VII: Apparently They Do, Phillip

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Chapter VII

Frank Marrus sat in the entrance of the cave, mulling over the events of the day. Slowly, carefully, so as not to overburden himself with too many thoughts all at once. Even then, his stomach felt queasy and tight. He tried to loosen up, and then set to pondering.

Okay… I woke up in Genesys, which used to be my home, really, he started, images of people he knew and places he went accompanying the words. It was destroyed. All of it. And right there, he stopped. He didn’t know it, but he was grinding his teeth together, as if it would help him to comprehend the gravity of his situation. Everything was destroyed… Everything I’ve ever known…

He felt as if his body was suspended, floating in an empty chasm. But nothing clicked; he believed just as strongly that everything was the same as he had left it as he did that everything was inextricably altered. Or maybe it’s both, he thought, looking over his shoulder at Maria. He did it slowly, allowing ample space between his thoughts and actions. She is the same, I can tell… But also completely different. Experience had changed her in ways he could only begin to comprehend.

But what about me… Have I changed too? His hands still buzzed with the memory of killing a vicious animal. His heart, too; the repulsion he felt, dealing death to that creature. And the voice in the back of his mind, urging him to do it—it seemed almost like a separate part of him… and he remembered his callous comment to Maria, when he said that the creatures must have been created by an artist. The same creatures that had possibly killed her friend. So now I’m a sadist, too. He put his head in his hands and shut his eyes tight.

He couldn’t deal with this new ‘self,’ and so he decided not to, letting his mind wander as it would. He thought of home—Genesys, the way it used to be. He thought of Maria and the first time he met her… and her absolute fascination with him.

But everyone had that. He was a fascinating person.

Or had been, he reminded himself. Being “Mister Mystery,” as many of his coworkers had referred to him, didn’t mean a whole lot right now… in fact, it might have been nice to remember where he was born, who his family was, why his mind worked the way it did, and that sort of thing—maybe it would have brought him more of that cold comfort he was so desperately seeking in his past.

Still, their congratulating words and hushed speculation about who or what he really was came flooding back into his mind. He couldn’t help it—there was something intoxicating about reliving his glory days while firmly planted on the doorstep of an unfamiliar cave on an unfamiliar world. And while he wouldn’t apply much serious thought to the subject in the moment, it had crossed his mind that he was possibly billions of light years from home; or maybe only inches, if he was merely in a separate, overlapping universe…

He smiled wryly. This was what he had been working towards for so many years. He and… Doctor Kerry.

He blinked twice, sitting up straight. “Doctor Kerry!” he whispered excitedly under his breath. He had hardly thought about his task since conversing with Eve in the security room eight hours earlier. Immediately, he felt a surge of direction, like a bright light piercing his meandering thoughts.

Tumbling questions about where this was all going poured into existence: What file am I carrying? A message? A program? What has Doctor Kerry been doing all this time I’ve been asleep? If she’s really alive? I have to find her.

Right then, he knew what Maria had meant when she said that deciding to find him was what had kept her going. It wasn’t that he was particularly special to Maria; or, probably not, anyways. It was that she had an objective, something concrete to hold on to when the darkness was at its blackest.

But, he realized, discouraged, there was nothing he could do about it right now. No matter the result of finding Doctor Kerry, he was worlds away from her. He sighed and closed his eyes, rather done with thinking for the day… night... whatever it was.

It doesn’t really matter, he finished, his mind giving itself to gentle oblivion.

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