“We have no choice. It has to be this way,” he said, trying to drive that point home to her. “There is no going back anymore, no choice. You have to believe that!” He was standing there, with that look on his face, the same look she saw before in the restaurant; the look that seems to bore into your mind and convey thoughts that cannot be expressed. He stared at her with that look now.
He was covered in mud… and blood. Everywhere there was blood. She looked at the ground, at her clothes. She, too, wore the mud and blood that was so abundant everywhere. In her blood-covered hand was a weapon. She looked at him, and he held his weapon over his head, like a salute, and asked, “Are you ready? Are you ready to do what you know has to be done?”
Shouting could be heard from somewhere… she didn’t know where for sure, but she could feel the surge of adrenalin as the shouts came ever nearer. She knew he was right. They had come too far to turn back now. They had to finish this.
But what was this? She struggled to clear her mind so she could fully grasp what was happening. It all seemed too hazy and confusing. Where was she? How had she gotten here? What the hell was going on, she asked herself over and over again as the sounds of angry voices got closer.
His voice penetrated her confusion: “Kara! They have breached the barrier! Prepare yourself for battle!” Then he took hold of her arm and looked deep into her eyes. “If today is my day to die, I am honoured to fight and die beside you!” He placed one firm, final kiss on her lips.
There was weapons fire just outside the door and they both took cover. As the door crashed to the ground, uniformed soldiers barged into the room, weapons firing. She aimed and fired, taking out a guard, then another. She glanced quickly to see where he was, and saw him fire upon other guards pouring in the doorway. From the corner of her eye she saw a guard raise his weapon and she screamed: “Liam! Look out…!” There was blinding flash of white light.
She sat upright in bed, drenched in sweat, still screaming Liam’s name. At first she didn’t know where she was. Fear and anger filled her veins, her head, and she stared wildly around the room. Slowly reality took over and she gasped a deep breath. Oh my god, she thought, it was a dream! A bloody, realistic, unnerving dream! Her hands, still clenching a now-unseen weapon, finally relaxed and she lay back in bed. She breathed in deeply, and held her breath for a few seconds trying to calm herself.
Panic and anger swirled around her head still, and she tried to brush away all remnants of the dream. It was a dream, she kept repeating to herself, but somehow she couldn’t shake the feelings. This was crazy, she thought. She had an active imagination but she had never dreamt anything quite so real before. And why would she be dreaming of Liam? She knew him socially but they weren’t close. Where was all this coming from?
Finally she threw back the covers and got out of bed. “I need a bloody drink,” she said out loud, and went to pour herself a scotch. After a couple of swallows, she refilled the glass. Then it dawned on her: the story she had read before bed! That was where all this had come from. She gave a small laugh and began to feel a bit silly dreaming about a child’s fairytale.
Back in her bedroom she stared out at the pre-dawn sky. She always liked seeing sunrises and sunsets, as each were like a gift for having survived the day or night. She gazed out sleepily at the sky now, with its pale shades of blue-grey. The sun’s rays were not even a thin ribbon upon the horizon yet. There were no pale pinks to tinge the somber grey of night sky just yet, only the shades of blue-grey that precede the beginnings of sunrise. Night had not yet relinquished its hold on the planet.
She should be in bed sleeping, she thought. Taking another sip of the elixir to steady her restlessness, she noticed, ever so slightly, three flickers of reddish orange in the distance. Barely perceptible, they seemed like stationary glowing dots in the darkness. What were they? She hadn’t noticed them before. They appeared to be far away, beyond the Citi-Zone. Probably just gases then, she thought. Nothing else could survive out there.
Tiny tinges of pink began seeping into the blue-grey sky, and soon the thin ribbon of sunlight divided the sky from the land. Morning had broken, she thought. Stifling a yawn she decided to grab a few more hours of sleep. She turned towards her bed but glanced back at the three reddish-orange dots in the darkness. They kind of resemble the glow from a fireplace, she thought, then yawned again. The scotch was working, and everything else took a back seat as she climbed into bed. She closed her eyes and drifted off into a restless sleep.
It was cold, and they were bundled up against the frigid weather. She was a child, walking with two adults. Where were they going? She didn’t recognize this area. It was covered with white stuff… snow! She remembered the stories where snow fell from the sky and covered everything with a blanket of white. It was snowing here, and they were walking in it!
