Void and Repair
by A. A. Khayyat
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
June shivered in her flimsy teal gown. The cold sterility of the implant room crept up her spine, and the steel-sharp odor of disinfectant pierced through her nostrils, boring straight into her brain. Her eyes drifted from one blank space to the next, stopping at nothing.
Her head throbbed, and she began to breathe through her mouth after each whiff of the disinfectant. She could almost taste the chemicals amalgamating in the back of her mouth like metallic phlegm, and her stomach lurched.
Stellan sat on another table across from her, smiling and tapping his hand on his thighs as his lips moved.
She heard him whispering a song over the thin hum of the large machine to the right. Her lips curled into a passing smile when their eyes met.
“You doing good, Junebug?” said Stellan.
“I guess,” she said. “I don’t know.”
“You’re going to be all right.”
June nodded. Her hands were locked together, the right one squeezing the left.
Stellan slid off his table and walked over to her. “Relax,” he said, taking her hands and kissing them. “You’re not alone here.” He winked at her.
Her smile shrank to a pout and she dipped her eyes downward.
“What’s up? Talk to me.”
She stuttered, “Mom and Mimi.” Her eyes clouded up, and a solid lump inched up her throat. She breathed, the air quaking out of her in audible tremors. “They hate me.”
“Babe,” said Stellan. “They don’t hate you.”
“I killed them.”
“You did not kill them.” His hands rose to her shoulders and pressed on them with a desperate firmness. “Stop saying that.”
“Mimi,” June said, raising her hand to her face, her voice besieged by the sobs convulsing out of her. “I couldn’t do anything, Stell. They died.”
“It’s not your fault.”
She screamed at him, “No, I should’ve just drowned with them!” She forced a deep breath through her nose. The disinfectant smell glided through her like an icy blade, and she expelled the air in her lungs as if it were poison. “Where’s the damn doctor?” she stammered. “I can’t do this, the smell. I can’t breathe—”
But Stellan pulled her close, squeezing her tightly until they both went rigid and still. He shushed her, running his hands down the wavy hair hugging the back of her head. “It’s okay. Everything is going to be fine.”
“I’m sorry.” Her voice was muffled now as she pressed her face into Stellan’s chest.
The door slid open. The doctor and a technician rushed in, their footsteps stifled by the foot covers on their shoes. Their features were blurred through June’s misty eyes.
They exchanged a few words with Stellan. The doctor, in his sky-blue scrubs, stepped toward June, stooping down to meet her blank gaze. The green-clad technician stood quietly beside Stellan.
“June,” he said, holding her hand, “it’s going to be all right. I promise you.”
June reached for Stellan’s hand and squeezed it.
“Real sorry for the wait,” continued the doctor. “I had to make some quick adjustments to the software. It’s all about precautions here, you see.”
June held his eyes in her blank stare. The blue of his irises matched that of his scrubs. His gentle smile diffused the prickling rigor of her cocooning dread, and her nerves seemed to loosen slightly. Her breathing steadied and she nodded.
“Everyone I’ve treated has walked out of here happier than they ever were before. Everyone. Okay?”
She nodded again and sniffed. The technician brought her a tissue box and she wrenched a couple from the slit at the top and blew her nose.
“We’re going to void out the phobias, the anxieties, everything,” said the doctor. “And Stellan, over here, is going to be a great anchor. Right, Stellan? You’re going to take good care of her, yeah?”
“Absolutely,” he said, kissing June on the head. “Always.”
“VAR is simple; the whole process won’t take thirty minutes, okay?” said the doctor. “It’s a cakewalk.” He snapped his fingers and beamed a smile. “Just like that.”
“Okay,” said June, wiping her nose. “I know I asked you a million times but” — she wiped her eyes and nose with a tissue — “will it hurt?”
“You won’t feel a thing,” said the doctor.
“And I’ll forget everything?”
“We’re only voiding out your trauma. You’ll still be you, only happier, sprier.”
She looked up at Stellan, her racing eyes begging for one final signal of reassurance. He gazed back with a smile and squeezed her hand. “Will I forget who I am?” she said to no one in particular.
“No,” said the doctor. “The only thing you’ll forget is what brought you here. All the radial stuff disappears with it. You know, the signals, the causes.”
“I’ll forget the trauma,” said June, almost to herself.
“But the first ten days are supercritical for the void and repair procedure, okay?” said the doctor, a hint of sharpness in his voice. “I can’t emphasize this enough. Are you listening, Stellan?” The doctor patted him on the shoulder.
Stellan nodded eagerly.
“No excessive stressors for the first ten days, okay?” said the doctor, glancing at them both. “We don’t want any residuals to hang around.”
June looked up at Stellan. He smiled at her and squeezed her shoulder. “You can do it, babe.”
“One last time,” said the doctor, “if you want us to keep you here for observation, I can arrange that.”
“No,” said June, shaking her head at Stellan. “I think we’ll be fine.”
Both June and Stellan lay on their separate tables, and all the wired sensors were placed on their chest, arms, temples. The VAR machine hummed to life with a kind of low, sonorous chanting.
June glanced at Stellan, watching the technician working on him, eyeing with stolid discipline the vital signs on a small screen. The doctor was keying something on a keyboard a few feet away from her, his eyes fixed on a monitor showing graphs, lines of codes and a flurry of other illegible things.
“Ready?” said the doctor, swiveling around in his chair and smiling.
Her eyes blurred and she turned to look at Stellan again. He was smiling at her when the tables began sliding into the machine. June mouthed, “I love you,” to him, noticing a trace of what could have been uncertainty in his eyes as he mouthed the words back before the machine swallowed him.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by A. A. Khayyat