Under the Snow
A young man observed the sky from a window in a laboratory. Night spiders were building webs to prevent the sky from falling; sometimes it happens when it’s dark. In his imagination the webs were as thin as eyelashes and as cold as lips. His finger moved along the windowpane, tracing an evening butterfly that was falling down like a leaf in the autumn. The snow piles were swarmed with insects, but when he didn’t focus his gaze, he thought they looked like frozen skin.
A young woman squinted while attaching leaves to a stem. Her face brightened as if she were a kid playing a game. Red curls had slid over her green eyes, but she didn’t notice. “Gotcha!” she shouted.
He rolled his eyes. “What?”
She turned around with surprise, looking as if she’d forgotten he was there. “Almog, these plants make the poison.”
Almog glanced at his wristwatch. “Impossible,” he stated. “The production of the poison doesn’t give them any advantage over the other vegetation. Moreover, Bar, it kills them.” In his opinion, it wasn’t fair that not-so-smart people–like this girl, probably, just watch her–participated in such projects because their parents financed them.
“Its color is so-very-beautiful. Look.” She stretched her hands towards him. He was sure she’d show him the so-very-beautiful color of the poison. To his surprise, she held sketches detailing the poison production system.
He was silent, and then said, “I think… I feel you’re right.”
Bar laughed. “Ya shouldn’t think what you feel.”
“And to feel what I think–is this allowed?” He removed one of his gloves, which he wore constantly as if they were his second skin, and hid his palm in his pocket. His fingers groped for his penknife.
“Gee… It’s called intuition, I think let’s call it a day, huh?”
“Fine.” He thought about her solution–why couldn’t he figure it out? He pressed the blade against his frozen skin.
“You coming?” asked Bar. She’d already finished zipping her exclusive coat.
Almog put on his glove. “Do you want to finish working today?”
Bar laughed. “Yeah, you just said ‘fine’ to that.”
Outside the laboratory the night spiders galloped like horses. The snowflakes were shining like pearls under the moonlight. Bar and Almog wore heavy boots which sank in the snow and insects got stuck in their soles. Almog insisted on shaking his boots repeatedly.
“I hope we’ll be a good team,” said Bar.
Adhesive webs caught the last evening butterflies. One of them closed its eyes, fell and got covered with a blanket of snowflakes. Underneath the snow it woke up and moved its wings, creating a fountain–a hole from which snowflakes and insects emerged. Bar hopped cheerfully above it. Almog complained and shook his pockets. A few insects had infiltrated them.
They delayed at the crossroad where they had to turn in opposite directions since Bar wanted to shake Almog’s hand.
Almog hesitated, “I don’t like people tou… I mean…” He wondered whether he’d insulted the spoiled princess, but she smiled and said goodnight.
“Goodnight,” he said smiling.
Bar was standing at the entrance of the laboratory, holding her suitcase. “Hi. You Almog? We’re suppossda study the lake’s pollution, right?”
“Yes and yes. The cause of the pollution is a poison produced by certain plants in its vicinity. You can view the sketches detailing the relevant system on the screen located on your right.”
Bar examined the screen.
“What was the last project in which you were involved?” Almog hadn’t bothered listening to her previous answer to this question, but now he was somewhat intent.
“Putting fake memories in people’s brains. It was super fun,” her eyes gleamed, “they didn’t suspect a thing. What you did?”
Almog was impressed, though he’d performed a similar procedure on his brain. “I’ve invented a skin regeneration accelerator. You must’ve heard of SkinReg–all the rich girls use it.”
“Oh,” said Bar.
“Oh,” Almog imitated her. Suddenly he added, “It’s also used in a center for abused children where I… I mean, aren’t you convinced I’m qualified for this project?”
“You already totally convinced me you good for this when ya showed me these skets. They’re real complex and all.”
“Self-conviction is the best of all convictions,” Almog mumbled. He watched the sketches carefully, then signed and looked at his feet. “They’re inspirational… I mean… I hope we’ll be a good team.”
Almog was holding the tentacles of the snail, navigating its way on a frozen stream. The snail’s shell stored poisonous plants that he’d gathered with Bar. Morning bees flew above them. Last night’s spiders burrowed under the snow when weak rays of sun were passing by. Bar jumped recklessly and tried to catch morning bees.
“My turn,” she announced after a few minutes.
