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stargate, DanielJackson

Week 32, Title: The longest distance between two points is an infinity

Posted on 2015.01.08 at 17:07
Tags: ,
Topic: The bystander effect

Brian’s hands clench against the cold, smooth metal of the bridge’s railing. He looks down at the ground below and thinks about distances; between him and the others on the bridge, between his mind and the other minds within his reach, between him and the ground. A fleeting moments thought is given to the idea of surviving, of bones shattering and flesh tearing. He dismisses it.

He considers stepping away, returning home, just like all the times before. It’s almost inevitable.

The thoughts of those crossing the bridge around him cloud his mind.

‘Don’t look. Pretend you don’t see.’ Thinks a stout man, eyes down, walking briskly.

‘Someone else will help. Someone who knows what they’re doing. I don’t have time for this.’ Thinks a petite woman; mobile in one hand, coffee cup in the other.

‘It’s nothing to do with me. None of my business.’

‘He’s probably just admiring the view.’

‘If things are that bad, it’s probably for the best.’

Thought after thought and no one approaches. He’s unseen, non-existing, just as always. Always with words around him, at him, never to him. He exists in a hole where no thoughts touch. He can no longer remain in this absent state.

But he will. He’ll think about not being another statistic. Not being yet another misunderstood telepath who everyone thought couldn’t handle the thought bombardment.

(No one really understands because no one takes the time to see. It’s not the presence of thoughts which is maddening, rather the absence of it, the black darkness where nothing exists; where his own invisibility can be felt in the thoughts curving around him.)

And he’ll go home because otherwise he’ll just live up to his non-existence.

Except today that reasoning doesn’t feel so vibrant, so fortifying, it feels hollow. He needs an end to this existence where he’s only thought of for what his powers can be used for.

Brian climbs over the railing. He ignores the flurry of panicked thoughts around him. And lets go.


He wakes in agony under fluorescent lights. Takes in thoughts to gather his bearings; litanies of concern and pain and bad news. A hospital. He can’t move. Listens to thoughts of the nurse checking on him; fractured vertebrae; Quadriplegic. No, no, no, no.

There is nothing but these absent-thoughts now, flitting uselessly about him, he cannot do a thing to react. He’s alone in this hole.

They bring a healer gremlin to him, but he hears them think that it’s useless. This gremlin doesn’t even have any juice left. But, rare as these beings are, there aren’t any others in the country. He wonders at what point the hospital decided to try the placebo effect on a broken spine.


He realises with bitterness that he and the gremlin are kindred in their despair. The being doesn’t think like humans; ideas forming in spirals rather than haphazard diagonals, but Brian understands well enough. And feels resentment towards this thing that can help but won’t.


The pain medication has him in a haze, fading in and out of consciousness. But time passes and coherence remains for longer. The healer gremlin hasn’t been taken away; they’re both precious for what they can be used for. They’re stuck together inhabiting this silent, detached, reality. The resentment erodes somewhat in the unescapable face of this lengthy co-habitation. There’s a reluctance to say it, too worn to care for another, but he says it nonetheless.

“I see you.”


The gremlin startles at being spoken to, toddles around to face Brian, narrows over-large eyes. Then the being begins to communicate in a string of nonsense syllables, though Brian understands well enough. The gremlin, whose name is apparently Bog, also understands in turn.

Gestures bridge gaps where comprehension falls between human and gremlin patterns of thought. And somehow Brian’s indefinable hole has form, cohesion, a comrade in arms to bitch about it with. A mutual understanding.

That shouldn’t be enough to form a rapport, a friendship. They are disparate beings, unconnected, incongruous, perhaps too desperate to find kinship, clutching onto some semblance of similarity. Later he’ll think himself naïve to think this could improve things; that anything so superfluous could bring him back from this isolated brink. He’s just too desperate for something to help.

It helps because they make it help.


