The Name On Your Wrist

Somewhere in the country were a hundred people with ‘Corin’ written on their wrist. Those hundred people were desperately searching for any Corin that might have their carpinomen too. One of those hundred people will be searching for me.

And it was my prerogative to make damn sure that I was difficult to find.

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3. To the Hospital

Around sixty years ago, an old historic monument of some sort was knocked down. Sustainability was the word and, as much as all the world’s historians were turning in their graves (or, more likely, their ashes were causing a stomach ache to which ever poor sod had breathed them in), it was costing an entirely extortionate rate to keep the monument in place. The site had, before that, been home to an even older monument of some sort and then one particularly mad historian had popped up stating that, thanks to a successive series of large buildings on this one particular site that it was likely that no one had ever died on this piece of land.

 

Personally, I’ve always thought that whole concept of the thing was ridiculous. Every year they got more historians to track further and further back in history to determine whether it was true or not, which it was likely not, but the historians always came back with the same result - that they thought it was entirely possible that the piece of land had, in fact, escaped death.

 

In a world where we seemed to have discovered everything and fallen into the most organised period of history that had ever existed, death was the only thing they we couldn't escape. And, as the legend had it, there was still a piece of our ancient earth that had.

 

They roped it off, realised that wasn’t enough, created a huge Perspex dome around the place to keep out any creatures that might die and opened it to the public as a place of healing and immortality. Once a year, the media explodes with a firestorm of coverage about it - hiring medians who claim, shockingly, that the whole place is silent, finding those who swore it gave them good luck and vitality, the oldest person on the planet usually features for a few moments talking about how she regularly visits the place in an accent too thick for me to understand. Everyone takes a school trip to visit, despite the fact that it’s on a different continent and people rarely travels these days. Everyone’s been to the D'livere.

 

Of course, you have to have a note from a doctor stating that you’re healthy and not about to drop dead and ruin the world’s dullest tourist attraction. The organisation involved in that school trip was ridiculous and after all of that - the flights, the passports, the check-ups - I didn’t get to see anything of the American Section.  It was straight back on the plane home and that was that. We travelled halfway across the world to stand in a Perspex box: And that’s just one of the reasons why I’ve always hated humanity, the criminal lack of judgement and perspective. Perspex, indeed, the race might as well box themselves and their tiny lives in with wood and ignore the rest of existence. It’d be safer for the rest of existence, too.

 

The whole room was silent. We’d all been there, so we were aware of the security imposed there. It had seemed over the top, then - why would anyone want to break into a stupid Perspex box?

 

Obvious, really, I wasn’t sure how my thirteen year old mind had missed such an obvious point as to kill yourself.

 

The girl and her suspected soulmate visited the attraction together. She put the knife in her wrist guard and then she slit her wrists. There was a video too, which showed a blurry image of the two entering the attraction together and then cut off to the scene outside the attraction. The news reporter was talking at the camera with a serious expression: they’d tried to remove the body from the area before she could die, but the guy she was with caused a commotion which distracted the security so she died, right there, in the middle of the D’livere.

 

I wondered if it had felt good. Knowing, just for a second, that she was the first person ever to die there. The world’s so old now, there’s not a lot of firsts left. Just a lot of recycled ideas and a horrible lack of originality. Even in her case, I doubted that she was actually the first, but that was what the world was saying. She'd be remembered. She'd made her point.

 

The Tabloid turned back to black but the moment hung around the room for a little longer - all our eyes fixed towards the front, the tension still hanging in the air and the typical sense of disbelief around it all. It was hard to believe. It had been a stupid legend but now it was over.

 

After a few seconds of respite, the inevitable happened. Over half of the pairs of eyes in the room darted towards me and took in my stiffened posture, my tight smile and my angry gaze. Even Mr Robin succumbed to the urge, which was disappointing, an expression of pity and worry hitting my cheek for a second before it relented.

 

He seemed to come to, faltered back into speech and continued talking about Search times and Onomastics. Gradually, the rest of my classmates pulled their gaze away and leaft me to my solitude.

Except Colton Furnish. He continued to stare right at me, unabashed.

