<USS Atlantis> Fly
- From: "Tempest Rainbird" <counselortempest@xxxxxxx>
- To: <ussatlantis@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 6 Jul 2002 04:20:34 -0700
"Fly" Personal Log, Counselor Tempest Rainbird 0207.04: 0100 hours Gerta's memorial service was this morning. Her parents wanted an open coffin, so the tiny child-sized pod was open as the people moved through the holodeck, somberly, heads and eyes lowered to the simulated green grass. Gerta's startlingly open brown eyes stared upward at the bright azure of a cloudless, simulated sky. Her mother threw herself on the coffin and screamed with tears and anger. Hushed silence fell over us Starfleet officers who are so used to crying in private where our emotions can't sully our uniforms. Her husband threw his heavy arms around her and cradled her in a desperately caring, frightened embrace. I wanted to step in, but of course, I didn't. I let him hold her shaking form through the spasms of her tears. And with the rest of the attendees, I lowered my lashes, and stayed quiet and solemn while simulated birds sang simulated songs in the simulated spring above the starkly real grave. At length, someone brave closed Gerta's pod, and with reverent words, ejected her child's form into space to spin among the stars and planets. At 2230, Gerta's mother changed into her nightdress, combed out the length of her straight-as-an-arrow mahogany hair, calmly swallowed all seventeen of the white pills from her jar of sedatives, kissed her husband, bade him, "Good night" and fell asleep. Her husband knew she would want to sleep and sleep and sleep away the pain. He knew she had taken a sleeping pill. He knew her schedule was empty, and that it seemed more merciful to let her lie still as her daughter's body while whatever sweet dreams danced in her head whispered of things less horrid than the reality that would stalk her when she woke. He never dreamed. I'm an idiot. So at length for the past few days, I've been examining this woman's psychological profile. Where were the clues? Axis I (that's psychological disorders) - nothing. Not a thing. Not a listed bloody thing. Not even post partum depression. The woman was at Wolf 359 for God's sake and she didn't even blink. No Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, just a few sketchy notes jotted down by busy counselors about what a dream she was: helping out the other victims, providing soothing words and songs, quoting from her bible. I mean, a Christian! In this age of science, many people put down the word of any deity and choose to live by the ebb and flow of subatomic particles - and I can't claim that I've put any faith into well. faith. after being raised with traditions going back thousands of years but frankly dead on anywhere but backwater worlds at the center of the Cardassian/Maquis conflict where the "Native American Indians" are being screwed once again, but. a Christian. Even I, the woman who went to her first traditional wedding onboard the USS Atlantis as an Ensign and asked why they hadn't cut the cake before the ceremony - even I, the woman whose most cathartic experience in a place of worship was being pushed up against a confessional wall by a rutting teenage boy - even I am aware that these peaceful, meditative people who quietly whisper their devotions to God thank him daily for the continued gift of their existence and consider suicide on par with. with. blasphemy! Okay. Breathe, Tempest. Take the air into your lungs and breathe and. Oh, God, the tears. I hate the way tears make the surface of the padd all blurry, and when you wipe them away there's this smeary afterimage that just won't go away no matter how long you dab at it until your fingerprints are more legible than the words. Okay. Okay. I'm okay. But this psychological profile. I must have read it 500 times. Where are the clues? Where are the words I could have seized upon to avert this tragedy? Where are the words? They must be here somewhere. We study Psychology because we believe in the consistency of personality. We believe that personality traits are consistent and relatively unchangeable throughout an individual's lifetime. So with knowledge and extrapolation, we can use medicines to soothe the rampaging wildness of a savage schizophrenic fit, teach a self-conscious teenage girl to reevaluate her self-image and create a positive and thriving environment for herself, even school the terror out of a claustrophobic perched on the edge of a tiny, dark tunnel with no glimpse of escape. Well-adjusted, mentally stable individuals present a certain, clear cut psychological profile. And this one is the prime example of that schema, pristine like samite, a veritable psychological grail beaming hope for the mental health of humanity. And the woman's pulse is gone, and I put my hand on her wrist, and felt it stone cold underneath my fingertips. I'm going to cry again. I'm such an idiot. I'm such an idiot. What am I going to do? Personal Log, Counselor Tempest Rainbird 0207.05: 1300 hours Obviously, I slept. Long and hard and alone. I usually put on white noise when I sleep - the same stuff I meditate to - birds or ocean waves. I slept in silence. It enveloped me when I woke like an