F. Alexander Brejcha came to America from Sweden in 1968 at the age of
10 - and immediately fell in love with science fiction.
Frequently published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and with
stories and articles published or pending in several other magazines and newspapers,
he presently divides his time between writing non-fiction
and science fiction, disability advocacy, and working full-time as a
night-shift hospital telephone operator/trauma dispatcher (where a
wheelchair doesn't slow him down). Visit his Web
site to find a wide range of
disability resources and reprints of some of his work.
is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments,
please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All materials copyright 1996-1997 by their respective
creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be
posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).
To Touch Life
by F. Alexander Brejcha
Frozen water crystals fell from the sky to sheathe the naked
trees outside with icy crystalline prisms that refracted the
setting sun in a blazing display of color. On the thin glass
windows in the Human's pod, delicate frozen webs formed as she
breathed and watched in amazement. She was surrounded by
startling colors and textures.
A preternatural silence had fallen over the room after the
Human had left the pod. This stillness was broken only by
crackling and screaming hisses from the open fire burning in the
large blackened metal pan in the center of the main chamber --
strange cries that mimicked agony but without pain. And escaping
from the dancing flames were scents of destruction ... yet,
in a way, it was all pleasant.
The heavy woven fabric covering that the Human male had
placed around her held other smells: essence of living wood and
dead. And of dust, ashes and human skin, along with a vague
undefinable animal odor. She pulled it tighter around herself
and bent her head to breathe deep of the mysterious and strangely
alluring odors as a draft of air from somewhere snuck beneath the
scratchy material to chill her.
A hint of fear crept with it as she waited for the man to
return. Had she made a mistake in coming to this strange planet?
No, the Human wanted her, needed her.
A creaking sound approached from outside, closer and closer
to the door. He was back. She watched the door nervously. She
knew what to expect, but it would be her first time with a Human,
for real. She had never dealt with them before, except in
simulations or under supervision with an occasional volunteer.
What if she could not handle the reality?
The door opened and he entered.
He was tall, and had to duck his head briefly as he came
through the doorway to stamp his feet, shaking off clumps of
frozen water sticking to his shoes. The door closed
automatically behind him, but even though the double set of doors
kept the elements partially at bay, the temperature in the pod
dropped markedly and she shivered. His short, black hair was
moist, the warmth inside the ... house, melting the ... snow, on
She forced herself to try to think in the alien language.
His large head with its vulnerably placed brain was strange
to look at, and she studied it curiously. His eyes seemed to be
too close together, and could not move independently -- which
looked a little strange at first. He also had a dangerously
combined mouth and breathing orifice, with a 'nose' above it as a
partial back-up breathing tool and olfactory sensor. But, all in all,
as bizarre as he had seemed at first, she was starting to
appreciate the symmetry of his features, now that she had studied
Humans extensively for several years. By the standards of his
species, he would have been considered "handsome".
She had to learn to feel for this species if she was to do
her job. She stood up and moved towards him hesitantly. It was
time to get to work. She dropped the ... blanket he had given
He smiled, a wide movement of his mouth that touched his
eyes, and as he showed his teeth, she had to force herself to
remember that this was a positive gesture, not a show of
aggression. She was helped by the warmth she felt in his mind.
He was happy to be here with her, she felt as he moved closer.
In his arms was her patient. The Ambulance-Flyer had just
dropped his son off.
The boy was her first Human patient. A serious
responsibility and burden of trust. It almost frightened her,
because the man's mind was full of such love for his son. The
emotion was as bright as the burning fire when he approached and
placed the boy on the floor. From what she had learned, she
estimated that the boy was at most ten years old. He was covered
with layer after layer of warm clothing which his father slowly
removed until he was wearing a single white sweater, heavy blue
pants and white foot coverings made of fabric with rubber soles.
His face was slack and the eyes unfocused. A single line of
spittle was hanging from the half-open mouth, which his father
wiped patiently with a tissue and gently closed.
