Chanda was left alone to grieve for about 20 minutes. They were harshly surprised when the gloved hand of a stranger touched their shoulder. The stranger was a tall male, quite pale, with freckles all over his face, but only there. His hair was a sooty black, curly but cut very short, with eyes a clover green. They were close-set, framed with dark but short lashes. Chanda wiped at their face with an awkward swipe, going silent.
“Hello, I’m Abbán Cathail. I’m a psychiatrist, here to evaluate and aid your mental state.” He spoke in perfect Hindi, although with a tell-tale sing-song accent.
“A-Abbán is an Irish name, right?” They asked, sniffling quietly. Abbán nodded, smiling in a detached manner.
“Yep! I’m a graduate of the university you’re currently in.” He answered, switching to English. Chanda frowned, curious but also suspicious.
“Really? You look kinda young for a graduate.” Abbán looked only about 20, maybe even younger.
The paler man shrugged and tapped a finger to his temple. “Well, that’s because I’m a genius. Enough about me, I’m here for you.” He sat on a stool and smiled, much less professional and more childish. Chanda slowly gathered themselves enough to become calm and attentive.
“Sure...” Pleased, Abbán rested his elbows on his knees.
“I’m sure you’re at least half aware of the new circumstances of your life, yes?” He began, receiving a nod and a pained sigh. “Well, that spares me the awkward duty of telling you. However, there is something you don’t know.” He kept smiling, throwing them off.
“What don’t I know?” It seemed impossible, but Abbán’s smile grew to a full grin.
“You’ve been selected for a higher purpose!” His giddiness went over Chanda’s head completely. They could only stare blankly. “What are you talking about?”
The Irishman had the audacity to sigh and rolled his eyes. “You’re rather monotonous with your vocabulary, hm?” He teased, eying him flatly.
Chanda glared at him. “You try losing your whole life in one night,” they shot back. Abbán’s grin turned sharp, and his eyes became hooded as if they were too dangerous to face head-on.
“Oh, I have. My whole family burned, well, except my feathery child, Padraig.” His tenor voice dropped an octave when he spoke, getting his point across.
Chanda recoiled, feeling guilty and scolded. “I’m sorry to hear that.” Abbán’s cheery nature resurfaced just as quickly as it left.
“It’s all ashes now, no worries. I do my family proud by running the Sessile Oak.” He seemed to catch himself and giggled. “Naughty, you’ve changed the subject on me. Anyway, you have a higher purpose with the same people who gave it to me. Well, not the same individuals, but the same organization.”
Chanda reached up to rub their face, tired of the pronoun game and feeling led by the nose. “So, what’s gonna happen then?” They rose an eyebrow, watching Abbán carefully. Abbán reached up to tap his chin, enjoying his small game.
“You’re gonna get released in a few days, and someone from your flora branch will be here to take you under their wing. I’m just here to get a sneak peek. Oh! I almost forgot your present! The central organization always gives their members a present.” Abbán rose in a graceful motion and then exited in a flurry of long strides.
Chanda just stared at the space the other man took up, confused and very uncomfortable. It wasn’t Abbán’s oddity or sassiness that presented the problem, but all the half-assed answers, the lack of definite structure in the conversation. Who exactly was Abbán? What was he? Not having clear information put them on edge. Just as fast as he left, Abbán returned, carrying a large pet carrier. Chanda’s eyes went wide, and their heart pounded with hope. A loud, annoyed meow brought a rush of tears to their eyes.
“Rami!” At the sound of his name, the cat got louder and began to paw at the door. Abbán chuckled and laid the carrier at the foot of the bed, then opened the front. Rami padded out slowly due to a cast on his right front leg, but he knew his owner, and that he wanted to be with them. Chanda received Rami with tender arms, cradling him close to their chest and resting their head on his for a moment. They were so, so grateful to see Rami safe and alive. Rami was all that remained of home. It was a bittersweet joy, but a joy more so.
Once the pair settled together, Chanda raised their head to thank Abbán, their opinion of him vastly improved, but the man was gone. Chanda leaned back on the bed, staring at their blanket and gently stroking Rami. His purring vibrated on their legs, warm and relaxing. The conversation was odd at best, and purposefully cryptic, if speaking English and talking in circles meant anything. Chanda thought back to Abbán’s words, picking out the important bits. Someone from the local ‘flora’ would come by in a couple of days and introduce them to a new life. They were selected for a ‘higher purpose’ by losing all they had. So, was the accident actually an accident, or was it a staged destruction? Chanda supposed all they could do to answer that was to wait.