We are at a world, some years ahead of us, when genetic engineering has exceeded bioethics’ limitation. Sense8 meets House MD and Inception, transforming us into Schrodinger’s cat. The story is like an adventure computer game in terms of a mind game. The reader has to keep on decoding constantly the storyline along with the main character.
What we chose to look at each given point forms our perception and in the end makes every possible outcome to collapse to one reality. Each time the main character fails to see or comprehend a clue, she finds herself at a dead-end, forcing her to go back and try again. Sometimes, even though it seems that she found the correct answer, the missing piece that appears later on, alters what she considers as truth.
Do we have any control over what we chose to define as reality or is it a vicious circle where our perception and nature’s laws keep us trapped?
We are following Janus, a woman with a unique ability to have access to other people’s consciousnesses. She struggles to discover her true identity -that’s blurring due to genetic experiments- while she‘s constantly manipulated by carefully given fragments of information. She is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone she comes across in order to find a man, she has been sharing consciousness with for years but she hasn’t found him yet. The mystery man shows up in her mind every time her life is at risk, pushing her willy–nilly to the way out.
She is a biologist working on a virus that induces activation of genes that control hidden abilities. She gets the virus and her ancestor’s skills emerge, those of a serial killer included. She kills her boss Paul, who contaminates pc gamers with the virus, fails to commit suicide and decide to go back to her team.
Her team consists of two other men. Mark, a doctor who makes sure that transgenic human participants with technical devices implanted on them will survive the tests while they are experimenting on breaking time barriers. He is determined to make it happen because the woman he loved, Lisa, is in a coma and her mind transferred on a quantum pc. He is obsessed on bringing her back; give her a body so that they could go on with their lives as a couple.
Alex is the mastermind behind the experiments. His main goal is to find the only human who already knows how to break time and he uses every mean that technology and scientific research has to offer along with his manipulation’s skill. His secret is that he has reincarnated more than once and has clear recollection of each one of his previous lives. In every life he comes across the same man. They fight and the man kills him. This time he is determined to find him and kill him first.
Alex helps Janus find Jim the man whom she’s been looking for but she manipulates her to kill him. Jim doesn’t die but he’s in a coma and Janus has to wake him up before he dies. She‘s been told that she carries Lisa’s DNA. In fact she’s pregnant with her clone. She connects with her and once Lisa realizes that she’s dead she destroys every data and device she can access, causing deadly injuries to Janus, Mark and Paul.
I despise alarm clocks. They have always felt like a punch in my face out of the blue. I reached for the alarm clock and turned it off.
I opened my eyes. Everything was blurry. The light was hurting my eyes. Here I was, lying with a hangover, looking at the pillow next to me and last night’s mess. A red dress was left on the chair. I remembered that from some place last night. Where? I couldn’t tell. What the fuck was I doing again?
The alarm clock sounded annoying once more, on my phone this time. Where did I leave it? Damn it, I have to get up now. I got up with a grin on my face and headed to the living groom. There it was, lying on the floor. I bowed and turned the phone off. Lisa would go crazy. I didn’t care. I moved on to the kitchen, turned the coffee machine on and stepped into the shower.
What was I doing last night? How long am I going to make excuses for one last time?
I enjoyed the hot water on my body. Washing me of whatever happened. It doesn’t count, as long as you don’t remember it. After all there‘s no reality but only various points of view. I got out and got the coffee that was waiting for me. Ι looked through the window. Window, window on the wall which one is the blindest of them all?
There was too much light. I never liked that either so I turned around as soon as I heard the phone ringing. 6:58. Silence was shattered again by Lisa’s annoying voice, leaving messages… and then Lisa again reminding me of my schedule. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to kill her, or thank her for putting up with me. I left my cup on the table and went back to the bedroom. I stood there. My tuxedo was thrown on the floor, that beautiful red dress lying on the chair and blood on the sheets.
Lisa’s voice on the answering machine went on telling names, appointments and all that boring things that were paying for our acceptable way of existence. I leaned on the wall. Lights, alcohol and a smile were the only things I could recall.
I stepped into the closet. Picked a random suit of clothes; I dressed and got one last sip of coffee on my way out. I could do the ride with a blindfold on my eyes if I had to. Half my brain was still shut down due to an awful migraine. I parked next to Lisa’s car and checked the time. I was late. Again. A sigh came out as if it was last night’s faded memories. Hadn’t it been for her being in love, she would have never put up with me and my mess. She was nothing but loyalty wearing love’s mask.
