Man In A Box: A Short Story
Death Does Have Meaning
"She had killed three others. Taken their heads clean off. When I disposed of the carcasses, I wondered what she had done with them. My father was especially furious. But what do you expect. She had claws. She had teeth. There was only one thing she knew how to do and do it well and that was to hunt. I didn't find it disturbing at all and I seemed to be the only one.
Actually, what did bother me about all of it was how it seemed to make life seem so trivial. Going from birth to death over and over again. It had begun long before humans had ever arrived on the scene and it would always continue. A cycle that never ended and that made life seem so generic. My mother, in her own anger, tried to attach human emotion by wondering how the survivors must be grieving for their lost loved ones. But there was no emotion. No feelings. It was simply a mechanical process that had repeated itself nearly an infinite number of times. Looking at it this way sometimes I thought that there seemed to be no purpose in life. No need to achieve. No need to strive. Simply because there seemed to be no value in it.
When she brought home the fourth one my younger sister managed to rescue it but already it was bleeding behind the ear. She put it in a cage and tried to nurse it back to health but it didn't seem to get any better. We finally ended up taking it to a nature sanctuary north of a small town called Oxford not too far from where we lived at the time. We put the rabbit in of all places, the bottom of a small wastebasket. I held it while my sister piloted. When we had nearly reached the sanctuary, the rabbit which had remained calm through most of the trip, suddenly acted up. It kicked. It rolled over. First head first. And then on its side. It screamed a soft scream and bore its teeth. Finally, it laid down on its side and stopped moving. At first I didn't know what was going on until that single velvet black eye stared up at me. Even with its gaze, there was nothing behind it anymore. All that remained was a shell.
At first I was shocked. Even when we finally arrived I couldn't shake myself out of the daze that I was in. The owner of the sanctuary said our cat had punctured an artery in the back of its neck. On the way home I was hypnotized. I had witnessed something amazing. Oh, I know, why would the death of such a small creature affect me so much? Like I said, countless numbers had died before almost to the point where their mere existence seemed meaningless. I am not sure but maybe I just happened to be looking in the right direction at the right moment. Or maybe I didn't pass judgement on the whole incident like my family did. Or maybe I didn't respond or mourn in the mindless way our society had taught us when death arrives.
No, what I saw was remarkable. Where, during its entire short life this creature could not find its place. Could not find any value or meaning. Somehow it had succeeded in its own death. It was like the plumage of a peacock that is hidden until it unfolds in all its raw beauty. It was during its death throe that it had become unique. Elevating itself above the ordinary. Somehow making a mark in eternity that could never be taken away. It was its defining moment."
I stared at the peeling grey paint on the wall in front of me and watched as a Denebian spider stood guard in the middle of his web that was stretched out between the wall and the boarded up window to my left. I sat in the steel padded chair and didn't move a muscle. Suddenly it was so quiet. My heart ached and a dull pain quickly shot down my left arm and in some strange way it seemed almost pleasurable.
"You idiot," I cursed to myself in a low whisper as tears began to well up in my eyes. I felt so utterly alone.
No one was there.
I leaned my head back and let a single tear tumble down my left cheek. I felt the sensation as it cut into my skin like a sharp feather. I laughed as I glanced at one of the yellowing ceiling tiles and counted 268 dots.
Earlier, a Denebian neurology student had come into my room bearing a ceiling tile from who knows where. She kept it from my sight until she sat down in a chair next to me. She flashed it for only a second and instantly I counted 179 dots. Then she painstakingly tried to count them herself. I was amused as she lost count a few times, fumbling with the tile in frustration. At first I thought she was going to break it over her knee. Or maybe throw it against the wall. But she continued. One by one. Until she finished in triumph. Then she exploded in anger and we argued a little while. She had gotten the count wrong.
But she calmed down and eventually got it right. Then she left and returned with another tile and we started all over again. When she finished, she left again and never returned.
