Control: Chapter Two
Georgie was screaming. High, piercing screams choked with sobs. Sobs that were too distraught for the emotional range of a two-year-old. As Louisa closed her eyes and tried once more to concentrate, she again found it impossible, and instead let her mind drift back into the furthest corners of her memory.
She remembered the roaring pain in her skull. It felt like her brain was being ripped apart, torn, seam by seam… excruciating. Sixteen years later, she still hadn’t forgotten what that felt like. She remembered a woman’s hands against her head and a soft, honey-toned voice telling her it was going to be okay. She was called, suddenly, back to the present by another of Georgie’s screams.
“It’s pointless.” she murmured to herself. Standing, she ran a hand through her hair and padded down the hallway and into the living room. Georgie was curled on the ground, her tiny fists pounding the floor as her father sat on the lounge opposite. His face, as always, was impassive and empty. Georgie was still in her gauzy white hospital gown.
“Encode, Georgia.” he said steadily. “Encode. Say it.”
His hands were folded neatly on his lap.
“En… cow—da…” Georgie tried.
And then she screamed even louder.
She’d stayed at the hospital for three days. They’d picked her up from the Hospital Wing of the Bank of Ideas earlier that evening: as the orange streetlights began turning on, the family was driven into the heart of the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary was a lively place. It was a sea of swirling lights and motion. Billboards and banners called to Louisa through the blur of rain on the window. In the Sanctuary, everything was always moving, a beautifully vivid assault of the senses. Those who traversed its streets brimmed with creativity. People would flock from all the corners of the sprawling city to experience its legendary inspirations. It was never desolate and you were never alone. The chauffeur deftly navigated the taxi honks and bicycles, pulling up in a laneway close to the Bank of Ideas. The walls of the alley were not unlike all others in the city: vibrant, explosive in colour, and above all, Louisa could see the incredible prowess that the phantom artist possessed.
She stepped out into the cooling air. The family hurried down the lane and turned out onto the road, making for the immense structure that loomed ahead. They dodged through hordes of people, commuters, children, teenage girls, repeatedly issuing soft apologies. The setting sun glared down at them through the building’s glass walls. Louisa shifted uncomfortably, hitching her satchel over her other shoulder. She bit her lip.
“Well.” Governor August said steadily, “Come on.”
With a soft whoosh, he pushed through the glass doors. The foyer was like a vacuum of sound. It was shrouded in silence, except for the receptionist typing and murmuring down the phone. Her voice bounced off the whitewashed walls.
“Wait here.” Governor August said to Cora, who nodded. The girls watched intently: he talked to the receptionist, who was scanning his ID and typing as she talked. Louisa could tell from the girl’s flitting gaze that she knew he was important. She was nervous. She gave him a nod and Governor August stepped back as a set of glass doors behind the desk slid open and a shroud of doctors emerged. Georgie, tiny, was nearly invisible amidst their long white coats, but she broke from the group and toddled over to Gracie. A hushed conversation ensued between Governor August and the doctors.
And now, Louisa knew what that conversation had been about. There had been complications with Georgie’s surgery. The brain chip was causing a reaction in her brain. The doctors had offered to keep Georgie at the hospital and monitor her, as in the worst case scenario, they’d remove it. But Governor August had declined.
“No daughter of mine will freeload off the state,” is what he’d said. Remembering this now, Louisa wandered back to her bedroom and sat down on her bed. It was time, she thought, to make the money her family needed. So she lay back into her pillows and closed her eyes, preparing to create. Her mind relaxed slowly and finally… it let go and simply rambled.
The sky is blue, spread thinly like water over the surface of the world. The air is cool. Car doors slam. Feet crunch over gravel. The party sets out into the wilderness with picnic baskets in hand, determination set in every step. They dart down the paths carved roughly from the grey rock of the cliffs. They can hear the roar of the waterfall growing louder as they grow closer and closer. It thrills them. Ignoring the burn in their legs, they only move faster, their cries of sheer excitement echoing across the valley. The sun is reaching its peak now as rock becomes water. Clear, cold water pooling around their ankles. The children, they sink to their knees in the shallow water. In crocodile crawls they forge through the water in the direction of a small cove. The cove is only small: a metre wide, a metre deep. They throw their heads back and bask in the feeling of weightlessness that they crave above all else. They are silent. Peaceful.
She reviewed it slowly. It was good. Perfectly idyllic. Perfect for what they wanted. It would earn a few dinners maybe — but she never knew for sure.
“Encode, encode,” her mind commanded. “Encode.”
She relinquished the thought and her eyes fluttered open. She sighed. Fourteen years of practice, and encoding still gave her headaches. She began to feel drowsy. Her brain, too exerted by the process of turning pure thought to code, gave in on itself. She slipped into unconsciousness, her body slumped lethargically across the bed. Encoding often did that.
Tara Wesson is a second-year Journalism and Creative Writing student. She likes long walks on the beach, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. But no, she's really just a book-lover with a dog called Shorty, a love of travel, and a penchant for dad jokes.