Stories from Refuge – 62 – “I went back three more times. I guess you want to know why.”

Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.

Reconciliation Council report B-53, dialogue between H.R. and Tara Johnson, recorded by Beatrice 75C
RY 100.10.3

No, I want her to talk. I want to hear why she’s doing this.

[Recorder’s note: The usual fuss from the table behind me. I can tell the subject is hostile but not so much that we need to stop the dialogue. Tara Johnson is willing to respond.]

I… um… I don’t know. They asked me to sit in on one of the dialogues earlier this year, with the man whose brother died, who had an altercation with one of the Commanders, and of course the Commanders aren’t here for people to confront them, so they needed someone as a stand-in. And I did it. They needed someone to… Well, they asked for volunteers, really, and I said I’d do it. No one else really wanted to. We were standing there in Medical, all of the techs who used to work on the Commanders, just looking at each other or looking at the floor. And then I said I’d do it. Everyone else was relieved, and I thought no big deal, I’d just sit here in this room and listen to someone who got hurt and that would be it.

Of course, that’s not what happened. That man in the first dialogue, he got mad. He started shouting at me and he kicked a chair. They had to escort him out and I have no idea what happened to him after that. All the other techs said I was lucky I didn’t get hurt, and they knew something like that was going to happen, and that’s why it was stupid of me to do it in the first place.

But I went back. Three more times. I guess you want to know why.

Is it because I don’t like being afraid of things? That’s why I took the med tech position in the first place. I could’ve just had a regular job in Medical, taking blood pressure and running tests on civilians, but I took the position working on Commanders because Commanders scared the hell out of me. And then they turned out to be different than I thought they’d be. One of them kept telling me jokes when he came in to get uploaded, although he couldn’t remember what he told me before, of course, so he just kept telling the same one over and over. It was the same with the dialogues – I was all ready for the second one to be as bad as the first one, and then it was the woman whose son got killed, and she was just looking for someone to forgive.

I guess that’s it, too. These people need someone to talk to, whether they want someone to forgive or someone to shout at. I’m not the one who did all these things to them, I’m not the one who hurt them, and there’s nothing I can really do to fix everything that happened, but at least I can sit here and listen to them. I can be that person.

[Recorder’s note: Subject feels dissatisfied. Gloating. She holds this for a few minutes before responding.]

I didn’t think you’d recognize me, but forgetting all about me? That’s nice. That’s really generous of you. Not the one who hurt people, are you? Never did anything to anyone? You don’t remember the riot that got to Medical? We got all the way into that secured tunnel at the back of Medical, where you hooked up the Commanders and gave them orders to assault us, and I’m the one who broke into your procedure room. I was hoping there’d be a Commander hooked up right there, but there wasn’t, just this skinny girl at a computer. I didn’t think you’d be any trouble, I thought we might be able to take a hostage and actually get some leverage, but you didn’t play along with that, did you? You picked up your chair and hurled it at me. Didn’t run away, either. You picked it up again and smacked me with it twice. Do you like this scar on my forehead? I’ve got a nice fracture in my skull underneath it – what’s the medical term for that?

[Johnson:] But I… You were the one… I didn’t attack you, I was defending…

[She really doesn’t like being afraid. I don’t think she was prepared to be afraid of herself.]

[The Councilors break this up and remove the subject.]

©2017 Michelle M. Welch

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