"Here he is: Timothy." He reached out to touch her
shoulder hesitantly. "Please, I hope you can help him." Then
he let go and moved back to sit in a chair several feet away. He
was worried, but he trusted her.
She moved closer and reached out an arm to touch the boy.
She had already seen the metal plate in the skull, placed there
to seal the brain case after the accident. The sensor tentrils
of her 'hand' spread to cover his face lightly. She closed her
eyes and concentrated on touching the boy's mind, delicate
linkages entering through, ear, eye and nose. Anesthetic
hormones numbed the pathways to keep the boy from feeling as she
reached in to connect with his brain.
FEAR ... Some isolated part of his mind felt the intrusion
and feared it ... damp the adrenalin, increase dopamine and
seratonin there and there ... CALM, she sent to his brain,
humming a mental melody that was not sound, not feeling, not
light, but a presence ....
Timothy relaxed and gurgled happily, small spit bubbles
forming on his lips.
She wiped them without thinking, even as part of her mind
felt his father's distant fear from where he was sitting, anxious
and watching. He knew who and what she was, and what she could do,
but he still feared for his son. She felt her 'love' flow
out to him for it.
He relaxed and let her do her work.
Slowly, she mapped Timothy's brain and compared her
impressions to the results the Humans had sent her. Gradually,
his brain became a living entity in her own mind. Every synapse
and nerve thread added to the maze of corridors she had to
wander. And there were too many dark and constricted spaces with
no light, no easy passage.
As she had already guessed, 'Timothy' was not there. At
some time in the past three years since the accident had robbed
him of sight, speech and hearing, he had withdrawn and removed
himself from the world, even retreating from the hollow echoes of
his own mind when he could not break through to his father or to
She wondered where to begin, and why his father had insisted
she work here, not in the medical center where the boy had been
But they were here, so how should she start? The eyes? The
ears? Or speech? The damage had been sudden and complete, and
for years all doorways to the outside had been shut.
Except for his sense of touch and smell.
She switched mental streams and opened her eyes.
"I want to start with his speech. The damage seems less
there, and it will make his return less traumatic since there
will not be an immediate need for it. Then I want to work on his
ears, since it is so quiet and peaceful here. But I want you to
sit on the floor behind him and hold him. Take his hands and
touch them. Hold them and stroke them gently. Hug him lightly
from time to time. I want him to have constant, familiar
contact. He will know you, even if not consciously."
Borman was on the floor immediately, and she saw small drops
of moisture creeping out from around his eyes as his arms
embraced the small body. Tears: she knew what they were and
felt a flash of compassion for him.
"Can you help him?" he asked.
"I do not know yet, Mr. Borman --"
She had forgotten that they had two names. He was giving
him his private one, she realized, and was honored.
"Thank you. As I said, I do not know. I have scanned his
brain to determine where the damage lies, and not all of it is as
severe as I had feared so some restoration of function should be
possible. But even if I can repair the physical damage, there is
still his total withdrawal to consider. I want to warn you: I
can not promise more than to do my best."
"Hey, that's all I ask. I'm hoping this cabin might help
once you start getting through. We..." She felt a surge of agonizing
pain well up within him. "...spent a lot of time up
here. With a data-link, I was able to work, and being close to
nature up here was a God-send for all of us. Lisa and I both
grew up in the country and we never felt comfortable in the city.
It was great for Tim, too, because there were several other kids
his age nearby for him to play with. He loved it up here...." He
stopped, looking down at the boy sadly.
She was starting to correlate expressions with the emotions
she felt from him.
He was alone, she knew. His mate had died in the air crash
and explosion that had injured his son, and he had blamed himself
continuously for not being there to save them, although he would
probably have died himself. It had been a miracle that Tim had
Jack's arms tightened briefly around the unresponsive boy,
who let himself be moved and touched as if he were a puppet.
Move an arm, and it stayed where put until gradually drifting
down to a relaxed point of rest. Tim was not in control any
Eloyan closed her eyes and 'watched' him again.
Nothing. His father's touch had not evoked any response.
