by Graciela Inés Lorenzo Tillard
It was 2105. The enormous megalopolis Old Barcelona City had begun to shine under a sun of justice.
He stood hanging outside the hotel, an old skyscraper in the port area, without knowing quite how he had come to be there. The building was no longer one of the tallest in the city, but it was tall enough to cause his instantaneous death if he fell from his precarious place, grasping at the outer edge of the top-floor window more than one hundred and fifty meters above the street.
It was all the same that he had chosen that building instead of Agate Tower, the highest in the city. If his support gave way, the results would be the same. And he had never wanted to be a candidate. He jumped.
* * *
He had the obsession of writing on a paper a perfectly detailed memorandum of his intentions and then posting it on the inside of the front door. What for? So I could read it immediately, of course. He was already a lunatic.
The next time he did so, I resolved myself to request an audience with a personality adviser. I displayed all the records to him; he was fascinated with his tenacity, zeal, and perseverance.
* * *
“If he hadn’t directed all his energy toward his own self-destruction, he could have been extremely useful. He was impressive in his capacity to take advantage of each environmental factor in everything he intended to do... What an imagination! What a use of resources!”
For a moment I thought I had made a tremendous mistake: I had bumped into a suicide’s admirer instead of a personality adviser qualified to solve my problem.
“Mr. Ambor, please, I have come here for a definitive solution.”
“But... madam, that means...”
“Yes, that’s what I’m referring to. I can hardly continue with the responsibility of picking up his pieces, over and over again, and taking them to the Central Assembly Barracks every time he happens to destroy himself.”
“But that’s your duty! Legally...”
“Listen to me, please. I am claiming now, formally, a legal authorization for the final act.”
He became a little pale; then red and finally green before answering, but he didn’t stop peering into my eyes. “Madam, are all those records real? Might you have forged them to get free from your husband... once and for all?”
I felt my stomach churn and looked instinctively for a bucket to vomit into. Ambor rose up in alarm, and left me alone inside the place.
After a while he returned, with two other assistants. “Now, we shall talk seriously. Everything you said will be properly registered. Please, speak loudly and clearly into the recorder. Later on you’ll give your own records to the assisting scanner and you will also read them, to register the report in your own voice.”
I repeated every detail in a plain voice. I felt somehow boring. “My husband climbed up the Arts Hotel to last floor. He went out through one of the windows, stood on the cornice and jumped into the void. His beeper transmitted to me the suspension of all vital signs. I phoned ACB and gave them the coordinates.” I peered curiously at the assistant.
The adviser cleared his throat to summon my attention. “Madam, do know all the actual repairs?”
I smiled unwittingly. I was tempted to tell him all the particulars, minutely, to see what happened to his mask-like face.
He lifted a brow, without taking his eyes away from mine. “Yes?”
“Excuse me. Yes, I know the particulars.” I recited them: “The body went down at an increasing speed. At two hundred and fifty-five kilometers per hour, it hit the edge of a billboard. When the first damage, grade 3, happened, the right arm was separated from the rest of the body and the calf and foot from the same side. His skull opened with a loss of bony parts, an ear and encephalic mass. The body rebounded against an APT — that’s air public transport, you know — and made a hollow depression on its roof. The body became completely disassembled. It’s supposed that the inferior jaw shattered in the concussion. Finally the body fell onto a railcar. There was heavy traffic, and the parts of the torso that could be recovered were enough to repair the body, but it would have to be redone almost completely.”
Ambor blinked again before talking. I didn’t like the guy; he seemed to be an automaton. “Tell me, please, madam, do you know the results of the repairs?”
“Yes, indeed. They’re not much different from before. That is to say, he has no motion limitation, no physiologic dysfunctions, and he looks as he did before the event.”
“Is there anything more you want to add?”
“I don’t think so... Oh, yes: I’m extremely bothered when he leaves those notes giving every detail every time he attempts it.”
“Did he leave a warning note to you and you didn’t inform the Survival Center? Madam, you would have made a serious mistake and deserved a severe punishment. Do you really understand that?”
I glanced at him. At that moment I was sure I had made a tremendous mistake when I went into that office, but I didn’t turn my eyes away. “Mr. Ambor, are you well informed? Do you have the faintest idea how many times I have gone through these formalities before?”
He didn’t answer; nor did I know if he had heard me.
“Sixteen,” I said.
The number seemed to startle him. Hardly articulating he said: “Do you have the details of every event?”
“Of course,” I responded calmly, gloating at the possibility that this pig would ask me to narrate them.
The adviser seemed to go blank, and looked annoyed. One of the assistants, the recorder, was shaking dangerously. For a moment I felt an impulse to help him, but I stayed still. Just at that moment a very fat individual entered. He glanced at the other three, then faced me and asked rudely, “What the hell did you do to them?”
* * *
I can assure that in the next forty-eight hours I wasn’t short of emotions.
The fat man, called Edward, explained me that Ambor was a cyborg device, as were the assistants. That much was obvious, but I didn’t disappoint him by saying: “I already knew that.”
Since the trio had blanked out, human beings assisted me... Well, two in fact: Edward and his assistant Alexandra. They were official advisers of the Extreme Cases Division in the Human Resources Secretary.
They listened to the record of the previous conversation: all of it. They glanced at me several times (I think they thought I was a compulsive liar) and at the end of the lecture, now that a new recorder had arrived, they asked me, “Madam, please, say exactly how many times your husband attempted to kill himself?”
“We’ll register them all, one by one. You see, your case is extremely interesting, so be patient and cooperative, and please begin with the information in chronological order, if possible.”
And I began: “The first one happened in the community sports field, quite near the Arts Hotel. There he put two of his fingers into a high-voltage energy socket. Then, he drank two liters of hydrofluoric acid that he had stolen from the silicon processing plant warehouse.”
