Cris > Wedding Night

Wedding Night

I’d never planned to get married. In fact, I hated the idea. It was your silly wish. But, then, you’ve always been the sentimental one. Funny that it was I who confessed first — confessed that I loved you above all things.

In my defense, though, I never said that. I never said I loved you best, just that I loved you. You knew anyway; I could tell from that little laugh that caught in your eyes when I’d try to deny it. You knew. And you knew that I could never adore you like you adore me. I’m just not like that. I can love you — God, how I love you. But I can’t show it the same way.

Do you remember, Neo? Do you remember the night I said I would marry you? I didn’t want to, but you begged so hard. I can’t stand it when you plead, and you know it. I like to be in charge, but nobody’s ever given me that kind of power before. It’s different, and I don’t like it. Put your life in my hands, and I’ll protect it better than anyone. But your heart — even now I’m not so sure what to do with that.

I know you didn’t understand when I refused to wear a ring. I know you were upset — hurt. But you understood in time, didn’t you? When you got to know me better, you understood how I work. How I function. You’ve learned me like a game, like code, like the twists and turns of inner city one-ways. You know all of me, and you navigate perfectly now.

It wasn’t always that way.

I think you were a little sickened when I offered what I offered instead of the rings. The mixing of blood, yours and mine, and the mutual scars instead of metal bands. I know you didn’t understand. But scars we have already. Scars are more natural to me than jewelry. You have no idea how it felt when you started talking about wedding rings. They just wouldn’t be right here. Can you imagine diamonds sparkling in the Core? I know you would have bought me the world had I asked it of you. You don’t have to do it to prove your love. That’s not what I’m after.

I like my scars, honestly. They look right, somehow. I remember each one perfectly. They didn’t take all of my plugs out at the same time like they did for you. I was on a different ship, and Morpheus just the second in command when I was pulled. They took them out one at a time, under local anesthesia, so everyone on the ship would be able to practice using their uploaded medical skills. I remember each and every removed plug — how the wires still implanted in my body had to be cauterized, melted together, and the skin pulled back up and stitched over them. I remember some of the would-be med-techs dropping the clipped plug into my free hand so I could hold it for a moment. You’ll probably think this is disgusting, but I still keep one, the very last one they pulled out.

But the scar from our wedding is different. It’s not a smooth, round little pink circle on my skin; it’s a long stripe down the inside of my arm, a little darker than my skin, like the shadow of the blade that did it. Scarification is a traditional ceremony for marriages; I don’t see anything wrong with it. And nobody needs to see a band of metal on my finger to know we belong together. All they need to do is look at us together.

Switch used to read trashy books culled from black market sellers in Zion, where the firstborn child is always conceived on the wedding night. You know as well as I do that Band was not conceived that night. We had other things on our minds.

And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to know why Switch named him. Isn’t that supposed to be our job? I always hated that name. Bandicoot. It sounds like a disease. But he hasn’t wanted to change it yet. He may be one of the few free-borns who actually keeps the name they’re born with. Switch would have been proud, I’m sure.

I remember that night. I remember everyone on the Neb toasting us with our tin mugs, even Morpheus sipping that disgusting stuff Tank took over making when Dozer died. I remember…everyone was smiling. Morpheus and Tank, Switch and Apoc, even me…and you. Christ, I remember your smile that night. I remember it more than anyone else’s…I remember how it lit you up. Big pretty eyes…but they’re nothing without that smile. I didn’t believe it was real. Honestly, I was counting the seconds and wondering when I would wake up.

I loved you more that night than I ever thought it was possible to love anyone. Anyone. Even Morpheus…even Band and Flint. I loved you and I wanted you…I was positive, now that we were committed to each other forever, that I would never get to have you again. I knew it couldn’t be real. Things like that just don’t happen in the real world.

Then it came, that sound that made me sick. The alarm. Shit, I knew we were all going to die and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

All night we stood there in the cockpit of the Neb, you and Morpheus in your stocking caps to keep your skulls from leaking too much heat. They danced around us, the sentinels, with their ghostly beauty in the half-light of the tunnels. I remember thinking that they were beautiful, in a mangled sort of way. Beautiful and deadly, like the free-floating man o’ war jellyfish Switch was on about all the time. We couldn’t even hold each other—not even hands—because it made too much heat. So we huddled as far apart as we could in our own little spheres of misery…all night. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t so bad, that I used to stand by myself all the time and loneliness never got to me. But seeing you there, so tired and scared that your arms were wrapped around your chest—you were still so thin—and you rocked a little on your heels. I wanted to help you, for both of our sakes, and I knew I couldn’t. We didn’t move. We didn’t speak. We barely breathed.

