Journeys of the Mind
‘I’m On My Way Back Home’
The dance ended and they
sat down, still hand in hand. Twiki
had set fresh drinks in front of them.
They sat together, just listening to the music that was more
familiar to her than to him right now.
Sensing his change in
mood, Wilma said, “It will come back.
I know it will.”
“I was told to be
patient,” he said. “But
it’s so damned hard.” He
sighed and leaned back, stretching his leg out in front of him to ease
the soreness that his impulsiveness had created.
Wilma stroked his hand. He
took her smaller hand in his and brought it close, feeling some comfort
in her warmth and proximity. “I
know you’re right, Wilma.” He
continued to listen to the music and, then getting restless, finally got
up to prowl the cabin again, his crutches clumping mournfully on the
floor. As he had the first
day of his return, he picked up various objects, a glowing crystal, a
picture, the wooden tube. Strangely,
this time it felt warm to the touch, almost like it was alive and Buck
examined it more closely. “You
said a friend gave it to me?” Buck asked Theo.
“Yes, an indigenous
terran named Njobo,” Theo explained.
“It is a musical instrument called a molimo.
You sing into it.” Theo
recalled from his memory banks, the last time he had seen Njobo in the
quickly healing spot in the rainforest where Buck’s ship had
self-destructed. The BaMbuti had given the molimo to Buck and then had
sung a song into it, insisting that Buck learn the song. ‘I feel you might have need of this song someday,’ Njobo
had said. And then Buck had
sung the song, adding things of his own, making it, as Njobo had said,
Buck’s own song.
“Buck,” Theo began, as
Buck was about to put the bamboo instrument away, “why don’t you try
Wilma looked puzzled, but
said nothing, only wondering what Dr. Theopolis was up to.
Buck was about to shake his head and put the instrument back on the shelf, but he hesitated, intrigued with this simple tube that apparently held great meaning. “What do I play into it?” he asked.
“I can reproduce the vocalizations,” Theo offered. “You follow along.”
Buck also wondered what
the quad had in mind, but he put the tube up to his lips.
The melody that Theo recreated was lilting and soft and close to
his range, although a bit higher and probably, Buck figured, closely
matching this Njobo, who had given him the instrument.
Buck began, following the notes, singing the unknown words. As Theo continued, Buck found the song easier to sing, the
words coming from someplace hidden and, until now, forgotten.
And in a deep and mysterious realm of his mind, it almost seemed
as though a third voice joined in, one that spoke of deep, dark forests,
birds, animals and dappled sunlight.
His own words seemed to
evoke the stars and the velvet blackness of space.
Buck, even as he continued to sing, found himself outside of the
confines of his cabin, flying through a vortex of sights and sounds.
He envisioned a place filled with rugged mountains, then a beach
where a rocket blasted the early morning calm into a conflagration of
man-made grandeur. He saw a
bustling city where children played baseball in a vacant lot, even as
they dreamed of playing in a nearby stadium—Wrigley Field?
An older woman handed him chocolate chip cookies on a little
plate, a glass of creamy white milk in a frosty glass—his mother.
He saw himself in a dark
blue uniform, then a bright white one.
He felt the embrace of family and friends, then of Wilma.
He saw a spacecraft standing tall, stately and deadly, then he
saw a star fortress so huge it made him mentally gasp.
A city without an atmosphere dome and then one with.
A green and living landscape and then one barren and dead.
Nebulae and novas, black holes and Stargates.
The song continued and so did the visual and aural spectacular.
It was his past, distant and more recent. He saw Hawk and Koori, Wilma and Huer, Twiki and Crichton and his parents, siblings. There was Asimov, Ardala, Kane and Jennifer. Still Buck sang, witnessed, felt. His chest hurt, his mind felt on fire, he laughed and he cried. He dropped the crutches and fell to his knees in exhaustion and gratitude and still, in his mind at least—he didn’t really know if he was physically singing or not-- he continued to sing the song Njobo had taught him; no, the one Njobo had introduced to him. The song was his. It brought him to the point when he took the drug Sky Mother had given him. Buck felt some of the pain he had felt before and he cried out, the molimo dropping from nerveless fingers. Remotely, he heard Wilma call out to him somewhere in the distance. Finally the pain left, replaced with blessed unconsciousness. The dreams continued, though, but now they were gentle, flowing and separate.
