Shitsuren sākuru 失恋サークル (Heartbreak Circle).
With a deep and heartfelt bow of reverence to:
- Star Trek’s ‘Kobayashi Maru’ コバヤシマル (Kobayashi’s Circle),
- John Donne (For Whom The Bell Tolls),
- William Henley (Invictus), and especially to
- Ada Ireland (Break My Heart Thoroughly), here’s a bittersweet love story.
Living in the emotional Neutral Zone is, some say, either the retreat of the fearful or the blessing of the clever. It may emit a faint glow from time to time, and it may let light in occasionally, but taken all around it is a safe place where the fearful may hide, the wounded may find time to heal, and the brave find too boring to enter. It’s true; the Neutral Zone doesn’t let much in but it keeps me safe from letting much out. I need to not let much out because if I begin I’m frightened that I’ll spill out everywhere, and then what will be left of me? What will be left of me. Even a question mark hurts. It begs a reply, or at least an opinion.
I am in that so familiar street, the one I have come to think of as Romulan Chase, which soon intersects with Vulcan Way; where danger meets logic. Many weeks ago I picked up weak signals and light emissions. Against my better judgment I decided to investigate. I saw her on my long-range sensors and I thought about breaking off and heading back to safety, but as that ancient saying goes: ‘A ship is safe in harbour but that’s not what ship’s are for.’ I progressed, internally rebelling that I was putting all that was sacred to me in harm’s way. Eventually, she loomed in my vision, and I admired her beauty as I came alongside, sensors scanning for any threat of danger. She was scanning me, too. We drifted past each other and went, silently, on our separate trajectories.
She was impressive, I’ll say that. We appeared to be vectoring the same quadrant, and so over the following days and weeks we detected each other often. I would veer off sometimes, and at other times so would she. There was a cautious dance being played out between us. Many were the times I nearly opened hailing frequencies, and just as many were the times I didn’t. I felt the thrill of potentially discovering a new life form, just as I felt the fear of putting my ship in danger. Losing my ship, as an Earth author once wrote, would ‘Break my heart thoroughly’. It had already been broken enough. That was why I hid in the Neutral Zone; I couldn’t take another breaking.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
It was John Donne who wrote that poem, so many years ago and so distantly removed from the wreckage I have made of my life, and yet he, through it, spoke to me. I set aside my reader, feeling flat and pained and cursed. I am an island, entire of myself! It was and is my promontory that is being washed away! And I am the fool who sent to know for whom the bell tolls, only to discover it tolls for me!
“Who are you?” the voice sprinkled lightly through the pinholes of my speakers. I looked up, feeling the tears of self-pity and fear in the corners of my eyes.
“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” I replied.
“Invictus.” she said. “Henley. Impressive.”
We spoke, she openly and honestly, with the trill of humour in every word. I tried to be witty while inside I was a hesitant, shivering mess. It was to be the format of our chats whenever we came with hailing distance of one another. Months went by, and we became friends, familiar with the thinking of the other. We plotted trajectories together, her maths being one level above diabolical and my statistics being omnipotent. She had a way with words, with tinkering and chipping away at the safety mechanisms I’d built.
“It’s time for me to leave now,” I told her suddenly. It surprised her nearly as much as it did me, but it was right. Is it worse to be alone, or to be frightened in company? I had reached my conclusion.
“Is everything alright?” she asked, with real concern creeping into her voice and elevating it. “I’m receiving strange readings on my sensors.”
I hung my head. I felt my jaw firming, my forehead creasing, and tears collecting in the dams that were my lower lids.
“TELL ME EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT! PLEASE!” she cried, and I could feel the pain in her heart that was now rerouting maximum power to her words.
“Planetary Distress Signal,” I replied in a small voice. The screens of my life were lit up, with multiple warning alarms shrilling loudly in my ears. I was in real danger of catastrophic systems failures here, and it was beginning with life support systems. Oxygen rushed from my lungs, and there was nothing in the near-vacuum that I could do to bring it back.
“I’m coming to you at Warp speed,” she said.
My screens flickered. She had gone into the ‘White’ of super light speed. She’d put herself in harm’s way. If the faint signals I was still capable of receiving were correct, she was moving at theoretical speed, a dangerous and unproven possibility that could see her ship torn apart or crushed out of existence. ”
Belay! Belay! Stand down! Your approach speed and trajectory are unsafe!” I yelled into the White, hoping against reason she’d receive my message. I turned my ship around as best I could, willing it to somehow ignite main thrusters and put as many parsecs between she and I as possible. Even at her astonishing speed, I still had minutes left in which to work, and in the next few seconds I came to my decision.
“Self-destruct sequence initiated,” came the tinny voice. “All personnel abandon ship immediately. Self-destruct in 100, 99, 98 …”
I had no intention of abandoning ship. A captain never does.
She came out of the White at blistering speed, overshooting the mark, which was just as well. Even so, space rippled and tore in the wake of her ship and mine was buffeted as she passed. Fissures in the hull opened and more alarms sent dire warnings. Steam and smoke filled the Bridge, and I made my peace with the Universe. Small explosions thundered and rippled, and spot fires broke out.
The Ship of my Life was dying, and I felt it being pulled by distant gravity into a dark star. What a fitting way to go. I felt nauseated as a surge of energy rippled through my ship. I didn’t understand it, and then I did. She had turned her ship around and even now was on her way back to me, her tractor beam locked on from maximum distance. She was trying to drag me back from the approaching void. I loved her completely in that second, and in the next second I engaged my shields and set them to maximum force. “…15, 14, 13, 12 … Imminent destruction in 9, 8 …”
I never did hear ‘7’. She materialised on the Bridge, wrapped her arms around me, and at light-speed we were transported to her Bridge. I saw the destruction of my ship as if through her eyes. It was ugly, and heartbreaking, that massive flash and the spectacular shock wave that emanated from it. I looked at her, and then I looked into her eyes.
“How did you do that? How did you get past my shields?” I asked. She smiled a little and hugged me again.
“Kobayashi Maru,” she replied.
In a game that you can’t win, a test of character, there are only two ways to proceed: the only way to win is not to play, or you reprogram the game. I took the former; she took the latter. Shitsuren sākuru was no match for Kobayashi Maru. I looked at her again, noticing she still had hold of my hand.
My heart was broken – thoroughly. She is what stood on the other side of it.