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[2374] Down the Rabbit Hole

[ Cadet Cameron Henshaw | San Francisco | Earth ]
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“There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you’re high it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one’s marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against— you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.”

— Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

SUMMER AFTER ACADEMY YEAR 1 - JUNE - MORNING - WEEK ONE

She had made it through her first year at Starfleet Academy with flying colors. She was for all intents and purposes, the perfect student. She was the daughter of two decorated Starfleet officers, most decorations had been given posthumously, but still…her name was known. She had been adopted by another noteworthy officer of the fleet, and had fallen into his family like a perfect puzzle piece. Her life however, was far from perfect.

Cameron Henshaw had felt the ebb and flow of volatile emotion since the end of high school, but she had always been able to keep it well under control. If she felt the downward curve that was inbound, she found a way to remedy it. Typically with the use of a stimulant, easily accessible through numerous of her comrades. If she felt the raucous surge of energy, something to calm her down. She knew it wasn’t a permanent solution, but she thought that she already knew full well what she had.

Her mother had it. Her grandfather had it. She knew that the odds were, that she had it too. Not only had she seen the signs of the illness in her own family, but she was a counselor in training. She’d offered clinical expertise to those suffering the same symptoms that she was. She’d thought that maybe she’d been able to dodge it, but that wasn’t the case. Upon the loss of her mother and father and the crushing depression that came with their loss, so too did the symptoms.

It was five in the morning in San Francisco. Cam had already been awake for several hours. She’d woken up around two, and had been wide awake ever since. Her mind swam and raced with a million thoughts, each having little to do with the last. The constant barrage had kept her attempting to rest for about an hour, but by three she’d chosen to just wake up instead.

Her apartment was actually pretty nice for a lowly academy cadet. The walls were their original brick, hundreds of years old preserved only by increasingly advanced technology and restoration. There was a wood-burning fireplace in the living room, and her bedroom was just adjacent to the living room, behind a heavy wooden door. The floors were a fine and finished hardwood, mahogany by the looks of them. It was one of the few things left to her by her parents, the apartment. It was butted right up against the bay, Starfleet HQ and the Academy clearly visible from the main window and balcony. It had been impeccably maintained, and as far as Cam knew, had been in the family for as long as anyone could remember.

It was practically all she had left of her parents. An apartment, furnished with things she’d hardly seen as a child. She’d always been so busy, moving from one assignment to the next before her parents had finally settled and Cam had finally been given some semblance of a home. Right around when she’d left for the Academy, tragedy had struck. Her parents ship had been lost with all hands.

Of course, her father had  left her in the care of the Hawthornes, Ian was a friend and he’d known he’d take care of Cam. Cam however, had been less than gracious about the arrangement at first.

It was five AM and Cam…Cam was painting.

“Computer more of the…Mauve color. Another gallon.”

She leapt down from the ladder with a clatter and tossed the used brush aside as she moved towards the replicator. The walls were the workings of a madman. There were countless colors intertwined with one another, causing gradients of a vast variety across her canvas, which just so happened to be her living room wall. Music was blaring through the apartment, and there were tarps lazily tossed over the furniture.

“No, no, no…that’s not right.” She noticed a stray splotch of red on the wall, and swiftly picked up the entire pail of teal paint, and flung its contents at the wall, creating a misty shower of paint.

“Better…” She trailed off, biting her lower lip for a moment before she ran towards the gallon awaiting her in the replicator receptacle.

“Ensign Henshaw, this is paint gallon thirteen. According to my calculations based upon the square footage of your living-” The computer began to rattle off, in its monotone, yet still somehow chiding tone.

“According to calculations which I reviewed prior to starting to paint, only 7 gallons ought to have been required for this wall including additional coats. Yes, I do recall. Thank you though.” Cam didn’t bother trying to hide her evident irritation from her voice. She sounded tired, angry, and downright offended that the computer would dare to question her own calculations. “What you didn’t take into account however, is the fact that the wall is composed of multiple colors and that I am trying to work on a design which involves very human trial and error, so I would hope that in the future you keep your calculations to yourself unless asked otherwise…computer.

The computer did not respond.

Cam let out an irritated harumph and blew straight past the replicator and into her bathroom. Her bathroom was miles tidier than the rest of the apartment, not having been accosted by the numerous unfinished projects scattered through her living room, kitchen, and bedroom. She glanced around the bathroom, reaching at first for a bottle of hand soap. Quickly though, her attention shifted to the shower. “Actually…”

She turned away from her sink, and tapped a control on the shower door as a jet of steaming hot water poured from the faucet above, like a storm of fiery rain. “I could use a new head-” Cam peered up at the showerhead, spewing water across the shower. The showerhead itself was actually fairly new, and in perfect condition. She shrugged and turned to the mirror.