“You’ve asked me to drive,” said Almog. “We can’t switch in the mid…”
“Ugh!” she interrupted him and sat on the shell as if she were a kid being punished. Afterwards, she stood up and said, “I don’t care!” She tried to steal the tentacles from Almog; both of them fell and rolled in the snow.
“That’s fun! Fun fun fun!”
“No,” said Almog, trying to believe his answer. “That was foolish.”
Bar sat straight up; buzzing bees were caught in her hair. Almog continued lying done. He was watching Bar. “I think I can write a story in which all the characters would be me and you.”
“I love stories! Life’s a story,” said Bar.
“Um… I didn’t mean to say that aloud. I hope it won’t be… I mean, many times the characters that touch me aren’t those I love or hate. They’re those I love and then I hate. They’re those who break my heart.”
Almog sat up, watching the evening butterflies that rested on his knuckles. He was smiling; but then Bar said, “It’s a beautiful moment,” and he thought she’d forget it.
Bar was standing at the entrance of the laboratory, holding her suitcase. “Hi. You Almog? We’re suppossda…”
“Yes,” said Almog, yawning and rubbing his eyes.
Bar stopped unpacking her suitcase when she saw Almog was staring at her. “Things nobody remembers,” he said, “it’s like they’d never happened.” Bar continued unpacking. Almog’s fingers tapped on the table. “Why aren’t you answering?”
“Ya didn’t phrase your saying like it’s a question. More like a fact.”
Almog examined a plant whose ice thorns were as sharp as penknives. His pocket felt heavy and his fingers itched, but he didn’t take off his gloves. He held a syringe and pumped blood-red nectar samples from the plant.
The laboratory’s floor was covered with test tubes of nectar samples. When Bar had entered, she stopped walking at once. “There was a floor round here.”
“I’ve already forgotten several parts of it,” said Almog. “You must be careful when…”
“I don’t have patience for careful,” complained Bar. Almog was yawning when she added, “I’ll go jumping on the tables.” He almost chocked.
“What? It’s dangerous. The nectar can harm your skin.”
“Nobody gonna tell me what to do,” she said and jumped. The test tubes trembled; bubbles emerged from them, blew up and released sounds which were similar to birds’ tweets. Bar jumped again. The table shook and she spread her arms sideways to maintain her balance. A test tube located near the edge of the table trembled; then it stopped as if it were holding its breath, advanced forward and fell. Almog was pale. His gloves were on the floor, and his palms dug deep into his pockets. Bar jumped to a part of the floor which was clean of test tubes. When she’d jumped, Almog thought she’d been flying, and it was so… He shook this thought out of him.
Bar bowed like an acrobat in a circus. “Perfect,” said Almog, “perfect irresponsibility.”
“Thanks,” laughed Bar. “You worried?”
“No,” said Almog and began handling one of the plants. He held its leaves and watched his fingerprints under the layers of ice and chlorophylls. “You broke a test tube.”
“Don’t ya worry. I’ll clean it up.”
“No!” Almog turned around to face her. “Help me with this plant.”
“But…” said Bar. She’d never cleaned up anything–her family said that’s the servants’ job. Here Almog had always arrived before her and tidied the laboratory as required.
Bar helped Almog in gathering nectar from the plant. “Poor thing, it’s almost dry.”
“It’s not a ‘poor thing’–it’s a plant, Bar; and I think there’s still some nectar left.” Almog separated the plant’s petals using his penknife so he could insert the syringe deeper. When he’d finished, both of them jumped backwards. The cut petals waved sideways, mucous threads were hanged on them. The stem began rotting, and the flower looked more like an open wound than like a flower. Almog took a deep breath and dropped the syringe.
A young woman dragged herself over a wall in the laboratory. Her fingernails paved bleeding trails between her dry brown hairs. It looked like she was trying to pull something out of her head. She sat down on the floor and pressed her back against the wall–it was cold and relaxing.
“You’re outta control,” said a young man sitting on a rocking chair.
The woman closed her eyes. “You aren’t real. When I open my eyes, you’ll disappear.” She opened her eyes, looked at the rocking man and signed.
“Can you hear me? See me?” he sat beside her. “Feel me?” He put his hand over hers. She pulled her hand to her lap and nodded. The fear and madness disappeared from her facial expression, but the sadness didn’t. Only sadness stays when the others leave. “Why ya thinking I’m less real than you?”
