“Will it hurt?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No, it’s a completely routine procedure now.”
That was what they promised in the ad campaigns that had been playing on television. It looked too flashy to me, but I couldn’t deny that I was curious. I was here, wasn’t I? “Will there be any lingering aftereffects? Friends of mine have had this done and one of them said that they felt drunk afterwards for a week.”
She smiled in a reassuring way. “That is a fairly common side-effect, but it goes away with time.”
“What other side-effects have people experienced?” I asked.
She shrugged. “That depends on the person. As we’re all different and unique, so are the sid-effects.” She smiled warmly again. “It’s all right to be nervous but please rest assured that no one has been terminally hurt.”
This was a polite way of saying that no one had died and she was right. I had done my research on this and I couldn’t find any stories saying that someone has been killed by the procedure. “All right, thank you.” I shifted nervously. “I’ve never thought about having this done.”
She actually reached out to take my hand. I had expected to find her skin rather cold and clammy, but it was warm, and her touch was comforting. She also smelled of Chanel Number 5. My mother had worn the same perfume, so I knew the scent well. I think it was the scent more than the gesture that comforted me. “Any procedure can be daunting,” she said. “But just think of what you could do afterwards. The possibilities are endless. We’ve done quite a few by now and we’ve got a perfect success record.”
That we know of, I thought. “There is no way of knowing what I will get in the end?”
She shook her head again. “Just as every person is different, so are the results. If it helps, I can understand your hesitancy. The procedure can never be undone. It’s rather like a tattoo; you have to make sure if it’s something that you want for the rest of your life.”
I nodded, pleased that she understood. “I’m sorry,” I told her.
“There is no need to apologize. Everyone that comes through these doors does so for different reasons. We are all unique. However, everyone walks through those doors for a reason.” She looks at me quizzically. “What is the reason that brought you here today?” She asks.
Now it is my turn to shrug. I’m not sure that I want to tell someone that I’ve never met my reason for walking through the office door, however, it’s the reason I came here and who would understand better than her? I take a deep breath and say the words that I’ve been holding in. “I feel like a part of me is missing, like I’m not complete somehow.” She nods enthusiastically. “I keep having dreams of another person and have been for a while. When I look at her, I can see part of myself within her. She’s me but not me; I’m probably not making sense.”
She gave my hand a squeeze. “Yours is one of the most common reasons for coming in, Mr. Carmichael.” She gives me another smile. “Ever since the shift, people have begun to feel the shift within themselves. It’s what causes a lot of people to come here, though dreaming of the other person is new. Did she have your same features?” She takes out a pad of paper and pen. Her actions are sure and authoritative. She knows that she’s made the sale and I don’t really care.
“Same dark hair but hers was straight where mine is curly. She had blue eyes like mine, but hers were a darker colour whereas mine are lighter.”
She writes something down. “Yours are more aquamarine and hers were more blue topaz?
I don’t know anything about jewels or crystals, so I shrug. “Yeah, sure I guess so.” I tell her.
She smiles again. “When you dream of her, does she seem happy or sad? Do you speak to her at all?”
I shake my head. “No, but she’s got a very expressive face.” I tell her.
“And how hold would you say that she is?”
I shrug again though I know the answer. “I’d say that she’s about nine. I remember the dress she was wearing..”
“That’s good!” She looks happy. “It’s good to have those details clear in your head. It makes the procedure easier.”
“Especially after prying your prices.” I say.
She lets out a trill of laughter. “Too true, Mr. Carmichael. Especially when you have to pay our prices. However, wouldn’t it be better to know?” She asks. “I would always want to know if it was me.”
“Have you had the procedure done?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “As an employee of the institute, I’m not permitted to have the procedure done, but I get enough joy in helping you through yours. Would you be interested in having it done?” She smiles warmly at me, but there’s nothing in the smile that looks menacing or unhinged.
I nod. I had already made my decision, before I came through that door and into this office. The fact that she knows this, but doesn’t draw any attention to this, makes me like her a little bit more. “I have. I’m going to have it done.”
“Excellent. Well, if you’ll just sign here and we can get underway.”
“Right now?” I ask her. “I didn’t realize it would be done so quickly.”
She offers me another smile, this one less warm and more humouring. “We aren’t conducting surgery and there is no need to put you under. You have to be an active participant in the procedure, Mr. Carmichael,” she says. “Don’t be afraid Calvin. This won’t hurt a bit, and you must be looking forward to meeting her.”
I nod. I think the use of my first name calmed me a bit, made this whole thing seem a little bit more normal somehow. I sign the paper where she’s indicated. “Okay. What do I do now? Should I undress or something?”
Now she actually lets out a laugh and the sound is like the tinkling of bells. “Oh, Mr. Carmichael. Would you meet someone for the first time in the nude under normal circumstances?”
I let out a laugh myself, obviously a little bit more nervous than I thought. “No, I wouldn’t.” I tell her.
“Of course, you wouldn’t Mr. Carmichael.” She stands and gestures like a game show model. “If you’ll head through that door?” She gestures at the door behind her desk. “If you’ll just head through there, I’ll be right in.”
I nod, surprised by how nervous I am all of a sudden. I step into the room and I’m surprised by what I find in the room. I was expecting something clinical and cold, like in a hospital. The room looks very inviting. There is soft music playing from speakers that have been hidden somewhere in the walls and there is a comfortable couch and love seat. There is a dark wooden table with a bottle of red wine and a glass on its surface.
