Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It begins in Tanzania as I remember it from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter eleven, scene one: Depression.
“What now, Hannice?” Sophie asked over breakfast.
I don’t know,” I said dejectedly, “I can’t think in terms of action and adventure right now. All I can see from here is a lifetime of being stuck in this blasted chair with these bloody useless legs.”
“What’s changed, really changed?”
“Nothing has changed, Hannice, except your perception. Before the talk about these tests,” she said, “you were looking forward to adventures; to proving to yourself and to the world, that this mobility problem didn’t mean your life was over. You even told me that it had liberated you, that by showing you what you couldn’t do, it was highlighting what you could do. You told me that this accident, while unfortunate, had caused you to re-evaluate your life’s priorities and that re-evaluation had liberated you from the tyrannical ties of the business and freed you to live your life according to your rules, not someone else’s. Your words, Hannice, not mine. What happened to that spirit?”
“That spirit,” I replied, “was washed down the drain along with my chances of being in on that trial. Everything has changed. I had thought this back thing was temporary, now I see it’s permanent. There’s nothing for me.”
“In what language does ‘maybe next round’ equate to ‘never going to happen’?”
“He was just trying to let me down gently.”
“And you now that how?”
“Only to you!”
“Will you stop trying to control me? I don’t need mothering.” I shouted angrily.
“Is that what you think I’m doing, Hannice?” she fired back at me, “Is that really what you think I’m doing? Well, I’m sorry; I thought I was supporting you. I thought I was trying to help you to deal with all this. If you think I’m trying to mother you or control you, perhaps I should stick to being your physio and your skivvy!”
“I’m sorry, Sophie,” I said, casting my eyes down dejectedly, “I shouldn’t take it out on you.”
“You shouldn’t take it out on anyone, least of all yourself,” she replied angrily.
“I just can’t see any end to it.”
“Well, I happen to think you’re bigger than that, and I think you’re stronger than that. There are organisations all over the place that spend all their time and efforts making sure that people with mobility problems are not disadvantaged. I don’t believe you need them because I am firmly convinced that you are strong enough to make sure of that for yourself.
“Already, against all the odds and in spite of some pretty powerful advice to the contrary, you have not only learned to scuba dive, but you’ve also qualified to penetrate wrecks. That’s tough for an able-bodied person, yet you did it. And you survived a vicious underwater knife attack, too. The man who earned my admiration and respect by doing those things isn’t going to roll over and give up, just on the strength of a simple ‘not this time’.
“I have enormous faith in your ability to overcome odds; a faith born out of nothing less than watching you do exactly that, overcome some almost overwhelming odds. Now come on, what’s next?”
“Can’t I even feel sorry for myself, now?” I asked, forcing a half-smile.
“Not while I’m around, you can’t,” she replied, “I can understand your disappointment, of course I can, but I see part of my job as giving you perspective. I’m not going to go on about how many people in wheelchairs play sport at international level, and I’m not going to go on about how Stephen Hawking, with all his problems, is hoping to go into space some day. Those things are irrelevant because you aren’t those people. You are Hannice Knight…”
All this talk was beginning to get through to me. I knew instinctively that Sophie was right. I wouldn’t be defeated.
“…and Hannice Knight will not be defined by his wheelchair,” I interrupted with a determination that, frankly, I didn’t feel.
“Good for you. Now, once again, what’s next?”
What’s next? Can I really think like that? Can I be strong enough? I wasn’t sure I could, but decided to fake it anyway.
“How do you feel about a tandem sky-dive?”
“Don’t be soft. We’ll each jump with an instructor.”
“Where?” she asked.
“Take your pick,” I answered, “although I fancy Australia.”
“Leave it with me, I’ll sort it today. Are you sure you’re okay now? Not just putting on a brave face for me?”
“Let me do it my way, Sophie. I might be able to convince myself that I’m okay with all this.”