“Heh-ro?” she mumbled, with a mouthful of toothpaste. She quickly spit it out and gargled with water. Wiping her mouth on her arm, she repeated, much more clearly, “Hello?”
“Good morning, Miss Evans. Your presence is requested. If you would put on your helmet please, I will escort you.” Therese did not recognize the voice of the woman on the other side. It did not matter. It’s not like she would ever get to know the person. And she would have to put on that nauseating helmet.
Therese slipped her shoes on and, with equal parts trepidation and determination, she put the helmet on. It was a bit like being blinded with earmuffs on and encapsulated in water while being bound in a straight jacket. She hardly knew which way was up or down.
“I did it,” Therese said, hating the words. At least today would bring some sort of resolution to her imprisonment.
The door opened, revealing a woman with a bun and eyes of the same ice grey. She held her shoulders erect and had skin dark as night.
“Hello, Miss Evans. My name is Director Schultz,” the woman said.
“Uh, pleased to meet you,” Therese felt like this title meant she was important, but what were you supposed to do when meeting important people? She couldn’t exactly shake her hand.
“Please follow me, Miss Evans,” Director Schultz said.
“Okay, um, ma’am, er, Director Schultz,” Therese said awkwardly. After so much isolation, Therese decided her social skills probably needed a tune-up. All the same, Therese followed.
Director Schultz did not instigate a conversation. Neither did Therese. It allowed Therese to concentrate on containing her brain, but that took so much effort she barely managed to keep upright. It had been easier to control when she was talking.
“In this door, Miss Evans,” Director Schultz said, pulling open a door. There was a guard on the other side. How far had she walked? She didn’t recognize this hall at all. It was difficult to shake off the intense feeling of disorientation she felt, and she was very grateful when someone offered her a chair.
“I don’t think you’ve been formally thanked for helping us avert that bomb crisis,” Director Schultz said, sitting in a chair across from Therese. It looked like they were in a board room, and there were several other people there, but none she recognized. Not even Dr. Ott.
“It was what anyone would’ve done,” Therese said slowly, concentrating on her words. She had to keep her brain from wandering.
“The instigators in the attack were stopped by a police officer. Did you have any role in this?” Director Schultz asked. It was so strange. To Therese, the events seemed like they had occurred years ago. She had a good inch or two of hair that had grown back since they cut her skull open directly afterward. Still, they had never questioned her. They didn’t talk to her. They didn’t know.
“Yeah. I, um, kinda told her, well, impressed upon her, that the truck looked suspicious. I didn’t really have time to do anything about it myself, because, you know, the bomb. I wasn’t doing mind control or anything. I just, kinda, well, nudged her,” Therese said awkwardly. It was easier when she talked to Dr. Ott. How come it wasn’t getting any easier now?
“Whatever means you used, the result remains the same: the criminals are within custody. It might interest you to know that during interviews, they confessed to practicing beforehand in a New York metropolitan complex, the one at which Mr. Sanders was falsely apprehended.”
Therese was at attention, but the quick ascent caused her consciousness to knock against the helmet quite violently. It hurt a lot, so she took a moment to collect herself before responding breathlessly, “You guys agree that Greg Sanders is innocent?”
“He was acquitted of all charges earlier this week, Miss Evans,” Director Schultz said calmly.
“Then, then-” Therese started, trying to control the buoyancy in her chest, “then you guys don’t think I’m evil or something. Then, you won’t lock me up forever. Then, then-” Therese cut herself off. The helmet felt like a boa constrictor around her brain. It was hard to tie thoughts together, but she could tell she was getting too excited. Director Schultz had said nothing of the type. She needed to breathe.
“I’m sorry,” Therese said, rubbing her face. It felt very hot. She needed to stay calm. “Excuse me. So, what does that mean for my future, Director Schultz?”
She looked up to find Director Schultz’s eyes on her. Therese knew for a fact she was psychoanalyzing her at that moment. She guessed for anyone not cooped up for months and being forced to wear this constrictive helmet, her outburst must seem bizarre. Therese decided for the umpteenth time she really wanted to take it off.
“We believe you can be an asset in both protection and obtaining information. We would like to reinstate your training, with certain precautions,” Director Schultz said.
“Like what precautions?” Therese asked nervously. This blasted helmet was a “precaution.” If all precautions were going to be like this, she might be happier in her room.
“For one, the helmet that you have been acquainted with,” Director Schultz said as she gestured to Therese’s helmet. Therese unconsciously shuddered. “When you train, there will be the supervisors for you. All will wear the helmets and all will be instructed to anesthetize you in case of loss of control.”
“Okay. That sounds reasonable, I guess. But, if you don’t mind me asking, once I’m done with all this training stuff, what are you going to have me do?” Therese asked slowly. Everything sounded alright, she guessed, but she couldn’t shake a disconcertedness that had made a nest at the base of her skull. Maybe she could figure out what is was if she could just remove the helmet and begin to think straight again.
“You have a unique ability to verify and extract information, Miss Evans. Surely it is not too large of stretch of imagination to see how that could be useful,” Director Schultz said easily.
