AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thank you for bothering to read this, especially after The Mess That Was "The Other Woman". *sigh* I'm sorely disappointed in myself over that one, but I can't thank Leigh and Barrie enough for their feedback, which helped me salvage the good parts and turn it into a short story. *hugs Leigh and Barrie* You're both angels!
As for this... this is a short one-shot from Radar's POV. I've always found the "psychic" company clerk to be an adorable and interesting character-- I hope I got his voice at least a little right. Mild Henry/Radar and BJ/Hawkeye slash.
I hope you enjoy!
BEGUN: Dec 16th, 2002
FINISHED: Dec 19th, 2002
I May Know The Word 1/1
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
So I hear things, okay?
Not sounds. Not words, neither-- words are funny and hard to use. They don't mean what they say and don't say what they mean. People never understand each other when they use them.
Maybe I better start over.
I do hear-- sounds and words and stuff; I mean, I got two ears just like every other guy. Well, in this man's army, in the war, sometimes that's an exception, but you know what I mean. I also hear something *above* that, higher up, like when you're a kid and your mom is so tall she's all the big wide world. It's not exactly hearing, but it's the only word I got for it. Sometimes I think I'm gonna go crazy, trying to find words for everything. I don't hear the above-things with my ears; I hear them with my brain, or my soul, like Mama told me when I was young. But brain sounds more scientific-like. They just come to me, like--ah-- radio signals. Yeah, like I'm a transistor radio. That's a good way to put it.
I wish I knew how to say this right. Some people are really good with words, like Captain Pierce. Hawkeye-- anything he says comes rolling off his tongue so nice and charming-like. He can sing and whisper and joke, he knows just the right words. He talks so well, so fast, sometimes a I get even more tripped up than I usually am, around him. I think Hawkeye Pierce could talk his way out of anything. He's as gifted with words as he is with a scalpel. Sweet-talking. But, as good as he is with words, he's not good at all with the other language.
Have you ever listened to yourself think? Does the voice that talks in your head sound different from the one you use? Do you even think in English, and how can you know for sure?
That's what I'm talking about, with above-things. They're higher up than words, and we make 'em all the time. Every body does. They're feelings and pictures and stuff like that. It's like a language, but every body speaks it-- I mean everybody-- the Greeks, and us Americans and the French. Even the Koreans. North and South.
I've heard it called ESP and telepathy, but it isn't like they say it is in the books. I used to buy Galaxy and Astounding Science Fiction and Thrilling Wonder Stories, forty cents each when I went into town. I still do read them, but they're old copies I borrow from Sparky. In science fiction, there's aliens and strange people and all sorts of things; telepaths are in there too. But they're always the bad guys, super human or whatever. Gonna replace mankind in a big war.
I don't want that! I've had my fill of this little war right here.
Here's what my mom told me when I was a little kid:
She sat me down in the living room, which scared me because no one ever goes in there. It's the special room, for Christmas and family stuff; it's really clean and all her pretty glass trinkets are in there. But she pushed down on my shoulders 'til I was sitting on her good couch and she said, "Walter, you're gonna go to school soon, and I got to tell you some things." That was with her voice, but deep down and way above (it's all confused like that, sorry) she was saying the same thing, but with bright colors and some pictures that scared me bad.
You know, until I came to Korea, I could always kinda hear her. I couldn't hide from her, not nothing. She knew, she always *knew*, and it got me really mixed up the first time a kid at school said he *hid* something from his mother. I asked him how, I was in awe, I thought he had magic powers. I couldn't even think what it might be like, not having Ma send me what felt like a slap on the wrist whenever she caught me thinking things I wasn't supposed to. Father Mulcahy says God knows all that's in our hearts.
My mother was God, like that.
Ma said that when I was in her belly, she could hear me thinking my funny baby thoughts. And even when there were people I couldn't read, couldn't hear, she and I would always hear each other, seeing as I was her son.
"Don't get all high falut'n," she warned me, wagging her thick finger, "but you're special." There were lotsa words for what she and I got. Witchcraft, the Shine, the talkies, the whispers, the veil or the shade. It was in her family, she said, to give birth to babies with the Shade. Her Ma had it, and her brother, and way on up the line.
