Danna and I went back together to see the old woman, today; I didn’t want Danna to get attached to her, to anyone, but she’s forced me to learn the woman’s name. Judy, ‘like Judy Garland,’ the woman said, and Danna was puzzled but pleased by this unusual phrasing. She’s far too young to remember when there were movie stars—and naming them means even less to her, but she liked the sounds of the words. After a grand total of 3 visits, ‘Miss Judy’ has become Danna’s new best friend, and the feeling seems to be mutual.
“Why don’t you tell me about something nice today, dear?” Judy asked earlier, and before I could launch into the standard how-the-world-is-now spiel, she added, “None of your World-Builder fairytales. Tell me about her,” she said, gesturing with uncanny accuracy in Danna’s direction. “Tell me about something nice that actually exists.”
“What do you want to know?” I asked, aware that I had the same tone in my voice that suspected war criminals always had in those old WWII movies, before the information was tortured out of them. Judy laughed, and told me that since I was used to describing what the world looked like, why didn’t I go ahead and describe what my niece looked like. “But try to be honest,” she instructed, and I laughed.
“The more honest I am, the less you’ll believe it,” I said, shaking my head. “She’s actually beautiful. If you look at her closely, you can see that she has a condition, but even so, she’s stunning.” And I described her skin, as pale as my sister’s had been, and her hair, “I let her keep it long because it’s so pretty, such a light brown it’s almost blonde, and as shiny and soft as a child’s,” which was true, and Judy could feel for herself that Danna’s hair was halfway down her back. “She has bangs, because they help to camouflage the shape of her face, but her skin is smooth and clear, and she has a lovely little cherub’s mouth, and her eyes… her eyes are like…” inspiration came to me—Judy would know who I was talking about—“Her eyes are truly purple, like Elizabeth Taylor’s, do you remember the actress?”
But Judy was laughing, and said, “I can’t believe you remember her; they said her eyes couldn’t be photographed or filmed, that the lens just couldn’t pick up the colour.” Her smile faded a little as she said, “I had a sister who was named after her, and a brother who was named after Gene Kelly,” which explained a bit why she was ‘Judy, like Judy Garland,’ I supposed; I thought she was about to say more, and I didn’t want to hear it—I’d lost a sister too, and crying about it didn’t do any good—but she shook her head once, murmured something like, ‘but nevermind all that, now,’ and asked me another question.
“And what about this world—is there anything at all that’s actually nice to look out, outside my window?”
Again, inspiration struck. I couldn’t tell her there was anything nice outside her window, without lying; but I could tell her about nice things elsewhere. It wouldn’t do to be overheard, though... as far as I knew (and still know, as of this very moment) I'm the only one aside from the scientists, that knows this secret.
I moved closer, and tried not to notice that she’d stiffened up as soon as she heard me walking over. I had threatened to kill her the last time we’d spoken, after all… leaning over, I whispered a few sentences in Judy's ear; and then we had to go, but we promised we’d come back soon.
I’m going to try to bring her an orange, next time, to prove that there really is a hydroponics lab in the basement of the Asylum.