Chapter Sixteen – Breaking the Fourth Wall with Dad
I was about to open my car door when the professor came running out toward me.
"Oh hey, you woke up."
My voice was dead-panned and irascible.
"Sorry 'bout that." He made his way up to me, standing beside the passenger side. "Now, you wouldn't leave an old man by the side of the road, would you?"
"Depends on the old man."
I unlocked my door, which unlocked all my doors, and he instantly opened the passenger door to get in the car. I suppose I couldn't be so cold as to leave him on the side of the road, despite wanting to do just that.
I sat in the car, turning the ignition, when he asked, "Did you find out what you wanted?"
"I sense you are greatly disturbed by seeing her again."
"Understatement." I hit the gas, my pedal the victim of my anger.
We were both quiet as my car jumped onto the highway in heavy traffic.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"No, you're not." I glanced to him quickly. "You got what you wanted. You got a chance to see how we reacted with this so-called link that is such a turn on for you and your colleagues. I'm sure you all made video and passed it around. I'm sure it's a popular hit over at Brandon Research." Glancing to him again, "speaking of which, I'm sure he's the POA that has control of whatever tests they keep running on her. She looks… so weak," and then the lump that had been staying in my throat and sitting there released and I cried.
"Just," I quietly stated, "don't talk to me right now."
I continued crying, mindlessly driving down the highway.
I could hear the professor sigh and make strange uncomfortable sounds since I was crying in the seat next to him, but he remained quiet…until he talked.
"I'm her grandfather."
My crying slowed.
"What did you say?"
"Well, something like that. Rachel was one of many of my sperm's offspring."
Everything he said sounded jocose and feather-brained. I never knew if I could take him seriously. I wasn't sure if it was the heavy brogue that deepened on and off, or if he was still drunk, or even if he was just trying to push buttons to get my reaction.
"My dear, Ms. Longfellow, I think I should be more open with you and help you out."
I wiped at my nose. "I honestly don't trust you. What are you saying?"
"I'm saying, Rachel was born as an enhanced psychic child from the 70s and 80s. There were quite a few. After she was born, she was watched to make sure she could breed an alien child."
I nearly side-swiped a car, swerving off my lane, but quickly aligned myself. That was too weird.
"I don't even know why you're in my car Dr. Bu… MacArthur. I wouldn't believe anything you said. I have no idea who you are and why I'm giving you a ride, and I'm just really pissed. You're telling me…?"
"I was a sperm donor because believe it or not, I was quite psychic back in the day."
"Oh my god, this is too much."
"I can see why you're quite angry." I glanced over as he smiled slightly. "Because something inside you does trust me just a wee bit."
And there was his silly brogue'ish voice again.
My crying continued slowing. I stated flatly, "Tesday doesn't trust you at all."
"Tesday sees me in glimpses, because she doesn't understand why she's oddly connected to me."
"What does that even mean?" Again, he was pushing my piss mode button.
I exited the highway, taking the major east/west artery toward my parent's house. I wondered what Dr. Gerald MacArthur would say in front of my dad. Maybe I just needed to finally get the two in a room and question them both.
"Aye, I see," he muttered, "that might be best to ease your confusion."
"Do you always read my mind?"
"Only off and on. I'm not like Tesday. And…" pointing to his head, "…this old brain is tired and very old and doesn't work quite the same."
"And probably sloshing around with Jameson whiskey."
He burst out laughing. "Aye, maybe that too." It only lasted a moment as his laughter slowed. I could hear him clearing his throat, catching glimpses of him preening his scruffy unshaved face. "Ms. Longfellow, you're a purer person than most. You honestly care about her. That surprised me a little."
I continued driving, noting the cloud cover just staying, light gray and tempting us with the possibility of rain.
"If you mean I honestly care about Tesday, than yes. I think that stay in the hospital made me grow up. I hate that she's trapped there, and if you're her supposed granddad, why haven't you helped get her out?"
"Of course. You're half-truths and partial statements are getting old, professor. I should be planning my future. I'm headed to Stanford for my doctorate. I have no idea how I got involved with an alien half-breed and her looney professor grandfather, the secret government research on alien DNA and all the crazy shebang." I laughed. "Oh my god, I sound like a lunatic. You have all made me a crazy person." I hit the brakes, nearly running a red light. "And, you need to just let me think and stop talking!"
