15 February 2013

"Funny Story"

PREVIOUSLY: "Dinner Conversation"

By Curtis C. Chen

Dejah Thoris' sickbay was subdued and cramped when compared to the ship's passenger spaces. Liz played with the interactive drug compendium on the wall while waiting.

Doctor Sawhney hurried in, pulled the privacy screen closed, and frowned at the wall computer. "This terminal should be locked."

Liz shrugged. "You should change the password from the factory default. So what happened yesterday in the excursion area? Another drunk guy? Some kid messing with the controls?"

Sawhney held up a hand. "I cannot legally divulge names. And I cannot confirm that the passenger in question was attempting to commit suicide."

Liz gaped for a moment. "With a note and everything?"

Sawhney nodded. "His cabin stewards found it. And no, I can't tell you what it said."

"Fair enough. But you were there an awfully long time..." Liz snapped her fingers. "You were talking him down, weren't you? You're the closest thing to a therapist on this ship, and you must have malpractice insurance."

"We have two medical professionals on staff," Sawhney said, "and every crew member is trained for—"

"Don't change the subject. I know you're bound by doctor-patient privilege and the threat of a lawsuit, but what if I run into this guy later?" Liz shrugged theatrically. "And what if we start talking, and I accidentally utter some trigger phrase that causes him to attempt suicide again?"

Sawhney frowned. "That's highly unlikely."

"But it is possible. And preventable."

The doctor sighed. "I do not envy the hospital staff who have to work with you."

"Flattery will get you nowhere. Come on, spill."

"I am not a psychiatrist," Sawhney said. "But this gentleman exhibited clear signs of clinical depression. He was supposed to have come on this cruise with his wife—it was their thirtieth wedding anniversary—but she divorced him last month, rather unexpectedly. He decided to sail alone. I don't know when he decided to kill himself.

"Fortunately, all our airlocks are interlocked, and the only override is on the interior controls, but the gentleman managed to jam the doors closed. It took our engineers some time to set up a bypass. Meanwhile, I had to make sure he didn't break anything else, like the exterior window."

"So what did you say?" Liz asked. "How did you convince this guy his life was still worth living?"

"We sang."

Liz blinked. "Sang?"

"I noticed he was speaking in very strange phrases. One of the crew recognized them as song lyrics."

"You have to tell me what song."

"No. Believe me, it was nothing special. Anyway, we played a karaoke track through the intercom, and I started singing, hoping that the gentleman would respond.

"I don't know why this particular song was special to him. Maybe it meant something to him and his ex-wife; I don't know. I must have talked to him for half an hour, but it was the singing that brought him back." Sawhney shrugged. "Sometimes, words alone aren't enough. It takes more to make a connection."

Liz nodded. "Was it an Elvis song?"

"Please go away now."

CONTINUED IN "The Space Between"...


Photo Credit: jwhittenburg via Compfight cc