A Matter Regarding Your Son- Ch.1
A MATTER REGARDING YOUR SON
The morning light poured in from every window as Athena sat down to eat the instant toast that she had prepared. She had pulled her long silky black hair into a bun so that it did not contaminate her food. She made sure that her napkin was on her lap and that her hands were perfectly clean before she picked up a piece and prepared to take a bite. She felt a rush of wind behind her and heard the rapid thud of feet racing toward the shoe closet. She gasped, knowing that sound all too well.
“For the love of- Benjamin, you’re still here?” She heard the rapid rhythmic pace of Benjamin’s feet far too often to ever mistake the sound for anything else. Even when he wasn’t in a hurry, Benjamin was always running.
“I’m on my way out I swear!” The last word was muffled by a loud thud and the sound of shoes tumbling on the hardwood floor.
Athena sighed and turned back to her food. Benjamin was always running, but even more often he was running late. She didn’t know where he got it from. She’d rather have one of those huge bulky, what were they called, cars from the junk yard run her over than be a minute late for anything.
Benjamin came into the kitchen, no doubt to grab some instant toast for the road. His jet black curls were exceptionally untamed this morning and his pale skin held the imprints from where his sheets had held him. Athena smiled upon seeing that he was wearing the school uniform as it should be worn today. The uniform consisted of a simple pair of black dress pants with a plain black button up shirt, but Benjamin had a nasty habit of adding little pins or a bandana or tucking his shirt in a peculiar manner. She couldn’t for the life of her understand why he did this, but she knew that it was unacceptable according to school policy.
He turned his head toward her, slightly smirking.
“Thanks.” she said airily. He rolled his eyes, showing her that he knew exactly what she was hinting at. They had fought about it enough times that she didn’t think he could easily forget.
He grabbed the toast and stuffed it messily into his backpack. He walked over and let her kiss him on the cheek.
“See you after school.” She turned back to her food.
“See you.” He mumbled as he ran to the door.
“Remember, be safe to be normal,” she began to recite.
“Be normal to be safe.” He finished for her. It was something she said to him every morning. In fact, she could hear echoes of the same chant coming from a few neighboring houses with children also on their way to school.
Athena waited until she heard the door shut before she ran to the upstairs window. She watched Benjamin walk across the stone patio surrounded by vivacious green grass and make a right when he reached the smooth black road. She watched the way that his shoulders lifted and dropped heavily. She could practically hear him sighing from here. Benjamin wasn’t fond of school.
The road that Benjamin walked to school was straight with houses on either side that were equally sized, colored, and spaced apart. There were relatively large trees behind each of the houses, but nothing on the road, so Athena could watch Benjamin walk to school for about a mile of the journey. Benjamin was almost to the point where he would fade out of sight. Athena didn’t like this part, because it looked like all of the trees and identical houses were looming over Benjamin, but it was also very aesthetically pretty- the sun was rose right at the point where Benjamin would disappear. Athena left the window, glad to have had some time that she could look at Benjamin with all of the reverence with which a mother wishes to look upon her son. As of late they sort of had an unspoken understanding that they would get along much better if they refrained from talking unless it was necessary. He was a seventeen year old boy, what could she possibly expect? She had read all of the books a dozen times. It was normal for them to be distant.
Though she still had exactly one hour until she had to be at work, she decided to begin the journey. After all, the walk took thirty five minutes on average and she still wanted to be prompt. She quickly put on her work clothes, a white lab coat coupled with a pair of white scrubs bottoms. After grabbing a canteen of water and her briefcase, she set off down the road opposite of the one that her son had just taken. This road, rather than being open and unhindered, was obscured by trees and various other forms of untamed plant life.
As she walked, she flipped through all of her papers, making absolutely sure that she was prepared for the day. The papers that she carried with her that morning were each headed with the name Garret Allen Bioney, the patient that she had been working with for the past six days. Glancing over the papers she excitedly realized that phase three of the treatment process would begin that day.
As she walked she reached the point where the trees parted, revealing the great white marble building. The bulk of the building was simply a perfectly erected overshadowing square. It was difficult to even distinguish it as a building, for there were no visible windows or doors. The only way that one would recognize that it wasn’t a giant block was the pitch black lettering atop the building that read “Alteration Department 1107”. There were smaller sections based around the building for purposes such as human deformities and emergency transplants, but this great and powerful block was Athena’s home. As she gazed upon its glory she thought, as she often did, of how ecstatic she was that she could do her part of the Humanity Personality Transplant Initiative, the company that had originally funded the creation of buildings like hers.
