Dying of Nothing

Characters: Dunstan Kordieh, Daanike

Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.
          – Tao te Ching

Medlab One was like a beach in the midst of a storm — a maelstrom of quickly moving nurses and techs, thrashing and crying wounded, humming and sputtering machinery, and behind it all the distant thunder of weapons fire and the shaking of the battered ship.

Like a forlorn piece of driftwood thrown beyond the reach of the waves, Dunstan Kordieh lay on a plain exam table in a far corner of the room, wedged between Doctor Trassano’s private office and a supply closet. The man who bore the largest share of responsibility for the Phoenix’s peril had been forgotten by everyone in the desperate battle. Here he would wait until he could answer for his crime — if anyone survived.

He did not stir on the narrow table on which he’d been placed. For the two hours since Darquin and Tianmun had dragged him into Medlab, he had made no sound or movement, save barely audible breathing and the reflex blinking of his wide-open, staring eyes. The restraints holding him to the table were a redundancy — Kordieh had bound himself more firmly than any chain could ever do, and he was now trapped somewhere deep inside his own mind.

Daanike was hurrying back to the supply cabinet when another burst of enemy fire sent the deck beneath her pitching wildly. She stumbled forward, arms flailing, and crashed full into Kordieh, her face slapping hard against his. Her quick apology died half-spoken as she stood up and looked down at him.

He had not moved, his gaze had not shifted, nor expression changed in the slightest. Only the trickle of blood from where her headbone had scraped his cheek showed that she had touched him at all.

“Kordieh? Anla’shok Kordieh?” she said. There was no response. Quickly, she retrieved the supplies from the cabinet, delivered them to Doctor Trassano, and returned to Kordieh, with an antiseptic pad and bandage in hand. Gently, she cleaned and dressed the wound on his cheek, speaking softly to him in Adronato though she knew he could not hear her. He is lost to us, she thought, feeling a sudden pity.

Like many of the other Medlab staff, when Kordieh had been brought in, she assumed he was either unconscious or pretending to be — if she gave any thought to him at all. But she now knew the truth. His soul had become lost in an unseen corner of the Universe, and his mind had gone in search of it.

In the temple, she had seen these things happen before. Often, it followed when the Universe turned in such a way that everything one had known to be true was suddenly proven false, a truth revealed that was too great and terrible for the mind to bear. Sometimes those stricken could find their way back again. Sometimes, they could not, and their bodies would slowly die of the nothingness.

She closed her eyes, blinking back tears at the newly fresh memory of her temple in the City of Sorrows, shattering and falling into flames behind her as she fled toward refuge in the compound of the Anla’shok. She had, just a few hours before, relived that moment. Brief moments of conversation had brought her the understanding that others aboard the ship — possibly everyone — had somehow been taken back, or even forward, in time the same way.

“The Universe turned on you when you traveled in time, Anla’shok Kordieh, did it not?” she said to him. “Something it showed you, and you were lost.”

She wondered if he would ever find his way back.

Copyright (C) 1998 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.

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