 

Then again, there was nothing particularly unusual about that.

 

*

 

Jacinta was not sat in the passenger seat or the driver’s seat when I was finally allowed to escape into the car park.  Normally, the robotic state lead to her arriving at the car several more minutes before I did and it was spectacularly uncommon for me to have to wait, but given the events of the day I wasn’t wholly surprised - I supposed someone committing suicide in the D’livere was enough to drag anyone out of an emotionless state.

I leant against the bonnet of the car and tried not to worry too much. The effects of the news bulletin were still obvious, though, with the drab square car park full of people milling around and chatting rather than just getting the hell away from the place - voices in hushed, slightly shocked tones - and others with their TTCs attached to their ears and frantically calling someone to other to determine whether they heard the news.

 

Stupid in itself, because whenever there was a piece of news deemed this important every screen in the country automatically clocked over to the ‘breaking news’ setting. That way, no one was ever let out of the loop of the things the Government deemed important.

 

“Corin,” A voice called, and I shifted my position on the car to glare at the perpetrator, “Corin, wait up!” Apparently my glare didn’t quite convey as much hatred as intended, because Tom was still progressing closer towards me looking slightly wary but nevertheless determined.

 

“What?” I demanded, pushing myself back onto my feet and facing him.

 

“Mr Track told me to tell you,” he began, before I could make him leave by all means necessary, “Jacinta’s been taken to the hospital. Just precautionary but, well, he said… to let you know.”

 

“Right,” I said, folding my arms and glaring at him, “did he also tell you where she left the goddamn house keys before she went gallivanting off to the psych ward?” There was a significant proportion of the people in the car park looking at us now. “Did Mr Track give you details of my alternative travel arrangements?”

 

I turned away from Tom, who was stood in that slightly awkward posture of his when he didn’t know quite what to say; a slack, lacklustre expression that had always grated on my nerves slightly. I could understand that he didn’t know what to do with what I’d given him, but that didn’t excuse the dopey, vacant expression either - he could at least be stony and unmoved.

 

Kicking the front door at exactly the right position always, inexplicably, clicked out the lock on the driver’s side of the car so that the door swung open. That hardly helped, though, when my thumb had been deleted from the identification archive. I pressed my useless thumb against the recognition pad, anyway, hoping that somehow my mother had got wind of the situation and had decided to take pity on her poor abandoned daughter.

 

The ‘error’ message flashed on the screen of the stat nav. I kicked the car to vent my frustration with the whole day and tried again, as if my fingerprint would have shifted somehow in the last thirty second.

 

“Corin,” Tom said again, still behind me, “look, it’s my fault you can’t drive your car - I’ll give you a lift to the hospital.”

 

Claiming responsibility wasn't usually an activity Tom partook in. Obviously, he was feeling guilty. Good.

 

“No.”

 

“Come on,” Tom said, reaching out and touching my arm. I pulled my arm out of his grasp and glared at him indignantly. “Let me just drive you to the hospital.”

 

“I’d rather take the bus. I’d rather walk. I’d rather attach myself to the wheel of someone else’s car and be continually run over all the way to the damn hospital,” given the fact that the volume of my voice was just shy of yelling, it wasn’t that surprising that this rant was attracting a lot of attention, “I’d rather camp here all night.  I’d rather never get home. Actually, let’s just save us both some bloody time - I would rather do anything than get in your car. Okay? So why don’t you find your soulmate and offer him a sodding lift!”

 

The him was a stroke of genius inspired by Josaphine’s gay father. Of course, loads of people were gay and those people usually ended up in anima-vinculum friendship with a lover or two on the side (although that life wasn’t exclusive to gay couples, some soul mate bonding was just beyond sexual or romantic appearance, apparently). There were however only a few cases worldwide of same sex carpinomen.

 

In short, I was a damn genius.

 

Tom flushed slightly and took a step backwards. It struck me as ironic that this was probably the closest he was ever going to get to knowing that little more about me.

 

“You -” Tom began, expression twisting.

 

“ - Save it and sod off.”

