Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Transform Your Experiences"

This poem came out of the October Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chanter_greenie and [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "frankencritters" square in my 10-2-15 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest, and the "attacked by a creature" square in my 6-16-15 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It spans about two weeks beginning with the initial incident described in "Berettaflies."

Warning: This poem contains some sensitive subjects. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features graphic description of attack by venomous insects, messy medical details, miserable struggling with new disabilities, angst over the future, and other challenges. However, by the end of the poem, the main character has a few ideas for moving forward, so the conclusion is upbeat. This also tangents the issue of disability superpowers, from the perspective of someone who's NOT developing special abilities after the attack when some other people ARE. That's a very serious issue in Terramagne because it happens so consistently: a zetetic accident often has a footprint where most people get sick, a handful die, and a very few develop superpowers. So they do keep an eye on people who go through an incident like this but don't manifest new abilities. If these are touchy things for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Transform Your Experiences"

Manón Raquera was enjoying the field trip
with her Environmental Studies class
right up until Bastian started screaming.

The next thing she knew, there were
black-and-red butterflies everywhere
that swarmed around the students
and somehow stung people.

One landed on her, and it hurt
worse than the time her lab partner
had spilled acid on her arm back in
high school chemistry class.

Manón fainted from the pain and
only woke up in St. Henriette's hospital
after several days had passed.

She couldn't move much,
could barely speak, and
her vision was marred
by blurs and spots.

It was terrifying.

Her sorority sisters came
to visit, though, slipping in
with their violin or piccolo or
whatever to keep her company.

Manón twitched her half-numb hands
and wondered if she would ever
play her guitar again.

Dr. Bannerjee insisted that,
even in the face of rare complications
such as this, proper treatment for
insect stings could alleviate most
of the symptoms eventually.

She was right in terms of
the medication helping, but Manón
knew better than to hope too hard.

The problem was that berettaflies
were not natural insects, but
laboratory horrors.

That had come out in the wake
of the attack, along with the news
that both Bastian and Renata
had died from the stings.

Manón, who wanted to become
a park designer, was appalled
at the idea of anyone running
an illegal zetetic laboratory
in the heart of a metroplex.

Her house sisters told her
all about the public uproar
against not only Stylet --
the supervillain who had
cooked up the berettaflies --
but also the Spectrum,
so-called superheroes
who had let them loose.

None of that cheered her up
when Dr. Bannerjee came at
the end of the second week and
said, "I think we need to consider
the possibility that at least some of
the damage may be permanent."

"How mush?" Manón said,
trying not to cry.

"Maybe a little muscle weakness,
probably more motor aphasia,"
the doctor said. "You're lucky
that your vision recovered fully.
I recommend that you stay here
for a while longer instead of
resuming your studies -- you're
responding well to treatment,
and I think you could gain a lot
from occupational therapy."

"I can't drop outta collesh,"
Manón said, voice breaking
over the last word.

"Not drop out, defer,"
said Dr. Bannerjee. "I will
gladly handle the paperwork
for your medical leave."

"I'll think about it,"
Manón hedged.

"I understand what you're
going through," said Dr. Bannerjee.
She gave Manón's hand a gentle squeeze
that the girl could feel only part of. "I'm
allergic to insects too, and I've wound up
in the hospital more than once -- including
when I was in medical school. It's awful."

"Yeah, shucks to be me," Manón said.

"It could have been worse,"
Dr. Bannerjee said,
her dark eyes solemn.
"We've lost several patients
to these berettaflies, and
had to transfer another to
the SPOON base when she
started developing abilities
we couldn't accommodate."

"Lucky bish," Manón mumbled.
Someone else got superpowers,
and all she got was a fucking stroke.

"I know you're upset, and you have
every right to be," said Dr. Bannerjee.
"However, you'll need to think about how
you can transform your experiences into
something that will serve you, instead
of destroy you. I can add a counselor
to your treatment plan if you think
that might help you process it."

"Whatever," said Manón.

She didn't want to think about any
of it. Last week she'd had her whole life
ahead of her, looking forward to graduating
at the end of summer. Then she had planned
on transferring to another college to begin
working toward an Associate's Degree
in civil engineering this fall.

Now her goals were things like
getting to the bathroom without
tripping and relearning how
to sign her own name.

One of the nurses, hoping
to lift her spirits, wheeled Manón
to the healing garden which had
been hastily enclosed with screens.

A gardener was busy digging up
a bed of lantana and pipevines, while
another came behind her planting
pots of night-blooming jasmine,
moonflowers, and angel's trumpet.

The disturbed earth looked
raw and awful in the midday sun.

Still, Manón understood that
within a week or two, new flowers
would spread their sweet perfume
on the evening breezes.

The berettaflies seemed to be
diurnal, so people were tearing out
all their butterfly gardens and replacing
them with moon gardens like this or
plants grown for foliage instead.

Manón thought about how
metamorphosis destroyed
a caterpillar's body before
rebuilding a butterfly.

Gardens were all about change,
too, even tranquil ones like this.