He didn't respond, only sitting back in his seat. But of course, he couldn't keep quiet. "Ms. Longfellow, are you upset you met Tesday?"
It took me a moment. Maybe I was a little upset.
I finally said, "I'm in a paradox."
"Yes." I felt that lump in my throat begin to develop again. "If I would have never met her my life would have just continued going on the same path. I think… I'd still be unhappily existing, but I'd be alive and existing, getting my degrees, and maybe one day something would get better. I don't know."
"But with Tesday?"
"Upheaval." I nodded my head. "Yeah, everything just got upturned and changed. And, I can't go back. And professor," I turned to him, "I'm not sure I'd want to go back."
A tear fell, and I just wanted quiet right now. I really just wanted to be alone and feel the hollow concave into myself, so that I could cry.
"You know what, there's a nice little shop I'd like to be dropped off here at Preston and Park. Could you pull over? I'll just catch an Uber, maybe Lyft. I do prefer them a bit more."
I sniffed up a tear. "I don't mind driving you back to your place."
"I really need to stop, for other…" he grinned, "…personal needs. I'll catch another ride."
I pulled into the parking lot, and he was ready to jump out.
"What will you do about getting Tesday out of that place?" I asked him.
"I'll be in touch with you. Why don't you take it easy today? You have a lot of information to process in that wonderful mind of yours." He winked. "I have an idea, but I'll need to make a few phone calls, and then I'll call you tonight."
That didn't sound good. I still didn't trust him.
He snickered, gave a little salute with his index and middle finger, opened my door, and jumped out of my car. I watched him straighten his suit, brush back his floppy and thick head of gray hair, and then jauntily cross to a liquor store.
I stayed parked, watching, somewhat concerned I left an elderly man on the side of the road, but started back toward my parent's place.
I really had no idea what to do next. Maybe I should visit Brandon Research or see my dad. I could ask my dad to take me to the research place. Make him tell me the truth for once.
There was a small park, and I just felt the urge to pull in and stop. I parked, so that I faced the playground, and a grouping of large oaks and trees I didn't know the names of, but it was an older park. I watched dogs running along with their masters, jogging and happy to be alive. Children had such abandon on jungle gyms and swings. It was cloudy, which cooled temperatures to a pleasant high 60s. Everyone was out enjoying this strip of greenery tucked into this older city.
My eyes were heavy. I'd continued crying after dropping off the professor, and I just closed my eyes, leaning back in my car seat. Why did I care? Why did I want this complication at this time in my life? My memory of her had been wiped and I had a clean slate to just start over and leave all of this behind. But, I couldn't. I couldn't leave "her" behind.
Tesday was there, nudging me awake, and telling me there was a fire. She took my hand. I followed behind her as we were suddenly on the street the clinic was on. She pointed to the building.
Like in dreams, everything passed in strange murky montages. It was becoming a nightmare, as everything, the sky, the ground, the air, darkened.
We were suddenly at the back of the building, and there were two men dressed in dark clothing. They wore gloves, all in black, and boots, wearing dark caps so their faces would be indistinguishable. They entered the back of the building.
Tesday pulled me to follow her inside, but I held her back, telling her "no."
She went inside the building behind the men, and I stood outside waiting for her. I couldn't let her just go inside there alone, and so I pushed myself to enter, walking in from the back offices.
The doctor and the young nurse were dead on the ground. One of the men was standing over them, and one looked at me, but then walked away with folders in his hand.
They were already dead. They killed them.
Tesday took my hand, saying, "Cams," and pulled me, and we were suddenly outside.
And then the building was burning, and she looked into my eyes. "See?"
"Did they kill them?"
She pointed to the building. "I did that."
"No, you didn't," I told her.
"Yes." Only her eyes were staring at me, so intense, they were burning their gaze into mine.
I jolted up in my car seat, breathing hard, feeling like my body was on fire. I patted myself, feeling her hand still pressed at my chest. I could still feel her presence all around me, and even her smell. That was so real. It was like she was actually with me and showing me my dream.
My body was shivering, a cold sweat, the contrast from the heat coming from my body, and the temperatures outside cooling my car.
