|"Symphony"||Transformation Contest 2, Category 7||"Xilef"|
by J. T. MartenTaur
First Place - Category 7
It was an experimentation lab. It was a place where men walked around in their white coats and conducted important business amidst gleaming white floor tiles and bland concrete walls, broken only by doors and hallways and round silver mirrors. They seek the secrets of the universe between sterile barriers, and believe that to discover the mysteries of the world, they must first check in with the secretary at the front desk, the woman who answers a thousand meaningless phone calls every day from people who might not exist.
The scientists' guinea pigs sit apathetically in their cages, and their eyes are black and dull and uninterested, like scratched, cold marbles in mindless sockets. They do not run around or play. They do not eat or drink with any eagerness, they do not mate. They simply are.
But the lab for these scientists is more than a lab. It is a mental hospital, and their guinea pigs are those people who have wandered into the oceans of their own minds and gotten caught in the undertow. The scientists are doctors, and the tools of their trade are words.
They handle the construction and delivery of their sentences with the same care with which a surgeon deftly wields his scalpel. They poke and prod and scrape at their subjects' psyches with mounting interest, and ever so carefully, they will make an incision HERE, here. They pull out all their patients problems like diseases spilling out on the floor, and amidst the pain and confusion and tears like blood, they search for the fundamental error and stitch it up, good as new!
But, you say, this is not an experiment. This is a science! It is medicine, not the arbitrary meddling with another's life. Ah, but you forget! These doctors, these scientists, these researchers can sew up the mind with stunning accuracy. They can locate the mental flaws, the imbalances, the imperfections, and heal with chemicals and processes. But there are other disorders which give them far more difficulty.
These disorders are those of the human spirit, and it exasperates the scientists! It is a thing which cannot be seen, cannot be touched, cannot be detected, and many of them disbelieve it. Never believe anything, they say, that cannot be proved. And since science can never prove, only suggest, they believe nothing. They do not last long here, those doctors that do not believe in the soul. They soon become frustrated and confused, because humans do things that cannot be explained by body or mind.
The soul can be wounded just as surely as can the physical or mental, and it is this type of injury that must be healed with words. It is this that leaves the doctors groping in the dark, and their surgery here is that of a blind brain surgeon, stabbing here and there with his scalpel but never knowing if he is cutting in the right place or not.
Injuries of the soul are far too tricky, and these soul-wounded patients are the guinea pigs of the lab. They lie lifelessly in their cells-like-cages and wait for a dawn which never comes. They lie and wait while the doctors come in and blindly slash at them with their words, but whether opening gashes that will bleed their patients to death, or severing the tumor from the system, who can tell?
But look in this cell! Who is this young creature of brown hair and endless eyes, of elfin face and slender limb? How could one so young survive in this place of endless age? How could one with a soul fresh into the body have suffered so grievous an injury to be placed in this wretched place of concrete and murmured words?
But here he sits, nonetheless. Not more than fourteen and already surrounding himself with the silent screams of those drowning in their own minds.
And now the door to this guinea pig's cage opens silently, and faceless men come in, swinging their clipboards and not speaking. Here words must be handled delicately. The boy does not look up. They crouch down and look him in the eyes and cut "Hello."
The boy does not respond. He stares through them. Not even the bundle carried under one doctor's arm interests him. His eyes are black holes that lead to bottomless pits that empty into voids. One might fall into those eyes and be torn apart by the abstract nothingness that lies within.
"Listen to me," one of the doctors says, a well-gauged slice but not too risky to cause damage. The boy does not move.
"You are Phillip McKelvy," the doctor insists, and this time the cut is a little more severemore of a slash. The boy stirsconfusion, or possibly irritation, makes little ripples in his forehead.
The doctor senses that his scalpel has had some effect, so he cuts in that area again. "You were born on October 22, 1983. Your father is Kevin McKelvy. Your mother is Angelica McKelvy. You were a bright lad."
The boy snaps back into his trance; the doctor realizes his mistake. "You ARE a bright lad," he corrects himself. The puzzled expression returns.
"You had friends," the doctor slices. "Jon, and Brian. You used to play baseball together."
The boy begins shaking his head; his body is trembling.
The doctor lips fleshy lips and raises the scalpel for the deciding slice. "You are five foot seven with brown hair and hazel eyes. You have pale skin and slender limbs, a child any human mother would love."
The boy screams from the blow of the cruel words, the conveyance of reality to someone who has given up on it. He leaps to his feet, and the doctors can see that terrible awareness gleams in the boy's bloodshot eyes. They are filled with recognition of the world around him, of the terrible harshness of who he is and the reality of the world he lives in is beating down on him like a mallet.