Now I wondered. How long had it been? A day? Two days? I couldn't remember. Or maybe it was because time had no meaning to me anymore. Instead everything seemed like a mad rush of sensations blowing into my head like a raging storm. Images. Smells. Sounds. They all blended together. They all competed. Sometimes to such an extent and in such a disjointed manner that I became lost, disoriented. For now the fury seemed to subside and I strained to remember. But I couldn't. I couldn't remember the last time I sat down. I couldn't remember the last time I laid down in my bed. I couldn't even remember the last time I ate. But it could not have been that long? If it were, then it meant that I have been sitting in this chair for two days without moving! No way! Not possible! Or was it. My legs weren't asleep. I didn't feel hungry or thirsty. Nor did my back ache.
I quit trying to figure it out. I looked over at the bed and found it inviting. One thing I did know, I hadn't slept very well lately. Now was the time. Especially since the music had stopped. And I knew it wouldn't be very long until it would start again.
I got up out of the chair and headed for the bed in the corner to my right. I sat down on it and quickly I laid back rolling over on my right side. Instantly my body seemed to sink heavily into the mattress. I hadn't realized how exhausted I was until now. Vivid images of rabbits filled my head. Racing and hopping through the underbrush. Fast and furious. Crisscrossing each other and darting in and out in wonderfully intricate patterns. I marveled at the sight and then I closed my eyes.
A Shrieking Cat
"I see that you slept," the doctor said rather enthusiastically as he sat calmly in the chair next to the bed. "That's good!" I was already sitting up and awake. Not that he had disturbed me. The blasted orchestra had begun again just before he had arrived waking me out of a sound sleep.
"How long?" I asked as I wrestled to keep my eyes open and clear the fog that clouded my vision. I couldn't appreciate his optimism. How could I? I was dying and there was no stopping it.
"By earth time, oh, I guess it would be..." He stopped and stared up at the ceiling for a moment as he fumbled with the conversion in his head. "Six hours, maybe." He looked at me and suddenly a look of concern washed over his face. "The music?"
"Yea." I fell back into the bed and closed my eyes. "It started again and there are more pieces in the band. A tuba. Three oboes. Two trumpets and another violin."
"Interesting." I turned my head and looked at him. He was so clinical, and unpredictable. Quietly he looked down, penning everything that I had said into his electronic notebook. Sometimes he would show compassion but every time he got too close, he would pull back. Resuming the role of a cold sterile researcher. Analyzing. Observing. Documenting my case. In a way it was understandable. He had a lot at stake here. I was the first human to go through the "Ta Ru" ritual. It was a grand opportunity for him to further his career.
"The whole ensemble is up to 50 pieces now."
"What about the other violin? Is it still playing badly?"
"Yes!" I said rather loudly as I sat back up. "You don't know how aggravating it is."
"I have been studying your Earth instruments. The violin seems to be a rather beautiful instrument."
"It is. When it's played right. Otherwise, it can sound like a shrieking cat."
"Never mind." I rubbed my eyes, still trying to clear them. "An earth animal."
"Oh," he said in a near whisper as he looked down and made a note of it. It was obvious what he was going to do later on. Be the good thorough scientist. Run to the nearest data link. Transfer the entire zoological files from earth. Either that or make one of his students do it. Deep inside I laughed. Marveled at how cavalier he was. But it wasn't happening to him. It was happening to me, and I was scared. "This cat. Does it have multiple partners too?
"Almost everything does. Except..." I stopped for a moment. I couldn't remember what they were called. I tried to think. Words didn't come easy to me anymore. "Birds!" I said kind of excited as the word finally popped into my mind as a faint whisper muffled by the symphony that continued to pound in my head. "Some have only one mate for life." Suddenly I was confused. Was that right? Or was it a myth. I wasn't sure. "I think. Otherwise wife swapping is the norm."
"Never mind. Forget I said that." He looked utterly confused. and then a look of recognition quickly swept over his face. He laughed.
"But they do have a mating cycle."
"No! Yes! Well, I think some of them do too. But I mean the cats."
"They both do?"
"Yes. But only the birds have one mate."
"I understand," he said angrily as his frustration began to show. "But these birds, is there a hormone transfer?"
"No. I'm not even sure if I was right about them having one mate.?" The doctor sighed. He laid the pen and notebook in his lap. He took a deep breath and seemed to calm down.
