As our time on the ship drew to a close Bailey and I were too concerned with saying our goodbyes to give much thought to anything else. Our last night together was intense. We were determined to give each other a memorable farewell…and we were successful.
Still, there were many tears that final morning when we all disembarked. Bailey and Woody shared a taxi to the airport while Zack and I rode back to the Tipton with London and Mr. Moseby. I remember that London was the only one of us that didn't shed a tear. She simply smiled at us all in that serene, knowing way that we'd all become accustomed to.
Even though I missed Bailey, life back in Boston was good. It was nice to be reunited with my Mom and all my friends back at the hotel. They welcomed us back happily, but all were surprised by the change in London. Everyone agreed that it was a positive development though.
Of course, none of us realized then just how intelligent she had become. We saw the kindness in that smile of hers and didn't look past it.
Perhaps we were afraid to.
Maddie was the one who started to have doubts. At first she was overjoyed that her good friend had improved her intellect. She did admit feeling jealous when it became apparent that London was smarter than she was, but on the whole she was happy with her friend's 'improvement'.
But before too long, Maddie became uncomfortable with the heiress. As different as their personalities had been in the past, as often as they had bickered or fought, the two had always been able to relate to one another as friends. Now however, Maddie felt she couldn't connect with London.
I became aware of all this when Maddie began questioning me about when London had started to change. The more we discussed it the more I began think about how different our friend had become.
Maddie and I started researching to see if there had ever been cases like London's before. Our results were far from conclusive. There had been numerous cases where individuals had undergone drastic personality changes after recovering from head trauma…but London had shown no signs of that kind of injury. The explosion back on the ship had knocked her out, but she hadn't suffered a concussion. She hadn't even had a bump on her head.
Maddie and I were left to speculate that there was something in the chemical mixture itself that had affected London...but that seemed more in the realm of science fiction. Still, something had changed her.
I decided to observe London to see if I could learn anything more. At first I hoped to do so without her noticing, but that was a futile effort. Whenever I tried to slip pertinent questions into 'friendly conversation' she'd simply look at me with bemusement. I started to understand why Maddie felt uncomfortable around the heiress. She was so intelligent…I couldn't help but feel inferior around her.
Yet, the smiles she gave me were genuine. The affection in her eyes was real. I couldn't forget that London was my friend. With that in mind, I tried talking to her directly. I told her I was curious, and quite frankly baffled, by how much she had changed.
"It's only natural for you to feel that way," she told me. "There's no denying that I've undergone a significant transformation. Even I'm curious as to where it will lead."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"My intelligence is still increasing," she explained. "And it's doing so at a rate that I can't accurately measure anymore. I'd already surpassed all conventional IQ tests before we'd left the ship."
Stunned as I was by this news, I still managed to ask another question. "Who's been testing you?"
"I've been testing myself of course," she answered. "I can't afford to have anyone else know the extent of my cerebral development. I have no desire to become a guinea pig for some ambitious scientist."
I could understand her concern about that. But looking back, maybe if she had been examined by a scientist at that point there still would have been time to prevent what ultimately happened.
With London's spectacular intelligence she had no problem convincing me to keep her condition a secret from everyone else. She told me it was a relief to be able to share her secrets with someone else. And she had secrets aplenty.
She showed me the private area of her penthouse that had been converted into a makeshift laboratory. That was where she studied her own increasing mental power, but many other things as well. She filled a multitude of notebooks with bold new theories on biology, psychology, sociology…pretty much every sort of '-ology' one could think of. Reading through her notes taught me more that summer than a year at a top-ranked university could have.
I fell into the role of London's assistant without any complaint. Her writings weren't meant to be merely an intellectual exercise. She told me that she wanted to improve the human condition. To make the world a better place. And indeed, some of the ideas she came up with could have had a profound effect on mankind if she had shared them…but she never did.
For as brilliant as her theories were, she was never satisfied with them. She was driven to come up with ideas that could solve every problem on the planet. The smarter she got, the more ambitious her goals became. She was searching for nothing less than absolute perfection.
Of course, even with her intellect, such a task was impossible. But she wouldn't accept that. That was when I saw the London that none of her other friends did anymore. All they ever saw was the quiet, calm young woman with the knowing smile. I saw her when she didn't smile. I saw the frustration, and the anger. I was the one that she would lean against wearily when she had exhausted herself from working too long. I realized that was my purpose. London dealt with the rest of the world using logic and reason, but I was the one she could still show her emotional side to.
So I shouldn't have been surprised when she made me her lover.
And make no mistake, my choice of words here is deliberate. She made me her lover. It was far from a traditional romantic seduction. One evening when working in the lab, she declared she needed a break. She asked me to come to her side…and then she kissed me. I was so stunned that I didn't try to pull away, not until I felt her hands unbuttoning my pants.
Shocked by her boldness, I stopped her and tried to talk to her. But, just like in all other matters, there was no point in arguing with London. She explained to me why there was no reason for us not to add a sexual component to our relationship. It was somewhat surreal to hear her run down the benefits of such an arrangement in such a matter-of-fact fashion.
But in the end, it all boiled down to her looking me in the eyes and telling me that she wanted me. I wanted her too. I think I always had.
