Attempts To Salvage Thought
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I had a friend, once.

I'm convinced I did, at any rate. It's the only way I could've made it through the orphanages and the foster homes and that one stint at the pub where the owner spank me every time I dropped a plate. But among the ever-changing scenery of my childhood, the image of a frail blonde girl with an eastern European accent dances at the edge of my memories.

We went on walks through rainy alleys of the neon-illuminated city. We stayed up late, laughing at the mindless denizens of the world who autopiloted from home to work to the bar to home again. She told me that she would fix everything. That we wouldn't have to continue this pointless existence. And I believed her. I wanted to think that there was something more than being passed around from family to family like hand-me-down clothes.

I think I lost track of her when I was eighteen or nineteen—

You know, that's quite the uncharitable interpretation. Not everyone who's heard this story jumped to tricks of the mind and imaginary friends. You could commiserate with me, say something about how its hard to keep in touch with close friends from your childhood. But at some level, I guess it's all the same result. I committed the sin of forgetting about my friend.

And even worse, I reverted into one of those mindless fools. I got a job doing admin work for some big laboratory in Ukraine. Me, filling out forms and sending emails. Scheduling meetings and organizing calendars. I felt a deep shame then. I knew my friend wouldn't be proud, but I suppressed that because I had become a sheep. I read the papers the researchers wrote, learned about their work and climbed the internal ladder like a moth drawn to a lightbulb. My peers called me brilliant, an Einstein of Cognetics, but I was simply sleepwalking.

I mean, you wanted to know why you were brought here, right? I'm giving you the explanation before I start the procedure. It's only polite.

Well, that's the thing. You're not special. My friend, she's special. I didn't realize how special until I was indulging my peers during a night out drinking. I didn't like talking about my childhood all that much, but they kept asking and I thought that there was no harm in it. I started talking about the orphanages, and the foster parents, and then eventually my friend. I actually started to cry. I had only just then realized how long I'd forgotten about the girl who got me through the thick and the rough.

When I finished, some of my peers comforted me, but one just sat there in stunned silence. He introduced himself as Ivan, and told me he thought he also knew my friend. I was excited of course. Maybe he also knew of the orphanages. Maybe he also worked for that one pub. We could exchange stories back and forth and reminisce on those difficult days.

But he didn't grow up in Ukraine. He grew up in Moscow.

I found this peculiar, but what was even stranger was that, in the coming days, more and more of my colleagues came to me in private and confessed to knowing my friend. Just like you did at the gala earlier this week. They all skipped rocks, played hopscotch. Built castles out of mud and weeds next to riverbeds. She brightened their childhoods. All of them.

You see, she told me she was going to change the world. I didn't realize how at first, but I do now. She was going to make the world less lonely. She's done such a good job too, don't you see? All over the globe, everyone knows her as their best friend. She's done so well…

Which is why she deserves a rest. She's put in so much effort, I need to do something for her. That's what a good friend would do, right? She should get to live the rest of her life with the friends she's made, the lives she's touched. It's sort of a crusade of mine, in a way. She gave me a childhood, so I'll give her an adulthood.

Could you stop wriggling around so much? I don't want to tighten the restraints, but I will.

Oh, stop it. You should be happy! You're helping your friend, aren't you? Help me bring her back into the world with the rest of us.

But she is in there though, right? My Lily? She's spread herself thin, reached out to so many people. She's in your head too, right?

Don't lie to me. I know she's in there.

Yes, the extraction will hurt.

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