Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Undone" by Jeanne Haskin











As the world’s leading geneticist, Marie coded the world’s religions into five hundred doses of counter-viral serum before Lucifer launched the Outbreak that destroyed millions of minds. 



She and Richard injected each other, and the rest were administered blind.



Five hundred of the Select became unwitting carriers. Her employer found and killed fifty-nine.







***







Mihr’s bed is a drawer in a wall that resembles a shelf in a morgue.



Marie knows she's awake, of course.



Magnetic resonance imaging reports cognitive functions. The girl is thinking, but not yet panicking. The low dose of lephanyl she was fed at the start of her interview has produced a slight surge of endorphins without exciting her adrenal glands. By now, her limbic system should be generating emotions that are chemically consistent with low-level euphoria. Whatever fears or suspicions have evolved since her arrival will be muted to tolerance, all of which is necessary for a stage-one memory probe. What's stored for the short term will be screened with subliminal cues that elicit a hit or miss. In the absence of a feedback wave, testing will terminate.



"Shall we commence, Dr. Christos?" Richard turns in expectation as his finger locates the lever. 



Marie's silence tells him no.



She presses the mute button to block their intercom. Richard pauses the outbound camera. They both stare at security screens displaying empty halls, linked by guarded doors.



Marie says, "You have to decide, Richard."



In profile, he is ugly with features like pendulous rubber. Salt and pepper nose hairs match the growth on his ears and eyebrows. His skull is bald, his scowl pronounced.



The alarm will sound in one minute.



He says, "I brought it, but I can't."



Her tears are immediate, surprising. "We have no choice, RichardPlease."



In her preliminary interview, the girl tested positive in ways that shouldn’t have been possible.  Unless they fabricate her scan, their employer will kill a child.



The intercom clicks, warning them.



Richard passes her the disk that might well save the world.







***







Red and green indicators blink halting signs of progress as the girl begins to react to subliminal stimuli. The auditory half of the disk is no louder than conscious thought. The visual half was produced with imperceptible shades of black.



Marie fakes the graph while Richard prepares the release. They forget about security until Rivers unlocks and enters the room.



"How much longer?" he asks. Dr. Rivers favors a crew cut and is armed beneath his lab coat. 



Marie points to the paperwork. "Insignificant feedback. Zero absorption factor."



"So," Rivers says, "nothing hidden, nothing learned."



"Correct," Richard says. "Either way, no sabotage." He puts the release on a clipboard and holds it for Rivers to sign.



They watch him scribble his name, followed by the date.



0030 A.L. 



He dots the A and the L with a hard punch of the pen. It became mandatory in the year 2015. Anything before is followed by B.L. 



Before and After Lucifer.



These are the days of the damned.







***







Marie reaches for the clipboard, intending to take it with her, but Rivers brushes her off and presses a switch on the keyboard. 



The wall speakers are activated.



‘Twas a cold winter morn, when a tiny princess born…  The sound is a woman's voice, filling the observatory.



Richard pales, shivering.



"Interesting," Rivers says. "I haven't been briefed on the symbolism buried in children's books." He flips a second switch.



And the people cried, “Phew! Can no one save us from this poo? Is there nothing we can do?”



Marie's hands are shaking when she ejects the computer disk. She slips it into her lab coat and reaches again for the clipboard. "The fairytale was chosen because the subject is a child."



Rivers lashes out with a backhand that smashes into her jawbone. Her head rocks back and she stumbles, falling against the control panel. He grabs her arm as she flails to recover. 



Richard makes a strangled sound as she is handcuffed and dragged to her chair.



"Now," Rivers says, "the two of you will watch while I conduct the test myself."



He sifts through a drawer until he finds the screening disks. One is inserted and activated. The speakers are kept live.



Audience, arbor, angel…



Marie is watching the graph when the line spikes off the chart.







***







 Abdiel, Adnachiel, Adramelechk, Afriel…



The names belong to angels. What she was. Who she is.



