About Me

Chapter XXVI


Chapter XXVI


            Valerie peeked inside the lab from the elevator doors.  She could see Anthony from where she stood.  He was in his usual spot, sitting in front of a workstation, completely preoccupied with a new invention. 

            “Knock knock.” Valerie said as she rapped quietly on the wall outside of the elevator doors.  She stepped into the lab and slowly made her way towards Anthony.  As she walked across the floor, she turned her head slightly to the left, trying to avoid seeing the corner of the room where she had spent her week of hell.  Anthony had removed the chains and restraining bolt in the floor, but in Valerie’s mind they were still there. 

            Anthony didn’t budge at her entrance.  She wasn’t even sure he had heard her come in.  She tried to make a little more noise as she approached him to keep from startling him accidentally.  The two of them had been through too much recently to be alarmed for no reason. 

            “Dr. Anthony?” Valerie called to him.  The Dr. didn’t look up and continued working. 

            “I hear you, Val.” He said. 

            Valerie hastened her walk knowing that he was aware of her presence.  She moved to the side of the workstation and stared at him.  On the table was the patchwork machine the possessed Dr. had built.  Anthony had spent the better part of the night examining it.  He had put it back together, taken it apart, and put it back together again in the hours he had been down there. 

            Above Valerie the ceiling moved, drawing her attention to it.  Liquid digital displays built in the ceiling projected an image of a rising sun. The sun rose and set in just a few minutes.  The display continued, moving day by day through the seasons.  The visual would change every displayed week, and show a new location, but during the same period of time. 

            “That’s new.” Valerie said.  Her head was craned back watching the days go by. 

            “Locked down here without any view of the outside world can be detrimental to the mind.  It’s a self imposed version of solitary confinement.  I need to be aware of the passage of time, without being a victim of its influence.  I keep the display out of real time for that purpose.”

            “It’s good to see you back at work.  Back to yourself.” 

            Anthony stopped examining the device and looked up at Valerie.  The sadness in his eyes almost made her cry. 

            “Don’t mistake what I’m doing here for normal.  I’m far from being back to normal.” Anthony replied. 

            “I’m merely trying to piece together what happened to me.” Anthony continued. 

            “What do you remember?”  Valerie asked. 

            “During the time I was under its control?  Nothing. 

            “What’s the last thing you do remember?” 

            “I’m not sure.” Anthony began.  “I spend so much time down here in the lab…  Everything seems to have blurred together.”

            Anthony closed his eyes and drummed the table with the pads of his fingers.  He tried to recall what he was doing before he woke up to the horror his life had turned into. 

            “I don’t… It’s all a blur.  Things blending together.  It’s like looking through frosted glass – just shapes and outlines.” 

            Valerie smiled at him.  “It’ll get better.  Just give it some time.” 

            “How about you?” Anthony asked.  His concern ran deeper than just the rekindled feelings he had for her.  She had been tortured by his hand.  The fact that he wasn’t in control at the time did little to ease his conscious.  He needed for her to be ok.  If there were any lasting damage, he didn’t know what he would do. 

            “Feeling better.” Valerie answered with another smile on her face.  “With that power dampener removed I’m back up to a hundred percent.  I took a quick fly around the tundra when I woke up.  It felt wonderful.” 

            Valerie closed her eyes and her mind went back to her early morning flight; the wind in her face, and the heat of the sun washing over her skin.  She soared up into the clouds and hovered for a moment before beginning her descent.  Valerie stretched her body out horizontally, pulled her arms to her chest, and dropped from the sky.  Her body tumbled sideways as if she were rolling down a hill.  Her hair whipped about her face and head tangling into a mess that her personal hairdresser would charge her several thousand dollars to undue.  For the freedom she felt at that moment, Valerie would pay any price. 

            The flaxen haired heroine opened her eyes and found Anthony looking at her with a smirk.  She blushed and ran her fingers through the ends of her velocity made dreadlocks.  Her fingers got caught in the tangles and she frowned. 

            “Ugh!  D’lores is going to kill me.” Valerie twisted her features into a mock grimace.  “You’d think that being a hairstylist to the stars, and charging five hundred dollars for a shampoo and herb and seaweed rinse, she’d be happy with repeat business.  Instead, she yells at me and tells me what a bad person I am for getting my hair dirty with soot and ash after saving people from an apartment fire.  Hollywood.  Go figure, huh?” 

            Anthony just stared at her.  Being one of the few heroes to escape the trappings of celebrity he had a hard time relating to her “problems”.  Still, he enjoyed listening to her talk.  He realized that it was something he should have done more of back when they were a couple. 

            “Well,” Valerie said, changing the subject.  “Are you going to tell me what you’re working on?” 

            Anthony turned his attention away from his former girlfriend and back to the machine.  He immediately went back to tinkering with it while he talked. 

            “Trying to figure out why this thing didn’t work.” 

