Challenge #02562-G005: The Work Around
A disabled human ("invisible" disability) from a...less than understanding society, grown to adulthood and full of the painful little quirks and habits that one develops in order to survive that situation, encounters a member of the Galactic Alliance. A member of the Galactic Alliance who isn't sure what to do with a deathworlder who apologizes for displaying distress, and cries from joy when not berated for showing signs of pain when "there's nothing wrong" -- Anon Guest
They call me Human Kaz, and I'm never going back home. Some say home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Others say that home is a state of mind. Still more reckon that home is anywhere you find the people who get you. I like the last one.
Where I'm from? The people who get me don't count as people. They're called 'critters' by most and 'space critters' by everyone else. Everyone's supposed to know what's meant when it's said. Me? I never quite got the hang of it. I never quite got the hang of a lot of things.
I never got the hang of casual metaphor. I've always interpreted things literally first. I never got the hang of telling who was laughing with me and who was laughing at me. I never got the hang of telling the difference. In places with the wrong kinds of noise, I have to lipread just to hear what people are saying. At minimum, I have to stare at their mouths as they talk. It helps me focus on the right sounds. I've tested badly in the past and -to be honest- it took me working my heart to a cinder in order to get to Farreach Station. The furthest outpost my people were ever willing to go to. It was there that my life changed.
I never tested very good for anything, but in order to work in the Galactic half of the station, I had to pass a Galactic Aptitude Test. I was told all my life that I would never be good for anything. I was told that my test results said it was a miracle that I remembered how to breathe. Therefore, I went to the Galactic tests fearing that I would be thrown back down into that gravity well I knew as my home planet, never to be anything ever again.
It was more than a shock when they offered me accommodations, better pay, and a job I could never have thought to have on the 'improved' homeward side of the station... after sufficient training, of course. I do remember that I wept at the thought of training. By then, any loud vocal sound made me want to jump out of my skin. I had regular nightmares about people yelling at me.
Galactic training was... almost the exact opposite of my homeworld's kind of training. Back home, they more or less throw you at a task and yell at you when you get it wrong. Punishment is frequent and harsh and I would do anything to avoid any more of that. Galactics? They began with therapy. Gently showing me that the way I knew was not the way of all things. I'd tested high for anxiety and they had methods to reassure me that my fears were less likely to become reality on their side of the airlocks.
For the first time in my life, I could learn at my own pace. For the first time in my life, I was coached on how to tell the difference between friends and people who kept me around just to laugh at me. For the first time in my life, I made real friends. For the first time in my life, I grew confident because... for the first time in my life, I knew what I was doing before I did it.
I still have bad habits, those are hard to shake, but I'm getting better. They're teaching me better coping strategies. They're teaching me to ask for help when I feel something is wrong. The pain in my body may be psychosomatic, but it's still a symptom because I've been ignoring all the other ones. It's a slow and steady climb, and my therapists all tell me it's all right to take it at my own pace.
What am I? I'm a shield. They say I'm especially good with the more fragile Havenworlders because of my willingness to adapt and improve. The cringing, though an artifact of my former life, is especially good for Havenworlders because they so rarely encounter anyone who shows genuine signs of fearing them. It helps them feel strong. Confidence, I have learned, is key.
Did you know? The people on the homeworld side hardly recognise me at all. I don't stammer, and I certainly don't make myself small around them any more. Better yet for the Havenworlders, I have discovered a very wide protective streak. I will NOT let any of my former alleged friends hurt my new Havenworlder friends like they had once hurt me. I have an itchy mute trigger finger and they know it.
I used to be too afraid to show my face to the other side. I'd wear a livesuit like so many others did on the Galactic side, all the better to prevent disease from travelling rampant, and darken the faceplate so that they wouldn't know who was in there. Then, one day, I forgot to darken the faceplate and... though it was someone who used to yell at me every day... they didn't know me. My name and my face were right in front of them and they didn't know who I was.
Maintenance on the Galactic Side is always looking for small noises that could be signs of trouble. What used to get me laughed at is an important duty, up on the station. Homeworld's side, with their rigid adherence to "Not a problem for me, not a problem for you," have more accidents and disruptions than the Galactic side. They're not too afraid to accept Galactic help when the disaster strikes, but call it unnecessary meddling when they offer to prevent it.
There are many days I agree with Galactics whole-heartedly. Humans are insane. The difference between my homelanders and I is I've learned to know when I need help and won't stubbornly refuse it because I believe everything is fine.
I'm not cured. Not yet. Every now and then, I have bad days. I go back to being afraid of disapproval, apologising for existing, and so on. They're rough on me, they're disturbing to the clients, and they're worrying everyone around me. That's when I know I have good friends.
They don't laugh when I'm having a bad day. They gather around and help.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / blamb]
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