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Mara
#1
"My name is Mara. My name is Mara."
A voice tilted thick with foreign accent muttered to the darkness of her room. The light from the hallway leaked around the edges of the door, framing a ghostly rectangle. "My name is Mara."


Something stirred in the shadows, and Mara, or Daiyu as they told her, pat the narrow strip of mattress alongside her hip. A small bounce and she curled up on her side to make room. The creature was soft as fur and warm as a sun kissed rock. She draped an arm across it and let her head relax on her pillow.

Sleep took her into the land of dreams, carried there by her faithful pet.

----

A nurse woke her in the morning. She had to be shook awake, like always. For months her doctor thought her deep sleep was the result of some side effect, but changing drugs and brain scans found no such evidence. Daiyu simply slept hard.

"Your medication this morning miss Daiyu." She left a cup next to a plastic water bottle. Everything was plastic in this place. Nothing dangerous. Nothing she could harm herself with.

"My name is Mara."
She told the nurse as she deposited the tablet on her tongue.

"I'll see you later, Daiyu. Walks this morning. And your doctor appointment is after." The nurse left.

Daiyu-Mara slipped from bed, toes curling on the cold floor, to retrieve a sweatshirt and dress herself. She rubbed her eyes as she did.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
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#2
Aylin Milton
Psychiatrist PPC


She'd slept poorly. A little concealer hid the shadows beneath her eyes, but did little to erase the worry for her sister. At work, however, professionalism swept her personal conflicts aside. Though she planned to ring home on her lunch break, just to ease her mind.

She was on her fourth cup of coffee by the time she arrived at her office, pausing in her chair to sweep an eye over her morning schedule. The Ascendancy's announcement had brought a deeper layer of conflict to some of the patients. Some of them were not even supposed to have net access, and yet the rumours had wormed their way like wildfire, and left destruction of good work in their wake. It was frustrating, but just one more wave in an endless tide.

Taking a last sip of coffee, she checked her wristwatch. Ten minutes until her first appointment.

Daiyu Sòng.

The girl was young, and the diagnosis, such as it was, was unusual for precisely that reason. Her parents had provided a long history of disturbed behaviour, but it was the suicide that had signed her fate over to the Guardian complex, and placed the patient into Aylin's care. Refusal to accept her identity as Daiyu was classic dissociative behaviour; the problem with the diagnosis, of course, being that there was only one personality: that of the girl's pen name, Mara. And there was no severe trauma in Daiyu's past; at least that anyone had admitted to, meaning that the trigger remained as yet unidentified. They did not even know why the girl had tried to take her own life. Or, medication aside, why she slept so much.

With the youngsters, Aylin did not favour the stuffiness of an office nor the claustrophobia of the patients' rooms. This morning the appointment was scheduled in one of the small recreation rooms; the one with the window facing the gardens. Comfy chairs lined the walls. Tables with strewn board games, a case of carefully vetted books. Sunlight streamed in bright and fresh - another calculated choice.

Since she was early Aylin smoothed down her blouse and took a seat.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#3
The girl everyone called Daiyu stumbled through her morning routine with half-lidded eyes. She'd brushed her midnight black hair to a soft sheen, scrubbed her teeth gleaming, and dressed in the standard uniform of all the patients. She was just another body among the slab of gray sweats walking the corridors. Scrubs occasionally punctuated the monotone masses, and with the streak of color suddenly injected into her periphery, Daiyu's eyes darted to follow. Always to be disappointed.

The walk came after breakfast. The air prickled her face with chill, so contrasting from the dry, heavy air of the ward.

In a daze, she found the recreation room to meet her doctor. So many doctors. This one was but another white coat among dozens. How could she help where the others didn't?

Mara didn't care.

Slippers dragging heavy on the floor, Daiyu sat along the window, chin propped on her hand and stared lazily outside. The sun made slits of her eyes she squeezed them so tight.

Falling. . . .

. . . falling

She jerked upright when her chin fell from its perch.

"I fell asleep didn't I?"

She asked with a fresher face, even after the micronap.

They once thought her narcoleptic, but all signs suggested something else. Neither did she respond well to the medication for narcolepsy. Stimulants were something to avoid in general. When writing her books, she consumed caffeine by the liter. Stronger herbs came next. Pharmaceuticals last.

Eyes roaming to the bookshelf, they grazed the spines. Her books were always absent. Had she even written them? It seemed like a different life when she had.

"Did you read my book yet?"
She turned her gaze back to the doctor. She'd promised she would. So many new stories to compose. Mara collected more every night like pets.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
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#4
Aylin Milton
PPC


She entered like a sleepwalker, shuffling in a daze to a seat by the window. Aylin watched, processing a few mental notes of her first impressions; this was the first time they had met, and though she had studied the reports and notes, it was no substitute for first-hand observation. Daiyu's head lolled. Abruptly jerked upright.

