Her face was turned sideways, revealing where a knife had made its mark in her eyes, across her cheeks, through her lips. Her nose was broken and she was missing both ears. A dark gash was spread across her neck.
With empty eyes, Asma looked up at her and shed a tear.
Therese stumbled to her feet from her towel in an instant. She ran to the toilet and vomited. She was dead. She was dead. She was dead. Asma was dead. Therese made Asma die, even though Abdul wanted to protect his daughter.
Therese was a monster.
She closed her eyes for a moment, but immediately stretched them open to their fullest extent again. Asma was still there when Therese closed her eyes, still staring back at her, mutilated and beaten. Therese never wanted to close her eyes again.
She grabbed her knees and sat in her bathroom facing the toilet. She was a monster, a killer. No matter what she did, people died. Death followed her like a shadow. She didn’t deserve to live.
“Miss Evans,” a voice called, a white-coat by the sound of it.
“Asma is dead, isn’t she?” Therese asked tonelessly.
“No, no she isn’t. They’re still trying to protect her,” the white-coat said.
“You’re lying to me,” Therese said.
“No, Asma is quite alright. Now, if you please, we would like to escort you to ask Mr. al-Fadl a few more questions,” the white-coat said.
They would take her to Abdul again. He wouldn’t have been told his daughter is dead. He needed to know. No more lies. She owed it to him.
“Okay. I’ll put on my helmet,” Therese said.
They quickly escorted her back to the room before Abdul’s where she took off her helmet.
“We would like you to ask him more about the leadership and who was involved in this plan. We would also like to induce him to draw a portrait of the Cobra,” a white-coat said.
“Okay,” Therese said, barely listening. She could sense Abdul and his flat mind. He didn’t know then as Abdul would react very strongly to news of his daughter. He should know. He shouldn’t be lied to. No one should be lied to.
They escorted her into his room, and Therese strode across the room to meet him, ignoring the intense pain in her skull.
Abdul looked up at her, as if sensing she was about to say something of profound importance. “They couldn’t do it. She’s dead,” Therese whispered.
She felt his anguish spread into her skull as a scream. His hands tore at his hair and he bellowed Arabic words she didn’t know. He bawled and prayed alternatively. Then, he took her hands in his.
“Please, take away these memories. I can’t stand this pain. Take everything away. Please. Please,” he begged in a whisper. “Make me forget everything. Please. It’s all I want.”
Therese nodded as his pain flooded her. It was more than physical pain. It was the pain that can not be described or explain but felt as if it pierced one’s soul and bathed it in fire. She could not leave him with this pain.
She reached into his mind and gathered up his memories. She took them one-by-one, cutting it away from his mind and pulling it within her own. She took his life from him. She absorbed him and all his memories of Asma.
As she finished, she screamed unthinkingly. The pain within her was too great. She might have collapse, but she didn’t know. Everything was seized in violet. She could not think as memories shuffled randomly through her head and thoughts criss-crossed and backtracked. Her stomach heaved, and she vomited. She try to make herself into a ball and fend off the pain. It was too much. It was too much.
Then, as it climaxed. It was fading away into darkness. Thoughts and memories drifted away until all she was left with was black.
“It’s growing. It has increased by almost 50%,” Dr. Henderson said.
“Then, we’ll inform Dr. Lewis we require his services again. He can expand her cranium again,” Director Schultz said.
“It’s not that simple anymore. You see this region here in her old scan? This was localized area from where her ability originate. Compare this to the new scan. Look at all the regions surrounding it. They’re atrophied. This part of her brain is infiltrating other parts of her brain,” Dr. Henderson said.
“Like cancer,” Director Schultz said.
“Yes. Very, very much like cancer. I would imagine she is already presenting some symptoms: hallucination, vomiting, fainting, erratic mood swings, fatigue, weakness, ataxia, seizures, decrease in appetite,” Dr. Henderson said. “If this isn’t removed immediately, it will kill her.”
“Yes, Agent Brown,” Director Schultz said.
