Lola Trechlyn presents the third in a series that began with No Child Left Behind and continued with Kids Fly Free. Story by Fossil. // COMPLETED
Chapter Description: Chapters One through Five.
NOVEMBER 30TH, 2059
50 MILES OFF THE COAST OF CALIFORNIA_
Peter Moriarty preferred fishing in the autumn. Of course, autumn in California is scarcely an autumn at all-- but, just the same, the sun seemed to beat down less intensely and the 15-degree drop in temperature tended to make a noteworthy difference. His boat, the Red Cutlass, was equipped with all the technological advancements on which Peter relied to ensure his safety. A purist at heart, though, he chose not to invest in most of the ridiculous devices that had been developed over the past half-century... ultra-high-definition thermal imaging monitors to track oceanic fauna and flora; sat-nav systems that autopiloted the boat to the largest schools of any genus of fish selected by the user; carbon-nanotube fishing lines that cast themselves. It all depressed Moriarty. He, and his best friend Greg, considered themselves among a dwindling manifest of the last true anglers.
It was Moriarty’s refusal to capitulate to laziness that honed his sea-sight to a razor’s edge, and it was the sharpness of that edge that enabled him to see the inflatable black life raft floating hundreds of yards away.
“We got something over here,” Moriarty called to Greg, though he had already turned the boat and began to approach the raft.
As the Red Cutlass neared the modest vessel, Moriarty’s heart sank. It was not an abandoned raft loosed from a boat during a storm.
The body of a man, eyes closed, was inside. It was propped up against the side of the raft, its legs splayed out in front of it, its head lolling weakly along its chest.
“Radio a Coast Guard Medevac,” Moriarty hollered, “now!”
Greg made the necessary arrangements as Moriarty lowered the ladder from the Red Cutlass to the life raft. He disembarked into a veritable field of eviscerated fish, some shredded apart with their heads intact, others completely stripped to the bone. Mason jars and a tarp joined knives, torn fabrics, makeshift hooks, and other survival tools of varying utility in a pile at the far side of the raft.
In the middle of it all was the body. It looked to be in its late 20s, but its emaciated frame, near-total nudity, and blistering sunburns did its appearance no favors. And though its height approached six feet, it couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds.
Moriarty started to remove his hat to pay his respects, but froze mid-motion. He could have sworn he saw the body take a weak, wheezing breath.
Moriarty grabbed the young man’s bony wrist and squeezed his thumb to it.
“Pete?” Greg called from the Red Cutlass. “They’re on their way.”
“Help me get him on the boat,” replied Moriarty. “The sonofabitch is alive.”
NOVEMBER 9TH, 2059
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA_
Though the occasion was less than celebratory, Scott Danvers had a smile on his face as he unmoored his boat and took to the sea. The 27-year-old’s mother would have appreciated the fruits of the lusts for life and adventure she had sought to instill in her son.
He had been born Scott Michael Gwynett in 1989. Eighteen years later, on the last day of high school, his twentysomething English teacher, Mrs. Danvers -- unable to let go of her all-time favorite student, no matter what the cost -- lured him into a sequence of increasingly humiliating age regressions until Scott ultimately became the newborn incarnation of himself.
Scott Danvers, then, was born on June 26th, 2007, and Mrs. Danvers raised the child as her own. Though images of his past life would occasionally afflict him during psychologically-taxing flashbacks, Scott had a pleasant childhood, and his studious idiom culminated in a wildly successful career that sent him back and forth across the globe.
It was in Concourse R of Kennedy-Franken Airport where Scott had met Sylvia Divine, a dazzlingly stunning woman who claimed to be an outcall masseuse. In reality, Mrs. Danvers had paid Sylvia $1,000 -- then a pittance -- to regress Scott a second time. Unlike the scratch-and-sniff stickers that had consigned Scott to his second infancy, it was the scent of Sylvia’s perfume that brought a weary and very messy Scott back to the start of his seventh month of life.