"You got it too, Walter." And then she had to actually point out what it was I had, cause then I didn't know any different that there were actually people who... who could only use *words*. When it was just Ma and me, the house was always quiet. We didn't need to talk, or shout; she could call for me in the basement when I was in the attic, without saying a thing. It's kinda funny, but I think when I go home, it ain't gonna work so well anymore. There's just something different about my-- my thought patterns. Major Winchester would say something like that. Oh, we'll still be able to talk-without-talking, but I'm almost certain she won't always know what I'm thinking.
I hope it doesn't hurt her feelings, but it'll be kind of nice.
I said I'm like a radio. I only hear what people broadcast, unless I go *looking*. The deep thoughts, the secret things, I usually don't catch, because everyone hides them. It's the stuff on the surface, the stuff you think without thinking. Off the top of your head, sorta. I hear the choppers coming-- not their propellers. I taste the feel of pain, I smell the sound of the engines and I hear the taste of blood in my mouth. Like I said, it's all mixed up; but they come over the mountains like that, carrying wounded, and because they're hurt, the soldiers ain't hiding nothing.
There was this nurse here, for a while; her above-things were very clear, and she used to tell herself all sorts of stories. She'd sit with the other nurses, holding a cup of coffee or sitting so she was just facing away from them a little, and the stories would come. Nurse Kelley and the others, they thought she was shy, but really she maybe had the most to say of all of them. Was it wrong for me to listen? I mean, it was like the radio shows I used to pick up at home on my crystal radio-- I had it rigged under my bed so I could listen to it while I fell asleep. Better than those shows, even, seeing as she had some ideas I bet no body else ever thought of. One was how the 4077th was so far away from everything and there was so much death and stuff that it got separated-- I'm not explaining this right, I have the above-thing for it, but not the real word. Anyhow, in her story, our whole camp was just floating loose in time and these future people came up over the ridge and told us the Korean war had been over for two hundred fifty years!
The other day, they brought in some casualties, and I was checking them in-- I always just see their faces, rows and rows, because my head gets full of their pain. There she was on the table, all still and dead-- quiet really for the first time-- with her brown hair stuck to her face with blood, and does it make me a bad person 'cause I don't really remember her name? It was a sniper-- a bullet in her head, I do remember Hawkeye saying that. A bullet right where all the stories were. Father Mulcahy says we each have a soul, but I still sometimes catch pieces of her stories, like they're floating in the air, like they're echoes. If we each gotta soul for God to judge, then what's the thing that repeats the stories in the mess tent sometimes?
I don't know-- I'm not sure I want to.
Geeze, I'm telling this all wrong.
At home, I ate my mother's fear-- it came on the plate right next to the mashed potatoes.
"Don't ever tell anybody," she said aloud, only once. But it was like fire on my brain. She was afraid for me, and for herself. I mean, I can kinda see why, what with all the science fiction stories saying we want to take over the world when all I really want is for the war to be over so I can go home.
In a way, I've kind of broken her rule, but here at the 4077th....
How am I gonna say this?
We've all got something here. People tease me about my head being in another time-zone, but I've never ever *heard* them thinking mean towards me. Even Major Burns.
Major Burns was loud as hell-- anything he was thinking was open and he gave me a headache real bad. Eventually, I learned to tune him out, but he was always there-- "jabber jabber jabber" like he used to accuse Hawkeye and Trapper of. Captain McIntyre was pretty quiet, but his nightmares got loose real easy. He used to have this one where he was in the OR, and he looked down and the patient was Becky or Kathy-- his daughters-- and they were bleeding something awful but kept smiling and him and asking what was wrong. Sometimes it was like his nightmares crawled out of his ear and got into *my* head.
Dreams are what people can't help but broadcast-- the big things, love and fear.
Love and fear...
Major Houlihan never loved Major Burns; she felt something kind of like that, but different enough that if I was filing it, I'd but it in a different folder. I know that, but I'm not sure how. I mean, Major Houlihan is someone I can almost never hear. Maybe she has a little bit of the whispers, too. Sometimes she dreams about being a little girl in a soft blue dress-- (think of that, Major Houlihan in a dress!)-- and her dad is beating her with a belt asking "HOW DID YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR MOM'S RING WAS" and she cries that she doesn't know how, she just *knew*. That's the only dream of her's I've ever caught, and mostly just pieces, because in the dream she's so *scared*.
