Off we go for the kettle…time for a spot of cardamom tea, if you please…
(Justin Hayward \\ And I Dreamed Last Night)
(Duran Duran \\ Medazzaland)
Part IV: The Music of the Spheres
Gander OCA, NAT D, Track TOBOR, Fight Level 410 11 September 2001
Debra Sorensen squinted hard, tried physically pinching her eyes shut, desperately wanting to shut out the senses in this new world, but the more she tried to shut them away the harder it became. And just then her father leaned close and whispered in her ear…
“What is it, Deb? Does it still hurt?”
She shook her head as fingers of blackness reached into her – but the motion produced another concussive round of pressure behind her eyes, then an even more intense kaleidoscopic explosion of splintering light consumed her world. “I think I need to lie down, Daddy.”
“Carol?” her father said, snapping his fingers as he beckoned the woman. “Could you help me, please; maybe get Debra back to my bedroom?”
The flight attendant came and helped her to the little bedroom in the far aft section of the Gulfstream’s passenger cabin, then she helped Deb get settled on the bed, covering her with an ultra soft duvet. “Can I get you something?” Carol asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe a Tylenol, or maybe some water…I don’t know…?”
“I’ll be right back. Just you sit tight…”
But as soon as Carol left Deb sat up and looked through the open passageway into the main cabin, and to the stranger sitting across from her father. He looked quasi-human but his form was covered by a dull, shimmering blackness…but no, that wasn’t quite right. It was almost like what she’d always imagined an aura might look like, but this thing surrounding the man was pure black, yet it wasn’t like he wasn’t radiating black. No, it was more like he was surrounded by dull black fingers, yet the blackness was attracted to him, like the man was sucking up this stuff, absorbing the goo-like substance right out of the air before spitting it back out…
Then she saw Carol walking her way and her body seemed to be surrounded by intense green and gold bands of pulsing radiation, like these bands were shooting out curly verdigris gouts of arc-like electricity, and the sight was almost too much to bare. She closed her eyes again and tried to turn away from the after-image, but the vision didn’t leave. Instead, the light lingered like towering waves breaking against a seawall, the refracted echoes bouncing off shadows inside of her mind…
“Geesh, Deb, but it looks like you’re in a lot of pain,” Carol said as she closed the door behind her, turning on a small overhead reading reading light as she sat on the edge of the little bed. “Can I see your forehead? I want to check that bandage…”
Deb closed her eyes again and rolled over on her back, and then she felt Carol lifting the bandage and looking around for a while before she pressed the tape back in place.
“Think you can sit up for me?” Carol asked. “Let’s see if you can get this down?”
“What is it?”
“Just two Tylenol and some Pellegrino. By any chance, are you hungry?”
“I didn’t think so. You took quite a hit, kiddo, but apparently the doctor didn’t think you had a concussion.”
“Where are we?”
“I think we just passed St. Johns, like maybe a half hour ago, anyway.”
“Newfoundland? London, right?”
“That’s right. Gordon says we have a pretty good tailwind so we should be there in about five hours. Now, let’s get those pills down and see how you feel in an hour.”
“Did it feel better with the lights off?” Carol said, standing to leave.
“I think so, yes.”
“Okay…I’ll close the door, but it might be a little louder that way.”
“I’ll be alright.”
“Hit the call button if you need me,” Carol said as she smiled, then she closed the door behind her…and Deb turned on her side, looking up into the sky on the other side of the glass. Though it was only early afternoon, she closed her eyes and was soon fast asleep – a castaway on a sea of overlapping colors.
She woke with a start, felt like she was tumbling through the air and her first thought was that the airplane was about to crash…then she lifted her head and felt a little better when she saw a blackish-green landscape passing by beneath the wing. Then Carol came in and helped her out to the main cabin; she got her buckled into a seat behind her father’s then went to her jump seat beside the cockpit door.
She looked out the window again, saw the moon rising behind black, backlit clouds, and the few stars she saw seemed to be hollowed-out balls of ice falling down to a sunless sea…and she wondered again what was happening in her mind now. All the usual noises followed, the flaps extending, the landing gear coming down, then the bluish-white strobes bouncing off the runway threshold just before the little chirping sounds as the tires touched down, kissing the earth in relief. A few minutes of taxiing passed, then men and fuel trucks surrounded the jet as the airstairs came down.
