Planet of Tranquility

 

 

 

Chapter Four:

Solace from Below

 

 

 

“Professor Robinson.  Professor Robinson!” Max’s voice impinged upon John’s nightmare laden sleep.  Jerking up, the professor looked into two sets of golden eyes, a robot’s and a flutter-dragon’s.  He felt next to him and knew that Maureen had gone back to the Homeplace.    Even though she had been gone only a few hours, he still felt the emptiness of her absence.

John, you remembered again,’ Silverado commented. 

Wiping the sweat from his forehead, John just nodded.  This personal hell that had begun three weeks before had finally begun lessening, but there were still enough reminders such as this to remind him that he was not well yet.   If they had only been regular nightmares, he might have felt more able to cope with them, but these ‘flashbacks’ were like being there once again, as though he was back in the cell on Krimlon, or on Creon freezing to death.  The bio-electric shocks were real, his fingers still cold and numb.  

John…’ a soft voice whispered in his mind.

Klik?’

‘Yes, come and swim with me.’  In his loneliness, the invitation became so enticing that he couldn’t resist, which surprised him.  In the first two weeks after the flashbacks began, the only person he could tolerate was Maureen, and sometimes he didn’t even want her around.  His feelings confused him almost as much as his visions of the past did.    

Maureen had not left his side during those first days, staying with him even when he preferred solitude, consoling him during his worst moments.  In the past week, though, as he began to feel a slight respite from these images of horror, he had felt her restlessness.  John knew that she missed the children, missed having them all together.  Knowing that he could not, at this time, wear one of the bio-adaptation devices, he finally coaxed Maureen into having one implanted.

“But John, you’ll be alone,” she had protested.

“I’m getting better,” he told her, knowing it to be only a partial truth.  Getting well seemed so distant to him at this time.  “And you’ll be able to come up and see me whenever you want.   Just as Murreena can stay out of the water for short periods of time, so will you.  Don and the children have visited.  You can, too.”

She remained unconvinced for another two days.  Only by blocking out his residual fears did he manage to persuade her that he would be fine for extended periods of time without her.  It helped that the ‘flashbacks’ did seem to be coming less frequently.   Maureen’s joy in her reunion with the rest of the family gave him a great measure of happiness.   

Now he welcomed this time in the ocean.  Sliding on the rebreather, he walked down the Jupiter’s ramp and into the soft velvet darkness of the ssMrillorrin night.  The moon had already set and he could clearly see the gaseous nebulae shining above him, a centerpiece for the bright field of stars slowly wheeling across the sky.  Taking a deep breath, John walked into the ocean, pausing only long enough to adjust the mask and put on the fins.

Underwater, the darkness was lit up by the myriad inhabitants of this ocean world.  A school of long undulating fish, glowing spots all along their bodies, slowly swam across his field of vision.  Silverado's golden eyes suddenly shone in front of his face, and the zanling’s thoughts danced merrily in his mind.

John,’ Klik said soothingly, rubbing up alongside him.  There is one who can help you deal with your problem.’

A long manta-like creature, with orange phosphorescent patches located on the tips of its ‘wings,’ glided slowly beneath his feet.  I thought you were assigned to be my nurse-maid, Klik,’ John commented wryly to the cetacean-like creature that swam alongside him.

Nurse-maid?’ the cetacean asked, confused.  Is that like the aunt of a newborn pod member?’

No, Klik,’ John answered, trying to explain what he meant in pictures.

Then, ‘Oh, I understand.   No, I am not a nurse-maid to you.’

‘Klik, I was more or less teasing,’ John added quickly, not wishing to insult the sea creature’s feelings.

Bright laughter whispered through his mind.  John, if I was that easily insulted, I would have given up on you three weeks ago,’ Klik said brightly.

John felt his face grow hot with embarrassment, but knew that the sensation was all in his mind, since he was submerged in fifty feet of dark water.

‘My friend, you have not been very pleasant these past twenty-one day-cycles.  But you are improving, and you are at a point where I think Grilong can help you.’

‘Grilong?’

