Monday, December 31, 2012

September 7



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?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

September 6





I know I’m getting better, because I’m going stir crazy.  I swear, if Nayun doesn’t let me get up and go for a walk soon, I’ll yank his beard. 

He’s like a big, alien dad.  “Take your time.  I’m not going to let you relapse.  Get strong for your mother’s sake if not your own.”  The man must stay up all night writing lines to feed to his patients.

So, I had a visit from Dramok Dusa yesterday.  He’s another surprise, like Nayun, in that he seems to be a nice person.  In fact, with the orderlies and Mom’s babysitters (she has three that rotate shifts, keeping tabs on her and seeing to her needs), I have yet to meet one of the monsters we were told Kalquorians are.  Really.  Where are the sex-crazed, primitive abductors I was told about?  That I produced so many cautionary (read ‘alarmist’) films about?  Not a single one of these men has threatened me in any way.  And they treat Mom like a queen, never getting angry when she spills something or starts to wander off or forgets what she’s saying in the middle of a sentence.  She even came back to herself once, the old cranky Eve that never sees anything good in anybody.  And for every insult she hurled at the Kalquorians that crossed her path, they only seemed to get nicer.  Let me tell you, my mom can sling some mean in her natural state.  I thought for sure the guy who keeps an eye on her during mornings and early afternoons would punch her right in the mouth.  But no, Imdiko Weln only cocked an eyebrow at me.  I swear the guy was on the brink of hysterical laughter.  He was biting his lips but I could still see them lifting at the corners as Mom told him the various things he could shove up his own backside.

“Bipolar disorder,” I told him.  “It’s either this or she’s crying and looking for a noose to wear around her neck.”

The young, cute Weln looked like he would respond, but that little salvo re-directed my mother’s fury at me.  “I am not ill!  Shut up telling these murdering aliens our private business!”

All the yelling brought in Nayun, of course.  He sedated her, quite against her wishes but completely in line with mine.  When she woke she was in happy, if dim, Dementia Land again.

Anyway, I was going to talk about Dusa.  He’s a young one, it turns out, a little younger than me.  I was writing my latest entry when he walked in yesterday.  His smile was tentative, as if he just knew I was going to toss him right out of the room.  Or order him out.  Yours truly is not going to be literally tossing a 200-plus pound example of pure brawn anywhere.

“Hello, Matara Shalia.  You are looking much better.”

Ha.  I haven’t seen a comb in days.  No makeup, starved, and completely hagged out from being sick.  If I’m looking much better now, I can only imagine how gorgon-ish I was when he found me passed out in the middle of someone’s flowerbed.

Still, he was nice to look at.  I know, I know, the enemy, the monster Kalquorians, the rapists looking to damn our souls.  Whatever.  Dusa is a very handsome version of his kind.  Of anybody’s kind.  So take me out and shoot me for appreciating it.

I smiled and self-consciously raked my fingers through my hair.  I really need to ask for a brush.  “Hello, Dramok Dusa.  I’m starting to feel more like myself.”

“May I visit with you for a few minutes?”

“Sure,” I said, wishing mascara and lipstick would fall from the heavens like manna.  Okay, I know I’m being stupid here.  But he is that handsome and I was feeling really unattractive. 

He stood at my bedside.  His long hair was loose.  Black and sleek, it lay down his back in a sheet.  He had high cheekbones.  I almost want to characterize them as ‘arrogant’.  If he didn’t wear such an open, innocent expression, those cheekbones would make him appear haughty. 

Nice strong jawline and an almost pointed chin.  His lips were a bit thin, but when he smiles, which is a lot, I don’t really notice.  And of course those funny purple cat eyes.  I’m starting to get used to those, so they didn’t freak me out too much.  And his fangs were folded away, so that also helped.

“I owe you thanks for getting us food and rescuing me,” I said after a few moments of uneasy silence.

“Not at all.”  He looked pleased just the same.  “I am happy we were able to find you in time.”

