Monday, March 06, 2006

The Martyrs

(A tribute and a lesson in three fictionalized vignettes. After the last, I'll give the historical context. The images are copyrighted by Radiology Centennial, Inc.)

       Sister Hathaway turned from the linen she was folding. A tiny child stood in the doorway.
       "We have someone to see you, Sister."
       She smiled. A girl in a beautifully soft dress. Her father rested a hand on her shoulder. Hallway shadows draped his face.
       "Come in. Please."
       The hospital orderly escorted them into the room. The child's arm was wrapped in a sling. A doll was squeezed in the other. The father's severe face glared down.
       "I see. I see."
       Sister Hathaway knelt. She always knelt.
       Such a darling girl. Her eyes quivered in terror.
       "My name is Mary. What yours?"
       The nun's voice was so soft. Mystical. It could make flowers sigh.
       A calm overtook the child, and the grip on her doll loosened.
       "Helen," she whispered.
       "Such a beautiful name, Helen."
       The child smiled for the first time.
       "She fell on her arm," the father declared. "Playing."
       Some of the child's smile straightened. Rivers of tears had washed through dirt on her face.
       "Well, we're here to take a look inside," Sister Hathaway said. "With the most miraculous of machines."
       A robed arm gestured to the table across the room. An alien mass of metal frames, tubes, and a strange black pyramid sat. The girl curled inward again.
       "Come, let's take a look. I have some amazing to show you."
       She replaced the father at the child's side and led her to a wooden chair. The girl could not resist the gentle guidance on her shoulder.
       Sliding the metal frames to a petite height, she positioned an odd glass bulb, pear-shaped with plates inside. The child shrank away.
       "It won't hurt you. Watch this."
       The nun depressed a rocker button, and a hum filled the silence. She waved her hand very near the bulb.
       "See? Nothing. Not even warm."
       The girl edged closer.
       "But there's magic to see. Here."
       She handed the girl the pyramid. Grasping a handle, the girl saw a viewing port in the small end. The wider side housed a screen.
       "Go ahead. Look inside."
       With the nun's help, the girl pointed the screen in the direction of the bulb. A glow of spectral green grew. It sparkled in random patterns. Almost alive.
       "This is a fluoroscope," the nun said.
       Something new emerged on the screen. Not clear. But moving.
       "A little closer."
       The girl saw the wispy shadow of a hand, but the bones showed darker. A skeleton danced in the green light. Its black ring seemed to float above the bones.
       The girl gasped. "Does it hurt?" she asked. Wonder bloomed in her voice.
       "No. Not at all. It's an amazing kind of light. Very special. I believe it's a gift from God."
       She waved with her bones a while longer until the child begged to try.
       Sister Hathaway positioned her quickly. The excitement soothed away the pain in arm.
       "Now, we can see if your bones are safe."
       She raised the pyramid to her own eyes and studied the green light. Satisfied, she cut the power.
       "There. Perfect. It must be a bruise, dear. Nothing is broken."

       Late that night in the solitude of her room, Sister Hathaway woke from red, churning dreams. Pain burrowed in her hand. Deep and ominous. She rubbed and rubbed.
       The white patches on her skin began to burn.

On to Part 2.


anne said...

"Vignette": does that mean the three stories will be self-standing? Because no no no, that's just not on!

Anonymous said...

Anne, although I am presenting these stand-alone vignettes as stories, they are based on real people and events. At the end, I'll tell you what happened to each person.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I really missed this blog while I was away last week.

Ah, it's like caffeine on an iv drip to a coffee-aholic, I suppose. To me, like chocolate melting in my mouth.

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Cool idea, Jason, and I liked this one very much. =D

Anonymous said...

Lisa, thank you! These indeed are moving stories. I wanted to try to humanize the statistics.

Sandra, that's the nicest compliment I've gotten for quite a while!! Thanks! =D

Kelly, hopefully the well of ideas won't run dry. ;)

Terri said...

Run dry? No, Jason that is not allowed!
This is such a calming piece... until the end {{shudder}}

mermaid said... seems as if Sister Hathaway touched Helen's pain with her hand, then tried to release it in her dream.

Historic and magical. I wonder what it must have been like to practice medicine back then.

Shesawriter said...

Another great one, Jason. Those pictures go well too.


Anonymous said...

Terri, I'm not worried about the well. ;) I'm pretty resilient. Just remember that the facts in these stories are true.

Mermaid, a magical time, yes. Sometimes I wonder what it would've been like to live around 1900. So many discoveries. The world fundamentally changed. But as we will see, the advances brought hideous evils with them.

Tanya, thanks! The pictures bring the reality into focus.

Kara Alison said...

You really never seem to run out of ideas Jason. I'm very interested to hear what happened to Sister Hathaway as well as what comes next!

Linda said...

Very cool pics!! I can't wait to read the rest and the endings.

Jeff said...

Intriguing, Jason. I'm following along. :)

anne frasier said...

jason, i LOVE it!!

a few days ago i was trying to remember who had mentioned x-ray martyrs to me last fall. it was you!!

fascinating and very cool. love how you took creepy medical history and turned it into a story.


Anonymous said...

Kara, I especially appreciate that from a fellow idea-weaver!

BeadinggalinMS, the pictures are fascinating, but somehow disturbing at the same time, aren't they?

Jeff, we're heading to an unfortunate place, I'm afraid.

Anne, =D. Yes, that was the first comment I ever left on your blog. A normal person would've just said, hi, or something. ;)

Erik Ivan James said...

As always, good writing. I'll follow along.

Anonymous said...

Erik, thank you. This blog is a better place with you here. :)

Cate said...

Excellent writing coupled with an intriguing premise. There's little better!

Anonymous said...

Cate, thank you! I hoped that others would find this topic as fascinating as I did.

Melissa Amateis said...

Oh wow, Jason. I'm glad I took the time to read this since I've been so behind on my blog comments.

This is great stuff. I love the image of the nun's voice making flowers sigh. Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Melissa, with everything you have to deal with lately, I appreciate you taking the time to take these little excursions with me. Thanks for all of your support! I hope you have a great weekend.

LiVEwiRe said...

When my mother was a child, they had a similar machine at the shoe store. It would entertain the children for hours being able to walk behind the screen and see a 'moving x-ray' of their own feet. It's interesting what truths come out after the fact, eh?

Anonymous said...

Livewire, the popular fascination with x-rays persisted even after the dangers became known. Not until more recent times was proper use and shielding implemented. The history of radioactive materials in popular culture is no better. The attitudes of people are like a tide. Slow to start and nearly impossible to resist when flowing.