Dr. Merkel looked up from his paperwork. Commander Il had brought in a new patient. It was a small girl with curly brown hair. Her eyes were vacant. She struggled against Commander Il.
"Her name is Nina," Il said without preamble. "Her brother Elodi worked in our army and defected to the enemy. He tried to betray the resistance, and used his sister as a bargaining chip. When we caught up to them, Elodi abandoned her. She hasn't spoken a word since."
"And what is the purpose of my treating her?" Dr. Merkel asked. "To actually heal her mind, or to interrogate her about her brother's whereabouts?"
"You are a doctor," Commander Il said. "You must treat people."
Good Hem, the man was right. Dr. Merkel stood.
"She has to give consent," he said. "That's the look of a girl who has been through the Unholy Sewers. How old is she? Four? Five?"
"How can she give consent when she can't even talk?" Commander Il said irritably.
Dr. Merkel knelt and looked Nina in the eye. She looked terrified and vacant.
"Nina, my name is Dr. Merkel," he said. "How are you feeling?"
She put her thumb in her mouth.
"This man says that you are sick," he went on. "I make people feel better. Can you understand me?"
Nina's eyes became less vacant. She spoke words that didn’t sound like words. They sounded like jibs and jabs of sound. Dr. Merkel sighed. He stood.
"If you want to come, you can follow me," he said. "You can also stay."
He opened the door to his patient room. Then he walked in, slowly, deliberately. He waited.
Small footsteps. Nina was walking. She wanted to come. Or maybe she wanted to get away from Commander Il.
All worshiped the great serpent, in the beginning. The snake Hem had woven the world from his scales, and had then curled his great body around the fragile weaving. It was up to his devotees to make the world stronger.
Some of his devotees began to question what "strength" was. They asked if spreading the word of Hem was what Hem had wanted. The orthodox Hemmites took children earlier from their parents. Anyone who wanted to question the meaning of strength was said to be a reincarnation of the Rebel Serpents from the Unholy Sewers.
Dr. Merkel had always believed the world of Hem, until he went abroad to study for medicine. Then he saw that making the world stronger meant tents of people begging for water and not to be stabbed through the stomach. Commander Il then found him, and asked if he truly wanted to help people. Commander Il was a protector of Hem, according to his lapel badges. He also had people meeting underground at night.
Dr. Merkel tried various means to bring the girl out of her silence; even if he couldn't understand her. He offered her the toys in the playroom. He offered her crayons. She would take the crayons and draw. They were stick figures, playing with orange suns that had sunglasses.
Nina was always hungry, it seemed, and she wrapped food in napkins to take to the small room that served as her cot. She wanted the door locked, and for her to hold the key. Dr. Merkel always let her lock herself in at night. He focused on his other patients, the ones whose parents brought them in for various fevers. Some needed to see specialists.
Then she acted out a story with several of the toys. Two elephants, part of a matched set, running off towards the toy chest. An army chasing after them. One elephant, being dragged away by a large crocodile with felt teeth. The other taken by a tiny green plastic soldier. The plastic green soldier put the smaller elephant under a blanket, keeping her in darkness for a long time. The green soldier danced around and made the smaller elephant repeat after him, to lie on the ground and beg for water. In time the smaller elephant would stop moving.
Commander Il came a few days later. Dr. Merkel waited for him outside his office.
"You said she started talking," he said. "And you can understand her-"
Hitting a military officer was a hanging offense. Dr. Merkel kept his thumb outside of his fist so that he didn't sprain it. The force of his blow knocked Commander Il back but didn't knock him to the ground.
"You tortured a little girl!" Dr. Merkel said. "And you lied to me. You said her brother abandoned her. Is that what you told her as well, when you kept her in the dark?"
Commander Il recovered. He rubbed the spot on his cheek where the blow had hit. Dr. Merkel had aimed for his nose.
"I'm not proud of it," he said. "But her brother, he won't say what he knows or how he planned to betray the Resistance. We only found out he was a spy by a lucky chance."
"That doesn't make what you did right." Dr. Merkel stood tall. "You will not be getting any information from her. She did used to speak our language, she can understand every word we are saying. After what you did, after what she acted out, I can see why she forgot."
Commander Il pulled out a medi-pack from his pocket. He ripped open the plastic and pressed it to his cheek. His expression hadn't changed.
"Get out," Dr. Merkel said. "You are not allowed to be near her again. I will ask if she wishes for a foster family. And if you threaten your way in, I will give my life for the Hemmites to learn how the Resistance has survived for years."
"At ease, Dr. Merkel," Commander Il said. "We need men like you after this war is over."
He turned on his heel and marched. Dr. Merkel glared at the Commander's receding figure. Then he turned, unlocked the office, and went inside.
I draw comics to make people laugh, including myself. The world is an absurd place, filled with crazy kids, crazier adults, and the craziest current events. If we can't laugh at these absurdities, then we reinforce them as normal parts of life.
My webcomic A La Mode is about a bakery that sells talking pretzels to pay the rent. I post it at alamode.smackjeeves.com as well as here on Deviantart.
Open for commissions, by the way; just send me a private message with visual references. My rates are as follows:
Sketch - $10 for one character, +$8 for each additional character
Linework (Brush pen or quill) - $15 for one character, +10 for each additional.
Full watercolor- $25 for one character, +10 for each additional
Watercolor comic- $50 for single-size (three panel minimum), $60 for double-size (five-panel minimum)
Fiction (Fan or original):
Microfiction (under 100 words): $1, or 20 points.
Flash fiction (100-1000 words): $5-10, depending on subject matter, or 200 points.
Original fiction only, OCs included:
Short story (1000-10,000 words): $20-50, depending on subject matter, or 2000 points.
Novellete (10,000 to 20,000 words): $50-250, depending on subject matter
Send me a note about any longer work, or serials!
Current Residence: Miami
Favourite genre of music: Broadway. Science-fiction bluegrass, classical
Favourite style of art: Impressionist
Favourite cartoon character: Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third
A week ago, I was having an emotional meltdown over the start of school, a disastrous job interview that messed up the family schedule for a day, and about being unable to write. The idea of watching more of Race to the Edge unnerved me, and still does, with fear that the new episodes would disappoint or yank at our chains. My attempts to douse my mood with chocolate and weeding a planter didn’t help.
Several of my friends recommended that I vent it on paper. So I did, writing a fanfiction of Hiccup suffering my mood swings based on the spoilers I had heard (and honestly I don’t care about RTTE spoilers), and I posted it after midnight last Sunday. I was worried that people would find it OOC of Hiccup, too angry mayhap.
That’s not what happened.
Instead, a week later, the deviation had six favorites and several lovely comments. My mood swing eventually passed, though I still felt emotional with a power outage on Wednesday, job updating and catching my younger brother’s cold. One person on deviantart asked how I was feeling, and the friends who read along said that I had done a good job.Thank you. It means a lot when something is born out of pain, and acknowledged.