‘Yes, John, Grilong is a ssReesa, and as such, a healer,’ Klik explained. 

A healer?’  John pondered.  ‘Yes, I believe I would like to meet this healer.  These flashbacks haven’t come quite as often lately, but they are still very intense.  If Grilong has something to offer, I’m willing to listen.’

‘Come then,’ Klik said.  John felt his friend’s dorsal fin under his hand and he grabbed on to it.

‘Going above, John,’ Silverado said and quickly disappeared into the opacity of the nighttime ocean.

Klik swam deeper, coming close to the limit of the rebreather’s capacity.  Even with the bioluminescent life around him, the darkness increased and thickened, but John didn’t feel any fear at what might be out there.  Under his hand, John felt the sure presence of his cetacean friend, felt Klik’s heartbeat, even the slight movement of the muscles propelling them steadily into the depths.  Even this far from the surface, the water still possessed a warmth that relaxed him, and as Klik’s tail steadily beat its rhythm, the currents caressed and soothed him. 

Welcome, John Robinson.  Come into my home,’ a comforting voice drifted through his mind, accompanied by soft whistles and clicks.  The whole effect was relaxing, and John felt his muscles loosening, which surprised him, considering that he thought he was already relaxed. 

You are anything but relaxed, John.’ Laughter echoed in his mind.  ‘I am Grilong.’

As Klik pulled him into a cave-like grotto, John blinked, his eyes having to adjust to sudden bright light.  There were bioluminescent growths everywhere in various shades of yellow, orange, blue and green.  The variety of undersea flora was incredible and John floated motionless in the middle of the large room, entranced. 

‘I like brightness and light,’ Grilong explained, anticipating John’s question.

It’s beautiful, Grilong.  Thank you for inviting me.’  Grilong was huge, probably as large as a sperm whale on earth, but this creature was more amorphous in shape.  He was grayish black in color, with a small line of phosphorescent dots all along the top of his body, which was slightly slug-like in shape.  Appendages, somewhat like lace, fringed the bottom of his body, waving with the currents and keeping him motionless in the water.

‘I am glad you could come, John.’  There was a short pause. ‘You are having visions of past events….’

‘I am reliving them, Grilong,’ John corrected the large creature, frustration evident in his thoughts.   He wanted to tell Grilong how very tired he was, how these visions from his past kept him from a full night’s sleep, how mentally exhausted he was trying to excise them from his consciousness, but he hesitated. 

Yes, I know you are.  This problem needs to be resolved.’

‘No argument from me.’

‘I sense something…’ Grilong began and then paused, as though not wanting to divulge too much.

What?’ John asked, curious, despite his reticence.

I cannot tell.  It is not clear.  But you must be prepared.  You are going to a planet to live.  You will need your mind clear, free.  You have led your group for over four years.  You have done well.’

John remembered briefly some of their close calls of the past four plus years.  ‘That’s subject to debate, Grilong, but thank you.’

Grilong chose to ignore John’s statement.  ‘John, let us begin.  Are you willing to open your mind to me?’

‘Uh, what do you plan on doing?’  Open the inmost corners of his mind to an alien he had only met? 

‘John, I will not hurt you.  First I want to see the total nature of these visions, then I want to help you learn to control them, excise them.  We can go as slowly or as quickly as you wish to go in your journey toward wellness.’

Wellness….  John let the slight, soothing currents carry him closer to Grilong as he pondered.  To be free, to be able to think his own thoughts and not be subject to that which was unbidden and unwelcome.  I want to be free of this, but…’   He was unable to finish, not wishing to cause insult over his reluctance.

‘John, if I sense that you are uncomfortable with my presence, I will pull away and we will discontinue.  You will eventually overcome this on your own, but it will take a long time,’ Grilong explained gently, understanding John’s anxiety.

How long?’ John asked, afraid of the answer he was sure he would hear.

On your planet, those who are suffering as you are sometimes take years to get over this disorder.’

