IN THE MOUNTAINS OF FIRE
Dolores J. Nurss
Volume I: Welcome to The Charadoc!
Points of View
Thursday, April 9, 2708
Next mat: birdshot wounds all over the buttocks and backs of the legs, healing nicely now that we've gotten some vitamin C into him. Clean and change dressings. (I ran and ran and ran, but I couldn't outrun the gun. Each blast came closer and closer and I zigzagged like an animal, over rocks and under boughs, but he got me anyway. He knew I meant to run to the rebels.)
Next mat: broken leg in traction. The patient needs a bedpan, so I fetch him one. (I have just got to be the biggest, supremest idiot in the entire country! I just had to show off that I could scale the clock-tower as easily as I could a mountain, didn't I? But did she notice? Nooooo, she went off anyway, mooning after that new kid who can recite all kinds of folktales off the top of his head, even though he's obviously smitten with the scruffy-headed girl, Cantrip or whatever her name is.)
Next mat: bullet through the cheek. Brush aside the manchild's prematurely white hair, change the dressing, and give him his next scheduled mouthwash. And how the devil did he get that one? Suicide attempt? (I can live with it, the scar and everything. I know that, now. I can get as ugly as it takes.)
Next mat: sucking wound to the chest--painkillers only, if we ever get any; don't waste antibiotics on the ones we cannot save. (Oh God, at least let my parents feel what I have done for them. They can never know for sure, but when they hear of rebels dying for their liberation, please let them wonder if it's me, let them say a prayer for the nameless dead and let them name me, and when they have done crying let them lift their heads in pride.)
Next mat: left hand blown off. Fortunately, she's right-handed. Clean and change the dressing and try to remember how to synthesize vitamin A cream--still draining, no use even thinking about vitamin E yet. (Whatever possessed me to become a rebel in the first place? My dead hand will find your throat in Hell, Cyran!)
Next mat: multiple scrapes and bruises, superficial lacerations, no broken bones. Just check and make sure he's comfortable. Big eyes follow me from an elfish-looking face. (Well, Cyran, I played the idiot for you, till they gave up on beating me and let me go, and I brought the message through--you'd better come back soon and tell me that you really, really needed information on the deeds and whereabouts of some drunk of no further use to the Purple Mantle who'd abandoned him.)
Next mat: both feet severed by axe, severe abrasions to knees and palms from crawling for miles across rough terrain. Clean abrasions, check stumps--no foul odor anymore, just the sharp scent of antiseptic. Clean and change dressings. (Nobody could stop me from coming to you, Cyran. You have made me so happy, this paradise of freedom that you have created here, the care that I get in this infirmary like I matter or something--God never made me so happy. You're my god, Cyran!)
Next mat: Sprained ankle and some septic cuts. Cold compresses on the ankle, clean and dress the cuts. (Whoever moved the goddam outhouse in the middle of the night had better not march in front of me in the next battle!)
Next mat...notify Rashid. We can't save them all. (...and as I float towards the light I hear my Grandma's voice calling me home just like she used to do...)
Friday, April 10, 2708
Today we debated the Meritocracy, versus Cyran's concepts of Egalitarianism, which Cici seems to have swallowed hook, line, and sinker. It helped me keep my mind off the black hole in my gut that chews up more and more of my life, body, mind and soul.
Meritocracy makes sense; everyone gets a vote, unless they commit a felony. You get another for a basic education, literacy and so forth, another for advanced education, one for every degree that you accrue. And you get a vote for every hundred denars that you're willing to pay in taxes--it's the perfect system: nobody gets taxed but volunteers. People can't complain if they have less say in a government that they don't intend to support. Thus the most power falls to the most educated and those most willing to contribute to the welfare of society--what could be more fair?
It comes so easily now, to put it all on paper. But when I spoke with Cici my words seemed to dissipate into the haze between fern and bough, and all my arguments crumbled like the fermenting leaves that choke our path. Don't imagine for a minute, Diary, that an uneducated country wench could best me in an argument under normal circumstances; I simply couldn't think straight enough to match her at that particular time.
Everything rots in this jungle. The new boots that I set out with molder, and the toes inside itch and crack with fungus. Mildew eats the saddle and the bridle of my mule, and just yesterday my finger poked through the once-sturdy canvas of a saddlebag. My gear, my clothes...my soul. We are all broken down to our elements and find ourselves naught but the dirt God made us from.
Strange, the same story, from my childhood training to my embrace of Islam in maturity. We are made from dirt. I wanted so much to escape all that.
Sure, my grandparents raised me as a good little Christian boy, but it didn't work; I saw others of the exact same faith murder them, right before my eyes. I did not want that religion, when the ship took me to Til, where I had all the world's faiths to choose from. I wanted something concrete, direct, made plain. I wanted to be more than dirt.
Yet another component comes into play, for the Koran speaks plainly on this. God created a pen, and paper, and jotted us all down. Crisp black ink on a clean, white page. One can write utter filth, one can inscribe every taboo word in every language, and it can still look pristine on paper, if you don't know what it means.
And now I follow suit, writing shaky black ink on not-so-clean paper, recording what God wrote long before—does the irony amuse Him? Oh God, God, God, tear out this page! Tear it out and crumple it, and toss it in the fire!
Life goes on, my prayer empty—no different from my childhood in Christendom, when my shoes stuck to the floor from all the blood I waded through just to walk out the door, no looking back, the nice foreigner would take me far from there. Or no, God chooses His own mode of destruction, as is His right. The fire still burns in my stomach, but He quenches it with molten brass, drink by loving drink. He has abandoned my manuscript out in the rain, and the pages warp while the ink all blurs together, fading, fading, I drown and find my p
* * *
The transcriber puzzled over the barely legible diary. Rain indeed seemed to have drenched the paper; she felt the brittle ridges as she turned the page. Well, that's why they called that place a “rainforest”, after all. It must have rained many times on the journey.
“P”. Purgatory? But no, that would match her own religion, not his. Paradise, perhaps, or maybe Peace. Yes, most likely peace. But she figured she had better leave that part blank. It was one thing to fill in all of his missing minor parts of speech, another to invent a word out of such uncertain speculation. After all, he might have intended to write down “pain” before he passed out cold. Or “penance”. “Payment”, even, or “peril”. Deep down she felt a certainty, though, that he’d intended “peace”—or did she merely hope so? Did she want him to at least find moments of the oblivion that he so desperately sought?
“None of my business,” she reminded herself. “Don't get too involved, kidita!” She reached for a distracting flavored toothpick on which to chew, and suddenly laughed. “Wouldn't you know it? Peach!”