Itís 4 am. That means Hank and I have been chugging beer for six hours. Canít remember what we talked about except that we started off with women and politics. Hank showed me some really nifty pyrotech stuff in the lab and everything got sort of hazy, but thatís okay. I donít feel drunk at all. Damn, ĎLizabeth is going to be pissed.
Hank is nowhere to be seen. I drag myself off the cot. Seems like Hank cleaned up our mess before he left. Poor Hank, always left with the mopping-up. And speaking of mopping-up, Iíve probably got a situation upstairs that I would do well to handle before it get out of control. ĎLizabeth has a whip-cord temper and a mouth to match it.
It all started while we were having dinner last night. Or most of us were having it, ĎLizabeth was just staring at hers. She had separated out each vegetable from the salad and put them into neat heaps. Jean walked by and asked if she wanted anything else to eat. ĎLizabeth said no, she had a headache. Just the way she always does, when thereís something sheíd rather not do. That got her a pat on the shoulder from Jean and sympathy from the whole table.
The headache part was probably true. Sheíd been working Cerebro in the afternoon. But she was using it as an excuse not to eat. During the last three weeks sheís lost nearly ten pounds. Nine and a half, to be precise. For three weeks, Iíve listened to her fret about her weight and watched her get on and off the scales to get an accurate average reading. She insisted I keep track of her progress, ticking off numbers which corresponded to her actual weight in empirical and SI-units, her BMI, the number of pounds she had lost and at what daily and hourly rate. She measured the circumference of her bustline, waist, thighs and calves and calculated the ratio between them, before comparing the result against the ratio she had had when she was nineteen and starting to make it as a model.
Iíve seen it before, I donít like it. But Iíve never known what to do when ĎLizabeth goes crazy. I try to be there for her if she needs me, I try not to upset her, I try to keep her away from stuff that might upset her. Thatís about what I can do for her and it doesnít seem to help at all. If she thinks she can never be thin enough, clearly _I_ wonít be able to convince her otherwise.
So I ran out of patience at dinner and told her that if sheíd just eat the fucking food, she wouldnít get headaches all the time. I guess I sounded angry, although I didnít mean to. I was just disgusted with the whole situation and I was scared for her sake. What sheís doing would be bad enough if we were leading normal lives, but in the super-hero business there are no margins at all. Her life and ours hang in the balance each time we go out on a mission. I want the odds in our favour when sheís out there.
Of course, ĎLizabeth recognised a way to put some distance between herself and food, and got up to leave. She hadnít eaten a single bite. Even the Professor and Scott looked at me as if I had just committed murder and ĎLizabethís fan club, Remy and Logan, scowled at me across the table. Jean, hen-mother to us all, slipped ĎLizabeth something, before turning back to the refrigerator.
Telepaths are all junkies. One way or another, they are wired on chemicals. Most canít live without them and with Hank cooking up whatever they need in the lab, they donít have to. There are all kinds of drugs for telepaths, pain killers and mood-stablizers, compounds to increase or decrease awareness, to filter out noise, to sharpen focus or widen it, to get hyped up or to get off a hype. The telepaths in this house could probably support a minor drug company, the way they are popping pills and shots.
I reacted without thinking. I tried to snatch the package from her to see what it contained, but she moved, I caught her sleeve instead and she kicked my knee out from under me. Unconscious reflex, probably, but it hurt and my wings unfolded in equally automatic response. Half the team dove for cover and ĎLizabeth actually flinched as if she was scared Iíd hit her, although Iíd never ever do that. Then she held out her hand, palm up, and let me have a look at the package. It contained four aspirins, medium strength. I felt like the fool I was.
She disappeared up the stairs before I could tell her I was sorry. I offered my apologies to the rest of the team, who were getting back into their seats again. Hank suggested diplomatically that I join him in his lab later that evening. Knowing ĎLizabethís moods, I thought it would probably be a good idea to give her a chance to cool off. But I didnít intend to be this late. Itís funny how I donít feel drunk at all.
Iíve got a key to ĎLizabethís room. She gave me one, then forgot she had and gave me another. When she demanded it back, in a huff, I kept the first. I think Iíll surprise her. She likes that. When we first hooked up together, she would ask me to surprise her, to sweep her off her feet. One part of my mind tells me thatís because sheís a junkie, but I wonít listen to it tonight. Iíll snuggle down beside her, Iíll take her in my arms. In the morning Iíll bring her a yoghurt and some fruit salad and see she eats it.
