From the moment she had entered it, Carrie had been like a breath of fresh air in my life. Always cheerful, always smiling she had that wideeyed look of wonder on her face, that is the mark of a true innocent. She had transformed my world just by being herself, and had made an old-beyond-his-years-cynic smile at the joy of of life. She had never made magic, she had lived it, fully embracing the playfull nature of her totem, Raccoon.
Now her magnificent eyes were closed, and the face that had borne the look of wonder had the pinched and sharp features of the artificially fed. In the dusk of the curtained room, that was only illuminated by the light from the machines, it seemed the face of an emancipated child. I turned towards the white figure standing behind me. More because I couldnīt stand to look at the human ruin, that lay in the bed, than because I wanted to talk to him. He stood at the door - close enough for me to be aware that he was there, but distant enough for me to have a resemblance of privacy.
When I acknowledged his presence he stepped closer wearing the serious expression of the bearer of bad tides. I wondered if that expression was something they learned at medschool, or if it simply crept into their muscles over time. It seemed that the expression was a mask they all wore, when talking about Carrie. I donīt think they either knew, nor cared, that it only made it harder.
I couldnīt remember his name, but then again, I hadnīt been able to remember any of their names. He stopped beside the bed noting down the numbers that flashed from the displays on the machines in his pocket secretary. "There has been no change?" I hardly recognized the deep rasping voice as my own.
The doctor slowly shook his head without lifting his eyes from the screen. "Iīm afraid there have been no signs of recovery, since she was transferred to this department Mr Grey"
I looked down at the slim hand, that lay on the sheet. It reminded me of a dead and desiccated animal, no more alive than the machines that hummed and blinked beside the bed. I took a deep breath before I continued. The air caught in my throat, and I had to fight a moment, before I could speak. "What are her chances of getting better?"
The doctors face/mask looked as artificial as the chrome of my cyberarm when he finally met my eyes. He stood before me like a white statue. As caring and warm as the marble he resembled. "Mr Grey, the patient has -"
"her name is Carrie, for fragīs sake, its right there in her charts!" I felt heat rising inside my chest, as anger suddently replaced the empty feeling.
"Mr Grey, please. I understand how difficult this must be for you but -"
The heat traveled upwards, and I heard my voice catch, "How can you possibly know how it feels to see someone you care about, someone you love lying there like a corpse? Hearing her heartbeat as a bleep from a machine? Seeing breath being forced into her by that- that thing? How can you stand there and tell me that you know how that makes me feel?"
While I yelled at him, I felt the heat that had warmed me disappear into the void of his professional cool.
"You are obviously distressed Sir, I will come back later"
As he turned to leave the anger came back stronger than before. "Donīt you dare walk away from me you little pencilneck! I asked you a fragginī question!"
He turned back to face me, the weak light in the room glittering off the ice in his pale eyes. Then his expression softened. "Carrie has not responded to outside stimuli in eight months Mr Grey" He said with a slight emphasis on her name. "As far as we can determine she has suffered extensive and irreversible neurological damage" He sighed. "Both I and others have already told you several times that the chances of her recovering are virtually nonexistent" He looked down at his pocket secretary, as it gave a low beep "If you will please excuse me, I have other patients to take care of".
I waved him away, and with a curt nod, he went out, closing the door behind him.
I turned back towards the bed, taking the limp hand in my own, and sat there listening to the steady rythm with which the machines counted out the seconds of Carries life.
Maybe I should get her another doctor.
I remembered when I had first seen her. We had entered the compound of a subsidiary of Renraku, and were about to leave with the files we had come for, when a guard popped up behind us. He put a bullet through TJ and dove behind cover, before any of us had time to react.
"Give it up fraggers!" He had yelled "There is only one exit, and thatīs past me! I have already called for backup and theyīll be here any sec now". We could hear running footsteps getting closer, echoing down the hallway.
I had looked from Raider to TJ, and seen understanding. TJ had taken the shot through the shoulder, but the bullet must have pierced an artery as he was already sitting in a spreading pool of blood. We had always known it might come to this. We looked at each other, and silently shook hands. Then we prepared to take down as many as we could before we were routed. I heard what sounded as a triumphant grunt from the guard, as the footsteps stopped just outside the room.