"You got me something to go on. I'll look it up later." He leaned down and grabbed his pen and began writing again.
"There have been some cases where they had as many as hundreds of females." Suddenly he stopped and seemed to be frozen in place. Only his head moved as he looked up.
"You mean the cats?"
"Wait a minute," he said as he waved his hand in front of him while holding his pen. He frowned and seemed irritated again. "Humans. What are you talking about?"
"Ancient earth history. Incas. Chinese. Egyptians. Sumerians. Practically every ancient culture. Slaves. Concubines. Wives. No matter what you called them they were all the same."
"Hundreds!" the doctor said incredulously. "You're joking."
"No. One Aztec king was known to have over four thousand." His jaw dropped. Again he put his pen and notebook down but this time he threw them on the small steel table next to the bed. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned back.
"That's amazing." He shook his head in disbelief. "But not all men had that many. Or did they?
"It was a privilege of power." I hesitated for a few seconds. The orchestra in my head was playing louder now and it was playing music that I had never heard before. "Proportional to wealth and strength with nobility getting the most. Evolution at its best. Only allow the strongest genetic line to impregnate the most females."
"Wow," he said softly. "I can't even imagine how one man can...well, it just seems impossible."
"You should look it up," I said with a bit of sarcasm as I stuck my finger in my ear. What good that was going to do, I didn't know. I guess it was simply a reaction to the music that I heard playing. Hoping that somehow plugging my ear was going to help it go away. Actually the music was quite beautiful and could have been better if it wasn't for that lone violin player that continued to play badly, disrupting the rhythm.
"Okay, you got me," the doctor said with a smile. "I'll look it up," he said forming the words slowly. He laughed. I stared at him and smiled back but I couldn't focus.
"It's not much different now," I said as I noticed my eyes wonder over to the window. "Oh, some of the major earth religions have tried to impose monogamy but it's never worked. They have only managed to reduce the numbers." I felt my mind slipping away, the music getting louder. I couldn't even tell if I had just been speaking out loud or if it had been all in my mind. "Now most of the time power doesn't really have anything to do with it. Any one can have a wife and have a mistress on the side." For a moment the room seemed to roll to my left and then it stopped. Suddenly my mind went blank. I looked back at the doctor but couldn't see him. Water seemed to wash over my vision replacing the room with a vivid image of the Denebian capital from high above.
I was flying. Soaring high. Skimming just below the clouds. It was breathtaking. So vivid. So beautiful. To the west the Alean Sea stretched to the horizon and reflecting on its placid surface was the large Jovian world that Deneb was orbiting. It was half gone now as it slipped into the sea. But it still made its presence. This mammoth world. Filling the western sky. Streaks of bright orange and yellow clouds racing across its surface.
I swooped down toward the capital, banking among the skyscrapers and the surrounding mountains as I danced with the symphony that continued to play. Even the lone violin player had stopped. A courtesy or maybe sympathy. Allowing me to enjoy this moment in perfection.
Along with the music I could hear the wind rushing by and I could even feel it blowing on my face. It was warm and soft and for a moment I thought I heard someone calling me, but I thrust it aside.
Why that suddenly came to mind, I didn't know. I looked down and could see the U.N. embassy building. Nestled in a heavily forested valley on the outskirts of the city. That was were I had gotten my start, and how I had happened to come to Deneb. I was part of a cultural exchange group. Attached to the U.N. Studying their world and their way of life. Oh, what I did wasn't really significant. I actually had a low level position. A mere staffer whose job was to compile data for the anthropologists and the psychologists that I was assigned to. Back on Earth when I did the same job, I hated it. But when I came here, everything changed for the better.
What we found was astounding. One world. One nation. One government. One capital. One race. An incredibly stable society. Very little upheaval. Very few wars. Completely homogenous. But when we dug below the surface, what we found was even more fascinating.
There was no divorce. No cheating. No prostitution. Only complete monogamous relationships. Even when a spouse died, there was no record in all of Deneb history of a widow or widower ever remarrying. At first religion was thought to play a part. But no. It didn't have the influence.
The answer was biology. Hormone transfer.