“I guess I didn’t make it easy on you.”  I felt a little pride in that.  I’ve been hearing what great trackers Kalquorians are, so slipping away from Dusa was something of an accomplishment.

He reddened.  “I was assigned to monitoring five other Mataras we’ve been trying to get to come in.  You left the first house while I was checking on some of those.  I lost your scent.”

Lost my scent.  Like he’s part bloodhound or something.  Then I remembered the first time I saw him, coming down the street with two other Kalquorians.  They’d had their noses in the air.

“Oh well.  I’m here now.”

Dusa nodded.  “I only wish I had been able to find you sooner before you got too ill.  You scared us, Matara.  We thought you might die.”

He actually looked upset over my becoming so sick.  I was startled to see that. 

We talked a little more.  He’s away from his home planet for the first time.  He’d just missed out on combat when the war ended.  I was kind of glad to hear that.  It was easier to not feel guilty talking to him knowing he hadn’t killed any of my kind.  He’s clanned to a Nobek who is also here at the Academy and serves as onsite security.  They haven’t found an Imdiko yet.

“Before the virus that killed most of our Mataras, Imdikos were the rarest of our breeds,” Dusa told me.  “It can be difficult to find one, especially since I’m serving off planet.”

I was fascinated to get a glimpse into the whole clan thing.  We’d been told by our government that Kalquorians liked to lie in sin with men as much as women.  That whole homosexual business would land you in the fiery pit faster than anything else, or so said the Church. 

I’m pretty antagonistic about the state religion, and I’ve usually felt that if the Church wanted me to believe in something, I’d go in the opposite direction.  However, I wasn’t sure what to think about three men together, doing THAT.  But then again, I don’t much care for doing THAT, so what do I know?

“You, uh, you don’t think any of the Imdikos here would be a good match for you?” I asked.  “There are some very nice ones that are orderlies and nurses here.  Handsome too.”

Dusa grinned.  “I wish I had time to meet them.  More rescue teams are supposed to be arriving soon, so maybe my Nobek and I will have an opportunity when they get here.  Right now, we’re too exhausted from working double shifts.  When we get done with work, we eat and go straight to sleep.”  He ducked his head.  “This was my first chance to check on you since you got here.  I was hoping to see you sooner.”

Something beeped on the wide belt Dusa wore around his waist, and he grimaced.  “And now my time is up already.”  He blew out a breath.  “I am glad you are doing so well, Matara.”

I was disappointed to see he was getting ready to walk out.  I have so many questions, but much like Dusa, everyone is really busy around here.  No one has much time to talk.

For this reason I asked, “Will you be able to visit me again?”

Dusa gave me a big, surprised smile.  “I would like to.  May I?”

“I invited you, didn’t I?”  I held out my hand.  “And since we were never properly introduced, my name is Shalia.  You don’t have to call me Matara all the time.”

Dusa took my hand gently, as if afraid he might break me.  “It is a pleasure to meet you, Shalia.  Call me Dusa, if you like.”

I shook his hand.  “Don’t let me make you late, Dusa.  And come back as soon as you are able to.”

“I will.”

And off he went to rescue more reluctant Earther gals.  It’s late in the day now, and he hasn’t been back yet.  So either he lied about wanting to see me again or they’re working that poor boy to death still.  Hopefully he’ll come back and I’ll have a brush by then.

Monday, December 17, 2012

September 5



Let me start today’s entry with the observation that Kalquorian drugs are wonderful.  I feel better than even before I got sick, though they tell me I’m not ready to be up on my feet yet.  I’m being nagged at that I need to build up my strength, get some more vitamins in me, etc., etc.  I’m told I’m malnourished and anemic.  Dr. Nayun is such a mother hen.  I think that must be what ‘Imdiko’ translates into.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Back to where I left off.

When I woke up again after my terrifying shuttle ride, I was in another white room.  Only this time it was an actual room and not the cabin of an emergency medical shuttle.  There were strange machines and weird sounds all around me.  Several Kalquorians bent over me.  I would have panicked, but I felt so woozy.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open even after just a few seconds.

