The Butterfly Ethic
This was unexpected, I was still in a forest, but this one was different. For one thing, the trees were all firs, and for another, they grew from the top instead of the bottom. They started about fifty feet in the air and worked their way to the ground, growing the roots last. The deeper I walked in, the lower the trees grew. The sky generated its own light without the help of a sun, moon, or stars. Whatever lit the forest gave it a bluish tint.
I stopped to examine one of the trees. It was half my height from the ground and the bottom was jagged. I wanted to look under the tree, and normally I would’ve, but my curiosity gave way to practicality. I had to get through this place. I turned away and found something lying on the ground. It was a tiny shoe with a Velcro strap. On its side was a logo of a teddy bear. The shoe smelled like someone had left the chicken soup out for a week. I picked it up and found it heavier than it should have been. After seeing what was in it, I threw it in disgust.
What is this place'? Heck? No, of course not. I wouldn’t go there. But if I’m not there then where am I?
Another presence drew my mind away from pondering. I could feel a phantom standing where the shoe was. As I came closer to it, I tasted cottage cheese.
Come on! I have to get out of here! I tried to pull up every bit of psi I could, but that kind of energy only comes under certain circumstances, and tasting a mouthful of cottage cheese is not one of them. It tasted more disgusting than usual, the way it tasted at Everwood. The phantom drew nearer.
“He- hello?” my voice trembled just as much as my hands. “What- Where are you? Who are you?” I mustered more courage in my voice and asked: “Could you take me home?” It probably couldn’t, even if it knew where my home was, but there had to be something around here that could help me. My only hope was in my god.
My father in heaven, please bring me to where I wanted to go, I have to get back to 2003.
I immediately knew where to go and ran that way, leaving the whatever-it-was behind. I stopped at a depression with no trees. I felt prompted to step into it, and I found it to be a mud pit. In little more than a second, I was completely submerged. The mud poured into my mouth and up my nose, filling my body anywhere it could and tearing me apart from within.
In this world, my spirit was no longer confined to my body and mind. It fell apart like the pieces of a block puzzle, only to be pulled away from me by the mud.
Hundreds of different memories from my entire life and things I never knew I did flashed by me in seconds. They came and went until I reached a few memories that I knew weren’t mine.
Amidst the dissonance of time, I saw me and Ross copying the dictionary in Amber’s class. I felt every detail of this memory and clung to it until it rebounded. From this point, I knew my way, and I went there at express train speed. I felt pieces of my spirit sliding away from me, but I couldn’t stop now, I had to get there before there was nothing left of me.
I felt like I had been dropped off the Sears Tower, but never actually landed on the streets below. The last thing I remember, I was wishing on Kolob. Now, I was in a bed that felt like a plastic mattress. I didn’t want to even try to make sense of anything; thinking was something I couldn’t do at the moment as my mind was growling and snarling at me like a wild beast. It took me a moment or two to calm it down, after I did, I noticed someone’s hand next to me, no wait it was my hand, I knew because my brain was making it move. Where was I anyway? I sat up and adjusted to my surroundings. I had data receptors attached to my head, I was on a plastic bed in a hospital room, and it was night; that was all I knew.
When I saw my mother asleep in a chair next to my bed, my blood ran cold. She had probably been sitting there worrying about me since I got here. Now that I thought of it, how long was I here?
There were noises on the other side of the door, someone was coming. I quickly lay back down as the door opened. I had my eyes open just barely enough to see who came in. It was a doctor. He was black, his hair was gray and he was talking on his cell phone to someone named Tomofumi. I was hoping he would say something about me, but he was only talking about training someone. He reached for a table in the corner of the room, grabbed something, then walked out.
I fell asleep again just after he left, and when I awoke, I found my mother awake also. She did what any good mother would’ve done: embraced me and asked me what happened.