Seeing herself was a bit of a shock. Her hair was a disaster. It was frizzy, and going every which way. Her eyes were red and bloodshot, with dark bags hanging beneath them. To top it off, she was covered in splatters of multiple colors of paint. There wasn’t class for a few more weeks, but still she had plenty to do…at least in her mind.

“Should shower.” She stated to the reflection in the mirror, and she quickly stripped and jumped in.

The water was piping hot, reddening her skin as it made contact. The subtle sting though, was bringing her comfort. She put her face directly in the path of the water, letting the vagal response of her body awaken her as the water came into contact with the nerves in her face. Within moments however, she was once again moving to the outside of the shower. She reached into the drawer at the sink, and out came a hypospray.

She had ‘found’ the hypospray when rounding on some of her patients that day. Those patients at least, that she shared with a Starfleet psychiatrist, and that required medication. They did the medicating, and she did the talking, at least in a student capacity. Strewn across the counter already, were countless syrettes that fit within the little slot at the base of the Hypo.

Her mind was going faster than she could fathom. Each thought was met with another, only tangentially related, and getting stranger and stranger with each branching idea. It was like a wildfire, raging within the depths of her psyche. It was out of control. Violent. Unstoppable. Egotistical. So long as the flames raged, she was the god of fire, and naught could stand in her way.

On some level, she knew that it was madness. The flames however, forced her to ignore logic. Instead, they taught her anew. She was unstoppable. She felt powerful. Energized. Sensual. Confidence. All things that in moderation were a good thing to be or have, but there was no cap on the feelings. Moderation had long since gone out the window.

She picked one of the cartridges for the Hypospray. It was blue, and had yet to see any use. Quickly, she slotted it into the Hypo, pressed it to her neck, and released the button at the ‘nozzle’ end of the medical device.

She felt instant relief.

As the perhaps not ethically acquired analgesic began to run through her veins she heard the Hypo fall to the ground with a clatter. Her back hit the rear of the shower and slowly, she slid down the tile until she felt herself make contact with the ground.

Then everything went dark.

AFTERNOON - WEEK ONE - DAY 01
She woke up with a start.

Hot water was still cascading down upon her, granted it had cooled down. Her skin was wrinkled and numb from the constant stream of water. The hypospray had bounced towards the door of the bathroom and Cam looked…confused. “Computer, what time is it?”

“The time is 1331 hours.” She grimaced. She’d spent six hours unconscious on her bathroom floor.

“Fuck.” She grimaced and slowly began to stumble back up to her feet, smacking her palm against the shower controls as she stood. The water briefly went ice cold. She screeched, and then smacked the control again, that time successfully turning it off. A true analgesic had been the only thing that had succeeded in ‘turning off’ her brain. It just made it worse though. Sure, she’d get a few hours of sleep, but when she woke it was as if all the energy she'd have expended just staying awake and riding the wave of fire, laid dormant until her eyes fluttered back open. Once her eyes were open, the energetic madness was even stronger.

She reached for a towel and wrapped herself in it, its embrace warm and comforting. It was a pink towel, not just a little pink but it was very pink. It had been a housewarming gift from a friend. Once wrapped tight, she meandered her way through the disaster zone that was her humble abode before she finally stopped at her dresser. It appeared as though clothes were quite literally exploding out of it, but in reality she had just not folded her clothes, and instead had jammed them into the drawers, full to burst.

She grabbed a jean jacket, a tee shirt, and some skinny jeans. Skinny jeans that by any reasonable standard were far too low cut. The clothes were pulled on without issue, and she quickly ran a brush through her hair. Makeup was quickly applied in a simple fashion. She’d worn some eyeliner and mascara, with a little bit of basic contour but nothing extreme. She knew that to accomplish her goal she wouldn’t really need much in the way of makeup, her clothes were doing that job for her.

Without a moment's more hesitation, she left her apartment, and the mess it contained within. She only had one location in mind: A bar.

It was a short walk to the location of choice for the evening. It was an Orion dance club. When she entered, music blared around her. The harsh percussive beat of the music shook her to the core each time the offbeat passed.

“Cammie!” A voice with a thick irish accent cut through the sound as she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning around, she grinned.

There stood a tall man with dark hair, and dark eyes to match. His head was shaved nearly bald. He had a little splattering of facial hair, but nothing significant. Likely it was the consequence of laziness instead of the boon of effort. He was wearing a dark, collared shirt and some dark jeans, with some comfortable looking shoes. It was also evident that he was already well into his cups.