 

“But - ”

 

“I said leave it.”

 

My thumb was shaking slightly as I forced it against the recognition pad. Again, a rejection and an error notice. Closing my eyes for a second, I concluded that I needed to stop pretending so much - I almost felt like Tom had hurt me in some way and that I was angry at him. It was one thing convincing the world something was true but it was a bit bad  when I started to believe it in my bones. There was enough deception going on these days without adding my own mind to the list of those not to be trusted.

 

“Need a lift?”

 

I looked up suddenly and found myself face to face with Colton Furnish.

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“I don’t think your cars recognising your fingerprints, actually.”

 

“Really?” I asked sarcastically, glaring up at him. “I hadn’t noticed.”

 

“Thought not, otherwise you would have accepted my lift,” Colton said with an easy smile, “I’m going that way, anyway.”

 

“Need your eyes tested?” I suggested, jabbing the start button and vaguely hoping for a miracle. He raised his eyebrows at that. “You obviously can’t see that I’m not a damsel in distress.”

 

“Oh, right. So you’re not stuck in the school car park until tomorrow morning without house keys or a mode of transport?”

 

“No,” I said, “I’m not.”

 

“Stop being resentful and get in my car, Corin,” Colton said with a shrug of his shoulders, “you’re not going to get a better offer.”

 

“It’s not a bleeding auction,” I conceded, shutting the car door with an overly forceful shove and shrugging my shoulders in consent, “I suppose your car can’t be much worse than mine.”

 

“Mine doesn’t open if you kick it,” Colton agreed, “so I should think that’s an improvement.”

 

“It is until you’ve lost your keys.”

 

Colton’s car turned out to be significantly nicer than mine. I climbed into the front seat feeling slightly aware that people were still watching me before deciding that I really couldn’t care less. The car still had the new-leather smell lingering about it and a whole array of inviting buttons with much more complicated functions than mine did. No redundant gearstick, either.

 

“Going to admit you like it?”

 

“Wouldn’t count on it,” I returned in a mumble, “let’s get this on the road, Colt. The sooner you start driving the sooner it’ll be over.”

 

“Right,” Colton grinned, “bitter Corin.”

 

“I’ve had a really bad day.”

 

“Yeah,” Colton agreed, glancing at me as he placed his thumb on the recognition pad and the engine kicked into life, “I’ll bet.” Colton was silent for a few minutes as we pulled out of the car park and onto the main road leading towards the functional buildings in town. I relaxed on the chair slightly - the worst thing about getting a lift with someone you didn’t know very well was them insisting on making conversation. If he’d added ‘I’ll be silent’ to the end of his plea I wouldn’t have bothered disagreeing in the first place. “Is your sister okay?”

 

 “She’s fine,” I spat in annoyance, turning my back to Colton slightly to look out the window, “just because she bloodied up her own wrists once, every time something like this happens on television they offer her a bed in the psych ward.”

 

The whole school knew the reason my sister disappeared from school for a month when she was seventeen, why her boyfriend and his family uprooted and moved to a different continent and why, if someone slit their wrists in the D’livere, I might produce some emotional exothermic reaction.

 

He wasn’t expecting me to reference it though, that was clear, and had instead expected some euphemistic talk surrounding the subject - well, sod that. I hated the way my mother skirted around the issue as if not speaking the words plainly somehow diluted the reality behind them. It didn’t, actually, and maybe it made other people and the guidance councillors who accessed whether I was ready to be streamed uncomfortable to talk in such a crass and brutal manner, but it helped me. It was my family, my issue, my personal life - I should be allowed to talk about it how I wanted.

 

“She tried to kill herself.”

 

“No,” I countered, “she didn’t. She just tried to slice off her carpinomen. It’s not her fault it happened to be on her wrist now, is it?”

 

“That’s ridiculous.”

 

“You’re right about that.” I agreed, clamming up and staring resolutely out the window.

 

“I wasn’t meaning her,” Colton said. His gaze from the mirror itched into the back of my neck. “I’m in your O&E class.”

 

“I know,” I deadpanned, “you’re on top, I’m at the bottom - we established this a couple of hours ago, Colt. I’m not the one with mental problems.”

