The Trench Which Split the World

By Linda

Rating: G

Genres: drama

Keywords:

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Disclaimer: No filthy lucre changed hands.

Rating: G

Genre: drama, friendship

Summary: V’Lar befriends a young Florida survivor.

 

 

 

The Trench Which Split the World
By Linda

Tracie stumbled on the rubble hidden by the tall weeds that had grown up around the foundation bricks. The stumble propelled her forward and she fell, skinning her knees and the palms of her hands that broke her fall. Sucking back the tears, she stood and looked around. Blackened bricks. Thin pieces of twisted metal that she recognized as window frames. Two years ago, when her Daddy brought her through here, there was no vegetation. The burned smell was gone now, which was a good thing, but she could no longer see where the better places to walk had been. She picked her way through, parting the weeds, now watching her footing, going slowly least she stumble onto the edge of the trench and fall three hundred and twenty feet to her death.

Some of these bricks and girders and axils from cars had been thrown clear as the killer beam had dug the scar into the Florida landscape. There had been burned Human bones too. Not many though. Most of the seven million had been vaporized. Her Daddy said they were probably breathing the remains of their friends and schoolmates. She shuddered, even now. The faces of all her classmates had grown fuzzy and dim. Her mother had locked away all Tracie’s old class pictures – kindergarten, first grade through third grade. What use was it to dwell on the past? They had to move on, forget all of it, in order to survive, Momma had said.

Well right after, she had been eight then, they had been in shock. It was a suspended life, living from day to day – waiting for the aliens to return and finish the job. Life had been bleak. Their house was there, but no electricity for months. No heat, no air conditioning, and they went into the swamp to kill things so they could eat. No refugees in tent cities were good, said her mother. A devastating kill, but a clean one. No trails of littered possessions discarded by refugees too weak to carry them further. She had seen color vids of refugees from World War III and black and white stills from World War II with the starving, wandering people dying along roadsides. But she had thought it horrible of Momma to see the Xindi attack as ‘clean’.

The Florida economy had been broken. There was no work for the survivors. So Tracie’s family became refugees themselves, moving away to her uncle’s place up in Illinois. He had a vacation trailer in a campground at a lake that Tracie’s family lived in for a year. She helped her Daddy haul the smaller propane tanks from the dealer to the trailer for the camp stove. A truck came once a month to fill the larger propane tank that feed the trailer heating system.

“Just like a year round summer vacation,” Momma had smiled bravely.

They had moved in summer, so it was like a vacation at first, swimming in the lake. Then the winter came. And the snow. A true Florida girl, Tracie had never felt warm all winter because the trailer was not insulated and they had to keep the temperature down to 65 degrees to conserve the propane. With hundreds of refugees from Florida, even this far north, there was still little work to be found. Her Daddy got intermittent part time jobs. Momma only found baby-sitting jobs for those lucky enough to find fulltime work.

Tracie was only warm at school, in the overcrowded classrooms. The locals resented the refugees because of the crowding. They were easily identified and picked on because of their ‘good will’ clothes – heavy sweaters and long pants with linings to replace the T-shirts and shorts brought from Florida. Tracie wore most of those clothes all at one time, in layers, when she was in the trailer.

By the second summer, Daddy said “Enough of this. We are going home. I hear there is work now that the Florida infrastructure is being rebuilt. In fact, the electric company needs line workers. Also, construction workers are being hired for the bridges they are starting to build to span the trench.

The old pickup truck just made it back to Florida. Tracie and her brother rode in the back on an old mattress. They had to duck down whenever Daddy said to, so the police would not see they did not have seat belts back there, among the few possessions the family threw in the back of the truck. Daddy had put a cap over the truck bed, to keep the wind and rain out on the long trip home.

Their house in Florida had been ransacked despite being locked and boarded. All their furniture was gone, and the kitchen stove. Someone had ripped the door off the fridge, but Daddy had repaired it. And their northern clothes were too hot, but all the clothes they had left in the closets had been stolen too. So they made do with the few outfits they had left with a year ago, though Tracie’s clothes were tight, as she had outgrown them.

Daddy found an old two-burner backpacking stove in the basement and Momma dug a fire pit in the back yard. Daddy built a tripod of old twisted half-melted metal from near the trench. It was quite nice, actually, having big fires and cooking on them in the back yard. There was meat in the stores now. Opossum and squirrel steaks now a thing of the past.

Daddy had found a good job. Not what he used to do in an office. It was physical labor, but he no longer had a fat belly, which Tracie thought was an improvement. He was tired at night, but looked tan and healthy.