Denebian females secrete a hormone through their skin. Once it comes in contact with a Denebian male, the mating cycle begins. But after the first time, she can never accept another. From then on they mate for life. They become bonded. Become one. Their biological clocks synchronized to the end of time for even death can not break it. And all it takes is a simple touch. A simple embrace. And the symbiotic dance begins for the rest of their lives.
"Frank." Again I heard some one calling. I faltered and for a second I seemed to fall, but quickly I regained control and I flew just above the tree tops and soared back up to the sky. I looked back down at the landscape and reveled at the sight. After everything I had found out about this world, I fell in love. It was so idealistic. So perfect. Such an opposite to life on Earth where hypocrisy had become the standard, in marriage, in love, in life. Even their relationships stood in stark contrast. Like humans, Denebian males are the physically stronger gender, but in a unique twist, where they are the receptors, their strength is tempered. Women choose their husbands. Women control the relationship. The result. No domestic violence. No wives being murdered by their husbands. At least no record of any that we could find.
"Frank!" I heard the voice even louder this time. Suddenly everything faded. I stumbled and soon found myself in a free fall. Instantly, like filling a vacuum, I flew back into the room. "Are you alright?" the doctor asked as he looked at me intently, scanning my right eye and then my left.
"Yes," I said softly. The bad violin began playing again.
"You went blank there for a few minutes. Were you hallucinating?"
"I was flying above Rei." Ever since we had gotten here we wondered if a Denebian female could affect a human male. We were intrigued by the possibility, much to the dismay of the female staff who kept on reiterating that all men are pigs. And obviously sex was the reason. A five month mating cycle. A mating period that could last as long as two or three days. This fueled quite a few fantasies. Even the suggestion, that a human male couldn't survive such an ordeal, didn't dampen the enthusiasm, and actually increased it. But quickly arguments arose. The biologists contended that it was impossible. Citing that mere speculation was dangerous. Citing that the evolutionary paths of both worlds was so different that there could be no compatibility. Hiding behind their doctorate degrees and their standard scientific methods, they pounded away, enforcing their sterile beliefs against the rest of the fantasy driven staff. But it would just be a matter of time. Simple experiment would finally solve everything. The answer was yes. "I feel like I just ran a few miles." The doctor grabbed my right wrist and checked my pulse.
"Your heart is racing." He let go and leaned back. "Right when I lost you I was trying to tell you there are some U.N. representatives that have come to see you."
"Yes. They have been waiting for some time."
"God no, I don't want to see them." I buried my face in my hands for a few moments desperately wishing that I was hallucinating again. I looked back up. "Will you please tell them to go away," I pleaded as I watched as the doctor slowly rose out of his chair. "I don't want to see them."
"No. I can't do that," he said as he snatched his notebook and pen off the table and slowly backed up toward the door. "There is a lot of tension right now between our governments about this whole affair. There have been accusations that you are being held against your will."
"Oh, that's absurd." I shook my head in disbelief.
"I agree. But it is policy. I can't stop them from seeing you. You have to tell them yourself."
"It doesn't matter. They are not going to believe me. They'll just think up another excuse. Like you brainwashed me or something." I stopped and thought about what I had just said realizing how shocking that statement was. Because in a funny sort of way it was true. The Denebian female hormone had a powerful affect. Einstein figured out the relation between matter and energy. That they were the same. One was a form of the other. But there is another relation. Love and creativity. For humans, it is believed that the creative part of the mind is involved in love making but for Denebians, it is a fact. After that simple touch, the hormone begins to shut down the logical side of the mind. Neurological activity in the creative right hemisphere increases. As time goes on the shift is more dramatic. Language. Analytical skills. Logical reasoning. They all deteriorate rapidly. While creativity. Imagination. Pattern recognition. Spatial ability. Visual acuity. They are all enhanced. Heightened to such a level that it explains
a peculiar trait among Denebians. They never do it in the dark.
"I am going to let them in." He turned toward the door and then stopped. He swung back around and hesitated. He opened his mouth but nothing came out.
"Spit it out," I said as I watched him struggle.
"You have more visitors on the way. Last I heard they were on a transport coming into Rei. They should be arriving shortly."