So, she’d be a torturer without the torturing. At least, that the immediate image that ‘extract information’ brought to Therese’s mind before her helmet decided that was a little too much thinking and threatened to suck her brain past the event horizon.
She squinted her eyes shut and massaged her temples over which the helmet had set several charges of C-4. She maintained the posture for several moments before slowly opening her eyes. She hadn’t noticed it before, but the lights in the room all seemed at least vaguely pointed in her direction, rendering all the faces in shadows, leaving but vague impressions of their expressions.
“Alright, um, I think I’d like to go back to my room now, please,” Therese said quietly.
“Agent Herr, Agent Burgess, and Dr. Koehntop will escort you,” Director Schultz said.
A trio of the darkened faces stood up, which Therese took as her cue to do likewise. She looked at her feet throughout the journey, concentrating very hard on keeping her brain in check, before she was admitted to her cell. She thankfully chucked the helmet as far away from her as possible and collapsed on her bed.
Her head still hurt, even without that sadistic helmet. A fire was radiating across her skull in throbbing waves of excruciating pain. She couldn’t think properly about what she had just agreed to, but she retained enough mental capacity to realize it probably didn’t matter if she agreed or not. Depending on how you count, there were twenty deaths attached to her name, and Therese imagined they had probably already processed all the paperwork declaring her dead or something, which would make it really difficult for Therese to go to school or get a job.
She’d have to get a fake ID, like the one Dr. Ott used to go drinking.
She managed a quiet smirk and a forceful exhale that might have been mistaken for a laugh at the resuspended visualization. Dr. Ott the underage partier. Oh, she really needed to get out more, which she guessed she would, if she went along with this whole thing, whatever it was.
Was there ever a time in her life she didn’t have horrible headaches? Oh yeah, when she couldn’t sleep or she would kill people. Therese buried her head beneath a pillow. The three people who were going to play dog trainer for her she guessed would not be as keen to befriend her as Agent Necker was. They’d all probably undergo training where they were informed Therese was highly unstable and any sudden movement or extraneous thought could mean that she was plotting their doom and world domination.
But, there was a silver lining that Therese could not deny and she knew she should probably be a little more grateful for. She was going to help. She was going to use her messed up brain to actually do something constructive, to maybe cancel out the bad karma she’d been wracking up the time previous in her life.
She had so much more control over it now than she had ever had before. For the first time in her life, she was beginning to understand her brain, in her own strange way. That in itself was a major breakthrough, but if she could combine it with helping people--It was what she always wanted.
Then, why did she feel so gloomy about it? She sat up, attempting to ignore her headache and focus on that feeling of angst that was so prominent in her psyche, reaching up from the intuitive Therese that usually only came out when she meditated. Maybe it wasn’t angst. It was a little sad and a little scared. Was it dread? But, what was so dreadful? Therese had just reasoned that Director Schultz’s proposal was exactly what she wanted.
“Either tell me what’s wrong or stop sending weird emotions,” Therese muttered, massaging her head. “I can’t do much on just a feeling.”
Maybe Therese would meditate. Maybe in that way she could solicit her id to fess up as to what exactly was bothering it.
She pulled her legs up into a lotus posture and slowed her breathing. She closed her eyes slowly, keeping her thoughts low and open. She released her mind and opened her eyes to an amethyst world.
She drew off the bed and into the center of the room. She paused for a moment, staring at the helmet Therese had discarded earlier. The purple hung hazy over it, almost as if it were a mirage. It exuded a repulsiveness that puddled by her feet and sent her tip-toeing backward.
She continued around it until she met the doorknob. She stared at it for a long moment. Very faintly, she could see it too warp the violet of the world, so faint that she had not noticed it before. There was something in it that her purple visions could not comprehend or counter.
She drew to her knees and examined the doorknob from every angle. By turning her head just right, she could catch the glimmer of the shimmering, fracturing purple, like with the helmet. It entranced her as much as it repulsed her. There was something here, something important. If only she could just figure it out.
Hesitantly, she stretched her fingers out in front of her and touched the doorknob.
Therese woke with a jolt. She rubbed her temple irritably.
“Come on, id. I know you’re interested in the doorknob, but I was wondering about your opinion of Director Schultz’s plan,” she muttered
She sighed and leaned back on the bed, thinking. “Is it that you just want to escape? Is it that you don’t like the plan because we’ll end up being here forever? That they’ll keep a closer eye on us so we can’t never run away?” she whispered.
Therese lay there a moment before she realized she was waiting for her id to respond. Therese decided she definitely sounded insane now that she was not only talking to a different part of herself, but expecting an answer from it. Even then, she knew her id did not use words in the classical sense, so waiting for a response was silly. Her id would probably give her vague answers through strange fascinations with doorknobs.
She smirked at herself. Yep, she was crazy, but what else was new?
She wanted to help people. She really did. So, why did this plan to help people not get unanimous approval from all parts of her brain. Why was her id still focusing on doorknobs, wanting escape? Did it not trust Director Schultz? Why was it so worried?She picked up a book, lost interest, and then picked up another, trying to distract herself. There was nothing to be worried about. No matter what, she always had control over herself now that she had grown comfortable with her mind. She would help, and that was that.