In a jungle, several Stargates and many light years distant, a BaMbuti sat on a limb overhanging a clearing, singing softly into his molimo, one he had picked up in a distant and forbidding, yet friendly city. He sang songs of the forest, the sky and the stars. He sang of warm breezes, warm sunlight and cool shadows. Then he stopped singing and gazed at the profusely growing vegetation in the place that only months ago had been burned and scarred. His eyes ventured upward toward the sky. “Dream your dreams, Buck Sky Sled Rider,” Njobo murmured. He slid down the trunk and trotted along a narrow forest path to his village, content that the forest and all its denizens were happy.
Dr. Goodfellow looked at the sleeping man in the bed with great concern. Everything was normal; pulse, respirations, temperature, everything, but Buck remained unconscious as he had for the entire night and most of the day. The only thing not normal was the inordinate amount of talking in his sleep that the captain had been doing almost from the moment he was brought into the medical bay. Most of the time the words were unintelligible, but sometimes a word or two was spoken that Goodfellow could understand. All in all, though, nothing was said that made any sense to him whatsoever. He could only wonder at the intensity of the dreams that Buck was experiencing.
Hawk walked in, quickly
gazing at Buck and then looking expectantly at Dr. Goodfellow.
It appeared as though nothing new had happened since the last
time he had visited Buck. He
looked worriedly at his friend, wishing, as he had before, that there
was something he could do for him.
“Now tell me again, what happened last night,” Dr. Goodfellow said to Wilma, Theo and Twiki. Wilma repeated what she had told him hours earlier.
Goodfellow listened, but
he also continued to ponder Captain Rogers’ medical condition.
Buck said something that was almost a complete sentence,
something about rocky road ice cream, whatever that was, and the doctor
shook his head. Then a
thought came to him, one that was at once electrifying and exhilarating.
Ice cream was a confection most common in the twentieth century.
Buck, the amnesiac, was subconsciously pulling memories from his
mind. Could it be? he
wondered. All of his
research into aleshizaren, plus Buck’s own condition had made him feel
that the amnesia was most likely permanent.
He had not yet had the heart to tell anyone other than the doctor
from the Titan. Doctor
Golden had concurred with his findings.
Now Goodfellow wondered. Could
Buck really be remembering, could his amnesia have been broken?
And could that song have been a catalyst?
“But what about the song? Why that song?” Goodfellow asked his next questions out loud.
This time Dr. Theopolis, who was sitting on a table near Buck’s bed, spoke up. “According to Buck, it was a very powerful song, although I do not know what he meant by that. I was there when Njobo taught it to Buck and when Buck added his own words. I remember that Njobo told him never to forget it, that the song would be important to him someday. I do not understand what has happened, but I knew Buck was depressed last night and that the song had made him happy before,” Theo explained. “I sang it and Buck sang along, then he sang it alone adding his own words.”
Wilma asked, seeing the old man’s startled look.
“What is it? What
are you thinking?”
She knew him well, he
thought. “Something that just occurred to me, my dear.
Something I have to check out.”
Now Hawk seemed to have thought of something. “Njobo . . . it makes sense. Aleshizaren is powerful enough to suppress memories for a very long time, but Njobo’s ‘dawa’ or magic is also powerful and if Buck sang the song Njobo gave him on their parting, it could have broken through the block in his mind, the block that the drug erected.”
“Yes, that is possible,
Hawk, but I don’t want to make any premature announcements, so I am
going to consult with Crichton before I say anything.
And of course, the key is what happens when Buck wakes up.”