Well, she had not expected it. She reached into his brain again,
part of her mind seeing the models she had learned on and the
living brains of the volunteers. She 'saw' the errors, the
closed paths and empty corridors. Tickling and teasing with
synthesized hormones and trace bio-electric currents she could
generate and discharge with her sensor tendrils, she concentrated
on restoring normal neural activity. Some areas stubbornly
resisted her efforts, but, bit by bit, life reentered the dark
and desolate places she had found.
As responding light and life crept into her mind, she
switched to an almost automatic mode of working. Part of her
mind remembered her first patient ....
Nouel, one of her pod's breeders, had fallen out of a tree
when she had tried to retrieve her pet Mulot. Eloyan had been
resting after her final season of Learning, but had been called
home after Nouel's fall. Each pod was responsible for its own if
possible, and since there was no other Healer within the pod, she
had her first patient.
After a quick diagnostic scan, she had stretched Nouel out
on a bench in the pod and extended an arm over each leg to
explore the damage. The right leg was broken, but it had been a
clean break and all it needed was disinfecting and numbing while
the two ends realigned and knit within the brace Eloyan applied.
Then she had withdrawn and moved up to re-examine the rest of her
patient. The chest's braincase had been undamaged as were her
lung-flaps, and on her shoulders, the head, with its mouth,
sensor cluster, and eyes, was fine. There had been no damage
requiring hospitalization. Eloyan had been satisfied.
Nouel had recovered well. It had been a data-file case with
no surprises, and it had given Eloyan the confidence to go on to
study alien physiology for her Advanced Learning.
It had been an exciting period as relations between the
Humans and her people steadily improved. The Humans had
revitalized their stagnant world, which had given up hope of
finding other intelligent life. Travel and trade between Earth
and Luyona were extremely expensive and difficult, but each world
had found that it had much that the other desired. With careful
acclimatization, an exchange of personnel had even been possible,
and after very little consideration, she had volunteered herself.
She had decided that she wanted to go to Earth as part of a
medical team because staying on Luyona had been getting
frustrating. As a female Healer, she had been meeting constant
hostility as she invaded what had been an exclusively male
profession. It had even been the death of her one romantic
relationship. Her Pod-Mate Couelen had also decided that her
career choice had been a poor one.
And now here she was, operating on her first Human patient,
off in the wilds of the planet. Jack was a senior government
official and had been able to 'borrow' her from the team. She
agreed with his decision to try her way of healing, but she
wondered why he had chosen her instead of one of the more
experienced members of the team.
She would find out later. For now, she realized, she was
done with the speech center. There was no way to test it, but as
she scanned the brain, she saw only healthy neural pathways where
she had concentrated.
She opened her eyes.
"Jack?" She spoke softly, and he looked up from where he
sat, his head resting on top of the boy's. He was terribly
close, she realized. She could smell his strange musky scent and
she considered what she thought of it. It was not unpleasant,
she decided. And it blended well with the intriguing and spicy
perfume he wore.
As his eyes met hers, she studied them. She had never
really paid attention to them before, but now she found them
fascinating. The pupil was circular instead of slit, and
surrounding its blackness was a striated band of brilliant color
like the sky. A very pleasing effect.
Sensing the surface layers of his mind, she realized that
she was being equally carefully inspected.
He still found her sensory fronds and independently moving
eyes strange, she felt, but he was starting to look at her with
curiosity and appreciation, instead of the controlled unease he
had exhibited when they had first met back on the space station.
He found her eyes fascinating. She had flash image of a small
furry animal with eyes like hers. Warm, cuddling feelings
accompanied the image. Then embarrassment.
She realized why. The image had been of a pet, and with
mental self-discipline he forced the image down. He did not want
to think of her with that type of association. The scrutiny was
"I'm sorry Eloyan, I was half asleep." He glanced at his
wrist. "It's been over two hours." He groaned and climbed to
his feet to stretch after ruffling Tim's hair lightly. "God, I'm
stiff." He perched on the edge of the chair he had been sitting
in before, moving it closer so that he was sitting right behind
Tim. He pulled his son in slightly to lean against his legs like
a chair back. His hands rested on the boy's shoulders, thumbs
"I'm sorry," he repeated. "What were you going to say?"
