ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the July 2016 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "lost childhood" square in my 7-16-16 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored out of the general fund, based on an audience poll. Happy birthday to [personal profile] librarygeek from [personal profile] technoshaman and [personal profile] mama_kestrel, who noted that in their donations. This poem belongs to the Dr. Infanta thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem features content which many readers are likely to find disturbing. Highlight to read the warnings, which include both spoilers and probable triggers. It contains references to past child abuse, graphic sexual abuse, main character harm, violent use of superpowers, emotional angst, and other mayhem. I am counting Dr. Infanta as a child victim based on her mental age rather than her chronological age, but a similar freeze pattern actually happens with many adult survivors too. Her thought patterns are distorted in some ways common among survivors of child abuse. Readers are encouraged to take extra caution with this piece because it's more explicit than canon-typical, and also, this is the kind of reason why Dr. Infanta scares the crap out of some people while making others feel very protective of her. Please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you wish to read. It's not directly connected to ongoing plotlines so it shouldn't cause problems if you skip it.


"A Shadow the Length of a Lifetime"


It has been centuries
since the abuse started, and
Alicia is strong enough now
that people can't hurt her
so easily anymore, but

it's rarely a decade when
she doesn't let it happen again.

She's in the park with Nanette
when they hear the bright bells
of the hot dog truck approaching,
and Alicia wants one but doesn't
want to run to catch it because
she's tired from walking.

So she promises to stay
on the bench and be good,
and Nanette goes to the truck.

That's when the man sits down
beside her, and then Alicia feels
the old creepy feeling come over her,
like a shadow the length of a lifetime.

"Hey, little girl," he says, flicking open
his red-checked coat. "You look like
someone who could use a taste of
something sweet. Touch Mr. Happy
and I'll buy you any dessert you want."

"I don't want to," Alicia says,
sidling away from him. "You won't
like what happens if I do that."

"You've seen it, now you
have to touch it," he says.

So Alicia reaches out to touch
the ugly wrinkled thing peeking
through the man's open fly.

As her fingers meet his skin,
she begins pulling the years
out of him, hand over hand
just like milking a goat.

The man screams, and screams,
as the flesh withers under her touch.

He falls to the ground, moaning.

Then Nanette is there, long hands
patting urgently over Alicia. "What
happened? How badly hurt are you?"

"I'm not hurt," Alicia tells her.

A park policeman is there too.
"What happened?" he says.

"He told me to touch Mr. Happy
and I told him that he wouldn't like
what happened if I did but he said that
I had to so I did and he didn't," Alicia says.

"Oh, not again," Nanette groans.
"Sweetie, you do not have to do
anything like that! It's very wrong
of anyone to ask for such things."

"You should probably call
an ambulance," Alicia says.

"You said you weren't hurt,"
the policeman says. "Why
do you need an ambulance?"

"I don't. He does." She
points toward the pervert
curled on the ground.

"I thought you just kneed him or
something," the policeman says, but
he stoops to check on the man and sees
the ruin of his crotch. "Jesus Christ!"

The policeman looks up, and Alicia
sees the moment when he recognizes her,
and then she wonders if she's going
to have to kill him to get away.

But then his face changes,
and he kneels down to her level.

"Your nanny is right," he says firmly.
"You don't ever have to let anyone
touch you in a bad way, or make you
touch them if it feels creepy."

Alicia sighs. She's heard it all before,
and some people have just ...
led very sheltered lives.

After all, it's not fair to torture someone
unless she's certain that he's evil,
and how can she be that certain
without seeing it for herself?

At least this one won't be bothering
any other little girls, ever again.

Alicia watches as the sad-faced policeman
handcuffs the pervert and calls an ambulance,
then turns back to Nanette. "I don't suppose
there's any chance of you two coming down
to the station to make a statement?" he says.

"I'm afraid not," Nanette says.

On cue, Alicia tugs her skirt and says,
"I don't feel good. Can we go home now?"

The policeman doesn't argue like
they usually do. He just says,
"Yes, you may," to Alicia and then,
"Take care of her," to Nanette.