She began to wonder about
healing gardens, which she had
never really considered before,
and what kind of special features
they required in order to meet
the needs of the patients and
doctors who used them.

That afternoon, when Dr. Bannerjee
stopped by on her rounds, Manón
finally had an answer for her.

"I'm willing to consider staying here,
but I want two things," Manón said.

"I'm listening," Dr. Bannerjee replied.

"I want a home teacher so that I can
continue at least some of my studies,"
Manón said, "and I want to start
learning about hospital gardens."

Dr. Bannerjee leaned forward
to rest a hand on Manón's,
the doctor's skin just a shade
deeper in natural tan than her own.
"I'll see what I can do," she promised.

For now, that would have to suffice.

* * *


Manón Raquera -- She is Creole; her heritage includes French, Canary Islander, German, and Hispanic. She has naturally tan skin, brown eyes, and straight blonde hair to her shoulders. She has a scar on her right forearm from an acid spill in high school chemistry class. She is 22 years old.
Manón is a senior at Loyola University in Easy City. She has been studying sustainability planning and development with intent to become a city park designer. Due to taking some extra classes, her course of study has stretched out, meaning that she was supposed to finish in summer and then transfer to begin an Associate Degree in civil engineering. She plays guitar because it works well for casual, outdoor performances.
On a class trip, Manón was stung by berettaflies. She developed complications including muscle weakness, pupil dilation, visual impairment, and motor aphasia due to blood clots resulting from the stings. Although the vision problems and most of the muscle weakness went away after treatment, the left side of her body did not recover completely. Some of the motor aphasia left permanent damage to her abilities in speaking and writing. Because of this partial disability, doctors recommend that she remain in treatment instead of continuing her education at this time.
Qualities: Good (+2) Alpha Chi Omega Sorority, Good (+2) Environmental Science Major, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Guitarist, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence
Poor (-2) Motor Aphasia

Dr. Anci Bannerjee -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short straight black hair. She works at St. Henriette Delille hospital in Easy City. She speaks Bengali, English, French, Hindi, Latin, Portuguese, and Sanskrit.
Qualities: Master (+6) Thinking Outside the Box, Expert (+4) Doctor, Expert (+4) Graceful, Good (+2) Head of the Family, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Rangoli Artist, Good (+2) Trustworthy
Poor (-2) Allergic to Insects

* * *

"A lot of people, when they say 'forgive and forget,' they think you completely wash your brain out and forget everything. That is not the concept. What I think is you forgive and you forget so you can transform your experiences, not necessarily forget them but transform them, so that they don't haunt you or handicap you or kill you."
-- Ishmael Beah

Mixing disabilities and superpowers can be troublesome, as in the trope Disability Superpower, although it also has some interesting twists. It can appear in different ways, which often distort perceptions of disability and cause problems for actual people with disabilities. So a leading prompt for this poem asked for someone whose disability did NOT come with a side of exceptional abilities. This comes up a lot in Terramagne because the prevailing pattern is that zetetic exposure makes most people sick, kills several, and only activates superpowers in a few. Permanent damage is not rare. That means the survivors may have to cope with feelings of envy or disappointment in addition to the usual stress of adapting to a new disability.

On the "improved pain scale" a reasonable replacement would be "I am actively being attacked by berettaflies." On the "comparative pain scale" a 10 is enough to cause fainting.

Ordinary insect stings are unpleasant but rarely cause serious complications. However, it does happen. The more potent, more complex venom of berettaflies just raises the frequency -- the actual problems are pretty similar. Neural dysfunction, blood clots, organ failure, and localized tissue loss have all showed up in various survivors. Fortunately it does not seem inclined toward the widespread tissue loss typical of some spider or snake bites, just little pockmarks from the stinger and/or distorted skin texture similar to burn scars from the stinging hairs.

Occupational therapy assists patients in overcoming the effects of stroke or other challenges. While not widely known, this is actually one of the more awesome branches of medicine, as it is entirely founded on the premise: "What are your goals?" Crummy practitioners may be worse than useless, but a good one can make the difference between being crippled and living with a disability -- and there are plenty of good ones.

Screened gardens offer a way to enjoy the outdoors without exposing yourself to insect attacks. Some-several days after the incident, St. Henriette's received a large anonymous donation earmarked for modifications to compensate for the berettafly hazard. Door fans, "airlock" type vestibules on outbuildings that didn't already have them, and screened garden enclosures have been some of the improvements undertaken.

Butterfly gardens are beautiful and beneficial. Most of Easy City is pissed with the perpetrators over having to rip out or cover all of these.

Night-blooming gardens may be designed to attract bats or moths instead. The South even has a tradition of bloom parties for enjoying the more spectacular examples. These will see a significant upsurge in Easy City this season.

Louisiana has many flowers grown for fragrance or for foliage.

Healing gardens offer many benefits, and most T-American hospitals have at least one. They have their own design considerations. Not many are made by actual disabled people, but this is one instance where having a disability can provide a valuable perspective on the job. You just plain notice things that fully abled people can't from where they're standing.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gardening, nature, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, wildlife, writing
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