“It appears as if Miss Evans has erased Mr. al-Fadl’s memory,” Agent Brown said.
“Are you sure, Agent Brown?” Director Schultz asked.
“It is the appearance of it. He know longer holds any of his religious customs. He seems confused when someone told him the direction of Mecca. He will readily speak against Islam if requested to do so. He says he can’t remember his name. He keeps asking where he is,” Agent Brown says.
“That is very, very interesting. It seems Miss Evans surprises us every day now. Dr. Henderson, how long will it be until Miss Evans dies or descends into a coma from this expansion?” Director Schultz asked.
“It’s impossible to know for sure. Obviously this is a very unique case. I would say weeks, at most, days more likely,” Dr. Henderson said.
“Then we still have a little time,” Director Schultz said.
“What are you implying, Director Schultz?” Dr. Henderson asked.
“What she has gives her the ability to save millions. If we can use her once last time-” Director Schultz said.
“You will be killing her,” Dr. Henderson said.
“We will save many more, and we’ll try to save her afterward as well,” Director Schultz said. “You’re dismissed.”
Therese blinked her eyes. She could not tell if she was awake or not. The whole world seemed hazed in purple, but not deep purple, just a purple mist.
She shook her head, trying to clear her vision, but it just increased her headache. Her head really hurt. There were voices, whispered memories and ideas she knew were not hers. She took a moment to try and straighten them out and organize them. It was hard to concentrate, but she did her best. After awhile, she realized she was delineating the memories of Abdul. Through his eyes, he could see his childhood, his first job, meeting his wife, when Asma was born, when his wife died, and when he found out Asma died.
They danced in front her eyes in deep amethyst, not wanting to let her think of anything else. There wasn’t enough room for them in her head. She needed to put them somewhere for safekeeping. She had to put them somewhere.
She stumbled from her bead. Her feet didn’t seem to like to obey her and they recalcitrantly led her to the desk. She grasped for paper and a pencil, and she wrote. She started with Abdul’s birth, and she wrote his life. She wrote of each moment in exacting detail as words spread across the page. She had to write small as she was using up so many pages, but that was okay. She just needed to write everything. She had to write everything as there wasn’t enough room for her to think in her head. She had to put the memories somewhere else.
And she had to put Asma there to. The little girl kept staring at her with her bloodied face and torn clothes. Asma would have to go onto the paper too. So she drew Asma and she wrote. She wrote and she drew. She needed to get them out of her head, but even as she was getting to present in the life of Abdul, he didn’t leave. He was still there. He was still talking.
“Miss Evans!” a voice said loudly.
“Huh?” she asked weakly. There was a voice coming from somewhere else beside her head. Somewhere far away from words and pictures. They were calling for Miss Evans, not Mr. al-Fadl or Miss al-Fadl. Was that her?
“Miss Evans, are you alright?” the voice said.
“I think so. I don’t know. I can’t think straight. My head hurts,” she said slowly, tasting each syllable before letting it escape from her lips.
“Your presence is requested for training, Miss Evans,” the voice said.
“Okay. Alright,” Therese said. She wasn’t done writing Abdul’s story; he was still in her mind. He was still whispering and Asma was still dancing.
“Will you put on your helmet, Miss Evans?” the voice asked.
“Yes, okay. Right,” Therese said distractedly. It was hard to see where her helmet was at when Asma was standing in front of her. She felt it by touch, but it seemed like her fingers didn’t really want to feel. They would rather listen to Abdul’s story.
“Is your helmet on, Miss Evans?” the voice asked.
“Yes, yes,” she said.
They escorted her to the room. It was so hard to concentrate. Her head hurt a lot and it was crowded. There were too many people in it, and they were all talking at once. She couldn’t hear her own thoughts.
“Miss Evans!” a white-coat said loudly.
“What?” she asked.
“You can remove your helmet,” he said.
“Oh,” she said. She removed it. There was another mind now too. It was loud too.