“Because you… read my thoughts,” she said.
“I’m sorry. I was trying to remember something and accidentally…”
Suddenly the lights on the ceiling began to flash and they heard an alarm siren. They couldn’t move. The ceiling opened and cages ascended through it. Albino rabbits were going wild inside the cages. The lights turned off and the siren stopped working. The man examined the cages. A letter was attached to the grates of one of them. “It says the rabbits are suppossda help us with the experiments. I’m not gonna use them.”
“We’ve… We’ve invented a…” said the woman, trying to catch her breath, “a medication for the poison of the plants that will be used by humans. Shouldn’t we try it first on…”
“No,” interrupted the man. “Poor things,” he added. He drank a liquid from a test tube whose label was ‘Poison’, and then from a test tube whose label was ‘Medication’. The woman stared at him. Her hands were shaking.
“Here,” he said, “I tried it.”
“Irresponsibility,” said the woman; but she was smiling when the rabbits hopped at her foot.
Bar waited for the gate of the laboratory to open. It swept two paths in the snow, and a cloud of insects flew out of them. Bar ran between the insects, and they were caught in her hair and clothes. She laughed and advanced cautiously towards the test tube she’d broken the day before. She recognized the broken test tube, and started moving nearby test tubes so she could sit down. Suddenly she lost her balance and tripped.
“Ugh,” she laughed and examined the additional damage she’d done. There was a crack in the floor between the test tubes. Bar drew her face nearer to the crack and glanced through it–there wasn’t anything on the other side. She grabbed a shard of glass from the broken test tube and inserted it in the crack. When she’d raised the shard, the part which passed through the crack was missing. She stood up quickly and moved away from the crack. She escaped from the laboratory and bumped into Almog.
“What are you doing?” asked Almog.
She considered how to describe what she’d saw–maybe it’ll be better if he sees it in his own eyes. “I wanted to clean the mess I did yesterday, but…”
“Have you just got here?” he said. “Forget the broken test tube. I think we should stay outside today–we need more plants.”
Bar wondered if she’d imagined the crack in the floor–she wasn’t used to being awake in such an early hour. “Okay,” she said, convincing herself that riding on the snail and gathering plants will wake her up.
While Almog was walking towards the snail, Bar was hopping and trying to catch bees. “Why are you jumping like that?” he asked.
“I think this time I caught enough,” said Bar while stuffing her pockets with bees. She flew a little above the snow. “Watch me!”
“This is stupid…” he started saying. “Actually… I wish I could behave like you do–without thinking what everybody would think about…”
“Look, everybody isn’t here. It’s just you and me,” interrupted Bar, handing him a few bees. She was smiling.
At night, when they were back in the laboratory, the lights on the ceiling began to flash and they heard an alarm siren. They couldn’t move. The ceiling opened and cages ascended through it. Albino rabbits were going wild inside the cages. The lights turned off and the siren stopped working. Bar read aloud the attached letter. “Let’s free them,” she said. Almog nodded. They moved the cages outside while being careful not to break test tubes. When they’d opened the cages, the rabbits ran towards the mountains of snow as if they were possessed. Their red eyes glinted in the dark.
Almog said, “Maybe these are the colors of freedom–red eyes on white snow.” He was thinking about his pale skin and the penknife in his pocket.
“No,” said Bar. “Freedom is limitless–so it’s colorless.”
Bar was in a hurry to enter the laboratory. She looked at the test tubes which were scattered over the floor, and took a deep breath. She squatted and started moving the test tubes which piled up against the nearest wall. There wasn’t a floor. There wasn’t anything. She rose up, and then went to sit at a nearby table.
Almog entered the laboratory, looked at Bar, looked at the missing floor, signed and sat down opposite Bar. Bar looked at him, leaned her chin against her palms and said, “You know what’s going on in here?”
“Yes. I wanted to tell you the truth, but… The last times I told… I mean, the problem is that after I…”
“The floor–ya said you don’t remember how it looks, right?”
Almog nodded, but she wasn’t looking at him–she looked like a kid who is assembling a puzzle, like this is a game. Like life is a game.
“Today and yesterday–when I entered the lab you were still sleeping, right?”
Almog nodded again. “It seems like you don’t need my help in…”
Bar was smiling. “Memory and apprehension are my areas of expertise, ya know.”
“I’ve transferred your consciousness from your brain to mine. You perceive reality through a robot which I–I mean, the part in me which is you–am activating.”
