750 - Easy cause has easy cure
I looked away from him, partly turning my head. At least that movement caught the itch, by touching the tube against it. I took inventory of my body, by eyes and feel. I had a vein-tube running into one foot, and a catheter inserted as well.
“You feel the restraints,” Perahin said. “And the invaders.” You only hear that quaint term from Haians who’ve never been on the mainland, a literal translation of Haian into Enchian for those items of Haian-rigging that are invasive. “You are familiar with vein-tubes and catheters; the nasal one is how we are giving you food. You have been designated incompetent; do you understand what that means? Your choices have been taken away from you.”
“Yes,” I said. “I understand what that means.” I had a vague memory of wanting to bash my head against a leaf-house post after a reply to a letter from me came back addressed to someone else asking how I had call to write letters, the first time I’d been on Haiu Menshir. How the mighty have fallen, I thought. A moon ago, I was semanakraseye of Yeola-e and Imperator of Arko.
Or was it more than a moon? My sense of time had an inkling it was longer. The usual surge of panic and frustration came up on that thought, by sheer habit, then faded as I remembered the world no longer needed me.
“Do you know why we have done this?” he asked me.
“Same,” I said. His brows creased a bit in puzzlement. “There are those who want my life to go on.”
“Yes. Do you remember trying to commit suicide on the way here?”
I tried to cast my mind back. The memories were distant, still and silent, like paintings on a gallery wall seen from across the room. There were sensations in them, but frozen. My hand on the rail of the ship, wood worn smooth, as I vaulted over. (Why had we been on a ship, and not flown?) Pressing of water against my skin everywhere, harder even than when I’d made that deep dive to grab the blue-green shell that became my adult sigil on Ibresi. A hand grabbing my hair so hard it is agony even here; the lung-fire of water breathed in. Lying on wood feeling like a bellows blown into again while many hands pin down each of my limbs, Niku’s voice cursing. Like a faraway painting, faint and still, was being taken back to the age of eleven, when I’d done the Kiss of the Lake without benefit of the Ritual Monk, except the water was sharp with salt and warm instead of fresh and icy. That was how I knew what this was. I have so much experience of life-and-death suffering.
“Vaguely,” I said.
“You acknowledge that you did it?”
I probed the memories with my mind, and determined that, distant as they were, they were still memories. “Yes.”
“It’s Haian policy that anyone who attempts suicide is deprived of their freedom,” he says. “Until you can prove to us you are no longer suicidal, you will stay in restraints. But you are also known to be honest, so we will trust your oath as proof enough. If you will swear to us that you will do nothing to harm yourself, and that you will take food and water by mouth, we will free you, remove everything and transfer you to the House of Integrity, which has greater privacy and wider beds.”
I wondered vaguely who was speaking for me; then, where my daughter Vriah was. Across a great length of sea, I hoped. I did not want her feeling anything of me. Best if I were dead and so beyond feeling anything, I thought. “Are you willing to make such an oath now?” Perahin asked me.
I answered honestly, “No.” He showed no trace of judgment in words or even the look in his eyes. He just sat with me, his hand on my shoulder, embodying calm and so tempting me to let it into myself.
“You are not strong enough for much talk-healing yet,” he said. “But a little, yes. Tell me: in your own mind, what happened to bring you to this state?”
I felt my own brows knit as I looked at him. You don’t know? But he’d said in my own mind. He was testing me. “I… lost my position,” I said. “My life is superfluous.”
“Hnn,” he said, that non-committal sound Haians make. “It was caused singularly, there is nothing else?”
“I’m guessing that was enough.”
“When you arrived you could not speak.” My habit screamed, how long ago was that? but then didn’t want to hear the answer that badly. After all this time, I’d found a cure for that habit. “But of course we could examine you. There’s more than one aura-seer who knows how yours should look now.” He took his hand off my shoulder for a moment to stroke my brow. He was so tender it was like flame on my skin. Seeing this on my face he pulled his hand away fast, laid it back on my shoulder, which was under the alpaca-wool blanket. The echo of his direct touch burned corruscating.
“What if I told you that this is only about fifteen in a hundred parts of the full reason?”
“I…” I felt my face and heard my voice, and knew this was the liveliest I’d been since I had awakened, if it could be called awakening. “I’d want to know what the other eighty-five were.”
“Exhaustion,” he said. I turned away my head and closed my eyes. I was bound loosely enough to push the blanket over my head, however clumsily. “Too much work and too little sleep, for years.” His melodic voice was more distant through the blanket. He let me stay there for a while without saying anything, his weight staying warm beside me on the bed, his hand still on my shoulder. I was in a sort of oblivion, I thought. Close enough; may I please go back?
“Easy cause has easy cure,” he said. “You’ve been here twenty-one days.” Three-quarters of a moon… I couldn’t even have the usual feeling of flailing helplessness if I tried. “We made no attempt at talk-healing then. We just laid you in this bed, intubated you and gave you just enough sedative to calm you enough to sleep. We’ve kept you so, gradually lightening the sedative as you’ve grown more relaxed.
“That’s all you needed to start regaining strength and sanity right away. That’s why you’ve come out of ketanin without talk-healing or anything else. Now you are talking, you are proving yourself strong enough for that, though we’ll start gently.” I’d rather die than do talk-healing… I guess, being incompetent, I don’t have the choice, do I? I closed my eyes and turned my head away again, and he patted my shoulder nurturingly.