"I'll do my best," Nanette says,
and her face is sad too, and Alicia
feels bad for disappointing everyone
but deep inside she still knows that
some things never, ever change.

Lorry appears between one blink
and the next, takes in the curled form
of the whimpering pervert, and flexes
the muscles under his suitcoat.

Alicia shakes her head a tiny bit.

Lorry sighs, but he lets the man live.
"Shall we go home, miss?" he asks.

"Yeah," says Alicia, holding out
her arms in a silent plea.

Lorry picks her up and settles
her on one solid hip, then takes
Nanette in his other hand.

Alicia buries her face against
his broad shoulder so they can
teleport back home, wishing that
she knew how not to hurt people, but
hurting people is what she does best.

It doesn't matter how much
the grownups talk about
right and wrong, ethics and
justifications and shades of gray.

Alicia knows that sometimes, evil is obvious.

* * *

Notes:

See the pervert on the park bench.

"Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime."
-- Quotes on Abuse

Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, raises the risk of revictimization permanently. It has many other negative impacts. The healing process is long, but there are tips for parents and guardians on how to help.

Teaching children about consent and healthy boundaries reduces the risk of abuse. This site lists resources for My Body Belongs to Me, Good Touch/Bad Touch, and other programs.

Good and evil may be viewed as absolutes or points on a spectrum, which is particularly relevant in discussing child abuse. Babies are born with a basic sense of justice, and children's sense of good and evil evolves over time. However, plenty of people retain a simplistic approach even as adults. Dr. Infanta's perspective is as unique as her experiences.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-02 09:14 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
the beat of a certain Tango reverberates in my head...

Hmmmm. She's not giving evidence. The fuzz know *something* happened... and the hospital will know approximately what. Is that enough to get this guy off the street in T-America? (The cynical part of me figures that he may well turn violent now without intervention...) I'm gonna presume that if they do they won't *just* cuff him and stuff him and forget about his mental health, as I know the state of Oregon does (to my everlasting ire)...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-02 10:08 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Poor Alicia. That's a hard place to be caught in.

Given that she was siphoning his life force, how much more life is he likely to actually have? Little enough that they can just tuck him into a hospital bed and make him as comfortable as possible until he's gone? Because that would certainly take care of the issue mentioned above.
curiosity: The sky turning yellow and orange and sunlight spilling over the ocean as the sun rises. (Picto: Ocean Sunrise)
From: [personal profile] curiosity
Well she did warn him. I think this is the first time I've seen Nanette handle something in what I would consider the wrong way. Isn't she just doubling Alicia's emotional burden with the whole "Oh not again!" bit and the implied you know better! In my opinion if she knows Alicia takes out the truly evil then why wouldn't she be more along the lines of "I'm sorry this happened to you. You don't deserve it. I think you did a good thing, preventing him from doing that to someone else. Let's go home and we'll have groats."

That is probably just my take. I've got a fierce sort of pride for Alicia doing what she did in this piece, wrong or right. One warrior's understanding nod to another.

I know what it feels like to have that sensation of an old evil coming back to darken your doorstep, overshadowing your heart, and feeling sick and reliving all the old horror but making a different horror scene because this time you aren't the victim and it's going to end differently; though it doesn't matter how it ends, it will still be horror.

And people who haven't lived through something like that just don't know how to handle it. There's a place down there in the dark where eradicating the evil is the best you can do, even if it leaves stains. And it will leave stains. But people who haven't been to that place . . . . they just see the stains and now how they got there.

I don't know if that makes sense. And when I reread that, it sounds like violence Alicia style is the outcome I am alluding to, but I'm not. :P Most of us without superpowers just have really ugly altercations and either get away or get sucked back in, perhaps in a different role than before. Enabler as opposed to victim, say. If it's the former victim who does damage, they may be punished like the abuser never was and be forced to 'make amends' or 'atone'. Which is a mindfuck all its own. Facing down the obvious evil doesn't go the same way as it does on TV or in books. There's rarely any sort of resolution or closure. There's almost never justice.

