“Oh, so now you talk.” I sounded sarcastic, even though I was more shocked than anything else.
We had left Rob’s place, since his wife and kids were about to come back home from a biomechanical organ check-up down at the federal hospital, and were driving around looking for a roach motel we could hole into and hide till they called for her.
Looking at her looking at me, the mirror reflected the hatred that I had for her.
She went back into silent mode, staring at her own reflection at the side of the car, the ghostly image that only appeared briefly if we happened to be spotted by a street light lamp.
Setting my own vendetta aside, my own frustration and stress, I talked to her in the nicest way I could sound, the nicest tone I could fake. “So why did you keep silent till now, Echo?”
She still didn’t say anything, the darkness engulfing us both as we whizzed by the buildings at a probably illegal speed.
“I thought that you were fully a memory bank, that the storage unit inside your brain pretty much occupied everything that made you a human.”
Slipping back into silence myself, we drove and drove around searching for the darkest spot we could find in this already dingy-looking town.
“Did you miss me?” She asked after a while, her face still facing the darkness, her lips faced away from me.
I didn’t say anything. There was really nothing else to say.
She already knows how I feel.
She was the one who made me feel the way I feel.
With the streets almost empty because of the cold, the city sleeps in a slumber with some grumbles here and then.
She asked “Did you ever think about me ever since?”
I pouted and pretended I didn’t hear her, that the lanes and streets and darkness and buildings took over anything I ever had for an attention span, that all I could ever do was to be trapped by their details and the chore that I was in.
She looked at me look at her in the reflection of the dark.
She said “Are you still mad at me?”
“You still haven’t forgiven me?”
“You’re still living in the past?”
It didn’t matter now, probably. Nothing ever did.
“Why didn’t you speak till now?” I asked back just to interrupt the rhythm of her speak.
“Would it have mattered if I did earlier?”
“FIBA and Rob might have treated you nicer if you did.”
“I wouldn’t have cared if they had treated me nicer or not.”
“Then what do you care?”
“Having a real body besides this virtual shell.”
Looking at her in question, I asked. “You’re fully biomechanical now?”
She laughed at this, as if it was an inside joke we both had, as if I understood why it sounded so funny to her.
“Would it matter?”
The x-rays from FIBA showed that only her arms and legs and eyes were biomechanical besides the storage unit occupying her brain, and that she still kept vital organs and parts organic, despite those usually being the main reason anybody went biomechanical.
Replacing cancerous parts was much easier, and cheaper, than to find a real cure.
“Organic and biomechanical is all the same.” She said as she looked ahead at the road in front of us. “We are all still trapped in a virtual shell that unable us to feel truly human, to truly live.”
“Then how do you truly live?”
“By waking up.” She smiled, the first time I’ve seen her lips curl since she took my heart.
“Is that what you did to those suicide victims?” I asked. “You ‘woke’ them up?”
“Not really.” She replied. “Only you yourself can wake yourself up, because only you can make the decision for the future of your own life.
“All I did was provide them the information and sources, like a good teacher does to her students, because all that I can do is to teach them and let them decide what they want to do with the life that they live.”
“That’s what motivational speakers and car salesmen say.” I chuckled at this. “But in the end, they are still the ones persuading you to do the things that they want, by cornering and leading you with questions and answers that will eventually only lead you towards the same ending that they want.”
She smiled at this, and looked at me with her green, green eyes.
“Do you think I persuaded them to kill themselves?”
Not unsure what I wanted to say, I moved away from the subject. “Why did you leave your name on the data after you hacked it?” I smiled at this, as if to ensure her that this was the direction I wanted to go. “That seems a bit sloppy for someone of your caliber.”
“I wanted to be remembered.” She said, as she looked away again, the reflection of the light on her green eyes fading through the darkness.
“And leaving your name on hacked data will help you do that, and not get caught for it when they find out instead?”
She smiled at this. “If I got caught up, it would still mean that people knew who I was, and remembered me and my name for it, even if it was for the wrong reasons.”
“So all that you did. Hacking into a social network server, talking to all those serial suicide victims, letting all those suicides occur and then getting caught by FIBA was all part of your master plan to be remembered?”
