Peter Elworth sits bored at his desk dreaming...dreaming of sunshine. Looking out of the lone classroom window the sickly leaves of the gnarled old Roan tree catch his eye as they flutter against the steely sky.
’Peter, the duty of every citizen is...?’ no response. ’Peter ...answer the question!’ Mr. Corvin slowly, reverently, places his red bound master copy of ‘Edictus Permianus’ on his desk, not once shifting his eyes off of his student. The classroom as one turns to look at Peter as he pulls his gaze from the window to confront reality.
‘Um...eh... question...sir?’ ’The duty of every citizen is...Peter?’ Mr. Corvins’ voice hard at the edges,mouth moist at the corners. Peter pauses just long enough to induce a quivering twitch in Mr. Corvins’ left eye.
’The duty of every citizen is to futilely waste away bleeding their all into the belly of the state until they finally succumb to the pressures of this unnatural condit...’
’Enough...’ Mr. Corvin howling, the knuckles of each hand yellowing in tight grip about the edge of his desk.
‘...Enough...’ his face now taut and white, words slipping slowly over teeth and strained lips. The desk juddering ever so slightly so that a styles rolls unnoticed to fall to the stiff off-black industrial-carpet. ‘...I have had enough of this,..of you, take yourself to the Prefects office and explain to them your.., your impertinence...out...out!’
Peter rises slowly from his chair and walks solemnly out through the chipped and pealing doorway.
’The duty of every citizen is, ...Turnka?’Mr. Corvin, voice shaking, asks a small bespectacled boy in the front row. Turnka stands head bowed ‘The..the duty of every citizen is...is to fervently up hold the glory of Permia, obey and...and maintain the security of the state. To give their work...um...their work ceaselessly and unquestioningly...’
Turnkas’ droning voice fades as Peter makes his way slowly to the Prefects office, his foot steps a dull echo in the hallway.
In the Prefects office Peter had endured the twenty minute triad in stiff silence letting the dogma wash over him to drift with the draft unheeded out through the chill cracks in the window frame.
’Is that understood Peter?’ The Prefect asked, red-faced, as they scroll randomly through Peters permanent record. ’Yes sir, sir!’Peter intoned lifelessly, how could he even begin to care about the glories of the state when all he had ever seen was a sad city collapsing in on its’ self.
’So?’ ’Get out of your sight sir?’
’Out!’ spittle, white-foamed, flies from trembling lips leaving dark speckles on their stiffly pressed uniform. Peter turned wordlessly on his heel and left.
Outside the training center the evening shadows had lengthened somewhat, making sundials of buildings and trees. He made his way to Eisenrich St. to wait for Charlotte to finish her day in the girls center, her building sat like a fat H across the street from Victory park where the rusted swings creaked forlornly in the growing breeze. A cleaner-drone turned the corner whipping the early leaf-fall into a wet frenzy as its vacuum and brushes tried in vain to keep the streets clean, its electric motor purring like a happy cat. Somewhere inside a loud buzzer sounded, Burrzz,burrrrzz, burrzz and on it went. The students flowed down and out from beneath the crossbar of that squat dominant H,a slow rolling wave of gun-barrel coloured uniforms. It wasn’t difficult to pick her out amongst the monochrome throng, her face alone lifted to the sky as if reading mystical messages in the shafts of sharp light cutting through the gloomy sky. Charlotte Cothe also moved differently as if somehow afloat. Strong and lithe in movement, almost skipping down the blue basalt steps and faster still once she caught his eye. Peter grinned despite himself.
’You’ve been here long?’ She asked a little frown crossing her forehead as she pulled a loose wisp of hair out of her eyes.
’Kind of, um, I had a little trouble with the crow again!’
’Corvin?’ She asked wide eyed at first , then smiling. ’Corvin is an old fanatical Burndegardian to the core. You’re right to ignore that one trust me, he’d have you at the front digging defenses all winter long...to make a man of you!’ She spat the last few words in jest and tugged at the sleeve of his mud-brown uniform drawing him closer. He gave her a smile which she took, along with his hand, as they crossed the road to the derelict park with it’s creaking swings and rain puddled paths. ’It’s on my permanent record...’ this said almost to himself, before he added with a light tug of her hand ’...Burndegardian, are you sure that’s a proper term?’
’It is now!’ Charlotte quipped and planted a swift kiss on his wind-burnt cheek just short of his lips. Peter stopped, stunned, intensely aware of the soft warmth of her lips, her hand in his, slim figure mere inches from his bony frame. She whispered rapidly, close to his ear.