"Who," I asked. The doctor winced.
"Oh no!" I responded. I felt the world suddenly closing in. Everyone was coming. Trying to persuade me. But none of them would listen. I had made up my mind. I didn't want to leave.
"I'm sorry, Frank," he said as he moved toward the door again. "They'll be in shortly."
"Wait," I said as I watched him take just a few steps. He turned back.
"What is it?"
"I've got a question."
"Okay. What do you want to know?"
"How long do I have?" There was no antidote. No cure. Not that it hadn't ever been tried. In the past, extremists, some splintered religious groups, had pushed for a counter agent. But opposition was always overwhelming and understandable. With their entire society based on biology it was considered suicide to oppose what was natural. Labeled as anarchists they were always easily squashed, explaining why a true counter culture never emerged. So for me, the only way to stop it, to save my life, was to complete the mating cycle. Unfortunately I didn't have that option.
"Please no." He looked uncomfortable. "I can't answer that."
"I want to know." He leaned up against the door. He folded his arms across his chest cradling his notebook. He shook his head.
"I can't be certain. There is no set time." His head dropped and he stared at the floor for what seemed an eternity. When he finally looked up he refused to meet my gaze and instead looked at the window. "Death never comes in three or four days." He stopped again and for a moment it seemed that this time he was hallucinating, and I wondered. What was his life like? The doctor was married. He had told me so. Therefore he must have gone through the Ta Ru ritual, celebrating the time of bonding. For him life was normal and deep down I yearned for the same. But for me, fate would never allow it. "Maybe three. Maybe four days," he whispered.
He didn't have to tell me how it was going to happen. I knew that already. Electrical activity in the right hemisphere of the brain would eventually increase to the point where everything else begins to shut down, including the part of the brain that controls involuntary functions. The heart simply stops. Or the body forgets how to breath. At least one thing was certain. Death would be peaceful. Probably in the midst of a massive hallucination.
"Thank you," I said, softly echoing his tone. Without saying another word, he opened the door and walked out shutting it behind him. I sat there alone, in the silence. Except for the symphony that never knew when to quit. I thought about the Ta Ru ritual and realized that, yes, I was going through it in my own way.
The ritual is a celebration of not only bonding, but life and fertility. It takes place after marriage and the first couple of mating cycles. The couple is taken to a dried lake bed north of the capital. In an elaborate ceremony, dressed in the clothes of the ancients, and in the eyes of the church, they begin the mating cycle. But after she touches him, they are separated. She is taken to one of the caves that lines the lake bed. There, she is left alone to meditate. He is taken to the lake floor. There, without food or water, he sets out on foot, running into the night alone. For both of them, it is a spiritual odyssey. A way to find themselves. To find meaning.
The next morning, search parties are sent out to find the husband. Once found, he is taken to the cave to be reunited with his wife. There, they are then left alone.
In all, it is an incredible hallmark of Denebian culture. A foundation that has created a world quite opposite to earth. Because where their society is so stable, their art and technology has been explosive. For example, a women named Tena saw visions on the cave walls and after, she became the most prolific artist in their history. A man named Gudat heard music and after, composed works rivaling our own Mozart. But for me, the most interesting was a man name Telar, who twisting in the sand in a hormone induced altered state looked up at the stars and saw space fold. Shortly after, Deneb achieved interstellar space travel. An achievement that earth has yet to discover. For we didn't find them. They found us.
Within minutes after the doctor left, the door opened again and two men entered carrying their own chairs. I didn't bother to get up to greet them and continued to sit on the bed as I watched them shuffle in. The first to sit down was our own doctor from our embassy. He was somewhat short and stocky, slightly overweight and balding. He was dressed casual. Wearing only dark dress pants and a white button up shirt. What shocked me was the second man to sit down. He was taller, thinner, with graying hair. He was dressed in what seemed to be an extremely expensive black business suit. Why he bothered to come and actually see me, I was puzzled.
"Frank, how are you? the doctor asked. I didn't know him too well. Only casually. He had given me my physical examination when I was transferred here. Other than that we had only exchanged a few words. All of which only concerned my health at the time. "How are they treating you?"