That kept happening.  I’d come around for a moment or two, find myself in an all-white room.  Everything was in soft focus, I guess because I was mostly out of it.  If not for the machines, I might have thought I’d gone to heaven.  Yeah, me allowed in heaven.  Let there be hysterical laughter. 

Sometimes I’d be alone.  Sometimes I’d see my mom sitting in a chair nearby, knitting.  At least it wasn’t baby booties anymore.  She seemed to be working on a winter scarf.  In muggy-ass south Georgia.  Hey, it might get below sixty degrees for a week or two in six months.  Can’t have the Kalquorians’ necks getting cold, right?

Sometimes I’d see doctors and orderlies.  Big alien men in green tunics standing over me, muttering to each other or busy doing stuff I couldn’t comprehend.  Especially the one older guy, Dr. Nayun.  I saw him so often in fact, that about the fifth time I woke up I fought to stay conscious so I could ask him his name.

He told me and then said, “How are you feeling?”

“Like shit,” I croaked.  I was glad he spoke English.  I didn’t know if he spoke profanity.

Apparently he did because he laughed.  He has a nice laugh, by the way.  All warm and rolling, like the world’s happiest giant.  He even kind of looks like a storybook giant, sort of like an illustration I once saw in a copy of Jack and the Beanstalk.  Big with lots of curly, gray-tinged hair tied back in a ponytail.  He has a mustache that covers his upper lip and a nicely trimmed beard.  A wide nose.  Fat cheeks that make his eyes look all squinty when he smiles, which is most of the time. And he’s wide as a barn door.  I kept waiting for him to bellow, “Fee-fi-fo-fum!”

“Go back to sleep,” he told me.  “You need the rest.”

Exhaustion was already trying to claw me back under, but I wanted to know how much trouble I was in and mostly how Mom was doing.  “Has my mother been here, or was I just dreaming?”

“Matara Eve spends most of her day in here with you.  I think you’re her one anchor to reality.”

“She’s okay though?  Eating?  Not scared?”

He put his palm against my cheek.  For such a huge guy, Dr. Nayun has an amazingly gentle touch.  “Physically, she’s doing very well.  She doesn’t always rest well, but when we get you out of semi-isolation, she’ll be able to sleep in your room.  I think that will help.”

I don’t know why I asked the question.  Maybe because I was so out of it.  I mean, I had no reason to trust Dr. Nayun, not one bit.  But my mouth opened, and the words just kind of popped out.  “Can you fix her?  Make the dementia go away?”

He blinked at me.  “You mean the buildup of proteins in her brain?”  He patted my cheek, but his look was sad.  “We don’t have the resources here, Matara.  You’ll have to take her to Kalquor for such procedures.”

“But it’s possible on your planet?”

“I couldn’t say.  Brain treatments are tricky.  I’m not qualified for such delicate work myself.  All I can do is perform a basic diagnosis and keep her comfortable until she sees someone who specializes in such matters.”

He’d held out a carrot, and like a stubborn mule I didn’t want to let it out of my sight.  “Still, there is a chance she could be made better, right?”

Nayun nodded.  “There is a chance.  Now I insist you close your eyes, Shalia, or I will be forced to sedate you.”

See what I mean about mother hen?  Or father giant, ha-ha.  Fee-fi-fo-shut up and go to sleep, Shalia.  But I had run out of steam by then anyway, so I closed my eyes and was out like a light.

I hear someone coming up the hall outside my room.  Probably Nayun again, ready to cluck over me some more, even though I’m no longer on the endangered Matara list.  He’s a good guy.  I don’t know about most Kalquorians, and I’m still leery over what they have planned for me when I’m better, but at least one of them seems decent.  And maybe they can do something to get Mom back into fighting shape.  Look out, Kalquor.  If the real Eve Monroe shows up on your doorstep, you may wish you’d never met Earth.

Well, hello.  Dramok Dusa is walking into my room.  Later.