’I have to go...’ The last of the warmth of her kiss snatched by words and wind. ’...I’m sorry really I am...’ She squeezed his fingers briefly ‘...but I promised my Nana that I would help her get the apartment ready for summer; ...see you tomorrow, yes?’ Again the wayward tress was brushed out of her eyes.
’Let me walk you to the car...I...’ They both knew he couldn’t. He felt her hand slip from his fingers and the chill again moved in. She stepped away from him spinning about to avoid a puddle in her path sending him a soft smile good by.
’I...sure yeah, of course... see you tomorrow!’ Peter replied, the last a little too fast, tugging his fingers through his forelock and swallowing the words that rang from his heart, I love you, spell broken. Mr. Cothe, Charlottes’ father, would never approve, Vergan Cothe was President Burndegards personal secretary and Peter Elworth was...well Peter was nobody. he turned for home. On reaching the roadside he turned and took a long look back as she walked the last few steps to the waiting car. A deep breath welled up within him only to be puffed slowly out between pursed lips.
’I’ll see you tomorrow.’ He said to himself with a firm nod of his head. He stepped out onto the cross-way and was struck by the cleaner-drone as it rounded the corner, losing all consciousness to the dull smack of the impact. The drone crumpling about him and tumbling them both across the street in a tangled wreckage of plastic, metal and rent flesh.
Months later wet autumn grips hard in Cloistergrad, chilly air swirls defeated leaves into mottled brown drifts around and about the otherwise tidy grounds of the Aprofchik Mental Institution.
Skulking on the wall inside the east wing day-room, Is an old style television, On screen, static flickers.
Deeply nestled within a day-room chair slumps an innately different Peter Elworth, all but recovered from his physical wounds. With eyes transfixed upon the white noise beaming from the TV, neutrinos performing their dance of static as they continue their headlong sprint through the here and now towards the ever-after. Trapped deep in thought, he notices neither Dr. Shipwaters arrival nor his quick chat with the nurse at the reception desk, the fluttering eyelashes as she smiles, nor the controlled grin as he responds to her, he doesn’t see her point him out in the overcrowded dayroom. All he sees are messages from space glittering in black and white before his dreamers’ eyes. With a self-satisfied smile Dr. Harold Shipwater thanks the nurse, assured of her adoration and walks towards his perfect patient.
‘So how are we today eh....?’ A brief consolation with his clipboard, ‘...Peter?’ Peter Elworth swims in the murky sea of phantoms trying desperately to break surface.
‘The nurse tells me your coming along just fine.’ he continued lying smoothly, fully aware that the nurse had in fact said, “Peter over the last two weeks, has shown a steady decline in his communication skills, I think his amnesia is progressing…I.…I really am at a loss here Doctor!” She had said, poor thing.
He had of course expected as much, he had been secretly doping the patient steadily for a month with a mixture of Dimethyltryptamine and delta9 Tetrahydrocannabinol . Plant-extracts combined to form a powerful psychoactive and sedative drug that the observation unit would be unable to detect.
‘Anyway Peter, getting down to business…’ Dr. Shipwater professionally intoned to his patients semi-focused eyes. ‘It has been agreed by the hospital board, and so the Party you understand…’ A pregnant pause hung in the air. ’…that I should take you into private care, you see, You require special attention.’
Peter blinked as the light that flickered and glinted off the top of Dr. Shipwaters’ chrome pen, while Dr. Shipwater pointlessly furnished him with a list of details for treatments and facilities, dosages and therapies. Peter wondered if this chattering white coat and star-points would make any sense of the thought, which now possessed his mind. It was like some tune he had heard on the radio that bounced around inside his head morphing into random images, And the beat went on. Peter mumbled a response of sorts from the foggy depths of his dream. # ’There is more to life than even the imagination can conjure, there are possibilities that we haven’t even considered impossible.
‘Pardon?’ Dr. Shipwater, startled out of his well-practiced show of medical caring by this sudden and wholly unexpected interruption, studied Peter apprehensively down the length of his aquiline nose. Peter stared back like a trapped animal as the wave recedes and he is once again washed onto the shores of chemical confusion. ‘Anyway...Peter,’ began Shipwater eyeing his patient closely. ‘I’ve had the nurse collect your things and the transport will be along in no time at all.’
At that, the nurse arrived with Peter’s effects and a wheelchair, wheeling Peter to the exit leaving a thoughtful looking doctor to follow behind.
