A Traveler Between

by Beverly Volker
Art by Russell Volker, Sr.

Originally published in Beyond Orion #2 (July, 1977)

Bev and Nancy wrote for a lot of other zines over the years. As we find them, we’ll be posting those efforts here as well, in addition to stories and art from the pages of Contact. Here’s one of Bev’s short pieces about the aftermath of the accident which took Edith Keeler’s life in “City on the Edge of Forever.”

BeyondOrion_2_Illo_RussThe corridor was quiet and still, lights dimmed for the evening. At one end, a solitary figure waited in anticipation on the single bench. His vigil had been long. Finally, the sound of footsteps broke the silence and he rose anxiously to meet the approaching figure.

“Mr. Kirk?”

The man from the bench nodded. “I’m Dr. Miles,” the other told him. He spoke gently. “I’m very sorry. There was nothing we could do for Miss Keeler. She suffered severe head injuries and some internal damage. I’m afraid she was too weak to survive the operation.”

Kirk took a deep breath. It was the news he had expected.

Spock had told him she would have to die. Yet, when he found she was still alive after the accident, when the doctors decided to try an emergency operation, a tiny flicker of hope surged. Perhaps Spock had been wrong, just this once. Oh, God, let it be! Maybe Edith Keeler wasn’t the focal point in changing history, after all.

The screech of the truck wheels still reverberated in his ears, the thudding sound as her body hit the street, the unknowing accusation of McCoy as he half-clung, half-grappled with him in an effort to halt the doctor’s intervention.

Kirk pulled away from McCoy then. The deed was done–the fatal knife thrust home. He sagged against the wall, only dimly aware that the doctor, his medical instinct taking over, was moving toward the fallen girl. As if from a great distance, Kirk heard McCoy’s pronouncement.

“She’s still alive.”

Then someone in the gathering crowd called for an ambulance.

Kirk turned, unbelieving; Spock was at his side. Seeing the desperate hope beginning to rise in his Captain’s eyes, the Vulcan spoke softly.

“She will die, Jim. She must.”

Kirk threw him a contemptuous look. “You don’t know. What makes you so certain you’re always right?”

His agony was mirrored in Spock’s face as he pulled away from the Vulcan and stumbled toward Edith.

McCoy was kneeling beside her, a crowd pressing around curiously, as the wail of a siren pierced the night. The doctor rose to surrender his patient to the ambulance attendants. Still not fully recovered from his cordrazine experience, a wave of dizziness engulfed him and he staggered.

At his side, Spock reached out a hand to steady him. Kirk threw a worried look at his two friends.

“Spock, you and McCoy stay here. I’m going with Edith,” he decided.

The Vulcan was about to protest, but the look on Kirk’s face changed his mind.

That had been six hours ago. It seemed like six days. The inevitable had merely been prolonged.

In that time, Kirk had had a chance to reflect upon the irony of this whole event–the incredible accident that had sent McCoy fleeing from the ship in a state of madness, and eventually through that enigmatic portal to change history, the decision to follow him in an attempt to correct the change, and the most improbable occurrence of all, that Kirk should

fall in love with a woman not even of his own time–a woman who had lived and died three hundred years before he was even born.

But she hadn’t died three hundred years ago. She had just died tonight, and he had watched it happen–watched and did nothing to stop it.

EDITH!

She was not a fantasy or a dream. He had held her in his arms, tasted her lips, smelled the clean scent of her hair. She had been real, alive, and he felt the crushing pain of her death.

Dr. Miles was speaking, asking if he could get him anything, if he were all right. Kirk shook his head, managing a coherent assurance, then quickly made his way to the hospital exit. The walls had suddenly become oppressive and he felt the need for space to clear his head.

Outside, he stood, letting the quiet surround him. He knew he should be starting back to the flat; McCoy and Spock would be worried about him and anxious to go back through the portal to their own time.

Now they could. History was right once more.

Yet, he was somehow reluctant to return, to face his friends’ sympathy and understanding. Pulling his brown jacket close around him against the late night chill, he wandered aimlessly down the deserted street. The dismal city night was strangely compelling; he knew he was not yet willing to give up this time, this place, that had held his love.

Edith was gone–sacrificed to the future–but for a while longer, he could feel close to her in this New York of the 1930’s. Here he was not James T. Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise. The Enterprise wouldn’t even exist for another three hundred years. In this time, he was just… what had she first called him…? Mister Kirk. Jim–a struggling human

trying to eke out a living in a time when mere daily survival was a hardship.

So this was what it had really been like–what the millions of nameless, faceless ancestors had endured, that one day he and his generation could sail the stars. Edith had dreamed that future.

More accurately than she could have known, he thought wistfully.

He had been permitted this glimpse of the past, a look back to see, firsthand, the seed from which his kind had sprung. It was a rare opportunity, a unique experience. How many other men have had that chance? The wonder of it suddenly awed him.

He had been walking, intent upon his own thoughts, and unaware of his surroundings. Now, he looked up to find himself in front of the Twenty-First Street Mission. A dirty, dull-eyed man got up out of the gutter and approached Kirk.

“Hey, buddy, gotta dime?” he croaked.

Kirk turned to the pitiful caricature of humankind. It’s true, he thought. They really do say that corny old line from the history books. He pulled some change from his pocket and held it out. He wouldn’t be needing it any more; it was useless in the twenty-third century. The

vagrant snatched at it greedily and flashed a toothless smile.

“Thanks, mister.”

Kirk caught his wrist. For a moment he stared at the watery eyes, the stubbled chin, the greasy, matted hair. The man cowered, suddenly afraid that this strange young man meant to harm him.

“Someday,” Kirk said gently, “it will be better. I promise you.” He let the man go and turned to see his own reflection in the large mission window. The familiar face, hair, eyes tonight filled with sadness, seemed very much out of place in the plaid shirt and jacket.

They belonged in the gold of Starfleet Command.

“It was for this, Edith, my love,” he whispered. She would have been content to know her life was spent so that Kirk could have made that promise. People. People were still the same. They still had the same needs and desires. They still felt and loved, and he had been permitted to reach across the centuries to learn this. He had loved, and had cried for his impossible love. I’ll never forget you, he promised silently.

Let me help, she had said.

You have, my darling, his heart answered, more than you could ever guess.

As he headed down the street toward their flat, toward Spock and McCoy, he lifted his eyes to the winter sky. The constellation of Orion sparkled brightly in its proper place and the haunting notes of a popular old Earth song filled his head.

“Goodnight, Sweetheart…” he hummed to himself.

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