Kindergarten teachers flooded their home with phone calls expressing their outrage at no longer having their nap time breaks. The other children rested peacefully on their floor mats while Conscious required constant supervision running across the playground or climbing the jungle gym. They claimed insufficient pay for dealing with such a difficult child.
In elementary school Conscious could finish an entire semester’s worth of homework in the course of one month’s sleepless nights. Always the highest in class, the administrators skipped her ahead a grade every six weeks. Eventually she received her Masters Degree in Applied Mathematical Theory from Brown University at the age of eleven. Her PhD at MIT took a little bit longer. At fifteen she created a perpetual motion machine requiring nothing more than salt water and a drop of maple syrup for fuel. Realizing this would only be used by the powers that be as a weapon, she never shared the design with anyone other than her bulldog she called Bradbury.
Cold fusion caused breaking sweats through her early twenties. By then Conscious’ reputation loomed large enough that forces darker and larger than her small circle of friends, family and educators circled around. Drones silently hovered high above her parent’s house and followed the paths of her daily walks with Bradbury. The April afternoon she returned home and found the note forged in her mother’s writing, Conscious knew her time above ground was ending.
She called the telephone number left on her voice mail. She filled Bradbury’s bowl with his favorite kibble and topped off his water. Leaving the door open behind her, as instructed, she turned right to the park at the end of their block. The bulging form of muscle in the shape of a man climbed from the white Lincoln Continental. He frisked in places no weapon could possibly be hidden. He nodded to some invisible associate who then invited her politely in to the car.
For close to twenty three hours Conscious refused to help advance their project. None of their threats or intimidation tactics raised her blood pressure in the slightest. They dropped Bradbury’s torn off tail on the table in front of her. Of course, it broke her heart but she would not allow her intellect to be abused for death and suffering of other people. Her parents raised her better than that. Stronger than that… fully and completely conscious.
When they brought in her father’s body, she couldn’t stop the involuntary shakes and tears. Biting the inside of her cheek, she summoned enough courage to keep her cries silent. Locking eyes with the man shaped muscles, she held her breath when he pushed the bobby pins under her finger nails. She didn’t give him the satisfaction of blinking.
Conscious stared at the white wall listening to the hum of fluorescent bulbs in the ceiling. No sense of time’s passage entered the room with her. She counted seconds and minutes for a little while. Realizing it didn’t matter, she stopped and allowed herself to float above the throbs and strains in both her heart and body.
The sound of a struggle arrived behind her. No door opened or footfalls padded closer down a hallway. One moment no one was there. The next her mother was tied, bruised and bleeding to the chair across the table from her. Conscious reserved her speech. The sight of her mother brought the realization that things were drawing to a close.
No reaction came from the person she had once deeply loved across from her. Both eyes and ears were sewn shut with thick, black wire. Only one nostril remained open to allow her wheezing, halting breath. No threat of killing her would make Conscious reveal her secrets now. At this point, death would be a service to her.
A whispered voice from behind suggested it was time to finish the failed negotiations. The muscles nodded. Conscious felt the sting of a needle in her upper arm. Apparently these people didn’t fully know her resistance. She felt the room tilt in several directions, but the black sheets of slumber continued their absent role over her eyes.
Confining and breathless, the boxy hollow they pushed her headfirst into had less than enough space to allow her to wiggle her arms behind her back let alone her feet that remained tied together. Hard and at the same time slightly forgiving, an odd shape pushed against her feet. A man’s grunting followed the shape sliding roughly up her thighs. More groaning accompanied what she realized was her mother’s face pressing into her belly momentarily crushing the air from her lungs. Two more strong thrusts and Conscious found herself nose to nose with her crying mother.
A hammer pounded from below. With each strike they both trembled. Conscious pressed her cheek and rubbed gently in a small circle. Mother stopped breathing shortly after the sound of the outside world vanished. Conscious lay in the black pitch. No light able to penetrate the deep hollow. Eyes open to the vast infinity of emptiness in that tiny space. The universe flashing across the void in front of her. She lies conscious. Finally understanding what it is to dream.