She watched her father stand and recoiled in horror – because he too was surrounded by the same inrushing black aura as the evil looking man – but now she watched both of them deplane, her father not even acknowledging she was still on the airplane as he left – and Carol came back to help her stand and get ready to walk down the stairs.
“Your father is going into the city now. He asked that I help you get to the hotel and settled in.”
And then Deb only nodded as she gathered her thoughts, but she understood. Because her father’d always been like this, yet never quite so intently dismissive as he had been this summer. And in a flash she felt like a discarded prop, like something her father used from time to time, some kind of creature he trotted out in front of people he needed – if only to prove his humanity before moving on. She stood and another explosion of light wracked her brain, then she felt light-headed as she reached up to catch herself on the overhead.
“Oh no, you’re not alright,” Carol said, now clearly alarmed. “Let me go get Gordon. You…sit!”
She sat again and watched Carol walk away and she saw the same green and gold aura, only now it was flecked with blue streamers of sparkling light – then she saw Paul, the co-pilot, as he hurried aft – and his aura was intensely blue, a deep shimmering cobalt color that completely disoriented her.
Paul saw her eyes roll back in her head and he just got to her as she started to fall…
“Where am I?” she asked.
“University College Hospital, neurological services,” some sort of – she guessed – technician said. “You’re going to feel a little pinch as I’m starting a line on the left side of your neck just now.”
“What am I doing here?”
“You lost consciousness and were brought in by emergency services. Are you an American?”
“Yes. Guilty on all counts, your honor.”
He smiled – then she saw his aura – a roiling wash of blues and golds. “What happened to you today? Do you remember anything?”
She closed her eyes and turned away from images of airliners smashing into skyscrapers, then she felt echoes of a sharp pain in her forehead before she was falling and falling and now she was laying on a cold steel gurney inside a cold gray room, then she tried to put all that into words. He listened intently, his aura a spinning whirl of intent listening and total disbelief, and then she realized: ‘He must think I’m mad as a hatter…’
“You say you saw an airliner hit the World Trade Center?” the man asked.
“Where were you?”
“In my fathers jet. We were on the approach to LaGuardia at the time.”
“And then you hit your head?”
“I think I passed out first,” she whispered, “and Carol said I fell after that.”
“Our flight attendant.”
“That must be nice. And these auras started after that? When you woke up from all that?”
“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but who are you?”
“Ah, sorry, Justin Holroyd. I’m one of the neurologists on floor duty tonight.”
“So, you’re a doctor?”
“Yes, again, so sorry. I should have told you that.”
“So…what kind of aura do you see around me?”
“It’s gold next to your body, then it goes from emerald to kind of lime green – with red splotches here and there.”
“And you say it shimmers?”
“Not right now. When you came close and started to introduce yourself it changed. Like it went from nervous to calm.”
“Okay,” he said as he swabbed her neck with some sort of alcohol-smelly pad. “Here comes a pinch.”
She felt him insert the IV catheter and get it taped down, and all the while his aura changed, depending on what he was doing second to second.
“You did well, considering,” he said reassuringly. “You’re not bothered by small enclosed spaces, are you?”
“No, not really.”
“If you are we can sedate you a bit. Just let me know.”
“Excuse me, but are you nervous right now?”
“I am, yes. Can you see that?”
“I think so, yes. Why are you nervous?”
“I’m not sure. What do you see?”
“The red splotches are getting bigger now, and they’re very active.”
“Not really. It’s actually very disconcerting.”
“Disconcerting? How so?”
“I’ve been nauseated since all this started, and it almost feels like I imagined vertigo might feel. But putting that together with all these other changes is really weird.”
She saw him writing notes then he looked up at her and smiled. “Okay, I’ll be in that little room over there. Just speak up if you feel claustrophobia coming on. This should only take a few minutes.”
