Author : Thomas Desrochers
I found her on my way home from a party. She was sitting in the middle of the park’s square in the four shadows of the four streetlights, and she was hugging her knees to her chest as if her life depended on it while her head was tucked in behind it. Her hair was short, dirty like her face and the nightgown that seemed to be all she was wearing.
She was pretty.
I sat down three feet in front of her, legs crossed. It was a little chilly out, and a storm was moving in, kicking up leaves and dust before it.
“You’re going to get cold,” I said. “Would you like my coat?”
She made a noise like a whimper and hugged her knees tighter. She whispered something, but it was lost in the wind.
I leaned forward. “What was that?”
“I have to stay in the center.”
I looked around. The city rose up all around us, towering over the trees. On each corner of the park was one of the four towers – two hundred stories each of pristine carbon, steel, and silicon and home to four million people a piece. She was sitting exactly in the middle of all four, at the center of sixteen million lives.
“Because I don’t want to be alone any more. I’m surrounding myself with people.”
I felt something catch in my throat. It’s so easy to be left behind and forgotten these days. I was like her once, sometimes I still am. There are some things that drugs can’t cure. I hadn’t imagined the tattoo on her wrist that marked her as broken, that read ‘Schz5-105014.’
At some point people stopped trying to even pretend to care about the schizophrenics, the manic-depressives and psychotic depressives, the hallucinators and day-time dreamers and the happily mad men and women of the world. Bag them, tag them, drug them, and if they cause trouble, neutralize them. That was the way society dealt with them any more. Cures are for the healthy, after all. Homelessness and poverty was easy to fix, but other problems? Too much work.
I hugged my knees to my chest, rested my chin on them, mirroring her. “It’s bad right now, isn’t it.”
She nodded her head, an almost imperceptible movement in the half-dark.
I wanted to tell her she wasn’t alone any more, I wanted to tell her that I would help her through this and help her through life and, if she wanted, through death. I wanted to hold her and run my fingers through her hair and whisper to her that everything would be alright.
I ran my hand over the rough scar on my wrist where I had burned my mark off and melted the electronic tag. MD5-103331. Manic-Depressive, fifth order. Most severe. Dangerous.
I couldn’t tell her that she wasn’t alone, I couldn’t help her or hold her or whisper in her ear. She was dangerous, like me, like all of us. She would draw attention, have me found out. I would be evicted back to one of the homes, I would lose my job and my friends. I just couldn’t do it. I stood up and left her sitting there in the middle of nothing, fat drops of rain beginning to fall like so many empty tears.
I saw in the news reports that they found her body after the storm, wet and cold and limp and empty.
They burned it with the rest of the ones that always turn up after bad weather.
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