So Runs My Dream...
"So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry."
- Alfred, Lord, Tennyson
The doctor approached the room pensively, still unaccustomed, after all of these years, to this place of waiting for death amidst the ongoing battle for life. He paused at the window to observe the two occupants -- the handsome man sitting patiently next to the woman's bed, lovingly tending to her as she slept -- and shook his head in irony before gathering his professional demeanor about himself like a protective cloak and entering.
The room's sounds washed over him: the beeps and whirrs of the various monitors, his patient's labored breathing, the man who softly murmured his comfort as she restlessly dreamed. The doctor briefly met the man's gaze -- the hopefulness long replaced by a protective watchfulness -- then turned to inspect the monitors.
"How is she?" the man's dark brown eyes followed the doctor as he rounded the bed.
The doctor studied the readouts for a moment before responding, "No apparent changes. We've been able to reduce her painblocks again, which is puzzling."
"Do you still believe it's related to her dreams?"
"I don't know... It is certainly possible."
Feeling ever the unwanted intruder in this triad, the doctor turned his attention to the monitors while he surreptitiously watched as the man's attention immediately snapped back to the woman on the cot.
"I'm right here. I'm right here..." he soothed.
She blindly searched his face, her hand reaching up until it finally cupped his cheek.
Lightly smoothing her soft hair, he took her hand in his. "Shhh... I'm right here. Everything's all right."
Her clouded blue eyes closed as she nodded briefly "Remember what fun we had?" The hint of a smile tugged at her lips.
"Yes," he whispered into her ear. "It was great. I wish it lasted forever."
"There's no such thing as forever," she chided. "Simply cherish the time we had."
"I will," he promised earnestly. "I only wish we could let nature take its course..."
"We are... It will..." She weakly smiled at him, then grimaced in pain. "Alonzo, it hurts."
Shooting the doctor a sharp look of angry frustration, his eyes softened as he concentrated on her again. "Dream..." he encouraged softly as he stroked her hair and bent low to brush her eyelids closed with his fingertips. As her breathing slowed into the rhythm of sleep, he directed his burning gaze up at the doctor once more. "I thought you said she wasn't in pain."
"It isn't something we can regulate. We're doing the best we can under the circumstances. I told you months ago that euthanasia was our best option..."
"Well, I didn't exactly have a choice, did I?!" Was the biting reply.
The doctor stepped back in surprise from the uncharacteristic bitterness and directed his attention elsewhere in embarrassment. A short while later, he guardedly looked over from the monitors to find the man pointedly ignoring him, making great pains to devote every ounce of his energy upon the figure asleep in the bed. "I'm sorry," the doctor apologized. "I'm trying my best." Noting he now had the man's attention, however grudging, the doctor shook his head as he continued, "I just don't understand what's happening. The mind is a powerful object. We have centuries of reports of terminal patients experiencing this removal from the reality of their condition, but I've never seen it before now. She's on a different plane of awareness. The pain is incidental to her."
"It's the dreams..."
"I'm not convinced about that. I don't understand them. I'm afraid I have no frame of reference."
"But, you're sure she's not in pain most of the time."
"Most of the time, yes, she's experiencing very little discomfort of any kind."
The man nodded resignedly.
The doctor busied himself with his data pad as the man quickly slid close to cradle the woman's head in his arms. "I'm here. I'll always be here for you..."
"I know..." She met his eyes with a look of earnest wisdom. "Alonzo, it's time for me to go..."
"It was a great ride..." She whispered as she slowly closed her eyes.
"I love you..."
She smiled softly. "I know... I love you, too..."
Struggling for air, Julia gasped for breath as her eyes fluttered open in alarm. She braced herself and pushed with all of her might against the pilot's chest as he unconsciously squeezed her in his tightening embrace.
"Alonzo? Alonzo, wake up!" As the encircling arms loosened slightly, Julia rolled from where she half-lay on the pilot to lie on her side as she regarded him worriedly.
With a catch in his breath, Alonzo shivered and rolled to insensibly gather the doctor to him again without waking. Realizing the agitated pilot was dreaming, Julia smoothed Alonzo's hair as she snuggled against him under the warm blankets, lightly stroking his back comfortingly as she thoughtfully watched.
Unseen by the two men in the hospital room, a lone figure, standing with his hands pressed against the partition, visibly slumped when the doctor flipped the switches with a finality which spoke volumes. The solitary man leaned his head against the cool glass and then closed his eyes with a mournful sigh.
Sensing a presence behind him, Alonzo Solace glanced indifferently over his shoulder, only to spin and frantically charge at the Terrian calmly standing there. "This isn't real... It can't be... Why are you showing me this?... Tell me this isn't real!" he pleaded.
As the tableau shifted to an intense white nothingness, leaving the hospital room and its occupants behind, the Terrian regarded the pilot quietly, tilting its head curiously as the human's raw emotions washed over and past it.