And so it was that Scott Danvers had come to be born on October 24th, 2032, six months before Sylvia fulfilled her contract and returned the gleeful, drooling infant to Mrs. Danvers for his third go at growing up. Scott never gave it a second thought that his mother had been born in 1979; she provided for him, she cared for him, and, most importantly, she loved the stuffing out of him. Each of his lives had comprised nothing but happiness.
Then, on November 9th, 2058, Mrs. Danvers lost a hard-fought battle with cancer, one week before her 80th birthday. Scott was crushed. Even at 26, he was wholly unprepared to lose the woman who had spent all of her time and most of her dollars shaping Scott into the good and decent man that he was.
Instead of crawling into a bottle of rum, or locking himself in a darkened room and eating onion sandwiches for months at a time, Scott elected to cope with his grief proactively and with an eye towards personal health and intellectual and spiritual enrichment, just as he assumed his mother would have preferred. Again he became a world traveler. But seldom did he take wing; Scott Mk. III was a man of the ocean, of the surf and the tides, of the otherworldly solitude he would pursue on romantic evenings of the self, during which he would shove off into aquatic isolation until he could see and hear nothing.
A world all to himself.
The one-year anniversary of his mother’s passing was one such occasion Scott Danvers sought that empty world. His thoughts and remembrances were enough stimulation for one day. So, after paying tribute to his mother at her grave, he took his boat onto the Pacific and looked for silence.
What he found, though, were some of the most threatening storm clouds he had ever seen at sea.
I don’t like the looks of this, he thought.
His assessment had been prescient. Scott Danvers never made it back to Los Angeles.
NOVEMBER 30TH, 2059
CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO_
“He’s in Emergency right now. Once he’s stabilized we’re moving him to ICU.”
“Tell me what we’re dealing with here, Dr. Carroll.” The 50-year-old RN, attached at the hip to the physician she admired more than anybody in the profession, paced side-by-side with the far younger woman down the spartan, overilluminated hallway. “What do we know so far?”
Dr. Carroll flipped through the papers affixed to her clipboard. “Danvers, Scott Michael. Born 24 October, 2032. Starvation, dehydration, second-degree burns over 95% of his body. Apparently he lost nearly half his body mass on that raft out there.”
“How long was he stranded?”
“Looks like three weeks, maybe longer,” Carroll replied. “Drifted all the way up the coast. His ingenuity saved his life. The Moriarty fellow who brought him in said it looked like the patient collected rainwater in a tarp and drained it into jars. Ate raw fish just often enough to stay sane, and used their bones to fish for more on the rare occasion he found the strength.”
“Just unbelievable,” said the nurse, shaking her head.
“Close call, too,” Carroll frowned. “He lived off so much of his muscle mass that he could no longer move. Two or three more hours in that sun and that would’ve been it.”
The duo slipped into Dr. Carroll’s office and rubbed their brows. The mere sight of what had clearly once been a handsome young man so near death had knocked a bit of the wind out of both of them.
“Anyway,” Carroll continued, “he’s catheterized, on an IV, and intubated just to be safe. This is the start of a long road, Nurse. Even when he’s back to full health, there’s the physical therapy, and he’s going to need some serious face time with the psychologists to bounce back mentally from the trauma.”
Nurse Divine smiled awkwardly. “I’ve got a good feeling about this one.”
APRIL 13TH, 2060
MECHANICAL DIAGNOSIS AND THERAPY, CALIFORNIA PACIFIC_
“Would you say you have all your mobility back?”
“Yeah,” Scott replied, beaming at Dr. Carroll. “I feel great.”
“And the psychologists? They were of help to you?”
“Absolutely. I haven’t had a nightmare for at least couple weeks.”
“Well,” Carroll sighed, scrawling a few more notes into her file, “it’s hard to believe we’re at your discharge date already.”
“You look like your old self again,” Nurse Divine added. “...I mean, how I imagined you would.”
