Interlude Part I: The Tower

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Interlude Part I

“Sculptor Adams…” she said, politely dismissing herself with a slight nod.

“Oh, yes, have a good evening, Maria,” the sculptor replied with airy courteousness; clearly, his mind was elsewhere.

Closing the heavy, oaken door to his office with a soft click, Maria stepped into a grand hallway; immense with the emptiness of its corridors, it seemed to reflect the dreadful hollowness opening up in her heart.

‘What is wrong with me…’ she wondered, throwing back her head and sighing loudly. It was immensely frustrating: she had felt so sure of herself, so sure that she was somehow ‘over’ everything that had happened; but in an instant, all that confidence had vanished, and she saw the wall she had erected around her heart; and now it was crumbling to the ground to reveal a frightened young woman, naked against the entropy swallowing up the world.

But she never would have told him that. ‘That smug bastard…’

Trying not to think about what the sculptor would have to say, she took an exasperated breath, her emerald eyes drifting slowly open. High overhead, an enchanting display played across the vaulted ceiling: delicate wisps of sand spiraled exuberantly amongst colossal, rose tinged cumuli, endlessly shifting within the confines of a charming art style. She found solace in the hologram’s soothing light, and smiled at how it reflected the sanguine display of the sky earlier, but the feeling of comfort was gone nearly as it came; she was no longer able to escape the Pandora’s box of memories that had been opened.

Once more the crying voices rang out in her head, crashing remnants of that world-rending night; and once more, she felt powerless against the hell she had unleashed. Even now, she could fully recall the dull, sickly feeling pulling at the base of her spine and the back of her heart; it was as if everything that made her distinctly unique had begun to detach itself, ready to depart and leave her body a soulless husk for all eternity.

The crushing feeling had stayed with her for days, prodding and chiding her like a mean spirited child, or dulling her sense of the world to the point that life no longer seemed liveable. But when it subsided, the voices—screaming, shrieking, damning—seemed only to find more clarity in her consciousness, sometimes following into her dreams… She hadn’t lied to the sculptor: the events of that night really had become a part of her. And now it was tearing her up inside.

Her eyes began to swell and burn gently. How could this be happening? Was it because of the therapy? Was it just overdue? All at once, her heart felt hard and dull; her spine stiffened; and she could feel the judgment of the world, pressing down upon her—if it had had a voice, she knew, it would have called out and shattered her into dust.

The feeling from the lab was back.

‘Why… why is this happening…’ Had she kept it at bay by pretending that she was invulnerable? Somehow separate from it? Maybe, but… sculptor Adams was right. And she would have resented him for it if she didn’t feel the walls closing in on her.

She had to get out, go home, go anywhere. Anywhere but here. Her hand bumped around in her purse, its dark, leathery recesses distorted by the tears in her eyes. ‘Sunglasses, folded cloth, stone necklace…’ she listed the mundane objects in her mind, distracting herself, and… there it was—a cool, metallic device, no larger than a tube of lipstick. A Mem.

She wiped beneath her eyes with the back of a bare hand, suddenly wishing she hadn’t worn makeup.

‘Home’ she thought, trying to blink away the tears. Swirls of black line erupted along the Mem in flowery plumes, tracing letters and numbers elegantly upon its silver body.

“Transportation available in stall 33-x7,” settled into the metal with ink-like character. And below that, in much smaller letters: “Message (1) - Lana”

‘Reserve 33-x7,’ she thought intently, momentarily piercing the muddled fog in her brain. ‘And read Lana.’ Somehow, her sense of worldliness had managed to remain independent of her emotional complications.

“Stop by tonight if you have the time. I’d love to see you!

Attached to the message was a set of access codes for landing in the courtyard-like area connected to Lana’s apartment.

‘Menu,’ she thought, causing a small series of boxes to spring up with the options: voice, text, link, and set as destination. ‘Set as destination, public parking.’

Somewhere at the back of her mind, she knew she needed to be with people tonight. And even in her disheveled state, her sense of courtesy was still intact—when visiting, it was always more polite to land in a public area and then enter through the front door than to land on your host’s porch; and she had been raised to always have impeccable manners, insofar as she was capable of them.

“Destination changed. Travel time estimated at 10 minutes.”

She whimpered involuntarily and gasped, trying to control her breathing, and stuffed the Mem back in her purse. ‘Okay, it’s okay, you’re fine,’ she thought, taking a few unsteady steps toward the end of the hall.

Tears still filled her eyes, dissolving the sandy, rock-textured walls and glassy windows in a blurry haze. ‘What the hell is happening to me…’

Then this thought came to her, in answer: ‘The same thing that happened to Rose and the others.’

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