Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Microfiction: Mary and the Dead Crows
Mary knew she scared people. Sometimes she scared herself. Skinny, trembling and dark eyed, she'd ghosted her way through high school and college without showing too many signs of the dreams and visions that haunted her, but the older she got the harder it became to stop the images that filled her waking and sleeping moments. They were getting on top of her most of the time the last few years.
She also knew she was a damn fine biologist. She saw through things her co-workers were to conventional to notice, and made intuitive leaps and observations that irritated them.
Leaps that bothered them even more when she turned out to be right. They figured she was off her rocker, cracking her nut and letting her elevator go past the top floor. They had lots of cute ways to joke about her steadily unnerving ways, and didn't care that she heard them using them.
She wasn't a team player, and didn't follow the rules needed to suck up.
But she did know her viral research, and her work with dead crows and other birds had been of interest to a few people higher up in the Lab. She showed enough promise to those who saw her results that kept her on that fine line between useful and too weird to keep around.
The people who didn't see her scars, self mutilated cutting, or have to be around her crazy eyes and neglected hygiene habits.
She was halfway through her fourth year at the research lab when she lost it. Or at least lost it enough to be locked up at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute. They found her in the lab one morning, screaming, gibbering about the end of the world, some drug she had made that could save everybody. She did all this while waving a broken beaker around, and saying she had given herself the antiviral.
So they called the paramedics and cops and decided she was a danger to self and others, locked her up for "observation".
Everybody at the lab took a deep sigh of relief and went back to pushing grant proposals around and doing the tame and safe research that gave them a sense of place. Mary's research was cleaned out of the lab corner she had, her hard drives wiped and sent back into circulation somewhere else in the organization.
At the institute, they gave her a nice thick 400 pound blanket of Thorazine, little orange pills that took away all her demons. Kept her away from sharp objects, and gave her carefully administered shock treatments.
They put her on drugs that were supposed to stop the voices, the crazy fear and the paranoid feeling that the world was going to shit and she had to be back in the lab to prevent it.
The drugs made her fat, made her feel stupid and she hated every moment of it, at least the ones that she could feel when near the end of a dose.
It was the fat that saved her. For three weeks she had been locked up after the dying started, alone, living off tap water and the hope somebody would let her out. When the power finally went out at the nuke plant, the doors to her room unlocked, and she stumbled out into the light of day.
She started walking. Headed west and north. And all those old demons suddenly were quiet, pushed into the background by a world where paranoia and sharp intelligence were no longer bad things.
"Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." Ralph Waldo Emerson