"Nothing much," she chuckled, still amused by his earlier
and lingering embarrassment. "I just wanted to let you know that
I have finished with his speech centers. I can not be absolutely
sure, but I believe I was successful in restoring all
"Fantastic! Hearing next, you said?"
"Yes ... was there something else?" She had been about to
return to Tim's mind when she had sensed an unspoken question in
his mind. Too vague to be understood.
He shrugged. "Well ... actually yes. It sounds stupid, but
there's a lot I don't understand about your people, and just now,
it sounded just like you were laughing. Is that what it was?"
"Of course. You were embarrassed about associating me with
a pet. It was just amusing how you were so worried about
offending me, even in your thoughts."
Sudden hostility ... no, not quite. He was displeased ...
with her? Uncomfortable!
"Are you reading my mind?" Suspicion, unease,
embarrassment: a range of uncertain emotions were swirling
through his mind.
"I am sorry." She reached out a free arm to touch him, the
tendrils of her hand relaxing to stroke his skin lightly as if he
were a youngster. "I did not mean to offend. I am not reading
your mind. Your thoughts are safe. But certain of your stronger
and more focused surface emotions and impressions are clear. I
couldn't block them if I tried. To really read your mind, I
would have to link with your brain as I am doing with Tim."
He was still disturbed, and her touch now made him
uncomfortable. She couldn't sense anything beyond that, so she
shrugged in apology and let go.
"I am sorry. I will try to ignore everything and focus on
Tim." She closed her eyes and looked inward.
She quickly realized that the damage to the auditory brain
center was minor, limited to key areas. But she carefully
explored the damaged areas to be sure. Her tendrils traced the
fine bones and hair-lined fluid reservoirs in the ears, and found
only flawless functioning. The damage was wholly neurological.
Certain key pathways were blocked from the traumatic impact the
head had endured. Swelling and bleeding had blocked critical
areas. Fine clots, too. Indirectly, she saw some more damage in
the visual cortex as she probed his brain further, and for the
first time she began to doubt her ability to fully heal the
But she could not let that stop her.
She ignored the visual cortex and focused again on the
auditory centers. The small clots she encountered were carefully
broken up and tissue synthesized, where possible, to carry
crucial impulses. Bit by bit, her confidence came back as more
and more life returned to the damaged tissues. Soon she was
operating on automatic again, and curiosity sent her thoughts
back to Jack.
She was worried about his reaction to her and at the same
time surprised by her own reaction. Why was she concerned about
his feelings for her?
She couldn't resist, and opened her mind to try to sense
him ... and then she stopped. That was the answer to part of her
problem with helping Tim! She turned her attention back to the
boy and inspected her work, realizing that she was done. She
opened her eyes to look up at Jack again. She needed to prepare
him for what she had just thought of.
He was asleep.
Jack was leaning back in the chair, his head bent to the
right, cushioned on a pillow. His chest rose and fell in even
movements as he slept silently. Only the rhythmic sound of his
breathing filled the room. His hands were still lying limply on
Tim's shoulders as his son's head also slumped in sleep. The
fire had burned down to nothing but smoldering embers, leaving
the room in a warm twilight. Only a single incandescent lamp by
the dining table was lit. The sun outside had long since fled.
She felt an incredible sense of calm as she looked at the
two sleeping figures and lightly withdrew from the boy's brain.
Then she sensed a new odor as the boy shifted slightly. He had
defecated. With his mind withdrawn on itself, he had no control
of his bodily functions. She rose and bent to pick him up. He
was quite heavy, but roused partially and his arms actually
wrapped around her lightly. Startled, she looked at him -- but
there was no real awareness in the half-opened eyes. Yet, on one
level, Tim was responding. A surge of excitement overwhelmed her
and she turned to Jack ... but he was sleeping so soundly that she
didn't want to wake him.
She carried Tim towards the bathroom. Jack had shown her
the design of his house when they had arrived, and she was
familiar with the location and function of the alien plumbing.
