She’s talking to me, from out there, in the world. Coming here, she calls it a “Mind Garden,” it’s hard for her, the breathing, the calmness. In her mind, our mind, there is turmoil, always roiling and seething. It is her creative center, a maelstrom of interest and excitement.
Her mind is turning over, seeking and searching, casting about for the next idea, tossing aside thoughts for lesser mortals to complete, but she doesn’t. An army of intelligentsia could not, her ideas come thick and fast.
She thinks she is calm, serene. I can see from here, from within, that she is not. Her turbulence accompanies every word, and the chorus sighs with her, though she is not, at this age, even aware of their existence. The noise is incredible, but it is thought, and I can sort the wheat from the chaff, if I am left to my devices. She makes herself sound as if her echoes precede her, and even existing within as I do, it is startling in its volume and clarity.
Her eyes are shut, I cannot see, but there is no sensation of ground and I must assume she is correct. I push for control, but the instinct to maintain her own is strong, even now.
[[Open your eyes.]]
[[Open your eyes I need to see]]
“It will hurt!”
We’ve been falling for half a second, it must be serious. I do some calculations, about five metres per second, how long were we falling for before she called?
[[[Open your eyes.]]] I push harder. She snaps her eyes open and I can see instantly that we’ve been falling for more than that. There isn’t time.
She falls almost asleep immediately and I spread out our arms and legs. I do not hope for the best, hope is for her; I prepare.
The impact is tremendous, but ameliorated by the slope, we hit feet first and a lot of the energy of the strike is taken up converting it to a sort of floppy bodied roll. We hit again, and then stillness. I check us for injuries before I let her wake. I can see stars. That means we took a hard hit on the head. I don’t have access to everything. We’re concussed. There is pain.
I damp the pain and probe a little. Nothing broken. If she’d hit bottom all stiffened up it would have been like glass breaking. There’s a lot of pain, it’s coming from the joints, well, that’s ok, some damage down the road, but not insurmountable for right now. I am concerned about our brain. We have a headache, and she won’t wake up.
“What? What happened.”
[[It looks like you fell off a cliff]]
She looks over herself.
“Why did you wake me up?” She tries to get to her feet, but we’re not ready for that. It doesn’t go well. I can see a lot of shrub and brush as we lie down again. There is a long climb back up. It doesn’t look like a climb she could make right now. “Everything hurts.” She starts crying a bit.
[[That’s going to happen; we fell down about a hundred feet I’d say, maybe less. If you cry you’re not going to look good with the other boys.]]
‘I don’t care about that.’ She says in the privacy of our own head.
[[You will when they mock you.]] The tears dry up immediately.
‘To blazes with you.’ She doesn’t swear at all at this time. It’s amusing. She looks up and I see the cadets peering over the fence we have fallen over.
[[I believe they are looking for you.]]
‘Gosh, you think so?’
[[Well you didn’t scream on the way down, so I am surprised. I had surmised that they would not miss you for some time.]]
They are calling down, but she is merely looking up, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand.
You must understand that she looks like a boy at this time, and obeys the diktats of the conventions, but I have always known her true nature, and I am not bound by any conventions that society might seek to impose; therefore I shall continue with my nouns and pronouns as I see fit. This is not a record from without, it a record from within.
To continue, as she shields her eyes, I can see the sergeant peering over the fence, or barrier if you will. All the other voices are feeble, but the sergeant has the advantage of a big man with a big man and the big lungs that went with him and is not afraid to use them.
“Smith!” He bellows. “Smith, are you alive?” This seems such a stupid question to the both of us that our mind, collectively, replies…
“No, Sarge. Fell down a cliff, Sarge. Mostly dead, Sarge.” This sends us off into a coughing fit, which hurts a lot.
“Right them Smith. I’m sending down a rope for whatever’s left then.” He says, unphased. That’s not going to happen. I know this, because unlike Roger, I have observed that there is no rope longer than thirty feet among the tiddlers, and even the bigger boys present, most of whom being chided for getting to close to the edge as they fight for a good view.
The sergeant retires from view and there is some heated discussion. His head appears again.
“Smith, we’re sending for a crew and an ambulance.”
[[Oh good. A fuss. You love a fuss.]]
‘I do not!’
[[Yes you do, it’s like being in trouble with Granny on your side, you’ll be untouchable.]]
‘That’s not fair at all!’
