“How do you do it?” I watched her fingers fly through the machinery and create her new invention. “How do you find the stamina and…inspiration for all of this…?” Shiny metal fused beneath the bloodshot eyes of my friend. Her very breathing seemed fraught with more purpose than her lungs could handle.
“Anger.” She glanced into my eyes and I closed my mouth to the spluttering I knew would frustrate her more. Dust had settled over the shelves on the uninhabited side of the workshop. Normally I would be tripping over mugs and spoons on the floor, but one solitary bowl, full, untouched, rested on her cluttered desk. I didn’t want to know what it once held.
She had turned to what seemed to be an entirely different project. Her computer display filled with code and I looked away, I hated watching her type with her eyes closed. It shouldn’t be possible to be that sure of your own words. “Anger doesn’t do this. Anger…isn’t so methodical.”
“Methodical?” She threw her head back and laughed, fingers skittering away over the keys. “Trained, yes, experienced, yes, methodical? Ha!” She smacked the laptop shut and returned to the 3-D printer where I finally noticed another dish—her water bottle. That at least seemed used. She gasped and set the bottle down before rubbing her eyes. “You mean motivation?”
“Of course, I mean motivation.” I punched in her password and opened the health app on her phone. “What could possibly feed your motivation—”
“Anger. Don’t bother with that, I haven’t slept in…” She counted on her fingers, shook her dazed head and tried again.
“Three hours each for the past four days. Don’t take that fit bit off. Are you at least eating…?” I glanced over the charts on the app. Minimal sleep, losing weight, the only thing keeping a healthy plot was her hydration.
“I think so. But Lucy, motivation will eat anything, there just has to be enough of it. The more it can eat, the more it grows, the more it grows, the more you have. Different motivations eat different things, they can be picky…” She reached over and turned her phone off in my hand with a psychotic smile. “Mine…runs off of anger, primarily.” She swaggered back to her welding and flipped the visor over her face. Her voice echoed strangely. “I’m sure if I had enough love…or desperation…even hunger, it would work for that…but see, there’s never been a call for it, so I’ve never been able to experiment.”
I tossed her phone on top of the computer and rolled my sleeves down as the sparks danced all over the room. “Grace, don’t talk like that, you can’t just…treat…abstract thought like it’s sentient!” I had to shout over the noise she was making, but she carried the conversation like any other.
“What do you mean I can’t? What if it is? What if motivation is like…it’s like a virus or a parasite and some people are more infected than others? But instead of it feeding off of an emotion, that’s just what we excuse it as? Oh, he went and killed everyone out of grief, oh, she worked so hard out of love, blah, blah, blah.” She laughed again and set her tools down, flipping the visor up to look back at my stunned face.
“Don’t talk like that.” I swallowed hard. She always seemed insane during these spells…
Grace laughed and tossed the tools aside to pick up the computer again. Her fingers flew faster than my neurons as I began piecing together her three very disjointed projects into one puzzle. “You know I’m joking. I’m always joking.”
“You’re literally insane.” I did a little circle of unbelief and near-terror while she laughed again.
“No, you’re literally baffled, I’m potentially insane. Look, Lucy. It’s not gonna be much longer. I just have to—” She got up and started breaking her whole plan down. It was so unbelievable it went right over my head and I couldn’t even figure out what she was doing, but I grasped something along the lines of…over achiever for Harvard combined with rocket science and quantum physics. Maybe she discovered nuclear fusion. Not that I’d be able to recognize that when I saw it…or even know if any of those things are related…
“Hey, hey, look. Just give me a date. I can understand those.” I pulled out my phone and rubbed my nose wearily.
“Uh, area code 423-654—”
“That’s not a date?” I blinked, feeling as crazy as she looked. Did I ask for a date? What date did I ask for…I was thinking, I promise to be in bed on November the 22nd…
“Are you sure? He’s cute.” Grace laughed again. She laughed so hard, she sat down against a bookshelf and clutched her sides. Tears streamed down her greasy cheeks and I groaned.
“What day will you come to a stopping point and when can I make sure you have showered, eaten, and are in bed for the next…let’s say eighteen hours.” I stood over her exasperatedly.
Grace stopped laughing and smiled wearily. “I promise, I’m not that crazy…just enough to keep me going…” She sighed and looked around at her desks from the new angle. “I think…give me two more days. It’ll be done in two days. Full 24 hours, though, I want all that time.”
“Yeah. Yeah, sure you do.” I helped her to her feet and rubbed my face. “You also stink. I’m bringing air fresheners in here. Maybe thirty or so.”
“Get the pine kind.” She walked stiffly to the crazy machine that followed her fingers and her tired body flew back to alert. I picked up my bag and started to leave. “And Luce?” I paused and turned back to her. “I, uh…I appreciate it.” I grunted and turned back to the door. I was almost through it when I heard, “Love you.”
I smirked and nodded. “I got your back, girl.”
“Woah, woah, woah! No, way!” I stood in front of a kindle sized screen and watched as a program sorted through all of my files.
Grace yawned and shrugged indifferently. “It’s bigger than I wanted it to be, but the—”
“Grace, you literally created Jarvis and all you can do is yawn and complain about the size? You created JARVIS?! Can you fly?”
She looked at me like I was stupid and snorted. “I have had 42 hours of sleep in the past 14 days, I withhold all rights to yawning and no, I cannot.” Her hair dripped onto her shoulders, the first shower in those 14 days it looked like, too. Her skin was still pale and dark circles hid under the hollows of her eyes, but for all of that, she was looking saner. Tired, but rational.
“Okay, but you still made JARVIS.”
“For the third time, my name is Garret.” The kindle blinked yellow with the computerized voice and the screen stopped blipping little file icons around.
“Subtle, Gracie, real subtle.”
“Lucy. I’m going to bed. Play nice with Garret.” Grace started to trudge out of the kitchen, tugging the bathrobe closer around her shoulders.
“Wait, wait, wait, what about the other things? There was the big metal thing with shiny metal and stuff and then there was the 3-D printer, what was all that for?”
She turned to me like I was crazy and then groaned. “That…that was a trellis for the garden. And the printer was…doing a lot of things. From making pieces to the games we broke to the screen for Garret.”
I blinked. “But I thought they all went together. It—It looked like it all went together, you’re kidding me, right?”
“You know…I would much rather be insane like me than just…stupid…” Her eyes said the rest as she shuffled down the hall to her bedroom and thumped the door. I smiled awkwardly at no one and sat back down on the kitchen stool.
“I’m not stupid, I’m just…”
“A Hufflepuff.” The kindle-thing blipped at me and I scowled.
“You should go admire the trellis. Personally, I think it would make a magnificent coat rack, but I’m sure you could find more creative uses—” I huffed and left the kitchen. Brilliant. She essentially created a disembodied Grace with a man’s voice.
I may have squealed, though, as I cranked the car. “She made JARVIS!!”