Chapter 11: Human Monsters Under My Bed
I'm staring at the ceiling in Daniel's room... okay, if I'm to be perfectly honest with myself then I guess it would be more accurate for me to say that I'm hiding in Daniel's room and the worst part is that he knows it. I know he didn't buy me being tired, not really but at least he didn't push things any further. The problem is that he had already done more than enough pushing for one night. I trust him but...
I knew what was going to happen when I came here earlier, I knew I was going to have to come clean and I wasn't looking forward to it. Unfortunately the fact that I was right about that isn't helping matters much, not really. Right now I feel like I'm back to square one, trying to make sense of the thoughts that keep running through my mind, trying to figure out what my options are and the truth is that I don't know what to do. Up until now at least I knew I was in control, I was the only one who knew what had happened in Turghan's tent and that meant that I was the only one in a position to make a mistake, to let something slip. That is no longer the case and the situation is far worse than I could possibly have anticipated, especially because some of the things I told Daniel... well, let's just say that while there were some things I already knew I was going to have no choice but to tell him about, there were quite a few others where I even surprised myself. I really should have known better.
As I said, the problem is not really that I don't trust Daniel. I trust him and I am pretty sure that that was one of the reasons why I ended up running at the mouth like I did in the first place. I knew he'd understand, at least some of it, but that doesn't mean I'm in the clear here, in fact Im nowhere near the clear. The thing is that he understands but at times the military mindset still gives him trouble and that in turn makes him potentially dangerous because chances are that he still doesn't fully realize in just how much trouble I could end up here... and after what I told him about the academy I'm no longer thinking just about what happened in Simarka. The thing is that I'm not used to having non-military friends who know exactly what it is that I do. It's been a very long time since I've had someone I could trust like that... since before I entered the academy... since my mom died.
That is something I've been missing for a very long time now, maybe even more than I ever realized. The simple truth is that ever since my mother died there's never been anyone I felt I could trust or turn to... not really... I mean who was I supposed to talk to? My dad? He was hardly ever there and even when he was... well, let's just say that dad is military to the core and criticizing the military in his presence was most definitely not an option. In that regard Daniel's presence does represent a welcome change... even when he gets a little too pushy for comfort.
In other words, what's bothering me right now is not so much what I said but rather the whole 'where do we go from here' thing that is bound to follow. I can't help but wonder what the fallout from today is going to be and no matter how I look at it I don't think it's going to be good... far from it. I know Daniel, I know how stubborn he can be and I know he is not going to let things go no matter how much I wish he would and even though he promised that he wouldn't tell anyone without my consent... well, let's just say that I know better than to hope that he won't try to get me to tell anyone. In that regard he left himself a very nice loophole and there's nothing I can do about it. Yes, he has his answers but I seriously doubt he's going to be willing to leave it at that. I am all but certain that he is going to try to help me... whether I want his help or not. I guess it was too much to hope that he would understand that I'm fine... or that if I'm not fine at least I'm getting there. I mean, so what if I am having a little trouble sleeping? Does he really have to make a federal case out of it?
Well, if nothing else at least I guess I got lucky in that seeing how Daniel is an egyptologist I didn't really have to spell the details of Turghan's threats out. I've been trying to avoid thinking about those details for months now --even if I haven't been particularly successful in that regard-- and the fact is that even now just the thought of it is more than enough to make me sick. If he hadn't understood I'm not sure what I would have done because the simple truth is that even now, after all this time, I'm still not sure I could have gotten the words out... not without making a fool of myself.
