Monday, September 16, 2013

TAOM: Monika - Only Memories

"Hey, Mon," Valerie says as she sits down across from me for breakfast. "How have you been?"

I repress a sigh. This is going to be one of those times, I can already tell. Val thinks she's being subtle, but the way she's looking cautiously at me, like one wrong move would frighten me away, is plain as the nose on her face. "Pretty good," I say. "You?"

She simply nods in reply, and we both eat in silence.

It's not long before it starts.

"So I had this really weird dream last night," she begins animatedly, and launches into a long, winding tale about high school hallways and exploding gas stations and two types of wolves. She's watching me carefully as she talks, and I can't keep my shoulders from sagging a fraction. Definitely one of those times.

I don't know why she does this, I honestly don't. I know she expects something from me, but it's like she's afraid to even ask. What could she possibly be thinking that would make her act so... apprehensive?

What secrets are she hiding from me?

She's looking at me now, and I know I'm expected to join in the conversation with a dream of my own. Problem is, I didn't have any dreams last night. I haven't had a single dream in... I don't know how long. Is that what she wants? Does she want me to dream? Yeah, there's a metaphorical significance to that that I might expect from her, but I don't think she literally expects me to have interesting dreams. Valerie is a lot of things, but absurd isn't one of them. Most of the time she's not impractical either. Me having dreams serves no purpose, so why does she seem to expect it of me?

Not wanting to be silent long enough for her to suspect my internal dialogue, I casually spoon my cereal into my mouth and do what I always do in these situations: tell the truth.

"I didn't have any dreams last night."

This time it's Valerie's shoulders that sag, much more noticibly than mine. I consider finally asking her what is so freaking important about my dreams, but I decide I'd rather eat my breakfast in peace.

And I'd much rather keep all my friendships intact.


"Hmm... Okay, this time, imagine it like you're pouring your conciousness out of a pitcher in your head, down through your body, and deep underground. Try that."

Adrian stands in front of me, watching me intently with his eyes and his mind as I try to follow his instructions. The thought of the mind as water is easy enough for me to grasp, though forming the image of a pitcher is slightly less so. Finally I manage something workable, and I begin to imagine the thing slowly tilting...

A sudden wave of nausia hits me as my mind seems to slosh with the imaginary liquid, but I push forward anyway. The nausia intensifies as the water comes closer and closer to the lip of the pitcher, and when it finally spills over...

"Oh - That is very unpleasant!" I gag as a horrible taste fills my mouth, completely breaking my concentration. I can't take it anymore - I jog out of the training room, fighting the urge to vomit. Valerie, who was watching from the corner, makes to follow me, but Adrian grabs her by the shoulder and holds her back. I send a silent thank you to Adrian as I sprint for the nearest bathroom - Valerie's habitual concern, while touching, can get annoying sometimes. Particularly when all I really want right now is privacy.

I don't actually throw up, but it's a while before the final urge passes, and I try various ways to get the nasty taste out of my mouth - finally coming to some success with my toothbrush and some really strong minty toothpaste. I make a brief hair-and-face check to make sure everything looks normal. I look a little bit pale, even for me, but I just pinch my cheeks a little to bring some color to them. Hopefully no one'll notice.

When I get back to tell them both that I'm fine, I hear talking on the other side of the door, so I stop to listen.

"...can't keep trying to force this on her. Either she'll get it back or she won't."

"She can't even ground, Adrian! What happened to her that she can't even manage the simplest of meditation exercises?"

"You've tried jogging her memory, you've tried re-training her... You've done everything you can possibly do. If it's still not working, maybe it's just not meant to. Some people do grow out of their powers-"

"Not her," she interrupts fiercely.

They're both silent for a moment, but it's Valerie who speaks again first. "You found something, didn't you." It's not a question.

I can't see them, but Adrian is quiet a moment longer, and when he does speak, he sounds very uncomfortable. "There's... a sort of blockage in her channels that keeps all but the barest trickle of power behind it. If she tries anything stronger than her persuasion gift, even that trickle will clog up and everything will recoil on her."

"...And her memories?"

"That, I honestly don't know."

I hear the sound of footsteps, and I make a dash for my room.


There's something wrong with me.

I'm... broken somehow.

I try to look inside myself to find what's wrong, the way I've seen Valerie do, but there's nothing. Aside from my own knowledge of my body and mind, I don't sense any particular blockage or flow or... or anything. There's not even a sense of a void, just... blank. I simply. Sense. Nothing.

For the first time, I wonder why that is. Why is it that even the simplest of agents have some sort of sense of their inner selves, their connections with others, the shape of their minds, their soul? Even Tyler can perform basic meditation; I can't even manage to ground myself without being sick!


The thought hits me out of nowhere, and so do its implications. Re-training? As in, I used to be able to do it?

The blank shifts.

I almost don't notice the way it sort of shudders for a moment, but it happens. I press my eyes shut and concentrate as hard as I can - there's something on the other side of that blank that's immensely important...



Mangled bodies laid out by their thousands in neat little rows...

So much blood...




Without thinking, I shove away, and whiteness overtakes me.


Dinner is a raucous affair, as usual, although only the American agents are ever even awake at this hour. It's times like these when I'm glad the bedroom commons aren't (usually) very close to the kitchens in the Library, particularly since Harriet was once again on PMS. I suddenly get a mental image of a tired, PMS-ing Harriet as she tries to bark orders through her sleepy haze, and giggle.

Terrie is on monitor duty for the evening, so I don't get the chance to have my evening debate/spat with her. Probably a good thing, since she's likely still sulking from the last verbal defeat I handed her. Hehe. But I look around for the others on my team, finally spot Valerie, and wave her over.

"Do you know where Stacey and Danielle are?" I ask as she sits down with her plate.

"Probably putting plastic-wrap on all the toilet seats," she replies off-handedly. "I won't go into where they got the idea from, it's quite a long story..."

I make a mental note to only use the small bathroom in my room for the next few days. "What do you think Adrian'll do to them?"

She shrugs, but I can tell she's laughing inside. "Restrict Stacey's monitor duty at the very least. She'll go nuts if she can't watch Gohan rip his shirt off every other episode..."

I chuckle. "Don't forget confiscating Danielle's Roy plushie."

Valerie snorts with laughter, trying not to spill her food. "Now that's just cruel, Mon!"

"Oh, come on. It's not as though she couldn't steal it back in a matter of days, if not hours."

She laughs again, but apparently thinks of something quite serious, and stops. "Speaking of Adrian," she begins, "I'm sorry I put you through all that. I really didn't know you would react that way."

I frown. "React what way?"

"When I asked Adrian to help you with basic meditation this afternoon, remember?"

"No..." I look at her cock-eyed. Has she been spending too much time in the Emergency Ward again?

Val's face, so penitant and open before, suddenly slams shut. "N-Never mind."

My face doesn't change, but my internal frown deepens. She's doing it again: that thing she does where she's obliquely asking me a question, and I always get the wrong answer. Thus far I've never found the right answer either. I've never lied to her, but I'm apparently not telling her what she wants to hear. But I wasn't with Adrian this afternoon! What could she want from me?

Stacey - no, Ezra - appears with a smug look on her face, and equally smug Danielle following close behind, and the moment is broken. We all laugh and exchange stories like the best friends we are, and I allow the moment of strangeness from Valerie to fade from my mind.

It's an unpleasant memory, and I don't really want it.

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