The sun explodes in a splash of blue and yellow as the Earth begins tilting with a cracking sound. As a consequence, a giant tall glass falls and rolls and a wave of thick, glowing milk washes over the inclined landmass. The fixed stars spin faster and faster while milk enters every crevice on the planet and starts drying. Saturn is getting closer and its rings knot. I blink once and this creates two hundred ants walking backwards, all frantically working in reverse to extract a decaying earthworm out of a hole in the asphalt. Swarming over the cadaver, they carry it around two blades of lonely grass and leave it there to recompose and regain life, and they all humbly, and orderly, step backwards into their home.
“Wallace, you’re glitching.”
“I know” he replied, pushing his palms on his eyesockets. The brain worm bounced once on the glass table. It emitted weak brainwaves of satiation.
“Even before, we glitched a little, didn’t we?”
“Yes.” He said, sheepishly.
Sophie crossed her legs. “That was a different memory, I suppose.”
“Yes. Kind of, yes.”
“Anterior or posterior?”
“Anterior.” he states, more confidently. “That was before I met the others. Actually, no,” he corrected, suddenly getting lost in thought, “I already knew Robespierre.”
“Which you just called R back then.”
“Uh… yes. Precisely. Anyway… that was the first time we saw a fly.”
The girl audibly gulped. Sophie was filled by this electrifying mixture of curiosity and terror whenever the word was mentioned.
“It almost got us. In fact, a posteriori I would say we were extremely lucky to survive the encounter. It’s an incredibly instructive experience, because…” he said, picking up the half-smoked cigar and examining it to check if it could be salvaged, “because defending against flies was certainly possible – even more so if you have someone like Robespierre – but only if you already knew they exist, and how they work.”
He paused for a while. “Most people that met with a fly couldn’t live on to tell. Flies don’t give warning shots. They weren’t there to fight. They were there to clean.”
Sophie slowly nodded as she absorbed this information. “And who sent the flies?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t know. The Murries, we assumed. Russia? It hardly mattered.”
“Ok, then…” pressed on the blonde girl, “why didn’t you choose to relay that memory, the first encounter?”
“Because it’s not important.”
“And also it’s a mess. You wouldn’t be able to understand anything anyway.”
“But somehow” Sophie insisted, “a memory of you fucking some post-nuc bird in an abandoned shop is a defining moment in your life that absolutely deserves to be relayed.”
“Look, I tried to cut out most of it!”
“And I…” she smiled, “…commend you for trying, Wallace.”
“And of course that was necessary context to show you what happened straight after.”
“…which you then failed to show, opting instead for a detour to lysergic land.”
“Yes.” he barked. “No, I mean, yes, sorry. I didn’t mean to.” He fiddled with the lighter struggling to bring the cigar back to life.
“Wallace.” Sophie reassured. She waited for him to pay complete attention. Their eyes locked. “Is whatever comes right after too troubling to relive?”
He seemed irritated. He breathed heavily, not breaking eye contact. “Give me that fucking hand.”
I am suddenly injected with an overwhelming dread, fear, and guilt. I am back in the park, sweatdrop inching down my forehead as I struggle to keep the cannon upright towards the point on the roof from where I believe the fly will pop out. Time is slowed down to a sticky sludge, but the fly is fast and bolts into my field of vision as a blurred black spot.
It starts shooting immediately. I am certain I will die now. The fly must have crossed the line of sight of the cannon because it stops shooting and loses altitude, still blazingly fast and loudly buzzing, pitch dropping. I turn to look as it passes over me. It dives down like a black meteor, straight for T. He just stands there, eyes wide in the same certainty I was in three hundred milliseconds ago, not sure what muscles to move and how. The fly grazes his shoulder, blood sprays in an expanding spiral accompanied by a heart-breaking slashing sound, and the fly crashes beside a tree, bouncing once or twice as it rolls.