Scott smiled. There had always been something about that middle-aged nurse that tugged at the back of his brain, but he had spent his months in recovery concentrating on so many other items of far greater importance that he bothered not with chasing the white elephants of his sun-damaged memory.
“There is... an opportunity we wanted to offer you,” said Carroll. Scott tilted his head quizzically. “Some additional therapy that I, along with Nurse Divine and several of our specialists, agree would strengthen your constitution beyond the limits with which you’re familiar. And eliminate the nightmares entirely.”
“No way,” Scott replied, still smiling. “I’m out of here. I’ve done my time.”
“Of course, you’re free to leave,” Carroll assured the young man. “But this is an academic medical center, Mr. Danvers. You would be compensated.”
“You want to experiment on me?” Scott’s smile began to fade.
“Oh, no, no, no,” replied Carroll, waving her open palm in front of her face. “This is a proven methodology. A combination of specialized physical therapy, medication, and hypnosis customized to address the latent needs of trauma victims. We’ve had nothing but fabulous results. One hundred percent success rate.”
“I’d really rather just go home,” Scott shrugged. “I miss L.A. I miss my work.”
“And you can do that,” Nurse Divine interrupted. “But I’d at least give it some consideration first. The method is only effective during a very narrow window-- this transitional period between convalescence and reintegration. It can’t harm you... and I can’t imagine having to go through life always wondering.”
Dr. Carroll glared at Nurse Divine. Her colleague was laying it on a little thick.
Scott gazed at the tile floor and scratched his chin. It occurred to him, for the first time since his near-death experience, that the fact he had built his identity on seeking out adventure and facing down the unknown was still a virtue, not a vice. A virtue with the occasional unsavory consequence, indeed, but still, it was his virtue to own.
He remembered one of his mother’s many platitudes... self-evident nuggets of wisdom she so freely proffered to the students she had taught in Detroit before spiriting Baby ‘Cotty away to New York to raise him:
“If you take a chance, sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. But if you don’t take a chance, nothing happens.”
Scott Danvers raised his head, cleared his throat, and voiced his decision.
APRIL 13TH, 2060
THE OFFICE OF DR. ANNABELLE CARROLL, CALIFORNIA PACIFIC_
“Do you think he bought it?” asked Nurse Divine.
“He’s back in bed, isn’t he?” Dr. Carroll asserted in reply. “Besides, what is there to ‘buy’ or ‘not buy?’ Nothing we said was untrue. Not one word.”
Nurse Divine shrugged. “I suppose. I just want it to go smoothly.”
“You told me you have experience in exactly this,” said Carroll. “With exactly the same boy, at that! I tell you, Sylvia, I cannot let this one go. There’s something about him.”
“What about him?”
“I love him,” Carroll replied, a tear streaking the cheek of the customarily emotionless professional.
“You’re in love with your patient?”
“I’m not in love with him,” clarified the doctor, wiping the back of one finger against her nostrils. “I love him. I’ve been working with him nonstop for over three months. I watched him blossom from a broken-down husk of a man into a vibrant, passionate, almost hopelessly idealistic young boy.”
“He’s 70 years old, you know,” Nurse Divine remarked with a smile.
“Well, he doesn’t know that, and I don’t care. You’re missing my point.”
“I’m not missing your point,” said the nurse. “I got it. And you know I have your back a hundred and ten percent.”
Dr. Carroll walked to the window and stared out at the architecture of San Francisco. Nurse Divine couldn’t tell whether the good doctor was addressing her, or merely telling an unhearing city:
“Scott Danvers is special. In more ways than the slew of medical miracles that have been described to me. Nothing gets this boy down. Nothing.”
“He hates to fly,” Nurse Divine offered.
Carroll continued. “Taking care of him was the highlight of my professional life.” She turned to face Nurse Divine. A giddy smile was plastered across the 31-year-old doctor’s face.
“Now to make it personal.”
. . . to be continued . . .