And indeed there will be time
To Wonder "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Do I Dare
Disturb the Universe
In a minute there is time
for decision and revision which a minute will reverse.
T.S. Elliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
They were reading to Rosie from her favorite works, Elliot and Yeats and Dickinson. Anything to ease the minds of the family whose daughter had been harmed by her husband's machine, whose son-in-law had vanished without a trace. There were tubes and wires and machines all around her, as they tried to let the slash across her throat heal. Surgery had repaired the trachea, the esophagus, the nicked nerves and blood-vessels, and yet Rosie still remained in coma.
Inside the coma, in the darkness she could still hear the words as she remembered the sight of the sun her husband had created. How many times did the stories and poetry she read warn of playing God? She knew, she studied them all her life, but she hadn't been able to see it happening right in front of her eyes. She'd been so blind! She'd dared, and she'd paid the price.
And yet, she was lying on pillows and could hear her family reading to her silently from T.S. Elliott. How funny it should be T.S.E., the one she'd tried to explain to Otto so long ago, the one whose poetry was a bleak waste land of despair. Except for his poetry about cats that had become a Broadway hit, could any of his other poems be so engaging.
Gathering her will, Rosie lifted her eyelids slowly. They felt like thousand pound weights, but she kept struggling. Her parents noticed the effort and rang for the nurse and doctor. In a moment, she was surrounded by people, and yet as her eyes searched the faces she didn't see Otto there at all. She moved her mouth, but nothing came out of it, and her eyes slid shut again as weariness overtook her. The question circled in her mind, where is my husband?
I am no prophet-and here's no great matter
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker
And in short I am afraid.
T.S. Elliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Six months after waking up, Rosie was feeling better. She was still in the hospital, still stuck in bed, but able to read, write and listen to music. The one thing that annoyed her was that no one would tell her about Otto, and she was beginning to believe that they were keeping a secret from her.
"Hello Sister," her brother, Harold, said. Coming in with a smile on his face and a bag full of magazines in his arms, "how are you doing?"
Rosie still couldn't talk, the doctors predicted she never would, but she could write fast and legibly, "Fine, have you heard about Otto?"
"No, Nothing new," Harold replied, "I've brought you some newspapers, thought you might want to catch up on things. We'll be going to your apartment tomorrow to clean it out; Mom wants you to come home with her for a while. Oh, and your old sorority sisters made you these get-well cards."
"Where's OTTO?" Rosie wrote again, her pen flew across the pad of paper, "you aren't telling me something."
"Sis, Otto's dead. He was right there in front of the fusion generator when it went haywire. There's no way he could have survived," Harold answered, softly.
"No," she wrote.
"Rosie, it's better this way. His experiment failed, Rosie, and only you know how much it meant to him. His hour of greatness is gone, Rose. What can be left for him?"
"Me," Rosie wrote slowly, the bowed her head and wouldn't answer anymore of her brother's concerned questions except that she wished to be taken to their apartment before the family boxed everything up.
The doctor's didn't like sending Rosie outside the hospital, but she promised to sit and watch as her family did all the heavy work, so they let her go for one day. Harold came and took her down in a wheelchair to their car. They drove through the backed-up crowded streets slowly until they reached the apartment complex. Instead of using the wheel-chair, Harold carried his sister in as her parents handled the medicine she still needed.
Their house was the same as she had left it before the 'opening day' of Otto's machine. Science magazines and calculations were spread helter-skelter with essays and announcement for poetry readings at the Manhattan Public Library. She'd been to busy to clean the dishes that day, and they still stood in the sink, smelling terribly. Harold gently placed her on the bed Otto had made so she wouldn't have too, and smiled slightly. He knew it was painful for Rosie.
"Harold, want to come with us to grab the rental moving van," their mother called out, "we need to give Rosie some time alone."
"Will you be alright?"
She nodded slightly, and gave him a reassuring smile. He picked up a pile of poetry books, some paper and pencils and set them down beside her before going out of the room. The door swung open, then shut, and she was alone. For the first time, Rosie lay back on the coverlet and began to cry. Just one little second and their wonderful life had gone so very wrong.