She woke up inside reeling darkness. She needed to pee so bad it hurt – but when she sat up in bed the room started spinning, the kaleidoscopic pulsing started beating in her head again and she almost passed out from some sort over sensory overload. Alarms started pinging at the nurses station and several came rushing into her room – but when they saw the girl they came crashing to a stop…
“What the fuck!” one of the nurses cried. “Do you see that?”…
And everyone did, because the girl’s body was glowing brightly, and yet it appeared as if the light was coming from inside her body. Worse still, the glow was pulsing through a disjointed spectrum of colored light – from pinkish-amber one moment to blue-green the next…and it seemed as if the light was cycling between these two distinct phases of light over and over again.
“Is Dr. Holroyd still here?” the charge nurse whispered to an assistant.
“I think so. Maybe in the lounge?”
Holroyd was wiping sleep from his eyes when he walked into Deb Sorensen’s room, but after looking at her pulsing body – soon almost in a state of shock – for a moment, he rushed to her bed and grabbed her wrist…
And as soon as he touched her the pulsing light simply stopped. Completely.
“Fucking-Hell,” he muttered.
“Do you have any idea what that was?” the charge nurse said as she stepped closer to the bed.
“I have no fucking idea,” Holroyd sighed. “Was she like this when you came in?”
“Uh, excuse me,” Deb said, trying to sit up again as she spoke, “but I really need to pee?”
“Yeah?” Holroyd growled. “Well, join the club.”
National Hospital, Queen Square, London 13 September 2001
Justin Holroyd was standing before a large screen, and several sections from an MRI of a human brain were on the display. A dozen neurologists and neurosurgeons were gathered around a fake wood table in a small conference room, and all were staring intently at the images on the screen.
“Just for reference, here’s an image from a normal optic tract within the brain, showing both lateral geniculate nucleus pairs, and here’s the image from Sorensen’s MRI on admission.” Using a green laser pointer, Holroyd pointed to the area of concern: “As you can see just here,” he continued, taking time to let the image sink in, “there is an additional lobe on each nucleus, bilaterally symmetrical I might add – and as I think you can readily see. Additionally, there are no tumor markers in the patient’s chemistries, not on admission and not as of this morning, and this is just an opinion but I doubt any sort of known lesion would manifest with such perfect symmetry. Additionally, there appears to be no additional vascularization around these nuclei.”
“So, what you’re telling us, Dr. Holroyd, is that we’re looking at some sort of naturally occurring structure? A mutation, perhaps?”
“We’ve performed two F-MRIs and these additional structures light up like a Christmas tree when the patient observes these so-called auras she reports experiencing when she watches people…”
“What about encephalographic studies,” one of the senior neurologists present asked.
“Yes, I’ve completed two to date. We ran a frequency domain analysis on the first run, with both linear prediction and component analysis on the second. Same conclusion, I’m afraid. Massive SNR on aura initiation, as well, almost an overload state with peak waveforms off the scale. If you get five or more people in a room with her she does in fact go into what appears to be a neuro-chemical overload of unknown etiology, and, well, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
“I dare say no one has, Holroyd,” the Head of Service stated. “Needless to say, the physical manifestations are completely without precedent, yet the implications of these visual phenomena are staggering…”
“You mentioned a mutation?” one of the surgeons asked. “What about reversion analysis and sequencing? Have you considered these?”
Holroyd sniffed once and rubbed the tip of his nose. “Indeed so, yes. I’ve asked Lucille St Cloud from Cambridge to come down for a consult.”
There were murmurs and nods of approval all around the table on hearing that.
“What about the patient?” the surgeon continued. “Is she in discomfort? What happens during these swarms?”
“She reports anxiety, almost like being overwhelmed with cascading stimuli, but otherwise she reports no pain.”
“Remarkable,” the surgeon muttered. “What about removal of the additional nuclei?”
“And what if these are normal structures?” Holroyd countered. “What might that do to…”
“Normal?” the surgeon cried. “Are you listening to yourself, Holroyd? If these structures are normal, well then, well, then she represents a new species, doesn’t she?”
And unseen by anyone in the room, a tiny blue mote pulsed once before it disappeared from the conference room.
“Dad, can we go home?”
“They still don’t know what’s causing all this, Debra…so I’m not sure we should even…”
“They aren’t going to find anything, Dad.”
“How do you know that, Debra?”
