22 March 2012

Beyond the Pleasure Principle

"What is pain for?" she murmured after a time. "Do you ever think about that, Jacen Solo? What is its function? Many of our more devout masters believe that pain is the lash of the True Gods: that suffering is how the True Gods teach us to disdain comfort, our bodies, even life itself. For myself, I say that pain itself is a god: the taskmaster of life. Pain cracks the whip, and all that lives will move. The most basic instinct of life is to retreat from pain. To hide from it. If going here hurts, even a granite slug will go over there; to live is to be a slave to pain.

To be 'beyond pain' is to be dead, yes?"

"Not for me," Jacen answered dully, once his throat opened enough that he could speak. "No matter how dead you say I am, it still hurts."

"Oh, well, yes. That the dead are beyond pain is only an article of faith, isn't it? We should say, we hope that the dead are beyond pain - but there's only one way to find out for sure."

She blinked at him, smiling. "Do you think that pain might be the ruling principle of death, as well?"

"I don't think anything. I just want it to stop."

She turned away, making an odd snuffling sound; for half a moment Jacen wondered if his suffering might have finally touched her somehow - wondered if she might take pity on him...

But when she turned back, her eyes were alight with mockery, not compassion.

"I am such a fool," she chimed. "All this time, I had thought I was speaking to an adult. Ah, self-deception is the cruelest trick of all, isn't it? I let myself believe that you had once been a true Jedi, when in truth you are only a hatchling, shivering in the nest, squalling because your mother hasn't fluttered up to feed you."

"You...you..." Jacen stammered. "How can you... after what you've done..."

"What I have done? Oh, no no no, little Solo child. This is about what you have done."

"I haven't done anything!"

Vergere settled back against the chamber's wall a meter away. Slowly, she folded her back-bent knees beneath her, then laced her fingers together in front of her delicately whiskered mouth and stared at him over her knuckles.

After a long, long silence, during which I haven't done anything! echoed in his mind until Jacen's face burned, Vergere said,

"Exactly."

She leaned close, as though to share an embarrassing secret. "Is that not the infant's tactic? To wail, and wail, and wail, to wriggle its fingers and kick its heels... hoping an adult will notice, and care for it?"

Jacen lowered his head, struggling against sudden hot tears. "What can I do?" She sat back again and made more of that snuffling noise. "Certainly, among your options is continuing to hang in this room and suffer. And so long as you do that, do you know what will happen?"

Jacen gave her a bruised look. "What?"

"Nothing," she said cheerfully. She spread her hands. "Oh, eventually, you'll go mad, I suppose. If you're lucky. Someday you may even die."

Her crest flattened back and became blasterbore grey. "Of old age."

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