I cannot help but tremble in shock while I stare at T stumbling, shaking, trying to understand what is happening on his left arm. He looks back to me. “Kill it. Galois, kill it!”
I let go of the cannon and sprint to the carcass of the fly. I don’t even look at it, I just dive in directly with my fist. I punch and punch with my robot
arm. I grab as much as I can of its entrails and squish with all my strength, grunting. I hear cracking and whimpering and bits pop off all around and on me. I stay perfectly still for a moment to ensure it’s dead. No sound, no movement. Just a mass of crunched plastic and chips. One of the blades is painted in bordeaux blood and, as far as I can discern, pieces of flesh.
Back to T. Sitting on the bench, he clenches his upper arm, not daring to get close to the gaping wound above, near the shoulder, and winces in pain. Robespierre and Zoe lean on each side, seemingly unsure how to proceed. “Is it dead?” T ask, teeth gritting, eyes fixed on mine. As before with Zoe, I feel his look tear through the vast ocean of time to reach me, traverse an impossible channel to latch onto my soul and keep me connected to a lost world. This is not good, at all. I need to keep the psychological backreaction of the worm sessions on me under closer inspection.
“Yes.” My voice breaks in worry, or perhaps shame.
“Good.” he replies gleefully. “Because I need your help.” We are all a bit puzzled at this statement. “Rob, backpack three, red plastic bag. There’s a bottle of alcohol.”
“Ghhah, f-fuck!” screams T as he pours disinfectant onto the wound, still bleeding copiously, with a trembling hand. “Ok… Galois.”
“Thread and needle in the bag.”
Oh. “I can’t… I can’t stitch you up.”
“Sure you can. Look Gal…” he says, trembling. He pats my shoulder and brings me closer.
“I can’t. I… I don’t know.”
T’s slap on my face is extremely convenient. As his hand crashes onto my cheek and my skin flushes up in stinging, reality is established with perfect clarity, each colour certain and well-positioned, each sound perfectly received. Somewhere far away a pool of milk crawls back into a tall glass.
“I’ll guide you. With a robotic arm it’s really easy. Now disinfect the needle.”
Along with the thread and needle Zoe finds a small cup wrapped in clear plastic. She holds it as I pour the disinfectant. Rob couldn’t stare more hatefully. He observes Zoe and most importantly me with absolute disgust. I wash the needle and thread in the solution, and prepare the knot. Very hard with one hand jittering. But better than both.
“It’s ok man. Relax. Up and behind, like I taught you.”
“Yes…” I mumble. “There.”
I crawl closer to the wound to begin stitching. I observe it and force myself to breathe slowly and think carefully about what I am about to do. Detaching myself. The almond shaped wound is about seven centimetres long, and shiny wet. It displays a rainbow of differently coloured and textured layers slashed open. Perhaps the structure visible in the middle is his exposed bone. I am repelled, but I think this emotion belongs only to Sophie. Wallace instead is remarkably calm now. He knows what is before him and accepts it. He also knows, now, exactly what he must do. So he starts with the first stitch on the right side.
“Oh boy. Oh boy, this hurts.” mutters T red faced, biting his lip. Zoe strokes his hair, still holding the cup towards me to let me dip the needle between stitches. It does help, the robot arm. I perform exactly the movements I plan in my head. I stitch for another good minute. It does actually get easier, relaxing perhaps. “I might get used to this.” I comment.
T leans over with his head to study the stitches done so far. “Yeah, don’t get offended if don’t also.” We all smile. “Though, you’re doing great, Gal.”
It’s great to see him partially back to his meeker, distracted self, now that the danger has apparently subsided. “I’m sorry.” I say. “I shouldn’t have wandered off.” The wound is now almost completely closed.
“It’s ok. Here, I’ll do the knot. Keep this pulled.”
Rob is fuming in the background. I sigh. “Ok, let’s talk.“
As I start walking I gesture to Zoe to come. “No, she stays here.” says Robespierre. “I want to talk to Galois alone.”