Her lock is tricky, Victorian. It clicks and whirrs, finally, to let me in, and shuts again behind me. ĎLizabeth sprawls on the bed. The moonlight falls on her hair, her face. She doesnít stir, sheís that deep down. A small string of saliva runs down her chin. Sheís actually drooling. Isnít that cute? No. No, it isnít, because she isnít breathing. She hasnít taken a breath since I walked in the room, which was minutes ago. Aspirin, my ass. She has taken a fucking overdose.
My lips meet hers in a terrible parody of a kiss. I blow my slightly used air into her lungs and her chest rises a tiny fraction. Surely there should be more response than that. What am I doing wrong? Oh, wait, maybe I should check her for a heartbeat first. Shit. She doesnít have one. And Iíve never performed CPR on a person before. When I try, I feel something break in her chest. I blow more air into her mouth, although Iím certain that most of it will never reach her lungs and I push at her chest and then I remember the intercom and punch 911 on it which is kind of ironic and yell for help. Her saliva tastes of blood now. I really did break something, probably punctured a lung, and I yell at the intercom again, but thereís no response and I wonder who 91 is anyway, but I donít have to wonder for long, because Remy is in the doorway. And I donít know how he picked the lock so fast, but heís there and he calls Hank, which is what I should have done from the start and then he takes over the CPR, like he knows what heís doing. Then Hank shows up with a big bag of medical equipment and the first thing he does is stick a gigantic needle into her sternum and when he pulls back the plunger thereís foamy blood in there, but itís bright red, which means sheís alive. Sheís alive.
Iím still stunned by that when Hank lifts her off the bed, cradling her in his large arms. He goes off with her and when I try to follow, Remy gets in my face and tells me where to shove what. I swing at him and he gives it back to me in spades and I realise that he thinks this is my fault. Jean breaks it up. She tells Remy to go back to his room, and he does, and she sits me down on ĎLizabethís bed and holds my hand for a long while, without saying anything. She thinks itís my fault, too, but sheís trying to be a good friend and I donít feel up to telling her what really happened. Whatever it was.
Iíve lost all concepts of time, but when Scott comes by a second time, itís almost dawn. He says ĎLizabeth is resting comfortably. She will be okay, but we should let her sleep. The Professor and Hank monitor her and thereís not much else to be done. Jean yawns, so I take the hint and send her off with Scott.
Being alone suits me, right now, because Iím about to invade ĎLizabethís privacy in a major way. Itís for her own good, and for mine. I never want to live through a night like this again. The bathroom is the obvious place to search. Thereís nothing in the toilet tank and the most secret thing in the locker is a box of tampons cleverly hidden in a soap wrapping. Her wardrobe yields nothing, either, but thereís a large writing desk. The unlocked drawers contain mostly business contracts, evidence of economic transactions Iím not at all interested in. The uppermost drawer is locked. I take a flechette off my right wing, a long one with a tapered tip and use it to break the lock open.
There are thousands of pills in there along with what looks like a diary. I start sifting through the bottles and boxes, checking their labels and contents and I see immediately that something doesnít make sense. Iím no fool. Iíve also got a minor in classical language, which means Iím fairly fluent in medical terms. And none of these medications are meant for her. I used to be on Wellbutrin, right after the mess with Apocalypse and the dosages are all wrong for a woman of her height and weight. Then I switched to SSRIs and yes, thereís also some Prozac in here. In fact, a lot of these medications look familiar to me. The ones that donít, donít have any labels either. They are all in granular form. Water-soluble. Easy to put in someoneís drink when you oh-so-thoughtfully bring him a nightcap. Even easier if he keeps a glass of water on the nightstand, like I do.
I wonder why, ĎLizabeth, why would you do this to me? But what I should really be asking myself is why Hank would do this to me. He must have sanctioned it, along with the Professor. Shit. With friends like this, who needs enemies? They should have told me. I have a right to know. I pick up the diary which is sealed with a plastic pink padlock. Stupid lock. Stupid woman, who thinks a weak, puny lock like this one will keep anyone out.
The first pages are all numbers. I recognise some of them as her weight. Others are results from Danger Room sessions and comments on notes written by Scott and Ororo. There are a few charts of her bloodwork. I donít know biology well enough to read them, but I can connect some highs and lows to specific events. The rise in leukocytes is related to the cold she had in February. Sheís kept track of the medications sheís been taking, although the names are encrypted. The dosages have increased considerably over a six month period. They donít correlate with her Danger Room sessions, but thereís a piece of paper stuck into the book with the heading "E vs R mornings".