"They are treating me fine," I answered, knowing too well this wasn't going to satisfy them. Suddenly, they both started to look around the room as they familiarized themselves with the new surroundings.
"Are you sure? These conditions are deplorable." The doctor pointed to the boarded up window and then at the grey walls.
"This is an outrage," the other man said. He was the U.N. ambassador to Deneb. I had only met him once before during a social occasion where we were only introduced. I found it funny that as my boss, he barely knew that I existed. Now, suddenly, he was concerned about my well being, about how well I was being treated. "I should lodge a protest with the Deneb government." He continued to look around the room.
"No. This is for my own good. I can't have too much stimulus."
"Are you sure they aren't making you say that," the doctor shot back. "How can you stand it. Anybody in their right mind would go crazy being cooped up in here in these conditions." Suddenly he stopped, probably realizing what he had just said. But it was too late. I was now irritated. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."
"Then how did you mean it?" I asked sternly as I looked him squarely in the face. He looked uncomfortable and broke the stare. He glanced at the furnishings in the room.
"But aren't you bored?" He gestured toward each piece of furniture. "A single chair. A table. A bed. That's it? This place is like a box." I laughed.
"I have visions that make reality pale in comparison. I hear symphonies that rival any kind of stereo. How can I be bored. I'm more than entertained," I said rather loudly. But I was tired of this. Tired of all the talk. Now was the time to get to the point. "Why don't we just cut through all the bull. I am not going with you."
"But why? We can help you. Maybe we can find a cure."
"A cure?" I reiterated. He didn't understand. He would never understand. "This is their way of life."
"And that's why they never tried to counter it. Maybe we can."
"What are you going to do. Put me on life support until you find it." I looked at both of them. The ambassador remained silent. Watching the both of us. He had one arm across his chest and his other hand on his chin. His index finger covered his mouth. Obviously he was assessing the situation. Deciding what he was going to do next. "No. I don't want that."
"At least you would have a chance. Then you can lead a normal life."
His statement hit me hard. My life had never been normal and why should it start now. Everything that had ever happened to me somehow was always different. I had always been on a different path. Even when it came to love.
We had met at the embassy reception room during a social function honoring our Denebian hosts. Her name was Mia. She was beautiful and I was mesmerized the first time I saw her. She was tall and slim. She had short light brown hair. Her skin was a natural light amber color. But what was so incredible was that Denebian trademark, which was the color of her eyes. They were violet. And for her, unlike the rest of her people, hers were deeper, larger, more piercing.
At first I felt so lost in her presence. So humble. When she spoke perfect English I was embarrassed. I couldn't even speak a word of her language. Her job was similar to mine and she was my counterpart, studying our way of life. But as time wore on somehow it seemed that we were meant for each other. For the first time I knew who I was. For the first time I felt whole. And it was all through her. For the first time I danced, and it was with her. For the first time I could be myself and open up, and it was with her. I was in love.
But suddenly one day, a few months after we had met, she refused to come near me. For a while she seemed apprehensive. Then she decided. She touched me and I was struck by lightning. Ever since, the thunder has rumbled through me. She had chosen me. Now from experience I can understand how the dried lake bed got its name. It was called the Lake of Visions.
"Life will never be the same," I said quietly as my mind seemed to drift again. It was too late. There was no hope. Even if out of some miracle earth could find an answer to the hormone, where would that leave me? I thought about it and realized that no matter what, I was now completely alone. In some ways I was dead already and so, suddenly I realized that I wasn't afraid of it anymore. Considering my alternative of facing the pain of utter loneliness there was nothing left but death, and so, I now welcomed it.
"I will never marry. I will never have a family. I will always be a social outcast. It has to be this way. There is no going back," I said, again, like before, not knowing if I was speaking out loud. But after watching them I could tell that I was. Both of them seemed uncomfortable and refused to look at me and instead stared at the floor. Finally, the ambassador looked up.
"I'm sorry Frank," he said as he got up out of his chair. He put his hand on my shoulder. "I will respect your wish."
