|Home > Frank Herbert > Dune Series > Dune Messiah (Chapter Twenty-four)|
|Dune Messiah(Dune Series #2) by Frank Herbert|
"Free yourself from the ghola, Duncan."
"You're human. Do a human thing."
"I'm a ghola!"
"But your flesh is human. Duncan's in there."
"Something's in there."
"I care not how you do it," Paul said, "but you'll do it."
"Foreknowledge be damned!" Paul turned away. His vision hurtled forward now, gaps in it, but it wasn't a thing to be stopped.
"M'Lord, if you've -"
"Quiet!" Paul held up a hand. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what, m'Lord?"
Paul shook his head. Duncan hadn't heard it. Had he only imagined the sound? It'd been his tribal name called from the desert - far away and low: "Usul... Uuuussssuuuullll... "
"What is it, m'Lord?"
Paul shook his head. He felt watched. Something out there in the night shadows knew he was here. Something? No - someone.
"It was mostly sweet," he whispered, "and you were the sweetest of all."
"What'd you say, m'Lord?"
"It's the future," Paul said.
That amorphous human universe out there had undergone a spurt of motion, dancing to the tune of his vision. It had struck a powerful note then. The ghost-echoes might endure.
"I don't understand, m'Lord," the ghola said.
"A Fremen dies when he's too long from the desert," Paul said. "They call it the 'water sickness.' Isn't that odd?"
"That's very odd."
Paul strained at memories, tried to recall the sound of Chani breathing beside him in the night. Where is there comfort? he wondered. All he could remember was Chani at breakfast the day they'd left for the desert. She'd been restless, irritable.
"Why do you wear that old jacket?" she'd demanded, eyeing the black uniform coat with its red hawk crest beneath his Fremen robes. "You're an Emperor!"
"Even an Emperor has his favorite clothing," he'd said.
For no reason he could explain, this had brought real tears to Chani's eyes - the second time in her life when Fremen inhibitions had been shattered.
Now, in the darkness, Paul rubbed his own cheeks, felt moisture there. Who gives moisture to the dead? he wondered. It was his own face, yet not his. The wind chilled the wet skin. A frail dream formed, broke. What was this swelling in his breast? Was it something he'd eaten? How bitter and plaintive was this other self, giving moisture to the dead. The wind bristled with sand. The skin, dry now, was his own. But whose was the quivering which remained?
They heard the wailing then, far away in the sietch depths. It grew louder... louder...
The ghola whirled at a sudden glare of light, someone flinging wide the entrance seals. In the light, he saw a man with a raffish grin - no! Not a grin, but a grimace of grief! It was a Fedaykin lieutenant named Tandis. Behind him came a press of many people, all fallen silent now that they saw Muad'dib.
"Chani..." Tandis said.
"Is dead," Paul whispered. "I heard her call."
He turned toward the sietch. He knew this place. It was a place where he could not hide. His onrushing vision illuminated the entire Fremen mob. He saw Tandis, felt the Fedaykin's grief, the fear and anger.
"She is gone," Paul said.
The ghola heard the words out of a blazing corona. They burned his chest, his backbone, the sockets of his metal eyes. He felt his right hand move toward the knife at his belt. His own thinking became strange, disjointed. He was a puppet held fast by strings reaching down from that awful corona. He moved to another's commands, to another's desires. The strings jerked his arms, his legs, his jaw. Sounds came squeezing out of his mouth, a terrifying repetitive noise -
"Hrrak! Hraak! Hraak!"
The knife came up to strike. In that instant, he grabbed his own voice, shaped rasping words: "Run! Young master, run!"
"We will not run," Paul said. "We'll move with dignity. We'll do what must be done."
The ghola's muscles locked. He shuddered, swayed.
"... what must be done!" The words rolled in his mind like a great fish surfacing. "... what must be done!" Ahhh, that had sounded like the old Duke, Paul's grandfather. The young master had some of the old man in him. "... what must be done!"
The words began to unfold in the ghola's consciousness. A sensation of living two lives simultaneously spread out through his awareness: Hayt/Idaho/Hayt/Idaho... He became a motionless chain of relative existence, singular, alone. Old memories flooded his mind. He marked them, adjusted them to new understandings, made a beginning at the integration of a new awareness. A new persona achieved a temporary form of internal tyranny. The masculating synthesis remained charged with potential disorder, but events pressed him to the temporary adjustment. The young master needed him.
It was done then. He knew himself as Duncan Idaho, remembering everything of Hayt as though it had been stored secretly in him and ignited by a flaming catalyst. The corona dissolved. He shed the Tleilaxu compulsions.
"Stay close to me, Duncan," Paul said. "I'll need to depend on you for many things." And, as Idaho continued to stand entranced: "Duncan!"
"Yes, I am Duncan."
"Of course you are! This was the moment when you came back. We'll go inside now."
Idaho fell into step beside Paul. It was like the old times, yet not like them. Now that he stood free of the Tleilaxu, he could appreciate what they had given him. Zensunni training permitted him to overcome the shock of events. The mentat accomplishment formed a counterbalance. He put off all fear, standing above the source. His entire consciousness looked outward from a position of infinite wonder: he had, been dead; he was alive.
