Clockwork Bird Episode Three: Hummingbird

E-Liza: Hi Shelly. Can I help you?

Shelly: Yes. Can you record this for me?

E-Liza: Of course.

Shelly: [deep breath] Okay. Dave hasn’t come in yet and Taylor is busy in the back. I know this sounds stupid but for some reason this laptop seemed like a much better place to be recording this. I’m probably being paranoid, but I think they might be watching me. U-Co, I mean. Anyway, I figured they’d probably be able to hack into my laptop at home, and they probably could hack into this one, too, but I figured, I’d have to be stupid to record this stuff on a laptop that literally belongs to the police when I’m on such thin ice with them already but. Well. Dave does not know his way around a laptop and half the systems on here are ancient, from like the 2010s, so… I don’t think they’re the most tech savvy.

And, well. It IS pretty stupid to put this stuff on here. If you’re Dave or Taylor or… or anyone who isn’t me. Good job, I guess. I’m going for a kind of double bluff; it’s such an idiotic move that nobody will suspect me of doing it. And I need to start keeping some kind of record.

My hands are sweating I’m so nervous. But someone has to do something, and it looks like it’s going to have to be me. I know that sounds stupid, given what happened to [she cannot bear to say her name] her. U-Co is pretty good at catching people out at this stuff. But I have to try because it’s not right. This investigation is perfunctory at best, and assigning Dave? Well. He’s a great detective but he’s practically in their pocket.

You know how he lost his eyesight? It was a car-crash. There’s nothing wrong with his actual eyes, apparently; it’s brain damage. Result of a concussion. Imagine, making it out of that basically unscathed but totally unable to see. I can see why what U-Co is doing would look like miracle work to him. It wouldn’t be hard to convince me to play along if I was blind and they were offering the prize of being able to see again.

Anyway the point is I’m not expecting this investigation to go anywhere. But maybe if I can pull everything together, I can carry on where she left off. I don’t have anything like the kind of connections she did but if this is as big and as deep as I think, as she thought, maybe that won’t matter. You see it all the time, whistleblowers’ stories in the press.

I don’t know. But I have to try. I do have to try.

[Door creaks]

Dave: Morning, Shelly. You’re in early.

Shelly: I just… wanted to get a head start.

Dave: Yeah. Sure. [Pause] There are more files coming in. They’re all audio, I can sort them myself, if you’re so busy you’re coming in early.

Shelly: No, no I can take them.

Dave: Great. I’ll get Taylor to send them to you know.

Shelly: Oh, great.

Dave: Do you mind if we have a quick chat?

Shelly: [surprised, nervous] No?

Dave: Great.

[sound of laptop closing]

E-Liza: Hi, Shelly. Can I help you?

Shelly: [shaken] yeah. Can you play the first file in the email I just got from Taylor

E-Liza: Playing file Subject 42 extract number one hundred and four.

[crackling, interference, music playing, like a lullaby, but only in snippets. Voices, warped beyond recognition. Dull, wet thuds.]

E-Liza: End of recording.

Shelly: What the fuck was that?

E-Liza: That was file Subject 42 extract number one hundred and four.

Shelly: No, I mean… Jesus. Dave?

Dave: [distant] Yeah?

Shelly: There is something wrong with the first file. It’s just garbled noises.

Dave: [distant, concerned] Okay. Drop a line to Taylor, see if she can figure out what’s wrong with it.

Shelly: Yeah. Alright. E-Liza, can you send a message to Taylor saying that there’s a problem with the first file?

E-Liza: Of course I can, Shelly. Can I help you with anything else.

Shelly: Yeah. Play the second file, please.

E-Liza: Playing file Subject 42 extract number two hundred and six

[hissing, buzzing, whispered counting, the sound of a heart monitor, musical humming, the sound of drums, the sound of gunfire]

Shelly: Okay, stop. Play the next file.

E-Liza: Playing file Subject 42 extract number seven hundred and fifty eight.

[ringing, static, dull thuds, musical humming]

Shelly: Stop! Fuck! Play… I don’t know, the twentieth file in the email.

E-Liza: Playing file Subject 42 extract number two thousand and forty two.

[buzzing, musical humming, rhythmic thuds, a sensual sigh and then]

The Snake: little bird, I see you little bird

E-Liza: End of recording.

Shelly: What? That’s it?

E-Liza: Would you like me to play the file again?

Shelly: No, please don’t, Jesus christ. What on earth? [sigh] Dave, I think it’s all of them. I think they’re corrupted, or something? I don’t know. I’ll tell Taylor and maybe she can figure it out.

Dave: For fuck’s sake. They said they’d ripped them off the hard drive of one of the computers that had been in the fire. They promised there wouldn’t be anything wrong with them, but obviously they’re fuckwits. Doesn’t anybody check this shit before they send it to us?

