At first she seems no different from her comrades, the orphans that line the streets of the city, reaching and tugging with their grimy fingers. All they do is beg, for anything that could fill their stomachs for the night.
She approaches you just as they all do: feeling something pull on your coat, you stop in the busy street where her kind are known to roam and feel the push of people around you, annoyed that you have stopped, angry that they have to walk around you. They don't see her, or any of the others. No one sees them for they are invisible until they choose to reveal themselves.
She looks like the rest of them too—her hair is tangled and hangs in unattractive clumps chopped short, and you wonder, with a twinge in your stomach and a twitch in your cheek, if you'll have to send your coat to the cleaners after you see the hand holding onto it. She holds a rabbit toy in her arms whose head hangs to the side as if it is watching behind her but really, you suspect, because it needs a few stitches replaced. Like her dress, the toy is dingy and patched and looks like it was found in a rubbish heap. She smells like she was also found in a rubbish heap, and as with all the others of her kind, so for a moment you forget. You forget that some tragedy had to have happened to leave her in this situation, and instead you think to yourself, do these children just spawn spontaneously from the dumps, a sick cosmic joke that we are plagued with their presence like an infestation of rats?
It's not because you feel sorry for her lot in life that you hand her a coin or two. Or even that you feel guilty for thinking of her as worse of a bother than plague rats. No, it is because the crowd is pressing even harder all around you, even more impatient to get on with their lives, and you are an obstruction in their way. Not her, but you, and you give her the coins because she is your obstruction and the coins are the path of least resistance. Now you will rejoin the crowds on the street to whatever your destination is.
But first, you watch her skip away, and this is where she distinguishes herself from her fellow orphans: she looks back over her shoulder at you and laughs, a grin—of all things—stretching across her face. How can she be happy?
You feel a loss—in yourself, you think for a second, but then you realize no, there is a loss from your pocket instead (as well?). Your money is gone.
You yell stop, for the thief to be stopped, you've been robbed, someone, anyone, stop her. You can see your coin purse swinging from her hand—but no, you couldn't have, you were mesmerized by that grin, and even now that has disappeared as well. She is gone, and the crowd continues to pass you by even as you cry out for help.
This all occurred as I made my way to work this morning, and it has no doubt occurred to many other hapless victims as well. The Chesire Grin, she should be called, after the grin that lingers after the cat has disappeared.
And my fellow scientists, I believe we have found a new test subject. Dispatch the recovery team at once. I wish to begin the experiments today.
I have considerably more hope for this one than the last.
hey jen, you read this email yet? what a jerk trying to sound all austere and literary and then he cant even spell his allusions correctly
its the cheshire cat, not chesire
Hello Dr. Craige. I wonder, did you even read over your own e-mail before you sent it? Perhaps you would have noticed that it would be a lot easier to understand if you used correct punctuation. Or at least that you were replying to the entire Research & Development department.
See me in my office at your earliest convenience.
It was after a recent steal. She was squatting in an alley—a familiar one, by the bakery where she could smell the cozy scents of fresh bread. She was emptying out a coin purse, sorting out the coins. There was one silver coin among all the coppers (she counted coins then by matching them up with each pad on her paw, and she remembered she had five paws of coins), and the silver coin made her smile. Lots of things made her smile for lots of reasons, but silver coins she thought were the prettiest, and they could also buy her a muffin from the bakery with one paw of copper coins as change. She had also liked that word, change, the way the baker spoke it cheerfully as he clinked each individual coin into her paw. Change. She never spoke to anyone then, and rarely said anything at all, but she would repeat that word to herself whenever she was alone. Change, change, chaaaange. Sometimes she would stretch out the sounds. It had always made her smile, hearing that word, just like having money in her pockets had made her smile, or finding silver coins had made her smile.
Just like that silver coin, the one she had gotten that day. It made her smile real big, she remembered, because it was particularly sleek and shiny, and she had stroked the smooth surface.
That was when they came out of nowhere, running from the street and shouting to each other. She had jumped up and ran to the back of the alley leaving the coins behind, but they had blocked off the only exit. All she could do was hug her toy rabbit close as the first grenade rolled into the alley, bumping against her feet. It had released a thick bluish smoke that had made her eyes water and her nose sting, and the figures had looked monstrous with their opaque masks through the fog. Even though it slowed her pulse and lowered her eyelids, it didn't take away the knot of fear in her stomach.
