NOTE: CHAPTERS 1 - 6 HAVE BEEN REMOVED. IF YOU'D LIKE TO READ THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS, FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME YOUR REQUEST AT KD@KDWEBSTER.COM!
CHAPTER 7 – MURYA
Breast cancer. Two words no person ever wants to hear from a doctor. Each syllable hit like a rubber mallet against my brain. When the oncologist first told I had to have him repeat it to make sure I heard him right. I did. Breast cancer. I’m sure you know that men get breast cancer as well. Mind you, not on as populated as scale as women, but we get it all the same. Once again, this was before I met our mother. She never knew, and I’m sorry son, but you can never tell her. In this, your voice must remain silent. I know, I know, this is a burden I should not put on you. But hopefully, towards the end of the story, you will understand why. And I promise, at the end, I will answer any question you may have left.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. It had not yet metastasized, so my doctor was at first hopeful for treatment. I went into a cycle for chemotherapy injections. Despite the side effects, the scans showed promise. I was middle-aged but I didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs, I ate healthily. So my body had an above-average response to the treatment. But the side effects, Alexander, the side effects. The hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, the intense body pain and fatigue. Most days it felt like my strength of will was the only form of power I had left.
Due to the nature of my job I had few interactions with people on an occupational level, so I took small solace in that. I didn’t want others to see me in my condition. I decided to go completely bald, to cover the hair loss. I wore workout gear to cover the weight loss. The morphine helped with the pain, but even it had side effects. So for a while, I felt hopeful. That all the treatments and pain would be worth it. That I’d finally turned a corner. But so did the cancer. It was no longer responding to the chemo treatment. Not in the way the oncologist had hoped. There was only one option left. I hated the thought of a double mastectomy. That a part of me tied to what I view as a symbol of manhood would be taken from me forever. The thought sickened me every bit as much as the cancer itself. I felt like whatever voice I had left, whatever choice I had left, whatever option, all silenced.
But I would live. Cosmetic surgery could reshape my chest. Then a few more chemos and my life could go back to normal. I would live. With a missing chest. The doctor wanted another round of chemo. I told myself I would tell him I opted for the surgery. I would tell him the day of. That day all over the news there had been reports of a freak storm that quickly developed from a tropical depression to a Category 2 hurricane in a matter of hours, then dissipated just as quickly, without making landfall. It came out of nowhere and happened so fast that it wasn’t given an official name by neither the National Hurricane Center nor the World Meteorological Organization. Some reporters were calling it the “1-day Hurricane”. Other the “Afternoon Hurricane”. There were capsized boats. The shores of Cuba and the Bahamas were a huge mess, but there were no fatalities.
For some reason, my mind unfairly combined this freak of a storm with my own condition. I went from stage 0 to stage 3. This storm went from a depression to a hurricane just as aggressively. My cancer disrupting the natural cause of function. This storm disrupting the natural activity of the Atlantic. My surgery would make my own personal hurricane go away. Leaving me with only a depression.
After my treatment, I felt…I don’t know…restless. The morphine coursing through my system helped with the pain, but did nothing for the vomiting. The latest wave of nausea sent me stumbling to the restroom. It was not a pretty sight. Thoroughly emptied, I made it back to my feet from my knees. I looked at my hospital bed to the right, the door to the hallway to the left.
“Exit, stage left.”
I walked out into the hallway. It was a quiet night, activity-wise. Two nurses at station. One making rounds. She smiled at me as she passed by. I’d seen this nurse before. Red hair, fair skin, green eyes. Beautiful without standing out. She was a usual fixture on the night shift. So why did something seem different about her this time? Like the back of her seemed…distorted. No, not the back of her. Behind her. Something behind her. What was that? It was like it was invisible, but warping or bending light around it. It had a shape too. Like the nurse, but not like the nurse. When she stopped, it did too. Was she doing this? Maybe it was the drugs in my system. Could be I was hallucinating.
“This morphine is some pretty good stuff,” I said under my breath.
I decided to follow the nurse at a distance. What else was I going to do, go back to my room? No, I wanted to see where this mystery would take me. The nurse emerged from one room and continued her steps. But halfway to the next room, she stopped. She patted her scrubs, as if she was missing something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t on her person. With a deep sigh of exasperation, she turned back towards the nurse’s station. This put her back on path to cross me again. I admit, right then and there a strange curiosity overcame me. As soon as she passed I stuck my arm out behind her. It felt like the tip of a feather barely touching the hair on my skin. The breath of an infant. Had I not been paying attention I wouldn’t have noticed it. But I did. And whatever it was did too. It stopped while the nurse kept going. It seemed to turn, I assumed to look at me. It stood still but made no sign. Being motionless, it was even harder to see. I had to keep training my eyes to maintain a visual.
