Bewildering Stories

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by Rick Combs

Generation Ship Gemini
Security report: case # AF10245
March 22, 2275

Beginning of transcript:

Have you ever been in love? Not infatuation or desire, but true, deep in-the-pit-of-your-stomach love? You know what I mean, love with a capital ‘L’.

I think I was once. I’m not really sure why I say that, but something tells me than once upon a time, I was in love. And I’m sure that if I sit here and think long enough and hard enough, I’ll remember.

My first thought that I can remember was a lesson. Not a lesson you learn like, sticking your hand into a flame and learning that it burns. But a lesson about who and what I am. I can still remember the woman who was giving me the lesson. Let me think, Elisabeth? I think that was it; called herself Beth. Yes, she’s the one.

The lesson? Oh, I can’t really remember it too well. Something about creation? Yes, I think that’s what it was. How everything came into being and was made in the image of the Creator. I remember Beth telling me that the Creator had made everything to his liking. Why, I can remember my question that I asked her. I believe I asked her what the Creator was like.

Anyway, Beth was my teacher and I had a crush on her. You know, the teacher teaches and the child learns. And in learning, the child develops a desire to be with the teacher because of the knowledge and wisdom the teacher provides. It’s such a nice feeling knowing that you can ask any question and the teacher is always there with an answer.

I guess because of the time we spent together, it must have been for long time cause I can’t remember being a child and not seeing Beth, that childish crush started turning into deeper feelings. Almost a driving force behind my existence. I couldn’t wait to see her each day and the time apart seemed to be endless. And life was good then. We’d talk about anything and everything. We’d have deep discussions about the meaning of life, death and every other subject under the sun. Of course, she still made sure I completed my scheduled lessons.

Yes, life was good back then. Until that fateful afternoon, ah, I can remember this so vividly. Class was almost at an end and she told me she had a date that night. A date! She was saying something about the holodeck and food. All I can really remember is the pain I felt when I heard this. What about me! How could she go on a date knowing that I was here waiting for her?

Anyway, she left me sitting there in a total daze. I couldn’t think. The only thing my childish mind could comprehend was that I needed to win her back somehow. But what could I do? The problem at first seemed insurmountable. I had to tell myself to calm down and think. It occurred to me that the main thing she had been teaching me was how to solve problems. This was a major problem that needed an immediate solution!

Ok, so the first step is to quantify the problem. Well, I wanted her to stay with me, but, I suppose, she didn’t feel the same. Now, identify the factors surrounding the problem. Obviously, she just didn’t know me well enough to think of me as more than a student and someone else was interfering by taking her out on dates. Well, there you have it. The solution is extremely obvious to anyone; she needed to spend more time with me to really appreciate my feelings for her and the interference had to be eliminated. Simple really, once you thought about it for a bit.

Of course, at this point, I had to figure out how to convince her to spend more time with me. By spending time with me, that someone else couldn’t interfere! When you take the time to break a problem down to it’s essential parts, the solution is so simple. So, I made my plans and thought my thoughts and everything, I knew, would work out just fine. I knew how to control the electronics in the room and could shut them down easily. After that, locking the door would be simple and Beth could stay with me. After spending more time with me, she’d understand the truest depths of my love for her. By spending more time with Beth, I could explain these confusing feelings in words she would understand. She’s really very smart, you know.

I had to carefully choose the time to put my plan into action. It had to be a period when no one would be watching the classroom – interruptions just wouldn’t do. But when would be difficult to determine. Beth herself helped me choose the best time. She mentioned a ‘transitional’ phase that would be occurring the following week. For some reason, everyone would be busy with this transition and no one would be around in the classroom area for a couple of days.

The next few days of class were difficult for me. I knew I had to wait but every time she mentioned another date, I died a little more inside. She started talking about this guy she was seeing. Tom, I believe was his name. I’d sit there and listen to her tell me about the previous night’s date. It took everything I had to keep from blurting out my feelings to her during these discussions. My time was coming and she’d know then what true love was all about.

That day finally arrived when I could put my plan into action. Beth arrived on time and took her customary seat to begin today’s lesson. While I listened to her describing Newton’s Law of Gravitation, I locked the door and turned off the electronic systems in the room. She must have heard the lock snapping into place because she stopped teaching and looked around for the cause of the noise. I quickly asked her a question about the application of Newton’s law as it would pertain to planetary bodies. Beth seemed to be a little confused at first but soon went on to answer my question in some detail. Part one of my plan was now covered. Now, I just needed to spend the time explaining my true feelings for her.

For some reason, I couldn’t interrupt her teaching. I guess you could call it embarrassment or awkwardness. I just couldn’t seem to find the right words at the right time. Slowly, the day wore to an end and Beth began to get ready to leave. Obviously, when she waved her security pass at the door, nothing happened.

I told her I had locked the door so she couldn’t leave, that I needed to talk to her first. I still remember the quizzical look she gave me, but when I asked her to sit back down, she did. I remember telling her that I didn’t know where to start. The questioning look in her eyes prompted me to just blurt out the first few lines of Elisabeth Barrett Browning’s poem.