"I don't understand... Why? She isn't... She can't be..." Meeting only the Terrian's implacable stare, Alonzo impulsively averted his gaze, studying his boots as he tried to contend with what he had just borne witness to.
He had run for so long from this. This loss. This pain... No attachments... No painful good-byes...
Sure, he had experienced death in his travels. He was a sleepjumper, after all. There was always the risk that one of his passengers wouldn't wake up. But, much as he took each loss personally. Much as he felt responsible for every soul committed to his care. He didn't know them. Didn't know their families; who or what they left behind. His own deep loss was the last he ever knew before he escaped to flight school and then the welcoming stars...
The soft voice behind him startled the pilot from his reverie and he turned abruptly to find Lydia -- young and oh-so-incredibly real -- behind him. "Lydia? Is that you?"
She smiled kindly at him. "Of course it is... Alonzo, what's wrong?"
He mutely went to her, took her into his arms for a lingering hug, squeezing his eyes shut against the pain hammering against his soul.
Feeling his trembling, Lydia drew away from her former lover. "Alonzo, do you want to cry?"
He shook his head disbelievingly as he hesitantly explained, "Lydia, I... I thought I saw you die..."
She stroked his arms as she serenely met his gaze. "Alonzo, the body that was Lydia Romp did die. It's just one more part of the journey I told you about." She smiled up at him. "What you just saw was the conclusion. It was the ride of a lifetime, but even the best rides have to end some time... It's my time and I accept it willingly. It is time for me to move on..."
"I don't understand..."
"Perhaps, eventually you will. But don't let the not-knowing get in the way of your living."
He shook his head again, not yet willing to accept her words. Unable to face the pain of losing her any longer, he looked away, up at the nonexistent sky, breathing deeply before meeting her gaze as she lightly rested her hand behind his head and, rising up onto her tiptoes, drew his lips to hers. He closed his eyes as they kissed, memorizing her scent, the feel of her lips on his own, the pressure of her body as she leaned into him slightly. Alonzo parted from her with regret, sadly smiling down into her placid face.
"I have to go now, Alonzo."
"Neither of us have any choice. It is where I belong. And you... You're not alone anymore. You have someone now. Someone who is very special."
"Cherish her, Alonzo. That is where you belong... She is the one you've been looking for all this time. Don't allow your fear to rule your life any longer." As Alonzo sorrowfully looked down at the space in between them, Lydia firmly raised his chin. "Alonzo, do you want to cry?"
"I wish I could..."
She fondly stroked his cheek. "You can, Alonzo... If you allow yourself... It is time to finally heal..."
Movement in the far side of the tent attracted Julia's attention. She peered through the darkness, finally making out the form of a lone Terrian standing silent sentinel over the dreaming pilot. Julia glanced uncertainly down at Alonzo, taking care to lightly brush the unexpected teardrops squeezing out from underneath the pilot's dark lashes before returning her gaze toward the native.
The outline of its staff occasionally etched by a stray arc of white light, the Terrian trilled softly. Under Julia's hand, Alonzo's chest rumbled slightly as he unconsciously trilled in response, startling the doctor with the unaccustomed sound. She looked curiously from her quiescent lover to the native keeping vigil over him. Alonzo rapidly quieted next to her, an occasional sniffle punctuating the air as the tension that had been troubling him for so long gradually eased from his body.
Still unsure as to what she had just witnessed, Julia regarded the Terrian across the moonlit tent. "I don't understand... but... ...thank you..."
Ever mindful of his audience, the doctor switched off the monitor with finality. "Death came at 0343.26," he announced into his recorder. "All data appears inconclusive. Recommend the Council not pursue study into the relationship between this patient's pain management and REM activity." He looked over to the man. "I'm very sorry, Alonzo. I think we both agree it's for the best. Hopefully they will allow proper burial."
The man rose slowly, his eyes downcast. "My name is not Alonzo. It's Timothy. But,
once she started dreaming, Gram never knew the difference." His eyes glistening, he looked up at the doctor. "I'm just glad I was able to help her."
The doctor shook his head in bewilderment. "I wish I could explain the dreams. Perhaps, she simply had a better way of coping than most... Her mind protected her when we no longer could. I guess there are some things that will never be fully understood. If it hadn't been for the Council refusing the euthanasia request..." The doctor sighed. "She was quite a woman, I'm glad she's finally at peace."
The Terrians briefly paused on their way to their winter beds as the essence of the one who helped them flowed onto the dreamplane and insinuated itself amongst the group consciousness. A debt was repaid; she who had helped them had been helped to her eternal rest and the one who dreamed was at peace within himself. As one, the Terrians considered what had transpired and the understanding that alien consciousness brought with it, before embarking on their long winter's sleep...