She was smart enough to get it on time. She would never become a lover so she was giving her best shot to become a necessity, secretly hoping to transform herself into a loved one. She was like a walking crime on stilettos. I reached for the elevator. I got in and pressed the button.
Loyalty. That luring bitch. She was loyal. And I was too. Not the way she had always been wishing for. It made me wonder from time to time, if she had the whole picture, would she ever pick up the same cards to play with me?
Tasteless elevator music always makes me think, random crap like that. Finally I arrived at my floor. A few more steps and here I am, at my office.
What is really an office? What’s wrong with me?
My migraine kept getting worse and I kept on thinking crappy thoughts as I felt my vertigo’s breath on my forehead.
Lisa was waiting for me at the door. She wanted desperately to come as early as possible, so that she would be the first I would talk with daily. She was possessive in every invisible breath of her. That would get her fired one day but now she was waiting for me with another cup of coffee on one hand and my notes on the other. No; today wouldn’t be that day either. Once she doesn’t make time for that coffee, she’s out, back to her meaningless life that she looks down to and that’s how her genes will be removed from the gene pool. I took the coffee and the notes and stepped into my office while I kept talking to myself in order to keep going.
There was no office actually. I only had two insanely expensive comfortable black armchairs, white walls and a small coffee table. The last one was my only compromise. After all, I needed to put my cup of coffee somewhere. I sat on the chair, left the cup on the table and stretched my body while I was trying to make my migraine’s aura disappear. Seven minutes left before the first appointment enters.
This wasn’t really a job. Since there are people willing to pay for my expenses and taxes, I guess it’s ok, but what I was really doing was nothing more, nothing less than playing with people. People, as they grow older, seem to forget how to play and to be played. They get bored of buying things, people, relationships, careers, achievements, whatever seems sparkling enough to their eyes. So here I was joining their misery in order to play along with them all over again, with signed contracts of secrecy.
Sex is cheap nowadays. Bodies come always with their price on them. At least for the ones who keep on paying me. Drugs never fill the void. They die of boredom in their golden chains so I am here to make their long impending death a bit more enjoyable. But minds are a bit more expensive. I play only one game. “Hide and Seek”. You would never guess how much money people are willing to pay to be found among their shadows and their darkness.
I looked at the black carpet beneath my feet, shaped as a hat. I smiled as my aura was stretching more than my body.
Here I was, their beloved mad hatter. What kind of travel could intimidate yet tempt people who had already tried every known kind of tripping? No other but be seen instead of being exposed. Blind people who can’t see, but long for to be seen. I love human’s irony.
Alex Smith. Age 47. Musician. Type I Diabetes. Single. Fallen Star.
I always believed that whenever a profile didn’t fit in a post-it note, then it wasn’t complete. I was watching him entering the room, sitting on the armchair, starring at me as if there was a smoking glass between us. I could see with his eyes. He saw people as spinning dots of color. For a moment I wondered if I should change my color rotation, to say hi but then I changed my mind. There was no hurry. After all he didn’t really want to give it a try. All that he wanted was to go home, lie down and die slowly in his misty misery.
– Whose blood is on your hands? I asked him
People with type I Diabetes tend to hide their fingers so that you won’t take notice of the damage done by the needles. I never made questions to get answers; I was simply watching their thoughts. Every one of them, pictures himself in the center of an imaginary house that stands for what he really is, what he loves and fears, what he treasures more, a shelter and a sanctuary at the same time, where they hide all that is sacred to them.
There he was, sitting on the armchair playing with his fingers, avoiding me as I was looking backwards through his eyes. In his mind he was squatting with his head looking at the floor. Everything around was black but for spots of color, that were playing in orbits around him. Most of the time people don’t know that I’m there but he lifted his head slowly and looked through me. I started falling in my migraine’s aura.
I couldn’t breathe; he was on me with his hands on my neck suffocating me. I couldn’t hear what he was muttering. I only had a few seconds to get back into his mind before I fainted.
– I am not like you. I never was. I will never be.
That were the only words that I heard from his mouth and then nothing. Void. I fainted inside his mind.
