What Is Left Behind

Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto

Death is not the worst evil, but rather when we wish to die and cannot.
– Sophocles (c. 496 B.C.--406 B.C.)

“It was about time you gave up on that.”

Kim’s grip slipped on her precious tea jar and caught it again before it struck the ground. She straightened and silently commanded herself to calm. It was the Day of the Dead. It was why she couldn’t get to sleep. And she shouldn’t be surprised by her visitor. It was a little matter, that she hadn’t known he was dead before now.

“I would think being dead, given this last opportunity, you would try harder.” She turned to look at her brother in time to see his lazy shrug.

“No judge is watching over me,” said Nathaniel Matsumoto. “This is about you, and I don’t think you need sweet words from me. You wouldn’t accept them.”

Kim walked to the little kitchenette tucked into a niche and set down her tea jar carefully. With her back to him, she wrapped her robe more closely over her sleeping clothes. Only then did she realize she was holding herself poker straight, moving so precisely as if she were performing a ceremony. It was ridiculous. She relaxed slowly. This wasn’t Mars or Earth, and he wasn’t worth it. He wasn’t even alive.

She didn’t feel much, when she asked, “How did you die?”

There was a soft rustle as he changed position. Kim sensed nothing, and did not see if it was discomfort he showed. “Sheer luck– you can decide what kind,” he said. “A stray PPG blast during a riot a couple weeks ago. Mars never has been a safe place.”

“It was quick, then.”

“I thought it was rather slow, to be honest.”

Kim turned, curious despite herself. There was something odd in the tone of his voice. If she hoped to see some meaning for it in his face, she was out of luck.

“Yes, I’m being philosophical,” Nathaniel said, and then answered her following question rather quickly, before there could be a discussion. “And no, I can’t read your mind. At least, not without forcing my way in. I haven’t been able to for a long time, much to my frustration.”

“I can imagine.”

“You haven’t been able to read mine either, have you? Right now, we are well balanced in our abilities.” A little curiosity entered his expression. “I wonder if you would be better than me, if you had the proper training.”

Kim couldn’t stop the look of revulsion that crossed her face. Nathaniel didn’t appear to be offended. “I admit,” he said, “that PsiCorps added a few unnecessary elements to their training. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that they know how to hone the mind. A well trained mind will save you, and others.”

“You are showing an awful lot of concern for me, Nathaniel. Is this why you’re here? To educate me?”

Kim had made the comment in a fit of sarcasm. Nathaniel ignored the emotion and agreed with the words. “Yes. What else is there to do? We haven’t got the relationship to sit down and chat. So the time might as well be put to use. Now that certain complications are out of the way, I felt I should prepare you of what’s coming.”

“Complications.” The conversation was more than a little surreal, and too quick for Kim to absorb. She didn’t know how she should feel.

“Life. Pain.” For once in the evening Nathaniel didn’t look at her. He fixed on some spot across the room. For the first time Kim was able to look at him directly and see him. He was without his uniform and badges. His words drew her out of confusing thoughts.

“PsiCorp isn’t a terrible place if you’re suited to it,” he said. “For most of them, it’s the best life they’ve had. Family, security, a job for life. They don’t have any reason to press and find the invisible boundaries around their existence. They are placid, even happy.

“The ones to pity are those with too great a gift to disappear into the crowd, or who can’t let go of the life they were divorced from. PsiCorp can’t just let you walk away and they can’t eradicate that little part of yourself that remembers what it was like to have a different life.” Nathaniel looked at Kim. “I would never have hated you and your freedom so much, if they could have killed that longing in me.”

Like a slap, Kim was made to realize the moment was real. Her eyes stung and there was pain in her chest so sharp she could believe her heart was failing. It wasn’t right… it wasn’t fair.

“Nothing to say?” Nathaniel asked, and Kim’s face flushed quickly with anger. But before she could throw her fury at him, he said, “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair.”

It was amazing how a few rare words could startle Kim to silence.

“Always the armor and masks and the battle of words. Too many years of it, to make it all up in a few hours,” said Nathaniel. He stood, but didn’t step any closer. That awareness of her needs just added to the strangeness for Kim. “I wouldn’t have come, if I didn’t feel it was important. We’ve both suffered enough for a death that should have happened a long time ago.”

Kim swallowed several times and got herself to ask, “What is it you came for, then?”

Nathaniel dared to take a few steps closer. “To tell you that a telepath’s war is coming,” he said bluntly. “We have become a greater terror to ourselves than any Normal could be. It won’t be much longer until…”

Nathaniel was being theatrical, setting her up, and yet… “How? Are you going to tell me what happens?” Even as Kim said it, it sounded preposterous to her own ears. She knew him too well to get drawn in… didn’t she?

Nathaniel shook his head. “No, that isn’t possible. I’m not an oracle. All I can do, is teach you what you have yet to learn. Be aware of what’s happened before this moment.”

“In one night, you couldn’t, you-” Kim frowned then her eyes opened wide. “You would have to be crazy to think I would open my mind to you!”

“Possibly. Or just hopeful.” Nathaniel retreated again, to perch on the arm of a chair. “I haven’t got any more schemes, Kim. They aren’t any use to me now. It’s your choice. You’ve survived a long time without my help — even with me being a hindrance at times. But I think it could save you some pain in the future, if you faced it now.”

“You’re still pushing me, crowding me. I can’t think.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Would you stop that?” Kim snapped.

“What?”

“Apologizing.”

“Why?”

“Because it doesn’t make any sense coming from you!”

Nathaniel’s mouth twisted in a odd smile. “I suppose not. I don’t know what to do, Kim. There isn’t time for much.”

Kim hated him afresh for forcing this situation on her. She didn’t ask for this. What right did he have, expecting her to put aside so many years and conflicts? How could he expect her to find trust so immediately?

But what if refusing this was refusing her last chance to know her brother again?

She paced away, around the room. She picked up things and put them down. She almost started to tell him off a half dozen times. Her fingers fell lastly on a closed box. Her frantic movements slowed and she opened the box to look inside.

A slim dagger, a little tarnished with age and disuse. Held by the hilt before a person, it was a weapon. Held by the blade, it was an offering. Abruptly she calmed. An idea started to make sense.

“Nathaniel, it’s about time you offered me the blade rather than held it.”

There was a confused silence at first. “I don’t understand.”

Kim set the dagger back into it’s cradle of velvet and turned to face him. “You’ve come expecting me to submit to your intrusion. To trust you. It is time it began the other way around.”

Comprehension (and fear?) entered his eyes. Given the way into his mind, she could make the remaining hours of the night an agony. She could even be justified in doing so. His mouth opened a little, then he swallowed whatever he’d thought to say. He smiled a little, and moved to sit at one end of the couch, his posture one of acceptance.

It startled Kim at first — she was seeing an entirely different creature than the one she knew. It gave her the courage to step across the room and sit down beside him. There was no sound, but for the sometimes erratic rhythm of their breathing.

Several minutes later, Kim drew a shuddering breath, retreating back into herself. She met Nathaniel’s eyes.

“It’s been a long time, Nathaniel. I’ve missed you,” she said softly.

Nathan reached across the little gap and took one of her hands into his. It used to belong there, when their parents left her in her brother’s care. Something mended in the quiet.

Kim believed her brother, when he said,

“I’ve missed you too.”


Copyright (c) 2001 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.