In The Telling
by cgb

This is a story that was once written in sand.

A child plays on the beach. He is barely three years old and he draws pictures in the sand, mimicking his father who has drawn three disproportioned figures, the third much smaller than the other two.

"See Charlie - this is mom and dad and you."

Charlie drags his finger through the sand, drawing a line that cuts through all three figures.

Sara laughs. "Looks like someone doesn't appreciate your artistic talent, Jack," she says."

"Everyone's a critic," I say, and I flick a little sand in her direction. We stay there long enough for the tide to come in and wash the drawings away.


Sand in my eyes when I'm thrown to the ground after being found hiding in the back of a jeep only two miles from the border. I've picked up enough of the language to know Iím being told to stay down or risk losing my ability to produce children. I notice O'Keefe go down next to me and he shuts his eyes tightly as his face hits the ground. I wonder if he's praying and if he is, is he praying for me.

They pack us into the back of a US military issue jeep and I don't know enough about the black market trade in military supplies to assume it's the spoils of war.

We get taken to a prison in Baghdad where we immediately become aware of the lack of distinction between prisoners of state and prisoners of war. Everyone calls it "the judgement centre" and there are many reasons for the name but it's a guy called Mark Lacey who has the best explanation:

"It's because you're here until 'judgement day'," he says.

We feed them misinformation during the day and carve our names in the walls at night.


Sand when I step across space for the first time. Sand and the brightest sun I ever saw. You bury your face in your handkerchief and we laugh, pretending that we're not scared, that nothing fazes us. We should have known better than to be unimpressed by sand.

This story you know. The others you don't because I didn't tell you, would never have told you if you hadn't shown up in my brain when I needed you. But I figured you liked stories. I figured that's what kept you looking for messages in rocks and ruins.

And I figured I owed you this one:

Sand on a beach once more as Mark and I sit with our elbows on our knees, watching waves break. There was a funeral and a closed casket and Mark is aware of how my son died so he tries to avoid details when he tells me how Kirk killed himself.

"He shot himself," he says, and he leaves me with that.

I ask him where Randall is and he tells me he hasn't heard from him for years. His eyes are wet with tears but he's not crying. Not that I can see.

"I donít know where anyone is anymore," he says and he passes the back of his hand across his face, smearing salt and sand down his cheek.

"Andy moved to New Zealand," I tell him. He nods and we're quiet once more.

I think about how quickly you lose people when you're not paying attention. I remember their faces from that prison in Baghdad - Mark and his eyes always on the floor, his relationship with Kirk which we didn't think about then, Randall always trying to save me from getting into a fight. I remember thinking survival was the only goal I would ever have. I pictured my freedom differently but then you probably expected to die in a home for retired academics.

The sand gets into my shoes and I take them off. I'm wearing a suit and Mark wears his uniform and I'm conscious of the looks the joggers give us as they run by in the shorts and tank tops, the girls with their midriff exposed and their hair in pony-tails. I used to care about these things but I don't remember when.

"Come on - I'll take you home," I tell him. He buries his face in his hands and I look away because I don't want to see him cry.

He nods and we stand up. He looks at the ground and then he looks out to sea and I'm conscious of how little I can do for him, how little either of us could do for Kirk.

"It's notÖ" I want to tell him it's not his fault but I know how ridiculous that sounds. I tell him anyway. "It's not your fault."

He shakes his head. "You don't understand," he says.

"Yeah I do," I say, but I know no matter how similar the stories are, they're never quite the same. There's no experience as isolating as grief.

"You don't understand, Jack," he says again. "I wasn't enough."

And I think that at this point, I understand something.


I drive him home to the house he shared with Kirk. He tells me I can sleep in the second bedroom, how he used to tell his parents it was his and how Kirk died without them knowing the extent of their relationship.

He has red wine from a cellar underneath the house and I want to tell him not to get drunk when he feels like this but we drink the bottle anyway, and we talk about trivial things and pretend we have trivial lives because everyone wants to think normal.

Eventually he says, "I thought we were going to die there," and it comes out of nowhere but I know what he means. It's difficult to conceive of change when every day is like the last.

But then you come out the other side and it's a little disconcerting. Like most of us, Mark went in there knowing his wife and a child were waiting for him back home but unlike the rest of us the knowledge wasn't enough to keep him going. He needed something, someone closer.

He smiles a little, somewhere between crying and laughing. The smile never reaches his eyes. "It was my release."

I sleep in Mark's pretend bedroom. I leave after breakfast the next day.


In a dream I disappear into a desert I don't recognise. There's a sarcophagus covered in sand. It slowly opens and people begin to walk out - Randall, Andy, Kirk, Charlie and faces I should recognise but can't put names to. They stream out one after the other and they don't stop.


There's a five by five cell on a planet I couldn't find again if the Tok'Ra sent me directions. I died there, and died again and it strikes me as crazy that I can get up and walk around without a scar to remind me that I'm the living dead.

I know it's impossible that you were there but it's impossible that I'm here now, able to show where my wounds would have been, able to remember things that never happened to me.

When I step onto a distant planet, place my feet in its sand and feel the wind sweeping it's dust into my eyes, I think about how easy it is, how we seem to do something impossible everyday and I should be incredulous, but I'm not.

I think that you would be and I'm glad you are. And if adverse situations bring people together then I think you and I have had enough of them to be stuck with each other forever. Maybe that's why I can't get rid of you.

When I separate my past from my future I draw a line that starts and ends with you.

These are stories I donít write down and you know I'm not good at putting words on paper, so I tell myself this and tell myself you can't really hear me.

I don't know what that means.


Another step through the gate and I'm squinting through blinkered sunglasses at a blinding sun and a long plain of desert-scape stretched out for miles in front of me. I take a few seconds to adjust my eyes, to note my team has once again passed safely through the wormhole and has joined me on the other side, blinking at the light.

We push ahead wordlessly with the new guy bringing up the rear. He doesn't ask as many questions as you but he smiles more and that's something new where there should be something different.

Four and a half miles from the gate we'll find ruins of a long gone civilisation and Jonas and Carter will find it fascinating, while Teal'c and I take point, anticipating trouble in the unassuming emptiness of the desert.

And we'll think about how familiar it is, and how quickly it could all be gone.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Plain Style / Fancy Style