“Miss Evans, we want you to read his mind about his criminal activities than take his memories about them,” a white-coat said.
She nodded dully, and they entered the room.
She walked half-way to the man sitting where Abdul had sat before one of her own thoughts snuck out from between the crush of Abdul’s memory and Asma’s eyes.
“Wait, I don’t want to take his memories. It’s not nice. What if he wants them?” she said.
“What the hell? Who is this chick?” the man asked.
One of the white-coats walked up to her and spoke in a terse whisper, “If you take the memories of his criminal activities, then he won’t be as dangerous. It’s more likely that he could go home.” It was so hard to concentrate with all the voices, but this was important. She had to.
“Shouldn’t he decide if he wants his memory taken or not? I mean, Abdul asked me to,” she said.
“What the hell? You guys got some freak wiping minds?” the man exclaimed.
“Miss Evans, he knows now. If you do not clear his memory, then he can never leave. You are a secret that cannot be revealed. You must do this,” the white-coat said harshly.
“So she’s some messed up science experiment that I’m not supposed to know about?” the man said loudly. “I can hear you, you know.”
“He will never see the sun again if you don’t take his memories, Miss Evans,” the white-coat said.
“Whoa, hell, I’m on gunrunning charges here. Last time I checked that sure as hell doesn’t get life,” the man said.
Therese needed to think clearly, but it was difficult. Her head hurt so much. It felt like it was about to burst. She needed to think clearly. She had to think. She had to get Abdul and Asma to be quiet for a moment.
“You know, if you’re serious about the life in prison thing. I’d rather have my memory wiped by some freak then spend the rest of my days in here,” the man said.
“Did you hear that, Miss Evans. He wants you to wipe his memory. Can you do that, Miss Evans? You have to concentrate,” the white-coat said.
Therese looked up at the man. He was out of focus. She couldn’t tell you what his hair color was or how many eyes he had, but she had to help him. He was asking for her help. She had to try to help him.
She stumbled forward to sit down in the chair across from him. “My name is Therese Evans.”
“You know, I don’t think I’m going to remember that?” he grinned, but then grew more serious. “You’re just a little freak, aren’t you? Bet you’re not even legal yet. What did they do to you?” The other voices. They were so loud. Him too, Brad Collins. He was very loud in his thoughts. Her head hurt so much. She needed to concentrate though. She could do this. She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts.
“It wasn’t them. It was someone else,” Therese said.
“Oh, so more than one person has screwed you over. Well, go ahead and do it then,” he said.
She summoned everything she had left and reached out toward his mind. She grabbed at his his memories, but there was no where to put them. There was so little room in her head, but she had to. She had to take them from him, or he would never leave. She had to do this for him, despite the pain. She had to push through. She had to do this.
A spasm of pain more intense than anything she had ever felt through her life shot through her skull. She was falling through purple. Everything was drenched in amethyst blood. She could see nothing but violet, but the voice stayed loud. A thousand voices seem to scream, tearing her apart.
Then, there was nothing.
“They’re dead, Director Schultz,” Dr. Ott said.
“What?” Director Schultz said.
“Dr. Marion, Dr. Bird, and Agent Sondheim. They’re dead. Mr. Collins too,” Dr. Ott said.
“That’s impossible.What happened?” Director Schultz asked.
“It was Miss Evans. Her brain went into seizure while she was extracting Mr. Collins’s memories. It killed Mr. Collins almost immediately. It took a bit longer to overcome the helmet worn by Dr. Marion, Dr. Bird, and Agent Sondheim, but it did. It is recorded, if you wish to see it for yourself,” Dr. Ott said.
“Is Miss Evans dead?” Director Schultz asked.
“Her heart stopped, but she revived. She is under heavy anesthetic. Dr. Henderson has called Dr. Lewis in to operate,” Dr. Ott said.
“Then, all that information is lost. We’ll never know to whom Mr. Collins was selling the weapons or who he bought them from,” Director Schultz.
“I’m not so sure about that. I found this in Miss Evans’s room,” Dr. Ott said.
