"What We Achieve Inwardly"
Facet woke up, and realized that
his second nap of the day had actually
put him down for the whole night.
Groaning, he rolled over.
"I need so much coffee," he said,
wondering if the nurse would allow it.
"Oh hey, you're awake," said a chipper voice
from beyond the capery curtain around
the bed. "Let me get this thing on,
and then you can come out."
Something rustled. "Okay!"
Hesitantly Facet pulled the curtain back,
and found Adalina sitting up in bed with
a white silk sleep mask over her eyes.
"What's with the mask?" he asked.
"I thought it would give us a better way
to talk, without me losing my grip again,"
she said. "At least this way you can
see to read my nonverbals."
"Sure, that's great," Facet said,
trying to kick his brain awake.
"What has you so cheerful?"
"I woke up a while ago, and I
spent breakfast thinking about
the problems we have," said Adalina.
"Like my creepy face," said Facet.
"So I called my community health center
where I go to gripe when the college stress
gets too heavy for me to handle alone, and
asked if they could help," said Adalina. "They
reffed me to a guy who specializes in treating
anxiety and other troublesome fears."
"What did he say?" Facet asked.
"Dr. Roderstein thinks it's totally fixable!"
Adalina grinned, bouncing a little on her bed.
"He says that because it's not a pre-existing phobia
or prejudice, it's probably either the uncanny valley
or a general atavistic shiver over insects. Those
aren't as personal or entrenched, so they're
easier to wear down than the other stuff."
"That's great," said Facet.
"What will it take to fix?"
"He gave me some beginner exercises
and a great reading list," said Adalina.
"We're planning an office visit whenever
SPOON says it's safe for me to go out.
In the meantime, we're going to start
with some video counseling."
"That sounds really nice," Facet said.
"Dr. Roderstein also reffed me to some lady
who handles body image problems, in case
I want help dealing with this later --" Adalina
swept a hand along her colorful markings.
"-- but I don't know if that'll work at all."
"Changes that big can be ... difficult," Facet said.
He'd had trouble enough coping with his own,
even before people started avoiding him.
"I'll help as much as I can, but I haven't
had a lot of luck with mine there."
"Yeah, I figured," said Adalina.
"Dr. Roderstein agreed that securing
my relationship with you should take priority
because it expands my support network."
"That's a sensible way to sort them," Facet said.
"You can't do everything at once, and I can
help you better if we learn to get along."
He didn't know how to feel about it, though.
This was the first time anyone was willing
to work on tolerating his company.
He'd met a few who didn't seem to mind,
and a handful more who had figured out
some kind of coping technique on their own.
A lot of people talked to his chest, or worse,
to his feet. None of the screamers had ever
called him back; that was completely new.
"You don't sound really happy
about it, though," said Adalina.
"I can kind of hear you frowning."
Facet sighed. "I've had a lot of people
freak out over the way I look," he admitted.
"I'm not sure how to deal with someone
who screams at me ... and then still
wants to make friends anyway."
"Maybe you can help me face that, too,"
she said, indicating her body again. "I guess
I'll get some of the same when folks see this."
"I would if I'd found a good way," Facet said.
"Most of the time I just try to ignore it, but
that doesn't change the fact that people
don't want to be around me."
"That must be lonely," Adalina said.
"You know, Dr. Roderstein told me
this other thing too -- that I could
listen to my fear, but I didn't
have to agree with it."
"It's worth a try," Facet said.
"I guess I'm still a little hung up
on why you're bothering."
Adalina stroked the edge
of her sheet with a fingertip.
"I like the way you feel in
my head," she said quietly.
Facet jerked back, startled.
"You can see what I see?
Like I can with insects?"
"No, this is different," said Adalina.
"It's barely there, but I think it's
getting stronger. It's like --
like a buzz or a hum, that
I know is you. It's nice."
"Hive Mind," he whispered. "It's one
of the insect gifts, it's known, but
not many people can do it. Once
it's all grown in, you should
be able to link us up."
A smile flickered across
her face, there and gone
in an instant. "That could
be useful," she said.
Facet's belly grumbled,
reminding him that he hadn't
even visited the bathroom yet,
let alone gotten breakfast.
"Listen, I need to do my morning things,
but I'll come back later and we can
talk some more, okay?" he said.
"I promise to knock first."
"You don't think it's stupid,
me not wanting to look
at you yet?" she said.
"After getting stung nearly
to death by berserk bugs? No,
that's perfectly understandable,"
Facet said. "Wasn't exactly planning
to look at my own reflection in
the bathroom, either."
He let himself out of the room,
hurried through his morning routine --
without, in fact, facing the mirror --
and then made himself some grits.
"I could have done that for you,"
said Nurse Overton, as she
came up beside him.
"Yeah, I know," said Facet.
"I just like taking care of myself."
"Don't they all," she drawled.
"I wanted to speak with you about
the other survivors who are beginning
to develop superpowers," said Nurse Overton.
"Tsubasa has wings similar to those of a berettafly.
Another girl, Ashley, is leaking venom."
Facet flopped into a chair and took a bite
of his grits so that he wouldn't have
to answer her immediately.
Nurse Overton just waited for him.
"So we have three new soups,
all with different kinds of Insect Powers,"
he said finally. "That's fucking great."
Maybe he wouldn't kill Stylet with a flyswatter,
after all. Maybe he'd keep the punk alive
instead, and return for a smack or two
whenever he needed to let off steam.
"Pointer hopes that you might be willing
to meet the others," said Nurse Overton.