ice cold shock. I had a horrible sensation of being alone in a sterile, unfriendly universe. My eyes teared with pain before I'd even fully come into consciousness. I swept them away violently with the side of my hand, angry to be crying over nothing, the shock of a morning alone. Of course, the act of clearing my eyes only made me start crying in earnest. So that was how I woke this morning, crying frantically in the dark over grief for a woman I'd barely spoken to. Is that it? Is that the spectre of this grief? Is it because I didn't know this woman? I sat down with her and her husband the day we were returned to the USS Atlantis after her daughter had died. I put my hand on hers, my hand on his, and said solemn words. I heard their solemn words. Should I have been listening more? He was reserved and quiet, barely saying anything, looking to her for guidance, but there like a rock for her, as though he was more afraid than anything of injury coming to her, the sole remaining survivor of the family he'd forged for himself in the depths of space. She smiled softly and spoke quietly of many things. I remember how she described her daughter's last moments. "She was climbing a rock, and I was beneath her. My face upturned, I was smiling. She was looking down at me and smiling. The sun was on her face, illuminating her freckles and those beautiful blue eyes. Christoph-" the husband -"always used to call her 'ol' blue eyes' because it was so startling to stare into that pale face with that straw blond hair and see this pool of vivid color in the center staring out of those blue, blue eyes. And I saw her slip. A little fall of rocks cascaded onto me, and I started to panic. She was looking afraid now - a cloud passed overhead - dramatic timing - and as I started to scream. the cloud passed. A junior officer sprang up the rocks, grabbed her by the hand, and swung her down to me. Said he'd been a gymnast when he was young. I was still worried and held onto her frantically, but she'd already forgotten the incident, grinning. I can't believe - still can't believe - that such a stroke of luck could have been the undoing of her. If she'd fallen from that high up she would have broken her arm or her leg or something. She would have been in the infirmary with the other injured. But she was saved, so she was sleeping in the same tent with us that night, over next to that acrobatic junior officer. When that creature came in the night, it got both of them, hero and princess, in one swoop. Like all of the good in the world were suddenly drained out in a single blink." She snapped her fingers. "I don't know. I just don't know. My poor, poor little girl." She dissolved into tears. I was listening to the tone of her voice. I was watching that melancholy but perseverant smile that kept her lips upturned through all of it, as if she were still taking pleasure from the memory of her daughter. I was watching the healthy tears, and the way her husband cradled her. I was hearing her focus on her little girl. I should have heard the 'I don't know. I just don't know.' I hear them now. They echo in silences. I should have seen the quiet, desperate little smile as the expression of a woman keeping a secret. It was a smile that should have said 'I have a way out of this horrible truth, a way back into the comfort of the way things used to be.' Instead, I'm sitting across the table from Christoph again. Now he's alone. We're both alone. He is seated opposite me, and I am the one looming on the other side, the symbol of death. He no longer has the comfort of his family when he faces me. He is alone. I want to type what we said to get it out of me. I feel like it would help somehow lift this black cloud of guilt and - what? Grief? More guilt? Anger? Terror? Fear of mortality? - away from my head. But I just can't enter it. Only the final words he murmured to me as he started to leave, and put his hand on my hand, and whispered harshly. after we'd already discussed treatments and groups and leaves of absence and support structures and families. he put his hand on mine and said with a voice too tired for talking, "You have no idea. She kissed me, and went to sleep. I didn't have a chance to - she just kissed me, and went to sleep." He pressed his fingertips against his cheekbone as if it burned, and fled the room with his head tucked against his chest. Personal Log, Counselor Tempest Rainbird 0207.05: 2200 hours Christoph just left my quarters. I told him at the session earlier today that he could come by any time he needed to, and around 2000 hours, he showed up at my door, very stoic, with his fingers clenched so tightly around a data PADD that his knuckles had turned white. He had clearly been crying. The skin around his eyes was red and irritated. But now he was just staring, like an empty vessel, hardly any light at all showing in his pupils. "Please come in," I said, and gestured him to a couch. He sat, stiffly, as though he had an iron rod straight up his spine. "Tea?" I asked, walking to the replicator. He shook his head. I served myself a cup with lemon, and sat opposite him. He was silent. I sipped my tea. He ran his finger repeatedly over the faint seams in the fabric of the couch. He