It started out innocently enough. The trainees were to participate in a war-games exercise in the woods. Using what they'd learned. I helped them gather their stuff-- taught them a few of the survival medic tricks I knew– and they were gone.
It was my first night alone since I'd left Seattle. Sure I was alone on the train-- if you can call sitting in a sardine can with 20 perfect strangers being alone-- but... it was my first time without any people around me– where it was just me.
I have never been more acutely aware of my own heartbeat-- except when I was-- there.
I was so sure that even the slightest sound would betray me-- that my breath, my very pulse would be detected and put an end to my hiding. Looking back I think Deus knew-- at least on some level. If it had really wanted me-- it wouldn't have waited until I came out.
It was all part of the game. I closed my eyes as the realization hit me. It was a game. A cruel, sadistic game, but a game none the less. There wasn't anything personal in it. I was if anything-- a lab rat, something to be studied. One more truth, enough that I could sleep-- or so I thought.
At about 0300 my bunk mates returned from their exercises. A real crisis had come up and all training had been suspended. Poor kids-- they came back expecting to get some shut eye-- maybe fill me in on what they'd been up to all day...
I was-- surprised.
They'd slipped into the room as the specters they're named after-- I didn't see them so much as feel their presence and-- that was enough to set me off. I held off two of them with a broom stick. Fortunately for me and them, I was outnumbered.
I think they believe me now when I say there are far worse things out there than hard work and tasteless rations.
Today's Truth - Laying blame may make you feel better-- but it does nothing about the problem..
Today I paid my debt to the Tir.
I didn't feel used, and it wasn't like that. In exchange for the space I'd been given-- I gave them what information I could about the shutdown and about Deus.
I'd already told our military, the sec people... At least now I had a better understanding, of it, of what they needed, of exactly what had happened.
By the time I was finished, I was beyond numb, beyond fear, beyond pain. There was more and we all knew it-- but it was personal. It wasn't about what was happening, but more about what happened to me.
I've walked up to the door, I've accepted what is on the other side. But in order for me to be whole, in order for that part of me that is still lost in that labyrinth, I have to open the door and face what happened there.
I'm not sure I can. I know I must.
Today's Truth: The past can not be undone, only accepted for what it is – Past.
Once I decided to open the door-- it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
It also wasn't the end of the journey.
I couldn't keep the door open. I couldn't walk through all the memories. So I started slowly-- one piece at a time. It was like-- surveying an accident scene. Trying to figure out who would need help first, establishing a chain of command and a plan of attack.
It was the world I knew. Applying the structure and the detachment I needed. The only difference is-- I'm the accident scene, I'm the people in need of care. I am directly effected by everything that is there.
With that established-- I closed the door.
It was the first step.
When I came out of it, the instructor was there with a bottle of whiskey. Good therapy I think.
Today's Truth: Life is a journey we take one step at a time-- the paths we follow and where we take it are up to us.
Today was another step in the journey. I opened the door again, and found things I'd missed. Things that weren't there before-- things that other problems obscured.
Today I faced the first of my demons...
On the surface it seems so inconsequential. But its effect is so far reaching...
After I was captured-- they made sure that Ange and I were separated. I was thrust into a group that I had no way of knowing-- told to keep my mouth shut and to do as I was told. The first person who stepped out of line was murdered.
They showed us how worthless we were in their world order. We were cattle, we were less than cattle-- we were fodder.
Survival instinct warred with outrage-- and survival won.
A human being reduced from something to a mess to be cleaned up. Clinical, inhumane, inhuman, detached.
It was all part of the plan-- perfectly executed. The first step in controlling us-- the first test of who and what we were.
It wasn't a pass/fail test. I know that now. Just something designed to show us what they were capable of-- and what we were capable of.
The first step in dehumanizing us-- desensitizing us... getting us to accept that which is unacceptable.
I closed the door and wept.
Today's Truth - Justice, honor, what is acceptable and unacceptable do not change: wrong is not situational.
I am realizing that I am losing my sense of guilt...
I did not do these things. I witnessed them, I lived through them-- I survived.
Everything I endured was part of a plan, a ritual of dehumanization and demoralization, an attempt to make the unacceptable at least-- tolerable.
