She caught herself thinking.
Thinking about the squares. Hard. Whole. Easy to grasp. Every side perfect, every edge sharp. Never bleeding into each other. Black to white to black to white. Without beginning. Without end.
Before, there had been nothing. Now the squares were whispering to her in their sibilant, shuffling way. Now they were inserting themselves into her life. Could she go back? She wanted to. Desperately. But, no, there was only forward. She was being forced to think again. About the squares. Only about the squares. They beckoned, and she would follow, hoping their comfort wasnt a trick.
Case Report: DA 12/16/67
Subject arrived in near catatonic state.
Age: approximately 7 years.
Height: 119 centimeters.
Weight: 26 kilograms.
Physical condition: good. No sign of physical trauma. (Remarkable, considering the condition of the skeleton found at the scene.) Psychological condition: not as promising. Subject walks, sits, responds to direction, but shows no interest in surroundings. Will not hold eye contact. Will not (or cannot) speak.
Her square. Third one back, fifth one over. How she knew this didnt matter. What mattered was its silence. It didnt shush her like the others did. People came and went, but it remained unmoved. Like Him. Always there. Waiting. Silent. Black. Cracked. Hers.
Summary of Candlewood Investigation
It is our conclusion that the rubble at the Candlewood site exhibits signs of psy motivation. The distinctive scorch marks and lack of debris at ground zero indicate a powerful blast cleared the area, perhaps following an initial implosion that pulled the buildings walls inward off the foundation.
It is noteworthy that the child was found within this circle. Whether she was a defensive witness to the event or its active motivation cannot be determined at this time. This committee strongly recommends investigating the genealogical origin of the subject known as DA 12, and that psy testing commence as soon as possible.
from the desk of
dr. alveena maths
RE: DA 12
All right, York, you wanted it, youve got it: It is my considered and educated opinion that this child is in no condition to undergo the rigors of full testing. I most definitely will not release her to your tender mercies. I think you will find that this little shit, as you so sensitively referred to her in our last meeting, carries considerable weight with the International Council. Her ladyship, Maggie Windamere, practically drooled when she heard we had a probable Black on our hands. So holster your ambition until I can bring the child back to some semblance of normalcy.
Hell, Marcus, the kid can barely find the bathroom!
Case Report: DA 12 8/27/67
RE: Genealogical Determination
Presently, three areas have been examined in the search for DA 12s identity: the subjects physical characteristics, records of unidentified psy activity dating back to 1957, and all existing data on psys of childbearing age.
The following items are of interest:
1) Based on physical development, the girl appears to be between five and eight years of age. The subjects lack of communication hinders any more accurate assessment.
2) Her hair color is not brown as first thought, but pale blond, nearly colorless. The fact that it had been dyed a different color prior to her discovery indicates someone wished to disguise her appearance.
3) Eye color is violet extremely rare, if the subject should prove to be Black.
4) A computer-enhanced comparison of DA 12s facial bone structure to all available photos of child psys elicited no matches.
5) A data search for possible birth dates turned up two events worth noting. Extreme psy vibrations were recorded by our Receivers on 4.23.58 and 9.04.60. Both graphs fit birth trauma templates. In other words, psys of above-average ability were born on those dates. These births occurred on the outside, and were not sponsored by The Guild. To date, these psys remain unidentified. If DA 12 should prove to be one of those unsanctioned births, she would be either six or eight years of age.
To be frank, however, it is the final area of our investigation that has turned up the most promising leads.
As you know, we had hoped through process of elimination to compile a list of possible parents for DA 12. Apprentice Scott Cairl volunteered to weed out the unlikely candidates. It was a thankless task, and frankly none of us expected the boy to hit pay dirt. As usual, he proved us wrong.
I wont go into his methodology here since his report is forthcoming, but I would like to identify the crucial turning point in his investigation. Initially, Cairl was given a list of procreative psys, both Brown and Black, including runaways, psys not yet recruited to The Guild, and Searchers who were in the field and unsupervised between 1957 and 1961. (We couldnt rule out the possibility of an illegitimate birth within our own ranks.) Always the perfectionist (and who knows this better than you), he informed us this list was insufficient for his needs. On his own, he added Blues, explaining that the fluctuating power levels of a Blue made mating with superior talents likely. Basically, his argument was that a Blue might, under the right conditions, impregnate a Black.
Personally, we thought he would drown in his own paperwork, but like so many before us, we underestimated his persistence. Two weeks later, he produced our two most promising candidates. Their names are not unknown to you. Both were members of this Cell.
Ann Lorin Dell: Blue; age today, 26; height, 175 centimeters; weight at last sighting, 59 kilograms; hair color, blond; eyes, blue. Unaccounted for as of 9.17.58.
Christopher James Valhailand: Black; age today, 35; height, 183 centimeters; weight at last sighting, 84 kilograms; hair color, light brown; eyes, blue. Unaccounted for as of 11.17.58.
Since you are as familiar with their history as anyone, I wont go into a lengthy analysis. Our inclination is to accept them as DA 12s parents. Of course, further investigation is underway.