We made love then and there in the lab. It was London's first time, though she certainly didn't show any nervousness. In fact, she was so wildly uninhibited that…well, I don't think I can properly describe how that evening went. Suffice it to say that it proved to be the first of many amazing sexual adventures with London.
I didn't realize there was a problem until the middle of that August. It began with a simple slip of the tongue. We were in the lab and London was in one of her more frustrated moods. I began massaging her shoulders as she kept going over a complex equation on her computer screen. The numbers weren't adding up. Though the whole of the equation was too advanced for me to understand, I did notice one small part of it that seemed to have a basic math error. When I pointed it out to London, she made the correction and finally got the answer she'd been expecting.
"Thank you," she told me with a sigh. "I can't believe I missed that mistake. I'm smarterer than that."
I laughed then. Thinking London had chosen to mispronounce the word as a joke. But she gave me an odd look and asked me what I found so amusing.
When I told her, there was a brief flash of emotion in her eyes. An emotion I hadn't recalled seeing from her in a long time.
But the look passed quickly and she laughed, saying that she must have been more tired than she realized. We stopped working and had a quiet dinner together followed by some passionate love making.
The next morning, she told me that she was going to start a new project that she would need to work on in isolation. From that point on, I wasn't allowed in the lab anymore.
I became more and more troubled over the next few weeks. London spent long hours in the lab so I wasn't seeing her very much. And when I did see her there was always something a little off about her. Her smiles seemed forced. Her eyes were haunted.
Our sex life took on a new tone. London had always been an ardent lover, but now there was a tinge of desperation surrounding her. When we would finish she would lie next to me and I would feel her trembling. Even when she was sound asleep, she'd tremble. I tried to ask her about it over and over, but she'd insist that nothing was wrong or that she was simply working too hard. She repeatedly promised that she would cut back on her time in the lab.
Finally I could take no more. I tried to get her to come out of the lab one day. When she refused I forced the door open.
The sight that greeted me was disturbing to say the least. The place was a disaster. The floor was cluttered with crumbled pieces of paper and discarded notebooks filled with sloppily scribbled equations. More disturbing were the equations written on the walls and table tops, and in the center of it all stood London with a crazed look in her eyes.
She screamed at me to get out. She picked up small items within her reach and started throwing them at me, but I grabbed her and held her until she stopped struggling. She went limp in my arms and just began sobbing. I whispered comforting words to her until she stopped.
Then she told me the truth.
Her intelligence was no longer increasing. In fact, she was regressing at an alarming rate. She'd been spending all her time trying to stop this from happening, but it seemed there was nothing that could be done.
"But I can't go back to the way I was," she cried. "I can't live like that. I can't be that pathetic excuse for a human being again!"
I argued with her, telling her that she was never pathetic. Just because she wouldn't have her advanced intelligence anymore, that didn't mean her life was over. She'd been happy before.
"But that was before!" she said in a panic-filled tone. "I didn't understand then. I do now. Two weeks ago I knew how to design a nuclear reactor. Today I can't. I don't know how anymore. But…I remember that I could. I know that I knew!"
As I listened, I felt a chill go through me. I understood the torment she was going through. They say that ignorance I bliss, and there is some truth to that. London would never be the same girl she used to be. Imagine a child that is born blind. The child will grow up and spend his life in darkness, never knowing light or color. Then imagine a man who has perfect sight for years and then loses it. He'll know what he's lost. He'll mourn that loss in a way that someone born blind never would.
London knew what she was losing. She was always going to remember what she'd had…and she'd always know that she'd never have it again.
But that didn't mean she couldn't find happiness. I had to believe that, because I was determined to make her believe it as well.
It was hard, those next short weeks as her intellect faded. I spent as much time as possible with London, and I arranged it so that she was never alone. Maddie, Zack, my mother and Mr. Moseby were the only ones I revealed the whole truth too. They were all a great help. I don't think London could have gotten through it without them.
The important thing is that she did get through it. And I thank God everyday for that fact.
Today, London's intelligence is slightly higher than it was before the accident that changed her. She reads a lot, mostly trashy romances but few other things as well. She's read The Hobbit countless times, but that's because it's always been a favorite of our three children. They love having Mommy read to them.
Our fifteenth wedding anniversary is coming up soon. We're going to fly out to California to see Zack and Maddie. They've been dying to show us their new beach house for awhile now. The four of us don't get together as often as we'd like, but it's always fun when we do.
There are still times when I'll wake up in the middle of the night and see that London's not in our bed. That's when I'll go downstairs and find her in my office, staring at the bookshelves. Sometimes she'll reach her hand towards something by Shakespeare or Milton or Machiavelli but she'll always stop short, as if afraid to touch them. I hate to see that lost look in her eyes when I find her there, but when she turns to me and her expression brightens…she looks so beautiful.
I know there's always going to be a part of her that hurts, knowing what she's lost. But she hasn't let that stop her from living a fulfilling life. She's never given in to hopelessness or bitterness.
She's smarterer than that.
author's note: There it is. The idea for this came from Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, though now that I look over the finished product, I'm pretty happy that I was able to make this story go in it's own direction. The only thing that's the same is the concept of someone becoming vastly more intelligent and then returning to their previous state. Also, I got to return to my roots in doing a full-blown Lody story (while having some Cody/Bailey as well...and even some Zaddie.) Thanks for reading. Please review.