AngelWatch Ch. 07byHandsInTheDark©
"Windy wake the hell up we have a lead!"
Windy groaned, loudly, and pulled a pillow over her head. I pretended not to notice the empty glass on the bed stand. Windy didn't drink often, and she lacked the precise biochemistry to make it a worthwhile and pleasant experience. But it put her to sleep, and other drugs hadn't worked out well.
But then she was up, cursing, and pulling clothing on. I -- Marcy, you haven't met me before -- felt the wash of pain and frustration pour out of her as she tried to focus through the leftover effects of her drinking.
"A lead?" she said, a bit harshly. "Tell me."
"She left a living victim and witness, a girl named Elena, and we have her Windy and you can come read her right now. Eric and James are with her and I've been in her head, she remembers things so come on you need to see her right away!"
I can't help how I talk. I have a number of issues, something like autism and something like nothing you can know anything about. I have trouble controlling my speech and slowing it down, I have trouble understanding when others talk. My brain is wired at the wrong speed, it runs much too fast and all my interactions suffer as a result. (I can write because I can go back and fix things.) I have no empathy at all, even when I read, so I just have rules I follow to keep myself out of trouble. What I do have is the ability to read like no one else. Unlike most of Angelwatch I can't write and sometimes people here pity me for that reason, and I once slapped Windy across the room for being condescending to me. We get along better now; I have a rule: I must not slap Windy even when she needs it.
Windy started to brush her hair. "Right away!" I said again. "She's very damaged and you will want to help her, we took her from the crime scene and that stressed her further-."
"Yes, Marcy, I will, but I need a few moments to clear my head, and-"
"Her heartbeat is unstable because the damage is so deep so it has to be now you don't want her to die."
The hairbrush dropped as Windy darted for the door. "Next time mention that first. Take me to her."
Windy likes to touch people she works on; I don't know why. It doesn't really help with the focusing, and given how creepy it is to be written -- I've had people write me several times, so I know -- the touch is not comforting. Windy finds the touching pleasant herself, but it doesn't make her any more effective, in fact I feel it distracts her. I've moved her hand off people she was reading a few times, but she hasn't taken the hint.
She immediately laid her hand on Elena's forehead. Elena was a mess, inside and out. There were bruises where she was tied, both her wrists and thighs, and along the underside of one breast, and for some reason on the side of her foot. But they did not look serious. The real problem was that the pathways of her conscious thought had gotten tangled in her autonomic functions and she was messing up her own heartbeat and breathing. I guessed that Keiko had somehow connected them up to make Elena pass out; it's easier, I'm told, to affect conscious thought than anything else, so if you want to affect physical aspects, many writers have to open pathways between the conscious and autonomic systems that in most people are closed. Right now they were wide open in Elena now, and she had no idea what to do with them, and accidents kept happening.
It was interesting being inside Elena's mind while Windy got to work. Windy is an excellent writer and a good reader, but she misses so much detail and sometimes she gets lost. I could see what she was changing, and so I knew when she was doing it wrong.
"No Windy more towards... happiness."
There's no good way to describe where things are in the brain. It's not about cerebellums and hypothalamuses. But there's a rough correspondence between emotions and he "touchable" places in the mind... it's an imprecise way to give directions but there isn't a better one.
"Alright, I see it now," Windy muttered. "Keiko likes to use pleasure to mess people up. Really evil technique. This is such a mess."
"She remembers everything, she's valuable."
"Yes. Shut up please."
Windy can't talk and read at the same time. I can.
Time passed. Elena was damaged in many places and one by one, Windy broke connections that shouldn't have existed. Elena's heartbeat stabilized, and then her breathing became normal. And then I realized what Windy was doing next.
"Wait why are you waking her up? I can see where she goes in her sleep, she doesn't have to be aware of us."
"There's no way to clean out the memories, Marcy. She's going to be permanently aware that Keiko had powers. So we're going to have to talk to her, real actual words, to calm her down and teach her not to be terrified and above all never to talk about it, especially not to the police. I candyminraind."
