

‘Drapes on drapes on drapes, eh?’

We just didn’t talk about it.

Didn’t talk to each other at all. Aiden had work. I had work. We had split the domestic duties so that he got the kids and I got the house and there was no overlap. No reason to interject while the other was sinking further and further into the empty nothingness of modern day life.

Until the drapes.

I can’t remember what he opened with. or how he closed. I just couldn’t get the thought that all my work had come to nothing. That something was wrong in our showroom home. It was my job. It was one of my only jobs. And somehow, without me realising, it had changed colour with no warning and no prompting. Or had it?

If I had been looking at it objectively, and I can never look anything objectively when Aiden is around, I would have been able to decipher his coded message. For clearly, what he had wanted to say was-

‘I can’t bear to look at those drapes every day, Persy. I can’t comprehend how much has changed since we lived in Florence, and Marrakech, and Constantinople and Carthage. I know in the beginning it was bad, sitting on uncomfortable stone thrones, sleeping on a wooden bed that was too small. Your mother would visit and make you cry. You couldn’t get anything to grow down in Hades. But somehow, now, I think it was good. Am I crazy, or do you see it too? We thought we had nothing, but, in fact, we had everything. We had each other. We sacrificed so much to have the chance to grow together and it seems growing has actually torn us apart. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d never taken you with me all those years ago.’

Something like that.

But Gods forbid he actually say it. Actually do something.

So he left the thought with me. Left it to me to destroy what was left of our marriage. Because I heard a different message in the following silence. I heard-

‘Take it down and start again.’

And I knew the minute it settled in my head that I could not start again. Not again. Couldn’t repeat the pause and reset combination again. I was spent. I was overdrawn.

There comes a time in every 2000 year old’s life when she must make peace with the fact that some things, some obstacles are insurmountable. That patience and love and understanding are not a fountain, but a well and the well will run dry if you dip in too much and too often. Being married to a man who is scared of his own voice is a sure fire way to turn that well into a cavernous abyss. And the abyss will start within you and then move between you. And then swallow one of you whole.

Aiden got what he wanted. I took the drapes down. I took the drapes with me, and I left. For good. The thing about me is- I never get what I want. But I’m very good at tricking myself into thinking I do.

 

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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.)