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Chapter 3: New Arrivals

I have a desk of my own. I’m part of the team and I have a desk. Did I mention that I have a desk?

The office used to be a waiting room. The carpets are kind of dirty, but at least they are still carpets. There are five desks. One of them is mine! The Commissioner and the three department directors have desks facing the four windows. Mine was kind of in the middle, but I moved it.
When the Commissioner left to tour the facilities this morning, he told me to “tell anybody who asks that I’ll be back before noon.” When he returned, I told him that my desk should be closer to the entrance if I’m going to be responsible for telling visitors where everybody is. He only shrugged.

One might say that he just doesn’t care what happens, but I prefer to think that he has a lot of confidence in other people’s decisions and, specifically, mine. He didn’t offer to help and, in fact, barely looked up when I was pushing my furniture up to the front of the room. But now I’m in the front! On the good side, it feels a little bit like I’m an office manager or one of those incredibly efficient secretaries who actually runs everything, like Celeste Holm in old movies. On the bad side; it feels a little bit like I just made myself a receptionist.
But my “office mates” come and go a lot. I’m the only one who has work that needs to be done from my desk nearly all of the time. We’re a team,

I think.

I had another reason for wanting to move my desk. Before, his office chair and my office chair were separated by some space and two desktops. Now, thanks to careful furniture placement and my idea of feng shui, there’s only a little space. I can just lean over toward him a little bit and have a conversation, practically a private conversation!

Also, I can hear every conversation he has. Am I getting to be like one of those women who obsesses over a man? Always ends in tragedy.

The first people who waited to see him this afternoon were a Dr Anson Johns and his assistant, Jane Early. They look like some kind of athletes. They don’t exactly walk, but kind of spring, in small steps, across the carpet. They’re both slender and way too healthy to have lived through the past few years of environmental misery and disease. Most “white people” aren’t actually white, but it seemed to me that these two were. Their light shade, like their movements, seemed to match. He’s older, but they seem too much alike to be anything but brother and sister, unless, in fact, they’re an item.

I am pretty sure that the Commissioner knew them, but he was very formal and brief in talking to them, then he ushered them over to me. “Miss Eason will record and transcribe your proposal,” he said, and invited Dr Johns to sit down. Then, surprisingly, he nodded toward the lady and said,

“Do you need her?”

Dr Johns said he didn’t need her, so she went back with the Commissioner to his desk. I’d kind of like to know what they said, but was busy with the good doctor. He talked into my recorder as if I wasn’t there, or as if he were imagining that thousands of people were listening and he was giving an important address. I expected to have to ask some questions to prompt him, but he was a man who needed no cues.

“I am Dr Anson Johns, recently of Sasakwa, Oklahoma. Mr Kerr, Chairman of the revolutionary government will remember me personally as we attended school together. Commissioner Torres is also familiar with me and with my work, and he knows the benefits firsthand.

‘My field is psychology. My proposal is a simple one: to rehabilitate drug addicts, human beings, without regard for how desperate their situation or how high the expectations as to their state upon completion. My system involves mechanics as well as medicine, psychology as well as physiology. I can make a competent person, perhaps even more than competent, from the most desperate cases.

‘A minimum amount of energy is required to operate my project once all the machinery is in place. I only ask for an opportunity to practice my system here, among those who would volunteer. I will be happy to enclose a more technical explanation of my process along with this transcription, and I shall remain nearby to answer any questions that may come up. Is that sufficient?”
At the end, he wasn’t talking to me, he had raised his voice and was directing himself toward the Commissioner. Commissioner Torres seemed taken aback, apparently he didn’t want to interrupt his conversation with Ms Early.

“If you say so, Dr Johns,” the Commission said, then added somewhat casually, “Will you be staying in the area? I mean, if our treatment specialist has any questions?”

“We will be,” Johns said.

“Maybe we can catch up a bit when there’s time,” the Commissioner said, more or less to the ceiling. Then he turned directly to Ms Early and asked, “May I call?” She said yes, to the floor more or less. Some kind of feeling was beginning to arise in the nape of my neck and the back of my throat, but I wasn’t sure, then, what it was.