Those of us who get away, don't actually get away clean. Some stains don't wash out no matter what you do.
curiosity: An interesting play of ocean waves and clouds. (Picto: Blue Clouds)
From: [personal profile] curiosity
Nanette isn't blaming Alicia, but blaming herself. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to watch a child every second. They are going to get away, and sometimes, they are going to get hurt. The parent or guardian usually feels responsible for the harm done. They have tried and tried to teach Alicia that she does not have to let people hurt her, or otherwise let herself get hurt; that she doesn't even have to defend herself, all she has to do is tell someone who will fix the problem for her. But Alicia's self-preservation is screwed six ways from Sunday. :(

Now that is interesting, I didn't even think of that. That Nanette was blaming herself. Hmm. That probably says more about me than it does her.

And yeah. Self-preservation isn't something the hind brain retains after a certain point. Too much pain and suffering and death is preferable. Even afterwards because all that weight and memory is still there. It's a lot of work getting the brain back to factory settings after the OS has been gutted and you can't just wipe it and reinstall.

I agree that Nanette's phrasing was easily interpreted as blaming Alicia. Upset people often don't articulate clearly, even if they've had relevant training. Most of Nanette's attention is probably going toward tamping down temptations to kill or mindwipe the pervert or even just belt the policeman for being a park authority who also didn't get there in time to stop it. Logic is getting crowded out by other stuff for the moment. No matter how much you've tried to prepare, nobody is at their best when their child is hurt.

Now that you point it out, I get that. And Cheval is going to crap kittens when he hears about this.


I think I had some anxiety about sayin' anything because I was worried I was leakin' too much. There's a line between constructive and overshare and I don't see it. But this is a pretty emotionally charged poem, I think? And it was interesting seeing how I interpreted it vs how it was meant. Food for thought.
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
I suspect when the Puppetmaster finds out, that pervert's mind is going to go the way of his crotch: enough to put him out of commission, but not out of his misery.

Recently, when I've been thinking about what would be a good punishment for the kind of people that (for one reason or another) the law can't / won't touch, the one I've been coming up with is "permanent severe aphasia". The sort of thing that would render them completely unable to communicate or function as an independent entity, without physical damage beyond that loss.
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
That's interesting, that you would see it that way. Because I see it as a particularly subtle form of torture -- a "what's the ABSOLUTE WORST thing I could do to them" solution. They're still in perfectly good health, they can still think, maybe they can even still read, but they absolutely CANNOT communicate with anyone about anything. They're just trapped in their own heads for the rest of what may be a very long life. I think eventually most of them would go mad. And I don't have a problem with that at all.

It started out as a "let the punishment fit the crime" solution for online trolls and abusers, but the more I think about it, the more it seems to be applicable to a wide range of other stuff as well.
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
It was late last night, and I didn't quite get to the thought I was trying to express. Which is that, when I first read your comment, my immediate reaction was, "Whoa, that's giving me WAY too much credit!"

And I'm still having trouble articulating why I felt that way. Maybe I just see torture as whackjob territory, period? Maybe the contrast between "I wouldn't rob a bank or a convenience store, but I'm willing to do this"? Dunno.

It does fit in with something I reasoned out when I was in my 20s, which was that if I were to be attacked in the classic parking-lot-stranger-rape manner, my preferred mode of self-defense would be putting their eyes out. At the time I was dating a guy who was severely anti-death-penalty*; my position up to that time had been "kill him and be done with it", and I was trying to come up with another solution that would satisfy my secondary objective of "stop him from ever doing it to anyone else" while still leaving him alive.


* Which I am not in principle, but I do think the way we apply it is severely fucked up in several directions, so I'm willing to make common cause with that position until we've fixed the broken justice system.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-04 04:40 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I needed this poem right now. For complicated reasons that are mostly not personal, but personally important. Even though it is upsetting; I'm okay though. Thank you.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2016-09-04 07:20 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
*hugs accepted*

I see a lot of crap. And sometimes, what I see is actually the presence of so much blurry distance from the crap I can't be sure of what's going on or what to do ... but I know something is there.

