I woke up. A hand was shaking my shoulder. When I opened my eyes my vision was blurred with a grainy, grey haze.
“Wake up,” a voice said to me. “Wake up.”
The grainy, grey haze became a figure, the figure of a man.
“Wake up,” he repeated. “Marianna Strauss you must wake up.”
“Who are you?” I asked. The whiteness of the room blinded me as my sleepy eyes adjusted to the light.
“It does not matter who I am, all that matters is that you wake up and start to get ready.”
“Get ready for what?”
“Get ready to leave.”
“Who are you?” I repeated, sitting up and scrutinizing the stern eyes that stared into mine.
“I am a governing official, with orders to make sure you leave our city,” he replied.
“But that is not what…….”
“That is by order of Aleksandr Zidan.”
“No, you are wrong,” I argued. “That is not what he wants, he told me himself, last night. I am to wait for him, here, until he returns.”
“Your wait is over. Aleksandr will not be returning.”
The sternness grew stronger in the man’s eyes, and still I did not know his name. I shook my head. I was confused, deeply confused.
“Is this a dream?” I asked as the outline of the man fazed in and out between grainy grey and brilliant white.
“No, this is not a dream. This is far from a dream. This is real. You are to leave here and never return. Never again must you set foot in our world, and never again must you hold ideas above you station.”
I frowned at him. Then I saw his wings. Pegasian.
“I want to see Aleksandr. I want him to know what you are asking of me.” I want him to tell me this is all a mistake.
“I told you, he will not be coming.”
“I want to see him!” A wave of hysteria suddenly washed over me and I felt like I was drowning, like I could not breathe.
“You cannot see him.”
“I want to see him. Tell him I have asked to see him!”
“But why?” I asked in desperation. “Why are you doing this?”
I was treading water, but I was barely afloat.
“Marianna Strauss, what you must understand is that Aleksandr Zidan is to be betrothed to be married to Felicity Palin. The wedding will take place. They will be united. You will play no further part in his life. You must leave, and he has asked me to make sure you depart our city safely.”
“And this is what he wants?”
“Yes. The decision has been made. Aleksandr knows what he is doing. What he does is for the good of his people, and for the good of our common future.”
“And why does he send you? Why does he not tell me himself?”
“Because he has other, more pressing matters to deal with. He is the ruler of this city. He has duties, obligations, responsibilities.”
I bowed my head low, staring at the white sheets which covered me. “I will not leave until he comes.”
“Then you will be removed, by force.”
“You cannot force me,” I replied.
“I can, and I will.”
I looked up at his face, trying to read him, understand what was happening. He had a nice face, kind, grandfatherly. In his eyes I saw discomfort. He was not used to threats, but at the same time he did not make them idly. It was then that I knew I had no choice. I was human; I had no say in his world.
“This is what he wants?” I asked. “He wants me to leave?”
“Those are his orders.”
“Then there is no place for me here,” I heard myself say.
The man nodded at me and said, “I will leave you now to get dressed.” And in a flash of arched light he was gone.
On the day Aleksandr brought me here I had arrived with nothing except the clothes on my back. I found them folded neatly at the bottom of my bed. The holes and rips had been perfectly repaired, and I wondered if they were my clothes at all, or just replicas, sent to appease me.
I dressed in the garments. They were soft to the touch and they glided over my body like silk, but when I moved I felt like a thousand needles were being forced into my skin, twisted and turned. I wanted to rip the clothes away, to tear them apart, to return to my bed and pull the sheets over me so that I may sleep undisturbed and wake up in another reality, so that this one would be gone.
When I had finished dressing the man re-entered the room. “Preparations have been made for your return to the earth’s surface,” he said. “Aleksandr has made sure you will be well provided for, in thanks for your services to the fight against the Fourth Chimeric.”
“In thanks for my grandfather’s research,” I said.
“Indeed. It has been invaluable. There is a man waiting outside for you. His name is Fargo Quinn. He will take you down. He will look after you from here.”
We left the room. A tall thin man was waiting outside.
“Can I see Aleksandr, just one more time, just to say goodbye. Please?” I asked before I turned to leave.
The man shook his head.
Fargo Quinn took me to the edge of the city. It was still night time. I looked down into a sea of blackness. I saw myself freefalling through it, tumbling into oblivion. Fargo picked me up and flew with me in his arms. We travelled through dark empty space until the Third City of Gemini was just a shimmering light in the distance.
I felt empty, hollow, like I was not myself, like I was someone else, a ghost without substance or purpose. I was numb because all the joy, light and meaning had been painfully and viciously sucked from my soul until I had merged into the blackness that surrounded me, helplessly swallowed in its jaws, and crushed into nothing.
I did not realise it then, but I know now what it was. It was the moment my heart had broken.