Anahata or The Crying Boy
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There's a dock south of Site-12 where head office takes in food and some of the more special equipment for the people we hold. Day in, day out and the white ships follow it - you'd figure they'd choose a less conspicuous color and I asked them about it but every time I did I got a different answer. One of my guys, a doctor, said it was to make sure no subs took them for hostile targets, but a doorkicker told me it was like a signpost telling everybody not to fuck with them. I could never get hold of a captain or anybody who'd even worked on one - except, for one. We were in the Sudan cracking some traffickers selling… special children to some local sinners. One day we're sharing a cigarette and he asks me if I'd like to hear something, a story, to raise my spirits about the why of what we do. We were down a couple guys, so I said 'sure.'

If he was no bullshit there's a room in every white ship, deep in the hull, below the waves. It has no windows and one door to the surface. The meme they fed him took an hour to implant, and if he thinks about trying any funny business, snooping around the cabins or the deck, it takes over. He floods his own compartment by any means necessary.

I told him I was expecting raised spirits. He told me to wait.

The one thing he got to work with were screens. The room - his room, was filled with screens from top to bottom and screens from every angle and every position on the electromagnetic spectrum. Every day and night of every voyage he watched and he listened to his ship. Got very intimate.

He began to tell me about a time at the dock south of Site-12, where one day it came into port.

Karl cried out as the shipping container he had been carrying crushed him once again. He struggled against its weight as the nearby Water units, once quick to rush to his side in concern, had come so accustomed to his mishaps that they continued on with little more than a glance of pity and a shrug. He screamed the name of his caretaker and wailed in agony.

Water-07, halfway across the yard, heard his cry, lightly set down his shipping crate, and for the eighteenth time bounded across the gulf between them in several dramatic strides. He lifted the container off of Karl and gently took two fingers with which to caress his mangled body.

"Oh, Mountain," he said. Karl's frame, obscenely bulky for his age and as a boy in general, lay in a pool of its own blood. His bones, muscles and cartilage struggled to pop back into place, and he screeched each time they made major progress.

"It hurts. It still hurts so bad."

Water-07 was crying. With a finger as thick as a tree trunk, he gently wiped a tear from his own eye and sighed. "I cannot pretend to understand how it is you feel, and it is only this which makes me sad. I was not born in the way I could help you best. I only know you bear the strength to see it through."

"I don't. I want my mother."

Water-03 had stopped working and silently made his way over to the scene. In spite of the crippling pain, Karl was constantly amazed at the lightness of his feet, which were as long as he was tall. Water-03 said, in the deep, melodious tone common to the Water Units, "You have spoken of this woman often, beloved. Tell us of her way, that we may apply it to our own."

So Karl told them of his mother, and the peace she had brought him. As the words poured from his mouth the other Water Units set aside the shipping crates from their cliff-like shoulders to cross their legs on the ground next to them, closing their eyes to hum and smile at the story in the way that the Water Units did.

He went on for so long that eventually he realized the ship's crew had emerged out onto the deck, and formed an audience of their own. Either unable or unwilling to watch with judgement, they awaited the moment when their counterparts would feel it time again to get underway.

To keep them apprised of the fact that they were wasting time, though what counted as their jaws remained tight shut, the ship's crew began to sing. In deference to the trials of the crying boy - who they could see quite clearly, as was the talent of any given ship's crew - they kept their cadence soft, and in the style of an accompaniment.

In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines
So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found a sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine

Eventually Karl had no story left to tell, and yet the Water Units continued where he had left off, smiling and humming their tune in-line with their gaunt, distant coworkers. Bones still popped and organs slid back into place, and eventually, the humming and singing gave way to silence and the lapping of the waves against the dock. Karl still wanted his mother, but he was no longer crying.

Water-07 opened his eyes, and at his sudden activity the rest of the Water Units followed suit. They stood and individually lumbered back over to where they had set aside their equipment, in order to listen to the story of the crying boy.

The host on the ship had collectively smiled, and in an instant evaporated from sight below deck. Water-07 turned away from them and, with a finger, helped Karl to his feet. Karl sniffed.

"If you are afraid the weight will hurt you again, I can help you," Water-07 said.

"I think it will," Karl responded, "And I'm still scared."

"But you'll bear the load."

"Yes. I can bear the load."

Water-07 smiled. "This makes you highest among the peaks, beloved. Know that if you call on me again, I will hear you."

"I will call on you again."

Water-07 nodded. Karl turned to his shipping container and hoisted it over his shoulder. The pain burned a little less brightly, and the sweat flowed a little less freely. He began to walk towards the ship.

And he'd put in for a transfer a week before, so that was it for him. No more screens. I asked him how he was able to remember any of it and he said that he'd asked for it. He never told me why they put it through, except that it had exacted a pretty hefty price. He'd had to pay for his memory. That always stuck with me.

Anyway, a week later we buried him outside Al-Qadarif. Couldn't tell whether it was self-inflicted or not. Goes with the territory, I guess.

I miss him.

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