“What is it?” Director Schultz asked.
“I just scanned through it, but it looks like Mr. al-Fadl’s life story. I think when Miss Evans takes other’s memories, she absorbs them.”
“This must be hundred pages, front and back. Why would she write so much?” Director Schultz asked.
I think she was trying to get it out,” Dr. Ott said. “I don’t think her mind could deal with the two sets of memories it had.”
“That means then that Miss Evans must still have Mr. Collins’s memories,” Director Schultz said.
“Yes, but if her brain was so harried by a second mind, she felt the need to obsessively write every detail of this man’s life, how would you expect it to respond to three? I do not believe she’s stable. Not to mention she just had a seizure that killed four people,” Dr. Ott said.“She only need to write down names. If her response to having another mind in her head was to write down its contents, then I fail to see how this will be a problem. We will increase security measures in lieu of recent events, but we take her off anesthetic and see if she can write,” Director Schultz said.
“She’s dangerous and unstable, Director Schultz. I do not recommend this course of action,” Dr. Ott said.
“I didn’t ask your opinion, Dr. Ott. This is a risk we must take. You are dismissed,” Director Schultz said.
There was purple everywhere, shifting, bending, glittering in unseen sunlight. It was like staring into a kaleidoscope as the shapes morphed and shifted in an unending succession of motion. Someone had accidentally left her brain in an oven, and it was burning.
“Miss Evans?” There was a voice far away. It was like the calling of a bird, chirping a beautiful song. Miss Evans, Miss Evans, Miss Evans.
Birds and birds and birds, flying away in a purple rain, licking lavender and orchids and petunias with sweet kisses. A little girl dances as her father watches on with a smile.
“Therese,” the voice called. That was her, wasn’t it? Wasn’t she Therese? Or was she Asma? Or Abdul? Or Brad? Maybe she was all of them. But she was Therese, she knew that.
“Yes?” she asked, words slipping awkwardly off her tongue. Yes was such a funny little word. You started by pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth and back. Then, you opened your mouth wide, as if catching a snowflake on your tongue. Then, you brought your jaw shut and shoved your tongue to your teeth, hissing like a snake. Brad had a tattoo of one across his right bicep.
“Therese, can you write down the names of the persons Brad Collins bought guns from and where he sent them?” the voice asked.
“Who?” she asked. It was another funny word. You puckered your lips like a fish and whistled air like bird. Wasn’t there a bird that said who? Asma liked birds.
“Brad Collins. He’s there too, in your mind,” the voice said.
Brad. She was Brad. Brad knew this. He did. “Pen?” she asked. She didn’t know where her hand was. It was so difficult when everything was purple and her head hurt so very much.
“Open your eyes, Therese,” the voice said.
Oh, her eyes were closed. That’s why should couldn’t see. She opened them, and light streamed in. She retracted against the brightness. It hurt.
Something touched her hand. She knew that touch. She opened her eyes and saw her father. Therese’s father. He held her hand in his, strongly. Her mother was there too. And the girls. And Abdul and Asma. And the white-coats. And Brad Collins.
“You have to help me,” she said to Brad. “I need to write down who you were talking to.”
He nodded, and stepped forward. A spasm of violet rocked Therese’s vision. It hurt so much. She could barely see.
“I can’t, I can’t-” she whispered, clawing at her head.
Her father held her hand more tightly. She gritted her teeth and reached for the pen and paper someone had placed beside her.
The motion caused a vat of acid to ooze into her brain, but she held her father’s hand tightly. She had to do this. She could do this.
Brad whispered names and she wrote. But she didn’t just write the names. She wrote everything. Brad was more than just a list of names. So, she wrote of his birth and his childhood, his sister and his brothers, his mom and his dad. She wrote his whole story. She wrote despite the pain. She wrote even as blackness began to overtake purple in her vision. She wrote as the people in her room faded. She wrote until the work was complete with her father’s hand still on hers.
Then she drew Asma with the last of what she had. She placed the drawing in the middle of the report.
