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His bruises' hue having followed their predictable progression: reddish-purple to bluish-green to brownish-yellow to sallow-pink, Rockefellerís groin (including penile shaft and scrotum) has returned (under close inspection) to its normal colorationófunction, other than routine micturition, has yet to be fully tested; has yet to be sorely tempted is a claim he cannot make. But abstinence is affording a newfound gratification, since Suzette has learned a number of independent tasksómany of these performed with her almond eyes wide open, which is not to say her sight is focused or alert. Typically she will stare with a lazy brand of vacancy, seldom interrupted by a solitary blink, her mind in a seeming trance out of which she snaps at random, her face assuming on these occasions the look of someone mentally retarded, 'severely' retarded, her intellect so diffuse it might be labeled ďscattered," her brain so disconnected it wanders out of reach, responding neither to encouragement from without nor instructions from within. Hunger and thirst, for instance, are monitored by a timetable and satisfied irrespective her personal volition, nourishment and hydration being provided systematically when her body lies in state i.e. hovers in the airlock with its life-support umbilicus fastened to her crotchóingenious, if bizarre, and unromantically gross when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. Suzette, if truth be told, is a chore to keep alive. Every deviation from his fatherís strict directives has incurred a form of penalty, insignificant to acute (announced by warning lights flashing or the din of shrill alarms); from minor indigestion onto respiratory arrest, Suzette has known discomfort, has suffered near disaster, each occasion taxing her custodian as it threatens his dependent, while ineluctably strengthening the coupleís offbeat bond.

 

 

Opting to forego the use of pain to train behavior, Fell removes electrodes from Suzetteís compliant underarms (no response) and guides her by the shoulders to a prearranged exhibitó

designed to teach her the names of things by associating textures. Spread out on a tabletop are half a dozen swatches: wool, silk, cotton, leather, velvet, and a four-inch square of fur, each

beside its label, all within easy reach as she settles down in front of themóRockefeller opposite, likewise on a stool, naked as his protťgť (for reasons deemed "aesthetic").

 

"Okay. Try to pay attention. Suzette? Pilot to co-pilot, do you read me? Anybody there? Okay be a zombie, but try to pay attention anyway. Put your hand on this. Thatís it; touch it with your fingertips. Stroke it. Pet it. No, donít eat it! Suzette? Open. Open your mouth, please. Alright chew the damn thing if you must; go ahead, slobber all over it; but donít you dare try to swallow it. Stop! St-ahhhhh-p. Ohhhhh-pen. Coochy-coochy-coo, let go. Not food. This is wool, which is also known as tartan, which is now just a soggy wad, thanks to your saliva. Yuck! Okay, letís try again. Here; touch this one. Thatís called silk. Feel the difference? Feel how smoooooth, how sleeeeek it is? Uh, uh; not for tasting. Weíll do taste tomorrow if you like; today is all about touching. And naming what you touch, or at least connecting a sound, a word, a symbol to the feel of a certain thing. Silk. I know you canít say it, but Iím convinced you can recognize itósilkóby its nameósilkóby the way it feels when it brushes against your skin. Hereís another one. Rabbit fur. Okay, use your left hand if you want to. Good. Not inside your m... Fine; against your cheek is okay. Your right hand holds the silk. Your left hand holds the rabbit fur. Soft, huh? Silk. Rabbit fur. Rabbit fur. Silk. Got it? Okay, put them down. Suzette? Knock-knock; anybody home? Suzette? Down. Put them down. Do it by yourself. Watch. Down. Fingers open. How can anyone so gorgeous be so dense? Bastard. Son-of-a-bitch; Iíll see him rot in hell. Or better yet, Iíll see him fitted with a lifelong straightjacket. Here, sweetie. Open your fingers. Thatís right. Down. Perfect. Okay, hereís number three. Leather. Thatís right, touch donít taste; you can sniff it if you want to, you can rub it on your face if you absolutely must. Leather. Also known as rawhide. Comes from a cow. Leather. Do you know cow? Moo? No, of course not; how could you? How could you know anything, cooped up in this glorified sensory deprivation tank, your whole life squandered on a lab-ratís version of solitary confinement. Christ; the manís a maniac, a menace to society! Velvet. Thatís called velvet. Yum-yum no. Open. Ohhhhh-pen. Suzette. Suzette, youíre like a pit-bull, sometimes. Let the damn thing... Thank you. Sharp; those teeth of yours. Look, you made a little hole. No matter. Velvet. Sloppy, holey velvet. Okay, hereís the last. Cotton. Suzette, are you still with me? You-who, Suzettes? Donít drift away, sweetie. One more swatch, then weíll quit. Cotton. No, thatís wool. Wool. Cotton. Cotton. Wool. Feel the difference? Hear the difference in their names? No? Is this beyond your boundaries, completely out of range? I hope not. I hope that asshole left you roots enough to sprout some semblance of intelligence. 'Brain cells donít regenerate' is the conventional wisdom, but they do have a knack for reassigning functions to undamaged areas. You can do this. You do those exercises. Youíve learned, or at least youíve been programmed to comply with basic commandsóafter a bit of coaxing. Itís not just pain avoidance, either. I tried those electrodes; hurt like the dickens. But you respond without my resorting to torture. Heaven knows what my father may have done to put you through your paces. Maybe you donít remember. Maybe a day, an hour, a minute ago is lost to your fickle immediacy. Leather. Which one? Leather. Also known as rawhide. Also known as cow skinónone as superb as yours. Not so much as a pinhead mole detracts from your skin's perfection. Why sustain so incomparable a package and dismantle what it holds? Prick! I never thought Iíd be vilifying a man I grew up admiring. Worshipped him, I did. He sacrificed a lot to give me my advantages, him being a single father, a widowerówhich happened when Rem was young, yet he never remarried. Raising me was "enough," he said on more than one occasion. Little did I know that he had you stashed away. Not that youíre much company, sorry to admit. Deliberate or accidental? Maybe youíre a failure he didnít have the heart to dumpógiving him credit for at least a vestige of empathetic conscience; though sometimes I wonder. Essentially Rem is a misanthrope. Loves folks as they might be, loathes them as they are. Could that be it? Are you some sort of an ideal human he fucked-up in the making? Surely he didnít intend for you to be a mindless manikin. Or did he? Rem can be callous, but it's doubtful he's diabolical. Though looking around... Hey, you did it! Thatís it; thatís leather. Bless your left cheekís dimple; you may have a future yet!"

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