When I asked her to marry me, to return to Earth with me, to live with me until the universe’s mainspring unwound, she laughed, honked my nose and my willie and shouted, “YOU’LL DO!”
I took her home to Toronto and we took up residence ten stories underground in overflow residence for the University. Our Whuffie wasn’t so hot earth-side, and the endless institutional corridors made her feel at home while affording her opportunities for mischief.
But bit by bit, the mischief dwindled, and she started taking more. At first, I admit I was relieved, glad that my strange, silent wife was finally acting normal, making nice with the neighbors instead of pranking them with endless honks and fanny-kicks and squirt guns. We gave up the steeplechase and she had the doglegs taken out, her fur removed, her eyes unsilvered to a hazel that was pretty and as fathomable as the silver had been inscrutable.
We wore clothes. We entertained. I started to rehearse my symphony in low-Whuffie halls and parks with any musicians I could drum up, and she came out and didn’t play, just sat to the side and smiled and smiled with a smile that never went beyond her lips.
She went nuts.
She shat herself. She pulled her hair out. She cut herself with knives. She accused me of plotting to kill her. She set fire to the neighbors’ apartment, wrapped herself in plastic sheeting, dry humped the furniture.
She went nuts. She did it in broad stroked, painting the walls of our bedroom with her blood, jagging all night through rant after rant. I smiled and nodded and faced it for as long as I could, them I grabbed her and hauled her, kicking like a mule, to the doctor’s office on the second floor. She’d been dirt-side for a year and nuts for a month, but it took me that long to face up to it.
The doc diagnosed nonchemical dysfunction, which was by way of saying that it was her mind, not her brain, that was broken. In other words, I’d driven her nuts.
You can get counseling for nonchemical dysfunction, basically trying to talk it out, learn to feel better about yourself. She didn’t want to.
She was miserable, suicidal, murderous. In the brief moments of lucidity that she has under sedation, she consented to being restored from a backup that was made before we came to Toronto.
I was at her side in the hospital when she woke up. I had prepared a written synopsis of the events since her last backup for her, and she read it over the next couple of days.
“Julius,” she said, while I was making breakfast in our subterranean apartment. She sounded so serious, so fun-free, that I knew immediately that the news wouldn’t be good.
“Yes?” I said, setting out the plates of bacon and eggs, steaming cups of coffee.
“I’m going to go back to space, and revert to an older version.” She had a shoulderbag packed, and she had traveling clothes on.
Oh shit. “Great,” I said, with forced cheerfulness, making a mental inventory of my responsibilities dirt-side. “Give me a minute or two, I’ll pack up. I miss space, too.”
She shook her head, and anger blazed in her utterly scrutable hazel eyes. “No. I’m going back to who I was, before I meant you.”
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Cory Doctorow 2003