"What was that?" I whispered to myself. "I think they killed those people. Why were they trying to make Tes believe she killed them? Wait… or maybe, she only started the fire. Did they make her do that?"
I began to consider what old bushy brows told me about her being bred as a weapon to help aid in our fight against terrorism. Where did I fit in all of this? Tesday didn't look much like any weapon. What was going on?
My dad never looked like much more than a retired engineer. When I was little he would always figure out how to make things work and be tinkering in the garage on projects, or take care of broken things around the house. He was a handyman in every way. He was jovial and friendly to the neighbors, always ready to lend a hand. I always looked up to my dad. But with the recent turn of events, there was an underlying suspicion that everything I knew and believed of my dad was no longer valid.
When I walked in the house my dad was sitting in his office at the back. I entered and he greeted me with a smile. That was my dad.
"Hi hon! What brings you by?"
"I um… was wondering if we could talk about some stuff."
He was punching his keyboard, his reading glasses perched at the tip of his nose. "Sure hon, let me just finish up."
"Okay." I sat in a seat across from his desk.
He glanced over at me, his round and friendly face smiling slightly, but this time there was something different. He looked slightly consternated at my appearance.
He typed something on his keyboard and then finally turned his attention to me and asked, "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm just thinking over this last two years."
Dad sighed lightly, pulling back from his keyboard and then pulled off his reading glasses.
"You want to know about Tesday," he stated plainly.
"Yes dad, I know you know and everything about how you worked as a biochemist at Brandon Research, and…"
"Hold up," he leaned forward. "You need to slow down."
"Dad, I'm finding out all this stuff about you."
"Exactly. About me, and not from me."
"So then… so then explain to me dad." I felt my entire body slump. "Please dad. I'm losing my mind over all of this."
I'm sure he saw the complete and utter helplessness in my face and body language.
"Sweetheart, I thought…" he leaned back in his chair, the wheels rolling it back from his desk slightly. "I thought I could just make it all disappear."
"But dad…" I felt I would cry again. "She's a human being. You can't make people disappear dad. You can't make me disappear."
"I wanted to make my past disappear."
"The past? One thing from history I learned, it's that it never disappears. It changes form and constancy and it will even change opinions for a while, but it was already set in stone when it happened, like mistakes and poor judgment. You can't ever make the past disappear."
My dad, down deep, I knew he was a good man, and a kind man. I had to believe he would never hurt me or Tesday.
"Dad please? I need to help her right now."
He sighed heavily again. He only continued staring at his computer screen in thought.
"Dad, I need answers. I know what happened to me wasn't some brain disease or whatever. I know why I was kept in that freaky hospital getting my mind wiped. It was something out of a science fiction novel."
"I'm sorry hon."
"You did that to me." I pointed to the side of my head. "My brain is in here and I am really bothered you messed with my head, dad."
"Yes, I thought it was what was best."
"Having something done to another against their will or without their knowledge is never for anyone's best, dad."
He smiled. "You really have grown up into quite the young woman."
"I don't need…" now I sighed. "I don't need your admiration. I need your help. Please? Please dad, I'm begging you. I need you to help me."
He closed the lid of his laptop, grunted a little and then stood. He walked over to his bookshelf, pushed something at the back, and the door opened up. He turned to me, his finger over his lips not wanting me to speak, looking clandestine, and then waved for me to follow. It was like something in a murder mystery, as the entire book case pushed open to the false wall that led to a room.
I followed him, and inside was a small room.
I walked inside and then he scooched between me and the door to close it behind us, and lights lit up the small room of books, a desk, two chairs, and all looking like a professor's man cave.
"This room is sound proof," he told me. "Even your mother has never seen this room."
"What the fu…fudge dad? What are you? Do you work for the government? Are you a spy?"
"Have you seen this pudgy body and these knees?" He laughed, and pointed at the comfy looking cloth chair, and I sat. "I have everything I've ever worked on in this room."
He turned to me quickly before sitting in the chair across. "By the way, Gerry is a great guy, fun as heck, but I wouldn't put my life in his hands." He sat down. "Gerry was an over-educated sperm donor for Brandon Research and Labs. We became good friends – we just clicked and loved RC cars."
"Wait a minute, he was a what?"
