“You will never die.” Mechteld emphasizes each word. “Your heart will continue beating forever.”
Marquita sits below the window trying to piece together the information, but then finally looks up and says, “I don’t get it.”
Mechteld shrugs her shoulders a little and says, “There’s not a lot to it. You can’t die and you’ll never grow older. That’s about it.”
Marquita furrows her brow and tries to guess if there’s a hidden meaning. Not knowing what to say, Marquita says what she knows to be true. “Everyone dies.”
“I haven’t.” Mechteld states plainly and then continues, “Millions of others haven’t and you won’t either.”
Mechtled looks down and meets Marquita’s gaze. Marquita knows what Mechteld is saying is impossible. Despite being sixteen, nothing about life is a secret to Marquita. For over ten years she has read the minds of almost every person she’s come in contact with. She knows what is real and what is a delusion from a sick mind. As she looks into Mechteld eyes, she concludes that Mechteld must be insane.
It doesn’t surprise Marquita that Mechteld is crazy. For her, keeping so many secrets and knowing the darkest thoughts of her friends and loved ones is a great burden to her mind. Perhaps her mind has degraded under the same stress and created a fantasy that she could live forever and save people from death. If she has been following her for two years, this delusion has been slowly growing over time. Perhaps after two years of obsession, she tried to make her fantasy a reality on the day of the surgery.
But some thoughts about Mechteld invade Marquita’s mind and cast a small shadows of doubt. The paper said she was stolen from a morgue. How could she fool doctors into thinking she was dead? But the biggest question for Marquita is, how could someone with such strong psychic control be losing her mind?
Despite the lingering questions, Marquita now knows what she must do.
“She’ll have to leave to this room eventually,” Marquita tells herself. “She’ll have to eat, she’ll have to sleep, she’ll have to go to the bathroom, when she does I’ll make my move.”
Marquita keeps reviewing the plan in her head. If she can get the phone, she’ll call home. If her parents think she’s alive, she knows they’ll never stop looking for her. If Mechteld leaves the room, she’ll try to signal someone outside. If she takes her out of the room she’ll throw herself at the first person they encounter. Marquita wonders if Mechteld is capable of killing her or any witness, but she then decides it is a risk she will take. Marquita is not sure what she’ll do if they don’t run into anyone while leaving the building. Marquita knows she can’t run on her weak legs, but perhaps she can hide. She knows she must get away. She knows that the longer she is with this insane individual, the more likely it is that she’ll never see her family.
Marquita asks herself, “Now that she has me what does she plan on doing with me.”
Disregarding all the information Mechteld just told her, she changes the topic and asks, “Why did you take me from my family?
Mechteld shifts in her chair; aggravated with Marquita’s deep denial. In her experience, people acted differently to this literally life changing news. But then she reminds herself, “They had violent conversions, Marquita merely drifted asleep.” She breathes in and tries to calm her impatience and anger.
She leans forward towards Marquita and explains, “Talent like yours needs to be nurtured, guided, and protected. We can’t do that in Corona.”
Marquita resists the urge to roll her eyes. Everything Mechteld says sounds ridiculous to her. Attempting to disguise her disbelief Marquita asks, “And where will we go?”
“Baltimore.” Mechteld answers.
“Baltimore?” Marquita asks, letting out a small laugh. “How is Baltimore better than Queens?”
Mechteld starts to unconsciously crack her knuckles. She wasn’t used to people laughing at something she said. Usually, most people were too afraid to say or do anything when she was around. She can feel rage bubbling up into her chest, but she reminds herself that losing her temper again will accomplish nothing at this delicate stage.
“Well, to start with, everyone here thinks you’re dead. If someone you knew saw you that would be extremely suspicious.” Mechteld tries to keep her voice calm, but her answer comes out as a yell. She takes a deep breath before continuing, “In Baltimore we can both focus on your training. Queens will have too many distractions for you.”
Marquita sits quietly. She knows it’s useless to argue with Mechteld on the merits of Baltimore. She told herself it didn’t matter anyway; there was no way she would be going to Baltimore.
Mechteld once again takes on a pensive tone as she says, “I wasn’t trained right when I began. I made a lot of mistakes, mistakes you can learn from.”
