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Getting The Demons Out
by Neilast


The psychiatrist's lobby was filled with patients. They sat in a row across from the receptionist's desk, lined up like wheat ripe for the picking by some unfeeling machine in one of Mota's farm domes. There was a young woman drooling on herself. An old man plucked at a grotesque mole on his neck over and over. A young boy looked to his right and asked questions, then looked to his left and gave an answer. It was all quite enough to drive a rational person mad.

And at the end of the line was a man named Weyes Phendle who, although completely sane, was nonetheless quite disturbed.

His wife had gone crazy.

She was sitting there, next to him, although she didn't know it. Her eyes were fixed on a needle-like tower of the Parolit skyline visible through the window which was the eastern wall of the office. As the man and wife sat there, the wife's lips never quit moving. The doctors had told Weyes that his wife, his Verona, was having a conversation with herself. Perhaps herselves would have been a more accurate way of phrasing it. She was schizophrenic. Multiple personality disorder. That's what they told him.

Weyes was holding her hand and trying to shush her when a clipboard- wielding attendant, a lime-haired girl of about twenty wearing a white lab coat and looking utterly exhausted, stepped through the door which led to the inner office and said, "Verona Phendle."

"Uh, that would be us," Weyes said hurriedly as he helped his wife to stand.

"This way, sir," the girl said. She stood to the side and pointed down the hall. Weyes led his wife onward. She never ceased her mumbling; her eyes remained locked on the skyscraper visible in the distance.

The attendant, whose tag read HELLO MY NAME IS CAERLYN, led the Phendles into a small room lit only by the light through a tiny window near the ceiling, the blinds over which were tightly closed. A large machine in the rear of the room was covered by a dark blue tarp.

"Just a moment, Mr. Phendle," Caerlyn said. "Dr. Eas will be with you shortly."

Weyes nodded nervously and muttered, "Thank you." He sat his wife down on the examining table as Caerlyn left the room and closed the door behind her.

There was a knock on the door a few moments later. Before Weyes could answer, the door opened and a middle-aged man with graying hair named Earnest Eas entered.

"You are Mr. and Mrs. Phendle," he said.

"That's right, Doctor," Weyes said. "I am Weyes, and this is my wife, Verona."

The doctor looked at a document on the clipboard he carried. He grunted and flipped through a few sheets of paper before seeing, "I see. You're here to have the new procedure done."

Weyes was sweating profusely. He wiped his damp palms on his trousers and said, "Umm, yes, that, that is correct, Dr. Eas, sir." He ran a hand through his hair, which was now much thinner than it had been only six months previous. This action left him looking even more disheveled than he had looked to begin with.

Dr. Eas cocked his head to one side and asked, quietly, "You're sure about this?"

Weyes stammered. "I. I..."

"It's not risky, you know," Dr. Eas said. "This process has been in use for decades now. You know that. But it's never been used for this purpose. Not until recently, anyway..."

Weyes looked at the doctor. His eyes were wide. He was shaking. "It's all right, dear," he said to his wife. He patted her hand. She was still sitting. Staring. Oblivious.

Dr. Eas sighed. "Have you gotten a second opinion? I know an excellent--"

Weyes held up his clammy palms. He was looking at the floor as he said, "No, no, Doctor. I'm sure. We...we discussed it. I don't think she understands..."

A gob of drool fell from Mrs. Phendle's chin. Dr. Eas wanted to wipe it up, but with Mr. Phendle being in such a fragile condition, he was almost afraid to move.

"...but she hasn't voiced any complaints!" Weyes laughed nervously. "No, she...surely hasn't."

"You're aware of what...of what you'll end up with. Right?"

Weyes nodded. "I know that I'll have my wife back."

"But--"

"I know, Dr. Eas," Weyes said slowly. "We've talked about it. All night. I know."

