The room. I’d been here before. Lots of times. At least my fingers and toes number of times. Enough times that the floor remembered me, scuff marks like a welcome mat at the gateway to Hell.
Four walls, no roof, a movie set kind of place, except no movie set I’d ever seen was made of three foot thick frosted glass and girdled with a Faraday cage. Not a one. And me seen some movie sets in me day.
They say it’s for your protection. For Your Protection. When you’re in the room everything is For Your Protection. Food that tastes like toothpaste is For Your Protection, air that smells like burnt coffee, For Your Protection. Needles like daggers three times a day, For Your Protection. If they protected me anymore, I’d be dead within the week.
Listen to me though, whinging on like some kind of berk. I’d get out of here eventually, I always did, they loved me too much keep me for long. Just until me memory started clearing up. Until me head stopped swishing around. Until…
The room wasn’t so much cold as it was uncomfortable, just chilly enough to make your bare skin crawl but not quite cool enough to keep the sweat from beading around your ankles where they put the chains. For Your Protection. It made for some kind of amusing display though. Amusing because when the dark men, in their dark suits, with eyes like badly soldered circuit boards came in they was always having to wear sweaters. It must get damn hot, those sweaters. Nice material though, I’d need to get me one when I get out.
Your memory gets a little shifty in the room. It’s the needles. They say it’s for your heart, but nothing has ever been wrong with me heart. Me head though, that’s a different story. Me heads been caving in on me since I could remember, and considering my memory that could be a long time. It’s how me ended up here the first time. Me head started caving in while I was talking to that guy on set, on what must of been a big action flick. Was with me partner. What was her name again? Sara? Beth? Had four letters. I remember that. Four letters like me four little toes.
Bang! Crack. Blood and noise. Sara or Beth or whoever hits the floor. It’s leaking out of her like strawberry jam. Big, messy puddles of the stuff. Unusual though, the blood. Real anachronistic like. Usually it’d be scorch marks and silence and the smell of ozone. But usually it wouldn’t be Beth. Never Beth, not like this. Not on the ground in a puddle of her own jam, not because of some stepped up berk from out in the Zones. Couldn’t happen. Fired on by some pop gun before the gear or the drugs or the training even registered the bullets. Before she could shut him down. Before I could take him out. Before anything but the small, pathetic yelp and the grinding silence. Never. We was better than that.
Sometimes the needles make me lie to myself. Make me memory swish back and forth in me head. Make me think me was other people. Make me forget. Forget the bullet and the blood. They say it’s for your heart, but I know better, it ain’t for your heart! Never been nothing wrong with me heart. The room is for your head. The cage is for your head. Everything here is for your head, for the memories, the gear, the drugs stitched into your head like patches on a quilt. Once it’s there it don’t come out, that’s what the dark men with their mechanical eyes tell you the first time, that’s why they have the room, why they is protecting you.
Everything for your head then, everything but the glass and the chains. Them is for your hands. Killers hands. Hands that pull triggers and squeeze throats. Hands missing their better half, like a Sword missing a Shield. Beth’s hands. Hands that failed her.
But it’s the needles and me caved in head that makes me lie. That makes me think I is an actor on some movie set. I ain’t no actor. I was on a set once, but that was a job. A job I pissed on. Pissed right on.
Snap your fingers and it was over, she was gone, all gun smoke and gore. Me partner and me Shield, and there I was, left like the punch line to some bad joke.
Post Traumatic Psychosis they call it. It’s all the training and the drugs and the gear they say. It links you together, a Sword and a Shield, matched for life, one to destroy, one to disable. Lose one and the other breaks, head caves right in. It’s right there in all the manuals.
Mostly violence though. Violence like the twelve broken ribs that berk took before me killed him. Violence and a thin smile. Violence that come to late to save the one thing it was meant to protect.
Doors opening. It’s the dark men in their dark suits and nice sweaters. A silver tray with its silver needle clutched in their arms like a talisman. They approach. Then pain. A sharp jab that I don’t fight, the jab that brings sleep, brings peace. A peace that comes over me like a wave –washing away the blood, the pain, the failure — the tip of the sword and the glint of the shield. Washing it all away, for now. Tomorrow I’ll do it all again, here in the room. For now though — darkness.