Most people enjoy water. Me? I need water. There I was in the shower wearing my clothes, facing the wall while water was dropping on me. A sudden flare sparkled in front of me. Alex was holding me against the wall. I could smell him… smoke, oranges and cinnamon.
– Alex, I spoke to myself. Where’s Alex? And I opened the shower’s door. Why am I with my clothes in the shower? It felt like I was in car crash. I took my clothes off and let the water do its work. I had the feeling that I had more black-outs than I realized so far. Fewer hours daily were my own. If other people’s thoughts weren’t able to drive me insane, my own mind could do that effortlessly.
I stepped out of the shower. Dried myself and got dressed in a total black outfit. Lisa was waiting for me outside with a cup of coffee and a painkiller.
– I cancelled the rest of the appointments. Next time you should give me at least a short notice before you invite more than scheduled. She turned her back on me and left.
I swallowed the pill and went back to my office. It was a mess. Coffee spilled on the floor, the cup crashed onto the floor, armchairs lying down. I sat down and closed my eyes. I was looking for Alex.
There he was on his stage, standing up this time. He was expecting me. He looked at me.
– You seem broken, he said. A river of colors floated out of my stomach. I looked back at him.
– I am Alex. What’s your name?
– You already know.
– Not that. I want your real name.
He started transforming himself and everything around us into mirrors imprisoning me in a diamond. We weren’t alone there.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned my head. It was Lisa’s hand. She scared me. I was back at the office.
– Alex’s assistant called. Alex apologized for what happened and paid for the rest of the program in advance – regardless if you accept him again or not – as a sign of appreciation for your work.
– Get yourself a present and tomorrow you‘ll have a day off.
She was slowly taking steps back realizing her mistake.
-Don’t even dare to call me. No excuse is acceptable.
I was standing one breath away from her face.
-One call and the rest of your days will be just “days off”, I shouted to her. She kneeled in pain on the floor.
– I love you, she whispered.
– No. You don’t. You can’t love anyone apart from yourself and that’s why it’s so easy for you to live like that. It’s your nature, freak.
– One day, I will leave you.
– Let’s call that day “today”. I grabbed her and threw her out of the office. I went back to her chair and took her coat and bag and threw them outside.
– That’s it. We are done here. Keep Alex’s check as your compensation.
– I am sorry. Please don’t do that. Don’t shut me off. Who’s going to take care of you? You need me.
I snapped the door on her face. Arrogance on stupid’s hand can be lethal sometimes. I went to the bar and grabbed a bottle of wine. I put it on the table with a glass. It was getting dark outside. I searched for my phone. No clocks were allowed at the office. It’s one of my rules. After all, there’s no time but scattered snapshots of our limited perception.
I had no recollection of morning, noon and most of the afternoon. My migraine was fading slowly. I felt like I was dying and no one had the nerve to tell me that. All my medical exams were normal as if they belonged to a younger person. Still I was constantly exhausted, with migraines. Chronic fatigue syndrome was all I got after having paid the bill, instead of giving up and going on vacation.
Someone was knocking on the door. Lisa told that she had cancelled every appointment. Someone was being stupid. Either Lisa or the unexpected visitor and I wasn’t in the mood of finding out which one. I opened the bottle and poured me some wine. I liked that etiquette, Merlot with an essence of oranges.
A black envelope was lying on the floor. It seemed like an invitation. I took it and opened it. There was a black card inside with a haiku written in golden letters.
My blood for your blood
3 lies for a fake truth
It’s just me and you
What’s that? That must be something from last night. Kate. I remembered a name. No, it was not Kate. I took another painkiller from my drawer and sat down.
“The Hat”. Who the hell was The Hat? I took the card back to my office and put the armchairs back to their places. I sat on the opposite chair than I used to. The coffee was still on the floor.
My blood for your blood
3 lies for a fake truth
It’s just me and you.
I kept looking at the broken cup, the chairs, the walls… Then I stood up and moved the armchairs once more and turned the carpet upside down. There it was, a necklace, a gold circle with a platinum triangle in it. I grabbed it in my fist. A frozen wave instantly trickled down my spine and as a reflex I turned to face the ceiling. It was changing. Someone whispered in my ear.
– It’s just me and you.
I turned around slowly. We were standing on a dock. I took him by surprise.
– I didn’t think that you would have the nerve to do that, he told me almost irritated.
