My daughters run across the hard-packed sand, their blonde hair—Maureen's hair—streaming out behind them. They are three little replicas of my wife. As always, the worry grips my heart with icy ... [+]
Translated by Wendy Cross
I have always been waiting.
My eyes are closed, as they have always been.
My hands float in front of my face, and even if I can't see them, I know exactly what shape they are.
My legs are floating too, but beneath me. They are waving about in the box.
I can hear sounds, but they are muffled. Words, sometimes. Occasionally something taps gently on the box, as if to make me react, but I prefer not to react. I don't know who I am dealing with.
The only voice I can hear clearly is that of Professor Runyard. It is calm, soft and full of wisdom. He talks to me softly, and explains things.
For example, that's how I know it was him who created me. That I am only his creation and not really a person.
And I know he is waiting for me impatiently.
Today, the professor asked me to do a strange thing: open my eyes. To tell the truth, I always suspected that there was something I could do with that part of my face… but open them, no, I hadn't thought of that. I did it. And it was incredible: light flooded into my eyes, into my head, and I could see.
It wasn't a box. Well it was, but the sides were transparent, and there were things beyond my restricted space. I could see them all around me.
In front of me, I could see the professor, whose hand was resting on the box. It looked flat against a hard, transparent surface. I reached out my hand to touch his and came up against the same obstacle as he had. On my right, there was more of that strange material in which I was contained. But now, I could see that there were other boxes, just as transparent as mine, but empty. Everything I could see outside was very blurred.
The professor recalled my attention. I listened to him very carefully. His distorted voice reached me through the liquid in which I had been born, and where I had lived until this strange moment when I was meeting my maker.
“Elby, can you hear me?”
I nodded my head. I could sense that his voice had taken on a new and anxious tone.
“Elby, we are going to empty the tank and get you out, are you ready?”
What's the tank? Get me out? What for?
I heard a strange noise coming from somewhere below my feet. Looking down, I caught sight, despite the cloudiness of the liquid, of a black hole in which a metal object was starting to move. I could hear the noise of a turbine, and then the liquid began to be sucked out towards the hole, and me with it.
I noticed for the first time that there was a tube coming from my nose and throat. It did not seem to have been designed to follow me on my descent as the tank – which was my box – emptied. I snatched it off roughly, which was quite painful. I heard the professor shout,
“No, Elby, wait!”
So I stayed there, floating in that thick liquid, realizing for the first time that I needed to breathe, until now with the help of that strange tube.
I had a feeling of oppression in my chest. I needed to swallow, to suck in something which was no longer there. I felt a wave of panic spread up to my brain. I opened my mouth in a desperate reflex and inhaled the liquid with the full strength of my lungs.
The pain was indescribable. My arms beat against the inside of the tank, my legs pounded the bottom where the liquid was draining out, taking me with it. From my bulging eyes, I saw the professor turn around sharply and move too far away for me to make him out.
I was beginning to discover fear, when something happened, and I suddenly fell out. My knees hit a hard, cold floor, and for the first time my arms had to save me so that my head did not smash against the tiles. I was vomiting, coughing, and crying.
Then I felt a strange feeling on my back. I turned around and saw the professor, leaning over me, covering me with a shiny blanket.
“Elby, for God's sake, why didn't you wait? I had to release the emergency drain. Are you alright? Have you broken anything?”
I shook my head.
I did not seem to have broken anything. I was overwhelmed by seeing him so sharply and hearing him so clearly. I kept crying, while snuggling in his arms. We stayed like that for a few minutes.
The professor took me into a room that had been hidden from my view, as it was behind the box which had contained my life for all this time. In the center there was a white plastic bed, which did not look very comfortable. I lay down on it all the same, listening to the instructions of my protector, to whom I felt boundless gratitude.
He injected me with a relaxant and left the room.
A few minutes later he returned, pushing a wheelchair, in which sat a young girl who appeared to be very ill. She looked at me with a tired expression. Her brown hair was sparse and her hands looked like claws.
The professor brought her up to my bed, so that she could have a good look at me. I did not mind. I felt very relaxed.
She placed one of her little hands on my forehead and asked quietly,
“Is this my new body?”
“Yes, Lou, this is her.”
I was overcome by incomprehension, as if a fuzzy mist was spreading over me.
I roused my arm to block out the light growing increasingly bright, and noticed for the first time, on the back of my hand, a mark: “Lou B”