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The Tinkered Mind
A meditation app is forthcoming. Stay Tuned.
May 28th, 2023
In a bleary swirl of dream and aching wakefulness, Lucilius sensed a pressure on his arm. His skin burned where he felt the pressure and he winced. How eyes were nearly sealed shut, and they burned as he tried to open them. The light of the day was brilliant, and the long curls of light weaving through his dirty eyes lashes blinded him. A darkness sliced through the light and Lucilius squinted, lifting his head from the cold cement sidewalk. There in the silhouette, the image of a person slowly grew crisp from his fuzzy vision.
There in the darkness was a beautiful woman, smiling at him. She cupped a hand back over an ear to thread her bangs back out of her face.
“Hello Lucilius,” she said.
“What?” Lucilius barely managed to breathe out. “How are you?”
“I’ve been sent to help you. Do you think maybe you could sit up? I brought you a little bit of coffee.”
She was kneeling now in front of him, and swung from her back a backpack. She pulled a thermos from a side pocked and seeing Lucilius struggle to move, she placed it to a side and gently placed a hand along his side to help lift him. He winced and her expression grew pained.
“Does it hurt? Your skin?”
Lucilius nodded as he held his breath for the effort and slowly he sat up. By the time he was sitting upright, he was breathing heavily and sweating. The woman, with a face full of care, pulled a handkerchief from her backpack and gently dabbed Lucilius’ face.
“Who are you?” Lucilius said between his heaving breaths. “What is this - why - why are you here?”
The woman smiled. “I am from the first batch of rehabilitation models.”
“What?” Lucilius said, his face contorting in confusion.
The woman’s expression grew glad, hiding a sorrow inspired by his confusion.
“Let’s start a little smaller. Do you know what day it is?”
Lucilius shook his head as he watched her pour the dark coffee into a small mug.
“The month?” She asked with more hope.
Lucilius shook his head. He hadn’t thought about time in a long time. It hadn’t seemed important. His life had been reduced to far simpler terms, ones that existed only on a timeline of hours and never days.
“The year?” She asked, handing him the mug of coffee. “Careful, it’s still hot, but it should be ok. Just be careful with your lips, I see they are a little cracked.”
Lucilius tasted the bitter liquid. A network of pain lit up across his lips and into his mouth - sensitive to the heat. He winced, but it was good and he took another sip. The small action was an ordeal and after a couple more sips the woman took the cup from his hands and he leaned back against the brick wall. Memory of the moment scattered across his mind.
“Sorry, what did you ask?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “All that matters is today. It’s a really good day Lucilius.”
“Why? And who are you?”
The woman wiggled her head playfully from side to side. “I’m thinking of today kind of like your birthday.”
“Yea! We have a lot of fun planned today. It won’t all be easy, but we’ll get through it, and I promise things will be better soon.”
Lucilius grew scared, and he looked from side to side. Nothing about this made sense. But she placed her hands on his shoulders and waited for him to settle and look at her.
“You’re safe with me Lucilius. You’ll be safe from now on.”
It took nearly an hour to get Lucilius seated in the vehicle. The two doors finally secured, it finally began to roll and the woman scanned Lucilius for signs of dizziness, vertigo and nausea. They drove through the city, but Lucilius could not bring himself to look out the windows. He was bracing himself, not physically so much as mentally, worrying that he might be sick. And slowly the city gave way to the forested outskirts.
“Where are you taking me?” Lucilius asked.
“Home,” the woman said.
Lucilius didn’t know what to make of the answer. He had no home. He couldn’t even really think of the last place he’d thought of as home. He confusion clamped his mind. He just didn’t know what was going on. But he didn’t even have the strength to distrust, as his fear conjured memories of facilitates he’d been forced into over the years. He shivered, and the woman took from a compartment a blanket. She wrapped it around Lucilius, and pulled it snug.
“How’s that feel?”
Lucilius simply nodded, unsure what to think of feel.
When the car finally stopped and the woman helped Lucilius out, he looked at small building with rounded edges and corners, like a giant pill that had been stretched wider, sitting in a clearing within tall trees.
“Here we are!” The woman said. “Home sweet home!”
Inside there was a full kitchen, and a couch before a giant screen, and a few doors leading to a couple bedrooms and a bathroom. She helped Lucilius into the bathroom, where there was already a tub full of hot water.
“Will you be ok, or do you want help Lucilius?” She said with genuine concern.
But Lucilius was afraid. He shook his head a little, worried what the woman was thinking. She smiled flatly before leaving. “Just holler if you need anything, ok?”
He nodded uneasily and the door clicked shut. It took him nearly 20 minutes to get into the bath. His skin burned from the heat, from the water alone, and he was sweating just from the ordeal of trying to figure out how he could safely lower himself. The strength of his arms was long gone and he couldn’t trust his legs. Holding onto handles all around the tub he had to use all of his limps to safely and slowly sink into the hot water.
Nearly an hour and a half later he finally opened the door, and there the woman was, at the kitchen stove. She turned and smiled at Lucilius.
“Feeling a bit better?”
Lucilius nervously shook his head a little, unsure what to do next.
