Title: On the Hill
Disclaimer: When playtime's over, I'll give them back undamaged.
Summary: Folks, it's #5 in that epic saga that just won't die. This one's for all those Last To Go readers who wanted to know if Tuvok got off his can and did what he was supposed to. Did you think I'd leave poor helmboy's corpse in stasis? We all know how he'd feel about that.
On the Hill
All, all are sleeping on the hill--
Edgar Lee Masters
Lieutenant Paris was always contrary.
He died in the wettest period of Earth's year, early in the season called spring. As promised, I saw that his remains were placed in the designated plot, beside that of his wife. In the midst of the rites, a storm came about. As the mourners struggled to remain upright in gale-force winds, I was unpleasantly reminded of similar climate malfunctions, when hail or snow would inexplicably sweep through the holodeck as I meditated before the oracle. On those occasions, the Lieutenant was, unquestionably, laughing just beyond my site, as I suspect he is now. The bereaved departed in dripping discomfort; their condition would, no doubt, have amused my former colleague, who found ritual humiliation humorous.
His end was…peaceful.
Our encounters over the previous five decades were infrequent, but even an occasional observer could not overlook the changes that took place. I cannot say Lieutenant Paris matured, but became less volatile with the passage of time. He requested no garish memorial or brass band, as I anticipated, only burial on this hill fronting the east. Human death rituals are curious; I understand that Earth's sun will appear in the east on the morning of a great uprising, casting light on the sleeping dead. An unlikely scenario; Lieutenant Paris lacks the patience and logic to simply wait for resurrection.
My task is done, yet I linger on this neglected slope. The air is damp, and I experience a sudden desire to lay eyes on the sand-swept deserts of Vulcan, to be among individuals as long-lived as myself. I did not linger after the deaths of Captain Janeway or Mr. Neelix, Seven of Nine, or Lieutenant Torres. As I told the Drayan woman, Tressa, Vulcans perceive death as necessary, the logical conclusion to life. It is my understanding that other species experience this lack of terror late in the process. Captain Janeway's katra journeyed before the body was prepared to follow, and spoke from the waiting place. I recall her words with clarity: For such, there is no grief.
Her courage was…extraordinary.
Perhaps I have formed a sentimental attachment. Unlikely; I am Vulcan, and have witnessed the deaths of many acquaintances, all more enlightened and disciplined than Voyager's lieutenants. Never did I linger, standing needlessly amidst the shoots of salmon berry and western hemlock. Typically, Mr. Paris never clipped back the vegetation, preferring his property dangerously overgrown. In a short time, the brambles and sword fern will obscure the two stones. That is unfortunate, when Mr. Paris tended plots with dedication. He placed a young oak beside Mr. Neelix's ashes, and named his willow trees after the lost. Rosa rubifolia grow on the hill occupied by Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine. The waking sun lies to their east and Bloomington, Indiana to the west.
The house at the base of the hill is dark, secure against intruders. Inside, there is little to interest potential burglars. Photographs cover the mantle piece. A rocking chair moves as if still occupied. A rake, Lieutenant Torres's weapon against garden rodents, is propped beside the kitchen table. I must concur with Captain Janeway's observation of many years before, when the katra and body were one: B'Elanna's no housekeeper, but her mind is sharp. Mr. Paris and I were opposites in nature, yet held common ground in one area: each of us chose a mate for life. There could be no other. In the attic, amid the disorder, a set of moth-eaten uniforms remain, one red, one gold. Attachment to inanimate objects is characteristic of the species, as is selective memory. Marauding armies once overran Vulcan, yet I have no desire to return to the past…correcting it would negate the present. Humans, however, seek portholes to the days of chaos. From those experiences, they draw a singular strength and determination.
My departure…is at hand.
I will navigate the treacherous slope and move past the silent pond, pausing in the grove beside the willow called Kes, a tree that has survived five decades beyond its namesake. Mr. Paris rallied the dead, as well as the living.
Perhaps that is why I linger amid the sword fern, on this hill that fronts the east.