"Candywhat?" My mind scrambles audio input sometimes, especially if it's not a phrase I'm expecting to hear. Everyone is used to repeating things for me.
"I can't do it mind to mind."
"She's not a potential reader," I objected. "She can't know us or be one of us. That's the rule. She's only valuable for what she knows other than her intrinsic human worth."
I know everyone has intrinsic human worth, because God says so. But I have seen a lot of what is inside people and I wonder rather terribly, whether God can have made a mistake.
Windy looked at me, eyes flashing for a moment. She did not like my valuation of intrinsic human worth. She felt it was too low. Then Elena gave a half-sob and Windy got back to work.
"Elena, listen to me. You are ill and have been though a terrible experience, but you are going to be ok. Please just listen to my voice and try not to think too much, you need to remember things slowly and in pieces. You are safe. You're going to be ok."
Elena was still being raped. That was how her mind saw it. She was in mental and physical pain and everything was disjoint and incoherent and her interpretation of all that what that the rape was still happening. Windy's words flowed inward but had no meaning; Elena was largely aphasiac, but I could feel her fighting to rearrange the chaos and get meaning back.
I took Windy's wrist and moved it from Elena's forehead. Windy tried to put it back but I held firm, and then Windy read better and understood. The touch was getting tangled in the rape memories, and Elena began to cohere better once the hand was gone. Once Elena got to a certain point, I spoke.
"Cohere, coherence, focus on the sounds there is meaning there you remember it Elena, focus on the sounds and find the words underneath you will remember it is all still within reach, find the word and then the qualia and then -- there! Hello Elena Windy is your friend and she will help you!"
Yes I'm crazy. I'm damaged in ways no one can reach but that damage makes me understand damage in others better. I could read Elena's reaction to every word I said, and I adjusted what I said, word by word, in response to what she felt. I started with an unusual word because we all have a mechanism in our brains to look up the meaning of obscure words, and we are very practiced at it. Using a lot of words Elena knew she should know was just adding more drops to a rainstorm of sounds she'd been drowning in, but making her fall back on an instinctive search for meaning focused her mind on something other than the overwhelming terrible raindrops. I used the word cohere to make her cohere, and I was very proud of that. Windy would not have thought of it. She should not have slapped me because I have my strengths and my uses. But I forgive her, because that is my rule for Windy.
Elena abruptly curled into a ball and sobbed. Memory is a bitch and hers had just bitten her. Do not pet strange dogs, my mother had once said. Do not pet strange memories is a better rule.
Windy spoke again. "Elena, you are safe now. You are ill and have been through a terrible time, but we will help you, and I promise, you will be ok."
"I killed Peter-"
"No! False memory, you were bound and could not have killed Peter," I snapped. I don't like false memories. And there was a flowering of relief inside Elena's head, because she understood my words and they made sense to her. Keiko had pushed guilt into Elena, making it all her fault. That had to be broken down.
Windy glowered at me for speaking so harshly, but even she could see my words had helped. Everyone thinks that kindness is the right answer to everything, but it's not. It's only right half the time. I know I do not understand compassion directly, but I know what it looks like and sometimes it has teeth.
"No," Windy repeated. "Peter is dead but you had no part in that. You were forced to watch it happen, and that's part of why you're so frightened. But you are safe now."
"Raped you," I said. "But not really!"
But that wasn't the right thing to say, I am not perfect through I do try, and the anger coming from Windy this time was enough to make me flinch and step back. Windy doesn't conceal emotion well. As sensitive as I am, that's a problem.
"Leave NOW," Windy mouthed at me. I didn't, but I did move across the room to a chair, and made it a rule I'd be silent here except for emergencies.
"Peter wasn't himself," Windy said. "He was also hurt by the same thing that hurt you. Nothing that happened was his fault."
"It wasn't his fault at all," Elena whispered. "I... wanted..."
"Elena, you know you didn't really want all that."
"I did. Oh God I did."
She wasn't crying yet. If I was a writer I'd have pushed in and found the tears and let them go. If you're a girl you have to either cry or scream or usually both. Until those happened she wouldn't get better.
