Whispers of Mars [Chapter 24]

Cecil didn’t respond to the following visits. The visitors came, opening the door, invading the room with the light from the hall, then the room’s ceiling light, then their voices calling his name. He kept his face buried into the pillow, blocking out the external stimuli.

The strange feeling crept its way into his body. It was a thousand tendrils creeping across his skin, then underneath it. His head was filled with fuzz, something between the dissonance from the outside world and a pain creeping into the folds of his gray matter.

The next invasion was the hands on his shoulders and the sharp voices.


“Cecil, you’re going to waste away here.”

“We should move him to the medbay.”

“He’s unpredictable and we don’t have the extra bodies to keep someone around in there with you.”

“He should at least be getting fluids.”


“The man will just injure himself if we give him something sharp. He’s responsive, he just doesn’t want to move.”


“I don’t believe he’s capable of that. I can manage him. The medbay will be a proper safe space for him.”

“But for you?”

“Just be patient, Tulia. Cecil. You know the sound of my voice.”

“Maria…” He said, voice muffled into the pillow.

“You can’t do this to yourself.”

Cecil, I am fading.

Cecil shoved his hands into the mattress to try and force himself up. When he attempted to suck in the cold air of the room, the breath stuck in his chest. His back arched, and the two women jerked back. The nurse returned her grasp to his shoulder and attempted to flip him over.

Cecil’s throat closed up. His fingernails dragged across his chest. The front of his coveralls had been opened, and the undershirt had been torn and stretched and bloodied by the raking of his fingers.

Tulia felt at his throat for his pulse, racing, while the nurse restrained his hands from doing any more damage. Tulia jumped back and pressed on the communications terminal of the room. “I need someone here now, we need to carry Ruiz to medbay.”

Cecil’s breath had returned to normal by the time he had found himself back in the hospital bed. The loud door sounded in his ears.

“He’s breathing now, Commander.” It was Maria’s voice speaking across the room.

“Intubation?” The deep voice asked.

“No, he just suddenly regained his breath.”

“And he started having this issue as it was just you and Tulia in there?”

“Just about, yes.”

The Commander grunted and sneered. “He’s playing around. Trying to get himself out of that room.”

Cecil felt his undershirt being shifted up, revealing the sore, torn, and bleeding skin underneath. “Does this looks like attention-seeking to you?” The nurse asked bitterly.

Cassius’ feet caused the floor to creak as he stepped forward, grumbling. “You’d be surprised to see what a desperate person, especially one not right in the head, will do to themselves for attention. I was just communicating with Secundus, I need to get back to it. Get him patched up and back off to isolation.”

Maria huffed as the door sounded again. She hovered over the bed, hands grasped hard on the railing.

“Maria…” Cecil managed to mutter.

The dark-haired woman shook her head. “Why, Cecil?”

“I… promise…”

“Tulia would say it’s psychosomatic. You’re reacting to something in your head. I can’t argue with her because I haven’t been able to find anything else wrong with you. You should tell me now if you’re just faking it or not. You know… you know you can trust me, Cecil.”

“It is… fading.”

“What’s fading?”


“I don’t know what it is, Cecil.”

“The feeling I’ve felt all this time. The voice, the presence. It is… being… dislodged.”

Maria shook her head. “You’re speaking like you did when you originally came in here after the accident. Just… rest for now.”

Cecil forced himself up slightly, his chest sore, and IV shifting sharply in his arm. “You have to… believe me… that I’m sick.”

The nurse stopped at the edge of the bed and held her hands in her pockets. “Tulia told me you’ve said the same thing before. All of the tests we’ve done on you tell me you’re in good enough health. What sort of sickness do you think you’ve caught, Cecil?”

“Quaseem… Saïd…”

The nurse sighed. “It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that name. You’ve done your research, then? I can’t, Cecil. His situation has no connection to your own.”

“What… happened to him?”

“Before disappearing? The general consensus of the agency’s medical board is that he was infected with staph. It’s quite common to reside on human skin. Escaping the disinfecting and hygiene procedures that are undergone for coming to the planet here would not be unthinkable. What they say, and what I choose to believe as well, is that the strain he had grew resistant to treatment because of all the stuff pumped into us to begin with. When Saïd cut himself, it had a way to enter his bloodstream. Likely it developed into meningitis, which attached itself to the base of his brain. At that point, it’s inoperable. The infection causes a rapid decline in mental facilities. But I suppose that’s why you landed on that theory.”


“Cecil, we’ve done the blood tests. You would have shown other symptoms too. In your case… we have to continue with Tulia’s care plan. You must focus on keeping yourself physically sound as well. Sound body, sound mind. That’s how you will have a fighting chance to take on the trauma that is clouding your mind.”


“Quit saying my name like that,” She said, turning back. “You wouldn’t remember my name if it weren’t the same as your mother’s.”

Cecil laid his head back heavily, pursing his lips.

“No, I shouldn’t be saying that. I’m sorry. I… I can’t be a surrogate for her. Tulia said that might be the case. You’re a wonderful man, Cecil, but… it isn’t the proper way to cope.

At the very least, I won’t let you go back to that room. That dark place where you can just allow yourself to wither away in shame and sadness… it isn’t right. Just rest, Cecil. Just rest.”

Cecil relaxed the tension on his neck and allowed his head to drop further. He heard a low whimpering from the nurse before she exited the loud door.

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