wouldn't meet my gaze. Finally, I asked, "What is it, Christoph?" as softly as I could, trying to make my voice soft and easy. "It's -" he shrugged, started over. With his arm straight as an arrow, he offered me the padd he was clutching. "Read for yourself." I picked it up. It was a poem she'd written in her journal, by hand as he'd said she was fond of doing, just before she swallowed the pills. The ink was smeared with hurry and blotted where tears had formed with the words. paradise has mountains i know it must paradise shimmers with quiet lust even paradise's deserts are free of dust and if it's a mirage on the wall cast by shadows from the fire mocking us all by igniting our desire then the dream still must be fundamentally better than the cave where we suffer iron maiden iron fetter a trip to paradise a sweetened dusky sleep a trip to paradise where dawnings never creep paradise, paradise, paradise. negative plus inverse equals nothing positive plus reverse does the same one bewails the losses the zero at the end one turns its face upward - praying what could it have to defend? a trip to paradise a blank and dreamless rest a trip to paradise quietude its bequest paradise, paradise, paradise. paradise and darkness jagged little pills paradise and abyss fracturing our wills even paradise must whisper to hide the anguished shrills just a mirage on the wall cast by shadows from the fire dissolving us all with acidic desire devouring moments with seduction, perfection best left to decay without reflection, inspection dark and rest a little swallow and there's nothing left to follow. the trip to paradise strung like marionettes the trip to paradise without our safety nets the trip to paradise serene, quiet, austere the trip to paradise laced with waking fear the trip to paradise Isn't it frightening to know what's at your fingertips? Deny, my child, deny. Spread your wings and fly away from the truth, at your fingertips, the trip to paradise that waits quietly beneath their calloused pads, let that knowledge slip silently like a cat into the night shadows while you fly - fly - let ignorance be bliss. Fly away, small one, with your bright eyes, fly away, youth with your downy face, put down the knowledge that you're fluttering in place with hummingbird wings - pretend you are SOMEWHERE - fly away away away away from paradise - fly. the trip to paradise paradise, paradise, paradise. Personal Log, Counselor Tempest Rainbird 0207.05: 0230 hours I've been trying to sleep, but instead I keep pacing the confines of my quarters. Every few minutes, I pick up that padd with her poem on it and scan the verses and wonder. What are these words? Are they the ramblings of a woman who was sure she would fly to Eden as soon as she shuffled off this mortal coil into the arms of her creator? I would almost say they were an ode to the virtues of her sleeping pills that promised her an escape. Note the way she exchanges "a trip to paradise" for "the trip to paradise" in later verses. She knew this was a journey from which she could never return. But as I read the poem over and over again, I find the echoes within it suggest something deeper, more fascinating, and more privately horrifying than anything else I can imagine. This was a woman who was deeply terrified not only by the prospect of dying, but by the fact that the choice rested within her hands. Her power over life and death - this terrifying ability drove these words from her pen beneath her shadow of tears. This power - it must be a recent realization. There is no hint of this ego conflict in any of her earlier records. Is the mere - the mere realization - of this ability the line that separates sanity from madness? I'm frightened by these implications. I need to think. And sleep. the temptation of sleeping pills. if only for a temporary escape. Personal Log, Counselor Tempest Rainbird 0207.05: 0300 hours I just realized another strain in that poem. She was urging the reader to turn away from the life and death struggle, and to fly, to keep on living. It's a hopeful message. In the midst of all those tears and all that pain, it's hopeful. Why. didn't she take her own advice? Personal Log, Counselor Tempest Rainbird 0207.05: 0800 hours At 2230, Gerta's mother changed into her nightdress, combed out the length of her straight as an arrow mahogany hair, calmly swallowed all seventeen of the white pills from her jar of sedatives, kissed her husband, bade him, "Good night" and fell asleep. Her husband knew she would want to sleep and sleep and sleep away the pain. He knew she had taken a sleeping pill. He knew her schedule was empty, and that it seemed more merciful to let her lie still as her daughter's body while whatever sweet dreams danced in her head whispered of things less horrid than the reality that would stalk her when she woke. He never dreamed. I never dreamed. Did she ever dream of the sorrow she would leave in her wake? Did she ever dream that she wouldn't fade from the picture, but be torn out leaving a huge void where her presence used to be radiant? She and her daughter. they won't even be together again. They are floating in the void of space, in separate capsules, permanently entombed in loneliness, separated by