"No," Windy said, softly. "I know what happened to you. Everything felt both good and terrifying and you didn't know how to cope with it. You wanted to fight, but the fear and the other sensations made you feel paralyzed. It wasn't your fault. Or Peter's. Do you remember... someone else?"
She started sobbing, but in fear, not from grief. Which doesn't count.
"No," she said, shaking in terror.
"No! She wasn't there!"
Terrified sobbing, and terror blazing through the room like the roar of a fire-breathing dragon.
Windy took a deep breath. "Elena, listen carefully. There are people in this world who can change the way others think and behave. It doesn't matter how. One of them found you and Peter, and made you both behave in ways you would not have. You saw her. She did evil, terrible things and we have to find her and stop her."
"I... she wasn't there. I could feel her but not see her. She was invisible- she was- I felt her. Hatred, snarling like a dog, claws and teeth. She-"
Suddenly she was aphasiac again. I could feel her decohere.
Windy put her back to sleep with a single, polished mental effort.
"Shite." Windy wasn't a common user of harsh language and she likes old English forms when she indulges. "I have no idea how she did that. Pushing fear is easy, and given a few weeks I could, if I were evil, train someone to loathe and fear a person, or even a thing. But Keiko can do it in a single evening. Do we know how long she was with them?"
"Yes," James said, from the corner he'd been quietly sitting and staying out of Windy's way. "Under an hour. Keiko impersonated a waitress and used a keycard to get into an adjacent room, before she got to Peter. People heard the screams afterwards. The police have it all timelined. Maybe less than forty minutes."
Windy didn't even ask how they knew all this. Angelwatch tries to avoid interfering with police investigations anywhere, because that just leads to deeper investigations and more risk of Angelwatch's discovery. But in this circumstance, rules were broken, not the least of which was screwing with police brains and snatching Elena from the crime scene, and that was a problem but it was a problem for another day.
Windy looked into Elena's mind again, but it's all different when someone is sleeping. She didn't get much. I looked in as well, and heard the baying of dogs. Interesting...
"Conditioned fear, this specific, this strong, this fast. Who cares if she can puppetmaster, if she can make people so terrified of her that they can't see her or speak of her? No legal charge against her will ever stand."
"A problem for another day. Can you fix this girl?"
"Sure," Windy said, bitterly. "She's a lot more impacted than Keiko was, but it's all repairable. A week or two and she'll be right as rain. By then Keiko can give us seven or fourteen more victims; she can permanently keep all of Angelwatch busy just repairing damage. We'll never keep up."
Windy sat, and lowered her head to her chest, and the misery washed over her. When it had spread to every corner of her mind, she looked up. Tears were running down her cheeks.
"James, I recommend a kill. Will you put it to a vote?"
"Yes," he said.
No. This was an emergency, so I was allowed to speak. "No, don't bother. Because I will not vote yes, this is not right, she has intrinsic human value and you are doing it wrong, you are not seeing Keiko as she is, and Windy you should because you are good at this but I am better and I will tell you what you missed, Keiko is horrified at herself and this is all because of self-loathing, just look at Elena and you really see Keiko. Trapped by cords she cannot break, made to crave what she hates, taught that it is her fault when it is someone else to blame, don't you understand, Keiko was raped and now she's reproducing, she is making the world to be like her, she is inventing a world in which there are no more rapists but everyone is already raped. She is a victim here."
James cleared his throat. "We've voted to kill before, Marcy, you included. Human value doesn't defend everything."
"I will not vote yes," I repeated, because they were not listening to me. "Keiko is only damaged. I am damaged and you do not kill me so you can't kill her! I will find her."
"Marcy," Windy said, "these are beautiful sentiments and I am so happy to hear you speak them. But you cannot go looking. You don't write. You don't block. Keiko would kill you without effort and you couldn't do anything to stop her. You are the worst choice in the world."
"No I'm not, I will find her because I can and you can't and it will be ok I'll show her the way back she doesn't want to be broken she wants to be found or she wouldn't have left Elena alive."
I was out of the chair and through the door before Windy or James could put me to sleep because they were both going to but I am very fast. But I could read-hear them talking as I fled.
