Back in late 1997, I received word from the fanzine publishing house I had worked with on my geekalicious TNG novella (there’s a post all unto itself) that Trek novel publisher Pocket Books was holding a writing competition. They were launching a new Trek anthology, which they were hoping would be successful enough to become a long-running series. The anthology, entitled Strange New Worlds, would include short stories written by non-professional fan writers. It was Pocket Books’ attempt, I suppose, to capitalize on the growing popularity of fan fiction being sold at conventions.
Of course, me being the aspiring writer and unstoppable geek that I am, I knew I wanted to enter this competition. Guess who my star character was? Yeah, like you need to guess on this one. The story I wrote was titled “When Words Fall Away,” and focused on what occurred right after Beverly Crusher learned that her husband had been killed. I was intrigued by the idea that, as she went through the expected funereal rituals, all the words that she would say and all the words said to her would fall away in the end, leaving her with nothing but the reality of a loss that defied any words.
Obviously, it did not win, which was admittedly a disappointment to me, not just because the prize money would have been nice (and might have covered one of my ridiculously overpriced college textbooks), but also because I so desperately wanted more Beverly Crusher-themed material available. Looking back, though, I suppose this isn’t really the type of story one looking for a hard-core Trek fix would look forward to reading.
I wish I could post the entire short story here, but sadly I don’t think the original version exists anymore. Once I realized that I didn’t win, I went back and decided that I was going to rework the story as a non-Trek piece. If I saved a backup of the original, I’ve yet to be able to find it in my archives (it was all for naught anyway, because I never finished the revisions either). However, I hadn’t revised the ending. The only thing I had changed at that point were character names. But the sentiments from the original ending are still the same (the overwrought and somewhat maudlin writing style is still the same as well).
Here, then, is the ending of “When Words Fall Away,” written 13 years ago this month:
A slight wind drifted through the open windows and slid its cold fingers across the bed that would never again hold the sleeping form of her husband. Slivers of moonlight fell across his uncreased pillow and down upon his undisturbed covers, and for the first time since she had learned of Jacks’s death, Beverly Crusher realized she was alone.
This simple truth knocked aside the barriers through which she had only briefly glimpsed and flooded her with a sadness that frothed and roiled with the intensity of a thousand losses crashing down upon her at once. Somewhere deep within her a mournful wail struggled to the surface and broke free, coming not in one dirge, but in a series of sobs that dragged her to her knees and drained her remaining strength with each wrenching breath. All of the embraces which had sought to give her comfort melted beneath a rush of tears and each word spoken in the hopes that it might somehow ease her pain fell away, unable to slow the terrible fissure that was even now rending her soul apart.
At the feel of small hands upon her shoulders, Beverly looked upward and beheld the concerned face of her son…of their son. Never before had Jack been so prevalent in Wesley’s features, but as she studied the strong line of his jaw, the angled chin that quivered ever so slightly beneath the curve of his softly trembling lips, and finally those eyes that were releasing his sorrows as unreservedly as she now did, she realized that Jack’s presence within her son was undeniable, and from this she drew comfort.
As his small frame began to tremble, she took him within her arms and pressed his damp face to hers, taking refuge within the soothing silence of his tears.