"Sire," the Fedaykin Tandis said as they approached him, "the woman, Lichna, says she must see you. I told her to wait."
"Thank you," Paul said. "The birth... "
"I spoke to the medics," Tandis said, falling into step. "They said you have two children, both of them alive and sound."
"Two?" Paul stumbled, caught himself on Idaho's arm.
"A boy and a girl," Tandis said. "I saw them. They're good Fremen babies."
"How... how did she die?" Paul whispered.
"M'Lord?" Tandis bent close.
"Chani?" Paul said.
"It was the birth, m'Lord," Tandis husked. "They said her body was drained by the speed of it. I don't understand, but that is what they said."
"Take me to her," Paul whispered.
"Take me to her!"
"That's where we're going, m'Lord." Again, Tandis bent close to Paul. "Why does your ghola carry a bared knife?"
"Duncan, put away your knife," Paul said. "The time for violence is past."
As he spoke, Paul felt closer to the sound of his voice than to the mechanism which had created the sound. Two babies! The vision had contained but one. Yet, these moments went as the vision went. There was a person here who felt grief and anger. Someone. His own awareness lay in the grip of an awful treadmill, replaying his life from memory.
Again he stumbled. Chani, Chani, he thought. There was no other way. Chani, beloved, believe me that this death was quicker for you... and kinder. They'd have held our children hostage, displayed you in a cage and slave pits, reviled you with the blame for my death. This way... this way we destroy them and save our children.
Once more, he stumbled.
I permitted this, he thought. I should feel guilty.
The sound of noisy confusion filled the cavern ahead of them. It grew louder precisely as he remembered it growing louder. Yes, this was the pattern, the inexorable pattern, even with two children.
Chani is dead, he told himself.
At some faraway instant in a past which he had shared with others, this future had reached down to him. It had chivvied him and herded him into a chasm whose walls grew narrower and narrower. He could feel them closing in on him. This was the way the vision went.
Chani is dead. I should abandon myself to grief.
But that was not the way the vision went.
"Has Alia been summoned?" he asked.
"She is with Chani's friends," Tandis said.
Paul sensed the mob pressing back to give him passage. Their silence moved ahead of him like a wave. The noisy confusion began dying down. A sense of congested emotion filled the sietch. He wanted to remove the people from his vision, found it impossible. Every face turning to follow him carried its special imprint. They were pitiless with curiosity, those faces. They felt grief, yes, but he understood the cruelty which drenched them. They were watching the articulate become dumb, the wise become a fool. Didn't the clown always appeal to cruelty?
This was more than a deathwatch, less than a wake.
Paul felt his soul begging for respite, but still the vision moved him. Just a little farther now, he told himself. Black, visionless dark awaited him just ahead. There lay the place ripped out of the vision by grief and guilt, the place where the moon fell.
He stumbled into it, would've fallen had Idaho not taken his arm in a fierce grip, a solid presence knowing how to share his grief in silence.
"Here is the place," Tandis said.
"Watch your step, Sire," Idaho said, helping him over an entrance lip. Hangings brushed Paul's face. Idaho pulled him to a halt. Paul felt the room then, a reflection against his cheeks and ears. It was a rock-walled space with the rock hidden behind tapestries.
"Where is Chani?" Paul whispered.
Harah's voice answered him: "She is right here, Usul."
Paul heaved a trembling sigh. He had feared her body already had been removed to the stills where Fremen reclaimed the water of the tribe. Was that the way the vision went? He felt abandoned in his blindness.
"The children?" Paul asked.
"They are here, too, m'Lord," Idaho said.
"You have beautiful twins, Usul," Harah said, "a boy and a girl. See? We have them here in a creche."
Two children, Paul thought wonderingly. The vision had contained only a daughter. He cast himself adrift from Idaho's arm, moved toward the place where Harah had spoken, stumbled into a hard surface. His hands explored it: the metaglass outlines of a creche.
Someone took his left arm. "Usul?" It was Harah. She guided his hand into the creche. He felt soft-soft flesh. It was so warm! He felt ribs, breathing.
"That is your son," Harah whispered. She moved his hand. "And this is your daughter." Her hand tightened on his. "Usul, are you truly blind now?"
He knew what she was thinking. The blind must be abandoned in the desert. Fremen tribes carried no dead weight.
"Take me to Chani," Paul said, ignoring her question.
Harah turned him, guided him to the left.
Paul felt himself accepting now the fact that Chani was dead. He had taken his place in a universe he did not want, wearing flesh that did not fit. Every breath he drew bruised his emotions. Two children! He wondered if he had committed himself to a passage where his vision would never return. It seemed unimportant.
"Where is my brother?"
It was Alia's voice behind him. He heard the rush of her, the overwhelming presence as she took his arm from Harah.
"I must speak to you!" Alia hissed.
"In a moment," Paul said.
"Now! It's about Lichna."
"I know," Paul said. "In a moment."
"You don't have a moment!"
"I have many moments."
"But Chani doesn't!"