I paused, still trying desperately to play the part of the sweet, young teacher. Laughing nervously. "What do you mean?" I ask.
"I think you know," the man suddenly hissed at me. "And now at the end of your journey, at the end of your life, the question must now be facing you...was it worth it?"
My eyes were frozen to his face. The chapped lips with the peeling skin break back into a grin, and then he hisses. "You never should have come here...Susan."
Still I stare, though inside I'm reeling, in so many ways. I feel less like an agent and more like a little girl, lost in a closet full of monsters, with the fattest, most disgusting one looking at me, and he knows my name. My real name. The name that I’d rejected when I lost my family, and had buried underneath a hundred aliases and a hundred missions. The name I thought I'd hear no more was back. And in that moment I was back. Me. The self I'd hated because I'd blamed that self for the collapse of my old life. I'd thought I was a failure for who I am, but suddenly I was reminded what I am.
I'm a fighter.
And with that, the air hissed as I brought my nails up into the fat, nobby flesh of a fore arm, and I smack my head into his pugnose which splinters and spurts out blood. I dug the stilletos of my heels into a blubbering mess that finds he cannot fight, for he thought he could hide beneath the menace of masculine might and that would cowe me. I grind the balls, and hear him shriek, then with a dash I start across the sidewalk as the door of a home nearby opens, and turning my head see, yes, there is Marcus Thomason coming after me. I whirl and smack in front of me is George Deakins, the local sherrif. The gun cocks in my face. I pause. At that point, Marcus jumps me. I'm not sure what to do and he sends me flat on the pavement. I smack the bottom of my chin, cutting it. Blood drips, and I grimace in pain.
Still not content to give up, I struggle furiously, as my arms are pinned behind me but its more to give them hell than anything else. I know when I'm beaten. After a few moments, I just stop wearily, panting like a coiled animal, my face digging into the sidewalk.
"Sugah, that was an unfriendly thing you just did," I hear Deakins say somewhere over my head. "You was leavin, weren't cha? And without even so much as a goodbye."
My eyes look up wildly, as the mayor looms above me, with a bloodied face. "You dirty little whore," he breathes. His fingers ball into a fist, and he swings it down at me, but Deakins catches the arm and smiles at him condescendingly. "That isn't how we do things, Hiram. You know that. Beggin' your pardon, ma'am. We dont want you to think we aint gentleman and all, we just form ties quick, and aint too good at breakin 'em. You for instance. You seem like someone we'ld come to miss, awful fast."
"Welcome home, Susan," the mayor rasped. "We're gonna enjoy showing you, what's what."
"Listen to me," I'm still pleading, though I know I really should be at this point keeping my mouth shut, "I don’t know who you think I am, but I'm not that person. Do you hear me? I am NOT THAT PERSON!"
"Susan Kelp," Hiram growls heavily, "Born November 1st, 1967. Eyes green. Hair- blond. Height-five eight, weight one hundred twenty eight, married until January 7th, 1995 to one Damian Kelp with whom she had one child, until said family was killed in a radiation accident involving the town of Mannasquea, Tennessee. A most unfortunate occurrence. Has a small birth mark shaped like a moon along the bottom right corner of her back."
"You've seen my back?" I gasp. "When?"
"Shutcher damn mouth," Marcus orders. "You're lucky we dont kill you now."
"What is it you want with me?"
I pause, and then slowly it comes out. "Are you going to rape me? Are you going...to kill me?" I look at their faces, trying to spot one shred of sanity, pleading, still thinking there might be a semi-normal head amongst this crazy bunch. “You trusted me with your children! I've let some of them into my home. I love them. Regardless of anything, I've invested my life here. Not for any secret purpose, or to benefit myself. But because I care about them." I look at Marcus, whose looking down with a bashful look. "You've got to be kidding me. Marcus? Just this day, your child was drinking cocoa in my parlor. Two months ago, when your family was going to a wedding I lent your wife a dress, because she asked me for it. That means nothing to you?" I feel my hands being tied, and that frightens me, but I control the panic and tough through it.
"You need to listen," I say, all the while I'm being lifted. "You can’t just kill me for no reason, I'm a human being. I'm a human being!" The tears sting my eyes, and I wonder why I want so badly to live when I myself had no reason. But there's something about not having the choice to live which stretched down into the pit of my stomach. Each day was a fight, but it was one I had been deciding to keep fighting in memory of the ones I love. And now even that was being taken from me...
For a moment Susan pauses in her account, as she looks across the table, at the FBI agent, and stares at the whirring tape recorder. Her orange jumpsuit, shines under the single lamp's stark light, and she puts her head in her hand. She breathed slowly for a few moments, her eyes shut, and the man who was waiting for her to continue, stares at his watch.
"What's the matter?"
"I'm sorry," Susan said. "I'm just so tired. Can I have a few minutes to stretch my legs?"
"You cant go anywhere 'til you're done."
"I just need a few minutes." She pauses. And then she explodes, "Good gosh, I gave you people the best years of my life! Twenty years dammit, and you wont give me five minutes."
