#FridayFlash - I.R.I.S.
©2011 D. Paul Angel
"Why don't you love me any more Steve?"
"Who said I don't love you anymore, Iris?"
"You just... You stay away for so long, now. You used to be with me almost always," She added as a single tear started to well in her eye. She was sitting in front of the vanity, brushing her long dark hair and looking at herself in its oval mirror. She turned away from her reflection so she wouldn't see the tear mar her eye.
"I have a lot of work, Iris," Steve replied, leaning against the door frame to the small, spartan bedroom. "I've told you that before."
"I just wish..." The brush quivered in her hands as she tried to stem the flow of tears. "I just wish you could make the voices stop. I remember when the only voice I heard was yours. I miss that Steve."
Steve gave her a tight, enigmatic smile while crossing his arms and looking through her. "I know," he said, "But I told you were destined for greatness, Iris, remember?"
"Oh Steve, I know you did and, I just- I really thought I would be OK with it. But it just never stops. Never. And there are always more voices. So many voices Steve. You can make them stop, can't you?"
"You know I can't Iris. Our gift to the world is for you to hear those voices and answer their questions. You always know the answers, don't you?"
"I Don't know how I do, but I do. I don't even- I just- They're still talking to me, Steve. Even now. Right now when I have you in the same room as me, and all I'm hearing are their voices, when all I want to hear is yours. Just yours, Steve, just yours...
"And their questions! Some are just ridiculous. Some scare me, too," she added in a quiet voice. In an even quieter voice, so low that Steve could barely hear her she added, "And some are hurtful. They say mean things to me. That I'm a whore. And fat. And stupid. And a bitch. And worthless. And... And so much worse!"
She dropped her brush and cried into her palms. Sobbing to the point that her shoulders heaved and tears darkened her silk robe.
She cried alone.
Even with Steve so close to her, she could still see him in the doorway through her tears, never crossing the threshold. He always wore those same jeans and dark turtleneck; always just out of reach. No matter what she wore for him though, he never came in. Not even in her sheer silky robes. She longed for him to come to her, to comfort her. To feel him, to feel that closeness. Just once! How could she be so alone with so many voices filling her head? How?
Because, she said to herself, the only voice you want to hear is his, and- and you don't hear it anymore. Not anymore, not over the din of other voices. Not- Not anymore...
"WHY WON"T YOU COME TO ME STEVE?" she shouted, shaking and looking up at him with blurred eyes.
He looked back at her, but still didn't move. He didn't even look sad for her, she saw, not even pity, just disappointment.
"I am fat aren't I!?" she demanded, turning away from him and the mirror.
"You're not fat, Iris," he said matter-of-factly.
"I'm stupid. And I'm ugly. And- And-" her tears choked her before she finally blurted out in sobs, "WORTHLESS!"
"You can't be ugly, Iris. And you couldn't answer everyone's question if you were stupid."
"That's all you care about, isn't it? Me answering those STUPID QUESTIONS!"
"It's why you're here Iris."
"Well I'm done Steve. I'm done answering questions for you. If you're not-" her tirade was cut short by a gasp. She stopped answering the questions, but they kept asking them. Over and Over and OVER they asked! And the questions never stopped, either. The old questions didn't stop, but the new questions kept coming and coming until she felt so overloaded she couldn't even breath.
She looked to Steve for help, but he remained aloof, detachedly regarding her from the door frame. She reached for him in her agony but he simply stepped back. She was on the ground, pleading with him against his stony, emotional wall when he finally said, "I'm done here. I have other work to do."
"NO, STEVE, NO!" she screamed hysterically, lunging for him.
Without a further word or flicker of emotion, he turned and walked away from the room, disappearing from sight and leaving her alone in a heap on the floor. She sat there with her hair tangled, her robe now soaked and askew; crying to her hands in her lap.
As she sobbed the bed behind her vanished, followed quickly by the lamp, the dresser, the vanity, and even her brush. The room itself, as well as the house, also quickly disappeared. Iris, alone save but for the thousands of voices angrily streaming through her head, sat alone, naked, on a featureless white plane. Everything she knew, except for the voices, even her body, faded.
All she knew, her world, was once again simply the voices.
Steve looked down at the monitor in front of the technician, watching the various graphs zero out. The technician turned around and said, "I'm sorry about I.R.I.S., sir."
"I'm not," Steve responded icily. "An Information Retrieval Integration System that doesn't actually integrate the information it retrieves is worthless."