“I don’t know what happened.” I said, and that was the truth, for even if I had a whole hour to think about it, I couldn’t know what happened. I knew what didn’t happen. My plan failed. I didn’t go back in time, and I didn’t save Andrew. “I just went outside and fell.” I said.
“You fell?” she asked.
“What were you doing outside, anyway?” she asked.
“Looking at the stars.” I shrugged. It was a lie, but I wasn’t entirely sure my mom would approve of me attempting time travel without permission.
“Isn’t it cold out there?” She asked.
“It wasn’t so bad.” I said.
“They said you had hypothermia by morning.”
“An ambulance took you here. You were out there a long time; the neighbor saw you and called the police, so naturally, the news got involved.”
“Are they lying about us?” I asked. She nodded her head, and I realized it was a stupid question, of course they were. “What did they say?”
“The usual.” She said. She knew I was hiding something. I could’ve just told the truth, but I didn’t want to until I understood the truth. If I told her what I knew, she would lose hours of sleep over her son’s failing sanity, so I said nothing more on the topic.
“So when do I get out of here?” I asked.
“The doctor needs to have a look at you. He told me to page him when you woke up.” She pushed a red button next to my bed. “He should be on his way right now.”
While we waited, I heard music from the room below me. My hand unconsciously thumped to the beat. Soon, the black doctor from before came in. “The x-ray tech will be here in about ten minutes. My name is Dr. Cohen.” He shook my mom’s hand. “Now everything’s already been explained to me. I was told to schedule a cat-scan when you woke up, it might take a while though. In the meantime I want to ask you a few questions.” I flinched at those words. Last time a doctor said them, my answers were used against my parents in a court of law. He paged the x-ray operator and proceeded to ask me questions.
“Can you tell me the names of everyone in your family?” he asked. I figured he was trying to test my memory.
“Oldest to youngest?” I asked.
‘Yes.” He said.
“Rachel, Patrick, Elijah, me, Freya, Lehi, Walter, Alice, Tori, Anthony, and Aaron.”
“Very good. Can you tell me your parent’s names?”
“My mom’s name is Tracy, and I can’t remember my dad’s name.” It was Joseph, but I couldn’t tell him that.
“His name’s Joseph.” Tracy said. I guess I could say it. He looked at my thumping hand and asked: “Why is your hand twitching?” It hurt a bit to bend my neck, but I ignored the pain and I looked at my hand. “I dunno, I guess it’s just- the music downstairs or something.” As he listened more closely, he heard it too. “Can you stop doing that?” he asked. I tried in vain to stop moving my fingers. Their movement was outside my conscious mind.
“I’m sorry, I can’t.”
The doctor made some notes on his clipboard and then pulled the sensors off my head. “Can you walk okay, Martin?” he asked. I got out of the bed to test drive my legs. They felt a bit stiff, but only in a normal way for someone who just had a long sleep. I walked to the door in a normal, not-braindead fashion.
“Very good. The CAT scan is waiting for you. He left for a few minutes, then returned to take us to the x-ray machine.
The hospital wasn’t the busy scrambling of nurses you usually see on shows like ER, it was organized and quiet. Most of the doors we walked by were closed, with a few exceptions to those with visitors. The walls were bare except for a few promotional posters telling doctors to take certain precautions when dealing with the SARS virus.
When we got in the elevator, Gregory explained the situation to us.
"Loss of consciousness is never a good thing, and it's not something you can just walk off. If someone's knocked out for more than 10 seconds, you can expect him to be vomiting with a concussion when he wakes up. More than an hour, and memory loss and possibly permanent brain damage occur. If they're unconscious for more than a day, well, they never wake up. For Martin's unconsciousness to last this long with no signs of any serious brain damage, well, that's a flat out miracle." My mom smiled at those words.