Bar was still smiling. Almog thought she didn’t understand what he’d just told her. “Gee,” she said, “I did something similar when I was in the fake memories thing. I thought only I knew how it’s done.”
“There’s been an accident. Most of your inner organs were damaged severely, but your brain wasn’t–thus I could transfer your consciousness. The robot is supposed to replace your organic body. You won’t be able to tell the difference. It’s still under construction.”
“Gee, I love robots!” said Bar. She continued smiling. Almog thought again that she didn’t understand what he’d just told her. There’s been an accident. Most of her inner organs were damaged severely. He thought he’d never comprehend what this girl understands and what she doesn’t.
“If you’re making the robot so it’ll look like me, you’re probably using my organic body as a model. I wanna see it. I wanna look at it, but not through the robot’s eyes. I wanna look at it through real eyes–through you.”
“Where am I?” asked Bar. She had heard Almog’s voice pronouncing the question.
In reality, said a voice in her head. At the entrance to the laboratory there’s a hallway. In the end of the hallway there’s a room where you’ll find… you know.
I’ve erased it from the reality perception of the robot so you won’t… discover.
Bar went to the entrance and then to the end of the hallway. The door was locked.
The key is in my pocket, said the voice.
Bar found the key and opened the door. She looked straight forward. There was a transparent container, in which there was a bluish-greenish liquid. Her body was floating in the liquid. Bar approached the container. The body didn’t look as if it were damaged–only the inner organs were hurt. Bar gazed at the body and tilted her head to one side. She thought the body looks like a big doll. The body’s eyes were almost closed.
Are you alright? asked the voice. Isn’t this… traumatic?
“What’s traumatic?” asked Bar.
“If I’m in your head,” said Bar, “I can read your thoughts.” She and Almog were sitting in the laboratory.
“No, I mean yes, I mean… Don’t do it,” said Almog.
Bar was swaying her legs back and forth. She clasped her hands and leaned forwards as if she were about to reveal a secret. “When people go telling me not to do something–that makes me wanna do it even more.” She laughed.
“This isn’t funny,” said Almog. “I’m barely able to allow people to… I mean… Bar, are you listening? Stop laughing. Your presence in my head is… I mean, I feel it’s intrusive. If you start…”
“Then why ya let me in your head?” said Bar, still swaying her legs.
“If you weren’t in my head, you wouldn’t be anywhere. Do you understand? Never mind, listen. If you start reading my thoughts, I won’t be able to… Listen, you’d already tried it twice before I had a chance to tell you to avoi…”
“Okay, Okay, so I won’t read your thoughts,” said Bar, grimacing. Almog felt as if he’d taken her favorite toy.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yeah. Sure, sure.”
Bar laughed. “I promise,” she said.
“Fine, I believe you.”
Bar looked at Almog’s eyes. There was something… Suddenly she felt as if… “Gee… Now that I know I can, I won’t stop thinking ’bout it,” she said. “I’ll break this promise in no time, ya know. Maybe if you change my memories… like everything that happened since I came here didn’t happen… maybe it’ll… solve the problem.”
“I… appreciate your honesty,” said Almog. “When do you…”
“Now,” said Bar. “But I wanna be out of reality for this moment before. Imagine a place where it’s best to start over, disappear, or whatever you call it that’s ’bout to happen.”
“I can’t imag…”
Almog hesitated. Colorful bees appeared and spun in circles above them. “That’s nice,” said Bar. The bees decorated her ears, hair and knuckles. “So this is how it’s best to disappear?”
“No, this is how,” said Almog and kissed her.
The lights on the ceiling began to flash and an alarm siren was activated. The ceiling opened and cages ascended through it.23
“Again?” asked the woman.
“I guess it’s a weekly supply,” said the man.
The man was about to open the cages, but the woman preceded him. She twisted her fingers between the bars of a cage’s door. The raging rabbits were charging the cages. “I want you to tell me how you read my thoughts.”
“I told you I don’t think it’s a good idea. You take things so seriously, ya know.”
“Now,” she said. The rabbits were biting the cages and chewing flakes of rust. Their pupils were widened.
“Don’t free them here,” he said. “They gonna break all the test tubes.”
She loosened one of her fingers. Loosened second. Third. Fourth.
