Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Our Mutual Friend (not about the book) (09/15/11)
By Sarah Frase
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Sometimes I dream all of it. I look up into her face of concentration. Her eyes are brown like mine. She is scanning ahead, mouth open-pumping air, face flushed under the emergency strobes, her gaze locked on the immediate. I can see my brother running behind her. The wide deck of the observation lounge is breaking away in fragments, the smooth plasticine panels that gave the illusion of an endless molded plane smash upwards from the floor like ocean foam colliding against rocks. Windows shatter under the shock waves of the explosions at the base of the station. The shields hold for now, but the possibility of one giving out-pulling all into the vacuum of space forces every fleeing colonist into the center of the room.
Everyone except her.
Dodging the falling ceiling globes; she is sprinting parallel to the glass. I stare at my own reflection, my eyes like a wild animal’s at night when caught in a flashlight beam. A panel breaks just ahead of us. Her right arm comes up and strikes the falling glass away from me.
We are almost to the gateway; no one else has reached it. I look back.
They’re all at least twenty yards behind us when the center of the room buckles and falls out beneath them. The room is crumpling in like paper pressed into a ball.
We are a hundred yards from the evacuation pod. From nowhere, from a place that cannot exist in the physics of a human body, she notches up her speed.
I am on a seat in the pod. She steps into the pilot stance; the interface recognizes her body language. My brother is beside me, all breath.
She activates the power cells, her hands strike into the air in front of her, manipulating the star map. Her fingers move precisely, weaving between planets, directing the pod where it will go. Her hair hangs down her back in a long braid behind her, the same braid my mother did my hair in. Her shape reminds me of my mother and then suddenly, here is my second birth. We feel the massive shudder of the docking gear unlocking, we shoot out and away. The station has shrunk from a wall, to a ball, to a dot behind us. My brother holds my hand.
In silence the pod slips through the winding paths of space.
The dream ends there. But I know the facts.
I know many refugees were dropped off. I know our saviors in the uniforms, men and women who matched all descriptions but spoke and moved with the same gait, vanished. We didn’t know about the guardians, about cyclo-chronology then. All anybody knew was that of the thirteen colonies that went down due to human error, thousands had been saved. And people began to think, really think, about the future, past, and present as malleable.
My savior-the woman who lives in the hidden folds of my subconscious, who could tuck herself into space and time as if she were folding the fabric of a handkerchief-I know she is real. Before I turned seventeen, I had gathered thousands of personal accounts of her at appearances at disasters.
You’re smiling; maybe you’ve worked with her before? A mutual friend?
Or maybe you’re smiling because you already know what I know.
I know you will approve my recruitment. I know I will make it through astromolecular folding. I’m not speaking with bravado. I don’t understand it myself, but I know it.
Tuesday, I woke up in the middle of the night and stepped into my bathroom. The dream. I could still feel the tightness, the safety of her arms around me. My hands gripped my forearms, and then I saw it.
Her arms. Her hands with the slender fingers. The edges of the bottom of her braid draped over the front of my right shoulder.
And when I looked into the mirror, she was staring back at me.
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