When they had left, the Commissioner stood by my desk and asked if he could add a few lines to the transcript. I said of course and he said, “This is for the benefit of the Treatment Center, Dr Willamette. Dr Anson Jones has a rather complicated process for rehabilitating the worst possible patients and I know for a fact that sometimes, it works. He is, in fact, one of his own beneficiaries. He was a fat old man with a severe alcohol problem when I met him a year or so ago, and now he seems far healthier. If he had come in alone, I would never have recognized him.

‘The downside of his process, if it gets approved by the Project Planners and by you, Dr Willamette, is that it takes several days and is limited by the machinery he operates and the staff he has. I doubt he will be able to rehabilitate more than 5 or 6 addicts in a single month, if it works at all. For my part, though, I’m not opposed to letting him become part of the colony as long as he pays for everything himself. Put that with his proposal, be sure to add their contact information, and make sure Willamette sees it all.”

I said I would. And I asked if I could go out for a few minutes. “Suit yourself,” he said. I hurried out to try to catch up with Jane Early. Early and Johns were walking out of the building when I caught up and asked if I might show them around the colony. Johns to Early, “You can, I’m going back to do some serious lobbying.”

So it transpired that I was able to get Jane Early to myself as we walked through the big construction site that was going to be the world’s largest drug addict colony. I was dying to talk to her. Turns out that she’s quite a talker, too, and shares information without qualifications.
As soon as I thought I wasn’t sounding too eager, I suggested as innocently as I could make it sound, “So, you knew the Commissioner before?”

She gave a pretty little smile, on her pretty little oval face, and said directly, “You have a crush on him.”

“Well,” I tried to explain in a dismissive way, “I may feel a little bit
in awe of him, I don’t see how anybody could not be…”

“Never mind,” she cut me off, “What do you want to know?”

Suddenly, I couldn’t remember why I was even there, or why I wanted to talk to her, or, more to the point, what I wanted to know.

“It began with Dr Johns’ rehabilitation system,” she narrated. “Mr Torres was assigned, just last year, to investigate that project and see if it could continue. While he was there, he fell in love with me and I with him. What he didn’t know, and what I didn’t know, was that I was myself one of Dr John’s patients, in fact the first successful one. I was still in the later stages of recovery. At that time, I knew almost nothing of my own sordid history, and it has been slowly coming back to me since then, and still is.

‘The Commissioner decided that Dr John’s project wasn’t worth the energy it would consume, but before Torres could shut it down, Johns made himself his own patient. A long recovery period is involved in it. As the only other person interested in seeing Dr Johns survive, I was stuck there to see the patient through. The Commissioner left, I think partly because he had finished his assignment and, maybe, partly because he was frustrated with me. He felt that I had chosen Anson over him.”

“How does it work?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“Well, it essentially wipes out all memory, even involuntary muscle activity, for a time. Patients are put into metal drums filled with special chemicals based on amniotic fluids. By the way, it has an amazing effect on one’s hair and complexion, but that’s a side effect. The patient is subjected to mathematically determined random movements for a period of time, at least until the patient has lost all possibility of being able to control anything, his or her body or mind. All this has to be done with the greatest care and precision, because people die in that drum. I don’t know how many were buried before I came along, but it worked on me. It worked on Dr Johns. Under my care, he eventually survived and recovered most of his memory and 100 percent, 110 percent, of his dedication to remaking broken people.”

“It sounds like the answer to everything,” I gasped.

“That’s what Anson thinks, but Torres doesn’t. Even though it may succeed in a medical sense, it’s way too slow a process to have any chance of mending a society, and mending a society is, whether he agrees or not, Torres’ business. It’s also dangerous. It worked on me and it worked on Anson, but there are many, many variables among human beings. It may only work on a few select types. Anson wants to go on experimenting until he perfects it, then he wants some kind of mass rehabilitation factory. I wouldn’t have even agreed to come here with Anson except that many of the addicts who are assigned to this colony are at the end of their lifetimes anyway.”

“Did you also come for Leo Torres?” I asked meekly.

She didn’t answer and we soon parted. That leaves me free to speculate. She had said that she was “in recovery” when they had their affair, so she probably didn’t know, at that time, what was real and what wasn’t.

Maybe she came here to find out?

Anyway, I most sincerely wish she hadn’t.



--July Eason, Project Archivist


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