Monday, December 31, 2012
Woohoo, I was finally allowed out of bed for a bit. Nayun took me for a little walk this afternoon. About fifty new Kalquorians showed up here at the Academy last night, and they started working today. Nayun and others are finally able to work sane hours, and he had a little time to spend as I took my first post-sickness jaunt.
Dusa still hasn’t been back. Maybe now that they have more help around here, he’ll visit soon. Maybe not. Fifty more men isn’t really that many for all the work the Kalquorians are trying to do in this area, but this isn’t one of the more heavily populated places. Nayun says the biggest concentration of resources goes to the cities that were not blown up, places like Miami, Belfast, and Tokyo.
I got to see the recreation room where people like my mom are kept for most of the day. This ‘recreation room’ is actually a small banquet room off the Academy’s dining hall. This is where the high muckety-mucks who ran the Academy would host government and Church officials who occasionally came to look over the operation.
The Kalquorians have stocked it with readers, puzzles, games, and other things to keep everyone entertained. They let invalids come in here in shifts; Nayun told me there are over 250 Earthers needing such supervised care right now. That’s too many to put in the room at once, so people rotate spending time in this common room, outdoors, therapy (individual and group), and in their own quarters. The people who make up this group -- the elderly, moderately traumatized, and special needs folks -- are being well tended by orderlies and psychiatric specialists. It's like daycare for invalids.
When I peeked in, Mom was sitting on a couch, happily knitting a scarf and chattering to herself. I noted that the supervising Kalquorians were bringing around water and juice and snacks to everyone, as well as generally keeping an eye on their wards’ wellbeing. I’ll be damned if I didn’t see one big, hulking alien braiding an elderly woman’s hair as she sat playing a card game with other patients. This guy looked like he should be knocking down mountains with his bare fists, yet there he was, plaiting the woman's snow-white strands in the loveliest French braid you ever saw. He finished it off with a blue bow, and the woman smiled up at him like he was her very best friend. He patted her shoulder as gentle as you please and moved on to help a young man with Down’s Syndrome who was having trouble with his handheld.
Nayun pursed his lips as he looked at my mother. “Have you thought about where you’ll go from here?”
I nibbled my lip, looking at Mom too. I would have to make the decision for both her and myself, seeing as how she was so dependent. “You said the dementia might be able to be cured on your planet?”
“Along with her bipolar disorder.”
“Really?” Now there was a thought. “You mean really cured? For good? Or maintained with medication, because she would never go for that. She refuses to believe anything is wrong with her.”
“There is an implant that can regulate the chemicals in her brain so that she would not suffer those extreme shifts in mood. It would go a long way towards giving her some peace. Not so much anger or sadness.”
Until the dementia took such great hold, I’d never known my mother except angry or depressed. Even pictures I’d seen of her as a toddler showed an enraged being, screaming her absolute fury at the world. Why my grandparents hadn’t gotten her help back then is beyond me. Sure, medical care was expensive, but didn’t being a parent mean doing everything to take the best possible care of your kids? No matter Mom’s other shortcomings, she’d barely let me suffer a sniffle without trucking me straight to the doctor. And when we got too far behind in what was owed for medical care for the doctor to see me anymore, she’d find another. She was a lioness protecting her cub when it came to my physical wellbeing. I give her all the credit in the world for that.
I couldn’t imagine the woman she might have been without the mental illness. If she’d cared for herself half as well as she did me, our relationship wouldn’t have been so tumultuous. Dad wouldn’t have walked out on us and tried to drink himself to death before his heart gave out. Maybe. Who knew?
“Can’t get that kind of treatment on one of the colonies,” I acknowledged. “Our medicine isn’t that good.”
“Another consideration to help you make your decision.”
I took a deep breath. Now that I had the opportunity to ask one of my most pressing questions, I was actually afraid to. I wasn’t sure I’d like the answer.
“Doctor, if I decide I prefer to go to one of the colonies, would I really be allowed to? I am of childbearing age, and it was my understanding your people would want to breed with women like me.”
Nayun looked down at me, his face infinitely patient as if he was used to hearing the same question over and over. “Yes, Shalia. The Imperial Clan, led by Empress Jessica, has guaranteed that Earther women will be given that choice for at least the next five years. There was a huge battle with the Council over that very issue.”
“And after the five years?” I was impressed that the Earther empress had that much clout on Nayun’s world. I’d thought Jessica McInness had no function but to give birth to the heir to Kalquor’s throne.
“Then they’ll revisit the question. What happens then will be determined by how well our respective populations are doing.” He chuckled. “I wouldn’t worry too much about it, little one. Empress Jessica is most adamant that Earth women not be forced to join clans, and it is only the bravest of council members who dare to naysay her.”
I felt bad that I’d produced a film on the treachery of Jessica McInness and how her joining the Imperial Clan had endangered Earth, sending us to war with Kalquor. A lot of what I’d put into that vid had been pure fabrication, designed to make her seem the worst sort of person who’d ever drawn breath. Now that I knew she’d gone to bat to protect the rest of us, it made me feel very small.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever done the universe any good at all with my presence.
“But if I go to Kalquor, I’ll be expected to join a clan, won’t I?” I pressed.
Dr. Nayun nodded after a moment’s hesitation. “You will be part of our new lottery system. Prospective clans who find your profile agreeable will meet with you in hopes of attracting you to join them as their Matara. There are many clans and few Earther women going to Kalquor, so you would be inundated with offers.”
“And if I don’t like any of them?”
“After two years, if you have not selected a clan you will be asked to leave our planet.”
I was pretty done in after fifteen minutes on my feet, and Dr. Nayun sent me back to bed. I had a nap, then dinner. Now Mom is in here with me, getting ready to get some sleep while I struggle with what to do with our futures.
Option A: Go to a colony. Be among my own kind again. And what would I find there? More of the Church’s adherents, still holding to the ways that destroyed Earth? A lawless, survival-of-the-fittest society in the wake of Earth’s destruction? One thing I knew wouldn’t be on our colonies would be adequate care for Mom. No cure. She’d descend ever deeper into dementia, absolutely dependent on me for everything.
Option B: Go to Kalquor. Fix Mom’s bipolar disorder and potentially, her dementia. But that means fielding offers from clans for two years. And no way I would want to be the sex partner to three horny men. I didn’t like it when I had to screw the one. That made me feel dirty enough. If I never have sex ever again, it will be too soon. So I’d be exiled and forced to go to a colony in the end. And how would I be received by my fellow refugees after living with the enemy for two years? Not very well, I’m sure. I keep thinking of those two women hanging from the tree with the word ‘Whore’ nailed into their chests.
Option C: Go somewhere else. Yeah right. A Dantovonian brothel? I think we’ve covered how I feel about intimate relations. Bi’is? Sure, they are always happy to have servants come to their space. But they have a habit of killing those who don’t do every single thing according to strict ritual. I know me. I’ll fuck up sooner or later, and no more Shalia. Joshada? Sorry, but I’m not living like an ancient pioneer with manual hand tools and no technology. Out of all the civilized planets of the Galactic Council, I can’t think of a single place out there that will suit me and Mom.
Damn it. What am I going to do?