Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 33 of 61

You’d have thought that we’d have followed it up with an act of our own, and truth be told, that was certainly my expectation when we started the game I came to think of as the steeplechase, but we never did. Halfway through, I’d lose track of carnal urges and return to a state of childlike innocence, living only for the thrill of the chase and the giggly feeling I got whenever she found some new, even-more-outrageous corner to turn. I think we became legendary on the station, that crazy pair that’s always zipping in and zipping away, like having your party crashed by two naked, coed Marx Brothers.

When I asked her to marry me, to return to Earth with me, to live with me until the universe’s mainspring unwound, she laughed, honked my nose and my willie and shouted, “YOU’LL DO!”

I took her home to Toronto and we took up residence ten stories underground in overflow residence for the University. Our Whuffie wasn’t so hot earthside, and the endless institutional corridors made her feel at home while affording her opportunities for mischief.

But bit by bit, the mischief dwindled, and she started talking more. At first, I admit I was relieved, glad that my strange, silent wife was finally acting normal, making nice with the neighbors instead of pranking them with endless honks and fanny-kicks and squirt guns. We gave up the steeplechase and she had the doglegs taken out, her fur removed, her eyes unsilvered to a hazel that was pretty and as fathomable as the silver had been inscrutable.

We wore clothes. We entertained. I started to rehearse my symphony in low-Whuffie halls and parks with any musicians I could drum up, and she came out and didn’t play, just sat to the side and smiled and smiled with a smile that never went beyond her lips.

She went nuts.

She shat herself. She pulled her hair. She cut herself with knives. She accused me of plotting to kill her. She set fire to the neighbors’ apartments, wrapped herself in plastic sheeting, dry-humped the furniture.

She went nuts. She did it in broad strokes, painting the walls of our bedroom with her blood, jagging all night through rant after rant. I smiled and nodded and faced it for as long as I could, then I grabbed her and hauled her, kicking like a mule, to the doctor’s office on the second floor. She’d been dirtside for a year and nuts for a month, but it took me that long to face up to it.

The doc diagnosed nonchemical dysfunction, which was by way of saying that it was her mind, not her brain, that was broken. In other words, I’d driven her nuts.

You can get counseling for nonchemical dysfunction, basically trying to talk it out, learn to feel better about yourself. She didn’t want to.

She was miserable, suicidal, murderous. In the brief moments of lucidity that she had under sedation, she consented to being restored from a backup that was made before we came to Toronto.

I was at her side in the hospital when she woke up. I had prepared a written synopsis of the events since her last backup for her, and she read it over the next couple days.

“Julius,” she said, while I was making breakfast in our subterranean apartment. She sounded so serious, so fun-free, that I knew immediately that the news wouldn’t be good.

“Yes?” I said, setting out plates of bacon and eggs, steaming cups of coffee.

“I’m going to go back to space, and revert to an older version.” She had a shoulderbag packed, and she had traveling clothes on.

Oh, shit. “Great,” I said, with forced cheerfulness, making a mental inventory of my responsibilities dirtside. “Give me a minute or two, I’ll pack up. I miss space, too.”

She shook her head, and anger blazed in her utterly scrutable hazel eyes. “No. I’m going back to who I was, before I met you.”

It hurt, bad. I had loved the old, steeplechase Zed, had loved her fun and mischief. The Zed she’d become after we wed was terrible and terrifying, but I’d stuck with her out of respect for the person she’d been.

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