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Cancer That Cured Us

CHAPTER ONE. A Tale of Love and Space

By G.B. VeenPublished 8 months ago Updated 7 months ago 25 min read
Cancer That Cured Us
Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. My head spun, darkness closed in on me and robbed my senses one by one - sight, smell, touch - my heart stopped beating, and I died.

It all started with a bark. Damn, Carli!

June 1st, 1999, 12:01 am:

I wish Carli had not barked then. The curlers in my hair scrapped my scalp as I lay tossing on the bed. Carli was pulling my pajamas with his teeth till I got up. It was dark and cold inside our rusty home, and all I could sense was the sound of cicadas croaking and the smell of wet mud. There was no sign of movement or footsteps. Maybe Carli had a bad dream. Then, as I turned to the bed, something caught my peripheral vision, it was dark outside, and a perfectly round glowing Orb lit the cloudy night sky! Carli barked again. I gazed at the Orb in astonishment. The Orb unexpectedly hit and dazzled my window, and the light from the impact was blinding. It all happened so fast- even my alcoholic uncle Tommy who was happily sleeping, covered his face involuntarily with his hand in his sleep.

By Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I had to look and surreptitiously opened the door.

" Come on, Carli! Fetch the ball," I whispered.

Carli's eyes sparkled when he heard the word "Fetch." I opened the door and let him out first. Carli scampered into the mist-shrouded valley, and I scooted along. The gushing waters of the rock-hemmed St. Croix River soothed my ears. I stopped for a second to catch a half-drawn breath and saw that Carli had halted too. We were in the scenic valley of glacial potholes nearby my home in Minnesota. The Orb was now out of sight. I plodded up to Carli and patted his back. His eyes said-" Trinka, here is where the ball is." I looked at the pothole and shrugged. I grew up playing here a million times, and it was nothing exceptional. So, I surmised that it must be a meteor.

"Let's go, Carli. Uncle Tommy will kill us both if he finds out".

We walked back home and tip-toed stealthily onto the bed.

June 2nd, 1999: 12:02 am:

Carli started barking yet again. I woke up, and this time, he was sitting right next to the door, all agog to go out. I glanced at my uncle Tommy who was snoring very hoarsely now.

"Okay, come on, boy! this better be good".

Carli sprinted into the valley, and I followed suit to keep pace. He suddenly refused to go any further. I hid behind the bushes when I saw the Orb once again. It was so luminous and irradiant. Carli leaped forward and tried to bite it. The Orb flew with great speed horizontally and then stopped right ahead of the pothole. Then it sped vertically INTO it. It took me ten seconds to sum it all up, this was something other-worldly that my 10-year-old brain could not fathom, and I had pissed in my pants yet again out of the fear of the unknown. I waited ten more minutes to see if the Orb flew out of that pothole. Then, accepting defeat, I retreated to head home. Gusty winds whistled in my ears, and I could feel them getting colder. It felt strange, as if something had just touched my ears. Carli yelped. In a split second, I turned back and came face to face with the Orb shining brightly. My pupils dilated, and I shrieked in horror, echoing into the valley's far distance. I shut my eyes tightly in trepidation.

Nothing happened for a while. Then, finally, I partially opened my left eye and saw the Orb still scanning me. I took a deep breath, examined this ball of light, and realized it was pursuing me home.

"What are you? What do you want? " I quizzed the Orb. Then, realizing how ridiculous I sounded, I laughed at myself.

" Cancer," the Orb spoke.

I stood frozen. Carli barked again.

Maybe I drank too much kombucha, and all of this was in my head? Let me ask this Orb again.

" What did you just say? "

" Cancer"

" What?"

" Cancer"

" Please don't kill me?"

" Cancer"

The whole situation seemed funny now. This bizarre being is misinterpreting my questions and only is saying one word, " Cancer."

" Is it your name?"

" Cancer"

"Okay, Cancer. I have to go home. Can you please go away? Uncle Tommy will reproach me if he finds out about my sneaking sessions. Bye now".

I did not dare look back until I reached home. After that, I could subtly feel my ears getting wintry.

