“Okay, I think I’ve ‘figgered out’ at least part of it. When you said that the where is right where we’re sitting, you meant this room, correct?”
Red nods, but says nothing.
“And when you referred to the what, you meant me. Bruce. This incarnation that so wants to believe in Incarnation.”
Red is looking at me with narrowed eyes. “Sounds plausible. But you as opposed to what?”
It’s my turn to nod. “I thought of that, too. It’s me as opposed to you, whatever you are, whatever you represent.”
He tilts his head to one side, then lifts it straight up again. “Whatever I am?”
I get it immediately. “No. It will only be what you are not that will be important, right?”
He nods again. He reaches for something on the floor next to his tiny chair. It had not been there before he reached for it. It looks exactly like a saw that my father had in his workshop, that he called a “coping saw.” One of my older siblings once made a joke by holding the saw up and saying something about not being sure that he could cope with it. Coping saw; coping mechanism…
I shudder a bit and look around the conversation room again. “I’ve been thinking about this room a lot over the last few months, as well as actually spending time in it.”
Red’s expression remains neutral. “And…?”
“And I don’t think there is any point at which I have either remembered or imagined any of my older siblings in this room with me.” I look up at a corner of the ceiling. “Even when the toy space capsule was here; it belonged to one or more of them, not to me. But when it was there, I did not think about it in relation to them explicitly.”
Still narrow eyes. “You spent time with ALL your siblings in the room this is modeled on.”
“Yes. The younger ones too.”
“Thought about ANY of them being with you in this room?”
“No. I’ve thought about them, but I don’t think I’ve thought about them in this room. When I’ve thought about this room, it’s only me. Only us, I mean; the selfsystem.”
Red’s eyes open all the way, but his expression is still serious. “You spent a lot of time—what seems to you now to be most of the time—in this room alone.”
I look at him blankly for a moment, then something shakes loose. “So what you are not is my siblings.”
He smiles. “Correct.” He’s still holding the coping saw; he hefts it a bit in his hand and glances at it, then meets my eyes again. “It’s time for you to see that I ain’t got no skeleton.”
“I may be Skelton, but I got no skeleton.” He holds the saw out with the handle pointed toward me. “You need to cut me so you can take a look.”
I slowly take the saw, and examine it. Instead of the coping blade that I expect, the “blade” of the saw consists of a wire. It’s exactly the sort of wire that I would expect to find on a cheese slicer. I look at Red again. “CUT you?”
He traces an imaginary line across the middle top of his head, from front to back. “Right here. Don’t worry; I’m a drone, remember? No blood or brain tissue or anything like that. But most importantly, no skull, no skeleton.”
“So it won’t hurt?”
His smile widens, and he shakes his head. “It won’t hurt me, at least.”
I stand up and approach him. I reach up with the saw, aligning the wire with the imaginary line that he had just traced with his finger, and I rest it gently against the top of his head.
“G’head. I promise, no hurt, no gore. Ya just gotta see.”
I begin to move the saw to and fro while pressing down. As I expect, it feels at first a bit like slicing into a block of cheese. He was right, though; there’s no blood or gore; it’s not violent. In fact, his head gives almost immediately, proving his point that there is no skull inside. As I move the saw downward, the head begins to separate and the two halves begin to fall apart. Just before I reach his mouth, he speaks once more. “Ok, now just watch.”
I lift the saw and pull it away, and the separation continues without it. I know where I’ve seen something that looks like this before. In the film, Terminator 2, the T-1000 robot (played by Robert Patrick) is made of “liquid metal,” and morphs in various ways throughout the film. It is even blown to “bits” at one point, but the bits flow back together and the robot reforms and continues to menace. The two halves falling apart are exactly like the T-1000 splitting and morphing (except for lack of the shiny metallic look that the robot had in the film).
As the halves continue to separate and fall apart, they both morph (like the T-1000) and begin to flow away from each other. The tiny chair on which Red was sitting is now gone. Once the halves have separated completely, they shrink into two blobs that continue to flow away from each other across the floor, until they are about eight feet apart. They stop moving across the floor, but begin to morph into much smaller figures in their respective locations.
The blob to my left morphs into an infant human being, lying on its back on the floor, kicking its legs and cooing happily. It is wearing only a disposable diaper, and has no hair yet, so it’s not possible to discern whether it is male or female.
The blob to my right morphs into a small human figure, also lying on the floor, but obviously bent and crippled, unable to stand and walk. It is a smallish man, but he looks indescribably ancient. If I were guessing, I would say that he is easily over 100 years old, but he could also be 500 or 5000 years old. He is wearing some kind of grey shirt and pants that remind me of exercise clothing. He looks up at me with an expression of unmeasurable weariness, and his breathing is heavy and rattling.
The ancient man speaks softly. “We are not your siblings, but there is more. We are now images of what you are not, when you are here in this place. I am the eldest. The one who cannot speak is the youngest.” He falls silent and closes his eyes as if going to sleep. The infant continues to kick and coo, sometimes glancing at me and smiling.
I stand for what seems a very long time, looking back and forth between the infant and the ancient man on the floor of the conversation room, the room in which I was a child.
Finally, I voice my thought. “I was the youngest, and then I was the oldest. I am in the middle of an entire decade that separates my next older sibling from my next younger sibling.”
Another long silence.
“Your meaning—what you indicate—is that I am neither the oldest that I was, nor youngest that I was. Am I an only child, then?”
The ancient man coughs loudly, and then speaks again, softly. “Perhaps. But remember what we said you really needed to see. There is a skeleton here. You should be able to find it now.”
Yet another, even longer silence.
I reach up and gently palpate my own head. I feel my skull. I grasp my left arm with my right hand, feeling the bone inside. “It’s mine, of course. I have a skeleton.”
The elder opens his eyes and looks at me again, and with great effort, rasps as if speaking his last. “And this is its closet.” He looks around, to emphasize that it is the room we are in that he is indicating. Then he closes his eyes again.
I am suddenly seized by the urge to pick up my Bible. Where is it? I look around, and finally see it. It is sitting on the floor approximately where the metal folding chair was, but is no more. I bend down, pick it up, and turn around again.
There is Red again, “in one piece,” sitting on the tiny chair. He is smiling at me as he delivers the classic closing line from his TV show. “Good night, and may God bless.”
His face assumes the “deactivated drone” blankness.
I need to think. Or read. Or both. Seeing does not yet seem to equal grokking.
I exit the room quickly.