            “Didn’t it?” Valerie questioned.  “I mean, it forced that thing, whatever it was, out of you.” 

            “This machine is what helped me snapped out of the mental prison that being held me in.  The problem is, it wasn’t meant to.” 

            Dr. 253 was in the middle of taking the device apart again when Valerie entered the lab.  He turned the machine around to show the inner workings and pointed out parts to her.   He looked down at his hands.  They weren’t his anymore; at least not the way they used to be.  Anthony looked up at Valerie. 

            “I’ve been struggling with these all night.” Anthony held his hands up.  “I’m stronger than I used to be.  I spent the first two hours down here teaching myself how to hold things again.  I went through about three dozen eggs before I learned the precise amount of pressure needed to pick them up without crushing them.  As you can see…” He gestured to the other end of the workstation.  A small pile of broken tools and various gizmos he had built were lying in ruin at the far end of the table. 

            “My tools aren’t much better.” 

            Valerie reached across the table and held his hands in hers.  She ran her hands along the backs of them, feeling the skin.  Anthony’s skin looked normal and smooth to the touch, albeit mildly discolored and bigger, but they felt like soft leather.  Not unpleasant to the touch, but textured and unnatural. 

            Valerie ran her hands down the backside and along the fingers.  She turned his hands over to feel the palms.  Inside her stomach knotted as her mind flashed back to the times those hands had taken liberties with her bare flesh.  She tried not to let it show to Anthony, and tapped the skin to cover her trembling fingers. 

            Anthony watched Valerie’s hands as she held his.  When she started to touch his palms he pulled away.  She looked at him with surprise, and wondered what she did wrong.  Anthony met her gaze, then looked back down at his hands.  Her eyes followed his.  His pinky fingers were still curled up against the palm.     

            “The pinkies have atrophied to the point that they’re useless.  The bones have become a sponge like consistency.  I think they’ll need to be amputated.” Anthony said in a matter of fact tone that was scary to both of them. 

            Anthony immediately went back to the device, trying to change the subject and temporarily forget about how different he now was.  He pointed at the pieces inside the machine again. 

            “You see this piece here… here… and here?”  The one with the blue tip is a receiver, of sorts.  The one with the orange line around the base is a transmitter.  The clear one is an amplifier.  I believe that the ‘other’ me was going to possess you the same way it had me.  Not him exactly, but one of his kind.” 

            Dr. 253 turned the machine back around to himself.  Her loosened a few screws and removed the top. 

            “See here?” The doctor pointed to another area.  “The blue and black wires lead from the transmitter to the amplifier.  They’re reversed.  Instead of them increasing the signal from the receiver and sending it at you, or whomever, they looped the ambient noise from the room and broadcast it back out.  Like putting an amplifier and microphone in an empty room.  The sound begins to loop and feedback until it become too much for either instrument.  In this case, it took the signal in the room, the being, and broadcast it back at itself, me.  The signal was intensified, weakening its hold, and allowing me to take control.” 

            “Okay.” Valerie said with feigned understanding.  She knew that Dr. 253 had dumbed it down as much as he could, but she still didn’t completely understand.  “I don’t get it.” 

            ‘Neither do I.” Dr. 253 continued on.  He knew what Valerie meant, but took it in his own direction as not to insult her intelligence.    

            “The being that made this knew what it was doing, up until here.  This is too simple of a mistake for it to have made.  There’s no way it would have done something as juvenile as confuse these two wires.  Had it not been for that, I’d still be under its control, for the time being, and you’d be a new host.” 

            “Maybe you did it.  Maybe your subconscious was fighting back.  There were times, when it seemed like you – it – couldn’t concentrate.  It would shake its head like it was having a fit.  It actually did that right before activating the machine.  Maybe a part of you was fighting back.” 

            “I don’t remember.  If I was fighting back against the creatures hold on me, there should be some memory.  A glimmer of subconscious thought.  There’s nothing.  I don’t remember anything.” 

            “What else could it be?” 

            “I have a theory.” Anthony replied.  He directed her attention to the other workstation.  The two of them walked over to the table.  Anthony activated the touch screen controls built into the table top and brought up dual holographic images of his brain.     

            “These are 3D renderings of my brain.  The one on the right was taken from a scan done early this morning.  The other is from a scan I did six weeks ago.” 

            “Wait!  You scanned your brain six weeks ago?” Valerie questioned.  As Dr. 253, Anthony was known to do some things that would seem crazy to those of lesser intelligence, including experimenting on himself at times.  She hoped he hadn’t been doing anything like that again.

            “Yes.” Anthony answered matter-of-factly.  “My entire brain scanned in its entirety.  The scan is done a micron at a time to ensure that nothing is missed.” 

            “And, when did you start doing this?” 

            “Shortly after we broke up.  I was afraid something might be wrong with me.  There wasn’t.  At least, not physically.” 