" Oh, No. Not again!"

I turned back to see Cancer right behind me.

" Okay, let us do this. I will safely put you in my pocket until I figure out what we will do next."

Cancer suddenly shrunk in size. I marveled at this and hesitantly grabbed Cancer and slid it into my pocket.

June 3rd, 1999

"Trinka! breakfast is ready! Don't be late again! " Uncle Tommy yelled while frying bacon. It was such a weird dream, I thought. But wait, I put my hand in my pocket and could now feel the tips of my finger freezing. No! My worst fears were genuine.

"Trinka, here is your uniform! Sweet Heavens! Your hair is all mangled with those curlers. You have to be in class in ten minutes. Get up, girl! Aren't you going to shower? "

The notion of showering with Cancer scrutinizing me sent chills down my spine. " No, I will shower once I am back from school. Uncle Tommy, do you mind? I have to change into my uniform now! "

I shut the door as Uncle Tommy left and pulled out my geometry box. I closed my eyes and transferred an ice-cold Cancer from my pajama pockets into the geometry box. Then, I changed into my uniform quickly and rode to school.

Mrs. Brenda signaled me to join the other students outside expelled from the math class who had forgotten to bring geometry boxes. Luckily Jerry was out too. He was my only human friend whom I had known since kindergarten. Jerry's dad was a cardiologist and was super busy, unlike my uncle, who worked as a bartender. Despite all the wealth, Jerry never made many friends and was a total nerd. He saw something in me, and we gelled well. He treated me respectfully and never complained about how boring or impecunious I was. I could be completely myself with him. As math class began, I dragged him to the projector room across the hallway and shut the door.

"Trinka! Get your hands off me! You see, kids were staring at us in the hallway, and they would think, well, I have a reputation-"

I closed his mouth with my hands.

" Shhh... Jerry! Listen - I want to show you something if you promise not to freak out. Don't scream! "

I released my grip from his mouth and opened the geometry box.

"Trinka! You got your geometry box. Then why aren't you-"

Jerry's eyes sparkled with wonder when Cancer moved out of the geometry box and hovered in the air.

It had now grown a bit larger and more radiant.

"What is it? Where did you find this? " Asked Jerry.

I narrated the events that led to Cancer following me. Jerry listened patiently, trying to assimilate everything I said.

"Are you an alien from another planet? " Jerry asked Cancer.

"Cancer" was the reply.

"See Jerry. He says that for all the questions we ask him. So, I named him Cancer."

Jerry chuckled.

I caught Cancer meticulously and safely put it back in my geometry box.

"Let us go. All I need is a rope, and I want you to come by my house- no questions asked at midnight tonight!"

Jerry gaped and was about to utter something.

" I will help you with geography homework - I will do all your world map questions. "A mischievous smile now spread across Jerry's round face. He never doubts my cleverness or sense of adventure.

At 11:50 pm, I heard his bike by my pavement. " Come on, Carli!" I strapped Carli in the doggy bag across my shoulder, grabbed my bag, secretly stepped out, and rode my bike with Jerry. In no time, we were at the valley. I opened my geometry box and let Cancer out. Cancer vanished as before into the pothole. Jerry's jaw dropped in awe.

" Come on, sleepy head- let's go!" I told Jerry.

Carli was already at the pothole and sniffing the muddy water. I tied the rope around my leg that Jerry had brought and gave the other end to him.

" Listen carefully, Jerry. First, I will go find out where Cancer went. Then, if I don't come back in 2 minutes, try to pull me up. " Jerry was too shocked to react and absentmindedly held on to the rope I had handed him.