Removing Tim's clothes was not as difficult as she had
feared, since he automatically moved to accommodate her, although
the unfamiliar fastenings puzzled her momentarily. As she
removed his pants, she saw that he was wearing plastic-coated
sanitary pants and sighed in relief. It would make things
easier. She removed them, and running warm water, proceeded to
clean him up thoroughly.
She had just finished washing and drying him when she
realized she had an audience. The odor of Tim's feces had
overwhelmed her olfactory sense, and she had been so intent on
helping the boy that she had not seen Jack standing in the
doorway. He was holding a fresh set of the sanitary underpants
in one hand.
"Here, Eloyan." He held it out hesitantly. "Fresh
diapers." He was embarrassed again, she sensed.
"What is wrong?" she asked.
"You don't know?"
"No, I told you, I can not read your mind this way. And I
am trying very hard not to intrude on you in any way."
Jack kept silent while she put on the new sanitary pants and
dressed Tim again. Then she picked him up and, again, she
thrilled as his arms crept around her and tightened while his
head dropped onto her shoulders, resting on her sensory-nerve
She stroked his head lightly.
Jack's eyes were wide-open.
"Is he ...?"
"No." She sighed sadly. "But a small part of him seems to
be coming alive. Is it not wonderful?" She couldn't contain
herself. Her first Human patient, and he was already beginning
to respond! She felt her heart speed up from the adrenalin
Jack reached out to touch the boy's cheek, joy radiating
"Yes, it is!" He turned away abruptly and went back out to
the living room. He seemed confused again.
She followed and put Tim back to sit on the floor in front
of Jack, who had settled back into the arm chair. Then she sat
down to caress Tim's hand. She looked up at Jack.
"You never answered my question. I need to know because,
after I repair the damage to his vision -- if I can," she
amended, "the next step will be to bring him out from his
withdrawal. At that point, I need your help, and if there is
something distressing you, it could interfere."
She fixed both eyes on him intently, challenging.
Finally, he answered:
"Okay." But he refused to look at her. "When I saw you
with Tim, cleaning him up and all, it was eerie. The way you
held him, washed him. The way he held on to you. It was like
watching Lisa with him when he was a baby." His eyes were moist
and she felt his pain like a physical twisting in her stomach.
"Your feelings for him and his mother are very important,"
she admitted. "But you must let go of her. After I try to
restore Tim's vision, I want to ask you to let me enter both of
your minds at once to put you in direct contact with him. If you
bring disturbing images and memories with you, it could drive him
into deeper withdrawal, especially now when he is just beginning
to feel his way out a little."
"You mean..." He held out a hand and wiggled his fingers.
"To enter my mind?"
Strangely enough, he wasn't afraid. Then she understood. A
direct mechanical connection, a physical linkage; that was
logical and tangible. It was the intangible, unquantifiable,
that worried him.
"Yes. Your touch, the sound of your voice -- he can hear us
now -- these are vital, and might be enough, but I have a feeling
that more will be needed."
Jack was hugging Tim fiercely, a wide grin on his face.
"Hey, Star Ship Trooper, we're getting there. Before you
know it, we'll have you up and flying my flitter!" He looked
over at Eloyan. "He can hear me?"
She nodded. "Yes. And I think perhaps we should work
together on his mind, while I work on his eyes. That way we can
ease his transition. All the new stimuli will be confusing and
maybe frightening to him. If we are both there with him, it will
make it easier." She stopped and leaned back to study him.
"Can you do it?"
"Keep my perspective?" Let go of Lisa? was the unspoken
She kept silent as he chewed on his lower lip, thinking.
Finally he nodded.
"Yes. Losing both of them was almost too much, but to get
Tim back? Yes! Lisa would have wanted it ...." His face reddened
slightly. Then he leaned forward resolutely and squeezed Tim's
shoulders again. "I'm ready."
She sensed a surge of unease from him, but it was quickly
damped and she sensed his strength rising. Action! That was
something he understood and welcomed. Danger didn't worry him.
