Where were we? An old mind wanders when it is full of a thousand years of memories. Let me look back at the log here a moment. Ah, just starting to get to the good part. Or the bad part, depending on how you look at it.
Clibben Sylvet, our young rakishly handsome student who chose to use Professor Yoeleb’s mystery planet theory as his thesis. Clibben was a handsome fellow too, very well liked by the young ladies. He also had a wonderful speaking voice, very deep and somewhat rough. The kind of voice that drew you in and kept you hooked, just waiting to see what he’d say next. He made reading the menu at dinner exciting. The deep voice was a bit of a surprise when it issued forth from his slim build; as if your mind expected the body to be as wide and deep as the voice that issued it. As he stood there at the podium reading his thesis to the assemblage of the highest ranked scientists in our country, did his captivating voice make a difference? Would the assemblage have laughed at him if his voice had been high and trembled? I don’t know, but I have always wondered.
Sylvet’s presentation of his thesis, along with the images and data he’d painstakingly pieced together, was all the more dramatic because it was clear to all that he’d accepted his findings as factual. In the normal process of things, a theory was let loose into the world for any other scientist to take up, test, and challenge before it was accepted as fact. Sylvet didn’t wait for that, oh no, he delivered his final line with thunder and furry. Our world was destined to die. Horribly, violently, and in the near future.
Sylvet had not only found the mystery planet, but he’d also used the decades of data to plot its orbit around our sun. That orbit, as projected by all the models, indicated that once every eight thousand years the mystery planet came into the inner regions of our solar system and smashed its way through the inner planets. It was large enough to disrupt the inner planets orbital tracts and, if a planet was unfortunate enough to be near the path, could destroy the planet entirely.
Sylvet had then taken this information and combined it with the information we had to reverse the path of the orbit to project the last several times this had happened. This was another bombshell moment. According to those models the spot in our system that we’d always wondered about, the one that was oddly devoid of a planet where it appeared a planet should have developed naturally, had once had a planet in it. Then the mystery planet had made a trip through and the unfortunate planet had been in its path. The impact of the two bodies was unequal, as the mystery planet was ten times the size of the smaller one it rammed into. The result, Sylvet speculated, was how we ended up with a ring of what we had called asteroids in that region of space. Those asteroids were actually what was left of the small planet and a hunk of the mystery planet, after the massive impact. Nothing but a ring of debris locked in a perpetual orbit along the path the planet had once taken.
The room had sat in stunned silence.
But Sylvet was not finished with them. In that devastating deep timbre, he continued on, he had projected the path forward as well and he tossed the image up onto the giant screen behind him. In roughly two hundred years, the planet would again enter into the inner ring of planets and again cause chaos and destruction. This time, this time it was our own planet that was in the path of this massive killer. It wouldn’t be a direct impact, as it had been for the other unfortunate victim, but rather a glancing blow. It would still destroy all life on the planet, if not cause the planet to break apart. It may not break down to asteroid size, he speculated, but merely break into several larger pieces. The sheer tidal forces in play would cause our volcanoes to erupt and the crust to rip apart. We were doomed to die in a horrific manner.
The auditorium had remained silent for only moments before it exploded in sound. There was shouting and arguing everywhere. Some discounted it as wildly inaccurate, impossible even. Some shouted demands for immediate access to his data, some wanted to prove him wrong, some to prove him right. Some embraced it wholeheartedly, finding his logic and data as presented fit in with their own too perfectly to not be correct. It was pandemonium.
It didn’t take long for his presentation to leak out of the academic community and into the larger public sphere. The military nearly lost their collective minds, proposing to try and blow up the massive planet before it came too near. The public split into factions, with one becoming an extremist group that threatened to kill everyone on the planet. For nearly a year there was massive civil unrest worldwide, with people rioting, looting, and waves of hysteria. Religions found a surge in new members as panicked people turned to the gods in prayer. Things eventually settled down.
With time, his data was found to be correct and was accepted by all. The planet was named, by Sylvet, after the man who had initially discovered it, Yoeleb. The real work began. Debates raged over what to do about the problem. We had roughly two hundred years before Yoeleb made the outer reaches of the inner system planetary orbits. From there, it would swing around the far side of the sun from us, then on the way back around cross our path. That loop gave us an additional year. One year for our planet was seven hundred sixty-two days long.
Studies were done on what effect Yoeleb’s intrusion would have on the other planets in the inner system and it was decided they would feel the effects, certainly, but nothing so drastic as to be devastating.
When that report came in, the idea was born to move. Yes, move. We had made probes that could reach Nahn and Plagen easily and with the new motors they did so in record time. Why not make ships that could move our people? Debates raged, some wanted to grow small commuter style vessels that would take people on quick round trips. Others wanted to grow larger ships that would carry not only people but specimens of plants and animals, articles of history, our entire civilization. Some argued for both. Build small ones and begin taking the population while working on the larger one to take other things.
