Rog laced the strap to his robe and pulled it tight, fleetingly proud that between cloth and muscle was not much. Yul combed her hair with her fingers and nodded. Rog opened the door.

“Sorry to bother you guys,” said Mairi, not waiting to be invited to come in. “I can’t hold this in anymore.”

Rog looked at Yul and she shrugged her shoulders. “Have a seat Mairi. Can I get you anything?”

“Some snizzle would be great if it’s not too much trouble.”

“None at all, was about to fix a fresh brew.”

“I’ll do that Rog,” said Yul.

“Thanks sweetie. Now, what’s on your mind Mairi?”

“Have you heard from Kyra, since we parted ways?”

“No, wasn’t really expecting too, at least not this soon. Why do you ask?”

“I’ve got a very bad feeling.”

Rog sat up, putting his forearms on his knees as if to leverage the extension of his neck. “What kind of bad feeling?”

“Like something has gone terribly wrong, not just a little wrong, but tragically wrong.”

Yul walked in with three blue onyx cups of snizzle on a wooden tray. Mairi took a cup, her hand had a slight tremble. Rog ignored the tray and continued, “Do you know something we don’t?”

Mairi shook her head.

“So, this is just a feeling then?”

Yul jumped in. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt something in Mairi’s tone, something Rog didn’t. “Tell us more about this feeling.”

Mairi sighed and looked down and her eyes watered.

“Mairi, what’s wrong?” asked Yul, looking somewhat concerned at how quickly the intensity in the room ratcheted up.

“I need to show you something.” Mairi stood up and her hands gingerly rolled down the turtleneck she wore, which, Yul took note, she never seemed to wear before she was captured. Rog and Yul got quiet and Mairi begin to quiver.

“Oh my Janus,” exclaimed Yul. “What the frail is that?”

“A little gift from the good doctor.”

Rog stood up and moved closer wanting to reach out and touch her neck. “What did they do to you?”

“He called it an ampulator, a living organism that, as the doctor said, would form a symbiotic relationship with my nullness. He placed it around my neck and,” Mairi paused as if a bitter aftertaste made her frown, “and the creature’s hundreds of little receptors attached themselves to my nerve endings like the tentacles of a small cephalopod.”

“Oh my Janus,” Yul repeated. “Why didn’t you tell us?” She regretted the words almost before they left her tongue.

“Some things you don’t want to remember, to relive, to give a second life to—once was enough. Until now.”

“I’m sorry Mairi.”

“No need. I’ve come here of my own accord.”

“Please continue.”

“The amp, as the good doctor liked to call it–. Mairi stopped as tears came down like flashing railroad gates, seemingly unable to continue as the vivid memories sped by in her mind.

Rog looked stunned. Yul hugged Mairi. “You don’t have to continue.”

“I’ll be okay. Give me a second.”

“Take your time.”

Mairi blew her nose and wiped her tired eyes. Then she continued. “When they took the vile thing off, I thought I was done, I thought I was free.”

“You are free Mairi. It’s gone,” said Rog.

Mairi tried to smile. She knew Rog meant well. “Not exactly.”

“What do you mean?” responded Rog, slowing his voice as if he wanted to hear what he was saying.

“I suppose you’ve noticed I’ve worn nothing but turtlenecks lately. Seems the amp has tattooed my neck. I’m told it will fade in time, but never completely go away. Seems I’m stuck with a visual reminder of that horror, a little going away present, if you will.”

Yul just looked on, not knowing what to say that wouldn’t sound patronizing. She tried to imagine how she would feel if her physical appearance had been altered against her will, in a permanent way.

Before she could respond, Mairi added, “But that doesn’t bother me as much as the other side effect. I’m not the same person I was before.”

“You will always be Mairi to us,” said Rog, shaking his head as if his words needed additional emphasis.

“It’s not that,” said Mairi. “The amp has ‘awakened” a dormant quality of my nullness, unlocked it so to speak. Remember me saying, or perhaps it was just Kyra that I told, that I was a child of the shells but that I had no clue what made me so?”

Yul looked at Rog and he returned the look.

“No matter. I now know. I know and it terrifies me.”

“What terrifies you?”

“I see things. I feel things. Things I never saw, never felt before as if a whole channel of communication has opened to me, one that was there all along, but one I never knew existed. Do you understand what I am saying?”

“Keep going.”

“This nullness, if you want to call it that, as best as I can figure, and keep in mind, I’ve only had this ability since I returned, is not bound by space and time. I can see things, feel things, in other places, in other times.”

“Whoa,” said Rog. “Are you shiotting me?”

“No.”

Rog didn’t know what to say. He was expecting a longer answer, one he could pick apart, somehow.

“Kyra, Von and Em are in grave danger. My powers are not so refined that I can tell you what happened or how it happened or why it happened, but I know, and please don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t, but I know beyond any doubt something is terribly wrong. I feel a silence that should not be there. I feel a coldness that was never there before. I hear whispers just beyond my ability to decipher. I hear a call for help.”

Rog thought for a second. “But why hasn’t she called us?”

“Maybe she can’t?”

“Or maybe, she called someone else, someone she thought would be in the best position to help her.”

Rog shot up. “You two stay here. I’m going see John.”

Categories: Story, Mairi, Rog, Yul

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