"You can have two," the man said rising. "Starting now." Grabbing his things, Agent Sanders swiped his card in the lock, and steps out the door.
When he walks out into the dim lit hallway, he knocks his fist on the door where prisoner #x-9114a6 is currently being monitored. It slides open. From within the chambers, there is a great glass where Susan can be seen pacing around the room, and stretching her limbs alongside the wall. She cannot see them. And a form studying her hidden from the light, looks up when Sanders enters, and growls.
"It's obvious, she's a liar," Sanders says briefly. "I dont think she ever was an agent. We have no record, this Agent Chomsky, or Agent Wilkes ever existed. There is a possibility she's a SLEEPER, but its really not for us to say. I think she’s scared, and she’s going to say whatever we want her to say, if it’ll mean she can go home.” Sanders paused for a moment. “Wherever the hell that is.”
“Are you being paid to think, Agent Sanders?” The other man asked.
Sanders paused. “Sir?”
“Do you think you were hired because you could offer an opinion? I don’t think so. Go back in there, and find out what’s happening.”
“We need her to fall asleep again for the drug to work, and her hormone input at this point isn’t allowing her to. She’s dizzy.Mental spells. You know about the computer chip replacing her parietal lobe. By all accounts this woman should be dead. If we push her much longer, I expect she’ll completely collapse. Not to mention me,” he mutters this last part so the man in shadows couldn’t hear him.
“Who do you think you’re dealing with” Sanders superiorr snapped. “I have been apart of this organization before you were even born. We could have the president shot, if I wanted to. Our predecessor bumped off Kennedy because we wanted to get our way, and and we're going to be thwarted by one woman. Your life doesn’t matter, Mrs. Kelp’s life doesn’t matter. And certainly your opinion isn’t worth the dog poo, that unfortunately rests on the bottom of my thousand dollar shoes. All I want is one. Name. And I believe she has it.”
“Sure,” said Sanders. “What’s giving her, another two weeks of my life?”
The man smirked. "Ask the man who gave her ten years of marriage.”
The prisoner looked up as he reentered the chamber, but instead of talking, he looked down and nudged the corner of the desk. “Susan…do you know what thoughtography is?” He looked up. "Thoughtography was developed by Japanese psychics around the turn of the 20th century. They called it Nensha. It was the ability to burn psychically images onto a surface. Or maybe even into the mind of others. Your EEG scans taken upon your entering custody, indicate you have burn marks alongside the mescencephalon, which is the part of the brain which can send and receive information. I cant really go into explain everything, because I’m not Dr. Garth, who ran the tests, and I’m not much of a scientist, but its common knowledge the brain can send and receive information though not simultaneously.
“You have a computer chip, controlling the rhombencephalon which controls reflexes and simple learning, into which the rest of your brain is continually sending information. Now when we can get Dr. Garth to come in here, he’ll give you more info. But the rhombencephalon is the most superfluous part of your brain. We’ve numerous accounts of soldiers having this part of their brain damaged in World War 2, and the Vietnam War who’ve still been able to go on to lead normal lives because the other, and more important parts of their brain were able to overcompensate. In the rhombecephalon you’re completely braindead. But thanks to this chip…you’re still able to function like a normal human being. Maybe this is because whoever put this in your head, is not only a psycho-genius, but a thoughtographist, who burned onto the chip information to intermingle among your memories. That way, if you thought you were a spy, doing these fantastic things, it would throw us off of whatever he or she was trying to accomplish. So you’re not a spy. But you’re not a mental case either.”
She just stared.
Sanders bit his lip, and decided he wasn’t altogether sure he was cut out for this line of work. This was a very unusual woman to be taking what he was telling her so well. He knew he’d be going crazy.
“You think I’m a lunatic,” she said with definition. “Either that or a bald faced liar.”
“No,no,” he said. “I assure you that is not the case. I simply want you to be aware, you are not completely in control of who you are, or perhaps more importantly, who you think you are.”
“Get Chomsky on the phone, and he will explain everything,” said Susan. “He will back me. I have seen miracles these past few weeks, I lived in that town. I saw children materialize then disappear. I saw a man hit by a train, and get up again. I have walked on water.”
Sanders rolled his eyes. “Okay, that’s getting a little much for the inner Catholic…”
“Listen to me!” said Susan. “This is all scientifically explainable, and I have pursued it these past few years in my attempt to find out the reason for the radiation sickness that wiped out my entire hometown, along with the two people I loved more than life itself, thirteen years ago. And now I believe I might have the answers. But I can’t tell you unless you listen.”
Sanders couldn’t help himself. He broke out in a half smile. Immediately it washed away, when he saw that stone look come again over her. “I apologize, that was unprofessional.”
The cold look only intensified, as she gazed in silence. The pale blue eyes were like daggers.
Sanders sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “Sometimes when you have something to say, and its different from what’s currently acceptable in today’s society, you have to be prepared to meet with a certain amount of skepticism. I want to keep an open mind, and encourage you to tell me what you know. You just have to understand, for all my desire to learn, sometimes it can be a bit difficult. Alright?”
She nodded. “Thank you, Byron.”