Shall I say I have gone at dusk through narrow streets,
And watched the smoke that rises from pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves leaning out the windows?-
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
TS Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Rosie couldn't say how long she lay in the bed, not really thinking about anything just looking and waiting for her family to return from their errand. She felt the apartment walls shudder a bit, as though colliding with something, but ignored it. There was a scrapping sound, and the door to the apartment squeaked open. She sat up in bed, using her elbows to raise herself. There was someone muttering in the door way, the door swung shut again, and footsteps paced slowly around the house.
There was no shout of "we're back" or "how are you doing", just the tread of footsteps and every once-in-awhile the clank of something metallic. Torn between the desire to call out and the thankfulness that she couldn't, Rosie quickly managed to squirm under the coverlet. She knew it was juvenile but at the moment she really didn't care.
The footsteps were getting louder, coming into the bedroom. Rosie shivered under her limited protection, and then tried to hold still. It didn't work, the coverlet was torn from her hands, and she found herself staring at four, glowing-red actuators. Her mouth opened, but no sound emerged. For a moment both were frozen, then the actuators slowly closed and withdrew.
"Rosie?" It was the softest sound she'd ever heard, and she looked past the actuators to the face of her husband. "You died?"
Rosie glanced down and looked away, her mind whirling with questions, and the vaguest sense of unease. Beside her lay the tablet Harold had laid with her, picking it up she quickly scribbled, "I didn't die. It was hard. I can't talk anymore. My family said they were going to pack up our place. What's wrong?"
She handed it to him, and was slightly surprised when the left top actuator took it gently and held it up for Otto to read. They'd never done that before, not automatically anyway. There was always a pause as Otto communicated his wishes. He sighed, as the actuator returned the pad of paper to Rosie's side.
"I'll leave then," Otto said, "they'll be back soon."
He turned, and Rosie gave a strangled, mewling cry. Otto turned his head, two of the actuators looking back at her with him, "I'm on the run Rosie. You can't come with me. I'm not the same man you loved. I don't know who I am anymore, and I've done things," he closed his eyes, "terrible things. Go back to your family Rosie. Move out of New York and start over Rosie. We can't be together anymore."
Rosie sat stunned and silent. She longed to cry out as Otto hunched his shoulders and walked out of the room. She heard a window being broken; probably the big one in the living room, and the house shuddered again with heavy metallic clunks.
Yet when you come back late, from the Hyacinth Garden
Your arms full and your hair wet, I could not
Speak and my eyes failed, I was neither
Alive nor dead and I knew nothing
T.S. Elliot "The Waste Land"
They came back soon after Otto had left, she could hear her mother and father's voice exclaiming over the broken window. Rosie just sat there, watching as Harold came in and began to take down their wardrobe. As she watched him packing away her clothes and Otto's clothes in separate boxes, Rosie wandered if that was why he'd returned to the house, to grab some clothing. She shivered at that thought, and the memory of his last words, "we can't be together anymore."
"What's wrong Rose," Harold asked, noticing her shivering.
She grabbed her paper, tearing off the top piece she'd written for Otto, and wrote, "What really happened to Octavious? I have to know."
"He died," Harold said, handing back the pad.
"He can't be dead. He was here, in this room. He told me we couldn't be together anymore. He thought I was dead!" She scribbled quickly.
"So that's why the window's broken," Harold murmured, as Rosie nodded slowly.
"He was taken to a hospital in New York while you were air-lifted into New Jersey. From what we've figured out, those metal things he used were molded into his nerves and muscles with the explosion. The doctors went to cut them off and, well, they went crazy. Everyone in the room was killed, very brutally. The next we heard of him, he was stealing money from a bank, tossing cars through eateries, and stealing anything he could get his claws onto. Father and I think he might be trying to rebuild his fusion device. He and Spiderman have had at least two major fights, one of which ended up with him nearly sending a speeding, unable to brake train off unfinished tracks," Harold rubbed a hand through his hair wearily. "Mom and Dad are going to be furious that I told you, but if he was here then you needed to know. They call him Doc Ock now."
Rosie glanced down silently at her pad of paper. As Harold paced back and forth in front of the bed, she silently took in everything he had told her. Slowly she doodled on the page, ignoring the little thin blue lines. Finally she handed it to Harold, "I still love him."
"I know sis," Harold sat down on her bed and patted her back, "I know you do. We'll go far away from here."
"I don't know what to do," she wrote slowly, " and I want him back."