 

“Well,” Colton returned, “I didn’t think I’d ever shown up on your radar.”

 

“Flashing red light, all alarms buzzing. I don’t get in the car with total strangers, you know.”

 

“You got in a car with Tom Asquith.” Colton pointed out. I turned around to face him at that. He was the personification of relaxed with his fingers tapping lightly against the steering wheel, shoulders sloped at an easy angle, dark hair hanging over his face -except his eyes, which were fixed a little too exactly on the road.

 

“If that’s a euphemism, I want you to stop the car right now.”

 

“It wasn’t,” Colton said with a grin, “it’s just a nasty car. Worse than yours, actually, with that odd gearstick thing. I liked what you did there; by the way, his face was great when you threw out that he curveball.”

 

“I like curveballs.” I shrugged slightly.

 

“Quite a show in general, actually,” Colton continued, eyes still fixed on the road, “almost believed the jilted act for a second.”

 

“Act?” I asked slowly. “Why would I pretend to be upset?”

 

“I haven’t worked that bit out yet,” Colton said. His fingers stopped taping the steering wheel and instead curved around its surface. God knows why, but he was nervous. Given the direction the conversation seemed to be heading, I was the one who needed to be nervous. “at first I thought you might just be a bit stupid. You haven’t been streamed up to FE, after all, but then you’ve got the highest marks in O&E. Did you know Thomas is the most common name in the European and American section?”

 

“Your point?”

 

“It’s just, Corin, there is a slight difference between Tom and Thomas. And T-O-M-A-S, Tomas too, for that matter. So, as an organism with more than a couple of brain cells, you’d know that. So if you genuinely thought T-O-M-A-S, Tomas, or T-H-O-M-A-S Thomas, was your soulmate then you’d have known that T-O-M, Tom, was not.”

 

“This isn’t a spelling bee.” I muttered.

 

“Either way, you’d have known that the name on Tom’s wrist was not going to be Corin. So you framed him to make him look like a heartless bastard.”

 

“Are you going somewhere with this?”

 

“So I’d hazard a tentative guess that your carpinomen isn’t a variation of Thomas at all. You picked that name and decided to convince everyone it was your carpinomen whilst working your way through all the Toms and Thomas’s the education centre has to offer.”

 

“There’s a Thomas Ingleton in the cuisine stream.” I pointed out.

 

“If I were him, I’d be quaking in my chef hat.”

 

“History teacher called Thomus Davey.”

 

“If I were him, I’d be desperately holding onto my job.”

 

“I’m making a point, Colt, that there’s plenty of Thomases I haven’t gone near.” I said, turning in my seat to face him with a slight frown.

 

“The fact that you’re aware of all these different Thomases ruins your point, Corin.”

 

 “I have a good people memory.” I said pointedly, folding my arms over my chest and watching him carefully - I had to admit, despite my best intentions, that Colton had managed to peak my interest slightly.

 

“Okay,” He said, leaning forwards to get a good look at a particularly awkward junction, “what do you know about me?”

 

“Your parents have a very common taste in names,” I voiced, “you’re my age, were streamed into non-specific further education around five months ago, started taking O&E classes two months ago and are reasonably talented at it, has been in Tom Asquith’s car, apparently likes to overthink things and butt into people’s personal lives, desperately lonely and will do anything to provoke conversation. Pass your test?”

 

“Not even close,” Colton grinned, “been at school together since we were four and that’s all you know?”

 

“You weren’t in many of my classes,” I said pointedly, “and, frankly, before this very conversation you never struck me as particularly interesting. What does it matter to you whether I’m heart broken or not?”

 

“Tom Asquith is a good guy,” Colton shrugged, “didn’t deserve to have his name dragged through the mud.”

 

“Bonded over your stupidly common names, did you? Sleepovers and carpools?”

 

“I rode with him in the last ration week,” Colton supplied, “he thinks rather a lot of you, considering how heartlessly you disposed of him.”