– What do you want? I asked trying to see through his eyes.
– No. The correct question is “what do You want?” or I would rather say “Whom are you searching for?”. Your problem now is that I don’t really care. I only care about what I want and that’s taking back what’s mine. You took it and I let you held it for quite some time but now I am bored and I want to play as well. So coach, are you a bit rusty to become a player once again for old time’s sake?
I couldn’t see anything but the lake beside me, no matter how much I tried to focus. But I could hear him clearly.
– You might think that’s not fair but life is not fair. Life is balance. I do nothing but to bring the balance back, whether you like it or not. You have done some wonderful work here. I have seen it all. With foolish people though – I am not one of them. Tiny, afraid of living, scared of dying, terrified of making love as the Mysts they keep shooting between the eyes.
He came close and leaned over me, whispering.
-You are sleeping now. Deep down, you know it. You need that sleep in order to go on doing what you do. It’s when you can breathe. That’s why you have no recollection of your dreams whatsoever. You can’t tell anymore whether you are really awake or not. You don’t have a clue. Just give it a thought and then, one more. Let me help you a bit with that thought.
He kissed my lips and then one more kiss, a slow, sensual kiss that wouldn’t let me breathe. Everything started turning black. I had to focus. I was running out of time. I transformed into him.
He let go of me. I fell down. He leaned over me and smiled.
– Freedom. What a deceitful illusion. In another place or time I might have even liked you but you are nothing more than a broken puppet and I have no time for it. He pushed his hand into my chest. I was dying.
– Let go. Just give in and you will find peace. I promise.
I could no longer see him but I felt his hand crawling through my chest. Colors started coming out of my chest as someone forced him to take his hand off. He couldn’t move.
Alex was behind his back holding him still. I thought I heard his voice screaming in my head.
– Get out! Now!
There I was lying on the floor. Barely breathing with my nose bleeding. The phone was ringing. “Breathe in” I thought. “Focus and just breathe in and breathe out”. The recorded message finished and I listened to Alex’s voice speaking with his deep distinctive voice.
– I know you are a killer. I knew it from the first moment I sat on that armchair. The blood on my hands is yours. But can you really tell whose blood is on your hands? People without names, people without faces, people once lost and never found. Check your fax! He hang up.
The fax started printing. My body ached all over. I could hardly stand up. I crawled to take the sheet of paper. A photo of a woman lying down naked with the same necklace I found earlier. Her face wasn’t visible on the photograph so I couldn’t tell if I knew her or not. I took the sheet of paper and placed the necklace on top of it.
I erased the message from the answer machine and opened the drawer where I kept my medical file. I put it on my desk and poured myself some more wine. It would be a long night. I would either find the answer or pass out again.
I opened the hidden closet and got all the files out. The answer may have been hidden in one of those files. As the sun rose hours later, the office was still a mess but with papers all over the place. I had fallen asleep on the floor. I had lost track of time once more.
I woke up and I wasn’t certain of where I was, what had happened, what was real and what wasn’t. I had a few moments to decide upon that. I got up and made myself some coffee. Coffee and some pills I took out from the sugar can. Alex’s file was next to the coffee machine. I must have had left it there last night. All notes were spread.
An article with a photo of him back on his days of glory. I took the copy of the article and reached for my cigarettes. I had completely forgotten about that. I lit a cigarette, took the cup of coffee and sat on Lisa’s chair. Glorious Alex Gate had stabbed a young stoned groupie backstage after a concert of his. He claimed it was self defense and checked himself in a mental clinic after donating most of his money at charities.
I recalled last night’s call. Only a killer would identify a killer with such certainty. I reached for the woman’s photo with the necklace and placed it next to the article.
Was that woman alive? Was she dead? And how Alex had that photograph of her? Was he there? As questions kept showing up in my head the room started to fade.
There I was back on that stage. Alex was waiting. He opened his eyes and looked at me. A knife appeared out of nowhere and stabbed me at my shoulder. I started bleeding.
– You were curious about what happened. That’s what happened. I could have chosen her heart but either I didn’t want to kill her or I didn’t want her to die there. Does this answer your questions? As the knife vanished in my hand.
I gave you one of my truths. It’s your turn now.
He transformed the stage into a room, a bright white room with no furniture or any other object. The woman from the photograph was lying down between us. Within a blink of an eye he stood behind my back hugging me from behind whispering.
