Dreams of a Perfect Future

By James Flint, 10 June 1996

A story by James Flint

Minnie inched away from the blue beaten shadows of the rhodendrons. The archaic sonics of the city gripped her with the tenuous potentials of a pack of playing cards arched between arthritic fingers and aching to be riffled. Behind her the leaves were shuffled, cut, reconfigured by her inverted psychic map, its topology punched inside out by the rape. Her attacker was long gone, perhaps in a certain sense he had never existed. But he persisted in other ways: in the five-fingered bruise rising like a blush across Minnie's lips; in the glimpse of an engorged penis that shimmered as a memory in her visual cortex; in the limply lit hollows dug by the struggle in the soft mulch ground of the shrubbery; in the plastic geometry of her shredded hymen.

There were other clues, too. The earth knew that he wore an artificial limb, and that it had been manufactured to order by Semper Fidelis; the firm's logo was left imprinted in the forgiving soil until plashed away by a tumble of midnight rain. The lateral lacerations that decorated the girl's skin bore witness to the sharp points to which the assailant's nails had been pared. Fibres from his corduroy trousers were left amongst her pubic hairs, and his genetic codes buzzed within a dribble of his semen. And he was of average height and build, that much Minnie could remember.

But when asked to construct an identikit of her attacker she became hysterical. He had kept a nylon mask pulled down over his face for the duration of the ordeal, a mask with a single slit - for the mouth, in order that he might tear at her with his teeth. She didn't even see his eyes, nor he hers. The right parietal lobe of her brain, organised into a twenty-dimensional state-space capable of the discrimination, grouping and recognition of many billions of distinct faces, had lain idle throughout the incident. This, coupled with the fact that Minnie refused to discuss any memories she did have of the event, made it extremely unlikely that any suspect should be located or apprehended by the police.

For Minnie the event - the attack - constructed itself like an impossible machine out of the conjunctions of the tinged pool of night-park, the shudders of the undergrowth, a soft-step echo in fog and glow, the blank rush of total violence (a wall screaming up towards her), a night sky wiped clean of stars by the town lights refracting upon a burnished dome of smog, the sear of tyres not ten feet away, the suck of the stinking pitchwater against the piles that defined the defunct canal.. The intercourse which took place did not belong to her; it was the branches and the railings which were fucking. The tearing of her hymen produced the intensities needed to excite a random statistic into her mind where it hovered like the afterimage of a bright light on the retina: a thousand shopping trolleys were found in this short stretch of waterway alone when the dredgers passed through in 1989.

The broken fingers, scratched cornea, traumatised muscles were memories for experiences both gone and to come. In the aftermath, before she experienced revulsion or guilt, she was swamped with an unbearable sense of déjà-vu, as if like some impossible oral tradition her damaged flesh spelled out the patchwork of all her past and all her future history.

They put her into cryo and wiped her memory clean. Sent robots across the blood brain barrier to sooth out the traumatised neurons, a hundred million silent spiders repairing a damaged communal web. It was a new technique, experimental. Her parents' consent was required, and they had been keen to give it. They were evangelists, founder members of one of the many new revisionist cults that had sprung up in the wake of the millenium' s failure to bear witness to the much prophesied armegeddon. Her father went by the name of Pastor John. He was a gaunt man flushed with the fear, the ash of a thousand conflagrations on his cheek, a sports commentator who for many years had beat his wife for being overweight until on the tick of midnight, January 1st, 2012, he and she had experienced a simultaneous revelation. With the cessation of her husbandÕs beatings the wife overcame her eating disorder and lost a great deal of weight, and the couple fell in love all over again. Their child was only two back then, too young to remember the violence although it pulsed in the folds of her cortex like a quiet clave rhythm. They had her rebaptised in their own invented fashion, they called her Mindburst after their epiphany, and she grew into a happy, stunted child and everyone called her Minnie.

There was something else too, another aspect to the operation. The labs in Santa Clara had come up with self-replicating nano-machines that could take their cue from the interactions of the cistrons of the genome and rebuild specific tissue, good as new. The parents signed and the doctors jacked it in, it was an incredible thing, her mother cried when every time she visited - on the hour every hour, almost a vigil -there was a visible improvement. It was as if a film was being run backwards. The bruises sucked themselves back into the muscle fibres, the teeth marks shallowed out like desert features in the wind (yes, they had some hint of dental records, they had that much), the drum of skin reknitted itself like a miracle, forming a new miniscus across the entrance to her vagina. Her father read passages from L. Ron Hubbard at public meetings and called for contributions on satellite TV. Crowds began to gather. The medical pioneers became national figures, trailblazers on yet another American frontier. The people were bored with outer space: the planets around us were dead, other systems were too far away. No one noticed the figure that lurched through the throng gathered daily at the hospital gates, that clung to the shadows of the hospital corridors like some rancid limpet of the night. No one noticed because the figure was one of them, born amongst them, one of the brood.