 

“Considering you’re approaching this from a moral angle, you seem a little too impressed.” I stated distractedly, glancing at the road signs and feeling all too relieved that we were nearly there.

 

“Admirer of literature and drama in all mediums,” He shrugged, “shame there’s no stream for that.”

 

“A modern day tragedy,” I added dryly, “so, I played Tom for a fool. You planning on telling the world?”

 

“Wouldn’t count on it,” Colton said, pulling into the hospital car park, “if you promise to tell me why.”

 

“Unlikely.”

 

“Stalemate, then,” Colton said as he pushed his car door open and began climbing out, “I’ll get back to you.”

 

“Wait,” I said, following him, “you’re not coming with me to the hospital.”

 

“Yes I am.” Colton countered; locking the car door behind him and walking up to the hospital with me hurrying two steps behind him. A deep rooted panic seemed to have started to ache in my bones: the idea of Colton or, anyone actually, seeing my sister when she might potentially be at her most vulnerable was horrible. Admittedly, there wasn’t actually anything wrong with Jacinta but a slight attention seeking tendency, really, because she was no more likely to take another knife to her wrist than I was myself. Letting them admit her into hospital every time something like this happened meant she was allowed to indulge in her own sense of instability and gave her an intermittent refuge away from real life.

 

Who wouldn’t want to spend a couple of days unmarred by the pressure of the world? Who could spend a few days buzzed up on some concoction of drugs she later had to wean herself off? Who wouldn’t give anything just be allowed not to think for a few damn minutes, and just to exist as a functioning body rather than a whole human being? That’s what the psyche ward gave Jacinta whenever she played the right cards into their hands - and that was the real insanity of the situation.

 

But I didn’t want anyone to see her slightly lucid thanks to the drugs, wired up to a couple of machines and one surveillance level down from suicide watch. It was much better for the world to see her as a robot rather than a human. She was much safer that way.

 

“I’d rather you told the world that Thomas isn’t my carpinomen than visit my godamn sister,” I said, grabbing hold of his arm and forcing him into a stop, “I don’t care what your bloody reasoning is - I’ll be five minutes, if that, and if you could just wait and if you don’t want to do that then I’ll just wait here for my parents but you’re not -”

 

“Relax, Corin.” Colton said with a slight smile.

 

“Let me guess, you’ve only seen a hospital once and you want to explore? Well -”

 

“- my parents are doctors,” Colton interrupted, “my baby sister is in the cresh and I needed to come here to pick her up. Don’t get excited, Corin, I really meant I was coming this way.”

 

I took a deep breath whilst simultaneously trying to ensure that I didn’t look like I was taking a deep breath. I could hardly believe that just twenty minutes ago I’d been suggesting that I was acting too much, when now there was Colton Furnish who somehow knew that I’d been placing a false carpinomen trail for half my life and, worse, knew that the idea of him seeing my sick sister made me nervous.

 

“Are you okay?” Colton asked with a slight drawl. God, he was arrogant. The worst kind of arrogant, too, the kind of arrogant that knows and accepts it’s own arrogance because it stemmed from some secret moral code. So he thought he had a right to look at me and judge me because he thought he could see all my thoughts and thought that he knew how he’d have done things differently.

 

People like that know nothing.

 

 “Fine,” I said lightly, shoving my hands into the pockets of my trousers and taking another step towards the building.

 

The hospital was ugly and very square, but that seemed to be the architectural flavour of the month when they were rebuilding the city out of the rusty, metal age of waste. Now buildings were fashioned out of the desire to house a sustainable amount of people and to almost be self-sustainable units all by themselves. The science was probably available for complete sustainability, but then we wouldn’t need a government and politicians would never let that happen.

 

“Sure? Because if you need an escort, I could probably show you around.”

 

“You act like I don’t know my way around a psyche ward.” I quipped back with another light smile - all these years of stupid boyfriends who wanted stupid girls who could flirt and smile and simper had paid off, in the end, as I always suspected they would. Jacinta wasn’t the only one with a number of default settings.

 

“Corin Blacksmith,” Colton grinned, nodding his head towards me in a mock token of respect, “I’d never assume such a thing.”

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