“So, Serlis, what do you think of Miralay so far?”
I glance at my hands, splayed out on the table, and trace the faint blue veins with my eyes. Zie, a fatigued man with gray hair and clearly close to his shedding age, sits on the other side of the table in this tiny space he calls an office. There aren’t any posters or special equipment or anything other than this table and a few chairs and a desk cramped in the corner of the room. And, of course, us.
Although I’d rather be anywhere else right now.
I curl my fingers, watch the way my knuckles swell red and then white when I press too hard on the table. “Wasted potential.”
One of Zie’s eyebrows shoots up. I wish he weren’t such a cartoonish caricature. “Oh? Do go on.”
“Shouldn’t we be expanding? I think ‘Martian colony’ and I think of development, of people emigrating here to lend us their skills. Surely we could dig out some more space and de-gas the area and add it to one of the sectors? Maybe then we could grow some more food- Amelia told me food production was down slightly-”
“Amelia told me you had some pretty radical ideas.” Zie adjusts his glasses. “But I’m not here to arbitrate your opinions. That’s Amelia’s job as your second-in-command. I hear you’re not getting along with her very well?”
I stay silent.
I shake my head. It’s all the answer I’m going to give him.
“She got some special drugs requisitioned for you, you know that?”
I stay silent.
“Fine.” He sighs. “Can you tell me what your life was like back on Earth? Anything about your living conditions? Was Eponine there as well?”
I stay silent.
“Come on, Serlis, you’ve got to tell me something if I’m going to sign you off for today’s visit. The more you tell me now, the faster you can get back to being the Providence and have your powers reinstated.”
“There was a playground.” My voice quivers. I sit on my hands to still them. “Not in He- not in the town I was living in. But a little ways away. Just outside. I felt sick, so I went and knelt over behind some bushes, thinking that I was gonna puke- and then I was someone else.”
I’ve ruined everything. I’ve given too much information away.
“Can you explain?”
“I mean, I felt different, and then I looked down, and my body shape had completely changed, so I went into the little port-a-potty they had near the playground and looked in the mirror. It was like I’d taken on someone else’s body, so I put on my second change of clothes that I’d brought along in a little drawstring bag and made up a quick alias in case anyone tried to talk to me.”
He nods his head like he doesn’t believe me. “Alias?”
I shake my head. “I don’t feel comfortable sharing it.”
“Why not? Are you planning to commit crimes with it?”
“So why can’t you tell me? Don’t you know how dangerous that skill could be?”
“I don’t want to, okay?” I bristle. “Just medicate me and get it over with!”
Zie stands up and goes over to the desk. He opens the drawer and retrieves something- a puzzle cube? He hands it to me, and I turn it over in my hands, taking more of the amalgamation of mismatched colors. I saw one of these quite a few years ago during a retro toys revival, but to see one on Miralay?
Well, it wasn’t like they had massive toy factories churning out the latest Earthen trends. And it didn’t require batteries or a power source or anything that would eat up valuable resources. Just a hunk of sliding and locking plastic.
I give Zie a cursory look and set the cube back down on the table. The last thing I need is another puzzle that won’t get me anywhere. “Why?”
“It’s a stim toy. It’ll help with sensory overloads. Like, for example, I can tell that the room lights are too bright for you.” He dims the room a bit. It helps, but not by much. “Expected, seeing that you spent almost your entire life with your eyes seeing only the darkness behind your eyelids. They didn’t get much use, and so your brain doesn’t know how to deal with overstimulants. And your emotions- you’re awfully volatile. Not much opportunity for interacting with people face-to-face online and thus not many chances to learn about personal responsibility. And what’s the purpose of a conscience when everything you write lasts forever and you can just change faces and masks at the push of a few buttons?” He shakes his head and slides the cube back over to me. “Hopefully trying to figure this out in your free time will keep you from obsessing over Miralay.”
“But that’s my job!”
“No, that’s the job of the officials. You need to learn to let go, Serlis. You need to stop being such a control freak. Even with your memories, you don’t know everything about Miralay. Let Amelia and the officials show you how you can help and don’t try to step on their toes.”
“By the time I learn, it’ll be time for me to shed my memories!”
Zie sighs and shakes his head. He goes back to the desk, and this time, he retrieves an orange medicine bottle filled to the brim with long white pills. He hands it to me. The label says I have to take five daily, one every two hours from the moment I wake up to when I go to sleep.
I don’t want to take the pills. I don’t want to be medicated into submission. I don’t want to be an emotionless robot. But it’s just a temporary fix… right? I’ll just do the pills until I get on Amelia’s good side and then I’ll stop them. Play along for now until I get my power back.
Zie doesn’t ask any more questions. Zie lets me go, lets me walk out of his office without a single word. The tunnels are quiet. I take a look around- there’s a corridor that isn’t lit that I’ve never gone inside before. I search my memories. Nothing comes up.
Is it a new addition that the Providences never knew about? How didn’t they know? They couldn’t have forgotten. Memory shedding brings everything over, makes it scream back to life. I take a few steps down it, seeing if maybe it’s a trap or an abandoned part of Miralay I could tell Amelia about–
“Hey! To your left!”