Deep Red, Chapter Eight

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December 20, 1745: Margaret has decided to sue for peace with the primordials and their creations. She argues that we cannot pursue any kind of personal evolution if we are constantly plagued with war. The vote for peace was unanimous. We are all weary … January 25, 1746: The primordials will only agree to peace on the terms that Victoria relinquishes Dorothy–who both sides now agree is the prophesied hybrid–to the mercy of the Residents. Victoria knows this means death for her daughter, but has agreed to the treaty. Dorothy begged for her mother’s protection, but was afforded none. I still suspect Victoria’s hand in Dorothy’s actions but have no proof. Dorothy must die, and we will have the peace denied us since our arrival … January 27, 1746: We were given Dorothy’s body upon her death. After examining the body, I have determined that she is no different from any other volemic. If the primordials find out, peace will be over. I must guard this secret. Burning these pages would be best, but I cannot. Last night, Rayne came to my house to talk. After hours, and a good deal of ale, she said that the hybrid might very well be the savior of the world, rather than the destroyer, and that she knew Dorothy was not the one before the peace proceedings even began. Perhaps she is the only primordial with this knowledge … April 11, 1750: During the time that has passed since Dorothy’s death, I have enlisted my grandson, Jacob, to help me begin to delve into the mysteries of our biology in this reality … March 20, 1753: I have determined that Jacob must inherit my legacy. I still have quite a bit of life left in me, so I will have time to teach him all I know. Benjamin has disappointed me by leaving his three children and his wife here. He and one of his companions, Charles Lewis, left two weeks ago for places unknown….

excerpts from The Diary of Walker Shinab, 1745-1753, trans. by Jonah Shinab, 1849

Chapter Eight

Blood Pressure

When she came into the patient room, Zoe tried to give Marlo what she thought was an encouraging smile. She had little experience dealing with adults but thought she should do something to put Marlo at ease. Marlo had been through a lot and wouldn’t want to be treated like a specimen. Garrett offered Zoe a snapshot of how the little girl–who once punched someone for telling Zoe’s girlfriend, Katrina, that it wasn’t okay to like girls instead of boys–had been replaced by a stranger.

On the other hand, Zoe had to moderate her enthusiasm. She never dreamed she’d even get a glimpse of the hybrid’s genetic material, and yet she would be the first one to pull it apart and see how it all ran together. Zoe rubbed her prosthetic leg when she sat down, a nervous habit that followed her since Victoria removed the real leg ten years before.

“You look really young to be a doctor,” Marlo said.

“I’m the exact same age as you,” Zoe replied.

“Exact?” Zoe nodded. Marlo stared at her a moment longer. “Then we would have been here at the same time. Before I was taken away.”

“We were. You and Adam and Katrina used to be inseparable.”

“You’d think I’d remember you,” Marlo said. Marlo’s eyes lingered on the curve of Zoe’s jaw. Marlo blinked. “You’d think I’d remember friends.”

“You probably will at some point.” Zoe assured her, clearing her throat, though she doubted Marlo would remember much about her. “Shall we start?” Marlo nodded. “Good. These questions might seem personal, but I need to get a baseline for the tests.” Marlo nodded again. “Garrett tells me you’ve never been to a doctor outside of Haven?” she asked.

“I never needed to,” Marlo replied. “But I’ve seen enough television dramas to know that medical instruments are cold, doctors are strange, and it’s never lupus.” Marlo grinned as if it was a joke, but Zoe wondered if Marlo was making fun of her.

“I’ll try not to take that personally,” Zoe said flatly. “And Otherworlders can’t get human diseases.” Out of habit, she rubbed her hand on her stethoscope. “If you’ve never needed a doctor, this will probably be a quick preliminary. I’ll explain everything as we go along. If you have questions, ask them,” Zoe said, applying the stethoscope to Marlo’s chest. “Breathe in. And out. And in. And out.” Zoe listened for a moment and frowned. This couldn’t be right. She took Marlo’s temperature, and performed all other standard procedures, and the crease between her brow furrowed deeper with each progressing step.