‘Oh, Lord,’ John thought in anguish, knowing deep down inside that what Grilong said was true.  He had checked the computer medical database.  To have to deal with this for years?  No!  How could he lead his family with this albatross around his neck?  ‘No, I don’t think I can….   Do you think you can help me, Grilong?’

‘I believe I can, John.  Open your mind to me with the willingness that you open your mind to Maureen,’ Grilong instructed. 

Startled at Grilong’s reference to his wife, John nevertheless did as he was told, or at least tried to.  It was hard.  Maureen was the only individual that he comfortably shared intimate thoughts with.   Not even with Silverado did he open up fully. 

Relax…relax,’ Grilong soothed.

John began feeling lethargic, and visions of the ocean began flowing through his mind, further relaxing him.  Then the nightmare came and he cringed, writhing with the torment that it caused him.  He cried out, almost losing his mouthpiece.  Remotely, John felt Klik rubbing against him, holding him up, comforting him.  He felt the touch of another sea creature.  Grilong?  The presence of the aliens soothed him, helped him gain some measure of control. 

As the vision progressed, John felt a difference from previous occurrences.  He noticed himself becoming a spectator rather than a participant, and he watched the events in his mind’s eye uncomfortably, but with a certain amount of detachment.   It became more like the dreams and nightmares with which he was familiar.  He felt intimately involved, but at the same time understood that it was just a remembrance of a past event.    He didn’t physically feel the bio-electric shocks of the Krimlon device, the freezing cold of Creon, or the blinding pain of the Graxod disruptor.

I’d really rather not see this again,’ John finally said as he viewed the details of his physical and telepathic imprisonment.

Then stop it,’ Grilong told him simply.

I can do that?’

‘Yes, you certainly can.  You can learn to control these ‘visions,’ John.  With time they will only be memories.  Unpleasant memories, but memories of something else you overcame with success.  And, might I also add, with great courage,’ Grilong explained.

I have had a great deal of help in my successes,’ John said, as the nightmare faded and finally disappeared from the view of his mind.  Relief washed over him, making him feel almost limp. 

‘Of course you did.  Most of what we accomplish in life is only achieved with the help of others,’ Grilong said.  Pondering briefly, John had to agree. 

Why was I only remembering and not in that last vision/dream?’ he asked. 

I helped to focus it,’ Grilong said.  ‘John, your recently acquired telepathic skills allow you to be a more vivid part of these flashbacks.  It has allowed you to feel the physical stimuli even more intensely than if you had not been telepathic.  But it is that very talent which will permit you to recover more quickly.  It will allow you to exercise more control. 

Thank you,’ John said fervently, grateful for the ssReesa’s help.  How do I learn to do this?’

‘Listen.... Feel.’

John listened.  He listened to the soothing sounds of the ocean; he listened to Grilong’s mental voice, an ancient voice of song, a voice of incredible telepathic power, permeating his consciousness, giving him what he needed to shut off the hell-spawned flashbacks.  He listened to the voice of the inhabitants of ssMrillorrin, all singing joyful symphonies of peace.   He listened to the voice of Maureen’s love, even though she wasn’t physically present, a voice of over twenty years of togetherness.

John felt.  He felt renewed peace, he felt encouragement, he felt hope.  He felt the embrace of thousands of life forms, all singing their own songs of life. Wryly, John thought this must be the galaxy’s largest group hug.  Then he heard and felt his own song of life, a song of joy tinged with sadness, a song of triumph despite adversity, a song of hope, and he understood and was satisfied.

Grilong’s voice was reassuring and John continued listening and feeling….

 

                     ==============================================

The sun woke him with its bright fingers of light and he opened his eyes to see Maureen’s face looking into his.  “How?” John mumbled, sleep still firmly entrenched in his consciousness.

“Klik brought you as far as he could, and I pulled you on shore.  That must have been some session down below,” she told him.   Her wet hair was still dripping, telling him that he had finished his session with Grilong only a short time before.  He was surprised to see that the sun was nearing the far horizon.  

