“So, the Morenos are cursed.” Marquita thinks and she wonders what Mechteld’s family did to incur God’s disgust.
Mechteld watches the random pedestrians pass along the sidewalk. Despite the growing darkness she could still see the auras that surround them, but the distance between them and Mechteld protects their thoughts from her prying.
“I’d tell you to try and rest now, but you won’t be able to.”
Marquita is still trying to process everything she has learned. Overwhelmed she comments, “Who could after all of this?”
Mechteld slightly shakes her head. Correcting Marquita’s misconception she says, “No, I mean your body no longer needs sleep. You can’t even be knocked unconscious. The brain is always on.”
Unconvinced, Marquita points out, “But I was just asleep.”
“It was your last time.”
Marquita wants to think it’s a lie, but she reluctantly reminds herself that everything else has been true.
“How is it possible?”
Mechteld shrugs and says, “I don’t know. I’ve heard different ideas, but I don’t think anyone really knows.”
Mechteld takes a last drag from her cigarette and then leans over Marquita to deposit the butt in the overflowing ashtray. She then sits back and explains, “Your body is different now. As I said, you can no longer sleep. You also don’t need to eat or drink. You still can if you want to, but it’s no longer necessary.”
“Do you eat and drink?”
“Rarely.” Mechteld answers in a blunt voice. She then continues, “You need to know that your body will heal quickly from injuries and you’ll survive anything.”
“Any injury?” Marquita asks.
Mechteld nods and in knowing voice responds, “Yeah.”
Marquita looks at the scars that crisscross Mechteld’s body and she wonders about the traumas her body has experienced, besides the one’s Marqutia saw in her memories.
Cautiously, Marquita points to Mechteld’s various scars and asks, “Did you get those when you died?”
Mechteld lets out a long exhale and says, “I never died, just as you never died.” Marquita averts her eyes from Mechteld and shifts uncomfortably. Sensing Marquita’s awkwardness Mechteld rolls her eyes and explains, “I got most of these when I should have died. Some came afterwards.”
“What if my hand is cut off?”
“I’ve had my arm blown right out of its socket,” Mechteld holds out her heavily scarred left arm and examines it. “But it healed.”
“It grew back?” Marquita asks, her eyes wide as she stares at Mechteld outstretched arm.
“No, don’t be stupid.” Mechteld quickly snaps. She lets her arm fall again to her side. Marquita looks away from Mechteld. She bows her head and pulls her knees close to her chest. Mechteld looks over to Marquita who tries to keep her eyes averted.
Mechteld’s softens her voice and explains, “I had my arm reattached and it healed.”
“What if you didn’t reattach it?” Marquita asks, her voice now quieter and more cautious.
Without mollifying the details Mechteld answers,“I’d have a bloody stump.”
Marquita looks at her own hands and imagine them replaced by wrists of blood, flesh and exposed bone. Repulsed, yet interested she asks, “Does that happen? Do people just have stumps?”
“Yes.”Mechteld answers. Marquita found it unnerving that Mechteld was so nonchalant about something so horrific.
Marquita then asks, “What about being shot in the head?”
Mechteld gives a small shrug of her shoulders, “I guess it hurts and it’s an injury that requires a longer healing time, but you’ll survive and be the same.”
The images of the cave enter Marquita’s mind and she thinks about the blinking heads and heart pumping nonexistent blood. She thinks again about the face of the man who crushed Mechteld’s thumbs. These memories create the most questions for Marquita. She wants to know why they are they in the cave. Did Mechteld put them there? She also wants to know, can bodies survive being torn apart?
Timidly, with her voice faltering, Marquita asks, “And heads can live without bodies?”
Marquita knows that Mechteld is now thinking about the faces, too. In a raspy whisper Mechteld replies, “Yes.”
Mechteld then listlessly adds, “You can be shot, stabbed, crushed, dismembered, or disemboweled. It’ll hurt, but you live. You can never drown or be suffocated. Your body cannot freeze and only your top layer of skin can burn. You’ll also never be sick again.”
This causes a spark of excitement in Marquita. Doctor appointments and emergency room visits had consumed Marquita’s short life. In her mind, Marquita questions, “I’ll never take a pill or have to do to another medical test? My parents won’t have to pay another bill?” But with that thought Marquita’s excitement fades. She thinks, “The only bill they’re paying now is for my funeral.”
Marquita still didn’t know if the doctor completed her surgery.
“Will I still have seizures?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.” Mechteld says dismissively. “But I know the surgeon took out the tumor to be biopsied. It’s the only thing they have of you now.”
Marquita couldn’t help but imagine her mother crying over the tumor. Clinging to it as the last remains of her beloved daughter. Insisting on burying it. These thoughts disgust Marquita and she feels shame for thinking them, but notices that Mechteld’s face now has the smallest hint of amusement.