A dream I had last night as an observer; not a participant….
The Dove shook the magic 8 ball and then turned the 8 downward as the tiny white text in the viewing window swam into view.
He stared at it a long moment, then shrugged and put it away in his pocket, the weight of it thumping against his leg as he walked. It was a small superstition that wasn’t really; a comfort in that it always had answers when he himself did not.
Not one of them had more than a tiny piece of the overall Big Picture. But he, at least, had a pocket full answers… even if they were all randomly generated BS.
He’d reached his destination: a sunny public square in a city both ancient and modern. It was crowded with noisy people. A bearded and turbanned elderly cleric stood at the podium. Reporters were everywhere, camera bulbs flashing. The babble of voices silenced when the old man spoke.
The Dove barely listened. It was white noise. Static, just as the roar of the crowd had been. Yet he clapped politely at the finish, using just his fingers, as did some of the other foreigners in the crowd. The natives themselves were chanting their usual state approved slogans.
It didn’t matter. Wouldn’t.
Smiling, The Dove stepped forward and offered his hand to the old cleric, complimenting him on his speech, murmuring vague agreement. Heartily his hand was shaken. A moment of diplomatically exchanged greetings, a brush of gazes, and he stepped aside for “another” well-wisher.
A few minutes later, the old man grabbed at his chest and collapsed on the cobblestones in the throes of an apparent heart attack.
Hearing the hubbub this caused, The Dove glanced back moments before stepping out of the square and into an alley way. There he peeled off the clear latex pads from his palms and tossed them into the nearest garbage can.
An assassination here, propaganda and rebel rousing there. They did what they did in the cause of a greater good, nudging the world into the shape it needed to be, nudging out those who had exceeded their “use by” date.
That was what they were told and had to believe. That was what kept them functioning together as the well oiled cogs in a machine beyond their individual imaginings.
He glanced at his wrist watch, not really caring that it was 2:PM. He tapped the dial three times as if trying to jog the old-fashioned hands and then brought it to his ear.
He listened not for its ticking but rather the small beep of acknowledgement.
10-9-8… and a shaft of sunlight fell over him in that otherwise shadowy place. The familiar tingling enveloped him and his form melted ghost-like into the hot dry afternoon air.
It felt just like fainting; the dimming vision, the momentary loss of awareness, the echoing quality of the sounds around him… and then the coming to, the awareness of the shiny white hallway he found himself standing in.
Beside him, The Falcon too was materializing. She lowered her watch arm with a slight shuddering of breath, glanced sideways at him, and smiled; a smile of shared victory as much a being glad simply to see him again. A smile touched his lips as well and they nodded at one another, but neither said a word. Words could so easily be misinterpreted and these walls were known to have ears.
He’d dreamed of someday being able to bask in her company with no worry, that they could share lives of their own and live in peace, doing only what they wanted to do. He wondered, for the umpteenth time, if she felt the same way. She’d certainly never said so. He strongly suspected it though, never having seen anything but quiet affection and admiration in the way she looked at him.
They walked side-by-side in companionable silence. They both knew where they were going. The outcome alone was a mystery, his pocket full of answers an amusing ironic comfort to him.
At the waiting room, she was immediately beckoned into the office while he was left to rest a while on one of the white upholstered couches.
He was almost dozing when she finally came out again a half hour later, eyes downcast until she passed him. Her eyes flickered toward him for a moment before going down, eyelashes shielding them, face carefully composed, ghost of a smile hinted but not expressed.
His turn. He knew the routine. He’d done it so many times before: go in and sit down in the high-backed chair with its attached helmet, lower it over his head, adjusting the electrodes in place at his temples. They were never content with simply hearing how things had gone. They wanted to see it. They wanted it recorded.
Gene just barely glanced up at him as he settled in; mumbled an absent-minded “Hello there,” over his monitor. Eyes fastened on the screen, he said, “Whenever you’re ready, Dove.”
The images must have come through then because Gene’s eyes were clearly tracking them. “Well done Dove!” he said when apparently the streaming video had stopped, “Mission complete!” This time he was looking directly and fixedly right at The Dove. “Now we have to have talk.” Gene smiled when he said it, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.
The Dove felt a chill go right through him but kept his expression bland. “Okay?”