“You can…see me?”
That voice. I felt it against my ears more than heard it. Like the vibration of sound waves.
I know you can appreciate the more technical aspects of explanations, given your analytical mind. You get that from me (don’t tell your mother I said that). But you’ll forgive me if I forgo getting lost in the science weeds while I try to explain. The voice of an Iska is hard to convey in words. More vibratory and pulsations than vocal. The voice of an Iska is felt, rather than heard by another Iska.
A whale can emit sounds reaching well over 1000 miles. Whales use a frequency range of 30 Hz to 8000 Hz. Humans can’t hear the lowest of whale frequencies, as our low-frequency sounds start at about 100 Hz. For the Iska, their vibratory emissions move through the air the way a whale’s song moves through water. And even though sound travels through water four times faster than in the atmosphere at sea level, the power of an Iska (most likely due to their size) can propel their waves much faster, and considerably longer. Since the sound doesn’t travel on air currents, it’s able to cut through it. The Iska combine this with a light spectrum that can’t be seen by humans. The combination of the two is how an Iska can tell which of his or her kind is speaking, much in the way we humans can recognize a particular person speaking. Such as when your mother yells at me for leaving a cheese wrapper on the counter (don’t tell your mother I said that).
“And hear you, too,” I said, rubbing the sides of my head. “Unless it’s the morphine talking.”
“My apologies,” it says. This time the sound doesn’t hit me as hard. “This is…a bit of…an adjustment.”
“No worries,” I replied. “I figure it’s the morphine making me hallucinate anyway and I’m just playing along with it. Going along for the ride.”
The quasi-invisible drug-induced apparition was quiet for a moment. The continuous training and retraining of my vision was causing my eyes to ache. The voice, as strong as it hit me, was soft, but broken. As if the words were coming in short pulsating waves.
“Morphine…opioid drug…use for pain…can cause hallucinations…side effect.”
“You say that as if you just now read up on it.”
“I did…in a way,” it said. “I do not know…I am not sure…what a hallucination is.”
“Well, I think you’re all in my head. But assuming you’re not, who are you? What are you? Why are you here?”
“Yeah, okay, I’m going back to bed to sleep the morphine off.”
CHAPTER 8 – YANKE SHAWARA
Morning brought a new day and a clear head. It also brought back the pain. I did my morning yawn and stretch and rubbed my pectorals immediately. By this time next month, my chest wouldn’t be the same. Reconstructive, cosmetic surgery. I tried to push it out of my head. I would be released today. Get my ducks in a row. My affairs in line. My house in order. I pulled back the heavy brown drapes of my hospital room window. A clear observation of the mountains to the west. Say what you will about the state, Colorado offers the best nature views I’ve ever seen.
My doctor comes in. A tall well-built transplant from Texas. He has features that make him look like he stepped out a medical television show, or a soap opera. Dr. Ryan Chance. I’d put him at 2% body fat. Probably plays community league baseball, or skis in Aspen, or models. But he’s also one of the best oncology surgeons in Denver. So, there is that.
In all honesty, I’m only half-listening to him. He talks fast. Like a used car salesman. As if he’s trying to get through all his talking points. Everything he’s going over are items we’ve covered before. What to expect pre-op. The length of the surgery. Post-op. And follow up. And yes, I know I should be fully following and not just nodding every other sentence. Instead, my mind was on work. Though I don’t know if I ever actually called it work. More like, a passion I undertake for which I receive generous compensation.
I know I don’t talk about it much since I’m well, more than financially secure. If anyone knows that Alexander, it’s you. I was a writer of speculative fiction back then. Both of my series would later go on to the screen. One as a trilogy of movies. The other a television series. But all that happened later. After the events of what I’m sharing with you now. After my diagnosis, I had started writing a story as an outlet for the outrage I was feeling. An expression of release. I was mentally perusing the chapters I had thus far. Seems the muse had never ending sweet nothings to whisper in my ear.
“Any questions you may have for me?” Even his question sounded hurried, as if it was rhetorical.
I nod and say no with a smile, which the doctor found humorous.
“I will be in the building for one more hour if you need anything. Otherwise, I will see you the day of.”
“Thank you, doctor,” I said, standing up with him.
As he headed for the door I walked back to my mountain view. As long as I’ve been in the Denver area, I’d yet to hike any of the mountains. Locals call it a 14er, so named because the average hike is 14000 feet to the top. I decided that would be my cancer-free victory lap.
“It can…come back.”
I turn around to see the doctor yet knowing that wasn’t the doctor that just spoke.
“So, I didn’t hallucinate last night, huh? You’re real? Or am I hallucinating now?”
“The morphine left in your system…should not alter perception…unless…I am wrong.”