“There's more. You see, your brain gives off vibrations and..." To paraphrase the doctor: "blah blah theta waves blah blah alpha state of mind blah blah mental activity." My mom was just as confused as I was. "You know what; I’ll break it down for you.” He sighed. “The waves given off by the brain show how hard you’re thinking. During periods of meditation the frequency decreases, yet brain power increases. In periods of motor function, the brain power goes up, using up the body’s energy. ”
“So was he meditating?” Mom asked.
“If anything, it was a forced meditation.” Dr. Cohen told her. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s as though his mind needed to sort something out and shut off all other functions to do it.”
“What do you think caused it?” Mom asked.
“I don’t know. Simon says that Martin may have lost consciousness when he hit his head. We’re going to find out if that’s true.” The elevator opened to the ground floor, which was warmer than upstairs.
“Do you remember anything about Tuesday night?” the doctor asked me.
“I don’t.” I really wished I wasn’t there. These doctors couldn’t tell me anything, and I had to use the bathroom soon. I was hoping they’d let me. I was hoping they actually had a restroom here, otherwise I’d have to run home, and I would.
“I understand if you can’t remember.” Cohen told me. “You did hit your head out there, that’s why we needed an MRI scan.” Maybe sometime in the next century, Dr. Cohen would finish. “The MRI showed some signs of trauma, but not to the degree that you’d expect from this. There was a bump on his head, but not the kind that would leave him out cold for this long. I think he lost consciousness before you fell. With the brain waves he was giving off, it’s likely that he had a seizure. Does he have epilepsy?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Either way this is a strange case.” He opened the door to the x-ray room and said “Pawle isn’t here yet, I’ll go find him.” He left us alone in the room, which felt more like a neglected greenhouse. All around us were ferns, trees, poinsettias, and daisies, all in their own pots and most of them half-dead. It was as if they were trying to grow a certain type of garden, but kept reweighing their options. On the wall, there was a picture of a bald eagle soaring over a pine forest at dusk. Below it, an inscription read
Discovery isn’t seeking new lands, but seeing with new eyes.
I saw this picture before in the colony bail bond office; in fact, it was hard to find an office in any colonist business without a motivational poster on the wall.
The doctor slammed the door as he came in with a tall, muscular man with curly brown eyes, and a face that reminded me of a German shepherd.
“Ms. Carter, this is Simon Pawle, our MRI technician.” Dr. Cohen said.
“Do we really need to do another MRI scan?”
“Yes, we do; and another CAT scan. We need to look at a sample of both states of consciousness, though I doubt there will be any. It’s for your own protection, Tracy, you need facts to back yourself should the police investigate further.”
So it was true, and this doctor knew about. The question was, is he on our side, or theirs?
“All right, then.” Mom said.
“Martin, can you step into this room. He had me lay down on a bed which then moved into a giant white tube thing, and then it scanned me. I expected it to have lasers, or something cool like that, but no, just a hum as the scanner moved around me. After that was the X-ray.
“But first, you’ll need to sign a waiver.”
“Waiver? What for?” Mom asked as Dr. Cohen spat into a nearby garbage can.
“Just so you don’t sue if the x-ray kills him.” Said Doctor Pawle. “We have to do it; my brother in Wyoming does the same thing when he sells firecrackers to kids, and believe it or not, he actually has to warn them not to sit on them when they are lit.”
“X-Rays aren’t dangerous.” Mom told him.
“Ma’am, have you never heard of the Curies? They died by X-rays$.” Dr. Cohen said.
“That’s right, they did, Martin, you’d better be careful.” I recognized mom’s sarcasm, it was actually different from her regular voice, unlike these guys, who’s deadpan tone was consistent throughout everything they said. “The X-rays have a tendency to release gamma radiation every so often, like a miniature Chernobyl. My mom started laughing, and I just glared.
“Can’t you take a joke?” Cohen chuckled.
“Doctors shouldn’t joke about things like that.” I replied.
Cohen and Pawle both laughed, and then Cohen said: “Now come on, the x-ray’s perfectly safe, as long as you put on the apron.”
