Characters: Dunstan Kordieh
Humankind cannot bear very much reality. – T.S. Eliot
Alisa Belden was, for a moment, terrified.
She had forced her presence into Dunstan Kordieh’s memory of the moment he had learned his brother was dead. As his tenuous hold on reason withered and turned to ash in that moment, like dry twigs in the path of a flamethrower, Alisa too had to face the flames.
Every instinct of self-preservation told her to loose her grip on Kordieh’s hands, break the contact and run for her life. She would never be able to say for sure why she didn’t: partly wanting to finish the job she’d begun; partly pity for Kordieh, who had gone through this once and certainly didn’t deserve to go through it again, no matter what he’d done afterward.
But in the end, probably her biggest reason for staying was simple curiosity. She had been “in” a few insane or near-insane minds, but she had never seen the process before — to say nothing of someone coming out of madness, which Kordieh claimed to have done.
Keeping her shields as tightly woven as she could, she watched …
It hurt so much, Dunstan Kordieh thought he was going to die.
Somehow I'd managed to slip away from the others, alone in an observation room. The White Star 24 hung there, all askew, rotating slowly from some leftover inertia. She was a corpse, left hanging on an invisible gallows, reminding us that we should not be here, under penalty of death ...
The pain, a blow as real and solid as from the Minbari denn’bok, hit him in the chest, and he slowly sank to the floor. He could still see the White Star 24 hanging there, even though he wasn’t looking at it any more.
And Lucius, he is there. Corpse within a corpse. My brother. Conceived of the same egg, born of the same flesh, we were one. We were the same. I can't bear this. I can't. I should be dead ....
Those last words ran around and around, spiraling down into inarticulate chaos, as Kordieh rolled over onto his side, pulling his head down and knees up. Unseen tears spilled to the deck and unheard whimpering filled the silence of the room.
Nature abhors a vacuum. This is true in both physics and psychology, a fact which Alisa Belden remembered as she saw Kordieh’s thoughts begin to resolve back into coherence — albeit of a pathological sort.
The whole structure of Dunstan Kordieh’s mind was built on the delusional foundation that he was one with his twin. And as the emptiness was refilled with the structure of a far more deadly delusion, the foundation was the same.
Lucius and I were one. If he is dead ... I must be, too. And we are in Vorlon space, where no one lives. I am dead. Everyone on this ship is dead. Why can't the rest of them see it? I'll have to fix it. I'll have to make them see. Destroy the ship, destroy these bodies so we can be with the others, so I can be with Lucius again...
Dunstan. Come forward.
What? Kordieh’s mental voice was slow and childlike, as his consciousness struggled to free itself from the memories of madness.
We’re done here. You don’t need to think about this any more.
No? The single word carried a universe of despair.
No. This is over. Alisa shut down hard, breaking all contact with Kordieh’s mind.
Kordieh opened his eyes and saw Alisa slumped back in her chair, sweat turning her neatly trimmed bangs into a row of irregular spikes. “Miss Belden?” He tried to shake off the throbbing in his skull and move to her, but she waved him off.
“It’s okay. Just … a little tough. Even for a deep scan, and I ought to be used to those.”
He rubbed his temples as he sank back into his chair. “I am truly sorry about all this.”
She shrugged. “You didn’t ask for this, did you?” When he shook his head, she said, “Didn’t think so, so don’t worry about it. Anyway … I know I’m supposed to be doing this out of a desire to serve, and all that, but just between us, I am going to ask for a bonus on this job.”
She smiled to take any insult out of the words, and was rewarded with a slight, tentative smile from Kordieh.
Several minutes passed in silence then, as each of them got used to being alone in their own head once more. Then, Kordieh spoke up. “What now,” he asked. “Should we go on?”
“No,” Alisa said. “I think we both need a longer break. And I guess I should tell Turval and Nelier what I’ve found so far. Let’s finish this tomorrow morning, same time.”
He nodded, rising from his chair. “Thank you, Miss Belden.”
She said nothing, but only nodded an acknowledgment as he left. She was trying to compose her thoughts for the Minbari. Reporting everything she had seen and learned in Kordieh’s mind so far should be an easier task than gathering the information, she thought.
(c) Copyright 1999 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.