When they finally removed the bandages, Nathaniel realized the extent of strain that his vision had suffered. Everything was blurry. He blinked rapidly, hoping that maybe it would go away, and was dismayed that everything remained smudged. He sighed bitterly.
“It will pass,” said a man-shaped mass in front of him. “The nurse will give you some drops to clear up the issue. We also have a steady regimen of medication to get you back in working order. Interstellar travel is still a new science to us. Our bodies, it seems, aren’t agreeing with everything that we do in this area.” He chuckled, and it was the laugh of a man that found himself much more amusing than he truly was.
“What if it doesn’t pass?” Nathaniel hazarded.
“Oh, come now, no need to be negative,” replied the doctor, in a mockingly scolding tone. “Our physiology is finding this sort of travel to be taxing, that’s all.” He took Nathaniel by the shoulder and helped him back to his bed. “The truth of the matter is that this sort of travel can be very dangerous. There’s not even a guarantee of total survival. Not that that sort of thing can stop the human spirit!”
Nathaniel decided he most likely would never truly like this doctor. He spoke with such conceit that it was hard to tell what was bluster and what was fact.
“Alma will remain on call with you for the next six hours. Remember; she’s watching over a number of your fellow travelers, so don’t take too much of her time. Make sure you eat everything that’s brought to you – even your green veggies! – as it is essential to recovery. In a few days, it will all be a fun memory.”
As he left, Nathaniel grunted. “What in the world would make this sort of memory anyfun?”
The nurse began laughing, and Nathaniel nearly shouted; he’d forgotten she was still in the room. He smiled sheepishly. The nurse must not have noticed that he was shocked; most likely she was living in the same delusion as the doctor.
“It’s not fun, I know; I traveled a few months back and I couldn’t see for almost a week. Couldn’t keep a decent meal down, either. I don’t think it’s ever occured to me to laugh about it. But that’s doctors for you.” She said this last part with a conspiratorial whisper. Nathaniel smiled absently at this accusation.
“I haven’t seen my father since we’ve arrived,” Nathaniel said, hoping to change the subject from his own current afflictions. “I’d like to know how he’s doing.”
“Sure thing, sweetie, just a second.” Nathaniel could see her muddled shape bustling for something; most likely looking for a pen. “Okay. What’s his name?”
“Spell it, please,” she replied, a little impatiently. Nathaniel did. “Okay, got it. You know his registration number?”
“No, I don’t even know what that is.”
“I see,” she replied. Nathaniel was not liking her tone in the least. “Age?”
“Look, there can’t have been that many of us. He was put next to me when we were put under for the journey.”
“Well, that would make it easier on the cruiser, wouldn’t it?” she replied, and there was a bit of an edge in her voice. “Nathaniel, as you well know, you have a different physiology than your father with your genetic makeup. We don’t place humans and Hybrids in the same wing. Different doctors, different nurses. You understand?”
Nathaniel frowned. He felt a surge of frustration, but as his parents had taught him, he was able to overcome it. “I just want to know where my father is,” he said, making his voice small to hide his budding anger.
The nurse didn’t say anything for a bit, and as Nathaniel reached out, he could sense that he’d made her feel guilty for her callousness. He could also tell that she had no idea where his father might be, and so in that case, she was telling the truth. He considered searching deeper, but pulled back.
“I’ll pass this information along to the right people,” the nurse said. Her voice seemed a little humbled. “For now, just relax. Sleep is the great healer.”
But relaxing didn’t come. Nathaniel tried reaching out around him, and never went too far. He felt guilty at pressing his senses too far; he’d been taught to be conservative, and lately, he’d been anything but. He also didn’t hear again from Adam, and that, coupled with the mystery of his father, made him feel incredibly alone.
When sleep came, it was disturbed and fitful, with the sad memory of his mother. He felt himself being pulled away by the Celestial officials, their hands strong and insistent. He could see his father, struggling and shouting, his voice hoarse from desperation, his face red with fury. I know it is not your choice, his mother was saying, and though her words were meant only for his father, Nathaniel heard them as well.
“No!” Shadrach bellowed, surging forward and taking one of the officials off of his feet. He wrenched his arms free and sprinted to his wife, shouldering his way past another official. The Celestials towered over him, but he was fueled by his need for his wife, and Nathaniel, for the first time, felt the overwhelming power of his parents’ love for one another, and he remembered the unnatural beauty of it. It took his breath away and left tears streaming down his cheeks.
Their embrace lasted mere seconds, but that moment in time seemed eternal. They held one another and kissed, and even the officials had to stop in awe at that brief spectacle, and Nathaniel knew that they could feel the love that radiated between the couple. But it wasn’t enough to keep them at bay, and they pulled his father from his mother, too strong for his human form, too duty-bound to see the error of their ways.
The officials dragged Shadrach away, disregarding his screams and curses and pleas. They dragged Nathaniel along, and he looked back toward his mother, and her beautiful face struggled with composure. She raised a hand to him, and retained the serene expression of the Celestials. But in his mind he could hear her on the inside, hear the howling of pain and loss. He could feel the encompassing grief, and it threatened to swallow him as well, into an eternal prison of torment and melancholy. He cried out to her in his mind, telling her that he would always think of her, and her mask of serenity trembled.
As they pulled him further, the last thing he that he could see was the sight of a solitary tear trekking along his mother’s cheek.