The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: History

Helga

LostThe shore is as I remember it, when Sarah and I came here, the first time, at Gabrielle’s invitation. Unlike that day, Helga is now wearing her best London suit, business-like and sober. Then, she had worn the toga loved of high members of the Coven.

“It’s nice to see you relaxed and happy, Julian…” Helga looking at me with her enigmatic smile. I think that she is right, relaxed I am, having left behind those dark memories, and my little ghost.

“But how about you, Helga, what is new in your trade?”

Helga stops, turns towards me: “And what trade is that, Julian?” Her dark eyes are reflecting only the deep blue light of the sky. “The art of disseminating peace in the Universe,” I reply calmly, adding: “As a doctor, this is your ultimate role, isn’t it?”

We resume our walk on the water edge. “Oh, my medical ambitions are more modest.” There is no trace of irony in Helga’s voice. Nonetheless we are here, and I sense she’s waiting for me to ask, how and why. But I won’t be trapped in a game of cat and mouse, with this beautiful, very beautiful, woman, who I suspect to be more than human…

“We are overwhelmed by the stress in your society,” starts Helga, then correcting herself, “I mean our society…” No, you did not mean that, I think, but I won’t take you on for this. “Every period of change has its human cost.” I remark, philosophically. “And now this is mental health, your domain, dear Elga.”

I omitted the “H”, but she does not give any sign of noticing.

“Yes, in previous ages, it was self-flagelling, and all sorts of religious hysteria, now it’s drugs and other abuses…” She adds matter-of-fact: “And we, doctors, can no longer cope.”

I am about to ask if this is a question of economics, or simply sheer numbers. Helga’s mind is racing ahead of me. “It is about demographics. You have long realised yourself that the present inequalities are self-destructive. Extreme wealth corrodes the body of society, and the fact that ninety percent of the world population lives, or rather survives, on one percent of the revenue of the top ten is an engine of destruction. We can do very little about it… from strictly a medical standpoint.”

Now I want to ask: “But peace…” Helga is prompt to cut me off: “The state of war is merely one way to extend military imperialism beyond its shelf date, whatever chaos and misery result from it. The Cold War is over, but there had to be something to take its place, anything. The corporate lords cannot live in peace for very long. They need war and destruction: it is part of their system,” After a pause, she continues:

“For most of us, the resulting stress converts into either extreme poverty, or extreme distress, or both, depending on where we live.”

“If you believe this, then what is our destiny?” I ask, suddenly worried at Helga’s gloomy outlook. “I think there has to be a big change, another great transformation. But we may have to wait for that. In the meantime, people like myself, or Gabrielle, in our respective capacities, are struggling along…”

Those words leave me silent. Helga takes my arm: “But you know also that there is nothing new. Over history, societies have aged, gone sick, then somehow managed to transform themselves, or had to disappear, be absorbed in something bigger, sometime better. There is always a choice…”

We have come to the end of the walk, and I recognise now where we are. “I’ll give you a lift home,” Helga says. “And if I may, I’ll pop in to say hello to Sarah…” We laugh.

Battlefield

AlienMost of us left when you started exploding nukes, only a handful of historians and specialists remained, and I was one of them. Explaining the horror we felt is probably beyond my abilities in your language. Suffice to say that we have been around, on your world, for at least half a millennium of your time, but this was beyond all the horrors we had seen before, worse than the sack of Beijing, worse than Borodino, worse than Verdun, even worse than Stalingrad: wanton destruction of a defenceless “enemy”.

Still my job was, still is, to bear witness, observe, document and ensure all the evidence was collected, so that one day, perhaps soon, a decision could be made – should we let you continue killing each other, or should we put an end to it, for the sake of the rest of us. It had happened before, but, of course, you have no knowledge of it, as this was well before you, far away…

That year I was researching what you call “modern history” in that small town, in the middle of what has been, through your ages, a battlefield. Humans have been butchering each other on that plain since the stone age. Savage battles took place there, a mere few years before, when you started using the nascent power of your new industries to forge weapons. Already we were appalled then, silent witnesses to inept massacres. But what you will later called the First World War – more of a sinister civil war in our view –  was merely a harbinger of worse to come.

So it was that one evening, I was musing around the town, looking at buildings, taking scans of artefacts buried in the ground, listening to the rich electromagnetic and psychic mix always arising from human settlements. I came across a little lane, and immediately I could hear the familiar sad tune, a dying human being, in the thralls of a violent end. How often have we been there: listening to the cacophony of death. I know you would not understand: our perceptions are shaped by the quality of our sensors, and in that domain there is simply no comparison between us. You still have differentiated limited senses that, at this stage in your evolution, allow you to ignore most of what goes on around you – fortunately, since your brains are not yet able to engineer the filters necessary for clarity and processing.

I easily located the soon to be dead being: a young woman who was lying in a pool of her blood in an unlit corner of the lane. The mix of pain, longing and other violent feelings she emitted surprised me, a veteran of many such observations. Her forearms had been cut deep, and she had already lost a lot of blood. Some beast had strangled her and she was hardly breathing when I arrived. Even I could not have saved her. I knew that, within perhaps a few seconds of her time, she would die, and all those memories, thoughts, beliefs would disappear. I just took a snap decision to save that precious load, and scanned her mind, an operation that took longer than I thought, so that I had to sustain her a little, to ensure I had captured everything. She had beautiful green eyes – human beings are sometimes stunningly attractive. Whether she realised I was there I am not sure, but suddenly her body was quieter, and before her heartbeat disappeared, I took a sample of her genetic and endocrine material. Other humans were around nearby and I had to leave. As a rule we avoid unnecessary contacts.

We rarely intervene: we are, as you would say, mere scientists. Doing good, as you understand it, is a concept we don’t fully apprehend in your context, still now. How can the most ferocious and pitiless species in the known universe have, at the same time, that travesty of “morality”? In any case, we cannot fully recreate a human being, not perfectly. We can restore her mind, recreate the body, but there is always something missing, as if, at the time of death, something had escaped, irretrievably.

Her name is Melissa, she was about twenty human years old when she was murdered. We get on well. She has a fatal longing for that boy she knew, and step by step, she coerced me in finding him. I am not sure it is a good idea. But she was so excited when we did. I helped her with the technology, so much had already changed by the time she reached again the age at her death. Surprisingly, not many of you have yet realised the power of some of your own creations. For example the fact you have developed simulators, evidently still quite crude, that mimic real life. In my experience this is just a beginning – as a matter of fact, as so often in your short history, it starts with “games”. You excel at that: wars and games…

Poor girl: I am fond of her, her fragility, even now, when she is, by human standards anyway, pretty close to immortality. I know that she’s trying to contact him, see him, and it worries me a little: I am, after all, responsible for bringing her back from the dead.

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