Marquita stares at a dark spot on the floor. She can feel her heart beating and her palms sweating. Despite all the hardships in the past year, this was the most stressful for her. She keeps her eyes on the dark spot and flatly says, “I don’t want to learn anything from you. I don’t want to be different. I want to go home.”
The two women sit in silence as the light begins to slightly wane outside. Mechteld ponders what strategy she would need to use next. She knows what Marquita’s breaking point is and that she only needs to apply a little more pressure in order to see results. She also notes that Maquita’s resilience has been surprising and it will no doubt be a useful asset in the future.
Before Mechteld can speak Marquita also decides to use a new tactic. She shifts her tone and says, “I won’t tell anyone where I was. Just let me go and it’ll be over.”
Trying to not sound aggravated Mechteld plainly says, “It’s too late now. It’s been done.”
Marquita had always been a calm person, but Mechteld’d refusal causes a rage to spike in her. If her legs had been strong she knows she would have charged at Mechteld, but instead she sits with her fists clenched and eyes staring forward and away from Mechteld. Marquita realizes she has never felt this way before. She has never been so uncontrollable. While trying to keep her voice steady she says, “You made a mistake by taking me. I don’t want this. I want to go home.” Her voice cracks when she finishes her sentence. Unable to contain her emotions, she begins to cry and hides her face in her knees.
Mechteld feels uncomfortable as she watches Marquita start to sob again. She knows she must change her strategy now in order to get Marquita off her one-track pursuit of returning home. Mechteld looks down and Marquita and says, “You don’t believe me.”
“How can I? What you’re saying is impossible.” Marquita sobs as she looks up at Mechteld.
Mechteld holds the gaze but then breaks it and stares out the window again. She then asks, “You love your parents, right?”
“Yes. Of course.” The question sets off alarm bells in Marquita’s head. Was this woman about to threaten her family? Were they safe now?
Mechteld continues, “They’ve had a difficult life right? They’ve always had to work hard jobs to provide for you. And to pay all those medical bills from your seizures and medications really cut into their American dream, right?”
“Yes.” Marquita answers. She wonders why Mechteld is saying all of this. It doesn’t sound like a threat, but Marquita knows better than to trust a crazy person.
Again Mechteld continues, “And the surgery didn’t help anything. There definitely wasn’t any money before and I believe if it weren’t for that anonymous donation the surgery wouldn’t have happened at all.”
Marquita knew that Mechteld was implying more than what she was saying. Irritated, she asks, “What’s your point?”
Astutely, Mechteld asks, “What if you could give them the life they deserve? A life where they can finally relax and have what they want. A life where the next bill in the mail isn’t the cause of another argument between your parents. Your dad won’t have to drive that truck anymore; they can get out of the city, and send some cash back home to Santo Domingo.”
Marquita gives Mechteld an incredulous look and asks, “Are you going to give them money?” She can feel her anger rising. Did she think that she could buy her parents off? Marquita then heatedly adds, “They would prefer me over any check…”
“No, I’m not going to give them money.”Mechteld answers. “Think of it this way. Your parents are going to be insanely rich after they sue the hospital. After all, their beautiful daughter was stolen from a morgue with a history of critical violations. Who knows what has happened to you? Sold on the black market? Ritual sacrifice? Pedophilic necromantic bride?” Mechteld gives a small smile before saying, “A jury will reward them anything they ask and they’ll ask for a lot.”
Still angry, Marquita counters, “My parents don’t know the first thing about suing people. My mother doesn’t even speak English. Plus, they don’t have any money to hire a lawyer.”
Unfazed, Mechteld says, “It’ll be no problem for them. I arranged for a lawyer to meet with them. They’ve already started the process. He told them he’ll collect his fee after they win.”
She shifts back in her chair again and says, “He’s a good lawyer and he’s one of us. He says the case will be simple. The only thing that prevents this plan from working is you.”
Marquita didn’t believe anything Mechteld said. It was clear to Marquita that Mechteld’s delusion was deeply entrenched in her mind. She’d clearly thought of an answer to all of Marquita’s questions and evidence beforehand. Marquita tries to focus her mind on the plan. She tells herself, “Just hold on and get out of the room. When you’re out everything will be fine.” But the frustration starts to bring more tears to Marquita’s eyes. Angry that her parents would be used as leverage against her, she stares at the ground and harshly whispers, “This is ridiculous. You’re lying.”
