e stared vacantly at the floor of the monastery atrium, trying desperately to dismiss the anxiety by
focusing on the swirling patterns in the pristine marble tiles. The atrium had been Brother Josah’s place of sanctuary for 23 years now, frequently
making use of its vastness and simplicity as a retreat from the persistent visions.
He referred to them as “visions” when speaking with Brother Salius, the monastery’s counselor and resident psychologist, but they both knew that
these were more than mere visions. Josah had shared with his counselor the emotional agony caused by the episodes; the migraines, the nausea, the fear
of insanity, and the dichotomous chaos of a mind divided.
As Josah sought solitude in the atrium over the years, he often wondered how the others with his condition had managed; but over time it become
painfully apparent that all the others had met their inevitable demise. He would occasionally read about them on the World Wire; mostly suicides, but
sometimes just a regression into madness as they attempted to live normal lives out there, in the real world.
It was not a difficult choice for Josah to join the Brotherhood; in fact, it was what kept him alive, helped keep the insanity at bay, and kept the
from destroying him. The first to recommend this life of retreat was the Chief of Research at the Genetic Reproductive Synthesis Center when
Josah was just 17. Now, as he sat slumped in the corner of the atrium almost blinded by a crippling headache, Josah felt like a faint shadow of his
young self as he recalled the conversation.
“Our studies are now conclusive, and it’s only a matter of time before you become like the others, Josah,” the Chief gravely spoke.
“There must be something they can do to break the link? I can’t live like this. I can’t live my life hearing what he’s thinking, feeling what
he’s feeling when I don’t want to.” Head in hands, the young man looked up desperately at the Chief for any sign of hope.
“You were synthesized from one of the earliest harvests, before the GRSC had perfected the process. Our group yields were much smaller then, often
only three or four embryos would survive from each synthesis group,” the Chief said distantly. Josah got the feeling this was not the first time the
Chief had had this conversation.
“You must understand,” he continued, “We had no idea a symbiotic pair would form from group yields of two, and our researchers were under
tremendous pressure from the Chancellor at the time. The wars had halved the population, fertility rates in all the territories were falling rapidly
from the chemical fallout, and the predictive simulation models were bleak. Human reproduction was failing and extinction was imminent within two
generations if the reproductive synthesis program failed. Your condition is an unfortunate result of pushing the GRS program forward before the
process was refined enough for the larger group yields we have today. Some corners had to be cut to sustain the human population.”
The Chief took a sip of his tea, pausing with the pretense that appropriate words would follow. “In some of the earlier cases like yours, we tried
stronger and stronger suppressants to dull the link, but the side-effects were too severe. Our science is simply not advanced enough to understand how
the link develops, let alone how to defuse it. We just know it only exists in synthetic group yields of two, and most of the adverse symptoms you are
experiencing are exclusive to the recessive of the pair. “
“So he doesn’t suffer the same symptoms? Can I find him, talk to him? What if there’s something he
can do to make it stop, to break the
link?” asked Josah. “There has to be… I mean, what if…”
“Wait now,” the Chief interrupted, “I must warn you. I’ve personally reviewed your records and the other was the heavily dominant of the
genetic pairing, and although he may be aware you exist, he will not suffer as you do, nor can he do anything to relieve the symptoms the link causes
for you. I would advise against making contact. Any relationship between pairs has always resulted in, quite frankly, tragedy.”
“ What do you mean, exactly?” In his youth, Josah was confused by this as the symptoms had only recently arisen, triggered by hormonal changes in
late pubescence. Only later, after many years of suffering, would he understand all too well what the Chief was referring to.
“The human mind is not meant to feel divided, experiencing its own internal emotions juxtaposed to an external source with equal or greater
intensity. The chemistry of the human limbic system is simply not designed to handle the link. Many of the recessives of symbiotic pairs have gone
insane, their minds torn apart by living two lives with emotions perpetually diverging, one in the physical present, the other a shadow-world of
inexplicable thoughts and feelings.” At this the Chief shuffled in his chair, the first exposition of any discomfort thus far. “Those that have
made contact in an attempt to find some resolve, well, you see there is an overwhelming desire to end
the agony by whatever means necessary. In
such proximity, the impulse to kill the other becomes, well, uncontrollable and all-consuming. Our strongest instinct as humans is, unfortunately, the
animalistic desire for self-preservation.”
The Chief’s words fell heavy on Josah’s ears, and his utter despondence prevented him from voicing the inevitable question. What if the
were to die? Would the malady cease? For a moment, he felt a burning anger at his distant oppressor, but it quickly dissolved into a dull
bitterness at the crushing injustice of such a random fate, followed by a piercing migraine that left his ears ringing.
Crouched and wincing in pain, his will deflated, he could only muster the final question. “Then what am I supposed to do?”
The Chief looked down and saw the imploring eyes of a child, lost in a sea of directionless fear, and could no longer restrain his countenance’s
transformation to a look of pure pity, the way a man looks at his dog who has gone lame.
“I advise you to seek a life of passivity and seclusion from normal societal interaction, where the effects of the link and his dominant thoughts
will be minimized. Perhaps under a self-imposed mental quarantine the divisive nature of the link and subsequent damage to your psyche can be
contained, and the ensuing madness delayed for as long as possible.”
And so Josah’s exile in the Brotherhood began, accepting this consigned fate of reclusion from the stimuli of living. As the other
through life and grew physically and emotionally, Brother Josah receded further into himself, withering like a dying fruit on the vine.
With the assistance of the Brotherhood and within the confines of the monastery, this method of resignation had allowed Brother Josah to carry on. As
he stood up in the atrium, neck stiffened and ankles cracking from sitting too long in one position, he felt the heaviness of the years, a sorrow that
only comes from an entirely passive life with no purpose. How can a man endure this long and not become anything
? There was never any need,
never a call to action or twist of fate that mandated him to define another path for his tormented life --- until now.
[continued in next post]
edit on 21-2-2013 by InTheFlesh1980 because: correction