"Thank you sir." He turned toward the door. The doctor sat there for a few more seconds with a look of frustration on his face. Slowly he rose. But before he did anything else, he just stood there and looked at me.
"Why did you bother to get involved with her?" he said. Almost instantly his question anchored me back into reality.
Everything became clear and I couldn't believe how alert I had become.
"Why her?" He frowned. "Couldn't it have been someone human." I exploded. Before I knew it I was up off the bed and I had my hands on the collar of his shirt.
"What did you mean by that?" I asked as I pulled him closer. "You racist pig." But he didn't hear me. He was in a state of panic. Surprised by my reaction.
"Let go," he yelled as he frantically tried to struggle free. I gazed into his eyes and could see the terror. I wondered what was going through his mind. If I were just an average person doing this he probably wouldn't have been so afraid. But I wasn't. And he knew that. He had no idea what the hormone could do to a human and I didn't know either.
"Do you think I had a choice? It just happened." Desperately he tried to grab my wrists but I clenched my fists harder and I pulled him straight up until I heard the top buttons of his shirt pop off and fall to the floor. "Don't you ever say anything bad about her. I have no regrets. I loved her!"
"Get him off me," he yelled even louder and the ambassador quickly swung the door open. Immediately, two orderlies burst into the room. They grabbed my arms and threw me onto the bed. I looked over and watched the doctor. He stood there stunned.
"You need a new shirt," I said loudly as I laughed. He didn't do anything. He didn't move. A complete look of astonishment covered his face. "You're right. I'm crazy. I'm insane." I couldn't help but grin. Another orderly entered the room and escorted them out. "You shouldn't let them see you do this. They may think that you are holding me against my will," I yelled as I looked up at the two who continued to restrain me. "My government is going to file a complaint." Quickly an intern rushed into the room and pressed something against my neck. Almost instantly my body relaxed and the two men let me go. All three of them seemed to breath a sigh of relief. Slowly one by one they filed out of the room and within seconds the Denebian doctor walked in.
"I shouldn't have done this, but I had no choice," he said. That word choice rang in my head along with the symphony. It was funny, how very little control we have over our own lives. For Mia it was no different. Maybe it was pressure from her own family. Maybe it was old and entrenched prejudices. Or maybe it was two cultures colliding head on. Whatever, she found it unbearable and the agony was, she couldn't go back.
The last person to see her alive was a secretary in a high rise office. The high winds bounced her body off the window over a hundred stories up.
"I put on a good show didn't I," I said as I smiled at the doctor.
"You sure did," he responded. "You're going to sleep for awhile, so I'll check on you later." He grabbed the backs of both of the chairs and picked them up. He turned and started for the door.
"Wait," I said as I caught him taking only a few steps. "I have a request."
"Hold it." He vaulted out of the room quickly discarding the chairs outside. He returned. "Okay, what is it?"
"Well, this may seem unusual, but, I want to leave."
"You want to what?" he said surprised. "What made you change your mind?"
"No. I don't want to go home. I want to go to the Lake of Visions." Immediately he backed off. He seemed to be more stunned then the embassy doctor was before.
"But." He ran his fingers through his hair and then he grabbed the back of his own neck. "This is highly unusual. But no, I can't honor it."
"They won't allow it. The government. The church."
"Please. Just ask them," I pleaded. "That's where I belong. That's where I want my final moments to be."
"Alright. I'll check into it. But I can't promise you anything."
"Thank you," I said as the doctor turned around and left the room.
A Family Member Visits
It wasn't a wise thing to do. Using drugs. You could get caught in a hallucination and not get out. If it were pleasant then there was no problem. But if it were a nightmare. Well.
For me, I didn't remember anything. It was all blank. When I awoke, I found a slightly heavy set woman sitting in the lone chair. She sat there motionless with her hands in her lap.
"How are you?" she asked. She was my sister Tracy. She was a year older than me and for some reason I never knew her too well. We had always been so distant. Now I was surprised that she was here.
"As well as expected, I guess," I tried to laugh but for some reason I felt like crying. I looked at my sister's face and noticed that her eyes were wet. "I got this song in my head that I can't rid off," I said as the symphony came roaring back. She laughed and suddenly the tension faded. "Where is everyone? Mom? Dad?"