"He tested high in psychic ability and that's the type of individuals they needed back in the 70s and 80s. He was able to collect enough research to write a book that didn't sell well." He snickered. "Gerry is a hoot. What did he tell you about me?"
"He said you were a biochemist and that you had me and Tesday separated and taken away."
"Well, I told them I was okay with their plans to try and remove the link you shared with Tuesday Everton. She's very dangerous, and I hadn't realized until you showed up at the hobby store that she had found you. It concerned me that she found someone who was in a strange way, a familial link. She has an extremely volatile power within her brain and it's dangerous."
"Whoa wait." His whole tenure and knowledge surprised me. My dad was so back seat and unimpressive while growing up, but now he just sounded like a callous mad scientist.
"What's wrong hon?"
"It's just…" I waved my hand across the room of books and everything. "It's just, what the hell? What are you dad?"
"I'm your dad." He leaned forward, smiling with that smile that calmed my nightmares when I was little and the one who beamed when I got my degrees.
"Then… dad? Please help me save Tesday. I don't know. I never felt this way toward another person. I… I love her dad." And more forcefully, "she doesn't deserve to be locked away in a mental facility as a human lab rat."
His eyes lowered, and he shook his head lightly. "Sweetheart, there will be other people in your life. You're young."
"Wait what?" I backed up in my chair. "What are you saying? She's expendable?"
"She's not someone who should be in your life. You meeting her was a mistake. You are going to Stanford and she's not going to be around much longer. Just… just get on with your life? Why can't you just do that?"
I fell back in my seat, so blown away by how he spoke.
"What do you mean? A mistake?! You act like she's just some… thing. A thing that hasn't any thoughts or feelings, or… a soul. What kind of monster are you dad? What type of company did you work for that made you like this?"
"That's not it hon. Like all the other children. I'm sorry hon, but Tesday has an advanced form of cancer. She won't be around for you to invest so much energy…"
"Energy?" I felt the air rush out of my lungs, the punch so hard in my gut. All these thoughts and feelings rushed at my outer edges, burning at my appendages, as he said what I thought he said: Tes was dying.
A tear slid from my eye as I considered what he shared.
"It's not energy I'm wasting. I'm being human." My words caught in my throat. "They're… hurting her in that facility. It's cruel. Even if she has a week, or a month, or a year to live, no one should live their last days being kept and experimented on."
"You need to forget her, sweetheart."
"I can't dad." My eyes were watery with tears. "I can't. And, if you won't help me, I'll find a lawyer, or a news reporter, or someone who will help me."
He stood from his chair, pacing to the door we entered and then back. His jaunt was uneven when he walked. His knees were very bad, deteriorating with a type of osteoarthritis that swelled the joints in the knees. It did illicit empathy for my dad whenever I watched him walk.
"I'm going to tell you something that can never leave this room. This is information I have never been able to share because of my work and non-disclosures. You're a smart young lady, and the things I've found out about in this world will be something difficult for you to grasp or understand. But, I want you to know I'm not a monster."
I quietly sat.
"I helped with developing a way to inject alien DNA into humans with certain natural abilities. We first used lab rats and monkeys. We saw a somewhat impressive ability for them to have no adverse effects, and so when the time came to move forward - and this, by the way, was in 1978 decided to try it on young women and men. Gerry MacArthur was one of the many test subjects." He grinned, letting loose a light chuckle. "He ended up coming on staff once he got his degree. I was intrigued by the prospect of watching this advanced work over time. It was my dream come true to work on a project that could prove helpful in every aspect. We could cure cancer, brain diseases, problems with aging, and even life span in the average human. We could do so much more if we could use this DNA as a way to expand and enhance the human brain.
"However… over time this miracle cure was becoming more of a curse to those who had been injected. They all developed cancer that began at the lower cortex, just above the third and fourth vertebrae. Many died immediately, but others lived and later it spread until they were paralyzed or simply debilitated and slowly died of the cancer.
"By 1988 we shut down the project. Human beings were just not meant to be bred with an alien DNA. Brandon, however, kept open his doors because he had four subjects that were not behaving like the other subjects. He said it would just take time to develop. These were the third generation children. We knew that the more ensconced the strain of blood would infiltrate deeper into the human DNA they had a much better chance of survival. In fact, it was worth looking into, but it would mean taking the children already with DNA and now breeding them to make another group.