“The next time, my husband managed to cross the security barrier and walked through the center of a forest fire — one of the last ones — on the east coast of Africa.”
For a moment I wondered if the next one was his jumping without a parachute from an old jet plane at twelve thousand meters altitude, or the immersion in the bathysphere of the Nova Fossa Investigation Center in the Mediterranean Sea — he had been all alone — where he exploded the glass porthole with explosives (or were they implosives?) at a depth of one hundred and twenty meters.
“After that one, I have to recognize, there was a period of relative calm, since his attempts were quite home-made. And the character of the actions also changed. He began to leave those notes with the details of his plans, stuck to the front door.”
Edward and Alexandra were watching me respectfully. With a gesture I pointed at my handbag and the fat man — a nice boy — nodded. I looked for the envelope where I had all my notes. Then it took me few minutes to order them chronologically and I was ready to go on.
“I have to admit that the first message surprised me; I didn’t expect it. I warned the Survival Center, but they didn’t believe me... At least I didn’t see that they took any action.”
“Do you have the evidence of that call?”
“Yes, sure, the procedure IENE1005000XCX.”
“OK.” He gestured to Alexandra. “You should look for some of the old recorders. We cannot keep on changing assistants; they get blanked out every time she finishes one of the reports.” And to me, he finished, “Please excuse us, madam; we’ll continue in a moment.”
A few minute later, with a couple of coffee cups and a microphone recorder, I was ready to get on with the stories. Edward invited me to do so with a slight nod.
I began again with the help of my notes to recount the attempts he had made at home: “He drank five liters of sodium hydrochloride. He enclosed himself inside the garage and started a very old fossil-fuel generator and internal combustion motor. Next he inserted his arm up to the armpit into the waste disintegrator. He couldn’t put in the other one and both his legs, as he had explained in his damned letter, because he had fainted. He wound up in a waste bag which was picked up and zipped. It was tiresome enough to locate him, and he was very seriously hurt.”
“After that, he began the interactive attempts, if one can call them that. He hired different people and crews to kill him. He made use of several clever tricks. For example: he sent a DFI message — you know, Dangerous Fugitive Individual — to a couple of bounty hunters with the data from his own beeper. He also dispatched a warning message through open channels about the escape of a deadly Vitron animal along with an animated illustration — he has always been so skilled at that — and then he disguised himself as a Vitron and walked the streets.
“Later he hired a builder, one of those totally automatic machines. He fed it with the design of some kind of buried block made of artificial stony material. In the middle of the assembly process he he jumped into the mixture while it was in a fluid state: just a simple dive.”
I sighed. That one was really hard to get over.
* * *
Edward moved just a bit and asked: “Is that all? Have you already finished?”
“No, sir. If you count the incidents I have just told the twelfth. But the next ones were quite different; they were exhibitions.”
“He looked for open spaces, with the public present...”
Edward shivered visibly. I felt touched somehow, so I turned toward Alexandra to continue my report without looking at him.
“Do you remember the last opinion survey? We had to opt between cloning plus sterility and the transfer of the newborn to the Human Resources Secretary...”
“The individual who climbed the main stage and beheaded the first two investigators, the one who was finished off by being riddled with phaser shots of the Special Guard, he was my husband.”
I breathed deeply; with the corner of the eye I saw Edward turning totally green, his eyes filling with tears. He covered his mouth with an enormous piece of cloth. I passed to the next note.
“Then he choose the Zoo, during the visit of the court of the Regent of planet Induz. Do you remember it?”
“Maybe that man completely naked jumping inside the glincons’ reserve...”
“He was my sweet spouse.” Alexandra was pleasing me; she seemed to be intelligent and awake. “Do you remember how he ended?”
“Of course. In those days I was assigned to the Scandals Division of the State Department...”
“So I’ll get on to the next one. You will remember it also, I’m sure. During the Hierarchs’ Intergalactic Convention...
“Oh! Yes, I remember it.” Alexandra made herself comfortable in her armchair and put the tips of the fingers together in a kind of a dome. Her face showed an ecstatic expression that was somehow inadequate. “An individual, wearing a soldier’s uniform and totally covered with explosive cartridges... Do you know where he had obtained them?”
“Of course not! Imagine this situation: I left my work place. Masses of people were everywhere. The electricity was off. Every individual was under surveillance on public transport. None of us there knew what was it all about. But when I arrived home and closed the door, I found the note!
“Look, Alexandra, that’s what I’ve come for. There’s a difference between assuming the responsibility for his reconstruction, making all the declarations ad hoc, filling in forms and all the rest... and the pain of reading those notes. I immediately looked at the beeper and sent the communication, but what did they answer? ‘It’s too late, madam. Your warning is of no use. Everything has already happened’. And it seemed as if I were a madwoman, a maniac.
“Because of that I desire — I need — the final act. This last jump from the Arts Hotel has not been the bloodiest nor the most scandalous, but it is the last drop that overflows the glass.”
Alexandra glanced at Edward and lifted her brows in such a way I also turned to see him. He had bent over the desk, incapacitated.
A sanitary unit came in and took him away. Alexandra, in a victorious tone, snorted, “Men!”
She continued: “Leave the problem in my hands, my dear, I will take charge personally. And make a request for an interview at the Couples Office in the Human Resources Secretariat. Choose a new partner, and, please...” she accompanied me toward the exit, “this time you’d better ask for the candidate’s profile and try to avoid the ones that have self-destructive tendencies.”
“But, Alexandra, dear,” I responded, astonished. “You know very well that all male candidates to a couple need to have those tendencies.”
Copyright © 2005 by Graciela Inés Lorenzo Tillard