Amitiel, Anael, Anahita, Anauel…



Chill sweat dampens her hairline and her skin turns to gooseflesh. In the whispering dark of remembrance, Mihr's senses begin to function. 



Her nostrils flare at the smell of blood, at the smear of gore on a sword. Heat, bile and iron make her gag on a tide of nausea while pools of offal and vomit deny dignity to the dying.



Mist curls about her wings, clinging to hips and knees. Warriors surround her and the cloud floor rings with chaos. Power shatters the golden skyscape into fragments of fire and darkness. 



It is as it was.



Born knowing, she remembers.







***







Rivers dials the output to blast decompression and the pressurized tank in the ductwork effectively gasses the girl, who’s showing signs of alarm. Her synapses are firing at the rate of instinctive defense, quicker than thought and clearer than memory. The involuntary process draws messages from her senses. Every nerve-ending is screaming.



The anesthesia sedates her while they transfer her body to the operating theater, a glassed-in tiled arena with a square, central dais that can be raised or rotated to accommodate access and viewing. Concrete risers outside the theater support three levels of seating.



Marie and Richard are cuffed to the chairs of the lowest. Rivers joins the surgeons. They wear masks, gowns, and booties.  Plastic goggles and latex gloves are donned while the subject is readied.



A heavier, stronger gas is introduced while they breathe for her. Intubation and lung inflation keep her airways stable, achieving the first imperative of examination protocol. The subject is breathing and non-suicidal. If her body has been tampered with, the trigger is not unconsciousness. 



This does not mean she’s undefended.







***







None other than God can go where Mihr goes. She can be everywhere He is, across time and space, in every imagined dimension.



This is the way He made her, the smallest of the angels.



Her power is Truth, her fate is pain. And her life has been spent in readiness, preparing for this day.
 



***







The surgeons deflect the subject’s nervous system by shunting her neural pathways. Senses and nerve impulses will now feed her left brain to engage her imagination and suspend her in a dream state.  The deep memory probe will interface with her right brain.



Rivers stares at Marie through the glass wall of the theater. His eyes are glittering, feverish. His hand depresses a wall switch that activates an intercom. “Are you praying, Dr. Christos?”



The question is rhetorical. She wouldn’t have tried to trick them if she wasn’t equipped with resistance. Richard wouldn’t have pillaged the archives for a disk that was laughably harmless.







***







Mihr wakes back in the drawer and touches the ridge on her scalp. It’s a thin bridge of tissue, no more noticeable than a hair, but she knows why it’s there. She knows everything.



The drawer is opened and she sees Lucifer, posing as Dr. Rivers.



In the pupils of his eyes, the truth is a dark glimmer. He has taken what he wants. “Are you impressed?” Lucifer asks. He leads her away from the wall to an office of glass and steel.



“That you killed them?” Mihr says.



She is thinking of thirty-three million who died during the outbreak, Dr. Christos, and five hundred others. The last of the unknown carriers were destroyed using Mihr’s memories.



Lucifer sits at his desk. “The way of the past is dead and the future is where I lead, so why dwell on it?”



Mihr studies him, his angelic countenance. Power coils within him, and with it, he is ruthless.



She wastes no more words on the future that crushes her. Mihr has seen love live and die. She has seen hope extinguished.



Lucifer made her a part of it.



To the past is where she goes, to where they fought and cast him out on Heaven’s battlefield.  And near the losses that still resonate, she finds the highest hill where she wept at the end of it.



She says, “It is not yet done, Faithful One.”



Michael looks at her, chest heaving and clothes torn, wings and face bloodied. He has thrust his sword in the earth, where she kneels as a supplicant.



“You must blot out my name. I beg you to.”



“Why?” Michael says. 



“To undo what Lucifer has done.”



And because her power is Truth, he does not question her. Michael leaves not even a memory of the angel who never was.


- - -

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