Sanders sat up. He hadn’t recalled giving her his first name. He for a fraction of a second, looked over to the big, glass window behind which he knew the big boss lurked. He suddenly was not as sure as to who the actual crazy person was within this room. He had been so certain, she was lying or something. Now…now he could only listen.
“They started dragging me, to the car, and I knew they were intending to kill me…”
So many things are happening all at once. I can barely think, or breathe. I can smell the cheap deodorant, on Marcus Johanson’s shirt, and see Hiram’s wig has slanted sideways on his face, momentarily forgotten for he’s too choked up with anger to realize that when he fell, it got crooked. Sherrif Deakins’ sunglasses, gleam out beneath the ten gallon hat, and I see myself in them. I look at him and I see Death.
And then I see Pete. Dear, sweet old man who has always been kind to me, always given me a smile and good conversation as he swept up and down the building. Who though he’s been known to hit on me, can always be called true blue for his nature had no place for any terribleness. I see him driving down the road, in a dusty pickup, as wizened and cantankerous as he, moving towards the school house for a hard day’s work. The sun gleams on his beard, like a soft halo, and he reminds me of Jesus. And I scream his name, “Pete! Pete, help!”
He turns his head. And then I realize that by causing his attention, I’ve killed him for Sheriff Deakins raises his gun. Deakins fires at the man, shattering the window, as Pete’s truck swerves and smashes through the side of somebody’s yard, ambling through the fence onto the other side of the block and I hear it crash. Deakins turns and smashes the butt of his gun into my face, so that I don’t cry out again. Darkness.
I awake, tasting the salt of blood on my lips, and cant move my fingers. I’m all tied up. I’m in the trunk, and its rattling, and then suddenly feeling the sudden smack of something heavy against the truck, and grunt for the gag in my mouth prevents me from screaming, not knowing what’s going to happen to me. The truck goes on its side. Miraculously, I’m not hurt, except for a sudden jarring. If it had flipped upside down, I don’t know what I would have done. I might have lost it, even though I’m generally very good at not losing control. There’s shouting. I hear someone scream, and then a tremendous volley of gunfire. And then, when I think I cant bear it any longer, the trunk lid pops open, and there’s old Pete looking down at me, rifle in hand, concerned.
“Ya all right there, Miss B?”
I could have kissed him. If he had released me right then and there, I was intending to plant one his wife could hear all the way on the other side of town, but then in the corner of my eye, I see Deakins lying flat on the ground reaching for his gun. There was a stream of blood running from a wound above his face, as he strains to crawl to the sidearm. It was difficult for him, but in a second he was going to reach it.
“Pete,” I scream. “Behind you!”
He whirled, just as Deakins picked it up and both of them fired at each other simultaneously. Deakins was dead, before his head fell onto the pavement. For a moment Pete looked at him, and then turning he looked at me and gave that simple smile. “I’m sorry, Miss B. I wanted to let you go.” The blood ran down his head, his eyes rolled back in the socket. He fell collapsed on the pavement, and thus perished, the dearest, sweetest old man I ever knew.
I rolled out of the trunk, while the tears splashed about my cheeks and noting that there was glass strewn everywhere from when Pete had selflessly slammed his truck into Deakins’ police car to save me, I was able to find a sizable piece and cut my bonds free. Then moving up to Pete, I cradled his head in my lap and howled not caring who heard me. My tears fell onto his wrinkled face, and my hands trembling shut his eyelids. What was I going to tell his wife? How could I face her? I thought of Agent Wilkes waiting for me to call him, and Jake with those sad, strange eyes telling me I was going to be dead by Monday. And of my husband, Damian with that terrible temper and sullen eyes, who still had been the greatest husband and father to one’s child, a woman could ever hope to snare.
My eyes lift up to where, I see Marcus lying on the ground. His neck broken, a bone shard, sticking out of his neck. But the mayor is gone. The mayor who’d stopped me, when I wanted to get away, and delayed me long enough for Deakins and Marcus to nab me, thus making Pete rescue me. Who helped kill Pete. That fiend was gone. And then a hot wave of anger came over me, as I saw bloody footprints going off in the direction of a nearby park. I didn’t even know what these people wanted from me, but it sure seemed everyone in town felt driven to get rid of me in the most gruesome ways possible. Now Pete’s wife was a widow and she didn’t even know it, and what Hiram would tell her, would make her hate me. She actually had a right to hate me. I’d killed Pete, and he had had at least another decade of life left in him. And then as I thought of this, I realized I wasn’t going to run. Not like this. Because I owed it to myself, to find myself. To find the answers to these questions that had suddenly rammed into me after years of nothing.
What did Hiram mean, 'welcome home?'
I reach over to where Pete’s rifle, and Deakin’s sidearm are, and pick them both up. I take the holster, and tie it around my shoulder, sticking in the firearm, while strapping the rifle to my back. Hiram cannot run far, judging by the bloody tracks he’s leaving. He’s somewhere in that park, thinking I’m still trapped in the trunk. Maybe he thinks I’m injured. Maybe He thinks I’m dead. It doesn’t matter.
First I’m going to ask him my questions, and then I’m going to kill him.