"The government liked the idea that their more telekinetic and psychic abilities could be enhanced and for a while in the 80s, during certain administrations, as the threat of terrorism grew, they wanted to use the research for military work.
"However, because the human subjects kept weakening and eventually dying, it wasn't showing the progress wanted."
"So you would just keep abusing children?" I asked, incredulous.
"I know it all seems macabre…"
"Try unethical and immoral?"
"I questioned using actual human beings and children. The work was beginning to bother my conscience, and I quit with a very nice pension. With my leaving Brandon, all the information was no longer privy to me. And, I didn't' mind that. I wanted it to be left behind."
"You wanted to alleviate your guilt?"
"No… well maybe. But Brandon said they were all handling the alien DNA better than the other subjects. He said, it never hurt them. And it didn't hurt them."
"Keeping them in a little room and continually experimenting isn't hurting them?"
My dad shook his head, as if he could shake something so unconscionable out of his own thoughts.
"It didn't matter. The funding was taken away with the new administration, and money is what makes the world go round. They just didn't have the funds to keep the facility running on plausible and possible outcomes. There wasn't the results they wanted within the time span, and so they had to let the children go. Those four young adults, believe it or not, are Gerry MacArthur's sperm donor relations, and followed only his bloodline. There was something about Gerry. He was actually the only first generation subject that's still alive. It's given him a bit of leeway with Brandon because he's an anomaly."
I sat up, more curious. "Are you saying he has four kids out there with his DNA and alien DNA?"
"Actually, grandkids. The second generation all died – one of which was Rachel. I know you were looking into her too." My dad breathed heavily in thought. "Gerry was injected with alien DNA, and so I noticed he's always been a little weird. He wanted to find all of his so-called grandchildren, and bothered Brandon to give him the records. But, he's not actually related to them. He was acting like they were his actual relatives. The guy lost it."
"But they are, in some weird way, related to him."
"No, because he gave up that right to Brandon Research. They all belong to Matthew Brandon."
"Actually, if they are adults they don't actually belong to anyone. They have rights. And, where are the other three, other than Tesday, that is?"
"I'm not sure."
"Would they have the same abilities as Tesday?"
"In what way?"
"I think…" I thought over my dream. "I think she may have a more telekinetic ability to start fires and such. She might actually have like… X-Men level enhanced powers."
My dad nodded, giving an offhanded laugh. "Mutations are never stronger, like in comic books. Mutation brings about a weakening. That's natural entropy following it's course."
"Not if it becomes something else entirely. Evolution is all about types of change to enhance the ability to survive in a changing environment. What if they can do more than start a fire with their mind? I would think the government would have an idea of where they are or want to know… if they were involved in any way, that is…? I think the reason Tesday is being tested is because they know exactly what she's capable of and how their experiment developed and it's not shut down or over."
I began to think over tests. What if… Tesday didn't have cancer and it was all a ruse to just keep testing and seeing how far they could go in all this?
"Who's behind all this dad? I mean, this all started as just a touchy feely little humor piece, slice of life kind of thing, and now we have a whole blown out of proportion story like the X-Men or something looming for future trilogy or book series here."
"What are you talking about?"
"The fourth wall being broken, and an aside to my readers."
"You're not making sense hon."
And that's when I closed my eyes, considering everything that had happened to me since the moment I met Tesday. I was just a history buff who became a history major and loved the idea of studying all of the stuff that brought the world to this point in tomorrow's history. I wanted to be part of history by studying it and I really loved it.
But then, I met Tesday and found out there was a hidden history that you don't read about in books. You don't find out this stuff except on conspiracy theory websites. I couldn't go to an actual known historical tome and read on the subject of aliens. It was left for crazy people.
By the way, this is what I had become: a crazy person.
You see, you don't study this and come out alive, or sane. You study this type of stuff to kill your future career as an historian or a writer. It's easy peasy to die literally, but more importantly, figuratively. I'd been dying inside for a while.
I lost it.
Tesday was a form of my losing it quite literally.
Of course, that didn't stop me from wanting to save what sanity or life that I did have with her, because I had fallen in love with this character I happened to meet on an afternoon in Texas while working in a Starbucks.
