Chapter 14: We Meet Again
I tagged behind Baran, thinking this was it. There was no way I was going to come out of this attack alive. What would happen to the three of us, if I died in here, without completing the mission? Would we be in a perpetual state of sleep like the Snow White and the Sleeping Beauty in the stories? Were we actually in a coma back at home? Would they cut us off from life support at some point, allowing us to die? I had no answers.
The weapons storage reeked of confusion, rattled nerves, and panic. The Andra were all trying to arm themselves at the same time, too many hands reaching, touching, grabbing weapons from shelves, accompanied by the sound of falling weapons, and collision of hands, bodies trying to outbid one another. The disarray continued for a few minutes, after which Baran decided to put a stop to it. His yell cut through the room like a sharp knife.
“All of you, stop it. We are going to get guns, but you all have to be in a line. I understand your panic, but we are fighters, we are prepared for a surprise attack, even if we’d never had one before. We can do this, you know it, I know it, the Drakons know it. That’s why they are here trying to catch us unawares. But, we are not going to give them what they desire tonight. We are going to come out of this as the victors. We are going to make sure there is no Drakon left to roam this earth, there is no Drakon left to attack any human because of his madness, because he simply can. And, we are going to make sure there is no Drakon left to take away what is rightfully ours. This world belongs to us, and we’ll take it from them, and it will start right here, right this moment.”
Wow, he had me convinced. That was a great speech, I had to admit. Even, Prof. Martinek would have been impressed.
His words worked like a charm in calming people, and bringing order to the chaos that had ruled before. Within minutes everybody was fully armed, and standing ready for Baran’s command.
“You know the drill, let’s go get them. If this place falls, those of us who have survived will meet in the next rebel unit, and I believe, you all know where that is.”
I had no clue about the meeting place. Where would I go? It’d be best not to lose Baran in any case. I got the same gun Baran used in my training session, I was not taking any chances with the talents, yet unbeknownst to me. “What about the ones in the bunker?” I asked. “What will happen to them if we fail to stop the Drakons?”
Apparently that was a no-no question, one of those questions that nobody would dare ask. There was a complete silence which ensued in its aftermath. I saw Baran’s face, which was now, creased with regret and sadness. “They’ll do their best to keep their presence secret. Meanwhile, we’re hoping the Drakons will instead chase us”.
Everybody nodded as if that was a fact. It seemed to me as if they were just fooling themselves.
Outside was eerily calm, there was a ghostly and profound silence, and the air, which was thick, heavy, and oppressive, hanged over us in a deathlike grip as if signaling the impending doom. The dragons painting the blue sky in their jubilant colors, had spread their wings, flapping them in a silent crescendo. Right across us stood the palace guards who’d opted to remain in their human form, their purple and green uniforms providing the only clue to their identity and allegiance. The Andra stood just outside the warehouse, waiting for Baran’s signal, their bodies tense like a coiled spring. The adrenaline pumped wildly through me, prompted by bottomless fear and horror.
The battle started in the flick of a second. One second, we were standing and observing the Drakons, in the next we were running towards the enemy, managing to fire one shot before we found ourselves engaging in close combat. Legs were kicking, punches flying, elbows jabbing, all in an effort to bring the opponent down, to gain those few precious seconds, enough to make that one close shot. The few dragons in the air were not doing anything as of yet, just watching, observing. It was as if their role was to intimidate, spread fear, leaving the dirty work to those on the ground. Why were there even Drakons on the ground? Why weren’t they all attacking in dragon form? It made not one bit of sense to me. It was as if they were playing with us humans, treating us as weak, pathetic creatures.
I dodged a fast punch coming my way, I leaped to the right when the Drakon tried again. I had no idea how I knew what to do, but my instincts were guiding me. It was almost as if I was programmed to be an expert fighter, yet I didn’t remember it. Right at that moment, I hit him right in the chest and knocked him back a few steps. I rolled to my side, barely avoiding his kick. I did a leg sweep, knocking him down, and I launched myself into the air before he could even get up. He mimicked my move, but was much slower than me. I kicked him in the throat without giving him a break, making him suffocate for a few seconds. That was my moment, I knew it, yet I couldn’t bring myself to end his life, he looked exactly like a human. I just left him on the ground temporarily incapacitated. Then I heard somebody behind me take the action I dreaded, killing him right on the forehead, a torrent of blood gushing forth from his corpse.
“Good job, Sierra,” he said and moved on.
I tried to remind myself of Ella, of humans being hunted by the Drakons, but my dread of seeing him die did not listen to logic. I held my stomach, a wave of nausea was about to hit me. That was it for me, I was making random shots and just running, avoiding any body contact with the Drakons by diving right and left while keeping my legs moving. The motivation to leave all this behind was driving me forward.