THAT is why I need Alicia fighting back.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2016-09-04 04:38 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Thank you so much for hugs and sparkly. :)

ECR!

Date: 2016-09-04 04:52 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
*does not know how to feel!*

*likes the poem, but the poem is about a very bad thing, a very wrong bad thing, a very wrong creepy bad thing that is handled in a creepy bad-but-not-so-bad-relieving way by the wronged party, THE WRONGED PARTY IS A CHILD AAAH!!!....but the wronged party is also NOT a child!

*brain melts a little*

*flails*

*goes off to find a blanket*

....I liked it? But I still don't know how to feel about it? but I liked it?

....CAN SHE PLAY WITH JUDD IN THE NEXT ONE?!?!?! OR HAVE CUDDLES AND A DATE WITH AIDEN? OR BOTH?!

Re: ECR!

Date: 2016-09-04 11:16 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Alicia (and other people feeling that she(they) has(have) to let this sort of major boundary crossing happen is one of Aiden's pet peeves?

Alicia not taking Judd places when he KNOWS he can protect her is one of his pet peeves (even though he knows that he is a very large draft and it is awkward and inconvenient for him sometimes)

YAY JUDD! But, I think, like most big drafts, Judd's initial reaction is "O_O ALICIA SAD! Feels ICKY! MY HERD! MUST CUDDLE!" *whicker* Snort* *neck hugs* *body pressure*

then *STOMP* *jamsplat* *problem solved*

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-06 01:13 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
She -did- warn him. A difficult one to read but necessary for me. Thanks for being so brave as to 'go there'. Alicia is one of my favorite characters. I see a lot of myself in her. Thanks for adding to her arc. -kellyc

Justice shall you pursue...

Date: 2016-09-06 09:23 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
I shared the other one as an example of my birthday presents, but I'll leave finding this to those willing to take a few more steps.

I take a savage joy in knowing that Dr. Infanta would have taken OUT the scumbag who tried to rape me at 10 years old. Fortunately, my guy friends taught me to fight well enough that it was an attempt, and not a success. That creepy feeling is indeed a permanent trace of recognition. My brother and I explained it later to our dad, about a business partner for Dad, that the guy was SLIMY. Later found out, the guy was beating his wife and abusing his kid. :-/ Kids are often wiser than adults give credit. Not enough socialization telling us to ignore our instincts!

I'm with Alicia.

1) She recognized the evil about to happen.

2) She WARNED him, rather explicitly for a kid.

3) And he could have backed off at any time, and chose not to.

4) And her justice actually affected what the perv was choosing to sin with.

She's a superhera to me, and I want another kid in that park to thank Alicia later because "that man made me do icky things!" I don't like that Alicia thinks she's bad for hurting him, she really did save the next kid.

The scum who tried to rape me? Because my mom had her own issues, she wasn't going to force me into pressing charges. Later, that man's description tried to kidnap someone off the Boardwalk. My fighting only saved me, I wish I had hurt him bad enough he COULDN'T hurt anyone else.
Edited (Wrong word choice.) Date: 2016-09-06 09:24 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-07 02:46 am (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Thank you; this one was difficult and also worth it.

I did a full-body creep at your description of the perv. Assbasket got what he deserved.

I do wish Alicia weren't the one to (feel she has[have to do]) that - I mean. Ew. And she's seen enough ew for all her times.

Still, I'm torn between "augh tell him no and let Nanette or the policeman or both take him out of the picture" and *quiet fist bop of respect* here. ECR = success, hah.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-03 12:49 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
Well, not disagreeing on her aim but I think her method is doing her as much harm as it does good...

Yes...

Date: 2016-09-03 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Everyone really wishes that she would stop touching perverts. Some because they think her superpowers are scary, but plenty of people because they do see that it's bad for her too. Some damage never quite heals. She's gotten a lot better over the centuries, but the scars remain. And no matter how powerful you are, there's always something that can hurt you.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-13 07:26 pm (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
This reminds me of a cartoon:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v14/kengr/1e60.jpg
Edited (found image) Date: 2017-05-13 07:31 pm (UTC)

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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