"Edie" New Excerpt from Book TWO of Old Men and Infidels
The openCORE, The Unity
She had figured out her name. A fragment of memory … just a fleeting slice … had shown her the face of Malila: short, dark, straight hair framing steady blue eyes in an oval face with a smattering of freckles. Malila was frightened, but resolute, running on heart and adrenaline … and Malila loved her.
The glimpse of Malila voiced to her: “ off.” It had been Malila’s last words to her. It was strange she should cherish that memory, she thought.
Her name was Edie.
She could see now. At least, she had decided to label what she perceived as “sight.” In the past, when she had been with Malila, she had been able to see through her eyes as well as her own.
She felt around herself with the sensations listed in her memories.
That helped a lot. She found that her job in the CORE was to translate for Malila the input to a shared understanding of what the CORE contained. Malila was gone. Her yawning absence hurt, like a lost limb. Edie still could not taste or smell. She had an impression that when she had sensed movement, items appeared bigger and smaller over time. Even so, without any other sense to compare it to, it was just a surmise. Edie’s sight, the sensations she called sight, dimmed and brightened as she waited, was sonorous or brilliant, gave her the sensation of weightless falling or, when she thought she might be moving … pain. She retreated. The painful seeing stopped.
She was getting better at being alone but that was mostly because she had gotten better at remembering Malila. Now, the now that was all she had, she had recovered a library of memories about Malila, her changing voice and appearance over the years. Having never talked with anyone else it was hard to know what kind of a person Malila was until Edie found the transcripts.
She really had no better name for them … had been different from the memories of Malila. In them, the transcripts, Edie had been mute, unable to talk to Malila. She had seen and heard her but had no power to interact with Malila. It had been wrenching. That’s when Edie had seen the old man. He had a word attached to his image, his shape, his scent, his sound: Jesse. Edie could remember Malila’s revulsion at his touch. Unguided by Edie, Malila made mistakes but she also learned. At the time it had made Edie sad. Malila was learning a hostile yet beautiful country without her—without needing her. They had grown up together and now Malila had moved beyond her.
Despite that, Edie had become entranced with the wildness of the outlands, the new skills and experiences of Malila and the character of Jesse. Impossibly old, cruel, harsh, skillful, funny, and wise, caring and tender, Jesse had opened a new chapter in Malila’s life only to have it slammed shut again. Their final misunderstanding was an open wound for Malila, and for Edie.
Malila, Edie’s only confidente, her only link, her only friend, the only reason for Edie’s very existence, had made such a huge mistake with the old man. Even Edie could see it. Eventually Malila had seen it, as well. Jesse, in his odd, noble, perverse way had wanted to protect Malila from his own society. He wanted to share pleasure sex with her but had chosen to forgo that in the absence of that “marrying” thing. The strange old man wanted to do things in the “right” order. It was just like the man to decide pleasure sex was something he had to do “right.” Insufferable. Honorable and insufferable. Malila loved him.