“See you soon, Dad,” she whispered as darkness overcame her.
As Dr. Lewis remove her parietal bone, the brain seemed to expand as if the pressure inside her skull had vacuumed-packed her brain. The bone revealed nothing less than a relief sculpture of the brain it held. He noted the appearance and place the bone in the surgical basin.
As he look at the MRI and at the brain it represented, it was easy to tell things had changed since he visited it last. The careful symmetry of the remarkable had been destroyed, and he was left with something that looked like an overgrown tumor. The girl would die if it were not excised.
He cut into her brain to reveal the abnormal area. It no longer looked beautiful. They never figured out exactly how it worked, but they didn’t have the time. It was overtaking her entire brain. Carefully, he began to cut away the tissue. It was only when he had finished did he realize the true extent of the irregularity, the solid mass now sitting in the surgical basin. It had been so much.
“Do you think when she wakes up, she’ll be-?” Dr. Henderson asked as her closed her skull.
“She survived so far, which is more than anyone expected, but I excised a lot of tissue. We’ll have to see,” Dr. Lewis said. “We just have to wait.”
Therese was very tired and her head hurt, as was her norm. However, as she reached up toward her head, something tugged at her hand. She squinted through half-closed eyes to stare at her hand where an IV tube had been tethered to her skin. There was something strange with this picture, but she didn’t know what.
“Good morning, Miss Evans,” a voice said. She knew that voice. It was so very familiar.
“I think you said to me before, Agent Necker,” she said groggily. She tried to focus, but the world was still spinning and hear head still hurt. It itched too. She thought she could see his vague outline at the foot of her bed.
“Didn’t you-?” she asked, looking up at him and trying to find the words to say. They were floating in her head. They were hard to catch.
“Yes,” he said simply.
“But how-?” she started again.
“Special permission,” Dr. Ott said. He was there too. It was hard to focus on him too. It was hard to focus on anyone. Asma wanted to dance and Brad wished to make smart aleck remarks on anything he could notice.
She was Therese. She was also Abdul and Brad, but she needed to focus on Therese Evans right now. She had to be Therese.
“They’re still here, in my head. Brad and Abdul,” Therese said quietly. “How can they be here if you took out my brain. It is out, isn’t it?”
“A sizable portion of it,” Dr. Ott said.
She looked up at him. Something seemed strange. She couldn’t place it. No matter where she looked, something seemed distinctly off, but she could say what. She concentrated, trying to pinpoint exactly what it was.
“They’re dead, aren’t they? The white-coats? And Brad too?” she asked.“Well,-” began Dr. Ott, but Agent Necker simply nodded.
Therese squeezed her eyes shut as the hole in her chest became too much to bear. She’d killed again. As she did so, flashes of memories of Brad and Abdul filtered across her eyes. She heard snatchets of conversation and blips of thought. As Brad and Abdul talked, however, Therese counted.
“Twenty-five,” she whispered. “Twenty-five murders through me.”
They said nothing. She continued to count the lives as the voices in her head were drowned out.
“You asked me once who I would be without this ability, Dr. Ott,” she said. “I said I wouldn’t be me. And, I was right. I’m not going to be the same Therese. I’m not going to be that murderer.”
Agent Necker reached out and held her hand. “I’ve known murderers, Therese, and you were not a murderer.”
“I bet Dr. Lewis and Dr. Henderson would be very pleased to see that you are awake. I will go find them,” Dr. Ott said, moving toward the door.
“I best be going as well. I don’t believe anyone outside of Dr. Ott really understands the special permission I was given,” Agent Necker said with a smile betraying a boyish mischief. “Is that alright?”
Therese nodded. “Thank you, for everything.”
“I will see you again, Miss Evans,” Agent Necker said. Therese knew that was a promise. Both men left.
As Therese stared up at the ceiling in her room alone, she realized what had been wrong the entire time that she couldn’t figure out what. She could no longer see red or blue or green. She couldn’t see purple. She was colorblind.