Shelly: I still have some of the others to get through, the ones from Sophie Bennet’s computer.

Dave: They’re probably going to be more important any way.

Shelly: Yeah. You’re right. Hey, E-Liza? Can you play me one of the Sophie Bennet files I’ve not listened to yet?

E-Liza: Playing file Bennett PC 36 dot Alice Jones Part Two.


Alice: I said it’s funny how small he looks now. He looked so huge, in my mum’s living room.

Sophie: I never knew you took him to your home.

Alice: What else was I supposed to do? Leave him out on the beach overnight again? I brought him back gave him a cup of tea. I thought it was funny that he didn’t take off his gloves. I remember thinking how strange they were, expensive looking, odd thing to wear to the beach, even odder if he was some poor homeless guy who wasn’t all there and had wandered off or something. I don’t know if I asked him about them, but he wouldn’t have answered. He didn’t actually say a word at all to me until I handed him the cup of tea. He looked down at it like it was Christmas and I’d bought him a Lamborghini or something, and he just said ‘thanks’.

I remember he looked really surprised he’d spoken. Like it had been an accident.

Sophie: [sighs] Yes. He couldn’t say very much, not at the beginning.

Alice: I thought maybe he was scared.

Sophie: It might have been that. It might have been that his brain hadn’t remembered how to, yet. Everything came in so slowly. Bit by bit he seemed more and more.

Alice: What? Alive?

Sophie: Human.

Alice: [scoffs] At least you’re honest.

Sophie: It was little things at first. He’d squeeze his eyes tightly shut sometimes when we were working on him, like he was in pain.

Alice: What, you mean he was conscious, when you were doing. When you were putting them on?

Sophie: I don’t know. Whether he was ever fully conscious is debatable and back then, well, what semblance of it he had was fleeting and intermittent, if it was really there at all. At first, we could put down almost everything to simple reflexes. Screaming, jumping, jerking away. Nerves responding to stimuli. There was no suggestion, not really, that they were connected to anything, not meaningfully, not in a way that would indicate feeling in the way that you and I feel. Even the crying, as uncomfortable as it made me. Well, Sam had me convinced that was reflexive too.

We changed our set up, made sure we could have him in restraints, if we needed, and carried on as we were. It’s funny, really. The first indication I had that he was something more than a beating heart cadaver was when he stopped trying to fight us, not when he started. When we’d put on our gloves he would settle into an awful kind of stillness. And then I noticed he was clenching his jaw, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. He was trying not to cry out.

Alice: Jesus.

Sophie: His brain activity was… confusing. It didn’t look like consciousness, except for in brief flickers. I can’t imagine what it must have been like. How it must have felt.

Alice: It would have felt like people were cutting bits of him off and stitching him back together, I imagine.

Sophie: Yes. Quite. But I don’t think it will have been like you are imagining. You’re imagining the experience with a degree of lucidity he just wasn’t capable of at the time.

Alice: So you think that makes it better?

Sophie: I don’t know.

Alice: You know kids, when they experience something really horrible, it can actually change the way their brain works? That’s how multiple personality disorder happens, you know. It’s not called that anymore, it’s Dissociative Identity Disorder, because now people understand it a little bit better they know that the personalities that spring up, they are distinct from each other to save each other from feeling pain, from remembering painful memories. It hurts so much because they can’t understand it, and all their brains can do is dissociate from it so powerfully that it fractures, and that little piece of their own mind is shut off, hidden, blocked away.

Sophie: I am aware of the causes of DID.

Alice: So you know that it can only develop in childhood. Some people might not get diagnosed until they are adults, but it’s only when your brain is new, and hasn’t learned how to cope with pain and suffering that it can break down in that way. When you can’t make sense of the agony you’re experience it doesn’t make it better, Sophie. It makes it worse.

[a long pause]

Sophie: At times he was very like a child. I started… I would open the doors of the facility, when everyone else was asleep, and let him sit in the garden with me. He would comb through the grass, picking daisies from between the strands. More often than not he’d crush them by accident; the limbs were strong, even though he wasn’t. He’d look up at me and sometimes I swear he was on the verge of tears, he was so devastated.

Alice: But you carried on.

Sophie: Yes. I did. We couldn’t anaesthetise him; his heart and lungs couldn’t have withstood it. But we could give him something for the pain, and I insisted that we should, even though there was no proof that he could feel it.

Alice: Or that it would even help.

Sophie: I hoped it helped. I really did.

[an alarm sounds]

Sophie: Oh god.

E-Liza: End of recording.

Shelly: So he’s there, Robin Jaeger. He was with them, when they made these.

Dave: Yes. Indeed. Well. I suppose that one will be useful. Certainly sounds like [in a mocking tone] malpractice.

Shelly: [thoughtful] Dave. Do you want to win this case?

Dave: I wouldn’t have taken it if I didn’t think we could.