duranium. And I should have stopped her. But I can't take away the power over life and death. If we forced the replicators to stop yielding sleeping pills, patients would only abuse their doctor's confidence, or concoct their own deadly mixture from the vast array of choices available to them. We can't program the replicators not to produce rope. Only if we bound their wrists, held them to steel tables, allowed them no inch of freedom, could we take away this power. Alexi came by my quarters this morning before Alpha shift to see how I was faring. He shook his head when he saw me draped in terrycloth on the sofa, sulking. He sat at my side, and put his arms around me. I slithered out of them. "I'm not in the mood." He sighed and stared out at the paintings on the opposite wall. "It wasn't your fault." "You don't know anything!" I raged. "It was my fault! This woman, okay, she died. Okay. I know that. She died. But it was my fault! Look! Look at the psychological profile!" Like a madwoman, I was screaming, my hands in the air, my terrycloth bathrobe flying around me like the rags surrounding King Lear. I shoved the profile in his face. "Nothing! Nothing there, right? Only something must have been there! Something must have been there! People don't just change over night! She wrote - she wrote about paradise and flying away and all this bullshit and it's all very meaningful and pretty and - she didn't fly away to Risa. She's not sunning herself on a beach. She killed herself! She killed herself! She swallowed pills and he didn't even have a chance to say goodbye when she kissed him and how could she do that? Just lie down next to him and vanish like a firefly into the night? HOW COULD SHE DO THAT? How could she do that to him? Something must have been wrong!!! And if something was wrong, then it was there - I mean here! In this damn psychological profile! It must have been there for me to see, but I missed it, I missed it, and I let her die, and now she's gone, and he has nothing - NOTHING! - and she's dead." Alexi picked up the psychological profile and calmly set it down on the coffee table. "Yes," he said. "She's dead." By now my face was running with tears and red from screaming all at the same time. I'm sure I looked like a clown with red eyes and red cheeks. "She's dead. She's dead. Just like that. Just kissed him goodnight and that was it. Just lay down beside him and was gone. Oh, god. Oh, god. I'm such an idiot. I'm such an idiot. I'm such an idiot." "You're not an idiot," Alexi said. Kissing my hair, he put his arms around me. "Yes, I am! Oh, what do you know anyway? What psychological training do you have, hmm? When people commit suicide, they almost always leave a sign. There's something they want you to know. They hold their spiritual advisor's hand just a little longer as they're leaving, ask him to 'bless them.' They tell a friend they're not worried about their future, but just about their husband's. Whatever. There's a sign. There's a SIGN. The woman's DAUGHTER DIED. And I couldn't even get past the psychological report to realize that she was at risk! I thought CHRISTOPH was the one taking it badly. And then, and then she's gone." "When Tamma died," Alexi said gently into my ear when I paused in my screaming, "What did you tell my mother?" "That she didn't do anything wrong," I mumbled like a recalcitrant toddler. "Why?" "Sometimes-people-are-just-determined-to-die," I said in one breath. "And." "But Tamma was depressed all her life. She used to have those black periods when she'd paint those horrible images of spiders and giants. Like Goya. She was like Goya. Nothing was wrong with Gerta's mother! Nothing at all! She just. stopped. You don't go from sane to insane in a night. Even if your daughter dies. You just don't. Her global assessment of functioning was a NINETY-FOUR. A ninety-four. You never meet people who GAFs are above eighty. You just don't go from that to insane in a night. Even if your daughter dies." I was running out of steam, my climax spent, starting to diminish into a softer wailing until I was repeating words with my breath like a whisper. "She wanted to fly to paradise. But she was afraid of it. But no matter how afraid, she went, she dived into that terrible void, and I know she was desperate and scared, and I wish I had been there to clutch her hand before she took the leap and tell her it would all be okay. she was so afraid." "Hush, baby," Alexi whispered into my hair. "She's dead, but you're not." And I cried in his arms. And I feel better. And if I'm still haunted by the memory of her speech and the phrases of her poetry, at least I can take her advice and do what she lost the strength to do. I can fly, fly away. My hummingbird wings display all the jeweled colors of the rainbow. My bright eyes shine like stars in the darkness. And I can fly. I fly. I fly into the future with open arms. Her fingers are stiff with rigor mortis, but mine are heavy with the diamond engagement ring that has weighed down my middle finger since October. I am ready for the next wave of the future. Before Alexi and I parted this morning, I set our wedding date. I am ready. I am ready to fly.
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