I listened as someone closed in on the large table behind which we were hiding. I rose up levelling my gun at the figure. In that second I looked into Carries brown eyes. Not to mention the barrel of an Ares Predator pointing at my head. Behind her the guard was sprawled on the floor.
After she had healed TJ and gotten us out of there covered by an invisibility spell, she explained that she had come for the same thing that we did. She had also demanded that we gave her the files, since she was the one who had taken care of the guard, and his reinforcements.
Since then she had become as great a part of the team as any of us
Through the endless days and hours I had spent in the many sickrooms, I had slowly realized that my Carrie would never return, but somehow it had taken the doctorīs masklike face to make me understand it. Carrie was a memory. Her only life was inside my head and sitting there in the last darkened room I came to accept it. Carrie had long ago fled the husk that lay there in the white crisp sheets, like an egyptian mummie in a state of undress. That was how she would have described it. My snort of laughter quickly turned into a sob.
I bent down and kissed her forhead one last time.
Then I yanked out the powercable, cutting the machine off in mid bleep.
I sat there holding her hand, listening to the sudden silence that had enveloped the room. The machines were dark and unmoving. Like the body next to me.
I remembered when she had put a bucket of water over the door to her room in the building we shared, and then asked TJ to go and get her something in there. TJīs roar had made me run into the hallway gun in hand, where I saw Carrie running for dear life, while laughing her head off, followed by seven feet of very wet, angry ork. Since then TJ had refused to enter her room unless someone opened the door for him.
I remembered the time Raider had tried to teach her the basics of selfdefence, and ended up rolling on the floor laughing, when she lost her balance trying to do the basic kick for the fifth time. That was one thing she never got the hang of.
I remembered the time when she had tricked me into promising her a dance. She made me dance with her through a snowcovered park in the middle of winter, ending up with dumping me for a snowman. She claimed he danced better.
I remembered how she had made some gangers attacking two homeless people belive they were suddently faced with two trolls.
I remembered her singing in the bath with a voice that could shatter glass
I remembered her crying over a movie with a sad ending.
I remembered how alive she had been.
I stayed until I could feel the hand beneath my own growing cold. Then I left closing the door behind me. "Mr Grey" was leaving this place, never to return. - Just like Carrie.
When I entered the building we shared, I was met by Raider and TJ. They looked at me silently, as I passed them. Raider reached out to grasp my shoulder in silent sympathy, before he stood aside. The place looked so cheap. All those years, all those runs, and what did I have to show for it? A grubby little room that smelled like mildew, and had dirty clothes strewn all over the floor, and a body stuffed full with metal. Just like Carrie, exept my machines were on the inside. I moved around picking up shirts and garbage, and tried to get it to end up in the right baskets. In the end I threw it all in the trashcan outside, before throwing myself on the bed.
I lay there listening to the sounds of the night in the Redmond Barrens. The roar of motorcykles gaining in strength and then disappearing into the night, carrying the gangers with them. The coughing of distant gunfire and the muffled wails of sirens. I lay there waiting for the tears to come, suddently realizing that I had none left. I had mourned Carrie since the accident, and I only felt relief, now that it was finally over.
I woke early, the yellow morninglight streaming in through the gap between the curtains and the window. I tried to recall the noise that had woken me, as I started to drift off to sleep again. The scrabbling sound of somebody moving around outside woke me fully, and I grabbed the gun laying beside my bed. Since I lived on the second floor, there was little danger of anyone jumping in through the window, but it always paid to be carefull. I sneaked up to the window. When I slowly pushed the curtain aside with the barrel of the gun, I was met by a little masked face.
I lowered the gun, my eyes filling, as I watched the raccoon going through the trashcan outside. I cried silently, tears falling freely as I watched it explore the debris of my life. I cried for Carrie, and for myself. I cried for us.
Then the raccoon caught the movement behind the curtain and fled, scolding me as it streaked away.
"Goodbye Carrie" I whispered.
(c) 2000 Saint. Used with permission.