Tracie was nine at the end of that first summer back in Florida, but the day passed without a birthday party. Tracie had bitten back the tears when her mother put a candle in a cupcake, saying, “Here, Dear, eat this quickly so your brother doesn’t see it because I don’t have one for him too”. But when school started she got some new clothes and best of all, the kids were friendly at school. She did better this year because the teacher had only twenty-five kids and could take extra time to help her with her math. She needed math to become a nurse someday. Nurses always had work, even in desperate times.

And this summer, a year after their return to Florida, things almost seemed back to normal, like before the trench. Her world was split into the Time Before and the Time After the trench. On Saturdays she again had free time since they had a washing machine and dryer again. No more long hours of hand washing in the bathtub and line hanging the clothes. So Tracie could take walks. Today she went off by herself the way Daddy had taken her two years ago to see the trench.

Tracie practically had to crawl, not knowing where the edge was anymore. It was a good thing she did, as she came upon it abruptly when she parted the last clump of weeds. Plants were growing up to the edge, and in the wall of the trench that fell away beneath her. It was as wide as she remembered, but not so black anymore. Green things were growing way down into it. The bottom was covered by water. There was one boat way down there. And a big flat barge with a helicopter on it. Off north of her was the framing of a new bridge, which did not meet in the middle yet. There were girders and wires and bags of stuff piled on the barge below. It looked like it might be for the bridge.

She was glad her Daddy did not work on the bridge. It looked dangerous and she said out loud “I don’t want to have to cross that bridge,” though she knew she probably would have to, to get to Miami where her parents liked to shop a few times a year. The killer beam had not touched that city. But a quarter of the population had left anyway, in the wake of the destruction of Florida’s economy.

She did not like this spot. Crawling back from the edge, Tracie stood up. The weeds looked more beaten down closer to that new bridge, so she walked in that direction. She had all day to explore, and a sandwich, bottle of water, a package of cookies, in her backpack. She watched her footing, as who knew what she was stepping over. This once had been her town, not the rubble-strewn wilderness it had become.

Moving faster now in the low weeds, Tracie walked past piles of bridge materials. She found some stacked wood and sat on it to eat her lunch and watch the men moving around on the bridge supports. There were hammering noises and faint shouts from the tiny distant figures. Then there was a thwack, thwack, sound and the helicopter rose from the trench with a piece of metal dangling on a string. The metal thing spun slowly beneath it. Then helicopter stopped near the bridge and the metal thing slowed its spinning. The men on the bridge grabbed the metal thing with tools and it was lowered into a gap in the bridge structure and secured. Watching this in fascination, Tracie did not see the woman approach until a shadow fell across her knees.

Startled, Tracie looked up. “Oh!”

“Greetings, Child. I did not mean to startle you. The work is progressing nicely on that bridge, is it not? May I sit with you?”

“Oh, of course, Ma’am. There is plenty of room here on this woodpile.” Tracie brushed off some dust and sandwich crumbs from a spot next to her.

The woman was wearing strange clothing, a wraparound robe or something. A refugee? Then Tracie noticed her ears. Pointed. And the skin on her hands. Greenish. Well, beige-greenish. Her hair was white and severely cut short, bowl-like. A Vulcan. Like T’Sila, two years ago in her third grade class.

Tracie made the Vulcan greeting, something she had not done in two years.

The woman smoothly returned the sign. “Why, Child, what a surprise. I did not expect such an agreeable greeting from a Human so far from San Francisco where people are used to seeing Vulcans.”

Tracie gave the woman a wan, shy smile. “Well, Ma’am, there were Vulcans in Florida two years ago. My friend T’Sila from school.” Tracie pointed south to a blackened wall leaning into the trench. “My school was there. T’Sila’s parents were technical advisors. They worked over there.” Tracie shifted her arm, pointing to the middle of the trench. And her smile died away.

The woman stilled her hands in her lap. She was close enough to the girl to telepathically feel the sadness, which welled up.

“Ah. T’Sila’s parents were at their work in this town when the Xindi weapon deployed?”

“Yes.”

“And T’Sila was at school?”

“No. She was at my house with me. I had a bad cold and Momma kept me home. T’Sila’s parents thought she might have it too, since we were always playing together. So they let her skip school and stay with me that day. We were supposed to do homework together.”

The woman was very still and silent for a minute. Then she said, “I grieve for the loss of T’Sila’s parents. Your mother was home with you girls? Did your father survive?”

“Yes, Ma’am. And T’Sila stayed with us until we knew for sure that her parents had been killed. She stayed with us for a month until her uncle came for her.” Tracie’s eyes were filling, for all of a sudden T’Sila’s face was fresh and sharp in her mind.

And the image of the faces of classmates who had not been sick that day.

