“Rook takes bishop…”
I looked up at Armand as I took his white bishop off the board. He continued to stare out the window at something only he could see.
His mind was not on the game. He had other things demanding his attention, I knew that. Most prominent was the condition of his adopted daughter, Bianca. He had been tending to her, conducting therapy sessions and administering her medications since he returned to New Babbage. She seemed a bit more stable, but still far from the young woman I had come to know and care about.
I held up the bishop and wiggled it back and forth in front of him. “Your mind is drifting, Armand” I said in a slightly louder tone. He looked back to me and smiled apologetically.
“Forgive me Michael, I was miles away”. I nodded and set the pawn down on the table, next to the knight and two other pawns I had already taken from him.
“She’s not getting any better, is she Armand?”
“She isn’t getting any worse…” His voice trailed off, and then he snapped back to reality again.
“The therapy is, difficult. The human mind is an incredibly complex set of processes. One does not just prescribe medication and send the patient on their way.” He looked down at the chessboard and moved his other knight, in an almost carelessly casual manner.
I nodded as I considered his move, and tried to plan my strategy accordingly. In the twenty years or so that I have known Armand, I have learned never to underestimate him, even when he was off his game.
“But how long will it take to…” I fumbled, looking for the right word. ‘Cure?’, ‘Fix?’
“…How long will it take to correct her condition?” I asked, wondering if even Armand knew the answer.
Armand sighed, “Bianca’s condition, a ‘split personality’ as it is commonly referred to was triggered by an episode of malaria she contracted while in Ireem. She survived the malaria, but the episode created enough upheaval in her brain chemistry that it caused the emergence of the new personality. I was able to confirm the malaria episode in correspondence with the doctor who treated her in Ireem. Over the years I have spent in Egypt, I have seen several people afflicted with malaria. Of those who survive, most recover without incident. But there are those who suffer the split personality disorder. One took seven years of therapy to merge his two personalities. Another spontaneously merged his three personalities after two years.
The others…” Armand paused, “the others were less fortunate, shall we say”.
I moved my black bishop into position to threaten his remaining knight. “So there is hope she can return to normal?” I asked.
Armand shook his head. “Even the two who merged were not the same people they were prior to the malaria episode. Merging the personalities together would help make the person whole and able to function in a more normal manner, depending on the mergence. But the person they become afterward can be quite different from the person they were before.”
Armand looked down and moved his knight back out of danger. I quickly followed up with my black bishop again. “It’s a shame you can’t rewind time so that it never happened.”
Armand looked at me with a look that resembled amazement. I wasn’t certain, I rarely, if ever, have seen him amazed at anything.
“What did you say?” he asked me.
‘I said, ‘It’s a shame you…’”
“…can’t rewind time so that it never happened!” he repeated my words with a rarely seen grin spreading across his face. “My dear Michael, YOU, sir, are a genius!” He spoke with such emotion, I was rather taken aback.
“What do you have in mind, Armand?”
“Well, it’s your suggestion. Isn’t it obvious?” He looked at me, in all seriousness, like I had all the details written across my face. I took a drink.
Armand smiled at me. “It is quite simple, in concept at any rate. I shall simply regress her chronologically to a point prior to her contracting the malaria.”
“You mean…” I asked slowly, “You are going to send her back in time to before she left New Babbage? How will that help?”
“No, not quite.” Armand responded. “Sending her back in time would merely result in our having two Bianca’s in the same timeline and the Maker knows we don’t need that.”
“Instead, what I propose is that I shall regress her chronological age. I shall ‘de-age’ her. I shall cause her body to ‘de-age’ by about three months or so. Her body will regress to a point in time prior to her contracting malaria. Without the trauma of the malaria episode, she will not have developed the personality disorder. We will have the Bianca we had before she left New Babbage on her ill-fated trip. The only matter is that she will have no memory of the three or so months passed, because for her, they shall never have occurred.”
I studied him for a moment or so trying to determine if he was serious.
“You can do this? You can reverse time?”
Armand nodded. “It is actually something I had been working on for some time. Do you remember your episode of premature aging you had earlier this year? I was quite fearful that you were going to pass from natural causes. I was looking for a way to hold you in temporal stasis until I could find a cure. I contacted your friend Victor Mornington…”
“You told Victor?!” I gasped.
“I said only that it was for a friend, your anonymity remained in tact. Anyway, he was able to help me procure a device and some equipment that would not only allow me to hold you in temporal stasis, but also reverse or advance the flow of time. I had almost put the entire device together when you managed to find your own cure.”
I looked at Armand, stunned. “And you feel certain this will work for Bianca?”
Armand looked back at me with that ‘Never say die’ countenance he wears when he is sure beyond doubt. “Quite certain!” he said with authority. Armand looked down to the chessboard and moved his other bishop into position…
The Chess Game
“Rook takes bishop…”