[begin blog post #19]
The doctor is not seeing me anymore and when I receive a particularly large wound, she pinches it closed with her long skinny fingers or her mouth in turn, doing so for hours at a time, refusing to let me stir. I’m sure she saves my life on a couple of occasions by stemming flowing blood from cut arteries. She always has her braided straw ropes which she makes during the night and hides in the straw bedding, ready to use as tourniquets.
She is a totally amazing creature, yet seemingly unaware of her special skills, talents and gifts. She is human, I know, yet she is more, something intangible that motivates her, pushing her to be what she is.
It is during those long, quiet times when I’m recovering and she sits by me that I tell her stories and build alternate and future lives in her mind. I speak to her of other worlds where people are not like they are on T’Sing Tarleyn. I try to explain space travel that allows one to jump instantly between worlds so far apart that it would take several lifetimes of one person to reach, even if he were travelling as fast as a beam of light. I relate some aspects of my remembered past lives in order to broaden the field of her understanding for I have learned by attempts to interact with most of the people here that beyond their immediate concern for this life, awareness drops into a void. For them there is nothing beyond death.
She puzzles deeply over the confusing quality of the lives of the people of Túat Har, of the simplicity of life in the silence of Parnako where the people there communicate exclusively by telepathy; and the fullness of the joy experienced by those who spend time on my “home world” of Altaria. She asks many questions for which there are no answers, simply because in the living of the questions, she, and only she, can find the answers. Just as I have to find mine. I also attempt to explain that aspect of life to her.
How incredibly receptive – and consequently dangerous to herself – she is! She wants to believe everything I tell her and this frightens me so for I am helpless to protect her from the unknowns her new-found knowledge may bring upon her. Yet there is no fear at all in her, although she has exposed so much of it in me!
I fear her utter, totally unconditional love for me, following the dreadful emptiness of her previous life may have made her a bit mad. And again, I’m probably as wrong as can be in that respect. The quality of her is such that whenever I think I’ve got her pegged to a certain understanding, or pattern of thought, she moves beyond it, out of my mind’s grasp.
For a while as I got to know her I thought it was simple innocence that made her at the same time utterly one with me and inscrutably fluid to escape any template I made of her mind. But there are no innocents on Malefactus. These children raised in crèches know all that is to befall them when they are taken from their questionable childhood safety and sold “into the trade” as slaves. They are told everything, often even elaborated upon deliberately to frighten them.
Sometimes in the telling, their bleak future is made even worse than what I’ve described so far. The viciousness and malice of this society possesses few bounds. The weak, in whatever form found, have but one purpose: to be exploited and oppressed to the utmost; the very marrow of their lives sucked from them. So far I have found no redeemable moral values here. Everything is set up to be cut and dry. Those who have power will do whatever it takes to keep it, or augment it. Those who have none, even the little they may think they have will be ripped from their minds, their hearts, their bodies by the most shameless, heartless and cruel ways that can be devised by minds sold into the concept of evil. Along with her strange nature my young friend shows many signs of having been thus mentally and physically abused. There is a dark, despairing side to her I can feel in her unguarded moments.
So I love her all the more. Weeks somehow stretch into months, months become the dreadful year taking her closer to the arena.
Basically there seem to be little discernable change of seasons in this part of T’Sing Tarleyn. Yearly temperatures vary little, except by changes in the weather. Because it is a dry and sandy world it loses much of its heat during the night and the mornings are always cold. The days are hot and dry, evenings cool, if the sky is cloudless.
If it is the rainy season, the mornings are not as cold – but the wet and humidity on our bare skins makes it more miserable to bear while we eat (always in the open, regardless of the weather), train or repair our weapons and armour. The only times we are permitted indoors apart from our sleeping and holding cages is when we are being used for sex and occasionally when we are being treated for serious but not life-threatening injuries from the fights. If the injury is life-threatening is it cheaper for our owners to buy a replacement fighter and let us die than attempt “repairs.” More often than not a badly injured fighter, even if she has killed her opponent, is killed by her handlers in the arena, thus giving the crowd a moment of temporary satisfaction.
During this strange and very emotional time I watch her grow. She has a full growth of pubic hair now and her breasts are filling out. I notice the men looking her over more and more. I try to warn her about what they are about to do to her. She smiles at me as if I’d lost my mind. “I know that!” she whispers. “Are you jealous?”
“No sweet one, I’m not jealous – yes, I am jealous, damn you!” She smiles mischievously, “Mostly I’m scared for you that you may do something unacceptable and be punished. I want you to be everything they want you to be, to fit in, no matter what they say or do. Whatever you and I are together, we are not when separated. Keep those lives separate and never forget you are a fighter slave and not my child-lover.”
“Am I really your child-lover?” Her tone is reproachful and I’m stung to the quick by it. “You’ve never made love to me. I watch the others and I’ve been waiting. Is there something wrong with me? Don’t you love me?”
Oh the pain those words carry! Oh please, I don’t want to hear that! Again I realize I’ve thoroughly messed up with another when I was so convinced I was being kind and understanding. Is there no way to “do the right thing” on this stupid world? Or am I such a fool?
“Sweet, I love you more than I can tell or show. I just thought you should be the one to, you know, make the first move. You give me so much all the time, I was afraid to take something from you, you may not have been ready or willing to share with me.”
She leans over to me, puts her head on my shoulder and whispers, “You crazy old woman! If you love me and you’re the oldest, you take me. That’s how it’s done. I cannot do it first – that would be wrong and punishable. When I was put in your cage, I became your bond slave for as long as either one of us lives or you reject me for another. But you would have known that, wouldn’t you?”
Old woman she calls me. Old? I’m maybe seven years older than when I arrived here! Thirty two classic (Old Earth) years? Or is this world so twisted that even time moves in some terribly debilitating way, aging some and not others? No, it’s not time, it’s the way we are treated. We are all old women the moment we enter the arena. When youth is forced to kill to defend or avenge; when it is forced to die, it is no longer youth. It becomes a ghost that wears an aging death mask.
Professional gladiators are at the prime of their lives on their first fight, usually at around sixteen years of age. From then on, they age quickly, if they live to age at all. I’m well past my prime now… Even the trainers are no longer that interested in taking me for sex in their barracks. Younger ones have taken my place.
“Make love to me!” she says, “before the men take me. I want you first. Here.” She digs into the straw and pulls up an implement that could pass, in shape and size, for an erect penis. “Break my skin, please. I don’t want them to have it. It’s what we do where I come from but they took me before it was done. So I have been waiting for my lover; for you to do it.”
What can I say? I’m beyond amazed at her candour and offer of herself to me. then I have an idea. “Sweet, if I be the one to break your skin, I want to take your blood, mix it with mine – I’ll open that fresh wound on my left arm here,” (she knows exactly which one it is and winces) “and I will mix our blood in my hands and baptize you as I promised I would.”
Her large eyes light up with a glow. “Yes, do it!”
And so we mix our blood together and with the few drops that I can keep in my hand, I sprinkle her forehead as she holds her head reverently backward as I had instructed her to do – a ritual so she could have something to remember later. I smear the rest of the blood in her hair and hold on to her tightly. We both cry.
[end blog post #19]