As she watched her father intently, the shimmering black swarm around him grew more opaque, almost more dense, and swirling vortices of energy seemed to appear around him, and she thought they looked a little like those vast loops of coronal matter that occasionally are spotted vaulting up from the sun’s surface, only these flared then abruptly withdrew back inside her father, and she squinted hard and turned away from the sight.
“Is it happening again?” he asked – and she thought suspiciously.
“No, it’s just a headache. I’ll be alright in a minute.” She was learning, day by day, to tune out the extraneous material in this new world, to focus on the people around her she thought she most needed to pay attention to, and she considered it was a little like her brain was trying to come to grips with an entirely new set of sensory skills. Like learning to ride a bicycle, whatever was happening to her wouldn’t come to her naturally, at least her mind hadn’t reacted like it was normal, so she was beginning to think it would just take time to come to terms with all this new stuff…
“Why do I get the feeling you’re not telling me everything?” her father added – and she watched dark vortices reach out for her…almost like the tentacles had come from inside him, the grasping claws of some kind of energy absorbing beast – and she wanted to turn away from the smooth coercion in his voice. “Deb? What’s happening? Why won’t you tell me?” A tentacle reached her and she felt her Will retreat – and she realized she was watching the physical manifestations of what amounted to a kind of psychological assault. She was supposed to trust her father, wasn’t she? So…why did she feel this way now? Had he…had he always been like this?
“Dad? Go find that doctor. Tell him I want to go home.” She watched his tentacles retreat, but she felt like he was pulling energy from her body and feeding his own as he did, and the idea was nauseating – yet she was watching it as it happened and the sensation was impossible to ignore!
“Okay, okay. I’ll see if I can find him…”
“I want to talk to him, Father,” she said, a deep force like anger emanating from within as she spoke, and she watched his tentacles wither then retreat inside his body, and for a moment his aura shifted to a deep cobalt color before the miasma of his suffocating darkness returned.
When Holroyd appeared his aura was blue-green, but when she asked to be discharged it changed to orange with dancing yellow fringes. “We still haven’t nailed down any kind of diagnosis, Debra. I think it’s too soon to talk about going home yet.”
“Am I physically ill, doctor?”
“We’re not really sure what the issue is.” The orange shifted to red, and in an instant little sparklers of anger appeared.
“Then you have no idea if or even whether you can offer any kind of treatment? Is that about where we stand?”
The red began to shift to a deeper crimson, only now she saw black flecks appear. “I’m not sure where you’re going with this, Debra.”
“Going? I want to go home, and unless you have some kind of proof that my doing so would constitute a danger to myself or others, I’m not sure you have any right to prevent my leaving.”
His aura went from crimson to almost pure black, but almost as quickly it receded into the cool blue eddies he normally exhibited. “Yeah, well, that’s probably true, but that’s not the whole truth. You see, the thing is, well, I think you’re cute and I was kind of hoping we might, you know…”
His aura danced between cool blue and pink now. He wasn’t being disingenuous, he was being truthful…and she could actually see the transformation as it happened…
“…maybe go out to dinner once you get out of here…”
“Dr. Holroyd? Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Well, yes, I mean, if you wouldn’t mind…”
His aura went reached up into the red spectrum pretty quickly, but then fell back to the blues…
“No, I wouldn’t mind.”
“So. Do you like Indian?”
“I do if you do.”
He nodded. “So, California? Is that home?”
“Are you…watching me now? I mean, like my aura?”
“I can’t turn it off, Justin.”
“So, you can see…”
“I can, yes.”
“No way to lie around you, is there?”
She shook her head slowly.
“You know what’s behind this, don’t you?” he asked.
She nodded and grinned.
“And you’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Do you have any idea why it just started? Why you haven’t always seen the world this way?”
“No, not really, unless it had something to do with hitting me head…”
“Or seeing what you’d just seen?”
“What do you mean?”
“The airliner…all those people…”
She looked away, seeing that moment play out again, and then she saw all that human disbelief shrieking through the air before the building was enveloped in blackness. “That’s probably true,” she sighed. “Now, could you help me get dressed, please? I want to go home now.”
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.
(Sting \\ It’s Probably Me)