Tourmaline: Nedforum (conclusion)
But inspired by a vision of himself too obviously up to something, not at rest on a mental health day (granted via thirty-second phone exchange), but outfitted for the office, escorting his mother around the flea market booths…
And what if he were to buy…
Candleholders, figurines. Tell his mother he would like new curtains and a change of rug…?
All that must start a hare. He wished they would arrest him again, that his power, so abused, would force them to.
“No,” he did tell her, while a seller paged through rugs, walking into the dark center of his display, lifting corners, bringing patterns into better light. “My mood needs tones more psychologically enhancing of positivity. Do you see this ring?”
His hand under the nose drove, closed in a fist. The seller shrank in body, but showed a brave closing-the-sale face.
“I want a yellow that goes with that green.” Anton added, “I don’t know the name of this stone.”
The man, Utdrife…but possibly not, full-Hidtha in scattered communities lived assimilated…chose to nibble at the bait. Anton judged it from the passage of two or three thoughts, eyes and jaw settling at last into acceptance. “A crystal like that will be tourmaline. It is another sort of stone if it is not. Or I should say other green. Other…”
Permitting himself to gesture in search of the word, he removed to a distance, between his person and Anton’s.
“Clarity, you mean? This tourmaline, then.”
The seller gripped a rug, swung it forward to widen the gap, back to reveal itself. “I have yellow with red.”
“I don’t want yellow with red. I want tourmaline.”
“Then I can promise you only I’ll ask my suppliers. Don’t come next week. Come in a month.”
“Can we get lunch now? Or coffee, someplace outside the market.”
“You’re manic. This is too much for you. Stop it, Anton.”
She gasped a little; he had got her by the arm, and was rushing her down the winding aisle, everything arranged to shunt strollers past as many booths, as much merchandise, as possible.
He was manic…he had set a great act in motion. A month.
Aromatic coffees brewed at a food-court booth, one that sold chicken wraps in sweet-and-sour, peppercorn, bacon. Anton halted back of queue, willing Mrs. Leonhardt stay or take the bus by herself, be in his hair or out of it, but silence her ignorance. He must review and mnemonicize all the seller had drawn his attention to.
Screens pendant, from every few meters of ceiling flanking booths, went a sudden blue, a simultaneity that altered the market’s ambience. A chime repeated, E above middle C; the note to best infiltrate human consciousness, stilling thought. Anton’s overstimulated brain had been trained to this in captivity, and he lost for a moment the whole of his day.
The blue came alive as a moving picture, uniformed journalists furious over their phones, riding moving sidewalks behind bulletproof panels, along the plaza that approached the High Court building. Between the walks a motorcade moved at a footpace. It moved ahead of the press area, past guard units standing in ranks, to stop where two of the G.R.A.’s windowless vehicles sat parked, right and left, like the lion carvings of historical pass-structures.
It is announced today that former president Jocelyn has been returned to the nation. He will be imprisoned below the High Court for the duration of his trial, and all proceedings will be closed to the public.
Some hundreds of shoppers watched buoyed to patriotic mood by the knowledge that everyone, everywhere, did the same, their heartbeats rising for a sight of Jocelyn. They watched him drawn from the car’s back seat, dressed in suit and tie, still fat; still, for a fat man, notably broad of beam (no one, at this moment, laughing), and difficult on pronating ankles for his guards to haul upright…
But at length he was marched to the stairs and turned for the cameras.
A woman began to make noises, insufferable keenings that resolved to sobs. Others were saying shut up, not comforting her. The screens switched off; the room felt dark. Anton blinked, labeling her a traitor, though she might be anyone…
Hearing her, not seeing her.
“Sulya, they have another announcement.”
“Shht!’ She poked his arm. “I have a screen of my own.”
“They’ve appointed his legal team.”
“What are you twitching at, Anton? Settle down. I am seeing everything that you are seeing.”
Her last words slow and emphatic.
He singsonged it to her. “Love, love, love. Or…didn’t you love him? Don’t you?”
“I met him once.”
“What was he like to talk to?”
“Gave me a point of the finger, as if we were sharing a joke. One of his stupid gestures, because he hadn’t caught my name and couldn’t care, of course. He backed off and got busy talking to Zendler, so not to end up shaking hands.”
Zendler, vanished, until the G.R.A. chose bringing him to light, had been Jocelyn’s chief-of-staff.
“Why, then…? Why not refuse? It was your ministry issued passports. People died waiting. Your little hand rubber-stamping…”
“Oh, shut up. What do you think we’re doing here, the two of us? We’re fingering people. We’re making it easy for the G.R.A. to pick them off.”
She was combative, and hadn’t been with him before. Exciting. So many nice people were not, on the inside, Anton knew. No solace in being powerless and forced to obey orders…
But he saw degrees. “Which is best, then? Killing for Jocelyn or killing for the G.R.A.? Do you like it when you’re in charge, or just a participant?”
“Truly fuck yourself, Anton.”
Associate Leonhardt, you have an appointment at the Hiring Center, tomorrow morning, 13 April, 9.30 am. Your employment at the Public Controls Office is terminated. Your new assignment begins Monday afternoon at the High Court Building, in the Archival Room. You have one hour, from today, 12 April, 4.22 pm, in which to report arrived at your home or face corrective instruction.
“Look at that.” At the chime, she had come to lean over his shoulder, her nails on his chair back, touching his skin. It seemed so to Anton, a drilling sensitivity through jacket and shirt. “Run across Jocelyn yourself, maybe. Well! I’ve enjoyed knowing you, Anton. I’m sorry you’re off your head. Best of luck.”
He would, though. Run across Jocelyn…? In some unexpected way, but one calibrated, bit by bit. Not to the assassin at all unexpected, for every breath now was mission. Sulya had been a plant, to test his resolve. Laying traps. His assignment in actuality to think of all things that could be weapons, all ways of killing that were on one’s person or at hand in a room. Innocent articles to port indoors in pieces, and assemble…bit by bit.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)