At times it's almost funny... well, it would be almost funny if it weren't so serious. When we first realized what we were up against we were overwhelmed. The Goa'uld represented a threat greater than any we could possibly have imagined and we all knew it. Their technology was so far superior to ours and their way of life so... alien... that's the word, that we didn't know what to do about any of it. The mere thought of a race of intelligent parasites who were capable of taking over our bodies and our minds against our will sounded like a nightmare, worse than a nightmare because it was actually real and there was nothing we could do about it. I remember having a front row seat to the whole Kawalski affair. I saw what that thing did to him, how it changed him and how hard he fought to stay in control... and I saw him lose. It's true that unlike the colonel I didn't really have much of a chance to get to know him but I respected him and what happened to him did hit me hard. It was a devastating example of what we were up against, an example that took the form of one of our friends... and we all knew that it could just as easily have been any one of us.
The thing is that after Abydos, Chulak and Kawalski I was all but certain that the Goa'uld were bound to be featured prominently in my nightmares for many years to come and yet within a month they had been vanquished by a human warlord... by a man who didn't have access to overwhelming technology but who simply acted like a man. Within weeks the Goa'uld had been replaced in my nightmares by a human being who behaved in the way in which our species has behaved throughout most of its history. What does that say about us?
I think that's been one of the things I've been having the most trouble trying to come to terms with. When I first stepped across that gate I was prepared to find the 'aliens' terrifying, not the humans and that was probably one of the contributing factors to the whole Simarka disaster. The inhabitants of that world were human and in my mind that meant they were 'safe', even though I really should have known better. I brought with me an us vs. them mentality that backfired on me, it really is that simple. I wish I could pretend that here on earth we are well beyond that part of our history, that there would be no room in our world for a man like Turghan but the truth is that I can't. Turghan's behavior was no different from the one that can be found throughout most of our own planet now. Even now, as I lie here on Daniel's bed staring at the ceiling there are countless girls here in my own world undergoing the hell I barely managed to escape and that is a sobering thought.
Well, it looks like it's going to be yet another one of those nights... not that I was really expecting it not to be. If I were home I'd be looking for something to do, something that would enable me to keep myself busy for a few more hours before going to bed... no, that's not entirely accurate either. The truth is that if it hadn't been for the incident earlier today when Daniel decided to try to talk to me mid-mission I would probably still be at the base working in my lab for a couple more hours before heading home, or maybe I would have ended up pulling off yet another all-nighter. Unfortunately I knew this couldn't wait so I decided to take a chance and do some damage control with Daniel. It was the right call, of that I have no doubt, but that doesn't mean that I'm enjoying my current situation.
Whether I like it or not the fact is that I'm stuck in bed at a ridiculously early hour with absolutely nothing to do and I just can't keep myself from thinking. Under the circumstances there's no way I'm even going to try to sleep, not when I know exactly what's waiting for me in my dreams. That is one lesson I've learned well in these past few months.
I'm still contemplating the situation when I hear Daniel knocking on the door. For a moment I consider the possibility of pretending to be asleep but I don't think he's likely to buy it so I reluctantly get up and open the door. I really don't know what to do here, I know Daniel means well but right now I can't help but feel more than a little trapped.
As soon as I open the door I see him standing there, with what looks like a very old paperback in his hands. At my questioning look he just hands it to me with a shrug, tells me he figured I could use it and then he turns around and walks back to the living area, making it absolutely clear to me that he is done pushing for the night, a little revelation that is a major relief. I know it also means that if I want to leave the room I can but somehow I don't think I'm quite ready to take that step just yet. I still have too much thinking to do so I thank him, close the door and then I look at the book I'm holding in my hands.
I can tell at first glance that it is old, probably a little older than I am and then I realize it's not so much a book but rather an old copy of 'The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction' dating back to 1964. I never would have pegged Daniel for a pulp nut but somehow I suspect that there's a reason why he handed me this particular volume, and that suspicion is confirmed when I realize that he's marked a short story in particular. Not having anything better to do I read the little note that he used to mark the story in question, it just says "I know you aren't sleeping and I figured you would probably enjoy this one."
Well, I guess science fiction is probably the closest thing he has here to something that could possibly be described as a common interest. I admit that a while ago I did try to go over the titles of some of the books he has in his bedroom but that didn't really get me very far. As I said, I was trying to go over the titles of the books he has in here, with trying being the operative word. Unfortunately Daniel is a linguist and as most linguists he seems to subscribe to the old 'traduttore, traditore' school of thought.
