Waking Other Lives

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Chapter 12: Discovery

I left the kitchen only to run into Baran. The day, unfortunately, had not started wonderfully.

“Hey babe, how did you sleep out there?” he chuckled, taking my hand into his, his warm long fingers enfolding mine.

Baran was the same, and yet he wasn’t. I was still very hesitant in trusting him and I planned on playing along until I knew what his game was. “Good. By the way, thanks for covering me up in the night,” I said, trying not to flinch from his affectionate gesture. I resided in a constant state of befuddlement in this world, but I had to do my best to act as the Sierra they knew, and not stick out as the nutty type. There was only so much the concussion could explain, and eventually that excuse would wear off.

“No problem, but you shouldn’t sleep outside tonight. There are no dragonflies in this vicinity, but I’m not sure I wanna take that risk with you if you’re planning to make a habit of this.”

“Dragonflies? I’m not afraid of insects, I’ll be fine,” I said, utterly confused about his words.

His fingers threaded through my hair, gently prodding the curve of my scalp as if to detect the source of a bump. “I should kill that asshole for this. He should have taken care of you,” he said, his face expression carrying a mixture of anger and worry. “Baby, dragonflies can kill humans. Not everyone, but their bite is poisonous, don’t you remember?” he asked in a concerned tone.

What? When did those small insects start killing humans? What other surprises were awaiting me in this world, I wondered.

“Ahh, yes, I knew that,” I said, not sure whether I’d pulled it off.

“Okay, good. How do you feel? Do you feel good enough to take over the training today? The boys are out on a surveillance mission. There are a few who remained behind who could possibly do the training, but we both know you are the best,” he said, his fingers squeezing mine gently.

Whoa, was he nuts? Me and training, that was an absolute no-no. “Uhm, I am really not myself as of yet. I feel a little dizzy actually. It’d be best for someone else to do it, just this time” I said, checking out his reaction, and feeling relieved when he nodded in sympathy.

“Sure, no problem babe whatever you feel like doing. I’ll ask Payal to do it instead.”

“Payal… Were you dating her before? I do not remember much.” I said, trying to find out some information. Were all the bridges between me and my best friend burned, or was there some hope?

“That was ages ago. I belong with you, now. And, she surely knows that. Did she say something to you?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.

“No, I just wondered what happened between the two of you, that’s all.”

“We were together for a year, and then of course the war happened. We started gathering in small units, making camps here and there, crashing in the wilderness, and then moving on to another location. We were always on the move, unsure of our actions, hesitant, rather scared in making any big plans. I had at most twenty humans with me at the time, and we were mostly a closed community, all who had lived together before in the same town.” He briefly paused as he fixed his intense gaze on me. “And then one day you came along, walking on your own in the middle of nowhere with a small tattered bag on your back which carried the summation of all your belongings. You were looking for other humans to join, to fight with. You’d lost your family, and friends. I swear I fell in love with you the moment I saw you, you were so fierce, so confident, and still standing, unbeaten despite all your losses. You said, I wanna kill those bastard Drakons, one by one. I will kill the prince. It was your fiery soul which inspired me to gather more humans, train and organize them. It was you who made me believe we could defeat the Drakons, despite their strength and numbers. It was you who rejuvenated me, who made me believe in a better world. You wanted me to train you, and I did. You became the best, because that is who you are Sierra. The best.”

He sounded so sincere right then, I almost believed him. Was this perhaps a different Baran in here, a better version of himself? It could be, as I had just witnessed a worse version of Payal. Could I trust Baran then? I had no clue.

But, I knew one thing, all of this sounded so unlike me! What a joke, I was an impostor in this world, I knew not how to fight, killing someone was certainly not my cup of tea, and I did not want to hurt anyone, not even a dragon. But, his speech had given me valuable information, 1-My parents were dead, so I was unlikely to run into Trancelli family members, and I was more alone in this world than I’d thought. 2-And, the former Sierra wanted to kill the prince of Drakons which probably had something to do with the mission. Was that a fair deduction? Maybe.

“I still want to watch the training though,” I said. If I wanted to survive in this world, I had to learn some fighting skills asap.

“Of course, baby. The training starts in an hour. If you want to change your clothes, you know where our room is.”

“Well, perhaps you could show me? Everything is really blurred in my mind,” I said, absorbing the great news that I had other clothes to change into.

“Sure,” he said, slipping his hand into mine again. I followed him inside the warehouse as he opened a door at the very end. It was small, but certainly private with a queen sized bed in the corner placed next to a small closet and two wooden chairs pushed to the wall. This was it, the room of the rebel leader and his girlfriend well reflected the deprivation of space in the warehouse.

“Thanks,” I muttered as I walked to the closet to find a few items that would fit me.

“How do I take a bath?” I asked.

“You need to wash by the lake honey. I’ll ask Clare to accompany you there. I need to check in with my men, I’ll see you later,” he said kissing me on the lips. As he was about to exit the room, he stopped and glanced back as if prompted by a last minute decision. “All will be well Sierra, you’ll see.” he said and then left.

As I was still trying to digest the fact that I had been sleeping here with Baran in the past, I heard a knock on the door. “Sierra? It’s Clare, Baran said you wanted to wash at the lake?” she asked.

“Yes, coming,” I said. Wow, washing at the lake, that surely would be a novelty, one I wasn’t sure I’d like too much.

Clare was in her late twenties, a tall and fit looking girl. She took me outside on a narrow path that winded between lines of birch trees and large rocks strewn haphazardly, and rather chaotically along the way. I watched my step, heeding my sprained ankle. The dew hung heavy around us, the hanging leaves wet as if dipped in angel tears. The sun was up in the clear blue sky, fighting to drink up the dampness clinging in the air, specks of its warm rays illuminating the fallen trees littering our path. A brisk freshness lingered in the air.

