When the Winter Comes


Pat Foley

I was waiting patiently for Sarek by the entrance of a reception given by a host world for the latest Federation conference. He had been shanghaied by a couple of lobbyists who were fruitlessly trying to influence his vote. So I dawdled on a narrow path between the laser lines holding back the press on either side. They were recording the arriving dignitaries, snapping still holographs and shouting the occasional question.

The flashes of lights, the shouts of the holographers, triggered a memory only recently relegated to the past. It's a memory that I keep pushing back, pushing away. But every day, it comes back to me, whether I want it to or not. Flashes of vision, feelings, sensations – a taste or a smell. I can't get away from it. Perhaps there's some reason I don't want to. Though I should.

I am trying to move past it. But it's hard to put behind me. Little things, like these flashes of light can bring it back to me. I close my eyes against the holographers' flashes, but I see them anyway. My eyelids aren't Vulcan, aren't designed to filter out light, to protect me.

And I'm taken back again to the flashes that started the whole mess. One huge flash, actually, with a lot of others following. The cracking, roaring, rumbling sound immediately after, like an enormous tornado exploding into life above, bearing down on me. And then a wave, a rush of hot air, laden with the smell of heated metal, and crumbling concrete. And a dark fetid odor that soon followed. That hung at the back of your throat and lodged there as you were struggling for breath, the odor of spilled blood.

The explosion had been so enormous, I had cried out involuntarily. But I couldn't hear even my own voice. The noise was so loud, my ears had stopped processing sound; the nerves had shut down. In the melee that followed, I understood why Chicken Little might scream the sky was falling. Because that's what it seemed like. The stars in the sky were overshot with the fires of an explosion, and then everything – buildings, balconies, walls, signs, flagpoles, banners – even the lights in the sky, that I thought were stars but were actually flashes from attacking ships firing phaser torpedoes -- everything fell in seeming slow motion, but with a terrible roar.

I ran – it was instinctive – away from the explosions. Screaming like Chicken Little, though I couldn't hear myself. It was involuntary.

But I wasn't lucky. Something fell on me, and caught me, and I went down, and then more things piled on top of me, and I was under them, in the choking dark, nothing to breathe but dust and smoke and fire. The noise of the explosions went on and on; I could feel it moving through my body like sound waves. And then my hearing came back and I shuddered again from the terrible sounds. Also competing in my ears was someone shrieking, somewhere off to my left, high pitched and shrill, like a train whistle. I wanted it to stop. It made it so much harder hard to think.

Until it did. Abruptly, with a rattled gasp. The rest of the cacophony went on, but the silence where that screech had been was worse than the cry.

Still, perhaps I was lucky after all.

But buried in the dark, breathing in the choking dust and smoke, barely able to move, one foot feeling like it was caught in a crushing vise and a pressing weight trying to cave in my chest, I didn't feel lucky.

But I've gotten a little ahead of things, I see.