“Okay,” he said. His heart was beating fast. “Today we gonna free the rabbits, and I promise to tell ya everything tomorrow. Deal?”
“Will you tell me everything?”
“I’ll do more then tell you–I’ll show you.”
The woman sat at the table, leaning her elbows against it, concealing her face with her hands. “Fine,” she told herself, “now I’m certain I’ve been imagining him. I can hear his voice, but I can’t see his figure.” She thought her voice had sounded strange.
You’re wrong, said a voice in her head. You didn’t listen to what I said?
“I assume he’s some sort of thought–an illusion, perhaps–that my brain has created,” she continued.
The opposite is the truth.
“What are you talking ab… No, I shouldn’t nurture the illusion with words.”
Listen. Look at the mirror, will ya?
“Shhh…” she whispered and tilted her head backwards, staring at the ceiling.
If you do this, I won’t be bothering you anymore.
She stood up. “Fine,” she said and stumbled towards the mirror. “What are you doing in the mi…” she began saying, looked at her body and fainted.
Bar was standing at the gate of the laboratory, rubbing her head. A suitcase was leaning against her legs. She thought it was her first day at the laboratory, thus she didn’t understand why it seemed familiar. She recalled a memory of an opened ceiling and noises of rusty iron bars rubbing against other rusty iron bars. She sat on a pile of snow. A rabbit broke out of it and sniffed her boots. She bent down to caress the rabbit; then a flash of awareness passed through her body like a cold breeze which carries dead leaves. “This isn’t my first day,” she mumbled, biting her lips. “The deletion wasn’t successful. Gee, another delivery arrived and distracted Almog.”
She entered the laboratory. “Hi,” she said. “You…”
“Yes,” said Almog.
“What? I’m trying to…”
“Yes, we’re supposed to cleanse the polluted lake. Look, there’s a summary on that table on your right. I’m sorry, I’m really tired–it’s just that yesterday I had… I’m sorry.”
It seemed to her that it wasn’t a good time to tell him that the deletion had failed; but how is she going to control herself and not read his thoughts? She can’t, she’s like a balloon–whenever it’s tied up, it wants to be freed and fly up, up and away.
“Almog!” she said. “Listen.”
She looked at him. There were dark circles under his eyes. His cheeks were pale. “Um… Nothing,” she mumbled.
“I was referring to this table,” he pointed at a table on her right.
“Huh?” she said. “Oh, the summary.” Focus, she told herself, you’ve got… responsibility.
Almog was napping while he was pouring the contents of one test tube to another. Bar suggested that he’ll take a break and rest. He sat down, closed his eyes and fell asleep. Bar intended to wake him up, but then she heard voices from the other side of the wall by which she was standing. She remembered that in the real laboratory there were additional rooms. “A game,” she laughed.
She smiled, trying to remember how to get to the real laboratory by using Almog’s body. After a few minutes Almog was walking down the hallway as if he had insomnia.
The woman sat on the floor, leaning her back against the wall and crossing her legs. She stretched out the palms of her hands and examined the lines. These weren’t her lines. These weren’t her hands. She straightened her legs.
She crossed her legs and wrapped them with her hands.
I’ll… I’ll leave ya alone.
“Fine,” she said and straightened her legs.
She dropped her hands sideways and stared at the wall opposite her. Suddenly she heard someone knocking on the wall.
“I’m Bar,” said a voice from the other side of the wall. “I’m working… used to work here.”
The woman signed and looked at the ceiling.
“Anybody there? I can’t find the entrance. Gimme a sec…”
“No,” the woman straightened her back. “Don’t enter.”
“I’ve… um… released toxic gasses and… um… I don’t have another protective suit.”
There was a short silence. Then the voice said, “Okay, I’m going.”
The woman’s hands itched. For some reason she didn’t understand, she started searching for a pocket in her pants, but it didn’t have any pockets. “Wait,” she said desperately. “I’ve just found out something is the complete opposite than what I thought. I mean… Um…”
“When I was in the circus, I saw a show in which clowns were hitting each other with toy hammers and everybody in the crowd was laughing. Me too. I was five. One of them got a real bad hit, ya know? I thought it was funny, but I knew it wasn’t. When I was backstage, I saw a clown with a black eye. I don’t wanna be backstage, like, never. I don’t even wanna know there’s a backstage. I just wanna enjoy the show, ya know? It’s just that since that day I… I can still talk like a kid and laugh like a kid and jump like a kid, but I think like an adult. Anyway, I know what you mean. I wish I didn’t.”