The funds flowed in and a new wing was to be built and the technique had the approbation of the people and soon other victims were returned to a pristine state. Minnie remembered nothing; she had been saved from the storm, washed up clean upon the beach and taken in. Her parents lived in a beautiful house now, far away in the foothills, and in the mornings she could pluck oranges from the bushes on the veranda and squeeze them for their juice. Like the first test-tube baby she was soon forgotten, and those that knew (her parents, her church) shielded her from any media glare there might have been. It would have been unforgivable to remind her - she had forgotten, society must forget too. The president himself had given a broadcast the night before Minnie left the hospital, doing his part to carry out the same operation in the vapour memory of the populace that the tiny machines had carried out in Minnie's brain. Reknit it, make it clean. It was a grand experiment, and even the National Enquirer played ball. Leader writers wrote final pieces on 'the new morality' and then fell quiet. The limpet watched and waited. The healing time was fast.

Pastor John was an easy man to find. He lived so that those that wanted him could find him easily and those that did not stayed well away, and his wife was much the same. Minnie had a small pair of rooms at the back of the house, both of which let onto the garden. She had been sick, with chicken pox, and had missed a lot of school, so a private tutor came each day to take her lessons. She was a little lonely but mother and father were close by and she knew what a pretty child she was, sweet sixteen. The limpet watched her undress at night from a distance, his infra-red binoculars boring holes in the darkness like the glowing barrels of a warm gun. She was too modest not to draw the blinds but this did not bother him, it gave him all the comfort he needed just to know that she was there.

He took a job in the hospital as a porter and did his research well. At night his laugh could be heard down the empty corridors and it freaked out the nurses and upset the geriatrics and excited the insane and so they had to ask him to leave, but by then he had learnt all that he needed to know. He went back to the foothills and rented a room in the town, and limped regularly to the local church on his prosthetic leg like a god-fearin' man so that he could be close to Minnie, so that he could breathe the fragrance of her second, better, skin as she tripped down the aisle, so that he could hear her father preach and her mother simper. It proved harder to learn not to giggle than to study medicine and science, but he learnt it all the same.

He joined the choir - he had a fine tenor voice, his grandfather a Welshman although he didn't know it - and manoeuvred himself into the pews across from his quarry. Finally one Sunday he caught her eye. For several seconds they stared at each other, she blossoming, blatant, precocious, he waiting for something to stir. But not the hint of a shadow flitted across her pink little face, not the remotest flux of a recollection. Laura, her friend, who stood next to her, hiccuped and missed a beat and Minnie laughed and looked through the limpet then forgot him and turned away.

That night he came, tripped the magnetic lock on the French doors with some homemade device, stole into her room and took her with violence, mercilessly. He manipulated her and shamed her, used her and abused her, and before he left he drugged her. Sleep tumbled over her like a suffocating wave; dream, nightmare and day confused themselves like the twisted strands of a plait, her body looked upon itself in REM and was inside-out and flat upon the bed, its tissues damp, flaccid and exposed. Reality was great shards of glass that sheared across each other. Flesh, sense, words fell from the action like thin peels of ham from a bacon slicer. Telos and hope were gone.

And then, like the cavalry, like Arthur's stony knights, the molecular puritans awoke from their langorous and forgotten slumbers and coursed along the axons and dendrites, leaping the synaptic vesicles, bridging the corpus callosum, recompounding and reweighting as they went. They fluttered through the muscles of Minnie's chest and inundated the soft matter of her breasts, dissipating any bruising; they welled up from the labia minora and the vaginal wall, rebuilding the torn flap of skin. As she healed, the cross-currents in her sleep were smoothed, the rage of the night was stifled, and her mind gradually folded back in upon itself. When she awoke she found herself berthed in a calm bay. She rose and stretched and drank a glass of water, and went softly upstairs to join her parents on the balcony for breakfast. Her breath was downy and sweet, and sleep gummed her eyes just so. It was a beautiful day, and she said so, and then she plucked three oranges from the perfect trees and squeezed them all herself.

He came again after that, again and again, though he did not think it wise to visit more than twice a week. When Minnie became pregnant, her parents were incensed. They grilled her about the boys she knew from church and slapped her across the face a few times. But her denials were so vehement that they took her to be examined in the hospital's new wing, and then the proof was there for all to see. She was virgin pure, unsoiled, pure as eternity.

They declared it a miracle. The news went out across the country. And the money poured in once again as the burgeoning band of believers and supporters waited with stout and brimming hearts for what could only be the second coming of the very child of God.