It was not being able to do anything that he had difficulty with.
She was starting to understand him more and more as his mind
avidly focused on his son, curious about the next step of her
"What do I have to do?" he asked.
"Nothing, really." She forced her attention back to Tim.
"Just sit on the floor behind him, like you did before. That way
you are close together. I have never done this with Humans
before, but I have with my own people. I will show you in a
As he moved down behind his son, he looked over at her.
"I have one question before you start."
"How do you do it? The fingers, I mean. When you were
working with Tim, your 'hand' changed into a mass of fine
tentacles that spread and grew, but when you were carrying and
cleaning him, it looked almost like you had normal hands."
She held out a hand and looked at it curiously.
"I never considered that. It is... what I do." She
laughed. "How do you breathe and eat with the same opening
He smiled. "Touché!"
She looked at her hand again, suddenly self-conscious. It
did somewhat resemble his, except with only four fingers. It was
almost difficult to do it with Jack watching curiously, but
concentrating, she relaxed and opened one of her hands, and the
tightly wound tendrils of her 'fingers' separated.
He reached for her hand.
He touched it with infinite care, and she wrapped it around
his hand lightly and then contracted, chuckling as his eyes
"Individually, no, but as a unit, yes." She relaxed.
"And soft." He looked over with surprise, and then relaxed
with a smile. "Tim's in good hands."
At the sound of his name, Tim leaned back into his father's
arms and smiled faintly.
"Do you see?" She squeezed his hand again. "He knows you
Jack smiled happily. "He does! Thank you!" His thumb
stroked the still-encircling tendrils. "I knew I was right in
picking you for his doctor."
She leaned back curiously and let go. "Why did you pick me?
And not a more experienced member of the team?"
"Instinct." He grinned. "I didn't build a multi-billion
dollar business and get elected regional governor based on hard
work alone. I have a knack for picking the right person for the
right job. For one thing, I like 'em hungry. Not necessarily
young, but fresh to a task. Experience is vital, but for
starting new, radical projects, fresh ideas are essential. I
wanted to interview doctors who were open-minded, not so
experienced that they 'knew all there was to know about Humans'.
I knew all of you had to be the cream of the crop, or you
wouldn't have been picked for the exchange program, but I asked
who were the least experienced. Then I interviewed those."
She remembered the unusual interview where he had asked her
all sorts of strange questions seemingly unrelated to working
with Tim. She did not bother to enlighten him about the fact
that she had not been in the outworld program because she was one
of the best -- though she had been -- but because she was a female,
and it was easier to ship her out rather than having her
"Anyhow," he went on. "That's why I picked you: gut feel.
And," he cocked his head, "you're a woman. Even if alien, it's
obvious. Other than our heads, and some internal rearrangement,
we're not all that different physiologically, and psychologically
we're very similar. I guess I thought Tim might respond better
to a woman's touch..." He shrugged. "I don't know. Just a
feeling. But it worked out."
"Thank you." She felt her sensor cluster curl in
embarrassment. Time to continue. He was seated comfortably, and
she moved in, one arm reaching back to Tim and the other towards
"Close your eyes --"
"So I don't see it coming?" He shook his head. "No thanks.
It didn't hurt Tim, it won't hurt me. Besides, I know what they
He faced her, unflinching, as her hand touched his face and
the fine tendrils extended and spread. As she reached in through
his eyes and ears to touch his brain, she felt surprise well from
"I don't feel anything! Well, just sort of a light
tickling ... feels kind of good actually."
"I will let you get used to that while I link with Tim."
She felt a surge of unease as she penetrated the now-familiar
neural pathways of the boy, seeking out the visual cortex and
Focusing on the damage with a more experienced eye, now, she
felt a deep gloom come over her. The damage was too extreme.
Whole sections of the key areas were dead. The extended lack of
oxygenation to the tissues, the traumatic injury to the nerves --
all the damage was too extreme for her fine touch.
She heard the question on two levels as the preliminary
linkages with Jack's brain strengthened her empathic bond.
"I can not do it!" She heard the pain in her own voice.