‘There is more to life then the imagination.’ Peter told the nurse, she smiled warmly and patted his arm. Once Peter had been securely fastened in, Harold thanked the driver, took the keys and reached for the on-board com-link to open a line. ‘Yes,’ he said on connection, his call expected ‘...Yes of course…’ he agreed smiling down the line.
‘He’s as active as a corpse...what…no...no it’s just an expression, he’ll be fine, it wears off easily within a few days... yes, without withdrawals and then he should be able to begin the observation...’ He pauses, nods a few times and then continues. ‘…Yes I’ll have him over to you for implantation within the hour!’
After an attentive minute or two he nods again and smiles a goodbye. Then with a flip of a switch and a little pressure on the toggle they move off, dappled in leaf-patterned shade between the ancient yellowing trees lining the hospitals’ grand driveway. Peter stares confused, Near blank, Out of the transport window, the leaves above flicker light and shade like some ancient black and white movie across his face, Unnoticed, As they pass out the giant iron gates and into the city proper.
# (This piece was located on a scrap of paper in the apartment occupied by Father Peter, Ajare library V 1.)
That afternoon in a private clinic elsewhere in the city of Cloistergrad anonymous staff quickly shuttle Peters’ sedated, limp body from the back of the clinics’ transport vehicle to a private surgery as Dr. Shipwater looks on. Beside him stands another, dressed head to foot in a fine silk suit the green-blue fabric iridizing in the late autumn light. Dr. R.V. Anthony, One of the most renowned and influential surgeons alive, with the hazelnut skin of his forefathers and near yellow whites in his eyes he affected the mode of dress and manners of the eastern kings, wearing ceremonial braids twisted into his rich black mustache.
He stands, Feet planted stoutly pointing outwards, His straight backed, holding his barrel like girth with dignified power he over-sees the transportation of his latest little bit of tinkering with a series of elegant waves.
Drugged and lugged onto an operating table the base of Peter’s dreamers’ skull is exposed. Skilled hands deftly manipulate a gleaming surgical syringe like device that is loaded with a ZXS, 16mb Nano-core, pre-built from Peter’s own cloned cells. The hands twitch and turn in manipulation, as a thin filament snakes’ its way from the tip of the syringe, under Peter Elworths’ skin, through the muscles protecting his seventh axis vertebra, And finally, Into the base of his brain.
‘The ZXS deploys viral phages that seek out the neural canals, all the while proliferating stem-cells loaded with reprogrammed DNA to build the Nano-engine and uplink to his neural pathways…’ Dr. Anthony informed the room in general, head down and busy, gesticulating with his eyebrows as he spoke. The syringe glinted sharply as it glided gentle arcs under the supermarket-bright light.
‘… Once the connection is made a simple self-stimulating process commences initiating the growth of thin crystalline sheets between key synaptic nerves, serving as relays for high-frequency sonic programming…’ Dr. Anthony was now activating various automatic-syringes connected to the entry point.
‘…The tiny Crystal sheets vibrate between the synaptic connections loading the program like Morse-code… you have heard of “Morse-code”…. Haven’t you?’ Anthony popped his head up eye-locking Harold Shipwater with furrowed brows, slowly blinked and went about peeling off his gloves.
‘The crystals control the growth of even more complex systems, overriding this chaps’ neural network…’ Dr. R.V Anthony raised a slim silver-grey pen like device for inspection; Harold Shipwater chewed his lip in response.
‘…With this sonic beam projector and this transfer node...’ he raised his other hand to reveal a stiff linen collar with an ugly surgical-green lump on it. ‘…I can continue to program the subject as the weeks go by, or rather you will during your evaluation sessions, clever eh?’ He chuckled.
Harold Shipwater tried not to let his unease show as he thought about what they were doing, programming the subject using the sonic projector and the programming node during his sessions wouldn’t in its self be difficult he need only set the program and the projector would upload the programs directly onto the node which in turn would send the digital sonic signals into the cluster of cells beneath Peters flesh. No, Harold had a problem with the amount of work he was now responsible for, and the almost hands off nature of Dr. Anthony’s side of the deal.
-What if the M.S.S finds me, what could I possibly say to them?-
Dr. Anthony for his part jawed on regardless, ‘Four weeks or so from now we will have created the first remote controlled human being and from this we shall reap glory and fame!’
Harold Shipwater merely smiled weakly and nodded his head while the self-satisfied surgeon chuckled away to himself as he attached the collar about Peters’ neck, ensuring that he positioned the little green node just so over his seventh vertebra.
Deep inside Peter Elworths skull the tiny machine began its work, ticking off tasks as it went.
