A child is found. But where has she come from? And where is she headed?
Emma stared uncomprehendingly, as the the girl tried to do something intricate with the crisp white paper, the table, and her long, red curls.
After a moment, Emma grimaced, then nodded. "Right. But she did seem pretty fucked up when we brought her in. What is it then, if not autism?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't know exactly. But she's not just pretty fucked up --- she's completely fucked up."
"OK, I know I said it first, but it's been three weeks, Sam. I need a better diagnosis than completely fucked up. You mean, on drugs, or something?"
He studied the girl again, watching her strange behaviours in that same frustrated, horrified, disbelieving way he'd watched her for almost a month now. She just makes no sense, he thought.
"No, not on drugs," he said. "I don't know -- she may have been drugged too, but it's not that..."
"What, then?", Emma asked.
Sam took a breath, and finally drew the conclusion he'd been avoiding for days now. It's the only explanation, he thought. "I think Kara's parents -- I'm calling her Kara for now -- I think they taught her wrong. From day one. About everything."
Between watching the girl and watching Sam wrestling with his conclusions, Emma was growing more uneasy by the second. Something really isn't right here, she thought. She drew a shallow breath. "What do you mean, wrong about everything?"
"I mean wrong. About everything. I mean, she thinks 'color' is 'texture'. She thinks 'blue' is 'fluffy'. She thinks 'building' is the word for 'car'." He stopped himself from listing a thousand messed up ideas he'd slowly uncovered with endless word association tests, inkblots, linguistic analysis, and so on.
"But it's not just the wrong words...it's the wrong concepts, in the wrong order, with the wrong relationships between concepts. She makes no sense." He threw an angry, frustrated gesture toward the table. "She does this shit with her hair and bits of paper. She struggles with it, for all she's worth, like she's trying to solve the whole messed up puzzle. Like she's trying to fix her world with nothing but craft materials."
He's ranting, Emma thought, He needs a break -- soon.
Sam never stayed angry for long, though. He looked away, sighed a long, slow sigh, and slowly looked back to the pretty, fucked up redhead at his table. "...or, maybe like she's trying to fuck us all over, with nothing but craft materials." He laughed, unconvincingly. "I'm kidding. I think. But it's like she's been trained, from day one, to see the world in a completely different, completely fucked up way."
Sam continued. "Her brain isn't damaged. It's like she's been lied to, in of some twisted experiment, instead of taught to fit into the world. Her brain is physically screwed up, but only in reaction to the screwed up things she's been taught."
Suddenly, Emma began to understand both the tragedy unfolding before her, and the level of outrage that Sam was feeling as a result. Involuntarily, she found herself moving toward the girl.
As Sam watched Emma round the table and take a seat opposite the Kara, he studied the girl for any reaction. Anything except that intense, methodical study that she seemed to reserve for other people. No. Nothing.
"I'm not sure if the lies have been just random bullshit," he said, "or if there's been some kind of twisted systematic method to the bullshit. I don't think she'd have such well develop neural pathways, if she'd been fed random junk with no structure to it. Either way, I doubt it's reversible. Whatever they did, her brain has wired itself completely differently in response. They've really done a number on her, just for some sick joke."
Emma's eyes were locked with the girl's now. Kara's eyes stared, but they were not dead eyes. It was all Emma could do to hide her fear as the thought came to her.
"Then... if she's seeing another world... how does she see us?"