The man and woman each held her hands as they walked. She could tell there was something wrong, because they talked to each other in tense low tones, but she could not fully understand all they talked about. The man said something about “an unusual cold” and that this was “not a normal winter”. The woman held on to her hand very tightly and said about the “disaster” and that they needed to “get to a safe place”.
Those words seemed to repeat over and over in her head. Who were these people and why were they so worried, she wondered. The woman was especially emotional and kept wiping tears from her eyes as they talked. The man would reach over Kara’s head and reassuringly rub the woman’s back in a way that suggested they were very comfortable together.
Then she found herself standing on a platform, with other children, and the man and woman were standing on the step below her, looking at her with such intensity, trying to reassure her “everything will be ok” and to “be a good girl”. The woman was trying hard to control the tears streaming down her face. Kara, too, was crying! She didn’t want the man and woman to leave. Where were they going? Why couldn’t she come with them? Please, don’t leave me, she cried as the door to the platform she was standing on closed. She pressed her hands and face against the glass and cried out in panic: Mama, Papa, please! I don’t want to go! Please, don’t make me go!”
“Please, don’t make me go!” She woke up sobbing into her pillow. Her sobs were uncontrollable and shook her entire body. She curled into a fetal position and cried out: “Please, don’t make me go!”
She hadn’t dreamt of her parents in so long. They had died when she was so young and she had been brought up in a private boarding school. She had been told they died in an accident and that their estate was left to her, with provisions to continue her education and care through the boarding school. When she was a child she would often wake up sobbing, and would bury her face in a pillow so no one would hear her crying.
Now, in the morning’s light, in her safe haven in the sky, she was crying once again as she had done so long ago, for parents she could barely remember. Only now the memory of them and the day they sent her away seemed painfully real. That was the last time she had ever seen her parents.
She pulled the bedcovers up over her shoulders and tried to envision their faces. The more she tried to remember the harder it became. She felt alone and small as she lay in her king-size bed, in her castle in the clouds. Exhausted, she slept once more.
It was dark. She couldn’t see to where she was walking, but she kept walking. In the distance was a dot of reddish-orange light and she kept walking towards that light. As she got closer the reddish-orange light became a huge pyre, which illuminated the entire area. She stopped walking and looked around.
Everywhere there were bodies, severed limbs, corpses with skin burned so badly they were unrecognizable as people. She was overwhelmed by the stench of burning skin, of blood, of death. Everywhere she walked she saw similar scenes: bodies, mud, blood. All around the burning pyre she walked, looking at the destruction. It went on for miles.
Other people wandered, lost, aimless, and confused. She tried to talk to them but they didn’t seem to hear her. No one could hear her. She began to run but she couldn’t run away from the scene. She stopped running and grabbed the arm of a man who was standing staring at the pyre. “Please sir… please, tell me… what happened?”
The man turned around and she fell backwards in shock. It was the man she had seen in the gallery the night of her showing and his face was all burned. He moved his lips to speak but no sound came out. She didn’t need to hear it. She instinctively knew what he said: annihilation!
From behind her she could hear the whirr of a machine. She turned to find it but there was nothing there. It seemed to be coming closer but she couldn’t find where. She turned to grab the man but he was gone. Everything was gone. There was just the sound of a machine, like a consistent buzzing, getting closer.
She woke with a gasp. The SatCom was buzzing in the other room. She lay there, trying to clear her head. She felt tense and stressed, but couldn’t remember what she had dreamt about. All she could remember was hearing the buzzing. She climbed slowly out of bed. Let it buzz, she thought as she went to the window and looked out on a bright sunny morning. It looked to be a beautiful day. If only she didn’t feel so awful today.
She took a quick hydra-shower and came back to the bedroom. Her bed covers were all twisted around and hanging off the bed. Last night was awful, she thought. She had never had so many bad dreams in one night! Maybe a vacation is in order, she thought, as she towel dried her hair.
At her bedroom window she looked out over the city and said, “all is right with the world”. She would have believed that too, had she not immediately thought about what Carlos said to her yesterday: things aren’t always what they seem. She looked out the window again. Perhaps it was just because she was tired from her restless night, but when she looked at the vista before her it seemed an almost imperceptible shift had taken place.