Aidan Molloy | 2021
He pressed his hand to the scanner and stepped through the doorway. The soft hiss of hydraulics faded as he strode to the console.
“Can’t say. Take a look.”
There they were, his entire world. Well... for the moment.
From their first breath to the one they just took he watched. Well...he or Dara always watched. You have to take breaks sometimes.
They had been arguing again, he could see it in their body language. One was cross-legged facing their partner, the other lying in bed staring into the ceiling as if they knew he was watching from above.
“This goddamn career,” he thought. “It was the cause of all the problems. Everything about it was complicated. Floundering purpose, 60 hour weeks… but the real egg to crack is their goddamn connection between job performance and self-worth. Imagine if I viewed this situation as a reflection of me?”
He snorted aloud.
Dara shot him a look. Her head cocked to one side. Mostly curiosity but he saw a bit of impatience creeping in. She wasn’t ecstatic about how their conversation went. Damn, he missed something juicy.
“These jobs, can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Am I right?”
She gave a tight lipped smile, exasperated agreement, and went back to work.
He pulled open the access screens to current emotions.
“Fuck, it’s getting worse.”
They weren’t close to resolving anything. From surface to core there was tension and these late night skirmishes were only making things worse. He opened a new viewport and scanned through their timeline. He already knew what happened but lately he liked to remind himself that things were once good.
They had met at a trivia night. Complete strangers who ended up taking their teams to finals. The competition only magnified their attraction to one another. He had been so excited to watch those moments, nothing beats the unique starting point of deep connection.
He knew a relationship would be hard for them. His charge had been through so much. Escaping home, building a life, the trials and tribulations that come with being without home. Physically and emotionally. He had done what he could when he could but the console isn’t magic. His lip twitched at that. He chided himself and returned to watching the scene unfold.
The fight has lost steam but it’s not relief they feel, it’s anxiety squirming its way around uncomfortability, wrapped in insecurity. His charge is muttering something to himself, his lips barely moving.
A button on the console flashes red. He hits it instantly. A warm glow emanates from the console as a ding resounds in the room.
Eyes open, strength flooding in from seemingly nowhere. They start to talk and though they are slow to warm he can tell that things are turning around. It will be some time before he can use the button again.
They are asleep now. The console lowers it light. He looks up and smiles at Dara. She is standing on the other side of the console, leaning against her control board, her arms are taught with tension but her shoulders slumped, defeated.
“They don’t work together, Uriel. This constant tension is draining away precious time. Hell, it’s almost as bad as when he was smoking those wretched things.”
A tea cup appeared as she raised her hand to her mouth. She finished her sip and sighed. A deep exasperated sigh. An actor's sigh.
“They need each other. You will see. Just give it time.”
He knew that wasn’t true. Things were rocky on this side of the console. A divorce now? It could happen.
They are fragile. He knew that. They all have been. This is not his first charge. Hardly. But the console does not allow control. It is a delicate balance of curating moments. It is hardly static. He had worked that console for this one for nearly twenty five years before they met their current partner, and just like that his console room merged with Dara’s. Two watching two.
He was back in his quarters now. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he tried to keep his memories vibrant. The last quarter century had been interesting. Things were changing so fast in that world. He couldn’t tell if humans were spiraling or their world was simply spinning too fast.
The white walls glow pink. The red light is flashing. He pulls back the glass case and presses the button.
He can’t help himself. He smiles big. Perfect teeth.
But there is no ding. No warmth. He looks up confused. On the other side of the console Dara is staring at her button. It is pulsing red. She presses it. The ding is faint from where he stands but it echoes throughout their room as if it boomed.
He turns back to the console. What will this do?
He hears music...Metallica. Something so utterly mundane. The volume climbs. The driver hits every drum fill on the steering wheel with his fingers. Bangs his head to the rhythm of the riff. It’s a slow part of the song. He doesn’t notice the light has gone red. His car never stops. Neither does the bus. There is a flash of light on the console screen. Then black.
“I will miss working with you Dara.” Uriel sighs.
“I’ll miss it too.”
He knew she was lying.
He closes the view ports and signs out of the console. He takes one last look at the room he has shared with her for the last decade before stepping through the sliding door. He hears the familiar hiss and turns. But just like last time, like everytime a life ends, the door is now gone. He is in a new room. It’s all white and doorless, with a console sitting in the center, like every room before it.
He powers on the console. A newborn is crying. Their mother cradles them close. She radiates warmth.
He smiled down at the console screen.
“Welcome to the world little one, let us hope it does not crush you.”