– Look at her. Are you absolutely sure that you don’t know who this woman is? Tell me her name. Don’t you remember her? Let me refresh your memory.
The knife appeared once more and stabbed her on the shoulder.
– I spent 7 years in that mental institution checking in and out, over and over again. And I did all that because of you. So I owe you. And you owe me. Tell me her name.
There was no name on the article. No photograph of her. No personal information. She was a minor so the law protected her privacy.
-I don’t know her.
-This time I will let her bleed to death if you don’t give me the truth. I spent years tracking you. I wasn’t sure that I had found you until I stared at you. Tell me her name.
She’s bleeding. Somewhere at this very moment her body dies slowly. I‘ve paid more than enough in order to track her down, not me. You took the money. Now hand her over to me. I am running out of time. We are both running out of time. And believe me you have more to lose than me.
My senses told me that there was one more person in the room. He was right. I was running out of time. I run towards her and removed the knife from her wound. I heard someone laughing as he was taking the knife from my wound. I turned to Alex but he was gone. I turned once more and I was back in my office.
I still hadn’t passed out. Yet I could tell that it was only a matter of time before that happened again. I got back to Alex’s medical file. I found notes reporting him getting in and out of hospitals along with music recordings and awards. I started writing down the dates since the stabbing, nothing else – just the numbers.
We are not numbers but fractals of our thoughts. So numbers sometimes help us understand our patterns. I ended up with too many numbers. His assistant gave us copies of everything that happened in his life. Once more there were too many facts and trivial things. I threw the paper away and went back to Lisa’s board. I erased everything and started writing all over again from scratch.
The date of the stabbing was the 1st of September. That was 7 years ago. I noted every date of these reports on the board.
1st of September he got arrested.
2nd day of September he pleads insanity.
3rd day of September a woman confirmed that it was in self defense.
5th day of September he checked in the mental institution.
8th of October he wins his first award. He wasn’t there to receive it.
And the numbers went on and on, following him in and out of his madness, while he was turning into a phantom that kept coming back recording, earning ridiculous amounts of money out of his misery.
I went back and opened another bottle of wine. I was obviously going crazy bit by bit and soon wine wouldn’t be on the menu. So what were my options? A. crazy or B. dying or C. in prison or D. all of the above. I would definitely pick up D. Life grows and dies on her own terms.
A flare shot through my mind. I took my glass and got back to the board. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 … Those weren’t random numbers. I was watching a Fibonacci sequence. Alex was building a fractal. That’s how he managed to keep on going for that long. I searched for his studies. His studies must be filed somewhere. He studied science in college and got his PhD on brain’s electromagnetic fields. He gave up his career in research when he started performing live.
I was sitting there exhausted, drinking my wine in silence, watching his fractals evolve through the numbers as if the numbers were keys on a music sheet and I was listening to his melody.
No, I wasn’t dying. That was a false assumption that led nowhere, a system error on a blue screen. I laid my eyes on my medical file, my absolute perfect medical file. No matter how many doctors I visit, no matter how many medical exams I may have, the reports will always suggest the same. I am as healthy as a perfect new born baby with a clear preference to alcohol instead of milk.
Each time you stand on a wrong starting point, it will always lead you on a dead end path. That’s what I used to say a long time ago.
So, actually, I am dead. I tried to taste the wine in my mouth. It tasted like nothing. I could feel it in my mouth but I couldn’t taste it. I spit it in my hands. I could feel it dripping on my arms. I tried to taste it on my skin once more while staring at the numbers. No taste at all.
Where are my angels? Where is the black tunnel with the light? When did I pass the welcome sign and the choirs? Where is hell whatsoever? What was the girl’s name? What date is it today?
When did I die?
I have no recollection of it whatsoever. I was just sitting there with an empty glass of wine in my hand, unable to do anything.
No, any thought I had was inaccurate. So I stood up and poured me some more wine while looking once more at the files. At least I had all the time I needed. It’s kind of crazy having something like time since it doesn’t really exist but that was the least of my problems for the moment.
Which moment? There was no moment yet I was still there. I took the necklace out of my pocket.
What is time?
I looked at Alex’s fractals. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8….
What is time?
Is it a dot, a straight one way line, a spiral or something else? What?
Was I running out of time or was I already out of whatever we had ever defined as time.