Today's Anime: Lucky Star 4 and The Girl Who Leaps Through Time.
My gaming today was pretty much nothing but Rival Swords... I begin to wonder whether I may have forgotten to get one of the health upgrades, but oh well. I wrote a bit in the morning and watched the MST3K version of Laserblast in the evening. But it's the writing that I want to focus on in this entry.
I'm working on Fall of the Crystal Millennium chapter 4, and I've finally finished the first draft of the first scene, which represents the first major turning point in the plot of the story. Its original conception was considerably simpler than what it became as I was working on chapter 3 - originally, Sailor Venus would be asked to heal a child with a terminal, incurable disease, and would become suspicious of their motives and require a lot of convincing to do the job. I'm glad I decided to put more of the emphasis on the actual healing process before I started writing, because she really didn't turn out to need much convincing (is anyone surprised?), so the tension is more properly placed in the scene. First, let me give you a description of the disease in question:
Venus entered the room, which appeared to be a small office with an observation window along one wall. Dr. Schneider, seated in a chair near the large desk, stood up as she crossed the threshold. “Greetings, Lady Venus. Thank you for coming.”
Venus nodded, trying to peer through the window without being too obvious about it. It looked like a hospital room, with machines of all shapes and sizes surrounding a bed draped in a white blanket. There was a person under the blanket, but she couldn’t make out any details.
Dr. Schneider seemed satisfied with that. “I’m sure you’re eager to know why we’re here, and I’d like to get on with it as well, so I’ll get right to the point. Are you familiar with the condition known as scale fever?”
“I’ve heard of it,” replied Venus. “There are stories about it, but we’ve never had a case on the Moon. It dries out skin until it flakes like scales, right?”
“That’s where it got its colloquial name, yes, but the symptoms become much worse than that. The victim’s cells begin to die from the skin inward, the metabolism functioning only enough to keep the nervous system alive while the body dies around it.”
Venus could feel the blood draining from her face. “That’s horrible!”
“We can treat the symptoms to a small degree with moisturizing compounds, but the problem is neurological. The brain sends a signal to the rest of the body commanding it to shut down, and we still haven’t isolated the cause or identified the signal. Experimenting on patients is nearly impossible due to ethical concerns – the scans we can perform show no abnormalities, and we can’t perform brain biopsies on many of them because they’re too young or deemed unable to give informed consent. Even if we could find test subjects, there’s no telling how many we’d have to examine to find what we’re looking for. Every time we think we understand the brain, it shows us a new mystery. I don’t believe that we can rely on medical science to find the solution to this problem.”
“So, you think you can cure scale fever with Planet Power?” asked Venus.
“I think doing so would prove to the rest of the world that Planet Power can offer us untold benefits,” answered Dr. Schneider. “Those who advocate destroying the source of Planet Power, if we ever find it, may find themselves with far less support.”
It's a long scene that I really can't post in its entirety, but Venus and the girl, Amber, have a rather emotional conversation... at least, I'm shooting for emotional.
She cautiously approached the bed, telling herself that if scale fever were contagious, there would have been many more cases of it and it would have been big news. Also, Dr. Schneider wouldn’t have risked her life by sending her into a hazardous area. It didn’t make the nearly silent room any less creepy. She almost wished that the machines that filled most of the room would make some noise, anything to break the deathlike spell that was only made worse by the girl tucked under the covers. She looked dead, and her face was so gaunt and pale that Venus suspected she’d have made a perfect museum exhibit with a few dirty bandages and a sarcophagus.
The girl stirred. “Is it time already?” she asked quietly. The covers slid down a foot, revealing a zippered opening on the front of her hospital gown. She reached up and pulled the flap down with a desiccated, gray hand, exposing a tiny pinprick-sized wound in her chest.
Venus tried not to stare. “I’m not a doctor,” she explained. “Do they inject medicine directly into your heart?”
The girl opened her eyes, blinking as she tried to focus them. They seemed blank and almost colorless. “It’s the only way. They say my blood doesn’t circulate enough to move it around.” She gasped in recognition as her eyes finally adjusted. “Are you… a Sailor Scout?”
“Wow!” The girl smiled, making her face seem lifelike for the first time. “I used to love reading about you… when I could see well enough to read.” Her face fell again.
“I’m so sorry,” Venus said softly. “I can’t imagine how it must feel.”
“I kind of got used to it,” she replied. “It doesn’t hurt as much anymore, but they say it’s because my brain is starting to shut down.” Her voice became so quiet that Venus had to lean closer to hear her next words. “Are you here because I’m about to die? Like how those last wish foundations always have a celebrity come and visit?”
“I hope not,” said Venus. “They’ve asked me to – I mean, I’m going to try to heal you.”
