back to part 3
Disconnection -- how it ends
Over the next year and a half, Christina became a regular visitor to my office, and my operating table.
After she had adjusted to being without anger and irritation, she found that fear paralysed her, so that "had to go". She was scared for herself, her children, her family, and I had to admit, the emotion had taken on the aspects of a neurosis - classic paranoia. This took perhaps five months, after the second procedure.
Next came a sense of aching loss and grief, to fill the emptiness left by the other emotions. She sat in front of me with tears pouring down her face, telling me that she had done nothing but cry for the past week. She described her longing to feel strongly, and I couldn't feel any sense of satisfaction in the fact that I had foretold this eventuality, as her suffering was patently so great. I could only empathise, and agree to rid her of the pain. This was quicker, less than three months.
After that, I wasn't really sure what was left. Love, anger, fear and grief, these were the strongest, the primary patterns that I had identified. I arranged, as a condition of the last treatment that she should visit me regularly, both for monitoring, and to assist me in my research. I felt more than a little awkward that in Christina, I had a subject who, now that she had rid herself of the stronger emotions, enabled me to look at the more subtle patterns which, in normal humans, are overwhelmed by the others, but the opportunity to further my knowledge was too good to miss; and, to an extent, it was an essential part of my continuing care of her.
I identified curiosity, boredom, amusement (or humour if you will), and to my own surprise, distinct shapes for both pride and shame or guilt, which I had previously assumed to be combinations and subsets of love, anger and fear.
During this time, Christina seemed to be handling life relatively well, functioning in her role, if not effortlessly, at least without any noticeable emotional obstacle. There was a half-year period where she simply visited me once a month in accordance with our agreement, and made no report of any mental imbalance.
Then she started to complain of inappropriate laughter, of finding callous amusement in the misfortunes of others, and being unable to hide it. I suggested that this, whilst it was troublesome, didn't actually present any great handicap, and painted an impassioned picture of how her life would be without any humour or joy. I managed to dissuade her from insisting on treatment for a couple of months, but eventually I received a call from her Cedric Parkinson. He told me that his daughter was proving an embarrassment to her family, and in a voice that held nothing of warmth or praise, instructed me to operate immediately.
I did so, with an ache in my belly that I recognised as shame, at having started the whole mess, and at my easy capitulation in continuing it. That caused me intense physical pain, and, as I remembered it, I was less reluctant to remove that emotion from Christina's shrinking portfolio of responses a couple of months later.
Throughout this time, Christina had continued to look every inch the perfect Aristocrat. Nothing touched her beauty, other than the various tormented expressions that crossed her face.
After the procedure which eliminated shame however, she began to gain weight quickly. Within a few weeks she was bloated, and her skin became pale. She saw her general doctor at first, but he could find no physiological reason for the change, other than her personal habits. She had begun eating to excess, selecting foods which provided her with sensual pleasure, and, he told me in a note that she brought with her, she had started to experiment with a cocktail of recreational drugs. He suggested that boredom might be the motivator, and asked that I address that, before he placed her in a rehab unit, to halt any incipient addiction.
I complied, but we found that it had little effect. Without fear of the consequences, or any hampering feeling of wrongdoing, Christina pursued novelty in any form it presented itself to her. She started to show clear signs of dissolution, but she made no requests for any further surgery.
Then on the next monitoring visit her husband came along. He demanded that I remove "whatever it was that was turning his wife into this sensation seeking monster." He threatened dire repercussions for myself and the Clinic if I failed. My reputation would be destroyed, he told me, and I would be struck off the practitioners register, unable to find a job of any kind. I had little doubt that he could achieve it, and at forty, it wasn't a prospect I could view with equanimity.
There was so little left on Christina's neural net, but I nodded, solemnly and with another implant, suppressed any trace of curiosity from her being.
By six months later, she was back to her physical self. Pretty, healthy, trim and glowing. Emotionally she was calm and stable, with no complaint of any kind. I kept monitoring but the situation appeared to have stabilised completely and as another six months passed, it became clear that I would not need to do any further surgery on Christina.
Cedric Parkinson and Andreas Corelli were delighted. Both gave large endowments to the Clinic and were extravagantly vocal in their praise of me personally. Saul crowed, delighted, "You've got it made girl" and indeed, I began to see more 'Crat names in my patient register, and I was thankful that they were ones who had genuine problems and issues to deal with.
But I couldn't sleep properly at night. I knew that everything I'd done to Christina went against my morals and duties as a physician, that it was a lessening of another human being, and it plagued me.
And then, this morning, Andreas Corelli-Parkinson came to my office. He sat, beaming at me, with a little girl seated on either side, his twin daughters. He said "Judith, I have a request to make of you. Through Christina's surgery, you have done a wonderful thing. Christina has become the perfect Aristocrat woman. It is her pleasure to be all that her family hopes and she is utterly fulfilled."
I nodded, chary, wondering where he was going.
"I would like you to perform the same surgery on Kate and Amelia here, to fit them for their future. It will, of course, be very profitable for the Clinic, and I think I can guarantee that I won't be the only father asking this of you."
Internally, I wanted to scream "No!". However fulfilled he thought his wife, I knew otherwise. In my teens I had read a twentieth century book by Ira Levin entitled The Stepford Wives , and I knew what I had done.
But I knew I couldn't fight him. I made the appointment, for next week. Then I sat down to write this.
I will not do the surgery. I won't turn two normal little girls into subhumans, slaves to their culture. I ask whoever finds this to say that I was the only one capable of performing it, when the news gets out, and Corelli-Parkinson enquires, I've carefully fostered this impression. But in the end, I can only leave it to my assistants own consciences, and do what I have to do.
Goodbye Saul, goodbye children. I love you, and I'm sorry.