            Anthony turned back to the holographs of his brain.  The grey matter globes rotated slowly before both their eyes. 

            “See the one on the left?  Perfectly normal.  Each color indicates an individual brain function: active thinking, tactile senses, visual input, memory storage and recall, involuntary actions, etc.”  Anthony pushed another button, and the active regions of his brain lit up like fireworks.

            Valerie couldn’t believe her eyes.  The image of his brain was a kaleidoscope of colors. There appeared to be activity all over his brain.  There were so many colors that they were broken down into lighter and darker hues of the same primary.  Some blended together and were barely noticeable until the image turned a certain way. 

            “My God.” Valerie unconsciously said aloud. 

            “Using this, I was able to understand the nature of my power.  My intelligence comes from multiple areas of my brain all working at once.  It’s the equivalent to a thousand supercomputers working independently to solve one problem.  Each works its own path to a possible solution, and then all the data is compiled.  From this an answer, or path of action, is determined with the highest possible success rate.  If you then take that solution and run it through a thousand more computers, you will have an answer that is infallible.  My brain does this on a level beyond conscious thought.  It would be scary if it wasn’t so intriguing.” 

            Dr. 253 increased the size of the brain image on the right, drawing Valerie’s attention to it.  This scan was not as radiant as the other.  The colors were duller and there were fewer shades of the primaries. 

            “Take a look at the one I did today.  The duller colors indicate a slower processing speed.  My brain is still thinking on multiple levels, but not as fast or as strong.  Something’s impeding it.” 

            The holograph of the brain turned counterclockwise and the right front hemisphere enlarged in view. 

            “See that dark mass?” Dr. 253 asked.  “Cognitive reasoning.  Ordinarily this would be someone who has some form of diminished capacity, mostly associated with dementia or extreme levels of autism.  The brain itself is still active, but the response from the higher functions are slow, or sporadic.   The creature that possessed me subdued my conscious mind with his when it took over.  I believe the problem was, it wasn’t able to completely take over.” 

            Dr. 253 shrank the image of the possessed brain back to its normal size.  He merged the two holographic images together, overlaying the “damaged” one on top of the good one. 

            “My brain is designed to work for me and no one else.” 

            “Of course it is.  I don’t see what you’re getting at.”  Valerie inquired. 

            “When Mistress Meteora asked me to give you powers like hers, I couldn’t just graft those same powers on to you.  I had to tailor them to fit your DNA.  My brain is similar.  The way it works could only work for me, and no one else.  I believe that these creatures take over someone by mapping their mind over the host’s mind.  The creature’s mind slowly suppresses the host until they are completely overtaken and no part of them exists anymore.  This change also forces their DNA to recode itself to fit the creature’s natural form.” 

            Valerie looked from the holograph to Anthony, and back to the holograph.  It made sense – it was coming from Dr. 253 after all, the smartest man on the planet – but a part of her wanted to fight his explanation.  She didn’t want to believe that such a thing was possible.  Creatures taking over people’s minds and bodies.  If she hadn’t witnessed it herself, she would defy all rational reasoning and tell him he was wrong. 

            Dr. 253 continued.

            “My brain’s activity was too much for the creature to subdue.  So, even though it was able to take over my conscious mind, it couldn’t fully map itself to the rest of my brain.  Some part of my subconscious mind realized something was wrong, and started working on a solution to fix it.  This area of my brain either forced or tricked the creature into wiring the device incorrectly.  The feedback loop allowed my conscious self to reawaken and eradicate it from my mind.” 

            “Is it gone for good?”

            “For all intents and purposes, yes.  Because it had downloaded itself into my head, there’s no way for me to extract it.  Thankfully, when my mind reclaimed control of my brain it erased all traces of the creature.  This is why I have no recollection of the past month.  As my mind adjusts to being back in control, those dark masses will turn back into active regions of neural response. That could very well take weeks.  Even still, my memory of that time is gone for good.”   

            “Well, I guess that’s both good and bad.” Valerie said. 

            Dr. 253 turned off the holographic display.  He walked back over to the other work station, with Valerie in tow, and took a seat. 

            “What now?” Valerie asked.  Anthony had explained everything that had happened to her, but he hadn’t told her what he planned to do with that information. 

            “Now?” Anthony repeated.  “I wish I knew.  First I need to find out what took control of my mind.  Then, I need to find out what I did while it was in control.  If I can figure all of that out, then I’ll be able to make a plan.  Until I fully recover, I’m not much smarter than Stephen Hawking.  I fear that may not be smart enough” 

            On the screen above him summer was in full bloom.  The sun rose and set over his head, shining its light down on him like a spotlight.  The midday light bathe him in its radiance and for a minute he looked like his old self.  At dusk, the waning light seemed to accent the leathery texture of his skin and the weariness he wore like a mask. 

            Valerie knew at that moment that he would never be the same.  The Dr. 253 she knew was gone, and inside she cried.


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