By Intricate Explorer on Unsplash

For a second, I gazed at the stars, thought of my parents, pet Carli for one last time, and jumped right into the pothole. Carli barked- his barking started to fade, and that's when I hit the vacuum. It was pitch dark, and I was afloat. At first, I thought I was swimming but could not feel the water. "This cannot be space - I see no stars, nothing, this just cannot be space," I thought. My torch was not working, and I could not light a match either. There was 0% oxygen. I could not feel the air in my lungs and did not have a pulse. Cancer was nowhere either. Panic set in, and I was so dead. After a while, I was startled and jerked. Hold on - I can feel the pain. I'm still alive! I yanked my leg with full force and felt the rope tighten sharply. "Ouch!" - I cried. I could now feel the rope pulling me up slowly. I was merely unconscious due to a shift in pressure and gravity. Thank God for Jerry. It will all be over soon, I sighed. I started counting backward- 100, 99, 98. By the time I reached 66, my head had hit the muddy waters. I could feel Jerry pulling my legs with his hands, and within seconds I was out of that pothole.

"You stink! I am going to throw up! I bet the fishes probably go Pott-" I gave a big wet hug before Jerry could finish his sentence. " Jerry, you won't believe what is down there! I just died and came back alive!"

Jerry gawked at me for two seconds and started laughing. " I will prove it to you, Jerry. Let us come back here tomorrow, same place, same time, and please get some extra ropes and a kerosene oil lamp."

" A what? " Jerry looked bemused. "Nothing silly! Please come, and I'll help you with Calculus homework. Let's go for a swim down the river and wash before Uncle Tommy wakes up from my stench."

Cancer was nowhere near. But as we rode back, Cancer stopped playing hide and seek and followed us home as we expected.

June 4th, 1999:

It was 11:50 pm, and after a long day at school, I was under the sheets with Carli pretending to be asleep. I heard a knock on the window. It was Jerry. I strapped Carli across my back and rode our bikes to the pothole. We let Cancer out of the geometry box.

"Let's go in, Jerry."

"It is too dangerous- what if we die? ".

" Listen, Jerry! It is going to be okay. I am here and alive. Don't you at least want to see what is out there? come on, don't be a fish".

I had said the magic word- "fish"- there is nothing Jerry hated more than being called a fish. I successfully had my way of manipulating him. We tethered ropes around our legs and fastened the other end of the strings around a nearby tree. In addition, we were bound together with ropes, too, as I had this sinister idea that I would bungee-jump deep into the vacuum and take Jerry down with me- just in case he changed his mind and tried climbing back upwards.

" Alright, Jerry, you go first. That way, I will pull you up if you want me to. "

An unsuspecting Jerry jumped into the pothole. I followed. At first, we hit the water, and in a matter of minutes, we emerged into the vacuum. The kerosene oil lamp worked its magic, and now we could see. There was nothing, it was pitch black, and the zero-gravity environment gave me goosebumps. Jerry was speechless. We spent an hour exploring within reach of the ropes, looking for clues and finding nothing. We gave up and climbed back out of the pothole. Carli got up, wagged his tail, took a whiff, and shook his head. " Oh yeah- we smell like rotten eggs," Jerry said. "Let us go for a swim, and I need to think over this"

Jerry was the nerd and the brainy one. I knew he would conjure up some explanation for all of this. Jerry was still mumbling to himself as we swam in the river and washed. Carli came to rest next to us by the beach. Cancer flew and sat on my palm as we lay down, admiring the starry night and contemplating everything we thought we knew.

"Where do you fly away, Cancer? " I asked.

"Cancer" was the reply.

Jerry chuckled. "You know Trinka, I think there is some sort of field down there, just cannot perceive what because for us not to breathe and our heart to stop, it must only mean that time is frozen... hey, what time is it".

I checked my watch. " It is 12:06! But that is impossible, and we were there for about an hour at least!" I spoke.

" Nothing is impossible, Trinka! Whatever this place is, it has some field that stops time" I looked at the kerosene lamp that had just burned out. The fuel was intact when we were down there. It was as if the light did not burn at all down there. It just existed in its last state before we jumped in. I tried to remember Newton's first law of motion, which said that every object continues to be inertia until an external force tampers with it. In a vacuum, there was no force to put the lamp out. My fast-racing thoughts were again interrupted by Jerry's comments.