"Not human! Not human!" he shouts clumsily through lips that are chapped and unused to speech. His eyes are wild with pain. He beats against the wall, against one of the doctors who falls over, shouting his denial to echo through the halls. Not human.
The two other doctors in the room grasp the boy's arms tightly, and he bucks and squirms and jerks in their arms like a wild horse.
"Now, Phillip," the doctor says in a calm soothing voice, tracing lines of blood across the young man's psyche, "why don't you want to be human?"
The boy kicks viciously at the leg of the doctor on his right, who shouts and drops him. Seizing his moment, the young man slips out of the other's grasp and runs to one corner of the room, where he darts back and forth frantically. "Not human," he whispers. "Not human."
"But you ARE human," the doctor says, almost anxiously. "We have photographs of you since you were a baby. You have never been anything but human. We have your birth certificate." The scalpel swings wildly now, with cruel intent.
The boy looks scornful. "Not human," he sneers. "Just look human."
The doctor becomes irritated. "What do you think you are, Phillip? A horse?"
The boy makes a strange sound in his lips and throat. Taking this for assent, the doctor presses on. "You're not a horse, Phillip. You never have been, and you never will be a horse. You are a human being. Everything about your life says so. Look at these pictures."
He tosses photographs across the floor. They are filled with happy people. A smiling baby, covered in food. Halloween costumes, Christmas trees, a mother and father lavishing love and affection upon their son, caring for them. He is their world. He is their life. Without him they have no purpose. Then there are photos of the trip to the west, and the ranches. Here is Phillip at age twelve, wearing cowboy gear on youthful limbs, his head almost buried in a hat too large. He is astride a fantastic palomino, and his eyes are filled with awe.
There are no more pictures. Not a single snapshot taken of him after that breathtaking ride on the palomino.
"You stopped your life, Phillip. You didn't want it? Why?"
The boy turns away, shuddering, shaking his head, refusing to look.
The doctor raises the scalpel for one final blind slice. "You told your parents that you would give anything to be a horse. But Phillip, you gave everything. And you're still not a horse." The slice severs artery, gashes through nerves, shears muscle and cracks bone. It plunges into the heart.
The boy gags. His psyche bleeds tears from his eyes, it is mortally wounded. He begins to choke.
The doctors rush forward and seize him. The boy convulses in their arms, his eyes rolling insanely. Spittle flies from him mouth. The two doctors put him on the floor and pry his tongue from the back of his mouth so that he can breathe while the doctor who questioned him makes calm notes on his clipboard. Cleaning his scalpel. A job complete. He gives the other two doctors minor instruction and walks from the room.
Shrieking wildly, the boy attempts to free himself from their grasp, yanking at his arms. They speak to him in slow, quiet, soothing tones. Anesthesia for the wound, so that his spirit may die painlessly.
"Phillip, Phillip, calm," they whisper. "It's all right. Look what we've brought for you." They produce a pad of drawing paper and a pen and hold it before him.
A look of delight springs into the boy's eyes. He giggles happily, snatching the pad and the pen from their hands. He removes the pen cap and proceeds to draw.
The scientists stare concernedly at the boy, then withdraw from the room. The boy draws, a stroke here, a quick line there. Let life flow into his work. He is content.
When one of the doctors returns a few hours later, the boy is sitting in one corner of his cell with a blank expression. In his lap is a drawing in blue ink. It is a drawing of a horse, a palomino, running across an open field. It is an immaculate drawing, perfect in form and line and detail. To stare at it almost makes it come to life. The grass blows in the breeze, the horse's legs fly like graceful pistons as its mane and tail fly in the wind.
Unfortunately, the picture is spoiled. A stream of drool has trickled from the boy's mouth and has obliterated most of the horse's head; the ink has run. How symbolic, thinks the scientist. He picks up the drawing, the pad and the pen, and takes them from the room.
The pad and pen go in the supplies closet. The drawing goes into a room on a stack of other papers. As the doctor closes the door, the gust of wind the motion creates blows over a dozen of the drawings from the top of the stack. They roll around in the air like leaves falling at autumn's behest, and settle to the floor. They are all nearly the same: pictures of palomino horses running across a prairie, almost looking as if they were really alive. The picture on top of the stack of papers is another palomino horse. And there is a stack of papers behind that one, four feet high. The top paper is a picture of a palomino horse.
And back in the room, the boy sits in his corner and stares with blank eyes at a world he cannot see, at a world he has forgotten, a world he has dismissed as useless.
He runs through a paper prairie with a thousand blue-pen-palominos.
Copyright 1997: "J.T. MartenTaur" <firstname.lastname@example.org> . If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask the author for permission first. Thank you.
|"Symphony"||Transformation Contest 2, Category 7||"Xilef"|