I think I finally understood what Ayana went through. Before I could sympathize-- now I could empathize.
I was shown what awaited me-- at least that's what I thought. Now I realize that it was one more hook. One more thing to shake my foundation, to make the unacceptable acceptable.
I watched as one of the chosen, one of the banded, took his place in Deus' world. One more good little worker bee with no more mind than a remote programmed to deliver the mail. That was what awaited me.
That was what terrified me-- becoming one of them. I could smell the chemicals on his skin then, chemicals which those tending him carefully avoided. I have a feeling that that stuff would have made a chip head take notice.
Then I was taken into a room, and that.. That is where the real nightmare began.
Reality blended with images I knew weren't real. With the images came physical input that only added to the non-reality of it. I saw images of me, of Case, of Bri... they had to have been taken from surveillance. Me working on the system, Case and me at the Gala, us shopping with Bri...
It recognized me and it prepared a special nightmare just for me. I could deal with carnage, I could deal with pain... I couldn't deal with the images-- Case and worse, Bri getting hurt... I couldn't take it and that is what it made me watch-- it felt like an eternity... it couldn't have been more than a minute.
It was a lifetime.
I would have done anything then-- anything to have those images and sensations taken from me. I had made my decision-- the only one I could– surrender.
I'd given up-- stopped fighting. They had shown me how fragile my backbone really is-- and I hated it.
I started to close the door, and then shook my head. I walked through the door and joined myself on the other side.
I had been spared. The reason, the purpose... they were mine to decide.
The lives we touch are as fragile as the ones we hold. And anybody can become anything-- under the right, or wrong circumstances.
They showed me my humanity, my frailty... my strength and I cursed it.
Truth hurts. Truth lives. Truth is.
I'm heading back.
I have a much better idea of what I need now, even if I have no idea where my journey will lead, I do know that its time to go home.
The journey never ends.
I think that is a truth I can live with... and accept.
Its an odd feeling. I'm excited about heading home, and sad to leave my new friends here in the Tir. I got quite a send off all things considered. It wasn't anything big-- but I know how-- privileged I am.
The trainees saluted me when the Ghosts came to take me to meet with the council before leaving. As I was escorted from the training area, the Drill Sergeant told me to keep up my studies and that he expected to see me again. I couldn't help but salute, to which he grumbled about teaching me a 'proper' salute some day.
Then I was taken to see the council of elders. I was escorted by two Ghosts, it was hard to tell if they were an honor guard or if I was there prisoner. There wasn't that feel to it– but it sure looked that way from the outside.
I think that was the idea– keeping up appearances. As I was being led in, two men were being led out of the audience chamber– in chains. Not exactly auspicious, but– it didn't have anything to do with me.
I kept telling myself that, but after what I've been through, seeing anyone in chains is a little– trying. One of the guards placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
I was not alone, I was not in danger, and the gesture was meant to remind me of that.
It pretty much did the trick, but recent events were still– a bit too recent. The elders gave me time to gather my thoughts before addressing me. They let me know that I had paid my debt to them for their hospitality, but that my discretion on the matter was... encouraged.
Once that was established, the elders left– all but one, the woman I'd met back... over two years ago– Ayana's grandmother... my grandmother.
She greeted me like a long lost child, shooing the Ghosts away to let her visit with me in peace. She asked me about my brothers, my family. She was delighted to hear about Bri, sorry that things with my brothers didn't work out like I'd hoped.
"I will not keep you much longer," she promised. "But we do not get to see you that often."
I smiled– basking in her attention, and then we were not alone. It was as if she'd given some subtle cue. The door behind us opened and Ayana was there.
I barely recognized her. She's a young lady now, and its almost as if everything she'd endured before we met had happened to someone else. I could see the wisdom and sadness in her eyes, but there was a strength that came with that sadness. She had seen the darkness, the cruelty that people are capable of. She had lived through it and found her peace.
Funny that. The human spirit can be broken, can be shattered and given time and care– it can heal, and become something stronger.
We couldn't visit long– but we made the most of it. Then– I was on my way home.
I can't wait to get there... When I headed here, I couldn't sleep because of what happened– now I'm having trouble sleeping– knowing what is waiting for me.
My loves, my life...
Home is indeed, where the heart is.