And then, just after the time when the morning lights would have normally flipped on, they coasted away. All six of them just vanished into the tunnels. And we went to work, all of us, just as if we hadn’t been awake all night.

The recycled air still smelled like fear days afterward.

Flint looks like you.

I know you were so happy when Band looked like me instead of you, but I’m glad Flint doesn’t. A girl like me would be too hard for me to raise, even with help. She’s beautiful, but I think maybe some of my genes got inside her anyway because she is not sweet like her brother. She’s harder, quieter, and sometimes angrier. She used to cry in the middle of the night—her jaw hurt because she’d clenched it so hard the day before. She has your eyes, but there’s a cold glint there that you never, ever gained. She is so smart, but it’s a calculated intelligence. And she’s angry that she never got to meet you.

I remember the fight that took you away. You did it—you stopped them. I can only hope that you stayed alive long enough to realize that we won, but I can’t be sure of anything. Matrix code doesn’t tell us the precise moment when the soul leaves the body—especially when the mind is somewhere else already. I was pregnant with Flint, and you didn’t want me in there with you. I’m glad I didn’t let you win that argument, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself for not watching your back.

I know, I know. You didn’t mean to do it. It was supposed to be a routine jump into the Matrix. I even remember what it was you were trying to do. You were trying to will things into existence, trying to make your own exits. I guess this was pretty dangerous, because they surrounded us. No playing around with human drones this time, just a squad of Agents. Twelve of them, and all of them aiming at you.

I don’t know exactly what you did—this will likely always be a mystery to me because you’re not here anymore to explain it to me. But your eyes got that look, the one where you’re reading the Matrix from inside it, and something snapped. You sent me out, I don’t know how, and when I opened my eyes back on the Neb I just knew you weren’t with me. I knew you weren’t coming back.

I would have gone back in, no matter what Morpheus said, if Flint hadn’t been there. I almost did it anyway—I knew Morpheus and Tank would care for Band. I wasn’t afraid for him, but Morpheus put his big hands on my shoulders, pushing me back in my chair, and was yelling in my face when I opened my eyes and actually paid attention to him. There was a noise, a frightening screaming noise, and only when my lungs ran out of air did I realize it was me screaming. I’d lost you. You were gone, and I couldn’t save you. I wanted to death-will myself, but Morpheus wouldn’t let me.

"Think of the baby!" he kept yelling, his nose an inch from mine, "Think of it, and stop this!" I almost bit him, just to get him to let me go, but if he had let go I would have died within two minutes and he knew it. I think he was just as afraid as I was—afraid of living with someone gone that I just couldn’t live without. He could not have lived if we had both gone.

But God, I miss you. Neo. Neo. Can you hear me? Are you still there, somewhere? First we lost Dozer and Mouse, then Switch and Apoc, and now you. The others I mourned, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over this.

I think Flint knows it, too.

I love you. I remember you.

I choose to remember how you used to wait up for me when I had late shifts at the Core, even though I told you not to. I choose to remember you curled up tight against my back, your arms folded across my stomach so warm that I honestly couldn’t remember what it felt like to be cold. I choose to remember watching you when you didn’t know I was there—how you used to sneak into Band’s room late at night and just watch him sleep, a little toddler who could barely say, "Daddy," but oh, Neo, he loved you. I remember the three of us falling asleep in our bunk, all of us together, and how you held him so carefully when he was just a baby. How you were afraid you might break him if you loved him too much, but you loved him anyway and you couldn’t help it.

If it weren’t for Band and Flint I would be with you right now, wherever you are. But I don’t blame them…and I don’t think I blame myself anymore either. You did it. You broke the Matrix and saved us all. I choose to believe the machines never got you. I choose to believe that you wiped out the Matrix…and couldn’t pull yourself out in time. It’s gone, Neo. It’s gone, and you did it. I just wanted you to know.




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