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Layla 8

L'Erin is a writer living in Lawrence, Kansas. She's a mother and an emergency department nurse. She can be found at lerinogle.com.

His face blurred around the edges, features smeared across bone, looms over me. "Your name is Layla," he says.
I don't think it is.
I pass to another place. I am glass, shattered into seven pieces. Splinters.
"Your name is Layla."
Layla, Layla, Layla, over and over into my ears.
The number eight, oval inked into the tender spot in my wrist.
"Who were you before?" the brother asks me.
I search for his name, but it's never been downloaded.
"I don't know," I say.
He takes my hand and rotates it, looks at the eight made of black ink running smooth. Then he lets go. Something inside me watches his pain with glittering eyes.
"Do you remember me?"
I only remember what he chooses. This folder cannot be found.
"You aren't Layla," he says. His disappointment drenches me.
The familiar taste of disappointment. It tickles the edge of my mind.
There was an invasion. Things came in. They wore masks. They plundered and pillaged.
I splintered.
It wasn't me. It was another Layla. When I think too much, the ink moves faster, circling the same oval circles faster and faster. It hums steadily, building.
Electrodes and wires sticky on my scalp. They will peel away with stray hairs dangling from the adhesive. It happens often enough that my hair grows thin, exposes patches of tender scalp.
"Do you know who you are?" he asks.
"Layla," I say. "Layla Anna."
His face tight and angry. "No," he says. "You are Layla 8."
Where did Anna come from?
The brother and the needle. A love story. Not this story. But a story nonetheless. The expression on his face when he depresses the plunger is a small hard stone in my chest. His head falls back. The needle falls to the floor.
"Layla," the man who created me grunts. The relentless in-out, punctuated with the name Layla, which is my name but isn't.
I splintered before. There is nothing left to break away.
"Layla, Layla, love of my life,' and then the final push, the fingers wiring into me.
My name isn't Layla, it isn't, it isn't, I am not her but she haunts my mind.
"You're not her," the brother says. He hovers over the spoon. "You're just an experiment. The Splinter Experiment."
The splintering of me. Pieces charging down synapses and into electrodes down wires into chips. It was not me, but the memory lives on.
"You want some?" the brother asks.
I don't answer, but he comes anyway, with the needle and the tourniquet. "I'm Tom," he says as he ties it off. "But you already knew that."
An ocean floods me. The waves whisper Anna, Anna, Anna.
I am drowning. I have drowned before; the downloads tell me. There is nothing to fear.
I have lost something. I am thinking about the lost thing I cannot remember as he puts the electrodes on. I think about it as he works his machines.
"What's your name?"
I cannot stop the ocean from saying Anna.
He turns my wrist over. Liquid ink speeds along. "You are not," he says.
"Do you remember the men?" the brother asks.
I close my eyes and hold out my arm. I do, now.
The ocean calls.
"Where are my pieces?" I ask him. "Where did they go?"
"Hush," he says. His heart is dust in his body.
"I am a splinter," I whisper.
"You're not," he says. "You're Layla."
But Layla died.
He was angry, about Layla and the junkie brother. Things got out of hand. It was a lesson, what he hired them to do, a lesson and an experiment. He downloaded the whole thing but he didn't know about the splintering.
He thinks she lives through the splinters. He thinks I am her, but I am just a splinter.
I want to go to the ocean again.
The brother nods off.
I'm going to the ocean now.
The ocean comes and fills me. I sink.
The ocean turns to ink. It opens its arms. The ocean is all of us.
There's another splinter to come.
And this one is angry.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Author Comments

I've seen a lot of trauma, and I've seen the way it shatters people. Layla 8 came from the idea of someone's mind downloading during a violent trauma as it separated into splinters and how those splinters differed from one another. The piece spoke to me about addiction, domestic violence, anger, and helplessness. The ocean was an escape from the hopelessness and powerlessness. I liked the thought of the splinters and how they were different chunks of a person.

- L'Erin Ogle
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