Thursday, July 18, 2013

Steamheat: Fevered Dreams

Last time  we were introduced to the Captain. His connection with the ship w as unparalleled   with other airship Captains.  His set of rigid standards firmly in place, and  orders followed.  His world is about to be thrown into chaos!

Steamheat: 
Fevered Dreams 
by 
Ben Hannigan




Eliza lay drifting, dreaming as the hammock rocked, a makeshift cradle lulling her to sleep along with the brandy. The day had been hard, hanging from axles, avoiding Ident checks.  Her arms sliced and scratched by flying rock, the cold and the high hot humors of terror and adrenaline coursing through her. The fresh wounds from climbing and scrabbling over wood, pottery, and glass masked by her knowledge that all that mattered was the successful flight from being sold into a loveless marriage, her life as a broodmare. 

The brandy bottle empty now, a celebration and a quelling of that faint sickness and loneliness. The knowledge that she was alone and was giving up all she knew, all she loved, to flee. The bottle clattered to the floor, bouncing off the sabre by her boot. The bottle slick with her lifeblood that had soaked through her clothes, the material that had kept them closed, bandages of lucky accident. She slept, the bloody wounds tacky and weeping, the fluid flowing more now that she was warm, the booze thinning her blood.
 She felt like she was walking on air, like a strange heady cross between the time as a young girl when she was sick with the fevers and the time her “dorm sister” had first shown her the joy of communing with the Lord, the prayer of “sisters” entwined.

Lost in memories -- memories as strong as dreams -- her body feeling as it did then.  Her humours out of balance, the yellow humour rising and the red humour fighting, driving her temperature higher as she perceived it but that not manifesting in the physical world. 

The feel of a hand on her brow causing moans and mewls of joy, the doctor smiling, ordering the Mother Superior to ensure that she was never alone, whispering, “The girl responds to skin contact, this girl has been bereft of love in her life. I can feel it from the way her body cries out for touch for love, for comfort.” The woman nodded and discussed the abusive coldness of the young ward’s keeper. She herself took the first watch as her daughter the doctor smiled and told the others of her orders.

Eliza felt the touch as if she were there. She felt those emotions, the shock at watching this figure of strength and faith as she disrobed. The first time she had seen the woman without her habit, admiring the rosary that she wore. The Mother Superior sliding  into her arms, looping the boxwood rosary around her young charge, pulling her close to her breast. Eliza for the first time since the death of her mother felt the incorruptible love of a parent.  A love that asked for nothing, strong like Iron yet warm like a hot flip, comforting and safe. Eliza felt the burning of her skin cool at the contact, just like she had the first time. The heartbeat of the older woman comforting her, her hair stroked, caressed as the older woman sang, not hymns as she was used too but lullabies.

Eliza felt as she did then, a nipple between her lips, felt the comforting touch and drifted, drifted into the clouds and slept, the fever still raging but the nightmares and pressure abated. She remembered the shock and embarrassment flushing through as she woke, the murmured apologies and the throaty laugh of her Mother figure.  

“Childling, do not fret, I was asked to comfort you with contact. It could have  been a hand in yours or a hand on your forehead, but I chose this. Looping you inside my rosary, offering you a mother figure, a mothers comfort, my childling on my breast. I chose not to disturb you as you slept, I chose to bear your weight on my breast and I chose to offer you the bond of feeding from me, of my love, my trust, my strength and the milk of my body. I offered that because you need the love. Here at this house of God, we are open with the joy of touch, of expressing our love. I know you are not used to touch, but you always have the love of us here. I offered this in this place, to strengthen our bond and to give freely of my love for you, as the Lord gives his love to us all.”

Eliza remembered parts of her life in her hot fevered dream as she bled into the hammock. Remembered her shock as she toyed with her rosary of silver chain, and toyed with the boxwood teaching rosary that hung around them both, a physical symbol of their connection. The cross laid across her bare tummy as she did over the older nun.

“ It’s ok to be loved, to revel in our love for each other” she half said, half asked as the older woman nodded. “Mother, can I call you that?” The older woman gave a sound that Eliza even now was shocked by, she squealed like a young girl, a sound of love, shock, and joy.

“Yes! My childling. Thank you for the gift, the honour. We all love you and as you sleep, I will tell your sisters of the honour and love you give us all.” She kissed the younger girl on the forehead and stayed until she drifted, the fever subsiding. Eliza in her fevered dreamings saw then that it was a fever of faith, of trial, a teaching fever, the Lord showing her love and safety.

The world spun and she threw up as she was flung into her next dream. Too weak to realize this was her life flashing through her eyes as her life force waned. She was eighteen and sick again, a fever of the same, this time however the Mother Superior was not the one to sit with her. Instead her dorm sister, her mentor, Mary; the woman she came to with questions, worries, shared prayers, the girl who read her prayers with her, who guided her through her first rosary, Her Sister of the heart, her best friend.


The older girl lay with her as she shivered and sweated, fretting, wracked with night terrors, the dream girl thrashing as much as the girl laying on the hammock. The touch of the older girl spooned behind her not quelling the fears. Mary’s heart breaking at the begging murmurs and shouts, cries begging not to be left, pleading not to be hurt. The worry turned to rage as the waifish girl screamed through old memories, memories of pain and abuse, retelling as if trapped back there. Mary called for the Mother for advice. She sat and listened to the howls of pain, to the begging, the screams as the girl relived being violated. Hearing the reliving of her trust torn, her pain and her anger at a God that didn’t protect her from her uncle. She had been treated as property, learning that she was abandoned when she was too old to pique his interest.