Garret, as every other patient, had begun with phase one which consisted of a therapeutic session in which she would allow him to get his feelings out about the process and, ultimately, convince him that it was absolutely necessary for him to change. The patient needed to be convinced of this before he was able to move forward. Phase two, then, had been a combination of classical shock conditioning and the therapeutic sessions between each trial, to make sure the patient is moving along well mentally. Garret had done particularly well in the process thus far. He seemed willing enough to change, which almost rendered phase one entirely unnecessary.
A smile played on her face, for she knew that phase three would be even easier for him. He’d be asleep for the majority of it. This phase involved administering various hallucinogenic drugs along with projecting certain images into the brain and doing both in a specific sequence. For example, say that the patient needs to be more athletic. One would project various images of different sporting events coupled with a hallucinogenic drug designed to give one the feeling of immense pleasure. This was designed in order to cause the desired traits to be seen as “good” and the others to be seen as “bad” in the subconscious mind of the patient. Athena liked this stage because it required precision, which she prided herself in.
Athena reached the grounds of the building and approached the door of her department. She scanned the palm of her right hand, her ID card, and put in the appropriate pass-code, causing the door to slide open.
Stepping into the hallway she had to squint in order to see properly. She thought she should be used to the phosphorescent light coupled with the brilliantly white paint that covered every inch of the wall, ceiling, and floor, yet her eyes always seemed to be surprised. She almost headed straight for her office, but, realizing that she hadn’t washed her hands since she left the house, she rushed toward the bathroom.
It was much more dimly lit in there and Athena dashed to the sink and gratefully let the liquid run over her hands. She always needed to wash her hands. Only then did she feel clean- or almost clean. As close to clean as she ever felt.
She heard a flush behind her and turned around to see her fellow Alterator, Mary Evergreen, coming out of the stall. Athena liked Mary enough to say hello and make small talk when they happened to be in the same room, but she had never desired any further contact with her. Unlike most of the Alterator’s who took great pride in their work and were immensely cheerful, Mary was oftentimes seen sulking and appeared to do her work without the same gusto that filled Athena and the others.
Nevertheless Mary smiled when she saw Athena and they engaged in friendly conversation. Amidst their idle chatter Mary gasped. Her eyebrows shot up into the air and her eyes transformed into two golf balls.
“Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! I almost forgot to congratulate you!” She made a move that looked like she was going to put her arm on Athena’s shoulder, but tried to play it off like she was just fidgeting with excitement.
Athena stared at her blankly.
“Congratulate me?” What the hell was she talking about? Athena couldn’t think of anything that she had done that would call for this sentiment.
Mary’s enthusiasm fell like a brick dropped from the highest point of the building.
“Oh! You don’t know yet! Uh…. I just….. Oh shoot!”
Mary fled from the restroom, leaving Athena puzzled and a little worried. She left the restroom and began to head toward her office. Along the way she felt the eye of every Alterator in the hallway on her. Alterators that she had never spoken to before in her life were smiling and waving at her. Not that she didn’t like the attention, but what the hell was going on?
As she approached her office it hit her. She was being promoted! Oh yes, she knew that all of the extended sections of her reports were being read! Perhaps they were making her a Government Alteration Department Representative.
Shaking with excitement she opened the door to her office, revealing one of the GADRs sitting at her desk. Confused, she entered without saying a word. The GADR, a woman with blonde hair dressed in a man’s suit, motioned for her to sit where the patients typically sit. She hesitantly obeyed.
“How are you doing… today?” She sounded as though she had been about to say Athena’s name, but had forgotten.
“I am well, and yourself?”
“I am here to discuss with you a matter of great importance and great opportunity.”
Athena smiled hearing the last word. It was definitely a promotion.
“It is a matter regarding your son, Benjamin Mason Forust.”
“What about Benjamin?”
“He has been selected to receive an Alteration operation. Congratulations.” She gave the same smile Athena would have expected to receive had she actually acquired a promotion.
Athena didn’t respond. She did not know what to say.
“I realize that it can be a bit of a surprise.” the GADR said with a nonchalant flick of the wrist.
Well, she wasn’t wrong. Athena was surprised, but not for the reasons that the GADR had assumed. Athena was not surprised that Benjamin was being granted an alteration. She had almost expected it- what with him constantly vandalizing the school uniform and that was only what she knew about. No, this was not a shock at all. However, she had expected to feel relief or even happiness upon hearing this news. She had almost looked forward to it for quite a while. Yet she felt the vibrations of the GADR’s voice hit her deep like a knife; hard- like the walls in the room- which were closing in. Short of breath, she tried to get a hold of whatever beast was manifesting itself inside of her because logically it shouldn’t exist- she should be thrilled.
“Maybe a bit,” she replied whenever she felt that her voice would be stable, “thank you.”
“We are happy to do it, Ma’am.” The GADR shook her hand and departed from her office.
Athena sat for a while in the patient’s chair, with no desire to get up except perhaps to wash her hands again.