“To protect from gamma radiation?” I asked.
“Very good, though the heat can still fry you” He replied. He led me into a room that was entirely empty except for a bench. “And don’t look directly at the x-rays, or you might go blind.” He told me just before walking into the next room. He was now sealed away behind a lead wall doing who knows what on his computer.
Don’t look directly at the x-rays. Was he serious or just joking? It should be illegal for doctors to be sarcastic, not that it would stop them. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know exactly where the x-ray machine was. I glanced around the room, trying to locate the scanner before it vaporized my eyes. I found it right as it started up. I’m not going blind, I guess it was a joke after all. Here we go then, smile for the camera. I put on the same kind of smile the school forced on me at picture day, and then I was done.
“okay, Martin, you’re still radioactive,” Pawle said as I left the x-ray room. “so don’t go near any living things for the next week. Oh, and, here’s the results, Tracy.” He showed her the scans on his computer, and then said to me: “Martin, you have a billion dollar smile. Come have a look.” He turned the screen to me and showed me a picture of a skeleton. When we had a good laugh about that, he told my mom what the tests showed
It turned out that the loss of consciousness was most likely not caused by the fall. My brain suffered minimal, if any, damage. Both doctors said they’d look more into my condition, and then gave us prescriptions for epilepsy and headache medicine, found at the pharmacy across the street.
It was past ten at night when we got home, but I still asked my mom what the police were going to do. She didn’t want to talk about it at first, but I soon convinced her to let me read the newspaper article written about me:
Polygamist Teen Found Unconscious on Front Lawn
A thirteen year old was found unconscious on his front lawn at a Sandy home by concerned neighbors Wednesday morning. The police were called in and the house was investigated. The mother, who has twelve children living with her, is allegedly a member of The Vineyard, a wealthy polygamist clan with up to 2,000 members.
“Most of the dozen rooms in the home were filthy or in an unfinished state,” Sandy police officer Mike Davis said. Food was found stuck to counters and plates and mold was growing in each of the two kitchens in the home, he said.
"The kids themselves looked unkempt but not really dirty," Davis said.
The family, who was unaware that one of their own was left out in the cold all night, “hid from authorities and were evasive about their names,” Davis said.
Salt Lake County records indicate the home is owned by Joseph Woodhull, who was involved in a 1991 lawsuit with the city of Sandy for attempting to build on to his house without a permit.
Former clan member Delsa Tamsel told the Deseret News the children are the offspring of Joseph Woodhull and his wife Tracy Carter. “Carter is Joseph Woodhull’s fourth wife” Tamsel said.
Joseph Woodhull had already served a two year sentence in 1992 for incest. He was also charged with physical and sexual abuse of children, but the charges were later dropped. Joseph was released early in 1994 for good behavior.
In spite of her husband’s record, Tracy Carter carries a residential-care certificate from the state health department to provide child care for up to 8 non-related children at the residence, state licensing director Ashley Brewer said. Carter was issued a new license in February but was cited last fall for having a dirty home.
A recent inspection of the home did not reveal any potential health problems, she said.
Tamsel said she knows of instances where children in some polygamous homes are abused and neglected. She said she has witnessed children get severely sunburned, go without food and clean clothes and even break limbs without being given proper care because the parents are afraid of exposing their lifestyle to authorities.
I clutched the newspaper tightly in my hands. “Did they take any kids away?” I asked.
“No, but they’re trying to.” She replied.
Militant in their unwavering purpose, the Division of Child and Family Services are a polygamist family’s worst nightmare. They came to our house just days after Christmas in 1999 and took us away to a foster home. Walter and I spent nine months living in Morgan with people I didn't even know. I still have memories of waiting outside forever after school for my foster parents to come pick me up.
We came home victorious nine months later, every last one of us. We stayed a family then, we could stay together now.
I didn’t think about this for very long after I set the paper down on the comfrey table, for the toilet and my bed were beckoning me.