I am awake. I am here. I am real? Shattered’s consciousness felt fractured, cracked, yet by degrees almost imperceptible he slowly put the splintered bits back together just enough to barely function, just enough to exist. Recalling the day and night before – yet how did I get back here? A ring. That Marin notice that someone is awaiting outside one’s abode, on the other side of an oval opening that would disappear and reappear by touch, something Shattered still had not accustomed himself to; after all, the most sophisticated doors in Park are made of steel, and even they need to be manually opened. He hesitated to open the door.
“Kyoto! I mean, I did not expect anyone. Or maybe I did. I feel awfully, disoriented… You know? Is this normal? How did I get back here? Is everyone OK?” Shattered spoke with such rapidity that he felt himself speeding up with each word. His heart raced. His mind went into a sort of semi-oblivion. Kyoto seemed there and not there.
“Sit down, Shattered. Please.”
Shattered, now shaking, took his seat on the couch in a sitting chamber just adjacent to his bedroom. Most living spaces in Marin seemed to be designed this way: an opening, what could be called the ‘front door,’ into a large room that contained a bed-space near the outside wall; the sleeping unit sat within a gel wall that could be turned from transparent to grey to pitch black; the outer wall, almost always transparent hugged the room in a large curve, the floor was a soft, grey almost gel-like substance; to the side, divided by another semi-liquid wall, a small sitting room held a couch, a table, two reading chairs and some bookshelves made of a type of stainless steel. Another room, a kind of bubble, cut off at the top near the ceiling, held a small dining room. Food generated through the culinary system could be ordered and delivered through a panel on the wall. Otherwise, a small stove, cold and frozen storage units and pans were held inside the wall, until needed when they would slide out about a meter. The two times he tried to cook in Marin, these sliding cooking units, so delicate, reminded Shattered of a piece silk being extracted from an old shelf. The ceiling, some three meters above the floor: simple blank grey. All so clinical, sterile, what would be the right word for this place? I just want to walk in the forest. All so contained. I need to get out. I must get out! Shattered, mind pacing as though it were a caged creature built for roaming large distances, began to cry.
“Shattered, I am here because I expect you are experiencing a great deal of trauma. While I am not the best with humans, I am a trained diagnostician. Recent data you have absorbed, the cause of death of your parents, the isolation in Park’s medical quarantine section, the realities of life in the Central Valley, the injuries to your body, and yesterday’s…” Kyoto thought how to put this to someone from such a different, deeply basic culture, “…and yesterday’s temporal inversion.” Shattered stopped shaking. He looked up. He looked, for several minutes, at Kyoto’s dark eyes; her skin, so white it glowed as the full force of the afternoon sun, in Shattered’s westerly facing room, emanated through layers of transparent gel, with only a hint of slight grey opacity. The bright light did not bother either of them. The building maintained only a minimum of UV protection unless otherwise instructed. Shattered’s pale, lanky features, his floppy hair just touching his shoulders, also seemed to phosphoresce as though some inner force enhanced the outside solar light.
“Shattered, I need you to come with me.”
Kyoto did not answer the question. She stood up and walked to the door. Shattered followed. They went outside and walked along the long corridor with lavender light, and passed over two small suspension bridges with transparent floors. Shattered always looked down at the endless cavern of lights, luminescent bridges and other glimmering things in one of these many cylinder shaped abysses. Within about five-and-ten minutes they reached a part of the passageway with a very high ceiling. The lights of the walkway did not illuminate its apogee. On the right, a door; an actual door, although one without handles or anything as basic as that; the door slid sideways. Kyoto walked in first. Shattered put his head inside, and then came in. Large, very large sacks connected to the ceiling. They were pink, with red lines, blood vessels, veins and had skin. Or something that was like skin. They looked like giant wombs.
“These are modeled on the wombs of humans. With a series of genetic and other alterations, they are used for medical purposes. One of their uses is psychiatric. Shattered, your fleshbeing needs time. These regenerative spaces are augmented specifically for the exact healing needs of the subject. I have already programmed one for you. Dr Smithson recommended it.”
“Mar? Where is she?”
“She had to go. She will be back, but she said you need the regeneration. I ran a full spectrum analysis of your bio-neural systems, and I decided, along with Dr Olanrewaju.”
“He is the most experienced psychiatrist in Marin, and he is also the Chair of Marin Psychiatry & Diagnostics University. You will get to know him more, during the course of your treatment.”
Shattered did not want to admit it to himself, or to anyone else, but he knew he needed treatment. His mind was falling apart, piece-by-piece, neuron-by-neuron, and maybe a period of regeneration would be helpful. Mar seemed to be the happiest he’d ever seen her, and even after she had been healed from the immediate effects of her stroke, her life saved, she had stayed in regeneration for quite some time. Certainly no one forced her. No one could. He found himself saying, “It’s my decision, right?” Literally realizing that he had said this, only after the fact, sent a shudder through him. He had always been off, out of sync with the world, but never had he felt fractured.
“OK, I’ll do it… I want to do it…”
Kyoto took Shattered to a large placental pod. Some ten meters wide and fifteen meters long, it hung from the ceiling by a series of vessels. Every thirty seconds it pumped slightly. Pink, translucent, lines of red blood vessels visible throughout the giant sack.
“I am to get into that thing?”
Shattered put his right palm on the fleshy, hanging – living? – thing. Immediately he felt relaxed.
“Flesh and thought are not two, Shattered. Please, get in.”
“Just place your… just stick your body into it. You will be gently absorbed and know what to do. They communicate with you during the process. They have a degree of what your people, well, I am partly from here too, call consciousness. They create a symbiotic relationship.”
“Could you push me in? I am just not sure if I can manage. It’s so… I mean there is oozing, bloody-like tissue.”
“Shattered when you touched the regenerator, what did you feel?”
“Precisely, now just get in.”
Shattered found the process easier, much easier, than he expected. He pressed the weight of his now naked body into the flesh, and it absorbed him, encircled him, drew him in; inside he felt immediate release, his mind began to calm; he began to focus; he floated in what seemed to be infinite, warm space.
*featured image (Courtesy Nattonelli)