"It's quite all right."
Aylin re-positioned herself to a chair opposite. Glorious morning sunlight lit a patch on the dull carpet by her feet. "My name is Aylin. I will be your doctor while you stay at the Guardian."
She had a naturally amenable air, a softness that suggested she was on her patient's side. She smiled. Tucked a strand of hair behind her ears.

Today was about building foundations, working on trust and on openness. She wanted Daiyu to feel at ease, which meant treading carefully around the known triggers surrounding her self-identification. For now Aylin was only interested in exploring Mara as she saw herself, in the hope it would offer insight.

"I have. You have a very vivid imagination."
The stories were, in fact, largely disturbing. Not Aylin's cup of tea anyway, and the second opinions she sought had suggested the genre as a whole contained much worse. But the creativity. And the darkness. Still, it was something Mara was proud of, and therefore something Aylin was keen to open up for discussion. It was always better if the patient volunteered information themselves, so she asked no questions at this stage - keen to see if the interest encouraged animation. But she was ready to guide as necessary.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#5
The doctor introduced herself and Daiyu responded promptly.

"My name is Mara."



The Guardian? Her fingers trailed her forearm. Though covered by the sleeve of her sweatshirt, she could feel the edge of a Second Skin bandage beneath. The biofilm contained stem cells and other epithelial growth factors meant to quickly cover the cuts beneath without the need for stitches or staples. The bump of a scab where the i.v. had been in her arm was closer to her elbow.

"I miss writing my stories. I have so many. Every day I find more. But if I don't write them down in the morning, they are gone until the next. But I can't write right now. I'm so tired."



For weeks, months, she'd been saying as much. Nobody believed her. But she was used to mistrust. She'd taken the little tablets her whole life.

She didn't really study Aylin's face. She barely looked at the doctor. Instead, her eyes roamed the floor, the corners, and peered into the shadows-few as there were in the sunny room. Her eyes squinted to slits again as a dull ache built in her skull.

Another patient strolled along the path outside. A blonde haired woman that Daiyu recognized from the dining room. The woman rubbed her eyes. She also had a bad night of sleep - one plagued by nightmares she couldn't shake even in the light of day.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
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#6
Aylin Milton
PPC


Aylin's expression remained smooth; she did not react to Daiyu's insistence that her name was Mara. It was almost like an affirmation, a reminder. She watched the girl trail her fingers over her arm, and wondered if she truly understood where she was or why she was here. But if there was a question, it was not one she voiced, and there was no sense of panic or hysteria. Her gaze was restless, her eyes scrunched up as though the light hurt, or there was pain behind them.

"You find them? Where do you find them?"
Daiyu spent so much time asleep it was a wonder she had time for that sort of creativity at all. Disturbed sleep was not unusual. Medication also had an impact. But clearly quality of sleep was an issue; Daiyu spent much of her time abed, but her mannerisms reminded Aylin of the severely sleep deprived. It didn't tally with the facts. Could the issue be neurological? "Writing things down might be a good therapeutic exercise."
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#7
"In my dreams. My pets show me the stories. Dark and ominious like a stormcloud raining acid and terror, but confined to the small of her lap, crawling tender warmth they ensnare her.'"
Daiyu muttered, hiding her jaw behind a yawn. It was impolite of her. Her mother would be shocked by her behavior. She had a mother. She remembered her insisting she was called Daiyu. The name meant black jade; blackness followed her like a shadow chasing her heels. But her name was Mara. She was sure of it. The nightmares called her Mara.

"I think I would like to write things down. Yes, you are right."
She nodded, rubbing her eyes. She wasn't allowed caffeine any more; or stimulants of any kind. Her head throbbed dully between her ears.

Her gaze drifted around the room, settling finally on one corner, then to the other corner. But they were empty. Nothing was there. She missed their warmth.

"I'd like to go back to bed now if I can."

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
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#8
Talk of dreams reminded Aylin of Thalia and the fevered states she sometimes got herself into, when the images poured out like a river burst its banks. Inevitably it also reminded her of Yana and those strange screwed up drawings. Thalia said she never remembered dreams, but nearly all the work from those frenzied days went in the bin. It had disturbed them both. But it was the word pets that sent a chill right through to Aylin's bones. The description. As though a creature sat and purred there now.

Suddenly the twitching of Daiyu's gaze was not restlessness, but a search. For these... "pets." It suggested some sort of psychosis, and yet Daiyu had been on anti-psychotics since a child. Night terrors? But she was not afraid to sleep; in fact the opposite. Perhaps it was a world she preferred. A schism between asleep and awake. Aylin had never heard of such a thing.

"Then next time I'll bring paper and pens. We'll do it the old fashioned way."
She smiled. Though Daiyu never met her gaze - barely in fact looked at her face - Aylin's expression remained smooth, her clear gaze concerned and compassionate.

"Of course. I'll call the nurse. She'll escort you back to your room."
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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