[[As you wish.]]
“I’ll just be down here, sarge.”
“And I know you sleep on your feet, but next time keep your eyes open!” The head pops back out of view.
We look around again. I try not to give her a sense of the duality all the time, but for instances such as this, it is unavoidable. I’m pumping her full of painkillers, what the body produces is amazing, but I don’t have names for it, she doesn’t study biology very much, and she is a little delirious.
“Yeah,” she said, “why don’t you keep your eyes open next time.”
‘You’re not my mother!’
[[No, I’m much worse, I’m you. Stop feeling sorry for us and concentrate on your breathing.]]
I can hear her thoughts sulking, but she does as I request.
Soon the land-rover with all the kit pulls up, and I hear the bell of the ambulance shortly after. Roger is very far away, and I call her back.
Two athletic chaps in combat gear rappel down the cliff and bring a kind of caged stretcher obviously intending to put us in it for the ascent. I balk. I don’t like other people being in complete control of us and Roger is scared.
“I don’t want to get in that. I’ll climb.” They shake their heads, kindly, but firmly.
“You have to get in, you might be injured.” I do a quick survey, a few bruises, some long-term damage to ligaments, no cuts.
“We’re ok.” Roger says. That is a slip, they put it down to the concussion.
“You have to get in lad, Roger, is it?” He puts his hand around my upper arm. “We’re not allowed to take you up otherwise.” We stop absolutely still. I can feel the instant surge of adrenalin readying.
Heart rate increase. A powerful and painful surge of blood to the brain. I exert some pressure.
It is always the wrong way, we are young, I don’t know this. Our heart rate accelerates to faster than even I can count, something above three hundred.
And then blackness.
A lightness of being.
She, Roger, is absent; I am in charge of us. She looks up.
“Ah, you’re awake.” She smiles. She is attractive, sandy blond hair tucked under a rather old- fashioned cap atop an old-fashioned uniform. She takes our wrist.
“You’ll find that it’s sixty-four beats per minute, Nurse.” We’re in pyjamas, and after carefully checking that modesty is going to be maintained, I swing my legs down to the cold floor.
“Now, who knows their own pulse?” She asks, and then looks at me quizzically. “Why you’re right, that’s quite clever.” She reaches up to take a thermometer out of her pocket. At this time they are still glass and think red liquid. “Do you know your temperature?” I seek internally, sampling, but I cannot tell if the feeling of heat is an illusion because I am clothed in bed, I hazard a guess that it is.
“Normal within a half degree Fahrenheit.” I say quickly. For her it is as if there has been no hesitation, but I am slowing the world down and expanding our senses. The next words come as if through treacle,
“I’m putting this in your mouth and you need to keep it there for two minutes.” She frowns, as I have already reached up and taken, snatched she would say, the thermometer from her hand and placed it under my tongue. I do not want Roget to return suddenly in a fit of rage because someone is trying to put something in his mouth.
“I’ll wait.” I say, around it.
“Don’t talk.” And she bustles off.
I look around to check the accuracy of our internal clock, but theirs ticks irregularly and counting up I can figure out that it’s slow by a minute every seventeen days. I don’t calculate, I ‘feel’ it by using the little black box within, it is never wrong. The clock hasn’t been moved for a while, the dust on it say at least two months even in this relatively dust free environment. The scuff marks on the floor tell me why, the ladder that the cleaner uses is too small, and the cleaner, I surmise a woman from the size of her feet, is too short to reach. I see the nurse looking at me as I shake my head hither and yon seeing the marks in the polished floor, and she shakes her head at me.
Roger doesn’t make these sort of observations; she is still busy trying to be a child, make friends, understand the world. It is my duty to understand, however, and pass on the observations and outcomes. It is my purpose; and to contain her rage. This second thing I am less good at.
I do, however, observe in detail. Some people find it unsettling. That is not of concern to me, but it is of concern to Roger.
The nurse returns and examines the thermometer. I want to see, but she moves away.
“What does it say?”
“You don’t need to know that.” She says primly. Something is wrong; fear comes, and Roger with it. She is here and aware and in charge instantly. Before I can react, Roger has gripped the nurse’s wrist as tightly as a clamp, tapping into our abilities and overdriving the muscles so that the nurse’s wrist bones quickly grind together, I take control of our left hand and remove the device gently, but Roger is driven by fear and the nurse tries to break the grip. Experienced as she is, she cannot. I can still speak for us.