" Trinka! tell this to no one. This place is going to be our very own secret hideout. Imagine all the things we can accomplish- we can finish Mrs. Brenda's math homework by spending 12 hours down there and play all day at school instead! We have the luxury of an unlimited supply of time in a day! Something that even Einstein or Tesla did not have. Let us name this place Pothole 51. What do you say."

The hairs on my neck electrified when I heard Jerry - our secret place, Pothole 51, where just me, Carli, and Jerry could hang out. We laughed so much and, in the excitement, forgot that it was the middle of the night and we had to be home. Thanks to Carli, who kept pushing against me, I remembered how late it was. Jerry carried the ropes back to cover our tracks. I kissed him goodnight, went home with Carli, and with Cancer in my geometry box, crept back into the bed watching Uncle Tommy grunt.

We spent many nights at Pothole 51 and pledged to keep this clandestine. An era dawned for us. "Jerry, why do you think we don't see anyone here? Shouldn't some frogs or fishes may have swum across into the vacuum?" I quipped. Jerry thought for a minute and said, " Imagine this is a tunnel. Whatever reached here before never stopped searching for the other end of this tunnel. They must have wandered off and spent their entire lives searching for an answer. They forgot to just enjoy and live in the present! "

" As we are living in the present and enjoying to the fullest! I love you, Jerry! You are the best, " I said. Carli woofed in excitement and corroborated.

On the days that followed:

We carried more articles down there- a makeshift tent, magnetic chess board, books, pencils, kerosine oil lamps, Carli's toys. Jerry borrowed the telescope from the Astronomy club, and we scanned the vastness of the vacuum for any signs of life. As luck would have it- we did not find any. We experimented and found that eating candies down at Pothole 51 was dangerous as the food did not move from mouth to stomach without gravity and time. We could not drink soda either. We slept in class most of the time as we were physically tired of our sometimes 48 hours or 64-hour long days and nights spent at Pothole 51. We skipped PT most of the time as our legs suffered bouts of pain because of the zero-gravity and earth gravity shift. Yet we got excellent grades and became the objects of jealousy among the students in our class as we topped exam after exam. We were invincible- the next Einstein and Tesla. We would discover all the laws of the universe that lay obscured to humanity as we had mastered time itself. Also, we made a small bed and mini pillow for Cancer in my geometry box from my doll house. In the days that followed, Uncle Tommy would lament Carli was bringing home all the mud and always being grubby and soaking wet. He thought it was probably the rains in the mid-west, and I smirked and winked at Carli. Nobody knew our secret. No one could ever know.

Until that fateful day, Jerry and I packed our stuff as usual and were heading back upwards from Pothole 51. But unfortunately, as soon as we pulled Carli out of the pothole, he collapsed suddenly and was hyperventilating.

"Carli- get up," I said. " Oh my God! He is not moving, "- said Jerry- "hurry, we have to take him home at once."

By Rojan Maharjan on Unsplash

" Trinka- we have to carry Carli back in my bike, you hold him and sit on the back seat, and I'll ride us home- let us come back for the rest of our items later."

" What about Cancer?"

"Never mind, Trinka- Cancer will come back to us."

Rain splashed on our faces, and the heavens roared with lightning and thunder. Carli convulsed and shuddered at every sound of thunder. I was utterly devastated. He was fine down below and was playing with his toy. What on earth could have possibly happened? Maybe it's nothing on earth that did this to Carli. It was that damned Pothole 51. Did Cancer do this to Carli? Uncle Tommy was going to be so mad at me now. Carli was not just any dog; he was my brother from another mother. We were both born in July of the same year, 1989. A month later, my parents died, and all I had was Carli. He was my worldly companion, my everything. Tears rolled down my cheeks as Jerry pulled ahead on the pavement by my house.

I carefully got down and laid Carli on the ground. " Listen, Trinka! My dad will be back in town today from his medical conference, and I am out of pocket money to bribe my butler again. So, I'll get our stuff and head home. Please take Carli to the vet and for heaven's sake, wake Uncle Tommy now!" Jerry left without saying another word.

I carried Carli to the door and rang the doorbell six times. An angry Uncle Tommy frowned upon us.