“Except, I’m not”. Mechteld reaches for one of the papers on the table. She flips through the pages and searches the articles. She then folds the paper in half and lays it in Marquita’s lap. Marquita looks down at the paper and sees the title,
“Family of Missing Queen’s Hospital Girl Hires Lawyer.”
“Give it time and you’ll see how this is the only option.” Mechteld adds resolutely.
Marquita stares at the paper. In a small article she again sees the names of herself and her parents. She quickly scans the article and confirms that Mechteld was at least partially telling the truth. Again she clenches her fist; crumpling the paper. But this time it wasn’t rage surging through her body, but dismay. For her the article revealed a deep and painful question. Marquita wonders, did her parents truly accept that she was dead?
A doubtful voice in Marquita’s head then asks, “How can a crazy person arrange all of this?” But just as quickly as she thinks it she silences the thought with a with a mantra of “It can’t be true. It can’t be true.”
Marquita wasn’t sure if Mechteld would respond to reason, but decides to use the evidence she knows is irrefutable.
“If there are millions of people who…” Marquita trails off. She doesn’t want to give credence to anything Mechteld has said, but unable to find a suitable word she shakily says, “..can’t die, I would know. I would have read it in someone’s mind by now.”
“The people without auras, do you know any?” Mechteld asks.
Maquita is caught slightly off guard. She wasn’t expecting Mechteld to challenge her testimony. Flustered, she says “No, I see them sometimes, but I don’t know any of them personally.”
Mechteld skillfully asks, “Have you read their thoughts?”
Marquita searches her mind for the last time she saw someone without an aura. She remembers seeing a man on the subway on the way to a doctor’s appointment. He sat across from her, but did she read his mind? It was always so difficult to focus on one mind when she was on a crowded subway. Marquita struggles remembering each instance she saw someone without an aura. She saw a woman at the laundry mat, but a boy from her class was there also and she wanted to read his thoughts instead. She searches for more instances, but only finds missed connections. It’s then that she realizes that she hasn’t read the minds of any aura-less people. Marquita tells herself that it doesn’t prove anything.
Marquita tells herself, “So what if I haven’t read their minds. That doesn’t mean anything. It can’t be true. It can’t be true.”
After a moment, Marquita responds, “You still have no proof.”
“You’re the proof.” Mechteld answers.
Marquita put her head in her hands; frustrated with Mechteld’s response. Marquita shouts, “I’m exactly the same except I have a damn hole in head!”
Mechteld stays calm. She knows that despite the resistance from Marquita, she is making progress. She then asks, “Weren’t you supposed to be in the ICU after surgery?”
“…Yes.” Marquita hesitantly answers. She knows this is true, yet the sudden realization of this causes a stinging heat to spread out from her spine.
Mechteld then asks, “And weren’t you supposed to have at least two weeks of recovery in the hospital?”
“Yeah.” The stinging heat continues to spread. She can feel it in her legs and in her fingers. In her mind she tells herself, “No, no, it means nothing. It’s not true. It’s not true.”
Mechteld then continues, “Yet, here you are, in Astoria, with no doctors, no machines, and no medicine; sitting up and arguing with me. How is that possible?”
How was it possible that she wasn’t attached to a machine? And what about the medicine she needed to take to keep her brain from swelling? Marquita reminds herself that everything Mechteld has said is impossible and there has to be a reasonable explanation for everything. She quietly tells herself, “Everyone dies.”
Mechteld gives out a deep exhale and in an almost teasing voice says, “I don’t understand you Marquita. At the hospital you thought God sent me, but now you can’t believe that I’m here to help you.”
“You’ve shown me nothing.” Marquita quickly retorts, but both Mechteld and Marquita know that this is a lie.
Mechteld takes the paper from Marquita’s lap and places it back on the stack of newspapers. Casually she says, “When we get to Baltimore I can show you more.”
Marquita pulls her knees up to her chest and lays her head there. She closes her eyes and whispers, “I’m not going to Baltimore.”