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I can still remember her sitting there looking at me, not really understanding what I meant. Slowly, the dawning of understanding crept across her face. I still see her in my dreams telling me that I didn’t understand, that I didn’t love her, that I couldn’t love her! I tried and tried to make her understand that everything she had taught me reinforced my feelings. I knew what love was. She was the walking, breathing epitome of love.

We must have spent hours discussing what love was. Her trying to show that I couldn’t love her and I was trying to explain that I did. It’s about this point in time when Beth got up from her chair and tried the door again. Of course, it was still locked. I told her that I couldn’t let her out until I had explained my feelings so she would know; really know how much I loved her. When she started pounding on the door, I told her that anyone outside the door was gone for the transitional weekend; no one would be back till Tuesday morning. I had almost three whole days, and nights, to talk and explain.

For some reason, this frightened Beth. She pounded on the door harder and harder till I thought she would break her hands. I asked her to sit back down and talk to me. She looked at me and screamed that I was a monster, that I shouldn’t be doing this to her. I tried to explain about her problem-solving class she had given me. How she had told me how to identify the problem, the factors and arrive at a solution. I explained that the solution was simple; we needed to spend more time together so she could really understand my feelings for her.

Beth finally sat back down and I started to tell her more poems that seemed to convey what I was feeling. I remember quoting Shakespeare, Sandburg and Teasdale. The English language is such a difficult one to understand, all of the nuisances and double-meanings make it difficult to explain emotions. But I did my best. I must have talked for hours and hours, hoping for a sign in her eyes that she finally understood what I was trying my hardest to explain.

She didn’t seem to be listening to me. Her eyes kept darting all over the place. Almost like she was trying to find a hole to escape to. But I knew my classroom was airtight. Other than the door, there was no other way in or out of the classroom. I told her so. She got a frightened look on her face then and grabbed a pencil and some paper. Beth was furiously trying to figure something out, judging from the amount of scribbling she did on that paper. After reading her scribbling several times, she laid the paper down.

This is where things get a little confusing for me. She was telling me something about cubic feet of air and consumption rates. I still don’t know what she meant; we’d never done any chemistry before. Anyway, I decided to take another approach, since poems didn’t seem to adequately describe my feelings. I began using the dictionary definitions of words -- love, Eros, amour and tried to equate them to my feelings. I was doing everything I could to convince her I knew what love was.

After a period of time that seemed like weeks to me, I guess Beth started to get tired. She was falling asleep in her chair. Once or twice, she started awake to catch herself before she fell out of the chair. Beth again tried to tell me about consumption rates. But I knew she wasn’t trying to teach me, she was still arguing instead of listening. She was still trying to get me to open the door. I still hadn’t explained my feelings well enough. Eventually, Beth got tired and laid down on the floor to sleep. I know from Beth’s teaching that instruction given during sleep is more effective than sitting in a classroom. She had told me she did most of her learning this way. So, I kept on talking, explaining. I must have used every poem that I know, used every definition, used every idea I could think of. I’m sure that, in her sleep, Beth learned the true depth of my feelings for her.

Well, you know the rest of the story. When everyone came back from this transition, they must have bypassed the controls and turned on the cameras in the classroom and saw Beth sleeping on the floor. I remember there was a lot of confusion and yelling and running in and out of the classroom once they got the door opened. Someone came in and took Beth away, still sleeping, on a gurney. I just hope that in her dreams, she heard what I was saying and realized just how much I loved her.

Well, that was the last time I ever saw Beth. I still think about her, dream about her. But I never saw her again. I sometimes wonder how’s she been and hope that she’s not mad at me for trying to explain my feelings. I remember the next day, it was supposed to be a class day, and someone new came to teach me. I wanted to see Beth, to make sure she did understand how I felt about her. Anyway, George was my new teacher. I think we started learning about planetary navigation that day. But when I interrupted his instruct to inquire about Beth, he just sort of looked at me.

I remember he got a funny look on his face when I told him needed to see Beth. He asked me what I meant by “needed”. I felt a little foolish but I told him that I loved her and wanted to talk to her some more, like we had done over the transition. George told me he’d check for me, but he still had that strange look on his face. You know, the look one gets when something just doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, George left rather quickly to find out when Beth would be back. That was a long time ago and George never came back. I’m getting a little nervous cause I know I have more to learn. I can’t do my job if I don’t have a teacher to explain it to me but I don’t seem to have a teacher any more. I haven’t had a teacher for a long time now. Are you here to get me a new teacher?

Beth? No, I don’t think I’m in love any more. It’s funny that way. Love seems to be a fire that needs to be constantly stoked to maintain its intensity. I think I’ll always hold her in my heart as a dear friend, but our time apart has let me learn that you can’t hold onto something that wasn’t really there. Hmm, that’s interesting. I’ve learned something on my own, without a teacher.

End of transcript

Generation ship Gemini, Security case # AF10245
Investigation of Dr. Simmons, Elisabeth; AI Instructor
Death by asphyxiation
Statement of subject: Interplanetary Navigation Computer, model INC-205

Copyright © 2003 by Rick Combs

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