“Everything is safely in place now,” Gene said. “We won’t be requiring your services any longer but I want you to know you did a great job. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
The Dove couldn’t help it. He had to ask: “Why do I hear a ‘but’ in there?” He was also wondering why, after all he’d done, he was suddenly, for the first time, being thanked. It wasn’t like them to bother with niceties. They were all it together for the greater good after all. They weren’t supposed to need constant pats on the back or any at all for that matter.
Gene’s smile froze slightly, a touch of regret in his eyes. “I only hope you will understand. We need to clean up our assets yet we can’t afford to lose them either.”
‘Clean up our assets?’ the words reverberating in Dove’s head. Did that mean what he thought it meant? He’d known from the beginning his life could well be forfeit to the cause and that somehow it would be worth it.
Gene was grinning at him now. “Look. You assistance has been greatly appreciated. We just need to put you safely aside now, give you a new life until such time as we should need to reactivate you.”
“Like… what do you mean?” Dove asked. So they didn’t mean to kill their assets? What then?
“We will give you a short-term memory wipe and hypnotic suggestion to prevent your talking about your little piece of the puzzle, and then we’ll set you up in a new life according to what you consider your ideal situation, whatever your heart really wishes for.”
The Dove had been so dedicated and guarded for so long that a lump rose in his throat at the very thought of having any great wish granted, let alone having venue for expression. But he knew what he wanted: a shared life with The Falcon, a home, a family; simple things; a vacation in Rio for Carnival with his one love as tourists, nothing more, nothing less.
He didn’t have to say a word. Could not have, in fact, spoken through the lump in his throat, the dizziness of overwhelming hope for the future. His desire flashed clean on the monitor for Gene’s perusal and probably others as well.
Gene opened a new window and began to type. It didn’t take him long. The printer hummed to life and spat out a single sheet of paper, an itinerary of sorts.
Gene handed it to him.
He’d marry Elizabeth, formerly known as The Falcon. They’d have a honeymoon in Rio De Janeiro in time for Carnival. Then they’d go home to a nice home in some tropical clime near a beautiful jungle waterfall. They’d be given a stipend to live on and otherwise left in peace.
A year or so later, while walking hand-in-hand with Elizabeth down a pretty jungle path to the falls, though he’d never lost it before, he lost his magic 8 ball through a hole in his pocket.
He never even noticed. He’d carried it out of habit by then, but it had lost all meaning to him. It’s loss was nothing to him. He was happy now and sublimely content.
Three years later, still content, his foggy past a distant dream he couldn’t even find the words to ask about, he was walking with his beautiful little girl, Isabel, down the path to the waterfall. Elizabeth was busy cooking dinner and hadn’t come along this time.
Isabel tugged her hand free and ran a little way ahead, having spotted something shiny gleaming in a shaft of sunlight that had pierced the thick dark canopy.
She came back with shiny black object cupped in the little hands. “Daddy, look what I found!” she said, lifting her treasure up for him to see.
It was a black pool ball, a number 8, but something else… why, he wondered, was it so familiar to him? Musing, he took it from her, inspecting it more closely.
Oh. I remember this.
There was a little round window into the ball on the opposite side as the white 8. The tiny text just said, “Concentrate and try again.”
Isabel was getting impatient maybe a little unnerved by the strange expression on his face. “What is it, Daddy?”
He showed her the window. “You turn it like this…” He turned the number 8 back upward, “…then you give it a shake, ask it a question, and then turn it upside down to see what it answers.”
“Oh. Let me try!” she squealed, snatching it back from him. She shook it and asked, “Will I get a puppy for Christmas this year?”
“Signs point to yes,” the ball confirmed.
“You do it now,” Isabel demanded, handing it back to him.
He shook the ball and asked, “Will I die of natural causes after a long and happy life?” then turned it window side up.
Isabel was giving him a worried look out of place on her wide-eyed 5-year-old face. He couldn’t believe he’d just said that. Didn’t even know why. But a moment later, his answer swam into view:
He wanted to throw it away then, but couldn’t. Isabel had already claimed it.
“What does it say, Daddy?”
“Nothing. It doesn’t matter,” he told her, handing it back to her, 8 side up. “It’s just a toy. It’s answers don’t really mean anything. We don’t have to have answers for everything. Some things we’re better off not knowing. Nothing is carved in stone.”
She looked disappointed. “Oh. Okay. But it’s pretty, right?”
He smiled at. “Right. But not as pretty as you are.”
She brightened at that. “Oh, Daddy…!” she giggled, skipping ahead of him again.