WEDNESDAY: A Sliver, Anyone?

BY MANDIRA PATTNAIK

Copyright is held by the author.

EVENING DESCENDED on Marine Drive, Mumbai. Kiera, seated at the desk, adjusted her watch — two days to 2030. She shifted her gaze from the street bathed in twinkling lights, to the dresser where a wide mirror reflected a handsome man adjusting his dark-tan tie, smiling. His smile, Kiera acknowledged, had an intoxicating quality about it, drawing women like moths to a fire.

“Rika. She’ll be pleased to see you. Again. After that evening of — let’s say — fun!”

Samier looked at her sharply. Kiera ignored him and gazed back at the lights.

“What do you mean again — after what? I haven’t seen her in months.”

“Well, you haven’t, have you?” Kiera’s voice was calm.

“No!”

“How funny! She thinks she dined with you at The Continental on the 7th.”

“Really? Did — did her assistant, what’s her name? — Elle tell you so?”

Kiera looked at him without emotion.

“Rika’s shooting. In Paris. Has been away for weeks,” Samier said dispassionately. But his mind lingered on that snatch of Rika — her grey-green eyes, her flirtatious look.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?”

Samier responded with silence, running his fingers through his hair, eyes still on his image.

“I am only saying what I know. If you insist —”

“Kiera! What do you mean?” Acclaimed actor Samier Khan finally turned to his wife. Flustered, his breath came fast and erratic.

“I mean I know some of the things you tell me are a lot of lies.”

“I don’t know what you are driving at . . .”

Samier, his square, handsome face uncertain, glanced at Kiera. She stared back at him, placid, unruffled. An empty stare is terribly disconcerting at times.

“Look here, Kiera —”

Samier had started to bluster — but was stopped, taken aback as Kiera spoke; her voice composed, silken: “We do want to keep the play up, don’t we? For the children, for the shares in the company, for the fans that adore you.”

Samier collapsed on the settee.

“Listen, Kiera, I don’t know where you got it from. But, yes! Rika’s been part of this arrangement — our marriage — it’s sad she can’t be my wife.”

Samier spoke matter-of-factly.

Kiera sprang from her desk and clung to Samier. Her mind raced back to Dr. Uleingibbitor’s words — it is merely a temporary transfer of spare copies — while giving Kiera protein-synthesis booster pills that prepared her brain for transmission of engrams from the host’s visual and auditory cortex. Rika had felt only a pin-prick at her nape when Elle had done the job at the doctor’s behest. Tiny synapses associated with “Samier” transferred from Rika’s brain and copied onto Kiera’s. The neural circuitry of the host remained unaffected, not even realizing the instant at which actual import of targeted memories took place. All very discreet. What Kiera had been suspecting was now irrefutable evidence. Samier could be forced to reach a handsome settlement with his married spouse.

“But you do know how much I love you, don’t you?”

Samier responded to the embrace.

“Even if you choose to marry her after we’ve reached a settlement.”

The husband stiffened.

“What’s the matter, Samier?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? What is it?”

“I only want you to be — careful.”

“Careful about what? I’m always careful.”

Samier pulled out a small node from her nape.

“No, I don’t think you are. You were stupid about Brad the other day.”

Kiera flushed angrily.

“You said you were out shopping at Margaretta’s. But you weren’t.”

In a moment, Kiera shifted from the recall of Brad’s warmth to stunned freeze as Samier continued: “It’s really a labyrinth — this — this brain. Neurologists are still deciphering our complex minds. This node — it’s just the tip of it. Things aren’t over when you wish them to be.”

“Samier!”

Kiera stood dumb and stiff like a wooden doll.

Samier, his voice reverberating, spoke,

“There’s a reason we’re not meant to read minds. A sliver of borrowed memory won’t harm us, but it’s so much better never to know it . . . No?”

A smile played on his lips as he went out of the room before his wife could answer.

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