(inblue) Chapter 19: Sophia
Centrifugal force was what was most special about the carnival. The fast ride that did circles in blurred joy. When Sophia was a kid and too short to hit the You Must Be This High marker at the ride entrance, the fascination was from afar, on the outside watching and marveling – and impatiently wishing to get older and taller as quickly as possible.
By middle school, Sophia was riding all night until she felt sick. The sensation of being in something that went that fast, and made her insides quiver, and distorted the world in a dizzying portrait of abstract shapes and blended colors like a giant Pollock painting, was unique to any other experience she had up until that point. Thrill and fear married. Lost in the dizzy, the loud music, while flickers of worst-case scenarios slipped in and out of her mind, her individual car coming unfastened and hurled from the ride.
By high school, the fascination was just as strong, for that unique sensation. The speed and violently circular motion that pulled at the belly, creating that queasy butterfly feeling, accompanied by an admiration for the science behind it. The art of the science, how a bunch of equations on paper could become such a beautiful summer experience.
At the carnival that followed high school graduation, the ride felt more like sorcery than physics. Sophia’s science got lost in the magical emotionality of his body being thrown into hers by the manipulation of gravity. He couldn’t help it, the boy who was barely confident enough to ask her name, was pinned to the side of the car, into her, melding with her body in a way that two passionate lovers in bed couldn’t duplicate without the addition of tangential velocity squared and divided by the radius. The equal action and opposite reaction. They were flung together and all they could do was hold onto each other. Just strangers. Same age, same town. Vastly different schools. And how it all started.
Sophia knew he dreamt of that feeling of forces beyond his control pushing his body against hers, the ride spinning and blurring the world. To him, it felt more real than the times awake, despite the insistence of the naysayers that dreams were just that.
He had one reality he didn’t accept, and one dream that he mourned for and wished deeply for it to be real. Sophia knew two realities, the one she was supposed to live, and the one that was born of her selfish desire to control who gets to hurt. And she loved to dream about the carnival as much as he did.
Lately, it was getting harder to find the carnival dream. Sophia used to almost will it to be before slipping into sleep, when the desire was strong enough. Even in wake, the memory seemed to be slowly dissolving around the edges and the details becoming less distinguishable. The carnival began to transform into something more generic, as if she pulled the visual from any number of movies with carnival scenes. Nothing was in its right place, the rides and concessions, it all didn’t look true. The worst part were the faces. She could not make out any features whatsoever. She could see the detail on the periphery, but when she turned, it was like a giant eraser stripped the features. Just a blank canvas.
Sophia blamed her inability to access the memory on stress. After all, she had been there just months ago. It wasn’t some decaying mental image that dissipated over time in semi recollections and half-truths. It should have been as fresh as the present.
The carnival was one of several memories from the other reality that were slowly dissolving as if they were dipped into a solution that shrunk and separated the molecules, mixed thoroughly into the solution with nothing left that resembled the memory.
With eyelids clenched, Sophia strained to see into the past and to somehow, desperately, safeguard the most cherished memories. She reached for the night they drove to the quarry overlook, and looked out to the black, accented with the shimmering of other, far off places. Their hands interlocked between the seats. Sweaty palms that didn’t matter if they were sweaty, and a meteor hitting the earth would not have loosened their grip. She told him about the lights, the ones he longed to see but never did, and how she took a minutely brief and life changing trip to the center of the lake and back. He believed her, because nothing about her could be a lie.
Sophia walked across the concrete floor of the lab. Her footsteps echoed in the silence, off the concrete walls and metal ceiling. She put her hands upon the water tank as if it were some spiritually significant relic meant to provide direction. That was something she took no stock in, spirituality. Still, her hands fell heavy on its metal casing, and she looked through the tiny window at the light that hovered inches above the water, inches from her face. The light displayed a rhythmic, pulsating glow.
In three days, her benefactors would arrive to close down the lab. Sophia was expected to be gone by then. Her security clearance had already been revoked with the exception of access to the building. Three days and it would all be over.