The woman was silent. After a few minutes, she heard the voice again, “I don’t know why I said that. I never say things like that. I love clowns–with their red noses and squirting flowers and big balloons that fly up, up and away. I shouldn’t ‘ve said that.”
The woman was in a state of thought again. She said, “I’ve just talked with a girl named Bar.”
“Really?” said the man. “But how… Gee, maybe she controls his…” He shook his head. Maybe she’d be able to make him listen, he thought.
“Do you know her?” she asked.
He laughed, then smiled.
Bar was still controlling Almog’s body. She decided to go out and breathe some fresh air. When she’d turned in the hallway, a redhead young man blocked her way. “Heya Bar,” he said.
“How… How you know I’m Bar? I’m in…”
He shrugged. “I need you to talk with Almog ’bout the accident.”
“Who are you?”
“Make him remember. In the last few months I learned it’s better to deal with things and not to delete them and start over,” he signed. “The pain and problems come back. It’s like a vicious circle.”
“I don’t wanna deal with things. I like the way they’re now.”
“You don’t understand. Things aren’t what they seem. You’ll walk to the room at the end of the hallway…”
“I know what’s there!”
“What?” asked Bar. He was silent. Then she shouted, “What? Tell me.”
“It’s a secret.”
“A secret?” she whispered. “Ugh, I don’t need your favors. I gonna find it out myself.”
He smiled. “Wanna go for a walk?” he asked.
They climbed on a snow hill. It was dark; webs were stretched across the sky, and night spiders were gleaming through their holes. Evening butterflies, their wings as soft as velvet, slid down the hill as if they were dewdrops sliding down a stem. They looked downward; fountains of insects were emerging from the snow. Far away, they noticed the laboratory; its windows were lighted. Far, far away, they saw huge snow snails crawling over frozen rivers.
“I want to tell ya ’bout the first time when me and Al… the girl you talked with kissed.”
“I don’t care.”
“Listen anyway,” he said. “Night was falling down. I remember a streetlight. I also remember a bench, though we weren’t sitting. She looked at me with her eyes wide open, like we’d disappear if she blinked. I came closer to kiss her, and her lips didn’t move–they were frozen. I decided to take a step backwards and try again. I asked her to close her eyes. She hesitated, so I took the palm of her hand and closed my eyes with her fingertips. Her other hand groped for my other hand. She put my hand on her eyelids, her eyelashes brushed my fingers. It was quiet; we could hear nothing but our breathings. I moved my face closer to hers. Both of us dropped our hands sideways. My lips barely touched hers. Then a strange thing happened.”
“What?” asked Bar. “What happened?”
“Suddenly she swung her hands and entangled her fingers in my hair, almost tearing them off my head, drawing my face nearer to hers, pressing her lips against mine. With the same urgency she detached her fingers from my hair, wrapping them around me, pulling all of me towards her.”
He was silent for a moment. Then he continued, “She said that at the first time she didn’t feel anything. Suddenly, at the second time, a swarm of bees appeared, and they were stinging everywhere. And ya know that when you get a sting, you pour water on it and feel relaxed, but you also feel an urge to have more water? This is what she said–that this is how she felt. She said I was the water.”
“What you trying to say?”
“Things aren’t always what they seem. Ya need to move the eyelashes and try again. Then, if you open your eyes and take a good look at what’s in front of you, you might see something’s different.”
Aquariums were placed one above another, covering the walls of the laboratory with their silence. They contained water and fish. A huge aquarium, which contained poisonous plant nectars, covered the ceiling.
“I used to like silence,” said Almog, “and now I can’t stand the…” His elbow slid off the table.
The fish inside the water aquariums started to wobble as if they were puppets on strings. Bar pressed a button and the fish were sucked into the poisonous aquarium. “Now they survived twenty minutes,” said Bar. “Gee, somehow they got used to the poison even though it hurts them, and now they can’t survive without it. We gotta adjust them before the lake’s clea…”
Almog nodded with his hands in his pockets.
“You liste…” she started saying, but then she noticed that one of Almog’s pockets had turned red. She pulled his hand out of his pocket and bandaged it. He was looking at her as if he were awakened from a hallucination.
“You need to be careful,” she said.
“Right,” he mumbled, and when she’d turned around, he threw his penknife through the nearest window. “I feel dizzy,” he said.
