Moon is supposed to rise
the night air, chills the flies
A cricket slowly rubs its wings
The silence broken by the sound
A strong youth races home in the chill air.
His highest gear as he peddles hard.
A young-old man, bad news as his best friend grows so ill.
A liter of vodka, in the night chill.
A missed stop sign and a broken heart.
A bent bicycle.
Another family torn apart.
In jail he sits while his love draws her final breaths
One empty man
One empty bottle
Two empty deaths
A life a wreck
On a winters eve
The moon is supposed to rise
At Hell’s Kitchen, Spicer Meadow road
Standing on the precipice
Two empty bottles
One empty man
His gift to the world, a vertical epic
They once called him Doctor of Art
Then they called him monster,
who tore lives apart
Now they called him dead.
The Last Christmas
He sat on the balcony, a fingerling red potato in his hand, feeling the weight and shape of the hard tuber.
In the previous weeks, after he had completed training for his next level of 3rd Dan black-belt in his martial art and began to feel peaked.
He had tinkered on the potato gun for weeks, the competition leading up to the finals showed a very intense group of people who dedicated their lives and teamwork to launch a tuber the farthest.
One potato, like the one in his hand, flew for nearly two-kilometers, until the controversy erupted that the team had rifled the inside of the PVC tubing that gave a spin to the torpedo-shaped tuber and stabilized it in flight.
He softly laughed at the thought, the most you could get out of him these days, the contest also included contests on how far a pumpkin could be thrown with mechanical means.
Teams built such things as trebuchet, mega-sized elastic slingshots with hundreds of bungee cords attached to the sling, drawn back with an electric winch. One creative team came up with a crossbow monstrosity with a complex, compound shape that exploded when drawn back to full cock.
Investigation into the incident showed the structure was basically sound, but three bolts put in place team members forgot to tighten before drawing tension on the frame of the giant crossbow. The oversight worked for one launch, the next time they cranked the infernal contraption back, the limbs of the bow snapped forward in a dry fire, sending spring powered shrapnel flying for hundreds of feet, hitting people not even watching the giant bow being used.
The following year, the administration added new inspector teams to check everyone’s submission for the contest.
Such was the “Tater Gun and Punkin’ Chuckin’” contests. Two days of laughter, friends, shade-tree engineers and NASA types that got involved.
Including those of his own teams from the local company.
Those were good days, he mused. Since then, two of those friends had killed themselves. One stepped in front of an oncoming truck during a call. There was no proof of intent, other than she spoke of it with one person a year before.
Another, suntanned, handsome, he was out on the ocean beach one summer’s night and went for a swim, never to return.
The Employee Assistance Program, designed to prevent such events, but it was an uphill struggle. Those that sought help for the depression, the chronic pain from sitting in positions that they constantly found themselves in, for depression and insomnia, often were quietly categorised by other EMS teams as lesser value resources.
“Weak mind.” Some whispered.
For this reason, few if any that activated the EAP or even spoke of it. When they did, it was a deep secret.
He scratched his nose, a medic of decades, the thing he missed most, was laughing.
Sleeping was difficult, too. The paramedic rarely remembered his dreams. But, those dreams he did remember, he wished he forgot before he awoke. As it was, he would wake with the feeling of dread, of darkness and sadness that cast a pall over everything.
So he increased his caffeine intake and stayed up until the last moment he could. Where things such as turning off a light switch was an effort in decision-making, and then collapse into bed to go straight to sleep.
It was telling on his ability for critical-judgement calls. He began to feel afraid to leave the house and even got to a point of misanthropic frame of mind.
He disliked walking through crowds, a thousand faces he could look into in a single “Arts-&-Crafts” show, knowing that a certain percentage would be on medication for one ailment or another. Many were diabetic, under control and lived lives that no one would be aware that they had any trouble with their blood-glucose levels.
Other people, did not follow their schedule properly and would have a crisis building.
He could see those.
The perspiration, pallor. A lack of focus as they tried to keep up their composure, but failing.
He could see that, to him, it was obvious.
Once, German physicians had ridden with him and his junior partner on the Mobile Intensive Care Paramedic unit, in Germany, doctors rode on the rescue units to do the treatments needed. After witnessing the American version, they declared them slightly insane, in a humorous German way, and went back to their country to change how their system ran.
It mattered not, these days.
His last shift he had the privilege to have a twenty-one-day-old patient that an adult shook to death, a month after a fellow paramedic shot himself.
A darkness grew inside his soul in the weeks afterward until the infanticide call.
The days had come where he would think that his dark side was in control.