“Sean!” Cam threw her arms around him. “Good to see you! It’s mad in here.” She glanced around the club, which was utterly packed full of revelers. She grabbed him by the hand and went right for the bar, towards a rather sketchy looking Nausicaan standing at the end. Her attention was reserved first for the bartender, “Jameson, leave the bottle.” Then her attention shifted to the Nausicaan. “I need some glitter dust and snake leaf.” In exchange she opened her hand, revealing a Starfleet-issue hypo syrette. In her other hand, she palmed the goods she’d obtained and pocketed them, “Pleasure doing business.”

She moved further down the bar and sat down, Sean tailing right behind her. “Uh- Cammie?” He glanced at her pocket, concern clear across his features. A typically rather stoic man, the display caught the young counselors attention.

“What, just having a little fun. Here!” She pulled the small sachet of a glittery substance, “Have some it’s nice.” She knocked back the shot that the bartender had poured, and turned the glass over dispensing a small dusting of the narcotic to the platform the base of the glass served as. She pushed the cup towards Sean before dispensing some on the back of her hand. She leaned to the hand, and took a deep inhale through her left nostril, plugging the right with some pressure to the right wing. The dust seared at first, absorbing into the mucous membranes of her sinus, and then…it tingled.

Bleary eyes glanced towards the irishman. She felt euphoric. She felt like every nerve ending on her body fired with a pleasant tingling. She felt her mind open up as the colors of the club grew increasingly more vibrant. The music shifted tone, to become a perfect sounding symphony of beating at her eardrums.

“Go on.” She urged him, leaning closer and dropping her voice into a coquettish whisper.

So he did it. He inhaled deeply and at once she watched his pupils shift into small points, his eyes growing glassier as the drug coursed through him.

“Hells, Cam…” He trailed off, regaining his balance before the initial effect waned and his senses adjusted. He waved to the bartender, “Beer please, Lager. Two glasses and another shot glass as well please.” The Bartender nodded and quickly returned his requests. “Cheers, Mate.” Sean smiled and left a small strip of latinum on the bartop. While it was Earth…some nonhumans still appreciated the tip. Currency after all, hadn’t been made obsolete around the rest of the quadrant. Money still talked. “The ‘ells gotten into you?” He shot at Cam.

It wasn’t his first time using the substance. He was much more of an avid fan of intoxicating substances than even Cam was. Doing what she was…well, it was certainly strange. She wasn’t a complete stranger to them of course, but nobody in her life really thought of her as a partier in the strictest sense.

“A new sense of being and purpose.” She chirped back in reply, “I’m allowed to unwind after a hard year. Much harder for me than practically anyone else.” She paused, not wanting to come across as bitchy, to him of all people. “Besides, knew you’d be here wanted to run an idea past you.” Another idea. Another born of the fiery madness that had enveloped her being. “I think…that we should start our business. We get one of those old freighters they’re always trashing for parts up on Luna? I can probably pull a few strings. I’m sick of the Academy Sean. We get one, fix it up…and we move cargo. Of course officially-”

She continued rambling at breakneck speed about her plan for nearly an hour, never breaking long enough to allow him to argue.

Finally, she finished. “I’ve been hearing that the Klingons are really trying to get more market for human party drugs, it’s a brilliant plan. We can leave by the end of the week.”

He…just stared.

“Cammie-” He started, voice gravelly from the small device he’d been inhaling from every so often while she rattled on about her illegal venture. “I’m not giving up the life of not having any responsibility besides the occasional census, in exchange for trying to smuggle across the bloody neutral zone.” He looked affronted and even concerned about the very idea. They’d each gone through a few beers, and enough shots to match the beers.

Cam glared at him. She felt rejected and humiliated by his reaction. Brown eyes locked onto him, relentlessly boring into him. Then her vision started to blur, and her eyes swam.

“You don’t think it’s a good idea?” Her voice cracked and a tear fell down her cheek. First her parents wouldn’t stay with her on Earth and then gotten themselves killed…and then…he wouldn’t leave with her?  Her face contorted and he moved closer to her.

“Hey, hey…” He offered, reaching out to wrap her head against his chest in an embrace. “What’s going on, Love?” He brushed a strand of hair from her face and looked down at her.

Cam glanced back up at him in turn, and threw herself at him, cheeks wet and desperate for touch. She pressed her lips against his, tongue seeking his. At first, he didn’t hesitate. He pulled her closer and returned the gesture. In seconds however, he was trying to peel away from her. “What the hell is wrong?” He barked at her, holding her by the shoulders.

Staring, she said nothing in response.

They’d been seeing one another for a few months. At one point, he’d been an officer but he’d resigned. He was a brilliant scientist who’d joined sheerly to enjoy the perks of other cultures, however his experience had shared with him the reality that Starfleet, typically meant work. Instead, he’d resigned, explored on his own, and started his own research lab in San Francisco with a grant. Occasionally, he did some lecturing at the Academy, with the blessing of his old XO, who was an instructor. He knew that something was wrong with her, more so than the sorrow her parents' deaths had brought. He’d been there for her through the worst of it. He’d had dinner with her adoptive family. In truth, she loved him, and he her.

