Issue 64 Sep 2018
Jackson knew it was nothing good when his mom showed up at the high school with his father in the car. His dad looked like an overgrown child, holding his briefcase on his lap like a lunchbox. Jackson couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen him in a car he wasn’t driving.
He didn’t feel any better when they pulled up to Ray’s office.
Parents liked Ray because he was different from other therapists. None of that touchy-feely garbage, Ray cut to the point. Sometimes kids thought he was cool. Tattoos covered every inch of his jacked up arms. Before getting clean, he’d been a gearhead, or a deadhead, or some kind of head. Metal, maybe. The admiration seldom lasted.
He hadn’t moved offices since their last visit, but the building had changed, for the worse. Jackson always thought this strip mall behind the freeway a strange place for a therapist’s office. Before, it at least shared space with normal stores: florists, Chinese restaurants, ambulance-chasing attorneys. Now it was payday loans and vape shops.
Austin and his mom were already in the waiting room when they walked in. He looked like a Westie, with tear-wrecked eyes under his curly blond skater mop. In a long dress and too red lipstick, Austin’s mom looked dressed for a job interview instead of a therapy appointment.
Jackson’s mom wrapped Austin’s in a hug. She let her, but didn’t reciprocate. Instead, she stared at Jackson’s father, as if as the only man in the room, he alone had the capacity to sort this all out. He looked uncomfortable. Therapy wasn’t his forte, even with a hard ass like Ray. Austin’s dad wasn’t in the picture anymore.
First published in the print anthology Futuristica Vol. II (Metasagas Press, 2017).
Doctor Stephenson leaned forward and smiled reassuringly. “Tell me, Mandy, what do you experience when you switch between your implants?”
The girl across the table remained silent.
“Your parents are worried about you.”
She was usually difficult to get to talk and would just sit silently crouched in her chair like some frightened little animal – but there was something different about her now. Doctor Stephenson started being suspicious about its reason.
“Am I talking to Mandy?” he asked, suddenly with a very stern expression.
“No,” the girl said defiantly.
“I want to hear her opinion now.”
“Why? It’s my damned life too! Who ever cares about my opinion? Nobody!”
“I will hear you out, I promise. But I need to talk to Mandy first.”
After a short pause, she spoke: “Fine.”
The girl changed in front of his own eyes. It wasn’t dramatic, one might not even notice it at first sight, but he knew the signs. Her look changed. She lowered her shoulders and stooped a little. Her muscle tone rose up as if she was nearly in a spasm. She seemed a little nervous but also distant.
“Now, Mandy,” he said softly, “you do remember my question. Please, tell me.”