So there's the fear. And love...
Words are really just *stupid* sometimes. You can actually kind of make a wall with them, between you and another person. Or, in Major Winchester's case, the whole world. But that's not really what I'm talking about. People in love kind of *call* to each other, in the above-language, if they're really in love. Even if they never say anything, they're always calling, above, where the other person can't hear it. But I do.
Hawkeye doesn't call to his nurses, you know who he calls to? He calls to BJ, and BJ calls back. They're so.. well, not *loud*, but it's like that. Sometimes, they give me a worse headache than Major Burns used to. I hear them, but the people who they really need to hear-- each other-- can't! The signal is just wasted. Sometimes, I wish I could tell Hawkeye that he doesn't have to make word-walls with BJ, or tell BJ that he doesn't have to use his wife like a shield.
See what I mean? If they could really hear each other, maybe they might be happy.
Sometimes I think all women have a littlest bit of the Shade. I mean, nurses that call to each other usually do get together, but soldiers seem afraid. There used to be these two nurses here who sang at each other like birds and it made me blush when I could hear them. They got transferred to Tokyo, together.
I don't know when I first heard two people of the same sex and gender-- I mean, not a man and a woman-- making that call at each other. It sorta scared me a little, I think, but I know people just get scared of what's different. I'm different, so something else that's different is the same as me and why should I be scared?
Do you want to know a secret? It's not a military secret, it's just mine. It's safe in me, thick in my ribs.
I used to think I could never love some body who didn't also have the whispers. I mean, they wouldn't really *know* me. But then...
I sure do miss Colonel Blake. The words are stupid again, that isn't what I mean.
Henry was the most un-Shaded-est person I ever met. He didn't have anything of it, at all, didn't even broadcast, mostly. But... he let me *in*. Into his mind-- never hid anything. He wasn't broadcasting, but he was open to me, and I could dip in and get what orders he needed sent or whatever and get it done before he really knew he needed it. I keep animals cause they're like children, and I like their thinking-- they broadcast just happiness and warmth and need for food and stuff. Their minds are like nice nest, but Henry's was even nicer. I mean, I would go in there sometimes, even if I didn't need nothing. Just, part of my brain doing work and part of it... with him. Sometimes, I'd catch him watching me, like he knew. He'd have a funny smile on his face, and just keep on looking at me. Maybe he was trying really hard to send something, I dunno, but he didn't have any of the Shade.
I wish Henry wasn't dead, or if he's got to be dead, I wish I could hear his echo like I can sometimes hear that nurse's. 'Cause I'm kind of dead too-- maybe I was in his mind so much, I left a piece of me in there. I have these nightmares, where I'm trapped in metal and the water is everywhere and I can't breathe. I cry out; I don't know what I say, but it hasn't gotten me a blue discharge, anyway. Usually, Colonel Potter wakes me with his thin wrinkled hands-- not big and a little self-conscious, like some other hands I knew. He tells me it was just a dream, and I lay there in the dark wishing to God he was Henry Blake.
Colonel Potter is a good commander, he's a good egg. He dots his 'i's and crosses his 't's-- his writing is even legible. But he's not.... he's just not, okay?
You know, somewhere down in the Sea of Japan-- that's where the plane's got to be. Do you know what happens when dead bodies lay under water? I don't. I bet Hawkeye would know, but I don't want to. But there's a body down there in pin-striped civvies, and he's-- it, I should probably say it's, but there's got to be rules about what you can call even your former commanding officer. So, HE'S got a brand-new shiny (well, it can't be shiny anymore) key-chain, and in his wallet there's a picture of Klinger in a pink evening gown.
It must be on a reef or something-- at least some light gets through the water. I know because I see it, all the time. Or maybe I made that up, it's not exactly something you can hear, with your ears or otherwise. You can't hear nothin' over the ocean, like when you put you put your ear to a sea shell and listen to the sound comes from nowhere. I've actually never done that before.
Sometimes, Colonel Potter watches me, carefully, maybe a little suspicious, and asks, "How do you know, when the choppers come, or what I'm going to say? How do you know?"
I just hear it, that's all.
[to the tune of "Home on the Range"]
Fee----d back for the fic,
It brightens my day up real quick,
Your comments help so,
to feed my muse, oh--
I'd love if you'd send some my way.