A paramedic that wept in the quiet hours when no one was around, driving his massive four-wheel-drive Ford F-450 that was his toy, he often pulled into a farmer’s field that lay fallow for the last four years, and wept. Unstoppably, deeply, until he could not breathe.
A bottle of Polish Rectified spirits sat in the armored lunch box behind the seat, its seal intact. He knew that the one-liter bottle of the fluid that had many uses.
Cleaner, fuel, sanitizer (in a pinch), antifreeze and even drink.
However, a dangerous drink. Ethanol is a poison at those concentrations of more than ninety-five percent pure.
Technically, for sale only in New York, but with connections he had long made, a six-pack of the ethanol laden bottles arrived at his door in a hard-sided case.
Five bottles sat in his house for people to gaze at. One he had opened. The sixth, sat in the truck in the fishing gear.
Not that he ever went fishing anymore, since his wife of a decade left and filed for divorce, saying that he was not home when she needed him. A curse of Fire, Police and EMS. Divorce rates seven-times the rate of civilians, locally.
He shot archery more often, it was less of a problem to get bait and being sure that the fishing license was in reach.
And it was quieter. He also did not trust himself anymore with a firearm in the empty house, it was a dark and empty place.
Still and all, he took steps. He ceased all drinking when on his own, which was frequent of late, focusing with a bow on a small target, he found more peace as he watched the shaft go on target more often than not.
Small targets he found, paper-plates held in place with toothpicks, colored in with sharpies he had around the house, they were the cheapest target he could find.
Today, he finished the potato gun. He wondered about the quarter-pound spud moving at more than two-football fields per second speed that might be a new distance champion shooter.
The other thought that he kept at bay, usually, with his archery and driving in the back-country, if he stood in front of the gun by accident while testing it, if it would hurt.
Shaking his head, he stood up and walked back in the house to get ready for the next shift.
Maybe he might have a traffic accident to help at, then grab at the opportunity to step in front of a semi-truck on the highway like the cute and flirty medic that got waffled by a semi.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
No. He would not do that. The driver would be an innocent in the on-duty suicide and totally unfair.
First rule: Above all, do no harm. It would harm the trucker in countless ways.
Pulling on the jumpsuit with all the patches that indicated his level of training and position as a paramedic team leader.
No, not tonight, he said to himself, finding once again the reason to choose to see it through to the end of the twenty-four hour shift.
A tenuous choice, but it was be another day. Regardless of how it worked out.
This was his last year.
It invaded him, all around. Some would say he was a cold soul, hardened from so many times responding to emergencies, seeing things that would make a Marine cry, but he was numb beyond his ability to describe the feeling of sadness. It had been this way for as long as he worked the out lying societies of the colonies.
Outwardly he feared nothing, riding in the mobile emergency room towards, arguably, the capital of violence in the industrialized planet systems. This planet orbited a dwarf red star only a few dozen light-years from the home planet from where the first humans moved out into space.
He was Colonel Safsy Gliese. His father named him after the great explorer Safsy Riggs from earth that used the, then new, Type-D Alcubierre drive. His father- widowed by the war of religion when the religion of feared death-dealing terrorists triggered a supervolcano in the middle of a continent. After leaving Earth, Dad used a common last name when they left the planet for another brown proto-star for a mining colony, where his father struggled to make an import business succeed.
Instead, it succeeded into sending the best father that could have walked into an early grave, crushed by a product transporter with a lift that was long overdue for servicing, the old man pushed it past the limits and paid with his life. He left an eighteen-year-old son who had neither the knowledge or the desire to try and run an import business. Safsy desired to study medicine, even keeping grades up for scholarships.
But alas, scholarships were not enough. His grades did not earn him a full ride, without his father, he could only go part way before the money ran out. Leaving him frustrated and depressed. All he wanted to do was make his father proud.
And he failed on all counts, even losing the business that was his dad’s dream for success for the family of father and son.
Since then, Safsy had moved to the copper world of the orange-dwarf star called the planet Sapphire, in the constellation Sappho as seen from the planet in the stellar nursery fifty-light years distant.
A planet composed of high concentrations of copper, so much so that some mountain ranges had outcroppings of the metallic element. Beryllium rich outer planets in the system made for a natural industry and trade hub for the farmers of the other planets in the region.
Then the discovery of energy to mass conversion on the Gliese systems all but collapsed the economy of the Sapphire.
Right in the back yard of the Colonel’s work as Search and Rescue.
He looked out the window of the ship Seraph, captained by his friend and companion through frequent adventures over the years. Wings on the bow of the ship were against the protocols of the company, but the regional directors looked the other way as it was a gift of peace between two warring parties.