They talked as the young girl slumped into an exhausted unconsciousness, aided by an herbal potion designed to soothe her throat and keep her calmed. They understood why she was scared to be touched, now understood why the eleven year old that came to them had to be dragged to bathe, why she didn’t eat, why she conspired to remain filthy, hiding her waifish beauty behind feralness and filth. When she ate she hunched over her food guarding it and hiding food in her room. They had learned from her screams that she ate with the hounds at home, was beaten randomly and routinely raped by her uncle and his staff.  

They had missed it when the doctors had checked her over because he had kept her saleable virtue intact using instead her other entrance, committing crimes against God and child. 

They understood her ideas, that if she didn’t eat she remained out of the kitchen and out of reach, not having to trade for food. When her resolve broke and she was hungry she stole from the kitchens, guarded her food from the dogs, and others who would take it and demand payment in the sins of the flesh for its return. They understood her desire to be too filthy to touch, drawing safety from that. They understood also why she couldn’t and didn’t sleep in the dorms, sleeping instead on the roof with a blanket, or in the smallest cubbyhole she could find.

The girl dying in the hammock, blood dripping on the floor both watched this conversation and relieved the terror of her younger self. She watched as if from a disembodied view her Mother of choice nod to Mary after she confessed her love for her charge. Eliza listened to Mary confess her desire to share the Love of God with her, show her the Lord gave her joy and ecstasy in her body, show her the joy of prayer together, sharing that intimate connection.

She felt the conversation, the explanation of Mary’s feelings. She remembered breaking down and admitting she had been buggered; confessed the guilt she felt.  She remembered praying with her Mother and her new lover for forgiveness, being shaken by the Mother Superior and told that she does not need forgiveness for being violated. Her mother gave a blessing and left.

Mary moved around her younger partner, sliding over her body a knee slid between her legs parting her thighs and pulling her by her Rosary into a deep kiss. As she lay bleeding into the hemp rope, her hand between her legs unconsciously fingering her wet slit as she focused on the dream, her new lover showing her everything with wild abandon, joyous kisses and touches.

That first time was all about her, Mary would come later. The first time was about healing the hurt of rejection, healing the hurt of hate, healing the fear of sexuality. Blood-soaked and lost in a happier past as she crossed that edge between here and the Styxian realm, she exploded in orgasm.  In her head she was exploding onto Mary’s hand, shivering, shaking, curled into a ball surrounded by love. Mary’s mouth on her neck, her legs wrapped around her tangled in both coverlet and lover. Mary’s wetness sliding over her slit as she screamed her desire. She exploded onto her hand as she went limp, both from the power of her climax and from blood-loss; weak and lost. She woke in a field of green where her birth mother stood dressed in white at a crossroads.

“My child, my love. You have a choice to make. Walk with me today; now, here or go back. Back to your body, to your life, to the chance of real love.”

“Mother,” she gasped. Crying, slumping into her arms, kissing her and losing herself in the tearful joy of reunion. “Mother guide me, what do I do?”

“My child, I want you to stay with every fibre of my being. My heart, my joy, my love wants you to stay. But, I can see a future for you. A young man and the new world; a new love and safety. The love and the life you deserve. Please, though it tears my heart in two, walk back to your body.”

“Come with me mother, please! I can’t lose you again.”

Her mother made a gesture and a ball of light appeared; blurring, spinning in her hand. As it shrank it condensed into a metal, a chain and a locket. “I can’t go back. My time is done. However, this locket bears a gift. A small way of saying I’m sorry. There is a photo of me holding you as a baby and a lock of my hair. When you feel scared or tired, simply hold it and you will feel the love I have for you. My childling. Please remember I love you. When the time is right, the ring your father gave me will appear, the ring that gives you the family wealth and titles.”

They walked together to the crossroads and stood, neither wanting the love and joy to end. Her mother leaned in and kissed her daughter, the kiss starting chaste but they lost themselves in the need for each other. The daughter opened her mouth in a bolder kiss, a desperate attempt to draw, to feel the love and faith in her mother. They kissed like lovers until the world began to spin again and she felt herself drifting, drifting back into the room, feeling herself sinking back onto the hammock, into herself, knowing she was close to death. The only proof it was real was the locket against her breast and the faint taste of elderflower and honey on her lips.

As she lay bleeding, dying, an alarm began pealing in the captains stateroom. His intimate connection with the ship rousing him, instantly flashing a map of the ship with the wounded girl’s location highlighted in red. Her life-force flashed, pulsing, flickering as she crosses the line betwixt life and death. He swore, grabbing a sabre and pepperbox pistol in confusion.
Sprinting towards the escape pods worried because that part of the ship was a perfect place for a quiet murder or duel. Sprinting, panting and gasping he reached the deck and began to follow the spatters of blood that had dripped a trail across the deck. He followed the trail to the pod confused, “What in heavens? That’s my private pod!”
He reached the door and banged on it, shouting for whoever was inside to drop their weapons and answer to him. “I am captain! My word is law on this vessel”.  He unlocked it with his personal code, submitting to the ancient brass needle drawing his blood, his humour from him and allowing him access.
Once inside, he saw there was no attacker just a young boy curled on a hammock, mewling. His neck and shoulder wounded, the blood loss serious. He decided he would worry about the how and why he was there and concentrate on saving his life first. He bound his leg with his shirt and put pressure on the shoulder and neck wound from the first aid kit on the pod.
His face like thunder, discouraging any comment or question from the crew, the unknown boy a light weight in his arms as he made his way 'cross decks, coming to his chambers. He lay this mystery person on his own hammock before slumping into his chair.  The leather cool on his skin as he drifted, rested waiting for his patient to awaken, waiting for answers to unasked questions. Who is he?  Why did he sneak aboard and what the hell should he, the captain do?

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