A SEPULCHRE OF SONGS * Orson Scott Card Short Story

There aren’t many ways that a person with no arms or legs can kill herself.

I ran across this short story while trying to check where the Lost Boys was published. Since it was a short story and I had some time to kill, I read it and I was really moved. It’s the story of a girl who has no arms and legs and is living assisted in a sanatorium. She’s young, barely 15, and she has a psychologist look after her mental health every week. The story is told based on his point of view, so we don’t know the inner workings of the girl when he’s not around.

He’s in his 20s, he doesn’t have a stable girlfriend and somehow develops an attachment to this young disabled girl.

Somehow I had never supposed, though, that I would end up trying to help the hopeless in a part of the state where even the healthy didn’t have much to live for.

After a while, the girl says that she’s been hearing music. That an interstellar being travelling the universe has found her mind and would like to take her to her ship. She asks the psychologist to find her a specific band that might sound like the band she’s hearing but it’s not it.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just — it’s just not the music. Not the music. Now that I’ve heard it, everything is so dark compared to it. Like the rain, all gray and heavy and dim, as if the composer is trying to see the hills but the rain is always in the way. For a few minutes I thought he was getting it right.”

He’s afraid for her, confined in her body, she starts dreaming of the expanse of the universe – surely a way of saying that she doesn’t want to be trapped anymore, that she’s considering suicide to escape her life, and he advises the nurses to take her outside in the garden, to show her the world. But because it’s raining, this is impossible. She might get a cold and in her condition, it would prove fatal.

In the mean time, the girl complains that the call of the other being has become stronger.

“Why you?”
“You mean, why only me?” She laughed. “Because of what I am. You told me yourself. Because I can’t run around, I live in my imagination. She say that the threads between minds are very thin and hard to hold. But mine she can hold, because I live completely in my mind. She holds on to me. When I go to sleep, I can’t escape her now anymore at all.”

It’s true – the only thing she has is her imagination and it seems that this imagination has conjured up this being from outer space to wish her away from her body.

Woman with no arms or legs

After all, she hadn’t been born this way. She had memories of running and playing, memories of feeding herself and dressing herself, perhaps even of learning to read, of sounding out the words as her fingers touched each letter. 
Even the false arms of a spaceship would be something to fill the great void. Children’s centers are not inside their bodies; their centers are outside, at the point where the fingers of the left hand and the fingers of the right hand meet. 
What they touch is where they live; what they see is their self. And Elaine had lost herself in an explosion before she had the chance to move inside. With this strange dream of Anansa she was getting a self back.

It’s a terrible fate for a teenager but there are some people who made it work in the real world.

They can play the piano and even try out for cheerleaders. I stopped searching at this point as it became pretty apparent how hard their lives were. And I get emotional when a dog does not get his biscuit so this would have probably ended up in me crying with a box of chocolates.

Back to the book. The psychologist has stopped going to see the girl. He goes to her lovers but can’t get her out of his mind.  He breaks down and cries and decides to go and see her again.

 

 

 

Why had I cried in Belinda’s arms? Oh, yes. Because I had seen the princess and let her lie there unawakened, because the happily ever after was so damnably much work

At this stage, the girl is no longer moving, she is sleeping a lot and she is singing this alien tune in her sleep. She refuses to eat and when she wakes up it’s like she’s no longer there. The call of the other being, Anasa, is getting too strong. So he plays the oldest trick in the world. She tells the girl that he loves her, that he wants her here, on Earth, that he can’t live without her.

She comes back to him and she is happy and her original self – filled with wonder at this world. But deep down, he suspects that the person who came back from the sleep was the other-being Anasa and the girl is floating somewhere in space, singing in a machine for all eternity.

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