These sounds. Dissonance. They intrude upon the harmony of the universe.
These sounds. Deafening to ears that are attuned to something finer. And so, I want to shut them out, I want the universe to open its gaping mouth and swallow them, dissolve them into its blackness and assimilate them into its music.
I wait for it.
But instead they get louder. There are vibrations, jolts. And then light: not the subtle, sophisticated light that winds through the void, buried just beneath the darkness, not the complex patterns and shifting fabric of reality that show you the truth if you can bear to see it. This light is a lie. And it’s loud, and eye-searing, and it shoves its way rudely into this eternity-sanctuary, burning everything. Tearing it all down.
And I think I scream. I think that’s what the noise is: horrendous, destructive – it flows in and all through, running like lava through bones I’d forgotten. It bounces off the walls, and again, again, again, again. Eternity, done all wrong.
“The DNA checks out. Her name is Fenella Laughton.”
“That would make her…” there are so many words that could fill this sentence: ‘human’, ‘old’, ‘impossible’, ‘unheard of’.
“It would. But the DNA doesn’t lie.”
“I suppose not. She’s the one who locked herself in a lifepod and jettisoned herself into space, right? In 2087?”
“That’s her. Eternity sickness – well, that’s what they called it back then.”
“It’s just that she’s so…”
“Well, isn’t she?”
“Yes. But she has family still alive. There’s a sister who’d remember her. I’ll make the call.”
“Are you sure? I mean… would they really want to see her this way?”
The universe: cool, tranquil, cobwebbed in light and darkness, so beautiful, so true.
This universe is none of that – heat and itchiness, too much noise, garish light. There’s pain, and there’s buzzing, there’s the ever-moving of everything. It can’t keep still, and its rhythm is broken. I want to escape it, but I can’t move. There are limbs here that I could use once, but now they make no response. This roiling mess is not the way things should be.
I cry out for forever, but it can’t reach me.
And yet. A familiarity. A recognition of something old and unwilling. These are sounds I knew once, and there are patterns of a sort. This cacophony connects to the universe, but on such a quivering thread, drowning it out with its own crude needs.
A memory: a breakfast table. Once when I was something that could and should eat. Can’t they see that I’m not that thing anymore? Can’t they see that I need to be free again?
“Maryanne Laughton,” she holds her hand out so the doctor can shake it. Still straight-backed and sturdy for her hundred and ten years. “You said on the phone that my sister was here, but this must be a mistake, my sister killed herself eighty years ago. She died in space.”
“It doesn’t appear to be that simple.”
“Then I don’t think I understand.”
“Your sister survived. She was picked up by a transport a week ago, still floating in that pod. It was iced over and encrusted with debris, looked more like a small comet, but the scans revealed her.”
“You made it sound as if she were alive.”
“How is that possible?”
“Well, we don’t know yet. Some sort of adaptation to her environment. It may be best if I let you see with your own eyes. But brace yourself.”
Maryanne screams when they take her into the room.
Mixed screams. Mine and another.
There is something in the sound that triggers something. I don’t want it to. I’m fighting it. Because I know: this is not compatible with the truth of the universe – where one begins the other ends. This litany of pettiness drowns out peace, it unravels all the endless weaving, and it’s doing it so quickly.
I can feel this. This awareness of slowly rotting flesh. This awkward lump that hasn’t earned tenure. I want to protest, I want to scream to all and everything that this isn’t me. This is not the real me. This is not the healed, perfect soul that has lived in perfect dance-step with the everything for so very long.
Let me out! Let me go back! Please! Please!
“Fenny, it’s me, Mary. I don’t know if you can hear me. I hope you can. I just want you to understand that I’m with you. If you can feel this, it’s me, holding your hand. I don’t know what happened to you out there, and I’m sorry for reacting to you the way I did. I’ve just never… seen… anything… You’re so… different. And I can’t pretend I understand how you got this way. But I want you to know that I’m here for you. And that some things never change. I want you to know that we’re family, and that we will always be family. And that I love you.”
A glass prison.
They keep me in here. I can see in the glass, into what I’ve become.
I was beautiful out there in the void, luscious and self-sufficient, capable of hearing sounds and processing light in ways my previous body never could have. Here, in the hospital, I’m ugly, a freak of nature. There are faces that my face once looked like, peering in on me all the time, studying, considering, trying to smother a mix of fascination and repulsion.
They want talk. They want movement. They drape fabric over me and offer me what my body no longer has use for.
She comes. And I want her to stop. Every visit. Every word that comes out of her mouth, encapsulated in that voice: those things are a risk to me, they pull me back to the brutal mediocrity of what was. I keep my silence, my stillness. I fight for those things. I fight not to change.
The starscape is out there. The universe. I can see it through the glass. And I call to it. I call and call in its own language; but the glass filters me out. I watch it expanding and contracting, this kaleidoscope of wonder. I reach with my mind, but I just can’t touch it. All that comes back to me is dust.
Picture credit/discredit: author's own work