A ghost of a tear crawled down Alice’s face. Even though it wasn’t really there she knew how it should feel. The heat welling between her eyelids, the tremble of eyelashes as the tear overwhelmed them, rolling down the side of her nose and into the laughter lines which had deepened with age. Finally meeting saltily with her lips. She missed crying. Alice missed a lot of things. Like lying in a park under the hot sun, absorbing its wonderful heat.
The thought returned Alice to the memory of tears. She couldn’t remember how a tear would fall on the left of her face. Had she only ever cried on the right? Perhaps this was just another of her mind’s deceptions. It was difficult to hold on to the memory of sensation without being able to test them, to confirm whether a thing feels as you think it does. Nothing could feel the same twice; the experience of remembering itself a trick of memory recreated each time through comparison and repetition until we believe we know how it feels to be ourselves.
The sky used to be blue, the bluest of blues that there could be. Holding the memory of it seemed so clear. Yet when Alice conjured red (a glorious colour) and compared it to the blue she knew they were different but was unable to recall how they varied from yellow.
Cold blue lights flickered and arced along the long white and grey walkway, disappearing around a distant curve. Ribbons of bright lights sprouted from edges, illuminated glassy panels and ran along the letters that spelled out Alice’s name. Two men in drab olive clothes followed the path of the light down the corridor. They were trailed by a large wheeled cart. It kept pace with them as they chatted amiably about nothing in particular.
Halfway down the corridor they started to read names until they reached Alice’s.
“Surname: Tars, Forename: Alice.”
A quick check of the tablet on the cart, “Yep, this is the one.” Charlie manoeuvred the cart in close to the wall while Joe pressed buttons.
Alice wondered about love, that faint flowering of passion she half-remembered. But she didn’t want to think about crying anymore. A day in the park returned to her. Lush green grass, daffodils. Swans and children milling around and in the water. The tall trees magnified the sky’s blue, or at least she remembered that it did. She felt happy.
A sensation of extension intruded on her and she felt suddenly elongated, then bifurcated, and again. Stretched and teased out her mind filled this new volume. With it came action. Alice raised a hand, in it was a glass which refracted the sunlight. A series of shapes shot across her vision: hexagons, squares, circles triangles in achingly clear colours. How could she possibly have forgotten how different they were? They hovered until she acknowledged them and then fled into her imaginary environment, hanging or rotating around the trees, swans, children.
She looked hard at the thickly clustered yellow hexagons which followed the children as they played. She blinked. They became hot red triangles. A series of tiny movements in her extended awareness. Alice thrilled to the dexterity, the minuteness of the movements. And the red lights blinked out in a stutter of light. The children were gone. Alice felt a familiar unease, a coldness settling over her punctuated with hot parallel lines of focus.
“She’s coming back,” Joe commented as Charlie twisted a dial on the cart and idly tapped a lever with his thumb.
Alice’s beautiful park dissolved, colour draining into the pond until only the swans were left with their glowing green circles. Grey light poured in from the top of her world seeded with white streaks that plummeted to where the ground used to be. Charlie continued his adjustment and the image resolved. A tiny man stood beside Alice, twisting and turning her qualian translator. She felt it as a cold ripple through her abdomen. A yellow hexagon lit up over his head.
“Ready?” Joe asked Charlie.
“Ready,” he confirmed.
More buttons, more cold flushes of sensation. Then came a glaring heat that travelled the length of her body as control returned. Slowly Alice rose to her feet; metal and plastic slid together in harmony and she stepped off the cart. Her feet spread. She could feel her enormous weight and the pressure of the deck underfoot.
The two men had moved back to give her space to move, and remember how big she was. The yellow hexagons danced on them.
“Welcome back ma’am,” said Charlie.
She heard the man, dressed in a dirty green surrounded by the bland white corridor. Was this what she had missed?
“Your combat drop will commence in,” he checked his watch, “forty-seven minutes.”
Alice looked down on the two men and frowned. She tried to frown. She couldn’t frown. Alice focussed on the hexagons instead, blinked. They wouldn’t turn into triangles.
Joe chuckled politely, “Combat functions will be activated during the drop ma’am, apologies for the inconvenience.”
Alice felt a sheer pulse of frustration and longed for her park, however poorly imagined.
“Please come with us, the rest of your team is being incorporated now.”
Alice looked back at the wall where she had been kept. Tiny blue lights ran down the letters of her name like tears. She wished she could cry.