She smiled at that and said nothing, the rumble of the engines and the whirr of the wind filling up the silence that separated us both.
“I knew FIBA would lead me to you, I knew that FIBA would help me get to you.”
I laughed at that. “So you did all this and got caught just so that you could get to me?” I shook my head in disbelief. “Why? So you could confirm that I still hated you all these years? That all that I’ve ever thought about was to choke that little neck of yours and watch as your eyes roll up and the white fills the space between your eyelashes? Is that what you wanted to confirm?
“So you ‘persuaded’ all those innocent people to kill themselves and end their lives just for that? So that you know that you’re not wanted? So that you know that I still hated you for trying to kill me and ripping my heart out?”
She said nothing, and looked away in the same position she did before.
“What is it that you expected from me?” I yelled louder, even though the echo resonating through the car would have been enough for her to hear me clear. “That I would welcome back with my arms wide open? That all that you’d ever done to me would be forgiven and that the past would not matter? That everything would just slip back into normal again because you decided to ‘come back to me’, and that it is all forgiven because you said ‘sorry’?
“Because you said ‘I am so sorry’?”
The car rumbled a bit as the speed continued to gain, my feet pressing the gas pedal all the way to the bottom, forgotten as anger occupied the curiosity in my mind, the melancholy in my heart.
In the midst of the silence, my voice became dimmer, and an empty void occupied my mind.
“You could have easily just contacted me through phone or email, and I’m sure your hacking skills would have led you to my information and profile on the police department.”
We were almost outside city limits, the street light intervals becoming longer and longer, feeling as if it were miles and miles away from one lamp post to the next.
And in all this darkness, and in all this rage and silence, she said “I didn’t think you would forgive me, and if you did, you would not have been the same Hei I fell in love with before.”
Absorbing the rumble of the steering wheel as I gripped it tighter and tighter, my bare knuckles probably white from all the stress placed on them, I asked, softly, silently “Then why did you return?” I said. “Then why did you come back to my life?”
“Because you were the only person I knew.” She replied, a whisper drifting between the space separating us both.
The void that we still could not attempt to fill.
And in this moment of silence, she said “I no longer have a real body, like you.” Her tone was low and barely audible. “All I am are the memories of a system now old, all I have is this moment here, this life that I’ve been given.
“I have nothing beyond the present that I have here.”
Making no sense, I didn’t even attempt to humor her. “So now what?” I asked. “Are you just going to keep silent and not say anything till they extract the memory bank from your skull?”
“I can’t.” She replied. “If they do that to me, I’d die.”
“Everyone has a soul that will go somewhere afterwards.”
She smiled at this. “This is my soul in the afterlife.”
Once again, she made no sense.
“Everyone else is dead up there.”
And before I could give a reply, before I could say anything else, I felt some loud noise rip through the air.
A sharp whizzing noise as I felt it rip through my skin.
The feeling on my right arm was gone, my shoulder bones maybe shattered from the metal cap blasting through my skin and muscle and nerves.
And before I knew it, a hole ripped through my shoulder, the blood spilling as the bullet ripped through the skin on the other side.
Echo tried to say something, her lips open and her lungs poised to utter a single word, one that would be ripped and cut off by another whizzing bullet towards us, as it targeted my intestines this time.
The high-speed bullet crashing through my back window and ripping right through the flimsy seat.
The bile and digested food pouring and mixing in with the cavity that was between the organs.
Losing absolute control, my mind still in shock and surprise to know what to do, the car drove through the side of the road into a bump, at a speed that still resonated through the air from the result of my feet still plastering the gas pedal to the ground, and jumped and flipped as the tires bounced the rough terrain and threw us both first headlight first towards the ground, crashing as glass shattered everywhere, before gravity brought the rest of the car upside down, dust clouds and metal fragments everywhere, a breath that I could barely reach.
In the loud crash and resulted from my inability to drive, I could barely hear the screams that Echo made as the car tumbled into a rest.
Either my organic ear drums were getting older, or we were just getting farther apart.
I used to always hear her no matter how loud the noise was.
I used to always be with her no matter how far she was.