“You must show us that it is normal or tell us what is wrong.” I say calmly.
“It’s fine, it’s what you said, normal, normal!” She says desperately. Roger lets go.
“You panicked me.” Says Roger. “I’m sorry.”
“I should think so!” She shows Roger the imprint of our hand. It is deep. “Look at this! When did you become so strong?”
“Don’t lie to me.” She stalks off rubbing her wrist. Words come from out of earshot. Roger is reading a magazine when the doctor comes.
He looks stern.
“If you do that again young man, you’ll be over my knee.” Fight or Flight mode engages instantly, but Roger slowly lowers the magazine and glares at the doctor. It is a fixed stare at one eyeball, never wavering, never blinking. “Well,” he continues, “what have you got to say for yourself.” I slip in to ameliorate some of what is about to be said, but Roger and I are struggling for control, her expression of rage bounded by the possibility that we might end up somewhere very unsavoury indeed, somewhere we cannot smash our way out of; it is my fear too.
“I’m sure I’m very sorry for your nurse, and I overreacted because she caused concern within me which I am sure you understand and I will apologise in person if you wish, most contritely, but if you raise your hand to me doctor I will kill you and it will hurt, which is, I understand a source of great fear for most people if they are about to die.” She put the magazine up again, dismissing him.
There was a moment’s silence and then a cough. Roger put the magazine down again.
“Look,” said the doctor, trying to crease his face into a kindly smile. “I’m sure an intelligent young man such as yourself didn’t mean that just now, and you really should apologise to the nurse because you did hurt her quite a bit you know.” He sat on the bed. I thought this was a bit of a liberty, but I urged Roger to let it pass, and for once, he acquiesced.
“I understand. I’m afraid I often don’t know my own strength. [Bull, I thought, you knew, you just stopped short of breaking her wrist]. Perhaps it would be better if I were discharged sooner rather than later.”
“Well,” said the doctor, we have your parents on the phone and we’re arranging to get you taken home. Roget shot out of the bed. Mentally I was not far behind.
“I really must speak to my parents quite urgently.”
“Well now there’s no need…”
“Right now.” We said in as flat a voice as we could possibly manage, and stared again, commanding attention.
“Well perhaps it would be a good idea…” We marched over and took the phone.
“…so we’ll come and…”
“Mother, it’s me, Roger.”
“How are you doing? They said you had a bad fall.” I could hear my father in the background, swearing and cursing.
“No, mother it was very short. I just fell over really.”
“They said you fell down a cliff.” I heard the words ‘clumsy bastard’ in the background, I know Roger did too. I could feel a tear trickle down our face. I took over the talking.
“It’s quite alright Mother, we, I have a concussion but nothing that won’t go away after a night’s rest.”
“They said you might be hurt badly.”
“An exaggeration Mother, you know how humans like to exaggerate.” That should convince her we were alright, she didn’t like that sort of talk, but she’d assume I was ok.
“Are you sure?” I took a deep breath.
“Quite sure, Mother, I’ve had an x-ray and everything.” We had not. The doctor shook his head, I covered the mouthpiece, “You’re going to give me one, aren’t you? You don’t want my father here anymore than I do. I’m nothing compared to him, nothing.” I whispered fiercely. Mother was still talking in reply, I replayed the last few seconds of her audio.
“Yes, Mother I can hear Father is concerned in the background.” She told him to bugger off. He said, we think, that if the little twat got himself in anymore trouble there would be a bloody good hiding waiting. “Yes, well anyhow, talk to the doctor who will assure you that I can be discharged and come home on the train as arranged.”
“Alright.” She sounded resigned. “Give the phone to the doctor.”
“As you wish, goodbye, Mother.” And I handed the phone over and hovered while he spoke, analysing every breath and nuanced gesture. The phone was replaced in the cradle. He gave me a look, like a broken man, a look I had seen many times before. It was a look from those who had a glimpse of our intellect, our ruthlessness and our determination, and then a glimpse of what we lived with.
“I’m going to bed now and I would like a flask of coffee please.”
“You should really drink water, or tea…” he began, but I fixed him with the glare.
“I do not drink water or tea. I drink coffee. Please see to it. I’m tired now, and I need to rest.”
And, returning to bed, we sobbed into the thick pillow until we were asleep.