The pure gold welded to the hull of the ship made the wings sparkle without diminishing over time was no easy feat, as the hull of the Seraph was of metastable metallic hydrogen. Tough and superconducting, the simple element as a gas in space, came from the ship yards ready for any kind of action. Ship rescues near stars, high energy waves just slid over the hull, protecting everything within its walls.
Today, they were putting down on Sapphire, riots had broken out over the austerity programs, miners were out of work as the new technology had turned to converting hydrogen — the most common element in the known universe — into copper.
The once prestigious university of New Antarctica at the pole of the planet now sat in decay. Only the sciences seemed to stick it out for the duration, trying to create some alloy that would be a Sapphire Only creation.
Traversing the side of the green soiled hill, the team used a high-speed land-crawler to travel into the downtown area of Solstice, a large metropolitan area on the polar sea. A body of water ten-percent larger than the Terran Pacific Ocean and growing with the planetary tectonics.
“Medic-One, your victims are at school street and Twelfth Boulevard. Reporting two people stabbed. We have other units en route, law enforcement is also dispatched but have an ETA of half-hour. You will be first on scene, unknown location of suspects involved. Stage before arriving on scene at least five-hundred meters.”
“Copy, thank you for the information.” The Colonel specialized in off-ship rescues. The land crawler was capable of handling up to a dozen patients and have a surgical suite in the core with a team operating on victims.
“Medic-One, fire departments on scene report a riot on scene, stage at the one kilometer mark until law enforcement arrive.”
“Are they able to handle a riot?” Kimberly Suthlinder asked. “Maybe they should send out the peace force to stop this?”
Kimberly was a great surgeon, but this was her first tour and was fresh out of the University of the Sciences on Threshold, so named as it the planet that bordered deep space settlements.
“No, likely it is those peacekeepers that are fighting. They haven’t been paid for months.” The frowning Colonel said.
“Oh yes. It’s all about food now. These people would hunt the indigenous life, except the only life native here, is lichen. The economy fell to the technology that replaced their primary export. The two planets have teamed up, one processes beryllium,” He pointed to a spot in the sky. “Sapphire process produces an uncommonly pure copper with a minimum of energy input. There’s abundant hydrogen, but they don’t have the process technology to do anything with it. Not difficult to obtain, this system is in the middle of a dark-matter cloud that has pockets loaded with nearly pure hydrogen that has agglomerated into non-reactive particles, it is easy to collect. The government here just has no way to process it.”
“Oh, crap on a cracker. This will leave the area as a ghost town.”
“It will, for all intents and definitions, be a ghost town. We are witnessing the death of a society if they cannot beg, borrow or steal tech to improve their position.”
“What about the University here?”
“They are working around the clock to come up with something. But so far, the Gleise consortiums are keeping tight wraps on technology, they can produce copper that is five-nines pure with less energy that they use here— and they produced copper here cheaply, but not cheap enough.”
“Arrival.” The pilot’s voice came over the speakers in their chairs.”
“Arrival?” The Colonel blinked, tapping the touch-screen opening the intercom graphic on the control panel. “Colonel to bridge, we were to post away from the event.”
“Negative, my display shows green for entry.”
Taptaptap echoed in the hull of the crawler, punctuating the pilots comments — someone had taken shots at the moving emergency department.
“Pilot, move us out of here.”
Silence for a heartbeat.
“I’m hit! Help me, ohmygod!” The scream could be heard from the pilot’s position without the intercom.
Tapping on his smooth panel control module, the Colonel alerted the surgical and rescue teams.
“Trauma teams to the bridge, medical emergency, pilot has been hit. Trauma teams to the bridge.”
The Colonel wished they had shot him, six surgeons on board, with two gas-passers and trauma medics that can operate in the field to bring the victims in. But they only had two pilots, now one.
If the second pilot was hit, Safsy had only a passing knowledge of this transporter, he could drive them back to the Seraphim, but not as smoothly as with a trained pilot of this tank-treaded/hovercraft hybrid craft.
He did not want any harm to come to his team and would challenge anyone to shoot him if it drew the danger away from anyone or anything else.
Nodding to himself, the Colonel was looking for a chance to commit suicide by proxy. He did not always recognize it, but he knew he was coming to the end of his career.
Anyone that was looking to die in the line of duty did not belong on duty. He knew it was only time before he would stumble and begin to have serious, self-destructive personal and professional effects.
He did not know if it would be ethanol that might force him to resign or perhaps striking someone who would then need treatment in the Seraph.
Violence had no place in the medical ship, but the Colonel could feel it building by increments every day.