Bren suppressed her sigh as she lowered herself to sit cross-legged on the low riser. She took her time as she arranged herself on its ample cushions.
“Well, Daniel, what are we to do with you?” She eyed the sleek black form seated across the table.
He had been silent company as they walked the short distance to the tea room, through the garden. He had unconsciously shortened his stride and slowed his pace to match her faltering steps.
Her thousand years weighed heavily on her body. Her cohorts seldom understood why she had not retired to the simulation couches. She had not spent time with one of them for a long time, having tired of their passionless languor.
What, she wondered, would it do to her? To be bereft of the music of her ancient body? How would she feel without the comforting beat of her double hearts, the reassuring sigh of the blood through her veins, the insistent pangs of hunger and fatigue.
Daniel’s head hung and his shoulders lifted, defensively. She watched him pull into himself.
“Matter follows mind. Did you know that Daniel?”
He lifted his impossible face towards her and shook his head.
“Turn your vision inwards. What do you see?”
“It’s all black”, he mumbled.
“Indeed, it would be, at first. Relax.” His shoulders started slowly dropping. “Let your sight get accustomed to the darkness for a bit.”
She let him sit there for quite a while. His body relaxed, his defensiveness melted away. She recognised immediately when he really started to see what she knew to exist within him. The surprise on his featureless face was unmistakable.
“Ah, Daniel. So now you see?”
“It’s a web of light.” His voice was hushed, awed.
“That is one way to describe it. What you are seeing is the electromagnetic energy that holds the smallest bits of you apart, and yet together.”
Daniel held his hand out in front of him, looking deeply into it, zooming in to the mesmerising light that flowed between the molecules of his body.
“Keep looking that deep, Daniel. Now, I want you to remember how your hand and arm used to look.”
The memory of a lightly haired, faintly freckled, wiry forearm brushed his mind. The web of light in his arm shifted, subtly.
“Stay with me here, Daniel. Look at the pattern of light you have made. Now, gently, relax into it.”
Releasing the tension in his body and mind, he felt the pattern shift throughout his body, like a billion dominoes tipping into place.
“Ah!” Daniel opened his eyes to look at the smile on Bren’s face. “So there you are, Daniel!”
He looked down at his arm, and there he was. His own arm. He examined his hands in disbelief.
“There is a mirror there,” Bren pointed over his shoulder, “Go and see what you have become.”
His slightly dishevelled self greeted him in the mirror. The look of disbelief melted into a delighted, lop-sided grin. He had himself back.
“All you have to do, Daniel, is relax, and remember.”
When Halt and Quorn came to collect him, they were slightly sweaty and out of breath. Their mirrored look of alarm was so comical that Daniel actually laughed at them.
“Now, now, gentlemen!” Bren raised a fragile hand, “Meet Daniel. Daniel, meet Quorn and Halt. Again. We are going to start over, and we are going to play nicely.”
Alarm became disgruntlement as the two scientists allowed themselves to be cajoled by Bren.
“Elder Bren.” The two men bowed deeply from the waist. “We are honoured by your interest in our project.” Halt sounded stilted and formal, and Daniel was very aware that neither he nor Quorn was pleased to see the elderly woman with him, at all.
“Indeed,” Bren inclined her head, slightly. “Daniel and I will be meeting here each evening to discuss the day’s work, starting from tomorrow. You will find the necessary authorisations have been obtained and adjustments have been made to your schedule. I imagine,” she smiled at Daniel, “that we will be progressing very well from now.”
As Daniel strode easily back to the Laboratory with the two men, he basked in the unaccustomed glow of Bren’s approval.
The rest of the day was spent repeating the “Meltdown” experiment of the day before. But this time, there was no ignominious scraping into a bucket. After the first hesitant attempt, he was able to rebuild himself in a matter of seconds. With each success came an unexpected confidence, and a readiness to face more challenges.
That night, when he activated maintenance mode, he spent the time replaying the day in his mind. He watched the network of light in his body flex, glow and shift with each change until he was able to recognise and repeat the patterns instantaneously.
Perhaps things were not going to be that bad, after all.
Copyright Kim Magennis 2015