ĎLizabeth and Remy do martial arts together. At 6 pm or earlier they meet up, in front of the porch for some exercises and sparring. Itís about that time I usually take an early round above the grounds. I wouldnít have minded if she had enjoyed being around the Cajun sleaze a bit less, but, well, to each their own. ĎLizabeth, ever the number freak, has noted their individual scores on this paper. He usually beat her with three rounds to two. As heís taller, stronger and male, Iím not surprised. A few months ago, though, he started beating her four to one or five to none. Then two to one and after that three to none. There are no scores noted for the last month. I take a closer look at her health charts. Thereís a pattern here. I should be able to see it.
At the middle of the diary there are a few empty pages before the handwriting resumes, upside down, this time. Itís a psychiatric evaluation, saying: "Subject continues to exhibit signs of moderate to severe depression associated with situational adjustment disorder, as expressed by inability to experience pleasure, sexual and otherwise, sense of hopelessness, inability to achieve or maintain sleep, reduced appetite, lack of control over mutant power, and a predominantly flattened affect marked by periods of uncontrollable crying."
That is her conclusion. The data are scattered through the rest of the book. She has kept track of my sleeping hours and my calorie intake. Every failure to complete intercourse is duly noted, leaving me very little dignity. Some of the data Iím unable to interpret, like the single word "leg" or "arm" which occurs frequently in the margins, or numbers and terms unknown to me, but itís clear that WW is myself, CX stands for the Professor, HMC for Hank and EB for 'Lizabeth. These abbreviations, with corresponding dates and times are repeated throughout the book.
Most of the time, WW is paired with one or more of the other three, for example WW and CX the 16th of July, 3 pm. I was in Salem Center then. I remember bright colours, loud sounds, I was meeting someone. But thinking about it seems to make it less real. Who was I meeting with? What was the business? The 28th of July says CX, EB and WW. That day I remember being in NY. I was checking on my flat in Soho, I remember turning the corner Greene Street to Spring Street, but what was I doing there? I never eat at the Savoy. I much prefer the Chanterelle. Itís the Professor who likes the Savoy. And there was bright colours, flags flying in the wind, loud sounds...Oh God, I didnít have beer with Hank tonight, did I? I did something else with him. But if Iím not drunk, why canít I remember?
Memory implants need, maybe, some time to settle down. The mind will try to make sense of a rough template and fashion it into something that seems feasible. A good nights sleep aided by certain drugs might do it. It might also help if the subject doesnít think too much about specific dates and events. The only thing I donít see is why they have to do this to me. What have I done, no, what is it that I do, thatís so terrible they wonít even let me keep a memory of it? And who am I doing it to?
God, no. That canít be. No. Please God it isnít so. I turn the last page and there is a mass spectrometry chart indexed with all the components of the neurotoxin coating the flechettes on my wings. I add what she wrote about me losing control and God, God, God. Is this what Iím doing to her? 'Lizabeth, Iím so sorry. I think Iíd slit my wrists right now, if she asked me to, or even if Logan or Remy asked me to do it for her sake.
I pull another flechette off my wing. Itís a small one, very sharp. There wouldnít be any pain to speak of. Not for me. But then all 'Lizabeth has done would be for nothing, so I wonít. I wonít spit in her face and tell her the final fuck-you, I think Iíve done enough already.
There are thirty-five bottles of beer on the wall. The phrase comes out of nowhere, breaks my chain of thought, my vision clouds and I was having beer with Hank and I canít remember...yes, but I can. Iíll never hurt her again, thatís the important part, thatís the part I have to remember. There are thirty-four bottles of beer on the wall in bright colours. When 'Lizabeth wakes up Iíll be there to talk her back to life, to me. Iíll tell her I know everything and that Iíll never hurt her again. There are thirty-three bottles of beer on the wall and Amstel and Guinness, McEwans and... Iíll never hurt her again. If that means cutting the wings right off my back, itís fine; Iíll ask Hank to perform the surgery. Or Logan. There are thirty-two bottles of beer on the wall clashing together very loudly, but I love her and Iíll never hurt her again and thereís only thirty-one bottles of beer on the wall left and I know I can do this. There are thirty bottles of beer on the wall, all crashing to the floor in a tawny cascade of fluid and broken glass, and I think of 'Lizabeth whom Iíll never hurt again and then the wall comes tumbling down, too.--
"If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand wither
May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you"
-- Psalm 137 5-6FIN