SYSTEM LOCKED.1. AUXILIARY POWER ONLINE.42; COMMENCING INTEGRATION OF EXTERNAL LINES.47, BIO-POWER SOURCE LOCATED AND CONNECTED.78, POWERING UP MAIN DRIVE: 124, STABILIZED.194; AUXILIARY POWER DISABLED.195; COMMENCING MATERIAL ALOCATION.200.
Awake, Numb, Peter looks up from his bed at Harold Shipwater who smiles at him from behind a surgical mask.
Harold begins with lies, ‘I’m afraid you’re seriously ill…’
Peter wonders at the words, ‘I’m afraid…’
‘...The state will be taking good care of you; I have here your M-records and certificate of installation…’
- I’m afraid-
‘…As your doctor I advise you to write a note to yourself…’
Paper, clipboard and pen are pushed into unresistant hands. The nurses had spoken of Peter’s ravings in the mornings upon awaking, and how he required regular comforting and how he had to be apprised of his mental situation to prevent deeper psychological upset from occurring. Harold was a doctor and she a nurse, he figured a letter would do.
’…I’ll help you, start .... ‘Dear Peter’…’
The Dear Peter letter is reproduced in full at the back of this volume.
Nov. 21st, Peter awakes, Now living in a comfortable apartment on the east side of Jeffers St. completely oblivious to the cameras and pickups tracing him from room to room. They watch him awaken startled and confused finding and reading the letter at his bedside. Until the tears come and he starts laughing a broken ragged laugh of incredulity, Shuddering bodily on the edge of his bed.
The longer he sits there the more he realizes that he has no memory of the day before or the room or anything in his surrounding world. He is forever cast adrift on the sea of time, Bereft of a root system, An anchor in history, In this, his fractured reality. He is overwhelmed by the loss of all the years the face in the mirror tells him he has lived. This unyielding fact raised dark implications that streamed out about him like filaments of spiders’ silk, to snare a fanciful idea as much as a truth in his cyclical reality.
Every morning food is delivered and eaten, the same for days on end, an autonomous man wrapped in his personal time-loop. His only sense of the progression of time is his writing and drawing, Stacks of papers, Rising in drifts, Yellowing in tandem with the autumn leaves that drifted by the window, The floor his desk and all other available space was slowly succumbing to the fevered fruits of his mind.
Rising against the forest-green colored wall, lending a semblance of landscape to the scene, piles of paper replete with yellow and white edges shearing shadows off of each other in the dim light, tricking the eye to glimpse rough valleys and lonely mountains under a yellowing moon.
Lost inside and without, All alone, He struggles to find the truth of his memories, How much is imagination, how much is fact, did he really sleep as a child between the bed and the wall trapped and wrapped in his duvet or was it no more than the fevered imaginings of his damaged mind. Were the people of his mind family or friends?Work mates or enemies? He had no clue.
He could not remember and the frustration of it all burned him deep to his core as, Want as he might, He could not feel safe to lay any love or caring, Any intimacies or emotions, Other than those dark weighted feelings of suspicion and loss, upon those many faces in his drawings. He asked himself these questions over and over until he was sick in both spirit and mind,
-Are the faces and places real?-
-Is anything really real?-
Even when one or another face returned, Reoccurred from picture to picture, He had no fate in memory to tell him he was free to love them like family-lost or fear them as the dark strangers of his minds imaginings. Every day he draws, And writes, And reads what he has written, Not always understanding the words of the man who wrote the day before yet he continues to write in abundance, As if it is his only salvation. He becomes a man locked in self-observation addicted to his own musings reading and rereading each letter and note as if it contained some secret to his existence, Aware, by the very things he reads, that the questions have all been asked before and the answers continue to flitter through his fingers like so much windblown ash, briefly grasped only to take flight once more into the abyss of memories lost. And so as time passed and as the fogginess of the drugs lifted daily from his mind, He was left only more alert to the fact that his amnesia still held him trapped in this hellish loop of repetitions riding on waves of resentful despair.
# only a whisper of a dream remains; I stand in a large pulsating room that glows much like the light through my eyelids when I close them to the morning light. There is someone trying to talk to me but I’m busy counting seconds, each second is wrapped like a gift by a tiny little machine and placed precisely each after the last. On the side of the little second-wrapping machine is a sign that reads, “Without time there is no progress.” Thinking on this dream gives me an ill feeling as if I should still be there or something is not finished.
# (Taken from Father Peters “Morning testaments”, Ajare library)