Her first screams were not from the coldness of the air, the shock of birth. They were from the tidal waves in her mind, the pain of being severed from the scant protection her mother's womb provided against the shadows of her soul. She was born, naked and squalling as she had been so many times before. This time she was Alia Atreides, daughter of Jessica and Leto; born to a house that had stood for over a thousand years.

Pre-born.

Destined for death and madness at the first misstep according to her own memories. Her consciousness was a gift from her mother; a gift no sane woman would wish upon her most reviled enemy. To have the memories of those who had gone before. To be considered other; cursed and forsaken by whatever gods there were. Always apart from those around her. From the moment she was pushed into the world she was alone.

There were never any children to play with her, friends to share secrets. Her earliest memories were of watching other children playing together long before they had words to speak; laughing with an innocence she had never known. Even then they knew something was wrong with her, something unnatural. They shied away from her, went silent at her approach. The adults were just as wary, even for those who didn't know what she was her gaze gave her away. No child was meant to have such eyes, such knowledge. So she floated through the seitch, a child unlike any other; thousands of women trapped in young flesh. Alone.

Except for them.

They screamed at her, soothed her, hunted her through her dreams. Memories, desires, lives and deaths stronger than any sandstorm, harsher than the hardest season in the desert, always there. They roiled beneath the surface; a pre-spice mass waiting only for a little more pressure, the smallest increase in temperature. Alia would be buried, her mind plunged into the darkness while they took hold; reduced to another voice in the hoard, calling out for freedom. In the days of old she would have been drowned at birth, or left on the dunes for the elements to reclaim. Both fates were considered kinder than allowing a child to slip into abomination.

Or to propel herself.

She had tried so very, very hard, to let the emptiness pass through her. But emptiness wasn't like fear. Fear left unless you held onto it, passed through you like light through glass. Emptiness clung, dug in sharp, barbed hooks and burrowed deep. Paul was the only thing that filled that emptiness, the one who held the voices at bay. The only one who hadn't abandoned her, who loved her. She was his sister, his Alia, and she would do anything to protect him.

Alia knew the risks, knew them long before she ordered spice brought from the kitchens, but her brother needed her. Perhaps there was something he could not see, something hiding in the spaces between realities that she could. They were of the same blood; surely she shared some of his talents. But the deeper she swam, the clearer the path, the harder it was to hold onto. It slipped away in the stream, slid through her hands like water, leaving only the residue of what she should know and the echo of her ancestors. The first time the screams came to her, not in the dead of night but while awake, she knew her folly.

And then she was alone, her brother stolen from her by the sands; stolen by what had teased her with its memory, and the emptiness grew. She had a husband, an empire filled with trillions that worshiped her. She had what remained of her family. The emptiness swallowed them all like blood spilled on hot sand. She was still alone, with nothing but her screams to give her comfort.

Ghani and Leto had never suffered such a fate.

From birth, they had each other. From birth, their mother's spirit had protected them. Chani, the woman who had tried to be as a mother to her after her own abandoned her, would allow no harm to come to her children, in this life or any other. Alia could think of no better guardian for them. Perhaps her Paul was there was well, guiding them, keeping the emptiness at bay, filling the spaces until there was room for nothing else. They watched her with their sad eyes, judging, weighing. They should have understood, better than anyone; but they didn't, they couldn't.

There was no one for her, no one but the voices in her mind.