" Trinka! what are you doing outside the house, and what is Carli-"

Uncle Tommy stopped, looked at Carli, and then looked at me as if I had killed him. He slammed the door in my face. I stood there deserted and forsaken by Uncle Tommy. What was I going to do now? I had no money and had no clue how to take Carli to the vet. I looked around for Cancer, but it was nowhere nearby. More hot tears trickled down my cheeks. Finally, the door burst open, and Uncle Tommy was in his rain jacket. He threw my raincoat at me and said, " Come on! We need to drive him to the vet right now."

As I sat in Uncle Tommy's car in the backseat catching glimpses of his blood-stricken eyes in the rear-view mirror with Carli's head on my lap, I could not stop cursing that wretched Pothole 51. I had such a sublime life. Even though my parents were never around, Carli was all I needed. I should not have chased Cancer in the first place. I should not have said "Fetch" to Carli. So why couldn't I just appreciate all the love and comfort Carli gave and not be content? Carli always made me feel whole. I was kicking myself for my poor choices until we reached the Urgent Care for Animals. A nurse brought a stretcher, put Carli on it, and carried him inside. The hospital staff took Carli out of our sight.

Uncle Tommy wiped his face and looked at me with disgust, anger, and so much hatred that I had to look away. He placed his hand under my chin and pulled me closer, and said, " Don't you look away. I know what you did! "

My insides felt lacerated like Uncle Tommy had poured hot molten lava into my esophagus.

"You poisoned him! Didn't you? Did he eat wild mushrooms? He must not eat anything but dog food! For heaven's sakes, what did he eat, Trinka ?? "

" But I did not poison him. I was- "

" Shut up! I do not want to hear anything. Now tell me, what were you doing outside in the rain? When did you get out of the house? "

All I could manage was " Potty..."

Uncle Tommy sighed. " You are so grounded. Next time it rains, and you have to take Carli to the potty, just wake me up. I am confining you to the basement until further notice. You need discipline and should learn from your mistakes."

The doctor came with some papers in his hand. He gently pulled Uncle Tommy aside and started conversing animatedly. Uncle Tommy's face went from red and angry to white. The doctor handed the papers to Uncle Tommy and went away.

" Trinka ... we have to get home! You can stay home today and take care of Carli. Also, if Jerry wants to stop by to see Carli, that is fine."

By Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash

I was surprised by the tone of Uncle Tommy. A minute ago, I was grounded, and now he was asking me to have Jerry over. I could almost sense pity in his voice—none of this made sense. Maybe Carli was okay after all. I prayed to my parents in heaven to have taken care of Carli.

After a couple of hours of waiting at the vet, we drove back home. Carli could walk, climbed up, and rested his head on my lap. Uncle Tommy dropped me home and went to get groceries early in the morning, which was again so uncharacteristic of him. My intuitive brain suspected something was wrong, but I kept pushing it away. I did not want to take a chance and believe it. Finally, as I got up to get myself a cup of hot tea, the drenched papers that the doctor gave Uncle Tommy caught my eye. I took dialed Jerry on the phone while going over the notes.

" Hey, Jerry! Carli is home, and he is fine! "

" Thank God! Trinka, what did the vet say? I knew he was going to get well! We should go to Pothole 51 and celebrate! "

I laughed at myself for hastily having cursed our favorite hangout spot without much deliberation.

" Trinka, are you there? What did the vet say? "

" Well, I don't know. Let me see, here are some papers from the doctor- there is something written here- Hema. Hem Angio sarco- something, it says- drained blood from patient Carlino's pericardium twice in an hour. I can't make sense of this"

" Hold on, Trinka, dad is here. Let me ask him. hey, Dad! what is Hema Angio Sarco?? " Jerry yelled on the phone.

After a minute, Jerry spoke, " Trinka, dad wants to talk to you! "

" Trinka, Dr. Jenkins, this side. I am sorry about your dog Carlino. I will have our butler drop Jerry, at your place shortly. What can I say? Dog lives are so short. I'm so sorry. Hemangiosarcoma is vicious cancer that can spread for years, present no symptoms, and is virtually undetectable until the pet collapses. With the tumor bleeding into his heart, these last few hours are crucial - love him as much as you can and feed him his favorite foods. Jerry will be down there in 10 minutes."