“I made you some soup, but if it’s too much, I also have tapioca pudding, which is the safest thing. I know you’re stomach probably can’t handle a big meal right now, but it’s important that we get something in you.”
He sat and she placed a bowl of soup before him, and then knelt to dab a wet cloth at his bleeding lips.
“Well that should be enough,” she said.
Lucilius looked confused.
“You don’t mind if I analyze your blood do you? Just so I can get a better idea of how we can move forward?” She jiggled from side to side as though it was little game, and then she blushed. “Ha, sorry” She said. “I’m just a little excited.”
Lucilius looked back at the soup for a full second and then reached for the spoon.
“I do need your permission though, Lucilius.”
He looked back up at her waiting face, and nodded. She smiled and then took the piece of bloody cloth and put it in her mouth and sucked on the cloth. Lucilius’ eyes went wide, and seeing his reaction, hers went wide too. She hastily took the cloth from her mouth.
But Lucilius was just speechless.
“Oh,” she said. “I’m sorry Lucilius, I’m just testing your blood, there’s nothing to worry about. And..” She hesitated slightly and then sighed heavily. “Actually, I think the tapioca pudding is going to be a better idea considering your test profile - you have’t really eaten anything of substance in a long time” She grimaced with compassion. “I’m so sorry for the tease Lucilius.”
She took the bowl away and fetched a small cup of pudding from the fridge. “Unfortunately, this is our best bet for right now, but tomorrow, I’m promise we’ll have soup!”
She watched him take a bite of the pudding.
“Is it good?”
Lucilius just looked at her for a moment.
“Sorry, it’s just exciting for me. But like I said, we’ll have soup tomorrow, and once we’ve reconstructed your microbiome, I’ll cook some wonderful things, I promise. I’m really good in the kitchen. Oh, and I’ll also give you a haircut tomorrow!”
Lucilius was uneasy and could only manage a few spoonfuls of the pudding before he felt light-headed. The woman helped him to bed, and there Lucilius fell into a deep sleep.
* * *
A year later the two were sitting a the peak of a nearby mountain - the terminus of their favorite hike. The view stretched across the ragged horizon of mountain and ocean. They had sat there so many times before, for so many hours, studying details that always seemed fresh.
Lucilius turned and looked at her. She was smiling.
She nodded. “We met a year ago, and I said it was kind of like your birthday.”
Lucilius breathed deeply and his cheeks puffed out as he slowly sighed in soft astonishment.
“Wow, a year.” He shook his head. “A year.”
“Congratulations…” She said.
Lucilius looked at her. His look was grave. There was too much emotion. But he embraced it, breathed deeply and let the sensation setting throughout his body as he’d trained himself to do under her guidance as a meditation teacher.
“It’s ok, Lucilius, I know.” She said.
Lucilius’s smile hung high to a side. “I know.”
The two looked back at the vista.
“Thank you,” Lucilius said.
She smiled as wide as ever, looking at him. “I’m so happy Lucilius - so so happy to see you like this.” She was shaking here head. “The pleasure was all mine.”
They sat quietly for a few more minutes before she spoke again. “Well, I need to get your birthday dinner started.”
“Of course! I made batter this morning.”
“Yes silly, you need a cake. We’re celebrating!”
They started back down the mountain, down the path they together had carved over the many hikes over many months. They both knew it by heart, and since Lucilius was now strong and fit, he trotted down. He was thinking over the many months, sensitive to how his memory faded as he tried to remember those first days and weeks with her. It was as though the last decades of his life had been a terrible nightmare, and only now, with her help, had he woken up.
He was smiling at the thought of his luck when something didn’t feel right. His foot slipped, buckled and he fell. But she spun around as he lost his balance, and quicker than any human she launched herself under him as he fell.
The two landed hard - the sound of cracking metal exploding.
“Are you ok?” She said, her face close to Lucilius’ as she laid against the slopped ground of soil and rock.
Lucilius quickly pushed himself up. “Yea, yea, I’m ok.”
She looked down, and Lucilius followed her gaze. There at the knees, her legs had snapped. The intricate pieces of her metal actuators were pulled apart. She had jumped in such a way to slide her legs into a crevice in order to have leverage to catch Lucilius, but it had been too much for her frame.
“Is you ankle ok?” She asked.
Lucilius shook his head, disapproving of her question. He sighed with a smile.
“You’re pretty silly, you know that?”
She smiled and wiggled her head. “That’s the way I like it!”
Lucilius carefully planted his feet and bent over, threading his arms beneath her legs and around her torso. She wrapped her arms around his neck. He lifted her up, and they looked back at the bottom halves of her legs still stuck in the crevice.
“Clearly I’ve been feeding you too much.”
Lucilius frowned. “I could just leave you here, you know.”
“You’d never,” she snapped back playfully. “You owe me.”
Lucilius rolled his eyes. “Yea, ok, I can’t argue there.”
He looked back at her parts in the crevice. “I’ll come back for those after I get you home.”
“Okie dokie,” she said as he began to carefully pick his steps along the path.
“Home,” she said. “Home, sweet home.”