Characters: Dunstan Kordieh
The moment you're born you're done for. – Arnold Bennett
Kordieh stopped short, trying not to stare at the dark-eyed woman waiting by the small table in the meditation room. She was so young, only twenty-one or -two.
“Good morning, Mr. Kordieh.”
“I … good morning, Miss Belden.”
“Someone once said, ‘It’s not the years, but the mileage.’ I know what I’m doing, trust me,” she said, not sure herself whether she was feeling irritated or just weary before she even started. “Sit down, please?”
“Oh.” He dropped into the chair on the opposite side of the small table from her. “I’m sorry about this,” he said, trying to summon the courage to look her in the eye.
She blinked, and brushed a stray lock of straight black hair out of her face before speaking. “That’s a little unusual for me to hear,” she said. “But don’t worry about that for now. Let’s just get it over with, right?”
As Kordieh nodded, Alisa slipped into her oft-spoken, standard introduction. “This will be a deep scan, so you may feel some pain. It will be less if you don’t try to resist.”
She paused, finally looking directly at him. What she saw in his eyes — and mind — jarred her. She was all too used to anger, defiance, sullen resentment, in addition of course to fear. But Kordieh’s thoughts held only fear — and guilt, and grief.
Don’t want to go through it again. Don’t want to go back to that.
Slowly, she gave him a reassuring smile. “It’ll be okay, Mr. Kordieh,” she said, speaking quickly. “We’ll be in it together. This time, you won’t be alone. Are you ready?”
“I guess so,” he said, voice barely audible, and looked squarely into her eyes.
Alisa liked to envision herself on a raft, floating gently up a stream as she probed back into a subject’s memory. Usually it was easier said than done, of course. This time, the ride was a rough one, but she found herself moving back, faster and ever faster —
— until she stopped, and hung floating in a strange space. Warm, dark, silent. No, not quite silent. There were two sounds. Heartbeats.
Th-THUMP. Distant, slow, strong. th-thump th-thump. Right against her, in perfect sync with her own.
My God, she thought, almost forgetting in her shock to block the comment from his mind. The poor bastard remembers the womb.
And suddenly, the world was shattered. Everything was bitter cold, and blazing light, and Dunstan was seized and ripped away from the heartbeats —
Alisa shook herself like a cat stepping into snow, trying to ease the pain, terror and loss out of her head. They weren’t hers, she reminded herself. They belonged to the birth of the man across from her.
To her surprise, he spoke. “So it all began right there.”
She nodded, spelling out what she had witnessed, for his memory and her own. “A Caesarian, and you were the first one taken. Until that moment, you and your brother were one — more or less.”
He sat silent, wide-eyed, finally managing the smallest of nods.
“Are you ready to go on?”
A dizzying array of imagery, thought and tangled emotion followed, as Alisa traced the path of Dunstan’s life through his mind, following the short circuit in his psyche that had begun at his birth, and had never been addressed or repaired. Kordieh did his best to simply ride it out, as if it was all happening to someone else — which in a way it was.
Parents who had ignored their children, turned them over to governesses and tutors who never bothered to distinguish them … the horrible loneliness and desperation when Lucius left … Dunstan’s relief at following and finding him again.
Then, as the Phoenix found the White Star 24, floating in the dead womb of Vorlon space —
No! Not that, I beg you. Kordieh squirmed in his chair, his face twisting in deepening agony.
We have to know. Alisa tried to comfort him as she stood firm. Show me, so the others can understand.
Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu, si’l vous plait, aucun…
We must. I’m sorry.
Alisa caught Dunstan’s hands, lacing their fingers together. The physical contact overcame his resistance, and she was swept into the second shattering of Dunstan Kordieh’s world.
(c) 1999 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.