When Almog had closed his eyes, Bar opened them in the real laboratory. She turned the handle of the door at the end of the hallway as if it belonged to one of those surprise boxes that after you turn their handles enough times–and you never know how much times are enough–a clown pops out, and he has flushed cheeks, colorful balloons, a big-big smile, and a black eye. She stepped inside, her heart was beating fast.
Bar moved closer towards the container. She pressed her palms against the glass, and her knuckles whitened. She tilted her head to one side, and her knees trembled. She couldn’t stand straight. It was the understanding that life isn’t a story or a game or a show. There was an accident, and her inner organs were damaged severely. She glared at the frozen face and examined the eyes. They were almost closed, and the eyelashes hid them. They were strange eyelashes–they moved in the liquid as if they were fins.
“If you open your eyes,” she said. “Maybe there’s a double meaning. It also means my body’s eyes.”
She shook the container. The eyes opened. They weren’t her eyes. They were glass eyes. And this wasn’t her body. This was really a doll.
“I want to discuss the accident,” said Bar.
Almog rubbed his eyes. “What? No! How do you even know about…”
Bar thought he looks like a confused child. She deleted the last five minutes from his memory, and he returned to sleep. She was surprised to discover she had no desire to read his memories, but she knew he wouldn’t discuss them with anybody–including her, including himself.
She started digging his thoughts. There was an accident. Almog was hurt in the accident. She wasn’t hurt at all. “Then what happened to me?” she mumbled.
She wasn’t hurt because…
“I don’t beli…” she started saying, and then she heard an alarm siren. The ceiling opened and cages ascended through it. The aquarium that covered the ceiling didn’t open. The glass shattered. Almog fainted. Fish were twitching on the floor. Bar dragged Almog out of the laboratory. She locked the gate. He woke up, and they stared at each other.
“You… You saved my…”
“Shhh,” said Bar. “Promise me something.”
“Sure,” he said, regulating his breathing.
“There’s someone you need to talk with.”
“I don’t remember your name,” said Almog.
“Bar? But that’s…”
“You repressed me. I tried talking to you, but you couldn’t hear me. You look different now–more willing to talk. We rode a snail. When we passed a frozen river, the ice cracked. You almost drowned. A part of your consciousness was harmed, and I could fix it by transferring it into mine. In order clear space, I had to transfer a part of my consciousness into yours. You objected. You preferred to die. You think you did the transformation in order to save a girl named Bar. She’s a part of me. I changed your memories. I didn’t want you to recognize me and stop your healing. Now you’re…”
Almog was panting. Bar gave him a glass of water. Almog closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “You’ve invested in the decor,” he mumbled.
“Yeah,” Bar laughed. “I thought it was like a show.” Almog opened his eyes and stared at Bar. He stopped laughing and said, “I don’t think so anymore. I’m sorry. You hate me?”
“No, I feel… something else.” He brought his chair closer to Bar.
White butterflies are created when lips touch. They spread their wings in the abdominal cavity. They fly in the blood vessels. They burst out.
Bar and Almog examined the two robots which were standing in front of them. One robot contained a part of Bar, and the other contained a part of Almog.
“Everything that happened… I mean, I just…” said Almog. “I hope that they’ll finish our work. Maybe we’ll return and see them together.”
Bar shrugged. “I think the same thing will happen. I had this weird thought–maybe we’re also two robots the researchers or robots resembling them left behind. They didn’t return.”
Almog shivered. “I’m not… I can feel my…”
The robots’ eyes flashed. Bar and Almog took their coats and left the laboratory so that the robots wouldn’t notice them.
“Hi,” said the robot Bar. “You Almog?”
Almog stood outside the laboratory, close to a window. Some night spiders were entangled in his coat. While he was trying to get rid of them, he noticed he was standing on a metal object. He squatted and discovered his penknife under the snow.
“But the poison kills them,” said his robot. The blood-red nectar was dripping on the floor.
Almog looked at the robot Bar; so close and yet so far. He removed one of his gloves and slid the blade between his fingers.
“Then why they do it?” asked the robot Bar.
Meirav Zehavi is 23, a PhD student in Computer Science and a vegetarian. She loves books, animals and collecting dolls. Her fiction has appeared in Roar and Thunder and Espresso Fiction: A Collection of Flash Fiction for the Average Joe.