We took the bend to arrive at the berm in between two isolated outcrops. The water lay motionless, as if dead, no ripples dancing on its surface. I looked in dismay at the dark murky color which lay beneath, as if the water was stirred on purpose to hide its deepest secrets. It would be wrong to say I found any of this beckoning. This was not how I’d imagined taking my bath, I took off my shoes and walked to the lake to test its coldness. I withdrew my toe as if burned, the chilled water taking my breath away.

“Here,” said Clarence, handing me an ingot of brown soap. “We make this from the Acacia tree in case you’ve forgotten, it’s really good,” she explained.

“Thanks, will you turn around please?” I asked her before I took off my clothes and dipped in the lake naked. I’m sure even the Drakons must have heard my shrill cry when the water first brushed my skin and its chilly arms enveloped me, sending a cold shiver up my spine. With shaking hands, I rubbed the soap around my body, and my face, lathering my hair in quick motions before once more dipping down the lake in one courageous move.

I heard a voice deep down the lake. “Sierra, come to me,” she summoned me. “I’m waiting for you to find me.”

What was that? That surely hadn’t sounded like Grandma, her voice was thick and strong. I lifted my head to the surface above the water. “Did you say something?” I asked Clare, but she shook her head. Had I dreamed that, but I couldn’t take any chances. I dived once more, hoping to hear the voice, anything that would give me clues on my secret mission. But there was nothing this time, but pure blackness all around me, no sounds except for the silent waves my arms made as I frantically searched for anybody. When I ran out of breath, I rose to the surface, and swam in large strokes to get out.

There was nothing to dry my body with, and the slight breeze gave me goosebumps as it hit my wet skin. I shivered like a shaking leaf as I put on my clothes. The soap was still clutched in my hand, and I gave it to her, whatever was left of it anyways.

“Did you hear anything while I was in the water?” I asked Clare on the way back.

“No, why, did you?” she asked, curiously.

“I thought I heard someone,” I said.

“Perhaps you should rest a bit? You might have overexerted yourself,” she said, smiling.

“Perhaps,” I replied, although I remained highly skeptical.

Payal had started the training session early, as we saw people lined up with a gun in their hands, loading and unloading the gun over and over again under her cold command. When she looked at me, her eyes illuminating a deep hatred beneath, I knew auditing her session was not an option. I had no other choice but to ask Baran to train me. He’d done it before. He could do it again.

Mina came running from inside, “So Sierra? Are you back with Baran?” she asked loudly, her eyes searching for Payal. Her voice was too loud for my liking, but I guess she was making a point on my behalf, just like a good loyal friend.

“No.” I said.

“But, I thought…I mean when I couldn’t find you in bed in the bunker...” she said.

“I needed some fresh air, I slept outside.”

“Wow, and I’d thought you two had made up,” she said.

“It’s okay, we are doing better. Actually, did you see Baran?” I asked.

“Yes, he’s inside.”

I went inside to find him. He was talking to Dietrich who still gave me the creeps. Baran saw me, and immediately drew me to his chest, kissing me lightly on the head. “The boys are getting ready for another fighting session at night. We were just talking about the last few points of the plan. I’ll join them tonight, but you should rest,” he said.

Wow, fighting was real in this world, and eventually I was expected to be part of it.

With Dietrich’s departure I asked,” Baran I feel like I’ve forgotten everything, I mean about myself, about what I can do. And, I’m afraid, if I’m being honest, because I feel like I don’t know anything. I’m not sure I know even how to fight. Would you mind teaching me everything from scratch?”

He looked at me, his expression puzzled, but tender. “I’m sure it’s all in there,” he said, his finger tapping lightly on my head. “But, if it’ll make you feel better, we’ll do exactly that. When do you want to start?” he asked.

Unlike him, I was sure nothing was there.

“Now would be a good time,” I said. I didn’t know how much time I had in fulfilling the mission, whatever it was, but I’d best be prepared. “Payal is out there, training the others, but I believe she doesn’t like me much,” I said, smiling.

“Yes, that would be the case,” he said. “We’ll have our own training session, you and me alone. I’ll like that, just like the old times,” he said, taking my hand and heading for outside.

He took a gun, a target mat and some bullets from the storage, and followed a path that led away from the clearing where everybody was. We came to a small opening, he placed the target mat somewhere far away and placed the gun in my hand. He came from behind me, I could feel the warmth of his body perfectly aligned with my body from behind. He showed me how to place my middle finger on the trigger, and pull it slowly and gradually, releasing the sear.

“The pull has to be smooth, your hand steady and you need to focus on the target and target alone,” he instructed, chuckling. He had unnerved me, and he knew it. “Try it,” he said. “You were our best shooter.”

Oh, yeah? Watch me now, I wanted to say. I pulled the trigger, heard the loud bang and saw the bullet fly through the air. We walked to the target mat, and what I saw was so beyond comprehension that I was frozen. My shot had made a nice little hole on the target mat alright, which was amazing in itself, but what was shocking was that it had pierced the mat perfectly in the middle, right in the bull’s eye.

“I told you so, it’s all in your head honey,” Baran said with mirth.

Holy crap! How was that possible? I pulled the trigger once more to show that it’d all been accidental, nothing more than a lucky win. The bullet sped to end up in exactly the same place, not even making a larger hole in the target mat.

“I can shoot, I’m one hell of a shooter, I’m the best,” I hollered, dancing to the notes of a silent music. I could not believe it, somehow, I could shoot. And, I did it pretty well. What else could I do, I wondered.

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