Rod Jamison, III, Chairman
Consult, Cell 2
Just received Jamisons preliminary report. I knew you could handle the task, even though others did not. If you can take time away from your studies, lets get together for dinner and you can relate the details. Schedule a time with Marcia. Congratulations.
It was hard to give up her tile. They told her it was to make room for the new class. But all the same, they should have asked. Maybe they were trying to make her angry. Dont you get mad. Dont you dare. That was His rule. She wouldnt forget it just because He hadnt shown his thoughts to her in a while. She could handle it. Or maybe they took the square away because they wanted to see some tears. Well, they could just wait. That was her rule.
Addendum to Autopsy Report, TF435-66689
As instructed, a comparison was made of the skeletal remains found at the Candlewood site to the medical records of Ann Lorin Dell. A detailed report is enclosed, but in summary: age and build match, dental fillings match, and the healed break on the left femur matches x-rays from a Dell childhood injury. (Side note: There is no correlation between previous Dell injuries and the trauma identified on the skeletons pelvis and spine. Further analysis of those fractures is pending. I must say candidly, we may never know what shattered those bones so violently. The remains are just too incomplete.) I can state with confidence, however, that when Dell photos from the archives are overlaid onto x-rays of the denuded skull, the results are conclusive. Our Jane Doe is Ann Lorin Dell.
Please convey my condolences to Caliban.
Dr. Phillip DeMarco, Medical Examiner
The gray-haired man asked her to stay behind. She obeyed. She always obeyed. But she didnt look at him. Wouldnt. Couldnt. He looked at her though. Tried to stare into her eyes. Touched her hair. Tilted her chin. She didnt flinch. (Dont you dare. Dont you dare.)
Then the man cried
But it was a trick. It was always a trick.
You accused me of intentionally dropping the Dell-Valhailand bombshell at the end of my last report. As I recall, your exact words were you sadistic SOB. Well, I wont be abused a second time. My next report isnt finished, but the conclusion cant wait. We turned up a marriage license at the Belmont County Courthouse in Ohio for Ann Lorin Dell and a Zachary Kyle Karson, dated February 25, 1959. You cant be more surprised than I was − what the hell happened to Chris?
Scott suggested we check free clinics and health centers in the area for medical records on the girl. Wouldnt you know, he was on the money again. DA 12 is Dina Leeann Karson, date of birth September 4, 1960. That makes her one of the unidentified psys indicated by our birth trauma readings.
But even Scott couldnt have foreseen this: Theres a brother David James Karson, born March 11, 1959. Strangely, while there are records on immunizations, checkups and the lot, weve turned up no birth certificates. Only the birth dates as recorded at the clinic. So unless Annie lied to the medical clerks who filled out the files, this boy is not the unknown psy born April 23, 1959.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Rod Jamison, III, Chairman
To Phon Seng Mun, Master, Cell 5, from William Cairl, Consult, Cell 2:
Lineage confirmed. Third generation, but sired by the Other. Please advise next steps.
from the desk of
dr. alveena maths
Look, Marcus, I can understand your excitement over the Karson girl, but its time you faced facts. She may never be competent enough to utilize her powers. Superficially, she is with us. She dresses, eats, follows her class from activity to activity, eats, undresses, sleeps. Despite all that, her mind is out to lunch. I have logged over two hundred hours talking at her with no response.
Marcus, even if volcanoes shat gold the day she was born, we probably arent going to collect any of it. Besides, have you considered what might happen if you push the wrong button on her runaway train? Unless you like the thought of being buried in a fruit jar, Id postpone the celebration indefinitely.
She preferred things to be moving. The floor tiles were nice, but they were slowing down of late. The moving counter was better. Sometimes she could imagine it picking up speed, tumbling empty cups and milk cartons end over end.
But the black track was best. All those girls running round and round. She tried to keep them moving in her head even after they had stopped. Faster. (Push it.) Faster. They never did though. They always slowed down. Dropped off. One or two or three at a time.
The one in blue with the bouncing braids was always last. Sometimes she imagined Braids could hear her begging for more, and was running around the track one more time just for her. But that wasnt possible.
And that would be a trick. Always a trick.
Before I file a formal request, Id like to approach you as a friend.
Dina isnt going to make it.
I understand that you, as Consult, cant pass up a windfall like my granddaughter. I can even understand the pressure you must be feeling to turn that windfall into a profit for The Guild. But for over five months, I have watched her shuffle through the motions. She follows her age-mates in for morning report, finds her mark, and never moves. She stares unseeingly at the floor then shuffles out on command. Her instructors say it is the same in class. She contributes nothing. Even Alveena, in her unorthodox way, has declared the child a lost cause.
Bill, as a father yourself, you must realize the strain she puts on me. The loss of Annie has been a painful burden, but Dina is a cross I cannot bear. Please transfer the child to an Institutional Cell. For her sake as well as ours.
Braids talked to her today. She squatted down in front of her by the black track and spoke right into her head. Like He used to do. She didnt know there were other kids who could do that. Davey couldnt.
She was so surprised, she almost answered. Almost.
cant run today smashed my foot on the bed leg hurts like crazy sorry dee.
Care. (Dont you dare.)
She didnt answer. She could handle it.