And the image of T’Sila crying into the pillow of the bed they shared in Tracie’s room.

And the image of T’Sila snapping at her “I was NOT crying. Vulcans do NOT cry. We accept what is.” T’Sila’s thin shoulders were shaking and shrugging off Tracie’s arms as she awkwardly tried to comfort her friend.

Sitting there on the woodpile, Tracie raked the backs of her hands across her eyes. The pent up feelings were surfacing out of her control: those awful feelings that she had shared with T’Sila in the dark of her bedroom when T’Sila had relented and let Tracie envelop her in a fierce hug. T’Sila had hugged back and spread her fingers over Tracie’s cheek. Then they had shared sharp images and emotions the strength of which Tracie had never before experienced. The image of the world that she had known, raked by a killer beam of light advancing and advancing toward them. Just as she and T’Sila had stood watching it out the window of Tracie’s house. The light had been so bright that T’Sila’s inner lids had descended and the heat had blistered the paint on Tracie’s house. That night, and for many nights, they relived it, huddled together on Tracie’s bed.

The night before T’Sila’s uncle came, Tracie had broken the horror by reaching within herself for the love she felt for her friend. She wrapped it around T’Sila like a telepathic blanket. T’Sila had responded by reaching for the image of her own mother’s soothing finger touch - that healing meditation touch of a Vulcan mother to a Vulcan child. T’Sila and Tracie reinforced each other’s calming techniques, the Human blending with the Vulcan, with the Vulcan repression response taking over and sealing the memories deep within both their minds…

Until now. Tracie had no techniques to deal with these resurfacing memories. But someone had read them and was helping. She found herself burrowed against the Vulcan woman on the wood pile, the memories receding, the emotions dissipating as a gift of calm reassurance spread through her.

“Oh,” Tracie whispered, “How rude of me to be touching you, Ma’am. I am so, so sorry.” She pushed away and looked into dark sympathetic eyes.

“Child, no apology is needed. You know that. T’Sila took you deeper into Vulcan culture than I have known any aliens to ever be allowed. And what you did for her was the right thing. Reaching out to her at that moment may have saved her life. A traumatized Vulcan has the ability to stop its own heart, especially a child who receives such a deep shock. What you have survived is not just a chilling attack on your world but the depths of Vulcan emotion as few non-Vulcans have been able to tolerate. I did not know that Humans were capable of such an intimate relationship with us. Be at peace now. What is done is done.”

And V’Lar took Tracie back into an embrace, touched her mind, and repressed the memories with a skill that T’Sila had not been able to. In doing this, V’Lar also noted the Human potential – both the intelligence and compassion that paralleled the Vulcan. It was enough for her to come to the decision she had been wrestling with. For V’Lar had come to Florida to understand the wound to the Human psych left by an alien attack. What she found was not just the wound, but also the depth of Human compassion and resilience.

V’Lar walked Tracie home and was invited to share the evening meal with the family. After the meal, which had some vegetables that she could digest, she dug into her robe for her collection of IDICs. With solemn Vulcan demeanor, she handed one to each member of Tracie’s family. She had been holding these IDICs in reserve for the leading diplomats at the upcoming conference to decide the issue of federating.

As the shuttle came for her on the front lawn of this Human residence, V’Lar thought of this conference that was convening in San Francisco and of the Human whose altruistic vision this federation was - this very same Human whose ship and crew had saved her life a few short years ago: Admiral Archer. She had been skeptical of such a close binding of four worlds, especially with one of them recently scarred by alien attack. But the Human child had shown her the heart of this species. She now considered that joining with them would give this federation a better than even chance of surviving.


Comments:

Brandyjane

I enjoyed this quite a bit.  I wish we had seen more of what Earth went through after the Xindi attack.  Your piece feels real to me.

Emberchyld
Lovely... and the imagery just drew me in.
Linda
Thanks, guys! :D Hey, where is that blushing smiley face? I was thinking of the general RL plight of refugees while working on this one, from all over our planet to right in our own backyard in the aftermath of Katrina.
Asso
I only can add my words to those of the others. Every your new story is a discovery! More, Linda. More.:p
justTrip'n
Very moving. I agree with Black 'n Blue. Your stories are always vivid, engrossing, and off the beaten path. But these latest ones are also very polished. Yes, these stories are getting better and better.
Blacknblue
Superlative. I was waiting and hoping that you would put this one up here, ever since I saw it on ff.net. You better put all the rest of them here too. Especially that last one, the stream of consciousness short story. Your stories are getting more polished all the time. I really like the way you seem able to get inside the Vulcan mind.
Distracted
An interesting idea, the two children sharing grief that way. Evidently T'Sila and her parents were melders, yes? Good one, Linda.

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