"If I would have had him as a patient right after the accident, I
might have been able to help him. But it has been too long.
Speech and hearing I was able to restore. Even though the rod
impacted and penetrated the brain, the actual damage to those
areas was repairable. But I can not do anything about his
vision." She couldn't touch him to console him since both her
hands were full, but she hoped he would understand.
Instead of the pain or anger she expected, she felt only
relief, gratitude ... and, affection?
"Eloyan, thank you."
"Thank you? I told you: I can not help him!" She was
almost angry. She could not understand his reaction.
"That's right. When I brought him to you, I didn't think
you would be able to do anything. Oh, I hoped, but I didn't
hold any expectations. But he can hear me -- he does hear me. And
he'll be able to speak. There are a lot of people who manage
very well despite being blind. So will he. One sensory loss we
can work with. Now let's see if we can't wake him up a little,
The strength and determination in his words and mind were
almost a physical force, and she felt dizzy. She had not thought
about anything other than a total cure. Našve of her. Jack was
She concentrated on him, linking in with his brain as fully
as possible. Frontal, parietal, occipital... bit by bit she
plugged in until she had no more connecting links. The brain was
a marvelous and intricate engine and too complicated for her to
fully integrate with, but her linkage was enough, combined with
her 'sense'. It was an eerie feeling. Far different than with
any of the Human volunteers she had had experience with. In
their cases, she had had to overcome their resistance at every
turn, but here, she was being welcomed.
She felt herself sitting on the floor, feeling Tim leaning
into him/her, and warmed by Jack's love for his son, she felt the
light touch of her own hand on 'her' face; the slight itching
from a chin that needed shaving; a low rumbling of hunger
fighting a physical tiredness; a strange constriction in the
loin... and a multitude of sensations and impressions freely
offered for her to share.
Tim -- a younger Tim of six or seven -- running after a
strangely oval-shaped ball and laughing madly. All around an
immense expanse of open green lawn, a few trees in the distance
and above an incredibly blue and cloud-free sky illuminated by a
burning globe of fire in the sky...
She fed the memories to Tim, to share and see.
A beautiful woman was coming towards them across the grass,
carrying a large basket and calling brightly. Her hair was long
and shining black like the night sky, her tanned skin glowing
with life and her green eyes sparkled...
Numbing, tearing grief... NO! Sadness, and regret. A
hollow sense of loss, but with forced determination resolving
From Tim a mental scream!
Jack 'heard' it and she felt his arms tighten around her...
her arms tighten around him... multiple sensations swirled...
she, he, was embraced.
"Timmy, it's okay! I'm here, Trooper! Don't be afraid,"
Jack's voice urged.
The scream wavered.
"Tim! Come on. Remember when you got hit in the groin with
a soft ball when you were pitching to Billy Baxter? That hurt,
didn't it? Remember what I told you then?" He fell silent, and
she could feel his desperate hope for a response.
Only a decrease in the scream ... it continued.
"We walked and talked and I didn't let you give up and lie
there. We have to keep moving and not give up from the pain. It
hurts, Timmy, I know it hurts ... I hurt, too. But you're not
alone!" An almost physical blast of compassion washed over her.
"And I could really use your help, too, you know? I'm all alone
Silence. No response yet, but the stirrings of rational
"There's a lot we have to do, you know. A lot of unfinished
business while you're young enough. Remember the Knights of the
Round Table?" Images surged up of Jack and Tim in a workshop of
some sort ... smells of fresh wood, sawdust and earth. Wooden
swords took shape under skilled and powerful hands, shaping and
smoothing straight lengths of wood. Shields, too, and helmets.
Carefully painted with metallic paint. Breast-plates cut from
thin plywood and painted, connected with rope to make an
improvised suit of armor. Lisa made colorful clothes, stitched
with coats of arms, and then it was up on the horses ... Tim on
his pony, and Jack on Night Star, the coal black Arabian,
riding through the morning-dewed fields under the trees. Fair
damsels to rescue and dragons to slay, the wonder of the day to
revel in. Cool air and water, fresh air and life. Watch the
fawns in the field, does grazing cautiously on new growth. A
proud-crowned buck alerting his herd.