I could see everything around me in razor sharp precision, to the tiniest detail. I saw one Andra stumble and fall down, her arms pinwheeling, her body plunging down headlong into the ground as if she was diving into waves. I saw the Drakon raise his gun, his finger curled on the trigger, the skin on his face stretched into a taut mask, the sound of the gunshot, then the slowly spreading shock on his face, the gun in his hand flying in air making several somersaults before hitting the ground with a loud thud, the Drakon’s knees bending, first shaking to hold his weight, then finally giving in, his body now lying on the ground, his eyes not moving. It took me some time to realize that the gunshot had come from me, not the Drakon, which is why death had claimed him instead of the girl. This time, I had killed the Drakon. It was me, who had ended a life this very minute. I didn’t even remember pulling the trigger, or even the moment I’d decided he had to die.
I ran and threw up behind the trees, I cared not that the battle was waging in full momentum, I cared not that I could die right here, right this moment. I had killed somebody, and I was surrounded by so many deaths, so much blood, that I wanted it all to end. I feared I crossed some line from which there was no return. Would my second kill be less painful, and third one even less so? Would I be completely apathetic by the time it was my sixth, or seventh? These whirling painful thoughts had numbed my senses and it was too late for precaution by the time I heard the click of a gun right behind me. I knew it even before I saw him. Why did the Drakons have guns anyway? Why didn’t they just use fire, or their dragon strength? It was so unfair that we, humans, had no advantage over them, none whatsoever. I could not believe it was these stupid thoughts which occupied my last few seconds, just before my expected death. No flashes of my life, my family, my friends or even Seth...I finally turned to see the eyes of the Drakon which held nothing but contempt, and raw cold hatred. But, before he meted out my punishment, I saw Seth emerge right behind him, and touch him on the shoulder after which the Drakon simply crumpled on the ground. It had taken a mere touch from Seth to bring him down, what kind of cool trick was that?
I heard Baran’s shout in the distance, “Retreat, we are retreating,” And, the battle suddenly turned into a game of cat and mouse as the Andra started running in different directions to outpace the Drakons who were chasing them. I hoped there were no Drakons left to search the bunker.
“C’mon, let’s go before they get us,” I said, nudging Seth. He had a moment of hesitation on his face, then he started running along with me. I didn’t know where we were going, I was just getting away from it all, I knew not whether we were chased or how close the Drakons were to us. We ran for what seemed like hours, using the lines of trees as a way to cover our tracks, but then I stopped, crouching on the ground, out of breath. Not even the devil could make me move anymore, this was it for me. I looked behind, thankfully there was no one, yet I also could see any Andra in the front, which meant that we had lost track of them, and where they were going.
“Here we meet again, Sierra,” said Seth. “I wonder why fate keeps throwing you my way, it must be a cruel joke.”
I was too emotional to speak. I was so happy to see him. I hugged him. He was timid at first, but then his arms wrapped around me. I felt so warm all over. Since his ultimate sacrifice, I’d kind of been obsessed with him.
“What were you doing? Do you have a death wish? You could have been killed, are you aware of that? You just don’t stand there like that waiting for a Drakon to get you,” Seth said, as he clumsily patted my hair.
“I’d just killed a Drakon, it was my first kill in life. I couldn’t cope. I know I told you I was an Andra, but I’m not, not really.”
“I see,” Seth said, closing is eyes in frustration. “This is fucking too complex,” he cursed, as he pushed me away.
“But, I’m very happy to see you, Seth. Aren’t you?” I asked. ” I was worried about you. What did you do, where did you go since the last time I saw you?”
" I was kinda wandering on my own, doing my own thing for a while,” he said.
“How come you ended up in the warehouse with us? I’m pretty sure I hadn’t seen you there before.”
“New recruit,” Seth muttered.
“I can’t believe you were there with me the whole time, I wish I’d known. It would have made things much easier for me.”
“Nothing could have made this easier Sierra. Believe me.” He sighed deeply. “But, tell me, for my own sanity, why were you out there fighting, knowing you were no Andra? This is not child’s play,” Seth lectured.
“I know, but everybody seems to think I’m one, and I have to do what I have to do to survive in this world,” I said. “I don’t see any other option really, there’s no safety anyway. Do you think the ones in the bunker, the kids, the old and the injured fared any better? Do you really believe the Drakons have let them be?”
“The ones in the bunker? Oh, yes, I would,” he chuckled. “Oh, what am I gonna do with you Sierra?” he said, now utterly serious.
“We need to find the next rebel unit. That’s where everybody’s headed towards, I wonder how many of the Andra made it.”
“You’d be surprised,” he said, as if he was party to some hidden knowledge.
We rested a bit, and then walked again until the night settled in.
“We need to camp somewhere here for the night,” I said. “I hope the dragonflies do not get us. Did you know they could kill? It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
He was dumbfounded. “No, the most bizarre thing unfortunately is that this was news to you. Where do you really hale from Sierra?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“I come from far, far away, as that’s what I think, as I do not exactly know where this place is in the universe.”