The look on her face, though…softened his resolve. He pulled her closer again and kissed her gleefully, though paused. “I’m worried about you.”

“Shut up.” She snarled at him. “I’m fine, now take me into the back before I ask the bartender to.” She nodded at the rather youthful looking, blonde man behind the bar, pouring drinks at top speed.

“The back…” He trailed off, glancing down the hall that led to the bathrooms.

“You heard me.” She broke away from him and started walking, glancing once over her shoulder.

He followed.

DAY 04 - EARLY AFTERNOON

When Cam woke, it was warm. Uncomfortably warm. So warm that the sheet beneath her skin felt damp with sweat.

“Yech.” She groaned and slowly pulled herself to her feet. She looked at the bedside table, noticing her combadge, an empty bottle, and an array of other party favors. A hypospray. Strettes. Baggies of sparkly dust, most of them empty. Several vials of snake leaf concentrate. Most were used, some were not. Her head throbbed and she snatched a bottle of water from the side of the table.

Her surroundings however, were unfamiliar.

The fabrics were vibrant. Reds, blues, and yellows overwhelmed her chemically altered vision and she blinked several times, eyes squinting as they searched for a clue as to where she was.

Then she reached back, and felt a hand.

“Sean!” She cried, voice croaking with the strain of a night of shouting. Her muscles ached from the pain of days of little sleep and nonstop dancing. She gripped his wrist, and gave it a shake. When released, it fell; limp.

He did not respond to her call.

“Sean!” She shouted, turning her head. In an instant, her world crashed and she processed what she saw beside her.

He was cold to the touch, his skin pale though his extremities and lips were a sickly, demented blue. His mouth was agape, and stunk with the pungent musk of his own vomit. Beside him, a hypospray laid, empty.

“Nonononono.” She screeched, jumping atop him and turning his head to pour the bile from his mouth. Two fingers reached out and she felt for a pulse. There was none.

“No…Sean!” She screamed, voice breaking as tears poured down her cheek.

He was very dead and he had been for hours. The sheets beneath him were still damp and warm from the leftover heat. She knew at once what had happened, and the horror rolled over her as she stared at the empty hypospray beside him. He had little experience with heavy, Federation standard medical narcotics. Cam had a minimal understanding, but he’d taken it of his own accord when she’d finally passed out from the exertion and drugs.

He was dead because of her. Because of what she’d done with him for days. For dragging him along with her madness and schemes. He was gone.

She jumped up off of him and backed away from the bed until she came into contact with the wall.

“Fuck, fuck.” She held her head as it slowly shook side to side.

She heard the crash of a wave and turned her eyes out the window…to the water. It was like the call of a siren, screaming to her. Calling for her. Calling to end the fiery insanity that had taken her over. A freedom from the dark shadow she already felt creeping up her, ready to drag her into torture and agony.

So she stared at the tumultuous water, hearing her badge chirp at her side table.

She walked to it and reached out with her left hand, but she froze. Her ring finger was no longer naked. Upon it was a platinum band, a gorgeous ruby mounted on the front. She glanced at the corpse and stared.

Chirp Chirp

The badge was incessant.

“Henshaw.” She croaked, tapping the front of it as she answered the call.

“Cameron-” A familiar voice was the first thing she heard, before she interrupted.

“Not available at the moment.” She droned, monotone, before she ended the transmission.

She tossed the badge back onto the table and made her way out the front door, shedding her clothes piece by piece as she walked towards the water, crashing into the beach with great force. When she came to the mouth of the water, she didn’t pause. She walked on, letting the tide slowly start to pull her out to the depths.

Before long…it had taken her, and everything went dark.

WEEK 2 DAY ONE

She wasn’t sure how long she was out. All she knew was that when she woke, everything was bright and light colored, mostly white. Her body ached everywhere, and even breathing caused her pain. Worse though, was how she felt in her mind. It was despair. Rage. Grief. Loneliness. Meaninglessness. She felt horrid.

It was the darkness, there to claim what the light had given her the past week.

In the corner, a figure moved towards her and that same familiar voice said her name again.

“Cameron-” He moved closer, grabbing her hand.

“Sean-” She started, painfully, voice harsh as gravel.

“There’s nothing to worry about. Sean’s been taken care of. You’re home.”

It was Ian.

Another glance around, and it was not a hospital as she’d thought. Sure, there was medical equipment around her…but it was Ian's house. He’d saved her. Both her, and her career. Saved her from the monster within.

-FIN

 
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