The Psych-doc was sitting in a large faux-leather chair, the back of which towered above his head. The top of the chair had a panel, which incorporated a camera, sound equipment and recording devices. The person sitting in the chair merely had to pose the questions and all information was processed through his or her chair into the mysterious chambers beyond the Perspex walls of the “Counselling Room”.
“Tell me Ariadne, about your request?” the man said smoothly. Ari knew that each Psych-doc they sent her was trained to keep their emotional feelings and thoughts as quiet as possible. They were drilled in the art of merely asking rote questions, prepared well in advance and rehearsed with as much repetition as to inure the questioner against imprinting the question with their own emotional energies. Ari never got to really “know” a Psych-doc because “They”, on the outside of the Perspex, deliberately kept them on a wide enough rotation that she only saw each one a few times a year, at most.
She could still sense the rush of their heightened emotional energy as they entered the Counselling room, they could never quite mask the combination of fear, awe, excitement, self-focus, horror and sadness inside of them when they initially entered. They would never engage Ari in “idle” chit chat while they composed themselves for the session, and she would often find herself sitting in her own chair, watching them shut their emotional radars down as best as they could. Some were better at it than others. Women were always easier to read for the most part.
In a way, it was like the Psych-docs were as manipulated and controlled as she and the other mutants. They seemed to be almost hypnotically induced once they sat in their own chair, and their initial rush of emotion was quickly pulled in and down like shutters against the glare of a high noon sun. Their voices would change and all of them would speak in a similar tone, a deep, soft, mellifluous drawl as if dark chocolate were pouring from their mouths instead of pre-rehearsed questions. Their personalities, temperaments and their uniqueness were quelled and subdued to the point where each Psych-doc, male - or female - blended one into the other. It was deliberate, strategic and very, very costly. A good Psych-doc on a program such as this, earned Leverage Credit very much above that of the ordinary citizen, sometimes in excess of ten times more!
Ari always felt a little bit sorry for the Psych-docs despite hating what they made her say and do in these sessions. They were considered Normal Human Beings, whilst she and her fellow mutants were considered mere crops to be analysed, studied, genetically modified and controlled. She was not a Normal Human Being. The irony to this was that she at least could behave uniquely, different insofar as possible from her own genetic group. Uniqueness was encouraged among the different varieties of Ariadne. She was a special case in point as she was only the second mutation to display such strong empathic powers. Her predecessors’ genes had been a freak of nature, the cells of which had been quickly grafted into the next crop. Ariadne was the only one of this next crop to show any evidence that this particular genetic accident might be reproducible. Being empathic, as well as her extraordinary art, had kept this Ariadne strain from being re-integrated a lot longer than most.
The argument still raged in scientific papers as to whether this Ariadne should be sacrificed to scientific progress again or kept for further developmental studies. Her additional attributes, empath and artistic genius, in addition to her designed inability to shed tears meant that, so far, the camp for keeping her alive, were winning the debate.
The Psych-doc sitting in the chair was looking at her silently. Up until now, his focus had been entirely on himself, going within to quiet his own capacity to throw emotional information Ari’s way. Now, that he felt contained, he was studying Ari intently. Waiting for her to reply to his initial question, he looked down at the small table between their two chairs facing opposite each other. On the table were two glasses and a pitcher of water and a little packet. The packet was transparent and vacuum-sealed. Ari noticed it was a new bottle of eye drops.
“They’re different” she commented, avoiding his original question.
“Yes Ariadne. They are,” answered the Psych-doc matter-of-factly.
“What will they do?” she asked again
“We will find out.”
“Oh” replied Ari disconsolately. Some of the eye drops they’d given to her in the past had made her eyes very sore and they had burned constantly. Some had made her vision particularly blurry and the shapes of things had been difficult to make out in low lighting. Other eye drops had had the effect of blinding her temporarily in the eyes. She’d learned to not drop the other eye if this happened, so she could still see enough to draw her spirals, at the very least. Sometimes, they would refuse her the basic saline tears she kept at hand all the time. However, the dryness in her eyes would eventually cause her to pound at the Perspex and scream for it to wet her eyes in relief. She hoped that these eye drops would not have too many side effects.
“I need more saline,” she said, placing her own bottle, almost empty, on the table.
“It will be arranged,” said the Psych-doc simply. He never said when.
He repeated his question, more slowly and deliberately, his voice a study in the deep rich tones of conciliatory calm. “Tell me, Ariadne, about your request.”
To be continued…(I hope)