“It was very peaceful, and yet very powerful,” John said, sitting up and watching the waves lapping at his feet.  He realized, with satisfaction, that he had not awakened in the cold sweat to which he had become accustomed.   “Grilong, the healer, is teaching me how to control the flashbacks.  It seems to be helping already.  I feel more rested than I have in several weeks.”

Leaning over, Maureen kissed him tenderly, overjoyed at his progress.  “Oh, John, that’s wonderful.”  They sat side by side on the sand, watching the bird-fish leaping from the waves, catching tiny water insects and diving back into the ocean, their squeaks not too unlike those of their own flutter-dragons.    Above their heads, Maggie and Silverado performed their own aerial ballet.  The other zanlings zipped out of the ship after their afternoon repast in the arboretum and joined in the joyful dance.  The two humans watched silently, reveling in the happiness of their friends as well as their own happiness.  Without looking, John reached over and took her hand in his, pulling her closer to him. 

His thoughts returned to a time when he was a young, awkward college student.  He had been quickly smitten by the lovely California girl in his physics class, but had waited until almost halfway into the semester before he had dared to say more than hello to her. 

Maureen, slightly worried about her husband’s sudden quiet, turned and gazed at him.  His eyes were elsewhere, but, to her relief, his face reflected a happiness that she had not seen for several weeks.   “Dear, what are you thinking about?”

“I was remembering the first time I saw you.  It was the first day of physics class at CIT.”  John had received full academic scholarships to California Institute of Technology, but even though it covered the necessities, he was still broke most of the time.  “I had just arrived the day before, hitchhiking after my dad’s old Dodge died in Arizona.  I was lucky to finish registration before classes started.” 

“Yes, I remember.  And you didn’t make a very good impression either.  Your clothes were wrinkled and your Reeboks were falling apart.”

John laughed.  He had to use the last of his money to ship most of his belongings to his dorm.  All he had to wear that first day was what he had stuffed in his backpack.  “I saw you sitting there with all your friends.  You were one among many, but I couldn’t see them.  I only saw you.  I remember you had on that yellow sweater and the designer jeans.”

“Yes, dear, you were kind of obvious.”  She, too, let her mind wander to the past, visualizing the tall, almost too-slender young man who had caught her eye the first day he walked into class.   To her exasperation, he never seemed quite able to gather up the courage to talk to her.  Her disapproving friends didn’t help either.   They all thought he had more altruistic thoughts on his mind.  In her heart, Maureen knew they were wrong, but she chose not to make the first move.  “I still can’t believe that it took you most of the semester before you asked me out.” 

“Mo, you cannot imagine how much I wanted to talk to you those first weeks.”

“I remember, John.   And I remember how thrilled I was when you finally asked me out a few weeks before Thanksgiving.”

“Some date that was!  Pizza on the beach at sunset.”  He knew that Maureen Tomlinson was from a rich family and he had never really expected her to demonstrate any interest in him, but to his surprise, when he had finally found the courage to ask her for a date, she readily accepted.  He was still struggling monetarily, but extra income was earned by a part-time job at a fast food restaurant and a little tutoring on the side.  So the only thing he could afford was a pizza, which was eaten on the beach at sunset.  The warm sand, the hot sun, the breaking waves; it felt the same as it did now, the only difference being that his love had grown so much deeper since then.  

Maureen felt the tendrils of his love and saw glimpses of his memories. “John, it was the most wonderful date I had ever been on.”  Her attraction to him was totally different than that of any other man she had dated.  She had not regretted a moment of the almost twenty-five years of their union.  

She sat there, remembering, watching the sun continue its journey toward the far horizon.  As her head lay gently on his shoulder, she began feeling a soft murmuring of laughter.  Suddenly, he jumped up, and reaching down, pulled Maureen to her feet.   His eyes had a mischievous glint in them.

“Our latest hydroponics crop is ready to harvest,” he announced.  “And what we can’t get from the garden we can make in the replicator.”

Confused at his outburst, Maureen quested for telepathic clues, but was unable to pick up anything.  “What are you talking about?”

He bent over, kissed her soundly and said, “I feel like having pizza.”   They both laughed as they ran up the ramp into the Jupiter II.

 

 

 

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