"Can she do anything to help, really?"
"Marcy? She talks to the wind. She thinks it answers. No she can't help. She's only going to get herself killed."
I laughed as I ran. I do talk to the wind. The wind does not hear. The wind cannot hear. But the wind can sense, and it knows you as it flows around you. And it carries what you say to it anywhere it needs to go. I went outside, dancing, into the wind.
"Keiko," I called out, "I need to find and meet you."
My wish was a leaf on the wind now. It would soar. I would find Keiko. I would teach her the rules she was missing, and she would return to Angelwatch, and then I'd never have to see damage like Elena's again.
The wind does not hear, but Keiko would.
It took a few days.
"Keiko," I whispered. "I found you."
She woke up slowly. She knew who I was. We'd met a few times and to a reader I have a very very distinct mind.
"Marcy, isn't it? Hello, Marcy. How did you find me?"
She had a knife in her hand, but that didn't matter. I pretended I didn't see it.
"There was a bruise on the side of Elena's foot and it was not a rope mark and I wondered very much what it was because Elena was only marked where the cords had been, thighs and wrists and throat, except for a handprint on her breast where Peter had grabbed her too hard. But that didn't explain the foot but I realized it was that someone tried to pull her shoes off and didn't unstrap them right first, which meant Peter did that. You were usually barefoot when you were raped weren't you, that's why Peter took the shoes off, anyway so I pictured what you would have done after Peter died, I've been inside your head and I know you and I know what you feel and after killing Peter you were both scared and triumphant and you knew they'd never find you by themselves because you are so very smart and so very powerful. But you're afraid of dogs and I remembered that when I was with Elena because you somehow left a trace of that in her mind and it occurred to you that you might fool people who could see you but you couldn't do anything about police dogs who could be given your scent and track you that way and you were very proud of yourself for thinking of that and there were her shoes on the floor and it occurred to you to switch shoes with Elena. That doesn't actually work Keiko because the human scent is more than just the feet and I don't think you knew that but you walked out wearing her shoes which meant you had to do something with yours. They were your best shoes, weren't they? You wanted to keep them because you're a girl and girls keep nice shoes that fit, so you put them in one of those plastic bags the hotels offer for laundry service. There was nothing else you could do with them. Plastic would hide the scent you thought. You don't wear perfume, do you, that's interesting, and did you know that raped women worry about how they smell? How many times a day do you shower even now? You try to be scentless but dogs can track anything. And so can I. Not by scent, but by seeing things. Keiko you were walking down the streets in a pretty dress in shoes that didn't match and carrying a tacky plastic bag. You tried to hide but even you can't hide from everyone at once and the streets around the Galaxy are home to a lot of fashion conscious women and people noticed you in your pretty dress and wrong shoes and plastic bag and the police would never have thought to ask the questions that I did. The people who saw you lead me to this block and then I just waited. You can't change your appearance all the time from everyone and you can't hide your mind all the time and so I spotted you and we didn't expect you to be staying here because it's such a low class place but then you don't have to worry about rape and robbery and you don't have much money do you because you only kill but don't steal. And hello by the way."
"When do you actually breathe?"
She stood up. "Marcy, leave."
"You're not very good at being authoritative. James and Windy are much better and I disobey them all the time. Anyway you need to come back to Angelwatch."
I looked at Marcy carefully. She was unnoticeably ugly, and socially odd, and Angelwatch had become her whole life, simply because there was nowhere else for her. She was also the easiest read on the planet, and for her this was all so simple. I'd made a mistake, but it was time for me to come home.
"That was a crazy, twisted chain of logic you used to find me."
"It was the fourth one I tried. The first three didn't work."
That was Marcy. She was inhumanly persistent. The odds didn't matter; she'd just keep trying until she ran out of ideas, however crazy.
"Leave," I said again. "...I can make you, you know that." But I quietly laid the knife I'd palmed aside, because it was obvious that Marcy was no physical threat. She ignored the knife.
"You can make many things happen. You could even kill me but don't do that, I'm not a rapist, I'm not even a writer as I'm sure you know. Read me Keiko."