I felt every inch of my body trembling, and my soul just left my body.

"Trinka.... my child, are you there?? Hello!! "

My legs went numb, and I sat down on the floor, buried my head in my hands, and tried to make sense of everything. At the hospital, the doctor would have told this to Uncle Tommy. Uncle Tommy must have gone shopping for Carli's favorite treats for his final meal- his last supper. Carli sniffed and licked my face. I caressed him, fighting back my tears. How could God punish such an angel like Carli? My heart was painfully wounded and bleeding as much as he was. Was Uncle Tommy ever going to tell me? People can be so mean and mendacious and go to any extent to conceal the truth just because they do not dare to own it. I suddenly realized that I was no different from him with the baggage of secrets I had kept from the world.

While I was deep in my thoughts, Jerry barged in. " Trinka- " I hugged Jerry and sobbed.

"Trinka- listen, I have an idea-" before Jerry could say anything, there was a flash of light on the window. It was Cancer.

" Time Bridge," Cancer spoke.

"What? " Jerry asked.

" Time Bridge." Cancer said again.

By Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

I locked eyes with Jerry, and we both knew what to do. Without a word, I grabbed Uncle Tommy's old, dusted bag under the bed and thrust it open. We packed in less than 5 minutes with necessities like Carli's favorite toy, his dog cologne, and a blanket for him.

" Come on, Trinka, we have no time! "

I carefully strapped Carli around my back. Jerry rode my bike, and I sat behind him. Cancer led us straight into the valley and disappeared into the pothole. Uncle Tommy could have been home at any minute now. What if he finds my geometry box? " Jerry, I will see you at night. Let me first get Carli inside safely- please tie my leg-" I shockingly realized there was no rope this time.

Jerry looked at me and started crying. He tearfully stroked Carli, who was now beginning to feel sick again.

I knew what I had to do. There was nothing more important to me in life than my boy Carli. He taught me to love, care and be human. I knew this was a one-way trip to save Carli, that without rope and light, we would float in the darkness for eternity. But we were born to be together, and I would not let death change our destiny. So, I hugged Jerry for one last time, looked up to seek blessings from my parents, took my bag with Carli strapped around my back, and jumped right into Pothole 51.

I was floating in darkness, having lost all glimmer of hope. But I could feel my boy Carli around my back; now, he started wagging his tail and barking in the pink of his health. Even though I lost my sight forever, I felt fully complete for the first time. We felt love pouring into our hearts and healing as I expressed my gratitude to God and my parents.

And then it happened, I saw something approach me as it grew brighter. Carli barked excitedly at Cancer.

By Stanislav on Unsplash

Cancer transformed into a three-dimensional map within seconds and spoke " Time Bridge." I could see now, as Jerry had postulated, that this was a vacuum tunnel leading to a new place. However, I could not comprehend the map entirely. Cancer seemed to understand the puzzled look on my face and re-transformed back into the ball of light and came towards Carli, who jumped and caught it in his mouth. We could now feel being pulled by an external force and were slowly and steadily moving in some direction in the void. I laughed at myself for not having peed in my pants now. I was no longer afraid of the unknown. As we traveled, I couldn't help but wonder what Cancer was. Was it a being capable of premonition? Where was this Time Bridge? I miss Jerry already. Poor Uncle Tommy would be sad but eventually, get over it. On the brighter side, Carli was doing great! No more school, chores, or homework. Just Carli and I were crossing our hearts and heading to a New World! Great things have minuscule beginnings indeed!


About the Creator

G.B. Veen

Not a Native English speaker. Here to improve my writing skills in English

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (4)

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  • Kylara6 months ago

    such a great story!

  • C. Rommial Butler7 months ago

    Interesting take on the "girl and her dog" theme!

  • Parvathy Roy7 months ago

    Aww.. Such an exquisite story. Carli🌸

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