The naturalists weighed in on if our plants and animals would survive on a new planet, after all, we didn’t even know if the conditions there already had plants we could eat. Or if introducing our species would devastate the ones already there? Too many questions without answers. The old argument of ownership returned, with the Conclave claiming Plagen as its own. The Council decided that Nahn looked to be a more habitable world, so a peace agreement was made. The Conclave would claim Plagen and take its followers there, while the Council claimed Nahn. The Council believed it had the better of the two choices and let the matter drop.
Thus began the space race in earnest. Both sides began growing new experimental vessels. Trips to and from the respective planets were made by small groups, taking samples, reading, observing, scouting. Both sides were on the clock, so to speak, and all eyes kept watch on planet Yoeleb.
I was raped a week before my thirteenth birthday. After the men left I got up, cleaned up, then waited for morning. I begged off going with the family to run errands, dug around the medicine cabinet and took every pill I could find. I didn’t attempt suicide solely because of the rape, it was just a ‘cherry on top’ moment to a childhood of pain. I came close enough to a successful suicide that I saw what comes next. There were a lot of mitigating factors but the rape itself is what haunted me for years.
I won’t go into the gory details of the rape, most women don’t need them, they’ve had their own experiences. I went through, what I now know, are the normal stages of post-rape PTSD. I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping because sleeping meant nightmares. I became hypervigilant and distrustful of men, etc. Classic PTSD, textbook, really.
For years I never told what happened that night because the adults around me were all focused on the attempted suicide. Oddly, no one asked me the simplest question “Why?” Instead, it was a chorus of “do you hate me that much?” from my parents and “you are so selfish!” from siblings. Even the therapists they took me to all tried to tell me why I did it, instead of just asking. All the signs of PTSD were there if anyone had really bothered to look or listen. No one really did, so I never bothered to fill them in.
I went on with life because life doesn’t wait for you to “get over it”. Those nightmares, though, they haunted me for a very long time. I became entrenched in habits, triple locks on the doors, holding my keys between my fingers, not visiting bars, avoiding any situation where I had to be alone with a man. I sat with my back to the wall in restaurants. If I went on a date, I met the guy where we were going. I didn’t give out my address, I didn’t let them pick me up. I slept in short bursts only when I felt totally secure. I learned to not sleep deeply, hypervigilant even then.
Eventually, I did meet a man that worked his way through my defenses and into my heart. When I realized it was getting serious, I told him what happened. Not the details, just enough to explain some of the behavior he found odd. Why I can’t stand being snuggled, for example. He accepted it, went with it, and helped me heal in a way that had never been possible. He is a rare and marvelous man. We married, raised kids, and are grandparents now.
Which is strange enough on its own.
But there it is, life marching on.
Because of my wonderful husband, I stopped having the nightmare gradually. From nightly to weekly, weekly to monthly, monthly to randomly, to eventually rarely. I still have regular nightmares, they just aren’t about that specific incident. I can’t honestly tell you when the last time I had that dream was.
Until last night.
We had a get together with some very old friends yesterday. Friends that I made shortly after the rape. I suppose the memories of them woke the dream where it had been buried deep in the recesses of my mind. The dream thought it would come out to play, to torment me, taunt me, terrorize me the way it used to. It had only been waiting, lurking, longing for the right moment to lunge out of the darkness and bring it all back with a crash of raw emotion.
This time, it was different.
This time, instead of being the tiny twelve year old, helpless against powerful adult males, I was furious.
I was Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. I was Zoe Saldana’s Gamora.
I kicked that dreams ass.
I woke up covered in sweat, heart pounding, panting but not from fear.
From anger and a certain sense of satisfaction.
Because I kicked ass.
I pummeled that rapist in a very violent, satisfying way. I sent the dream packing, whimpering and confused, not back into the recesses of my mind but gone for good.
Over coffee this morning, I told my husband that I’d had that dream for the first time in ages. Immediately he jumped into a comforting mode, all of his old instincts about how to deal with the traumatized me reactivating like it was decades ago. I stopped him. I told him that I didn’t need comfort this time. This time I owned it, took control of it, changed the narrative, and changed the outcome. This time, I was not a victim.
I don’t think you are ever really ‘over it’ but last night I came as close as I’ve ever been. Probably as close as I’ll ever be.
Which made me wonder, why now?
The way I see myself has changed drastically in the last few years. I’ve been using a wheelchair for over a decade but never in my dreams. Last month, for the first time ever, in a dream I was in my chair.
Is it acceptance? Is it a letting go of old things?
I don’t know.
I stood there, yesterday, watching my group of old friends together. It struck me that we all have gray hair now. We are all old. Well, oldish. I recall at twenty thinking that forty was ancient, now I’m eyeing sixty and wondering what’s next.
I thought it was a fitting way to start 2019, to take charge of old and new.