She enters carrying a clipboard and what looks like a suitcase. It’s sleek and white and somewhat large. I’ve heard of this part. I’ve been preparing for it. “Please take a seat wherever you like. There is also a settee if you’d be more comfortable?”
I motion to the loveseat. “This is fine.”
She smiles and someone else comes into the room. They nod at me and they put a tray on the table next to the wine. The tray contains what looks like hors d’oeuvres and crudité, fancy crab cakes and the like. “I hope this is to your liking?” She asks me.
“What is all this?” I motion to the wine and the food.
“We want you to be comfortable.”
“It looks like you’re setting me up on a date.” I tell her.
“Well you kind of are, to be honest. I mean, you’re meeting the part of your soul that you lost when the world took over. You’ll have to get to know each other and that can take time.”
I nodded. It was the reason I was here after all. I’d seen the news reports, everyone had since the shift. There are stories that go back to the dawn of time that tell of what it was like in the beginning. We weren’t just one soul, but twin souls, living out a purpose together. We were born with them and they were a part of us, an integral twin to ourselves.
I had seen a man talking about it in an interview. “You know how we all have imaginary friends when we’re younger?” He had looked at the camera and his eyes had been so damn serious you could only nod in agreement. “Well, who do you think that was? Parents told us that imaginary friends didn’t exist, that they weren’t real.” He had shaken his head in a show of despair. “They had no idea that they were asking us to disbelieve in a part of ourselves. I mean, how could they?”
It made a certain kind of sense to me. You spend your whole childhood with this person that only you could see. Eventually you are told that your imaginary friend isn’t real enough times that you stop believing in them. That makes me think of a question then after a moment, another one comes to mind.
“Will I be the only person who can see them?” I ask. This is one of my big fears about bringing back my twin soul. “I don’t want people to think I’m a crazy person.”
“Your twin soul be perfectly visible, just as you are. Only now everyone else will be able to see her, too.”
I ask my other question. “Will I have to take care of a child?” I ask. “I mean, I was ten when I stopped believing in her. I’ve never been good with children.”
She shakes her head and offers me another smile. “She’s aged the same as you have, she is your twin soul after all.” She motions to the refreshments. “You didn’t think we were going to have you give wine to a child!” She laughs and the sound is like bells again.
I shrug. I did wonder about that. “No, of course not.”
She gives me a knowing look. “Of course not, Mr. Carmichael.” She sits down on the settee. “Now, did you want to begin?”
“What do I need to do?”
“Why you just sit there. I have a little bit to set up, then we can get started.”
She reaches for the white box and opens it up. From it, she takes what looks like a magnifying glass. I know from the videos that I’ve seen that this is so the machine can see deep into ourselves. “This will see into you,” she says. “It will look for the pieces of the twin soul that are still within you.”
She places the magnifying glass into a stand that she takes from the white case. There is a chord attached; there must be a battery pack in the case. There is a chord attached to what looks like pair of goggles and an old viewfinder. I know that this is what I look through so that we can see our twin soul take shape.
“You will be able to see your twin soul being formed though these. After they are formed in their own shape, they can leave with you. I assume you’ve thought of houseroom and bought enough food for them. They are tied to you, yes, but they need their own space and sustenance. It’s not like when you were children and they existed on wishes and stardust.”
I nod to show I understand her. “You will hear the song of glass.” She says simply.
“What will it sound like?”
“It will sound like someone has wet their finger and they are running their finger along the rim of the glass. It will sound like something is ringing within you.” She hands over the strange viewfinder and I take it carefully. “Once your twin soul has completed their formation, you are free to go. I’m sure you’ll have a lot to go over! Just think, you’ll be able to get to know a part of yourself that you thought lost.” She reaches out to tap the viewfinder. “You must keep that pressed to your eyes. If you try to look at her without the device, her materialization will not be complete.”
I nod again, not sure that I would trust whatever would come out of my mouth. This is it, I think. The moment I meet the part of me that’s been missing all this time. She waits for me to put the viewfinder to my eyes and she smiles at me. She flicks a switch on the side of the white box and I can hear the sound of the glass singing right away.
The air around me becomes charged with electricity I watch as the ground in front of me begins to swirl and shift, almost as if time is bending in front of me. I wonder if it’s simply the device trying to put the pieces of her that it’s pulling from me?
Soon, I can see feet stretching into legs. I want to take the viewfinder away from my eyes, to view her as she materializes, but her words are ringing in my head, so I can only look through the viewfinder as she continues to shift and come into existence right in front of me.
Her arms come into view, then her shoulders and now I can see her face. She has a cleft chin just as I do and her dark hair shines as mine does. There is a curve to her chin, as if she is grinning at something and I recognize that facial tick. I see it in the mirror every time I look at myself.
As her eyes come into being, dark brown like mine, she waves at me. I don’t need to wonder what her voice will sound like; I have heard it in my dreams many times. The music of the glass begins to fade, and I can feel my eyes bulging behind he viewfinder and the song has ended.
“You can now remove the machine. It’s time to meet your twin soul.”
I do so, letting the viewfinder fall into my lap. I look into the face of my twin soul and wonder what each of us will say.