“Okay, first question,” Marlo said after Zoe took off the blood pressure cuff. “Am I normal?”

“That depends. For kindred? No. For a changeling. Somewhat. But the stats from your last reading are different from today. We just checked you last night….” Zoe shook her head. Zoe continued talking, only half aware that Marlo was even there. “Your heart rate, according to today’s reading, is more in line with a changeling, but your blood pressure is much lower than either kindred or changeling. Your heart is strong, incredibly strong, and so are your lungs. When we do the EKG and pulmonary tests we’ll know more, but….This is fascinating.” Zoe flipped through Marlo’s chart to an old, yellowed piece of paper that contained Marlo’s vitals from last doctor visit at Haven. “Absolutely fascinating.”

“Care to share?” Marlo asked.

“Your entire circulatory system seems to have changed,” Zoe said. “When you were five, your stats were completely normal. Oddly normal, yes, but not anything to concern the doctor. Last night, your readings were unusual, but nothing like this. I can’t wait to get a second look at your blood work.” Zoe looked up and could see the line she just crossed darken Marlo’s eyes. “That was insensitive.”

“A little.” Marlo forced a half smile. “I don’t think I’m as fascinated by my medical freakishness as you seem to be.”

“I know you must think this whole process is strange, but there’s so much we can do….” Zoe froze, realizing she said too much.

“With what?” Marlo asked, skipping over Zoe’s blunder. “With this feeling of dread growing inside of me? I woke up in a pool of someone else’s blood and realized I might not be the person I thought I was. Now you and Victoria say I’m not even the same species. What would you do with it?”

“My story is a variation of yours,” Zoe said. “So is the story of every other person at Haven. I’ll be the first person to admit we all make mistakes, and that it usually hurts someone.” Zoe rubbed her leg again. “You were defending yourself.”

Marlo looked down. “That doesn’t make what I did right.”

“Right and wrong are concepts made up by the Residents. Otherworlders have two primary instincts: survive and thrive. Surviving is instinctual. Thriving is doing only that which will lead you toward personal evolution.”

Marlo smirked. “It’s been a long time since I heard that phrase.”

“My point is,” Zoe continued, “It all worked out for me, and it will work out for you. You just need time, patience, and purpose.“ For Zoe, the combination of the three was the only blessing she had after she lost her leg. When Victoria took her in hand, and taught her math and science, Zoe experienced a rebirth. Marlo would do the same, if she let herself, but she had been so stubborn when they were young, so emotional.

“I’m really glad it all worked out for you,” Marlo said. “But the human I killed, rotten or not, is dead. I know Otherworlders don’t have much respect for human life, but I grew up with Residents. I played with them, had dinner at their houses and sleepovers. Both as a child and an adult. This whole thing is just…complicated.”

“But not your fault. You can’t tell me that date rape is a reasonable punishment for breaking two years of sobriety.”

Marlo looked surprised that Zoe knew this information. “I suppose not.” Marlo’s voice softened and her eyes wandered to a painting on the wall. “I just don’t want to get to the point where human life means nothing to me.”

Zoe’s anger spiked. “If the Counsel gets their wish, you might have to toughen up that bleeding heart of yours.”

“What does that mean?”

Zoe cringed at her repeated negligence. If Victoria hadn’t said anything yet, she had her reasons. She wouldn’t want her talking to Marlo about all this.

“You should let Victoria fill you in,” Zoe said. “When I’m done analyzing the tests, she can explain them to you.”

“Sure,” Marlo said. She replied to all of Zoe’s subsequent questions in monosyllables.

If she felt strange about sharing her complete physical and sexual history with a stranger, or uncomfortable enduring a breast and full pelvic exam, Marlo didn’t let on. When Zoe sent Marlo to lunch, she wondered if Katrina would think she had betrayed Marlo in some way.

Chapter Nine→