Maia was only six when it happened. She could distinctly remember the sterile white rooms; the shots; the long
talks with doctors whose names she barely knew, but was sure she had been told.
They had told her she was a very special little girl. They had given her kindness and gifts. They had fed her,
clothed her, and made sure she had wanted for nothing. All they asked was that in return she help them with their
The machine was named Yggdrasil, after the Tree of Knowledge in Norse mythology. She would sit in a comfort-able, grey chair at the end of a steel catwalk, where behind her a colinder stretched from ceiling to floor, filled to the brim with something she could not identify, the lights from above and below giving the fleshy mass a kind of ethereal glow. They would pull down the hanging helmet, place it on her head...
...and it would speak.
It didn't actually speak, of course; in fact, that first time, it hadn't even communicated. The images that flooded her mind were random and disconnected too fast for her to get a glimpse; but the doctors said it was progress, that no one had gotten this close.
Sometimes, she wondered about the ones who had come before her. She had seen glimpses of them; once, and never again. She tried not to think about it.
The next time it happened, she was able to make out images; trees, plants, things she couldn't recognize but could relate to in simple terms; strange creatures with gill-like flues along their arrow-shaped bodies who flew through the air on their own biological jet-engines.
They were all very excited when she told them this. They laughed and congratulated eachother on their break-throughs, pride in their voices as they joked about what this meant to their future, to the future of the world.
She didn't really care. She now had these images in her mind, even if she didn't understand them; and now, it was an escape from the compound.
|Image by Abigail Markov|
The final time she visited, the last time she sat in that chair, she found herself on the beach. The jungle behind her screamed with the sounds of animals large and small; the air smelled of salt; and the water teamed with life unknown, hiding beneathe the foam and the reflection of the sky on the swirling depths.
At that moment, she was given a choice: go back to the jungle, where the scientists waited with their cheer and their treats and their sterile rooms, or slide into the ocean to see new things.
A little girl, Maia Strickland, sat in a chair, concious and not. The world was chaos around her; computers were being infected by a vvirus of unknown origin, her brain-waves and those of the creature were indistinguishable. Economies collapsed, wars broke out, a huge amount of the population died.
When the dust finally cleared, she remained strapped to that chair, but something had changed. The smallest thing; and yet, the most important.
She was smiling.