"We never rode to Camelot to see King Arthur, Tim. Never
slayed the dragon terrorizing the villagers. There's so much we
need to do. Come on Trooper. Remember the space shuttle we
Middle ages melted into the future. Dazzling computer
panels made of Christmas-tree lights and plywood ranged across a
wooden cabin. On the other side of the view-ports, hung black
and heavy sheets, pierced and backlit with floods to yield a rich
and wondrous star field ... a dangling moon, painstakingly painted
and mounted by clumsy seven-year old hands hung proud, beckoning
to the starship trooper.
A faint thought quavered hesitantly. Fearing,
"Yes, Timmy. I'm here."
She withdrew her links, oh so carefully, trying to keep from
twisting her sensors with emotion as father and son reached
towards each other. As she opened her eyes, she saw Tim turning
around and grabbing on to Jack tightly and crying.
"Mommy's dead!" His voice was a harsh croak, barely
comprehensible from lack of use. But the words rang clear in her
mind. On one level they were still connected. "I saw her ...."
He couldn't finish, and Jack held him close.
"I know, Timmy. But she's not really gone. Part of her
will always be with us."
No more words were said, and as quietly as possible Eloyan
rose and moved away from them. This was not the time to express
the joy and triumph she felt.
She grabbed the blanket she had discarded earlier, and moved
over to the window to stare out at the night. Soft waves of
white flowed over the landscape lit with shimmering silver light
from the cold and looming moon above. So much larger and
brighter than Luyona's whirling triple satellites. The calm and
silent beauty of it was almost too much to bear, and she shivered
under the blanket.
She didn't know how long she had stood there, but she
started as a gentle hand touched her shoulder.
She turned to see Tim curled up in the chair, sleeping
"Exhaustion and reaction, I guess," Jack sighed. "I can't
say I blame him. I'm beat, too. Too many things spinning
through my head. I saw Luyona, you know."
"When we were linking. I didn't really know it, but after
Tim went to sleep, I was just sitting there trying to sort
through my feelings, and I started remembering things that
couldn't possibly have been my memories. Triple moons and giant
tidal swings every so often when the moons line up just so; a
strange pet that looks like a cross between a raccoon and a
platypus; a first date, and a first kiss." He shook his head,
"It's weird enough remembering a girl's first kiss like it's
your own, but when that girl is an alien?" He laughed softly.
"It's funny how different you look to me, now."
She spun away and went back to the remains of the fire,
kneeling down to warm herself. And to look away.
Then she got up and faced him. "I have to leave."
He looked upset. "Why?"
"I need to go back home and stand up for myself, and for
what I am ... and I need to leave because of what I see in your
mind: you want me to stay."
He didn't flinch. Didn't mind her looking. "Yes, I do.
You'll be great with him. You never know, you might be able to
help restore some of his sight if you really try. And he's going
to have an awfully rough time adjusting to reality again --"
"You see me as more than a new mother to him." The
thought ... frightened her. "I can't."
"It wouldn't work."
"Hey, stranger relationships have --"
"No." Because she could see it happening. Part of her
wanted it. What she had seen, and felt, from Jack's mind and
actions drew her, even though part of her was laughing at her for
"I can't," she repeated. "I'm a doctor. It's wrong." It's
wrong because you don't know yet what it is you do want, Jack.
She could 'see' him looking at her -- but a large part of him saw
Lisa, not her. She couldn't tell him that, though.
She looked up at him squarely. "You and Timmy will be fine.
You need to find each other again, heal each other and start
over. You are going to have enough work to do without me
complicating things. Maybe in time something like this will
happen anyway, and maybe, in time, people might even accept it.
As you said, we are more alike than we are different. But it can
not work here, or now."
Maybe she was wrong, but for herself, at this time, she was
She went back to the window to look out at the snowy fields.
It would be the last time she ever saw snow or a single and
brilliant moon like this.
It was all so beautiful.