So one of the appointments I've had recently is visiting Eddie again and checking on the husks he takes care of. It's something that...well, I think it's important. I need to understand what Poe went through earlier. She refused to come along, of course. Too many bad memories. Anyway, an acquaintance was also in town, since she had some business with both Eddie and myself. I killed two birds with one stone by meeting up with her and both of us visiting Eddie.
I spoke with Eddie first. Talked to him earlier, so I just ran through the other questions I normally ask.
Messenger: So, Eddie, how long have you been...involved?
Eddie: In general, a year and a half. Here, thirteen months.
M: So you've been around a while, then.
E: Insanely long, considering what I do. Apparently we went through two Handlers that month before I started. [He grinned, though like everything he does, there was an uncomfortable intensity behind it, like he was putting too much effort into it] I must not be doing too bad, huh?
M: So how exactly did you get involved?
E: Kind of an unusual story, really. One of my best friends ended up on this side shortly after I got involved. We...stayed friends. Kept in contact. I heard plenty of horror stories from him about how conditions were, especially in regards to these people. Decided to join up for their sake. I just...I wasn't doing anything important otherwise.
M: Uh...sorry, that wasn't exactly what I was asking. I was asking how you got involved in general. That was my next question, though. But yeah, how did you...first get involved? Not with us, but with...Him.
E: Oh, sorry. That was...well, the same friend, actually. He heard about it somewhere on the internet. I don't remember where or when. But he told me about it. His obsession was annoying at first, and then kind of awkward or creepy before it turned into horrifying when it ended up being real.
M: So he got you dragged into this?
E: That's right.
M: Any resentment?
E: Not really. He didn't know it would happen. It's not like it was anything we had control over. That's why I chose this job. At least I had some sort of control over what was going on.
M: [I nodded] I think that's really all I wanted to ask. I got a lot of what I would have asked about last time I visited. [I turned, looking over at the husks. The acquaintance I had come with was sitting with them, distributing coloring books] Does that help them? Something like coloring?
E: I've actually tried in the past. Some it does. Most can't do more than scribble anyway. They tend to prefer notebooks quite a bit. No lines to get in the way. Some, though? Some like coloring. It helps. Means that they don't have to think. It's not an easy job. After all, even though they can all behave like a hivemind at times, they all have different needs. If you really want to help any of them, you need to find what their needs are. [He paused, giving a sigh] Caper was amazing at that. He'd pick up on small things that even I couldn't, using them and amplifying them to give them something they could use.
M: So he did something like that with Poe to bring her back, right?
E: Look, Messenger, there's something you need to understand. Caper never "brought Poe back." Poe and Annabel aren't really the same person. It'd be closer to say that Caper created Poe.
M: So what, Poe never existed before? He just made her up?
E: It's...not nearly that simple. Look, you played with Legos when you were a kid, right?
E: And I know you've mentioned you have a little brother. Now, did you ever end up making something out of Legos that your brother destroyed, not realizing that you put a lot of effort into it? Or even end up dropping something yourself and having it shatter apart on you?
M: Yeah, it happened a few times. What are you getting at, Eddie?
E: Think of a person as...as a Lego model, I guess. Whenever they end up like this, they break. Destroyed. The pieces are all there, but they're scattered. They're not whole anymore. Now whenever one of those models that you worked so hard on broke, you tried to put it back together, didn't you?
M: Of course.
E: Right. But if it was a more complex model, and if you didn't have instructions for it, even if you made it yourself, there was a chance you couldn't get it back to how it was. Am I right?
M: I think I'm starting to see what you're getting at.
E: Caper is...trying to put these people back together. Annabel was a particular model. She got broken, and Caper tried to build something similar out of the pieces. Similar. Not the same.
M: So...is it still possible for Poe to become Annabel again?
E: Messenger, listen, I'm not sure that's a good idea. Even if something happens to someone like Poe, even if she can recover from being broken...well, I've heard of it happening once or twice, but Poe's the only one I've actually seen it happen to. And even then, it's not as simple as putting the right pieces in the right places. Some pieces don't fit and end up discarded. Sometimes new pieces get added on. I'm not sure she ever can be Annabel again. Look, I might be wrong. Annabel might still be in there somewhere, but if it's possible to pull her back to her old self, it's only barely.
M: [I nodded] So...is it dangerous?
E: I have no clue how I've lasted three months already, especially working alone. I've almost been killed at least once a week by this point. I guess I'm just lucky. [He grinned again, with that overintensity that made it a bit uncomfortable]. You could try your best with whatever you have on you to kill me, and you wouldn't be able to. I've relearned all those self-defense classes I took when I was younger pretty quickly. I'd have you disarmed and flat on your back before you knew what hit you.
M: I...will keep that in mind. Well, uh...thanks, Eddie. For answering these questions.
After that, I spent some time with the husks. I didn't say much. Just sat with them. Watched. Tried to picture Poe with them. What did she go through during that time? How hard was it for her to recover from it? And what about Caper? How did he learn how to connect with these people? I just sat and watched for a while while my acquaintance met with Eddie.
I'm going to have to go back there at some point. I owe that much to Poe. It's the least I can do to try to understand.