Eas sighed again and set his clipboard down. "Who was that heroine? 'Saint Alis of Landeel' or something like that. Anyway, she was very famous for something she always said. 'Life is precious. Choose it.'" Dr. Eas shook his head. "People really used to believe that. They took it for granted, even. What if they were right?" When Mr. Phendle didn't say anything, Dr. Eas just said "Ah..." and rubbed his hands -- which were themselves rather clammy -- together. "All right then," he whispered. "Let's be on with it."

Caerlyn came back into the room and hooked a series of electrodes to Mrs. Phendle's head. Dr. Eas showed Weyes four schematics on a computer screen.

"Here is your wife's brain, Mr. Phendle, four times over. This first one here--" Dr. Eas pointed to the graphic in the upper left portion of the screen. "-- is your wife's brain the first time we scanned it. Note the different areas. Red, green, and then this blue, here. But look at these others, here. These are scans of your wife's brain while each of her other three personalities are in control. Look at how different the color distribution is."

"What does it mean, Doctor?" Weyes asked.

"It means that your wife's brain operates in fundamentally different ways whenever a different personality is in control. And this here..." The doctor pressed a button and a fifth shot filled the screen. "...is what her brain looks like at times like this, when she is more or less in a daze."

The fifth image was a mass of gray, with a few red, green, and blue patches scattered about.

"What does this mean?" Weyes asked.

"This means that, when your wife is in this state, it is because each of her personalities are struggling to surface. She's in a sort of limbo, between selves."

"I see," Weyes said. "But this procedure can help her?"

"That is correct," Dr. Eas said. He stood and walked over to the machine which lay beneath the tarp. He pulled the cloth away, and the contraption designed to save Mrs. Phendle's sanity was revealed. There was a casket-like space within. Caerlyn and a male assistant laid Mrs. Phendle inside. An opaque cover then slid over her.

"You are certain?" Dr. Eas asked one final time.

Weyes couldn't look at anyone. He just stared at the blinds.

"Yep."

"All right." Dr. Eas pushed a button. There was a light humming. And then it was over.

"That's it?" Weyes asked.

"Yes," Dr. Eas said. "Such are the ways of Mother Brain. She knows what she is doing."

The male assistant knelt over the cover which hid Mrs. Phendle and pulled it aside. A woman sat up in the box.

"Weyes?" she asked as she saw her husband. "What's going on?"

"Verona!" Weyes cried. Weeping, he ran to his wife, lifted her to her feet, and embraced her. "Verona!" he sobbed, "It's you."

"Of course it's me, silly," she said with a chuckle. "But what on Palm is going on?"

"Weyes?"

Weyes closed his eyes when he heard the voice.

Verona turned to face the speaker and screamed.

It was her.

"Weyes? Who is she?"

"Weyes? What's going on?"

Mr. Phendle wearily opened his eyes and looked at what he had done. The four Verona Phendles looked back at him. There was one for each personality. Each of them lost. Confused.

"Weyes...?"

"Weyes, what...?"

"Weyes, what is...""

"Weyes, what is happening?"

They were all identical. From the tips of their heads to the bottoms of their feet to the clothes on their backs, all were indistinguishable.

"What will happen to them?" Weyes asked Dr. Eas. He looked to the three copies of his wife with pitying eyes.

"They will be destroyed," Dr. Eas said as a plastic wall descended and locked the three clones away in a separate chamber. "Unviable tissue masses... You know, this technology was first used to transfer copies of differet parts of a Wren-type android's positronic brain into new Wren bodies, each of which was designed for a specific task. When combined with cloning technology..."

Weyes stared at his wife. She was shaking. Her eyes were full of tears.

"...the possibilities almost suggest themselves."

Over the startled cries of his wife, Weyes asked, "But...which one is the real one?"

Dr. Eas chuckled. "We were hoping you could tell us."

Weyes stared at his wife and then looked to the semi-transparent wall which separated the clinic room from the euthanasia chamber on the other side. He could see the three copies of his wife, shared memories, shared emotions, shared fears, locked in the gassing room which would be their tomb. He watched them claw at the plastic in desperation and he said, almost too quiet to hear, "How could I ever know?"

Fin.

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