“Time is money.” Ah, how many times have I heard that? So very true, but so very incomplete, and it would be better to know nothing than to know half and be blind to the whole.
I was never blind, not from the old days, learning to watch money flow through the heart and veins of the world. Little by little, I found it unfolding before me so slowly, so clearly, until I was able to catch those fleeting moments of imbalance, still the flow, reach in a hand... Like an acupuncturist removing imbalance from a patient’s energies, but the blood it leaves on the first needle is money. What fortunes did other firms spend on faster and faster computers, thinking another nanosecond of processor speed would be enough to defeat me --- me, the Psychiccer of Time?
Yes, time is money, but I knew already that it was more. When the news reports began of Psychiccers who met the fates of wild dogs or guinea pigs, I was surrounded by smiles saying “That will never happen to you.”
Ah, Mr. Evans, what do I know about oppression? Time is money, and money is acceptance.
But how could it end there? I had no wish to be a golden goose, living at its keepers’ whim, and it was quite an exhilarating chess game to gain my independence.
Like a youth’s first view of the ocean, I found the vastness I had known was there from the start. Time is money, and money is power.
It was that sea that washed you up at my feet, Mr. Evans. Your government miscalculated when it declared that Psychiccers were not human, for what is not human can be bought and sold with the greatest of ease, even in “civilized” countries. Trifling objections to involving a foreigner or a Psychiccer in security secrets were easily baffled in a web of connections, and of course there was the budget to think of; troops and helicopters and widows’ pensions for every runaway child are very expensive. Those research facilities were ripe and waiting for a private contractor with the foresight to invest in their true potential.
Did you think I took over such operations out of humanitarian spirit? No, I was very well compensated --- with bringing governments onto my chessboard, with data...
...And with you. Money is power, but even the Treasure of Monte Cristo only became truly fearsome with the addition of a Count. I had my very own Chateau d’If, with you, my Edmond Dantès, waiting inside. Like the elephant that hasn’t tested its tether since it was a baby, all I had to do was give you a hint, a taste of what you could really do, and an obfuscating web enough for a government was certainly enough to hide it from a child like you, how the hand that feeds you might be connected to the hand on the key, or the gun...
It’s no obligation, of course. I don’t expect you to appreciate it. I have only myself to blame if I was so careless as to let my purchase get out of control, and I do hope you enjoy your little game of righteous vengeance.
But it has served its purpose, breaking open for me the veins of the world to the power beyond money, the power that makes nations tremble. It would have been far more convenient if you had disappeared and left that power to me intact, but it is quite clear which one of us will win our little dispute. You are blinded by that tiny sliver of the truth that is your little life, your so-very-terrible pain, whereas I can see the whole of it now:
Time is inevitability.
Every stroke of the second hand is more money, more data, more power, one degree closer to my perfection.
I wonder, do you have a clock where you can hear it ticking?
Maybe that was my first reason not to trust Wong. Time has never been my friend. It goes by too slowly; it’s gone too soon. I can’t win with it either way. It’s stretched out so long in front of me, but when I die, I won’t have had time for nearly everything I have to do, let alone what I might want to do. I can see that much already.
It was always that way, from the first day my powers emerged. Before I could control them, they almost killed me. A few Psychiccers start out turned in on themselves like that; not many, but a few, and I’ve helped others through it --- I wonder, would it have been like that for you, if you hadn’t given me your hand? I remember lying in the hospital covered with a machine to keep me warm, a mask over my face giving me air so hot and humid I could hardly stand it, but my hands were pinned down so I couldn’t take it off --- and I was still cold. Somewhere a clock was ticking on and on with everyone saying “just relax” and nothing I could do, not even anything to distract me from shivering and smothering for hours.
When something did happen, it was my mother. She told me that the doctors were taking me somewhere they could help me, and to relax and let them take care of it. But I don’t have to tell you where it was they took me. The hospital was only the beginning of years when every day was torture and I prayed for it to end, but then I would look back at how much of my life was gone forever. I shouldn’t have been thinking like this so young, but I knew that someday I was going to die, and I was that much closer to it without doing anything. I couldn’t do anything; all those years they let me think that they were the ones keeping my powers from killing me...
I would never have even thought of running away if they hadn’t put me in that room, where the walls were thin enough to hear the other side. The first thing I noticed was a banging of metal, and it brought tears to my eyes when I recognized the sound of a soda machine. At first it was a blessing --- I could at least listen instead of just sitting there suffering --- but before long it made it so much worse than before, that I could hear a real world where people were living that close, maybe within the length of my arm, but it was their world, where I was a weapon or a monster or a television news headline and would never... never...
Just what is it that you’re telling me not to destroy? A world that had a place for me --- for us --- was already destroyed. In that room, I could hear it dying while I couldn’t --- thought I couldn’t --- do anything.
Even running away wasn’t “doing” anything, not if that means deciding to take action. I couldn’t stand it any more, even if I would have died outside the lab, even if there wasn’t any world left out there for me to run to, it didn’t matter. There was nothing to “do.” There was nothing to decide.
No, you were the one who held my hand through that, the one who showed me that my powers were my own, that I could control them, I could decide to take action, and then...
I could turn a world where this person is a victim into a world where they’re not. I could turn a world where that person is alone into a world where they’re not.
Can you really ask me to leave it the way it was --- the way it still is --- Burn?
All those eternities of sitting there helpless, suddenly I knew what it cost, what a waste it was; it haunts me to this day what I could have done if I had realized it sooner. I couldn’t go back to doing nothing --- you can understand that, can’t you? I can never go back to that, no matter how hard it is.
And it has been hard. I don’t like closing pieces of my mind to you, but I don’t want you to see the things they did to me after they took me back, because I was an “escape risk” and “oppositional,” but I knew I had to fight, and by then I could stand anything. I was so sure that you’d come for me, and then, I thought, it would be the two of us, again...
It’s hard to say no to you, and you ask me for the one thing I can’t do.
It’s so hard to fight you, when I know that you want to take this weight off my shoulders, but I can’t just put it down. I can’t turn my back on the people who call out to me and look to me with hope. I can’t leave this burden, this pain, for someone else --- or step aside for someone else who comes to mind. Maybe he has so much time he can afford to waste it, but I can’t. It’s that heavy, but if I put it down...
If I put it down, I’d never be able to sleep.
It’s so heavy that I don’t see how I can possibly carry it as far as it has to go, but if I carry it far enough in a day, I can go to bed too exhausted to think about time passing that will never come back while I’m lying there doing nothing.
...Or about steel walls, live wires, voices in my mind that didn’t last until I could do anything for them...
...Screaming faces frozen in the ice... Don’t think I do it because it’s easy.
It’s really not fair at all, Burn. Ever since that day, you’ve looked so peaceful... When you wake up, will it be my turn? Or will I have to go on somehow without you? You’re still the one person in this whole sea of minds that I can just be myself and talk to. Maybe you can even hear me. Maybe, when you wake up, it could be the two of us...
The truth is that I know that won’t happen, but I can live in hope. For now.
There, you see. It feels like forever, seeing you like this, but when you wake up, I won’t be ready for it to end. There’s a clock ticking, and I know it’s shaving away bit by bit the time when there’s hope for you and me...
Time is not my friend, but I’ll just have to take it and make the most of it.
And do everything I can, while it lasts.