Scuttlebutt has it that Cal Dell is going to formally petition the International Council to transfer Dina. You and I know that if they grant his request, shell be lost for good.
If I may venture an opinion, I think weve been mishandling this. Consider the people who have access to the girl: Alveena sees her daily, but we all know how overpowering the mad doctor can be. And Alveena is a Red. Cal sees her three or four times a day, but hes hardly an impartial party. And hes a Brown. Her instructors and age-mates have continuous contact, but they are terrified shell blow up on them. And none of them are Black.
One mate, Treece Bishof, claims to communicate with Dina. She says she feels something around her, and has tried sending her a thought or two. Dina doesnt answer of course, but the Blue insists she could if she wanted.
Truth is, I feel something around Dina too. I havent tried to reach her, but only because Alveena has declared her off-limits.
I agree that full-scale testing of the girls powers is a risky business. But how about a one-on-one attempt to reach her? An attempt made by someone who shares her talents? If youre concerned about bucking the Council, I could approach her on my own (apparently unsanctioned). That way, should I fail and we lose contact with her completely, I will take the fall alone. What do you think?
I will destroy your letter. Do the same with this one. Good luck.
The man-boy was back. She remembered him from the before time. Before the tiles. More than anyone else in this place, she feared him. Feared his eyes.
Because they were like His eyes? Blue water blue. Yes, like His eyes.
He wouldnt leave her alone. Today he didnt try to talk into her head. He just took her hand (Dont you flinch), peeled open her fingers, and put a tiny picture on her palm.
Her. (Dont you cry.) Mommy.
She could handle it.
The Cairl Journals (1959-2014)
Entry dated 2/19/68
Dina, Dina, why do you run from me? I want to help. If I could only see the world through your eyes, maybe I could show you Im your friend. Theyve decided to transfer you, so we dont have much time. Answer me, Dina. Its not right for us both to be alone.
The man-boy was everywhere today. Following her.
It started in the morning when she spotted him standing on her old square. He didnt look at her, only down at the scratches and cracks. She wanted to ask him if she could have the tile back. But she didnt. She could handle it.
Then he spoke into her head once, before she could get her walls up.
I am not bad dina
That was all he got through. not bad dina.
It was a trick.
He also stared at the trays of dirty dishes as they passed by on the conveyor after breakfast. She was upset because that meant she couldnt watch them herself. She wanted to give him her angry look, but when she peeked at him over her glass, he smiled.
A trick all right.
During class he touched her walls. She felt the little jolt, and grabbed the edge of her desk for support. But the pain didnt come. Just the little jolt. Again and again. A gentle tapping.
He wanted in. Wanted her to let him in.
So why didnt he just do it?
Maybe he couldnt.
But he has the eyes. His eyes.
I am not bad dina.
It was easier to ignore him at the track because there was Braids to watch her little feet in blue flying round and round. Braids would be the last to stop. For her.
The man-boy sat down and watched Braids too.
No. Dont think about him. Thats what he wants. Besides he was sitting still, and she preferred things to be moving.
But then the man-boy stepped onto the track and began to run. She almost laughed (Dont you dare.) because his clothes were all wrong for running. His shoes too. But he was moving. Right next to Braids.
He ran faster than the smaller ones. That was nice. He was passing everyone. Even Braids.
She could see him slipping on the track. But he kept moving. Faster.
His black clothes were too tight, too long, too wrong for running. But she preferred him moving. Faster.
Hed have to slow down soon. The others did. Most of them were sitting now, groaning, complaining. They couldnt handle it. Braids was still running, trying to catch him, but she was tired too.
Suddenly, it all seemed right. Him out there. Moving. Straining. Ever faster. Black clothes against the black track, blurring together in a rush of speed. For her? She could watch him forever. Nice.
A trick? (Dont you dare.)
He was getting tired. His face was damp. His mouth fell open to suck air.
One more time, though. Please.
Ten times around. He didnt slow. And he smiled at her as he went by, a tired, want-to-stop smile. But around he ran. Again. For her. Very nice. (Dont you dare.)
Its a trick.
The woman in brown was calling them. Time to go.
But he was coming around.
Here he comes.
She must obey. She always obeys.
Then the man-boy shouted, Again, Dina? One more time?
She could feel the ache in his legs, the roaring in his head. But he never slowed down. Around again.
Miss Karson. Now!
She always obeys. I am not bad dina. (Dont you dare.)
Its a trick. Its always a trick. Leave now. You must. You can handle it. You can. You can handle it. You.
But despite all her practice over all these months she couldnt.
DontwantoDontwantoDontwanto! she screamed at the lonely runner.
DontwantoDontwantoDontwanto! her little-girl voice shouted back from every wall around the track.
The echo spoke to her of far-away fears and long-ago evils. It told her everything must finally stop. The girls. Braids. The brown lady. The track. Her own too wildly beating heart. There must be no senseless movement anywhere. Anymore.
(Dont you cry, young lady. Dont you dare.)
But the tears came anyway, like silent, stubborn rain.
The man-boy wrapped his arms around her and wouldnt let her pull away, though she struggled long minutes.
Then she slowed. His touch was safe.
It wasnt a trick after all.