"I can't even handle the protégée
I have now," Facet pointed out.
"She can't look at me without
feeling crawly inside."
"Adalina was very optimistic
after she spoke with a counselor
earlier this morning," said Nurse Overton.
"Okay, say that's true and we work it out,"
Facet said. "I still have my hands full. How am
I supposed to handle two more people now?"
"You don't have to agree," she said,
patting the air. "You can just stop by to say
hello, after you're feeling better yourself."
Which was like looking at
a box of kittens and trying
not to take any home.
"I'll think about it," he hedged,
digging into his grits again.
"Can I have coffee yet?"
"Remember that the venom might have
affected you too, and we haven't finished
redoing your baselines yet," she said.
"Try half a cup if you really want to."
Thinking about his probably-three-now
new protégées, Facet said,
"I really, really want to."
Nurse Overton didn't bother him
as he polished off the last of his grits
and helped himself to some coffee.
"Let Adalina know that I'll come in later
to check on her," the nurse said when
Facet stood to leave, and he nodded.
"I'm back," he announced as he
knocked on the door.
"Come in," Adalina replied.
Closing the door quietly behind himself,
Facet noticed the tablet lying on her bed --
which showed a closeup of a dragonfly's head.
"Um, I don't mean to pry, but why were
you looking at bug pictures?"
"It's from one of my exercises,"
said Adalina. "I'm trying to sort out
what things I feel comfortable with,
what makes me a little uneasy, and
what really makes my insides squiggle.
Dragonflies have pretty eyes."
Facet sighed. "If you say so,"
he said with a shrug.
"I think yours would be nice too, if I
could get past the fact that they're in
a human face where I expect to see
simple eyes, and not compound eyes,"
she said. "I'm determined to get there,
because what we achieve inwardly can
change what happens outwardly."
Facet sat down on the other bed,
more tired than he really wanted to admit.
"Did your counselor say if there was
anything that I could do to help?"
"He suggested some trust-building stuff,"
she said with a nod. "I think that if we start
getting to know each other, then you should
feel more like a friend and less like I'm looking
at a weird movie monster. We are supposed
to begin with easy questions; I sent you some."
Facet groped in the drawer of the bedstand
and found his phone. Sure enough, there
was the list. "If I pull the curtain part way,
can we talk like that?" he asked.
"Sure," said Adalina. "Let me move
up to the head of the bed."
When the mattress stopped squeaking,
Facet pulled the curtain down toward
the foot of his bed, but not all the way
around it. Then he looked at the list.
"What is your favorite book to read?"
"Nature and Selected Essays by
Ralph Waldo Emerson," said Adalina.
"It's less ... busy than the modern stuff.
What about you, what do you like to read?"
"Don't laugh, but it's a kid book," Facet admitted.
"The Little Soul and the Sun by Neale Donald Walsh.
I used to read it in story circle at my church."
"Never heard of it," said Adalina.
"Is it any fun for grownups?"
Facet thought about how,
even after breakfast and coffee,
he still had no real energy today.
"I have it on my phone," he said,
"if you would like to hear it."
"Sure, I'll give a try," she agreed.
So Facet opened the file and began to read.
"Once upon no time, there was a little Soul
who said to God, 'I know who I am' ..."
* * *
Dr. Bryson Roderstein -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair. He lives in Easy City, where he works as a counselor specializing in fears, from annoying distractions on up to life-wrecking phobias. He understands negative emotions and the positive role they can play in personal growth. Dr. Roderstein helps Adalina deal with Facet's unusual face.
Qualities: Master (+6) Emotional Intelligence, Master (+6) Insightful, Expert (+4) Psychologist, Expert (+4) Soothing Voice, Good (+2) Campfire Singer, Good (+2 Networking, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Poor (-2) Nearsighted
* * *
"What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality."
A sleep mask can help with more than just falling asleep; it also makes an excellent blindfold.
See Adalina's sleep mask.
Trauma can leave people with an exaggerated startle reflex for a while. It only becomes a disorder if it persists a long time and causes severe problems. T-America has much better grasp of emotional first aid for self and others, thus less tendency to ignore problems until they become serious.
Adalina comes from a healthy background with positive experiences of getting help that works, so she sees asking for help as a strength and an obvious next step to try if she can't solve a problem herself after one or two attempts. Understand when and how to ask for help. There are also tips for supporting friends and family members who need help.
"Reffed" is short for "referred."
Fears may be rational or irrational. Most are actually minor to moderate, and annoyingly there is little material for this -- it's almost all aimed at life-wrecking phobias, which is NOT the problem that Adalina has. It's interfering in something she wants to do, and she can't fix it herself, but that's because recent trauma has overwhelmed her perfectly good coping skills. She just needs a little boost. For comparison, phobias are severe and irrational fears that interfere with everyday life. Prejudice is an unfounded dislike. The uncanny valley concerns things which are almost human but not quite -- a pervasive problem for soups with some nonhuman features. Atavistic fears are handed down by ancestors.
Desensitization is one way of going down steps for facing fears. Understand how to face your fears and overcome them.
Soothing fears with relaxation techniques can help you calm down and comfort yourself.
Positive anchoring is a terrific technique for dissolving fear, and has the advantage of being more pleasant than scary.
Everyone faces major life changes sometimes, which can feel overwhelming. Know how to cope with them.
Making friends requires getting to know each other. Both Adalina and Facet are willing to put some work into this process, so the outlook is very promising. Relationship-building exercises can help build trust.
Read Nature and Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Read The Little Soul and the Sun by Neale Diamond Walsh.