I look at the story more closely, it's entitled "Starlight Rhapsody" and it's by a woman named Valentina Zhuravleva, a Russian author I've never heard of in my life... leave it to Daniel to suggest such an incredibly obscure story. Seeing how it is only a few pages long I decide to give it a shot and after a few minutes I can definitely see why he gave it to me. As I read it I can't help but smile because the truth is that the story does hit very close to home. It's a story about space exploration but it is unlike most space exploration stories I've ever read. There doesn't seem to be much action in it, it's just the story of a chance encounter between a young astronomer, a woman in her twenties, and a sixty year old poet. There's no space travel in it, no romance and there are no aliens shooting everything in their path in it --if only it were so in real life-- instead it is the story of a scientist who, by analyzing the spectrum of a particular star, uncovers a code based on the periodic table, a code she interprets as a sort of alphabet and translates into music.
The thing is that this particular story does strike a chord with me as I know it does with Daniel. I remember what happened when we went to rescue Ernest, I remember how excited he was when he discovered an alphabet that was based on the periodic table, an alphabet that was based on atomic values because those values represented the first and only truly universal language. It was an alphabet that was logical and invariable because regardless of everything else the periodic table represents what amounts to a universal constant, a constant that can be used to overcome the language barrier between vastly different species... and now here I am reading a story that was written here on earth, before I was even born, a story that was written by a woman who had no knowledge of the stargate or the ancient races that built Heliopolis and yet at the same time it is a story that was written by a woman who somehow managed to come to the same conclusion as those ancient beings.
I admit that I grew up reading my fair share of science fiction. The idea of space travel appealed to me a lot more than romance ever did, but somehow I think I must have missed this one... not that that's particularly surprising seeing how it was published before I was even conceived. I just wonder how on earth Daniel managed to track this one down, after all, he is a couple of months younger than I am.
Well, I have to say that, if nothing else, that story served to distract me for a while and there are other stories here... enough to keep me busy for a couple of hours. I don't have my computer here with me, I can't do anything remotely resembling research and I can't even guess in which language most of the books here in Daniel's room are written and that makes me appreciate the old magazine he gave me even more. It's been years since I've been free to indulge in reading sci-fi without a guilty conscience, without feeling like I'm 'wasting my time' or like 'I should be doing something more productive' so I sit back, relax and keep on reading.
Author's note: Okay, I admit that I fell in love with the premise of "Starlight Rhapsody" back when I was about fourteen (when I first got my grubby little paws on my grandmother's sci-fi collection) and then when I saw the episode "The Torment of Tantalus" I couldn't help but be reminded of it. Anyway, seeing how in this chapter I had Daniel handing Sam a sci-fi book I couldn't quite keep myself from including a reference to it. The story in question was originally published in 1960, and an English translation was featured in the January 1964 issue of "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" (that's the version Daniel recommends to Sam in this story since I assume Sam doesn't speak Russian). In case anyone is interested, while I was working on this chapter I decided to Google the author and to my surprise I actually found an online version of the story (though I must warn you that the online version seems to be missing some sections and some of those missing sections are relevant to the continuity of the story. That problem is probably due to the fact that apparently the story was originally published by a newspaper and I suspect some cuts may have been made back then to make it fit in its allotted space). Anyway, for what it's worth, here is the URL:
altshuller.ru/world/eng/science-fiction021.asp (if you prefer a French version replace 'eng' with 'fra').
As for the "traduttore, traditore" bit, it translates basically into "translator, (you're a) traitor" and it plays with the similarity of the two words in Italian to point out the fact that due to the complexity of language it is all but impossible to translate something without betraying the meaning of the original to some extent. The end result of this is that, as a matter of principle, most linguists avoid translations like the plague whenever possible.