He doesn’t ask Bog to heal him. He thinks about it of course, would like the use of his limbs. But he knows what it is to be over-used, to be done. He trusts it will happen when Bog’s ready. He’s still somehow surprised when he wakes to bone and cord knitting itself back together.


He steals Bog and begins a life on the run. They travel through backwaters and poverty stricken nowheres, and they help people who would never usually be able to get near a healer gremlin or telepath.  

Thoughts of the hole still strike while blinking to awake and in the moments before falling into sleep, but less so in between. There’s a temptation to think they’ve healed each other in more way than one. But that’s simplistic. They carry on; have more to their lives that’s worthwhile. It’s bearable, he’s okay. They’re both happy- in their own way.


bleodswean at 2015-01-08 19:49 (UTC) (Link)


Oh, J. This is amazing!!!! It's really so tightly-written and yet it so could be a draft of a much longer fantasy work. Good fantasy must ALWAYS bring the reality of this life into it...and you excel at that. I just loved every bit of this and was staggered when the gremlin came in. Your writing is so smooth that any startling is enjoyable and not off-putting.

This part of your brilliant line/sentiment.... where his own invisibility can be felt in the thoughts curving around him blew me out of the water.

Edited at 2015-01-08 07:54 pm (UTC)
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-09 14:55 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, thank you so much, it means so much to hear that :)

And so glad you liked that line, I was hoping it would have impact :).
jexia at 2015-01-09 07:21 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I really enjoyed this.
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-09 14:56 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you enjoyed :)
alycewilson at 2015-01-11 02:35 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I love these characters and want to follow them on adventures!
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-11 08:02 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you liked these characters :)
i_17bingo at 2015-01-11 04:18 (UTC) (Link)
‘Don’t look. Pretend you don’t see.’ Thinks a stout man, eyes down, walking briskly.

A friend recently gave CPR to a man who had been lying on the sidewalk for who knows how long before she found him, surrounded by people who hadn't "noticed." That is fresh in my mind.

The story took a wonderful, unexpected turn with the healer gremlin (I've never heard of a healer gremlin. I think of him as a cross between Gizmo and Dobby), and now I'm picturing a road comedy movie starring a telepath and a gremlin, getting into all sorts of wacky adventures.
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-11 08:06 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it does seem to be a thing where so many people either don't see or pretend they don't see when someone around them is in need.

Thank you, glad you liked it :).

I was picturing a dobby-esque creature, I hesitate to say I made up the healer gremlin because someone will inevitably come back and tell me I'm wrong, but I've never heard of healer gremlins before either.
crisp_sobriety at 2015-01-12 06:38 (UTC) (Link)
The people avoiding looking at him is too real.

I LOVED the developing camaraderie with the gremlin. This is the sort of world (and sort of characters, for that matter), I would love to read more of.
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-12 14:49 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad it's something you'd like more of :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors
halfshellvenus at 2015-01-12 08:22 (UTC) (Link)
I loved that the healer-gremlin's name was Bog (of COURSE it was), and that the he and the telepath formed a sort of friendship in seeing each other as beings rather than "tools."

That they escaped together and roamed around doing good by _their_ choice rather than on demand was a perfect ending. :D
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-12 14:52 (UTC) (Link)
Hee, that name seemed apt ;).

Thank you, so glad you liked that ending :)
meridian_rose at 2015-01-12 11:36 (UTC) (Link)
I love the ending especially, how they go off together to fix more people :)
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-12 14:52 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you liked the ending :)
hosticle_fifer at 2015-01-13 01:56 (UTC) (Link)
This was great, I loved the way both are misunderstood, used and abused, and grow together in being outcasts. It could be an origin story to either a superhero sort of thing, or an American Gothic travelogue sort of thing.

It’s not the presence of thoughts which is maddening, rather the absence of it, the black darkness where nothing exists; where his own invisibility can be felt in the thoughts curving around him.

I liked the "psychic astrophysics" that you have built here!
swirlsofblue at 2015-01-13 15:16 (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, thank you, so glad you like the psychic astrophysics :)
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