“And, how did you end up here?
“I died. So, did you, as you were with me at the time. You tried to save my life.”
“Holy shit, you are crazy insane,” he said, exasperated.
“I told you, you wouldn’t believe me,” I said, nevertheless, disappointed.
“Who would, for God’s sake?”
“I don’t know. Somebody should, as it is the damn truth. I have a mission to complete. Once the mission is fulfilled, I can go back.”
“And, what is this holy mission may I ask?”
“I believe it is to kill the Drakon prince.”
The shock on his face was telling. “Damn it, Sierra. This is all wrong. I’ll take you to your friends, and then I’m done,” he said raising his voice, as if to wash his hands of me.
“What do you mean you’re done? Nobody can be done in this stupid world, there is a war, in case you’ve forgotten,” I argued back, taking a step closer to him. His need to be free from me annoyed me.
“Believe me I know. But, I’ll be taking my leave,” he said, clenching his jaw. “I cannot, I will not stay with you.”
“Fine, leave then,” I retorted angrily. Then somehow I paused, as this scene looked so familiar, the trees around us, my hair swaying lightly in the breeze, the half moon in the sky, us arguing face to face in the wilderness. Was I having a deja vu? The memory then clicked. This was one of the scenes I had visualized when I’d ended up in Seth’s arms accidentally in the basketball court, just before he and Baran got into an argument. How could that be? How had I foreseen a scene yet to be lived in another world? It all had to do with Seth somehow, me ending up in here, my survival, the mission, I felt it all depended on him. I could feel it in my bones. I couldn’t let him get away, I wouldn’t.
“Yes” he said, having calmed down.
“Don’t go,” I said.
“We’ll see,” he sighed, giving up. “We’ll talk more in the morning, now we should get some rest,” Seth said, concluding the conversation.
“What about the dragonflies?” I asked remembering.
“They’ll not bother you.” His tone brokered no argument.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because I’ll be keeping them away from you,” he assured me.
How could he? But, it didn’t matter. Because somehow I believed him, I trusted him, even if logic defied his words. We stretched on the ground. The night was chilly, and it was impossible to fall asleep, I could literally feel my body shaking, and then, my teeth started to chatter. I heard a deep sigh behind me, and then I felt his body heat as his body spooned around mine, and his arms folded over me, shielding me from the cold. I felt so comforted, peaceful and secure for the first time since I’d ended up in Rawonia.
“Sleep now,” he said, kissing me lightly on the head. Payal would have had a heart attack if she’d seen us like this. Then I remembered, Payal in this world had a thing for Baran. Maybe it was for the better, I could enjoy Seth’s closeness without feeling bad about it. Oh, well, it was all so screwed up anyway. That was my last thought before I gave in to sleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night with the wind carrying the mysterious voice to my ears, her words crystal clear. “Sierra, come to me. Find me. Time is of the essence.”
I blinked several times to make sure the voice was not part of a dream. I got up, almost in a trance, following the source of the voice. I was helpless in resisting it, it drew me in, I felt like a collared dog, following its master pulling its leash. I walked until I came to a lake, just like the one at the rebel unit, the moon light shimmering on its surface. Despite the wind, the water was still, as if vehemently resisting any force or interference from outside. My legs carried me forward, one step at a time, until I found myself entering the chilly water. I could not break the hold the voice had over me as it commanded me to find her over and over again, as if part of a broken tape loop. The first time the cold water touched my skin, I wanted to scream, but nothing came out of my lips, it was as if my vocal chords didn’t work. When the water came to my chest, I wished to stop so badly, yet my body did not seem to belong to me anymore. The worst was when the water suddenly rushed above my head, and I still found myself going deeper and deeper in the water. I couldn’t breathe, and the voice refused to release me from its hold. I started feeling dizzy when I exhaled my last breath, my body became numb, it was as if I became part of the water, and my body was dissolving into it.
“Sierra, I was waiting for you,” said the voice just as somebody grabbed me and pulled me from the water. As the voice ebbed away, the coldness seeped back into me, and I felt the pain in my lungs. I was barely conscious as somebody carried me out of the lake. I coughed and spurted water as I felt hands pressing at my back. I breathed deeply, trying to take precious air to my oxygen deprived body.
“What the hell were you thinking, Sierra!” asked a wet and extremely enraged Seth. “I thought you were mad, but this goes beyond mad. Why were you trying to kill yourself in the lake in the middle of the night?”
I took another deep breath before I could utter, “I wasn’t. I can explain.”
“I’m dying to hear your explanation,” he said, crossing his arms across his heaving chest. His anger was a stealthy hunter lurking beneath his stony expression. I thought even the sun wouldn’t melt his statue like posture and expression. But his arms were suddenly around me, his hands rubbing up and down my back. His touch brought warm shivers down my body.
“Never do that again!” His voice was now softer.
I nodded. That’s all I could do.