Mission carried out as planned. The decoy was posted on the street where the target was last spotted, standing on the corner reading the morning paper. Although he waited for the allotted two hours, he was not approached until leaving his post for the reconnaissance spot. At that moment, when he rejoined the crowd, the target materialized and was successfully ID'ed by the toy rabbit she carried. A hidden camera caught footage of the incident, which alerted the acquisition team that waited in standby. They followed the target to what appeared to be a favorite hideout in an alley just off of the street where the target was found and captured. The following items were found on her person:- 1 leather wallet
//20.02.09 Procedure begins under the direct supervision of Dr. T.E. Stearns. Subject is put under anesthesia, and a medical doctor is present to monitor the subject's vital signs.
The experiment begins with the grafting of synthetic tissues onto the organs of the subject. The doctor signified the go-ahead, and all the original tissues are replaced entirely by the synthetic tissues. The only organ not replaced is the brain; rather, the few synthetic tissues grafted intercept all incoming signals and interpret them for the brain to compute, and then intercept and translate the outgoing signals. These tissues are also linked with the C3 Database, and expand upon the knowledge already present within the current brain neurons.
The engineering team move in as soon as the organ transplants are complete and the overseeing doctor finds the subject to be in a stable condition. They replace and reconstruct the body structure using unique metal plates created in C3 labs, fortified with maractite and rare Kreludan minerals. These plates follow the subject's original body frame except for a few deviations: the limbs are fortified for extra strength, the torso includes repositories for extra sensors, and the tail is hollowed out to cover a laser gun. Visual sensors replacing the eyes allow for a greater range of vision, as do the aural and olfactory sensors. The gustatory sensors were deemed unneccessary, and so the jaw does not open and close. Although the outer covering allows for somatosensory data to be collected, it registers only as abstract data to warn of dangerous conditions, but does not allow for perception of 'pain' or 'discomfort.' The sensors along the torso are weaker visual sensors, detecting light and movement only.
At this point, the experiment is complete. The doctor has indicated that the subject still shows signs of life and is set to regain consciousness. Further experiments shall be conducted upon the subject's awakening.
Dr. T.E. Stearns has already indicated in the logs that the experiment is a success.
She awoke after the procedure without any feeling at all--heaviness, numbness, emptiness. Though the room was dark when she opened her eyes, she could see everything clearly, down to the individual threads in the folds of the sheets on which she lay. Yet it was like looking at the world through still water--no matter how well you could see, there was distance between her and the rest of the world. She lifted her paw, and there was the distance again, a lag before it finally moved.
Then she saw her paw, the thick, angular shape, and the gleam of grey metal. It was so heavy, and yet her arms too were heavier and lifted the weight with ease.
Across the room, she saw two green lights shining in a mirror. She ran towards it and saw a face. It was shaped like her own used to be, but everything was angular and lifeless. And those lights were the eyes, lidless, glowing circles. Now she could feel all of it, her new metallic shape--yet it wasn't just an empty shell, it filled that heavy hollowness inside her. She could feel the sparks of wires and the rush of oil inside the metal just as clearly as she used to feel the quickening of her pulse.
Immediately she closed her eyes (nevermind that her eyes didn't have lids anymore), hoping she could go back to sleep and wake up in the alleyway again, smelling the bread and feeling a rumble ripple through her stomach. That was real, this was a dream.
But even when she closed her eyes she could feel the sparks, and in the background of her mind was a steady stream of information: temperature and humidity readings, then beyond that the oxygen and energy levels. And if she delved even farther, a whole sea of information opened up, of which she only stood on the edge. She could feel it surging around her, little facts she shouldn't know washing up at her feet. If she were to swim out farther she would be lost forever in endless knowledge. What happened to me, she wondered, and almost immediately the information came like a slap in the face. The Experimentation on Subject ChesireGrin, under the direct supervision of T.E. Stearns...
She opened her eyes again, the only way she knew how to escape the infinite inside her head. Those two green lights still shone in the mirror. She could still feel the data in her head, but she wasn't drowning in it anymore. Chaaaaaange... she whispered, but only a flat, over-enunciated robotic voice spoke. She couldn't even stretch back her mouth into a smile anymore; it was a solid, unmoving piece of metal.
And she was a Cheshire cat without a grin.
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