By Vanessa Butterfly Thunderwolf Hazzard
That’s me in the middle of infinity. Cleansing myself. Androidinizing. The veil between my world and the world outside my brain is becoming thinner by the second. My ancestors, my former selves, are putting their two cents in about my decision. Some were happy, some sad, but none as adamantly against it as Tabitha. Tabitha was a freed slave of mixed race, Irish and African. She was a healer and witch in her day. Both respected and feared, she lived until the age of 98. But now she’s late, lost and her opinions are quickly becoming obsolete. Her blood is ancient. Though it once contained pure magick, gold and other precious minerals, now it may as well be tin. Her name and lives were carried in my blood and now with it slowly draining from my body, I face her death and my immortality.
“My crazy is congenital. There is no other way,” I said to her after hearing her protest about my androidinization.
“Yes there is. Stay a pure blood or I promise you, you’ll regret it. Once you finish the process, all the others and me will be gone or highly diluted at best. Our voices will be faint and barely above a whisper. I’ll be too small to reincarnate as a human. I’ll amount to an ant’s toenail. With that being said, I’m not as concerned about me. I’m used to being disembodied or embodied but not the primary consciousness in a being. It’s been the story of my life. The only difference is that I or we will no longer have contact with you. I won’t be able to visit and guide you.”
“It’s your little visits that lead me to this decision in the first place,” I retort.
“No, it’s you answering me aloud that got you in ‘trouble’. Never could keep your mouth shut.”
“I won’t miss your smart-ass replies or how I dream your dreams.”
“Your dreams, my former reality.”
“You know what I mean. It’s robbed me of many night’s sleep.”
“That’s a side effect of you being sensitive to the conscious ancestral fissure. I can’t help that, but I’m sure you knew already.”
“Your presence is the loudest you know. I feel you like I feel the embodied. Your skin is like aged sepia-colored leather. Your eyes are deep puddles of time capturing history as you gaze into a thousand midnights. The many wrinkles in your hands and face record your infinite memories. I dream of you/us crying to the shadows pleading for a new everything. I am giving us our dream. I know you. I’ve lived you over and over again. The only thing I don’t get is why you? I know many of my incarnations and yet you are the one that stays with me consistently…even when I wish you wouldn’t. “
“Oh you know that you love me on some level. But to answer your question, yes you’ve been in many bodies. Sometimes a piece of our spirit stays in that period and makes the choice to hold on. Why do you think I/we stayed for 98 years in the same body? Despite being born a slave, the rest of my life was great and I relished each and every day. Now believe it or not, you chose me out of all your incarnations, not the other way around, at least not at first. I fill a void that no other us can fill. The void your mother left behind. Without me, you’d not be whole. You’d be left with a gaping hole in your life stuffing it with penises and bad decisions just to get through the day.”
My mom died when I was young. Like me, she was also schizophrenic. With the exception of grandma, the care she received from both family and the medical system was subpar at best. The system all but through her away so she did them a favor and disposed of herself. It was October and there was a chill in the air. It was the last of the sunny days that mom loved so much. She dreamed of living in a warmer climate but couldn’t because of her condition and the level of care of which she was in need. She drew the blinds and sat in her favorite rocking chair by the window. Though she hated the cold, she loved the autumn leaves and the warm colors they produced.
There was an old-school TV tray next to the rocking chair the held mom’s pills and cheap liquor. She sat me on her lap and we rocked while she washed her prescription meds down with bottom shelf vodka. She was silent. No last words. No suicide letter. I was left only with the loving embrace that only a parent could offer. I fell asleep in her arms and awoke to my dead mother.
My last memory of her was the smell of her decomposing body and the pieces of fruit she left for me. She knew my grandma wouldn’t be over to visit for at least another day. I did as any other kid would do, watched TV and ate while my mom lay dead in the old oak rocking chair. Grandma arrived two days later. The smell of her Jean Nate perfume mixed with the stench of mom’s corpse. She immediately picked me up and called 911. I remember tasting her tears as she held me on her hip while talking with the operator.
Believe it or not, considering my tragic beginnings, I didn’t enter therapy until my early twenties, though I showed signs of mental illness years prior. You’d think the daughter of a suicidal schizophrenic and the minister that raped her would have been to a shrink at some point in her early years.
“Black people don’t get therapy,” grandma would say. “That’s for white people and maybe an Asian…maybe. But us? We have the good Lord on our side watching over our soul. Go to pastor for help or just commune with God on your own. Prayer done got me through even the worse of days. Maybe if them white people prayed they wouldn’t need no therapy!”
I was too afraid to dispute her although I was in disagreement. To question was to disrespect and how could I disrespect the woman who literally saved my life? She was God to me.
“You had to play the mom card.”
“There are no cards to play, just raw, unfiltered truth. Your grandma was a great woman, another reason why you chose my old ass to connect with, but she would never understand the complexities and absurdities of the life of someone like you. Only your mother would…and me of course.”
“You bringing up all of this isn’t much of an argument against androidinization. In fact, you make me want to speed up the process.”
“You’re right. I just needed you to understand why I’m here,” said Tabitha. “Damn, it used to be people getting their nose and boobs done. Now they are altering their DNA to rid themselves of the things that made them interesting and unique in the first place” she continued.
“Interesting? My life is heavy and I am tired of carrying the baggage of my lifetimes. So maybe I’ll be a little dull. Dull is exciting for me! I’ve never been privileged enough to be dull. I’m actually looking forward to it.”
“What about your art? You are an exceptional painter and its no secret that you draw upon your illness for inspiration. What inspires the bland and soulless? Androids are flavorless sub-humans and you know it.”
Androidinization began when scientists were looking for a way to isolate genes that triggered mental illness, pedophilia, and violent crimes. Once they found the gene, they had to replace it with something. So they created microscopic robots to correct mutated genes. The robots also helped the individual to alter their response to environmental factors that affect genes. Through plasmapheresis, plasma is separated from the rest of the blood. This is when the robots are added. This is also known as the cleansing process, the part I’m in right now. Once cleansed, the plasma is returned to the body, the robots change into a very loose liquid metal, and the androidinization process is complete.
As you can imagine, it is a controversial treatment, one that eventually became covered by most insurances. It is the only rehab measure that has worked on the prison population. Not long ago, it became court mandated that anyone found guilty of a violent crime was androidinized and put on house arrest until the robots took full affect. Most prisons have since closed, as have many mental institutions. The procedure is still elective for mental patients. Androidinization and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are the most popular forms of treatment.
I’ve had several rounds of ECT. It worked for a while but I continue to need to go back each month. It may not sound that bad, but I keep running out of excuses to tell my boss. Mental illness is still stigmatized. Eventually I quit my job and have been on SSDI ever since. I’m functional some days but far from well. In fact, I’ve gotten progressively less functional, sucked in further into my head. I feel as if there is no other choice.
Tabitha sighed, “You have a choice. You always have a choice.”