Chapter 4:

Melody of Memory

The Legacy of Xaero: Refrain from Reminiscence

Considering her inexperience with mnemonesis, Adero wasn’t sure what she was going to expect as she plugged into Crystal’s hippocampus. All she knew for certain was that she had to be extremely careful; a single misstep could put either of them into a vegetative state. So it was an understatement to say that it came as a surprise for her to find music. A gorgeous symphony within the mindscape of Crystal that evoked her past and culminated in her identity.

Are all minds like this? She thought in awe as the melody weaved another verse. Or does this just mean Crystal is musically gifted?

In her mind’s eye, Doctor Orr bobbed to the rhythm, humming to the beat. The orchestra was infectious. Grand piano keys playing in concert with brass and string instruments setting the stage of the world within Crystal’s mind. It was all so intoxicating.

Unexpectedly, the human manifested inside her consciousness, taking to the stage the instruments wrought and wearing a fine dress. The music grew silent, and Crystal opened her mouth…

And began to sing.

The song was beautiful. It was obvious that Crystal had training, performing with as much grace and skill as any opera singer. Adero felt her heart melt, and she realized tears were falling down her cheeks. All at once she understood the depths of Crystal’s pain, and knew it was more than just seeing Venus crippled that caused her depression. She felt helpless, alone and scared. Her voice carried the grief of losing everyone that she loved, and everyone she might lose, mixing together with the instruments into a tragic symphony that was both hopeless and sublime. And yet there was a hint of optimism, impulsively born and desperately attempting to displace the symphony’s song with a deafening silence.

Crystal wasn’t shutting down because she was losing everyone. She was shutting down to avoid losing everyone.

This won’t work! She shouted into the ether. That isn’t how life operates!

Life is precious. It is also unfair. But it isn’t like some game that could be ended at any time to play something else. So many humans, elves, cait sith, and yes, even unimus, go throughout their lives so unsure why they are here, where they came from, or where they are going after they die. Adero didn’t know those answers, she didn’t know if she’d ever find them in her lifetime, but Doctor Orr knew she was never going to quit finding what happened at the end, or after the end, until she got there.

A fire ignited in her soul. Taking action, the Unimus began to add her own music to the refrain. Passion, love and hope began to join the melody, invigorating the score and bringing light to the stage.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed. Crystal’s ceased her singing, confused as Adero conducted a refrain for the both of them.

Let me help you! Adero tried to convey. I can’t help you unless you help yourself!

Just as Doctor Orr began to feel like her efforts were going to be for nothing, she felt Crystal’s mind brush against hers.

Then what will, sis?

What will?

The question rang against her psyche. Adero knew what could, but would Crystal allow her?

I can help. She replied. Please… let me help.

Crystal seemed to consider her offer. She was remarkably astute for a child. After what felt like an eternity, the girl withdrew, leaving Adero alone. Leaving her to her work.

With some apprehension, Doctor Orr began looking for the trauma. It was easier than she thought it would be, but considering that Crystal wasn’t even ten years old, it made sense that there wasn’t as much memories for her to sift through.

What will you do? Crystal’s voice echoed inside her.

I’m going to… to erase all memory of your participation in the war, Adero answered tentatively. Is that alright?

Will it hurt?

I… I don’t know. She confessed. This will be a first for the both of us. Please don’t hate me for doing this. But I understand if you will.

Okay. I feel tired. Crystal’s voice declared. I’m going to sleep.

Leaving her to her work, Adero reluctantly began to edit the melody of memory in Crystal’s mind.

The work was exhaustive. Several times, Doctor Orr had to double back and readjust parts of the symphony, weaving together new chords in order to prevent any contradictions that Crystal might find if she ever reflected on her past too deeply. As she was working, Adero started to understand perhaps why mnemonesis had been outlawed so long ago: she felt a rush of adrenaline unlike anything she had experienced before as the work continued. It wasn’t just the fact that she was repressing or erasing the memories of the war from a girl’s mind, she felt like she was creating a new identity for her. An intoxicating alternative to the trauma originally experienced.

Every time that feeling began to creep into her mind, Adero felt a sense of revulsion. She wasn’t trying to create a new persona for Crystal; She was trying to fix her sister. Meddling in the human’s memories was already a violation of everything she held dear, the least she could do was to remove the girl’s pain without altering her identity or values.

After what felt like days of exhaustive work, Doctor Orr finally felt satisfied, and withdrew from Crystal’s mind. She checked her internal time, and was shocked to see it had only been a few hours. Nikoly, Alinyah’s daughter and Crystal’s caretaker, was resting on her other couch, clutching a clumsily made doll that suspiciously looked like Crystal.

Apprehension began to fill Adero, and she cautiously roused the cait sith from slumber. “Nikoly, right?” she said softly.

The woman’s eyes fluttered, and a blush filled her cheeks as she realized what had happened. “I’m so sorry,” the woman exclaimed. “I got worried and checked on you two, and saw you were doing some kind of intense therapy with Crystal, so I must have dozed off while waiting!”

“What time is it?” Crystal yawned behind them. “Why do I feel so stiff?”

Hearing Crystal speak made Adero’s soul soar into the sky. If only she hadn’t been forced into this position in the first place.

“Our session accidentally went long,” she lied. “Thankfully you were the last appointment I had. It was a lot of fun talking with you, sis.”

Crystal giggled. “Did Nikoly show you the doll she made of me?” she asked, yanking the doll from her caretaker’s grasp and presenting it to Adero.

Doctor Orr felt her heart melt. The doll was poorly made, but the love that went into it made it worth more than the greatest riches in the world. It captured the hyperactive nature of who it was based on quite effectively.

While it looked like her “appointment” with Crystal looked like it was a success, Adero knew that this warranted further observation. The mnemonetic surgery she performed could have been the first operation done in hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. Should Crystal suddenly spiral again, and Adero didn’t know what she’d do with herself. But hopefully by that time, she’d have the experience necessary to help the child without altering her memories. Time will tell.

Following her report to Alister, the Headmaster smiled. He had two gifts for her: his congratulations for tackling the problem, as well as tenure at Eclipse Academy. She didn’t even know if academic therapists could even be offered tenure, but that’s what it sounded like to her. While his patronage would ensure her own financial security for the foreseeable future, it still left her with a terrible feeling regarding her actions.

Had she done the right thing? Or was she no better than the Unimus who abused their natural powers during the Second Age?

Adero didn’t know the answer. She didn’t think she wanted to know. For the first time in her life, she finally understood shame; in herself, in her people, in the actions she took to save a life. She compromised a part of herself to save another, and now the reflection that stared back at her in the mirror almost looked disgusted at the sight of her.

What surprised her though was that her trip into Crystal’s mind did offer clarity on what she could do to escape her own guilt. It was horrible, but the world was already horrible with the war, how bad would a little more darkness bring?

She might have carried out her inane plan if not for the unexpected interference of Crystal.

“Grandpa said you seemed upset,” she declared by way of greeting, wrapping her arms around Adero’s waist. “So I won’t let go until it’s gone!”

Perhaps… perhaps some times a little light went a long way during the darkest of nights. Though she was hired under false pretenses, Adero was glad that there was nothing false about her relationship with Crystal. Alister may be cruel, but he still cared, in his own twisted way. She might never forgive him for what he put her through, but she will always be grateful it was by his hand she got to meet her new little sister.