I simply stood there. Just looking at the man who’ll be cutting me open. A man who just minutes ago had the tone of a used care salesman now sounded like someone using English for the first time.
“He is here…he is unharmed…no knowledge I am inside.”
You’d think I’d be freaking out, but a lifetime of watching sci-fi shows and movies, of writing speculative fiction and fantasy. Plus, my surreal experience last night. Still, my mind was reeling. Trying to decide what to say or do next. As for the…entity? Creature? Being? I stuck with entity. It said nothing further. It was gauging me, as I was it.
“Who and what are you?”
“Wait, isn’t that what you said last night?”
“Why are you here?”
It then hit me that I asked it that question the night before also.
“What or who is this ‘tausaywa’?” Wait, better yet, what do you want with me? What made you say my cancer will return?”
It said nothing at first. Only looked at me through Dr. Ryan Chance’s eyes, yet with a blank, vacant gaze.
“I do not know…which question…to answer first.”
I guess it did come all at once.
“My cancer. How do you know it will return?”
“This mutane…a cancer specialist…he knows.”
“What do you mean? He told me surgery would do it. Yeah, I think he may have said there was a very small chance of returning, but the chemo would do the job.”
“He is hopeful…Wanted to give you hope…but he knows…your cancer is close to…” He pauses, as if making sure he chose the right words. “Metastasizing…chemo will not kill all.”
I plopped in the chair by the window. If this, whatever it is, is right, then I’m just, what? Staving off the inevitable?
“Wait. Mutane? What’s a mutane?”
He looks at me again with that blank stare for a moment.
“My apologies…human…mutane is human.”
“Okay, and you call yourself, what? An Iska?”
“Ma’auna…I am called Ma’auna.”
“Okay, Ma’auna is your name?”
“Okay, Ma’auna. You’re in my doctor’s body. You’re not a hallucination. What do you want with me?”
“Yeah, you said that, but I don’t know what that means.”
Once again, the blank stare. I figure, like the mutane to human thing, he’s trying to access Dr. Chance’s memories for a translation of some sort.
“Emotions…I need to learn…to glean…to understand...emotions.
“These Iska, you all don’t have emotions? Tausaywa?”
“We all do…but I do not have enough…my mother thought…tausaywa would grow…it did not…mutanes are creatures…abundant in tausaywa.”
“Can’t argue with you there.” Right then and there I was brimming with it. “So I’m assuming you want me to help you with this?”
I know I’m not seeing and hearing things. I know my head is clear. But still. What the heck is happening here?
“You saw me…yet you did not…” He pauses again. Must be looking for the right words. “Freak out…I came back…to see if you would not…freak out again.”
“And why did you tell me about my cancer?”
“Your cancer…I can heal you.”
My eyes bucked wide. I did a double-take.
“I can heal you…all of you.”
“You have the ability to cure cancer?”
I pick up a copy of the newspaper on my nightstand. They say when you’re in a dream you can’t read words. But I could see and read The Denver Post header very clear.
“Wait, how do I know this is on the up and up? How do I know this isn’t a scam? How do I know you’re really not the Dr. Chance trying to play me somehow?”
The doctor looks around the room, as if being in here for the first time. He moves away from the door and towards the bedside table. He picks up my water glass. Standard, mid-size, maybe for a good cupful. He pours what little water is left in the waste basket. Then with his hand still over the trash, he squeezed with a strength I never would have thought the doctor possessed. The glass shattered in his hand with a force that startled me to a jump. Bits of blood-stained shards rained down into the basket. Dr. Chance’s hand was soaked in red. He opened his palm facing me. I could clearly see the exposed gashes. In all of this, the doctor exhibited no sign of pain. No whatsoever. Looking at his hand, I was almost hurting for him.
“My word! Does it hurt?”
“The mutane…forgive me…human…the human…he feels no pain.”
The entity starts picking pieces of glass out the pockets of skin and dropped them one by one into the basket. Each bit taken out exposed the cuts to more bleeding.
“Come with me,” it said, motioning me to the restroom.
He turned on the water in the sink. He showed me his hand again. It was still covered in blood, but it was no longer gushing and pumping with it. He placed the hand under the running water. The blood washed away like food coloring from a porcelain dish. I stared in disbelief at a sink full of dr. Chance’s blood, yet not a single cut, scratch, or cut on his hand. The only evidence was in the trash and in the sink being washed away.
“And you can do this with my cancer?”
“I don’t know what to say? I know I should say something. But I don’t know what to say that won’t sound like ramblings.”
“You need…time…I understand…I must leave this…human…or I will damage his mind…I will return…give you time…to decide.”
The entity then walked the doctor towards the door and stepped out into the hallway. Leaving me to watch it all wash away, with a huge decision to make.