"We arrived right when the ambassador was leaving. After what happened, they decided not to come in. They are at the embassy right now."
"Are they afraid? Or ashamed?" She smiled.
"What do you think?" It wasn't hard to guess. When I grew up, as far back as I could remember, when I lived at home, my father never entered my room. My mother didn't do the same but together they never really cared. They never asked me about my interests. They never asked me about my dreams or my inner most thoughts. They never asked me how I felt, if I was happy or sad. To put it simply, they never asked me how I was doing.
"So many times I just wanted to disappear. Maybe that is why I ended up coming to Deneb. I wanted to put as much distance as I could between them and me." I looked down at the floor and hesitated. "You know, I tried so hard to impress them. To please them," I said as I looked up. "But it never worked. They just ignored me."
"Only two of us are on pedestals in our family. Unfortunately both of us aren't the ones. You should have known that. There is nothing you or I can do about it." She was right. Deep down I knew it but I was afraid to confront it. Afraid to admit to myself that it was hopeless. You can never force anyone to love you or respect you. Even if they are your parents.
"Sometimes I felt like a pet dog. Mom was only concerned if I had enough to eat and nothing else." I smiled and looked down at the floor again. Tracy shifted in the chair and crossed her legs.
"You know. They never acknowledged her existence," she said solemnly. "And after she committed suicide they just pretended like nothing was wrong with you." She stopped. I noticed a tear roll down her cheek. Suddenly her voice cracked. "Frank, she was so beautiful."
"I know. She meant everything to me," I said as Tracy stood up and wiped the tears with the back of her hand.
"I better go now." She moved around the chair and stopped. She grabbed the back and leaned up against it. "I have been reading a little about what you are going through. This lake you want to go to. Do you think they will allow it?"
"I'm not sure. But I don't think so."
"Well, I hope you get your wish," she said as she began to turn away. She began sobbing. "I never knew who you were. And I always wanted to get to know you." She grabbed me and for the first time we hugged. "Why couldn't we have been more close."
"I don't know," I said as I began to cry. Together we held each other and we rocked back and forth. "Its the pain. I just closed myself up. It was the only way I knew how to deal with it."
"I was so impressed when you got the position here in the embassy. I was so proud of you," she said as she continued to sob. After a few moments we separated. "Maybe sometime, somewhere, we'll meet again."
"I'll be waiting. Take care." She couldn't handle it anymore. She ran out. But as she got to the doorway she stopped and turned around.
"If you can't make it to the lake. Go in spirit." Quickly she disappeared as I heard her voice. "Bye."
I sat back down in the bed and as I wiped my own tears the doctor appeared.
"I'm sorry. They said no."
Lake of Visions
I had lost track of time. But in this state, there was no concept of time. It had no meaning. Again, I had flown. Soared above the capital and I couldn't remember how I had gotten here. Yes, I was here in spirit, like my sister had said. Now I found myself facing the caves and I wondered. Had my heart stopped? Did I stop breathing?
I walked among the dark openings and ahead of me I could see a single white rabbit dimly lit by the stars above. It remained motionless. Watching me from the entrance of one of the caves. And I began to cry. I fell to my knees and sobbed uncontrollably. Mia was dead. For the first time I felt the impact of her death. And again I heard the faint words. "She is dead."
The doctor had told me once that I had too much of a negative attitude toward my own people. Then he shocked me when he told me that he envied me. He said that human love had no bounds. It wasn't confined by hormones. It wasn't confined by biology. It was limitless. Infinite. It was immeasurable. And I realized how right he was. I had loved her with all my heart. Now I realized how utterly alone I was.
Slowly I got back up on my feet and I caught the gaze of that single black eye of the rabbit, as it pierced my soul.
"It's my defining moment," I said, as the rabbit hopped away. Slowly I made my way down the winding trail to the lake bed. Once there, I marveled at the sight. The flat dusty surface that stretched into the darkness. The bright canopy of stars that hung overhead. I listened and could hear the symphony play and this time the bad violin wasn't bad anymore. He was magnificent. I began to walk and then run into the darkness.