"Sweetheart, are you okay?"
My dad was shaking my shoulder, as I had dozed off, or something while sitting in my chair.
"These chairs are really comfy dad. How'd you move them to your secret lair without mom finding out?"
"Um," my dad looked at me strangely. "I just took a Saturday morning and moved them in."
"After you constructed the secret room?"
"It came with the house."
I started laughing. I started laughing maniacally. I couldn't stop laughing, bowling over in the chair and laughing. It was just so ludicrous and impossibly stupid. How did all of this happen? Why couldn't I stop laughing? I think I was punch drunk from being so tired. I hadn't been eating or sleeping, and now I lost it.
I kept laughing, until it slowly dissipated, like the way emotions travel when you are racked with not knowing what to do.
"I just realized…" and in this I slowed. "I just realized I'm in over my head." The laughing completely stopped. "I just want to take Tes and go for a drive along the west coast on the one-o-one highway, listening to pop music and not stop until I reach Canada. I want to just sit back in awe as we both watch the lights of the Aurora Borealis and talk over stupid things for a while."
My dad was still looking at me strangely, his brow pinched so that it wrinkled more accentuated than a Shar-pei pup.
"Are you okay, hon?"
"No. No dad. I'm not okay." I lifted forward in my seat, my eyes heavy with tears. "I haven't been okay for a long time. I've been lonely and living in obscurity and quiet acceptance of being invisible and sad. I just wanted someone who loved me at the worth I am inside and in my soul. I just wanted to be known because I've just been going through the motions of life and I'm really tired. I saw Tesday and there was this part of me that just felt… full. FULL. I've been this empty, crumbling shell of a person and I just need her in my life. Dad? Please help me get her out of there? We'll leave. She won't bother anyone. I can't stand that she's there and alone, and that the other half of my self, my being, is trapped and I can't reach it. It actually, physically hurts me."
"Sweetheart?" My dad's mouth moved, his Adam's apple sliding up and down, sympathetic.
"No, it's okay dad." In that I stopped myself. "No wait. It's not okay dad. I'm not okay dad. Maybe I need to stay at that mental hospital in Denton."
"Sweetheart… I just," he held to my hand, his warmth pulling me back to the present. "I want to help you out. I think maybe the effects from the center you were in might have done something to you."
"It's not that." I pulled my hand away from his warmth. "This has nothing to do with the mind wipe place. I'm just coming to terms with my own feelings. That's not a bad thing. What you, or Brandon Research, or the government, or all of you all, it's what you have all done. Bad things. You know that, right dad?"
"You can't tell anyone."
"Or what? You'll have me locked away or wipe my mind again? When does it end? Do you need to lobotomize me and make me forget?"
My dad swallowed loudly. "Sweetheart, you need to let this go. Please, now I'm going to beg you. You need to forget you met her, and forget what I told you. You need to learn to let it go. You need to not go and visit her again."
"Did they tell you I visited her?"
"I got a call."
"I see." I stood from my seat, standing over my dad. "So much for being retired from all of that."
"He told me to talk sense into you."
"Who? Who told you? Findley? Brandon? Secret Agent six?"
My dad ran his hand across his face, sighing once again.
"You have a much more vivid imagination than I thought. He was trying to help."
"You just told me about alien/humans and all the shit you did with actual children and human beings. That doesn't take imagination. He's helping you get rid of me? And what happens to Tes?"
"I just don't want you to…"
"To get killed?"
"To get hurt."
"Did they threaten to hurt me?"
"That girl could hurt you."
"That girl? Yeah, she's an actual girl – human – person. She has rights."
"She's dangerous. You don't realize how much."
"And wouldn't the rest of the world like to know."
"You need to keep quiet, sweetheart. Do not push these people."
"What? Will they push back?"
"Yes – and I won't be able to stop what happens then. You will end up just like her, and then…"
"What do you mean just like her?"
"I'm just…, trying to keep you safe." He hit his hands onto the arms of the chair. "Listen to me! Why can't you just get on with your life?!"
I walked to the door, remembering how he opened it and pushed the button.
"Camille? Don't leave."
"Dad," I turned to him before walking out of his little secret room. "I am 'getting on with my life,' and that's why I'm going to help Tes."