Wilma looked hopeful.
“I hope that won’t be long.”
“Don’t you worry, my dear. If I am correct, then it will be good news,” Goodfellow said. “Twiki, go fetch Crichton for me, please. I want him to check out some of this data for me.” Despite the fact that his creation’s arrogant and abrasive manner grated on his human patients, the doctor felt that Crichton could offer another, unbiased, opinion.
“Sure thing, Doc.” Twiki trundled out of the room.
“Dr. Goodfellow,” Theo said, getting the doctor’s attention. “Isn’t ice cream something edible from the twentieth century? A confection of sorts?”
Ah, thought the old scientist/doctor. If Dr. Theopolis has come up with the same theory, there must be some validity. “Yes, indeed it is, Doctor.”
“Then Buck is
remembering his past,” Theopolis stated simply.
Now Wilma looked excited.
“But will he remember it when he wakes up?”
“Wilma, I don’t
know,” was all that Goodfellow would say.
Buck felt as though he was
floating from one dream/remembrance to another, none in any kind of
sequence or order. He was
paddling down a river with his friends at summer camp one moment and
rigorously training for his space launch on Ranger 3 the next.
It was disconcerting and yet, it was infinitely joyous seeing and
gone through the desert on a horse with no name; It felt good to be out….’
“My data is totally accurate, a song could not be a trigger,” a grating, arrogant voice impinged on his memories.
‘In the desert, you can remember your name….’
Now joy supplanted the irritation.
He could remember his name.
“Buck!” a voice called out.
It was his mother with a cup of fresh coffee and a bright smile.
“All of the data….”
“Says the gyro stabilizers will keep the Ranger in proper trajectory throughout….”
“…the aleshizaren effect is permanent.”
Damn that robot! Buck thought, feeling the remembrances, the pleasant dreams slip away.
“…and I see nothing that could serve as a catalyst powerful enough to bring back memory….”
‘You can remember your name….’
His consciousness wavered
and focused on the here and now, but Buck was most acutely aware of his
intense irritation at Crichton for interrupting the flow of his
memories; precious memory desperately sought for what had seemed
forever—and for jerking him away from the most pleasant sleep he had
ever experienced. “Shut
up, Crichton! Shut
up before I rip off one of your arms and shove it down your throat,”
Buck shouted out loud. It
suddenly became quiet in the room, and in that tranquility, Buck finally
came to full wakefulness. Rubbing
his eyes, he saw Dr. Goodfellow staring at him.
“Your memory is back,”
Goodfellow finally said in a half-statement/half question.
Wilma, Hawk and Twiki stood nearby, expectantly, nervously.
Buck pondered for a few
heartbeats and realized it was true, he really remembered.
He remembered everything, not just what he had seen in his fast
and furious, willow wisp dreams. He
gazed at Crichton standing in a huff, his metal hands perched on
Yes! I do
remember,” Buck said, breaking out into a great grin.
“But Crichton, don’t expect me to thank you.
I was having a phenomenal dream when you woke me up.”
“What?” the robot
sputtered. “Well, I never….”
Buck laughed as he sat up
and gazed around him. He
couldn’t even stay mad at Crichton.
“How did I get here?” Not
that the answer really mattered. He
felt a huge euphoria now that he had what he had most wanted for the
past two plus weeks. The bed seemed confining; movement seemed essential.
Buck slid out of bed, Wilma and Hawk close by in case he needed
support. He looked at the
chronometer on the wall and wondered if he had been out for six hours or
eighteen. But it didn’t
matter, not really. “I’m
hungry as a bear. How
‘bout I change and let’s go shake up the mess hall?”
Wilma laughed and threw
her arms around his neck, kissing him soundly.
“Welcome back,” she said when she finally pulled away.
There were tears in her eyes.
“I, too, am glad for
your recovery,” Hawk said softly.
“It’s good to be back,” Buck said, gazing at his friends in gratitude. “To be back home . . . where I belong.”