“Can you really?” asked the girl, her voice suddenly hopeful.
“I… don’t know,” Venus admitted. “I’ve never tried to heal anything like this before. I don’t know whether it will work or not.”
“Oh.” The girl settled onto her pillow, disappointed. “Well, it’s okay. I think I’m ready to die now anyway. And I got to meet you. I haven’t been this happy since they told me about it.”
Once Venus explains how her power works (in this case, a mouth-to-mouth kiss), the girl (Amber) becomes very embarrassed, but Venus gets her consent and proceeds with the kiss. That's when this happens:
Amber suddenly groaned in discomfort and shifted slightly. Venus reached up with one hand to stroke Amber’s hair reassuringly, but Amber continued to squirm, making it difficult for her to keep their lips together. As soon as the kiss broke, Amber screamed in pain.
“What’s wrong?” asked Venus, shocked.
Amber merely continued to scream. “It hurts! Stop it! It hurts!”
Venus quickly backed away from the bed. “I don’t understand! It’s not supposed to hurt at all!”
“Somebody help me!” shouted Amber. The machines all began to beep at once, nearly drowning her out with their cacophony of alarms.
One of the doors slid open, and doctors in surgical coats and masks crowded into the room, shoving Venus aside as they surrounded the bed. One of them pulled the blanket down, and nearly all of them turned away immediately, covering their faces with their hands. Venus steeled herself and approached the bed, looking past the doctor who was still standing to see what had happened to Amber. What she saw made her want to join the medical staff in retching on the floor. Amber’s bedsheets were covered with a dark stain, bloody red tinged with black and pale pink streaks. As for the girl herself… it looked at first as if she’d been replaced with a CPR training dummy. Her head and torso looked fine, if a bit pale, but her arms and legs had been reduced to bones, with thin strips of muscle and flesh hanging from them, dripping into the puddle that was spreading around her. She was still screaming, tears streaming down her face, but her voice was weakening as the blood poured from what little remained of her body.
“I need all the A negative we’ve got!” shouted the only doctor who was still on her feet. “Bandages! Cauterization! Stat!”
Venus shuddered, watching the horrific scene unfold before her. Her legs felt rooted to the floor as the doctor continued to call for supplies. The contents of her stomach rose in her throat, and it took all the strength she had to swallow it. She lurched forward, hardly aware of what she was doing, but with only one thought on her mind… she had to fix what had gone wrong. She slipped past the doctor, swallowed again, and pressed her lips to the bloody bone of Amber’s right arm, shutting her eyes tightly to avoid having to look at what she was doing. She tried to ignore the strong smell of long-dead tissue soaked in blood as she concentrated on healing with all the effort that wasn’t devoted to preventing herself from throwing up. She couldn’t let Amber die like this. She’d promised it wouldn’t hurt. She’d promised to give Amber a long life. She’d promised that she would be going home to her family. How could it have gone so cruelly wrong?
People were moving around her now, casting shadows over her and Amber as they applied bandages to the exposed stumps of her shoulders and hooking up the transfusion machine to try to replenish some of the blood she was losing. Hands grabbed Venus and tried to pull her away from the bed. “Get away from her!” shouted an angry voice. “Haven’t you done enough already?”
“I have to… heal her…” Venus groaned. “Save her…” She tried to pull herself back to the bed, but her arms refused to move. Her entire body felt weak – her legs couldn’t hold her weight, and it was only the doctor holding her up that prevented her from collapsing. Had she really used that much energy healing Amber? Suddenly, the signs of fatigue that she’d been ignoring hit her all at once. Her breaths were short and staggered, her heartbeat sounded like a drum in her ears, and her eyes closed on their own, hiding the sight of Amber’s arm, the exposed bone with masses of muscle and skin where Venus’s healing power had recovered her. The beeping machines merged into a high-pitched drone as she was dragged away from the bed and out of the room, Amber’s dying screams the only thing holding her to consciousness, calling her to try one more time to heal the girl. And then they, too, faded into nothing.
If you read all of that... thank you very much. I'm sure it needs some work, and I plan to edit a bit myself later, but I'd appreciate any thoughts you may have on what's there. I'm going for a horror feel, obviously, but I need the right words to convey the image of an eleven-year-old girl, submitting herself to a procedure that she thinks at worst will have no effect, having all the dead cells in her limbs slough off at once in torturous fashion. How did I do?
It's been a long time since I posted an excerpt from one of my stories... I used to do this all the time. I've even got a tag for it now... here's hoping I get plenty of opportunities to use it. Here's further hoping that I don't keep having late nights like this one trying to do it. Boy, I hope SOMEONE reads and responds... or I'm going to feel tired AND stupid in the morning. At least the funny game show videos were entertaining.