I went to visit Eddie today. You know, the guy who takes care of the husks (or whatever you want to call them--I'm going with husks for the sake of consistency).
Apparently he and the people he takes care of live in a warehouse. Something big enough to hold a couple dozen people, but not enough that they can live comfortably. Eddie's about the only person who actually owns anything other than some necessities.
He greeted me with a handshake, though it was all business with no real friendly intentions. Eddie is, like I mentioned in an earlier post, a man with a very hard-looking expression. Intense, focused.
He followed my gaze to the husks, who were milling around. "You really shouldn't stare," he said quietly. "I mean, it's not like they notice, and I understand why you're staring, but it just seems...well, rude to them, I guess. I can't ask you not to, of course, but it'd be nice if you could at least try to refrain from it."
I nodded. It was an understandable request. "I'll try. I'm largely here to understand, though, so I might have to at times. Less staring, more...observing. Studying. Trying to understand them."
He scoffed. "Like they're just animals in a zoo." He shook his head apologetically at my reaction to his response. "Sorry, not your fault. Sort of an involuntary response. Most people don't even show interest. I guess I'm a touchy about it because it's a bit too close to the truth for comfort." He nodded to the husks. "I mean, look at them. It's pretty obvious that they're something less than human. Not like they deserve to be treated like it, though."
He stopped, took a deep breath, and rubbed his eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm just not used to company. Don't really know how to react. The only person who ever came by on a regular basis was Caper. Truth be told, I kind of miss him. He just sort of had a way with them." He looked down. "He managed to do what I never could."
"You're...talking about Poe?"
"Yeah, still stunned over that. Especially considering what Poe's like. These people have just...given up. Lost all reason to keep fighting. I think that's what a large part of the process of becoming like this is. He just takes away your will to fight. And I never would have expected Poe of all people to start fighting again."
I looked around a bit more. "Why do you call her Poe?" I asked him. "Wouldn't you have known her when she was Annabel?"
He shook his head. "She wasn't anyone when I knew her, Messenger. These people--they don't have names. Sure, maybe I knew that her name was Annabel Lee, but why would I call her that? She wouldn't answer to it. None of these people answer to their own names, and no one else gives them a name of their own. Do you know how I refer to them, Messenger? By a number. That's all they are to anyone other than me. They're nameless. Just given numbers, like cattle. Why bother keeping up with them all? They come and go so quickly, after all. Let's just give them a number so we don't have to learn the name of someone who'll just be gone next week."
His voice wavers with anger on that last part. A heavy silence hangs in the air for a few seconds.
"You...don't like your job," I say. He shoots me a look that makes me painfully aware of how obvious that last statement was. "I mean...most of the others seem to enjoy their jobs at least somewhat. You just really seem like...I don't know. Like you got the short stick. How do you deal with it?"
He shook his head slowly. "I don't, really. I'm on Uberman's sleep schedule because I can't afford any more sleep while watching all these guys. The pills help. Sometimes. It's a taxing job. Physically, because of the constant attention they require and the occasional need for self-defense. Emotionally, because just look at them. You can't work with shells of humans and stay emotionally balanced. That's what most of the pills are for."
"So why do you do all this, then?"
"Because no one else wants to. No one can. Would you help me out?" I hesitated, and he continued before I could answer. "Exactly. Clearly, you don't want to, and I can't make someone do something they don't want to. So it's just me."
"You really must hate The Boss, too."
He shook his head. "I don't know. One one hand, I know what he's doing isn't good. On the other hand, I don't know if he even knows what he's doing. He's not human, Messenger. We can't hold him to human morals or explain him through human means. But all those fucking runners? Them I hate. They're humans, and they're so ready to kill their own. Sure, they claim self-defense, but do you really need to kill someone to defend yourself against them? They just don't think of them as people anymore." He started shaking. "I've dressed and fed these people. I've looked them in the eye far too many times. Once is almost enough to crush your spirit." He pointed to a couple stack of notebooks sitting against the wall. "They filled all those just yesterday. None of it makes any sense. They just scrawl gibberish and sloppy pictures because they have nothing else to do. They don't know what to do with themselves so they just empty their minds into them. And I have to throw them out and burn them because there's nothing else to do with them."
I paused, wondering how exactly to make my next statement. "You seem...more normal than the others."
He scoffed. "None of us is 'normal,' Messenger. Not even you. If by 'normal' you mean 'less sociopathic,' well, maybe I am. But maybe I'm not. Trust me, if I had a button that could end humanity, I'd push it. This job turned me suicidal before the pills, and even now, every time I take them, I'm tempted to 'accidentally' overdose. You're living in a mad world, and it's time you admitted that. None of us is normal or sane anymore."
I shifted my weight around. "Hey, uh...thanks for talking to me, Eddie. I'd better get back soon, though. I'll...I'll try to visit now and then."
Eddie looked up at me. "You won't," he said. He didn't look angry or sad, just...resigned to the fact. "No one comes by just because they want to."
I let him know that I'd at least try before shaking his hand and leaving. I really would like to come back, too. I asked him about himself and what he does, but I really didn't get a lot of information about the husks themselves. Hopefully next time.
-Don't Shoot The Messenger-