Waking Other Lives

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Chapter 29: The Sentence

“What do you mean?” I stammered. He put me softly on the floor and then approached one of the guards.

“See you Sierra,” he said, as if he was departing and then bumped into the guard. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said to the guard, holding his arm as if to steady himself. I barely caught the syringe in his hand, which was soon injected to the guard’s arm. His eyes enlarged in shock, and he struggled to free himself from Baran’s grip, but Baran held him immobile. The other guard was not even able to understand what was happening as Baran prevented the sedated guard from falling down. It was the sound of the falling gun on the floor which eventually alerted him. By then, it was too late. Mina had already appeared from nowhere to engage him. They had it well under control, I didn’t even bother helping, but just watched it as if it was a movie scene unfolding before me.

“Mina, no gunshots,” Baran ordered, as he circled the guard from behind. The guard attacked Mina thinking she’d be the easy one to conquer. But, Mina dodged his advances easily, and before the guard could steady himself, Baran hit him hard on the head with the gun. He toppled on the floor but was still conscious. He got on one knee, trying to get up, waving the gun in his hand threateningly. He just couldn’t coordinate his actions to pull the trigger, the growing lump on his head an indication he was not himself. It was the second step, the injection, which eventually rendered him still on the floor.

“C’mon girl, we’re getting the hell out of this shit hole,” Mina said, blowing me a kiss in the air.

“How did you get the syringes and the guns?” I asked, in shock as I followed them out.

“We’ve had some help,” Baran said.

“Who?”

“Me,” said Elvan who emerged out of the corner. “There are no guards around. The road to the opening of the hatch is clear. Let’s go,” she said, throwing me a gun, as she kept looking around cautiously.

I barely caught it, and held it firm in my hand. Then it all rushed to me, a myriad of emotions from sadness, to that of disappointment, fear, uncertainty and heartbreak. I was getting out of here with mixed feelings, I was so moved to see all these people whom I knew so little, take such risks, face treason, and a death sentence just like mine should they be captured, only to get me out. But, the pain of being deserted by Seth, the one person to whom I’d declared my love, the only one who held my heart, was devastating and though I pushed those thoughts and emotions aside, for the time being, I knew they would not remain suppressed for long. We ran to the opening of the hatch without encountering anyone and were soon out of the tunnel. The fresh air which brushed my face outside was an indication of a new beginning. I took in deep breaths as if to remind myself that I was out and I was very much alive. People were rarely granted a second chance at life, and now that I had averted death, I would push everything else aside and focus on my mission.

“What about your Andra?” I asked Baran. “Aren’t they coming?”

“No,” he said, and I could detect the sadness in his tone. “They would slow us down, and we need to erase our tracks. A small and loyal group is what we need, and that’s exactly what we have,” he explained. He’d abandoned his men, sacrificed his leadership status, just to help me escape, and I felt a deep gratitude wash over me, the feeling almost strong enough to bury the wrongs of the past.

“Where are we going?” I asked Baran.

“Far, far away from here,” he said. “We could seek refuge in rebel unit 3, or we can simply join Haley. I know her, she’d be too happy to have us.”

“I need to get close to the Palace.”

“Are you nuts Sierra? Do you want us to hand ourselves to the Drakons on a golden tray? And no, in case you are wondering, we are so not going to be betraying our cause by collaborating with the Drakons, no matter how much I hate that asshole’s guts, and this unit altogether,” he said. “No offense,” he added by turning to Elvan. The asshole he meant was obviously Seth. And, now I knew Seth had never been part of Baran’s unit, the hate between the two made perfect sense, though I had difficulty understanding their rivalry over me. After all, in all actuality, I’d been loved and betrayed by both, what did that say about the superficiality of their feelings towards me?

“None taken. Is that where you need to go for the mission?” Elvan asked me.

I nodded.

Mina gave a small nod, too. “I’m in,” she said.

“The majority rules,” Elvan said. “That’s where we are heading.”

“What’s going on in here? You guys may be suicidal, but I’m not having my girl killed.”

“Can we move, and then discuss this?” Mina asked. “We are still very much standing outside the hatch, in case you have forgotten.”

“Right,” Baran said, as he started running.

We ran as fast as we could over the dirt, roots and fallen branches. Though the moon was in its full bloom, it was barely providing sufficient light in the darkness. The breeze which had gained speed was singing in the treetops, its sharp whistle flitting from tree to tree, as if conveying a secret message. Thin branches, clad in dark leaves slapping against one another, billowed with the hissing breeze, rustling, swaying, and cutting our paths as if they sought to seize us like precious cargo. The earth smelled raw, sweet and pungent. After an hour of this strenuous tempo, we finally sat down on a log, out of breath, yet content, somehow. None of us could find the breath to speak, not as of yet. It was Baran who finally ended the silence.

“Now, I’m all ears,” he said. “Perhaps you’d care to tell me what the heck is going on?”

Before I could say anything, we heard the sound of a twig snapping in the bushes right behind us, and Baran got up slowly, putting his finger to his lips and we immediately hushed. He went around the bushes, and all we heard was the gasp and the unmistakable sound of a body falling on the hard ground with a thud.

“Ouch, stop it,” a voice said. “You are hurting me.”

“That’s the whole damn purpose, kiddo. Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here, lurking in the shadows?” Baran shouted.

“I’m following Sierra,” I heard him say, and the voice sounded so familiar, despite being muffled by the wind. The puzzle was soon solved as Baran emerged out of the bushes holding Travis by his collar.

“What is she to you, child?” Baran, asked.

“I’m no child, I’ll have you know,” he yelled. Out of all that was going on in here, my little bro cared about his tattered ego. It was just like old Travis, and somethings never changed, it seemed.

“He is my brother, Baran,” I said, almost feeling happy that he’d been crazy enough to follow me. Now that Elvan was here, who’d have taken care of him? “Did you follow us? How did you know?” I asked.

“You don’t have a brother Sierra,” Baran said, surprised.

“I heard when they were talking, he and...” Travis said, but couldn’t finish his sentence as his head became the target of Baran’s striking hand, which was not too hard, but still held a warning message.

“So, you were hiding when we were hatching the plan, and you thought that it was wise at your age and with your meager skills to join this extremely dangerous expedition,” he said in a tone which brought Travis’ silence. “Who are you one more time?” he asked.

“He’s my brother, Baran,” I said. When he was about to object once more, I waved my hand dismissively and explained, ” Yes, you didn’t know, but that does not change the facts.”

“It is extremely dangerous for him to be here with us, Sierra,” Baran reminded me.

“I know, but he came this far, and how safe will he be back in there without me?”

“I can’t protect him, you are my priority and all he will do is endanger us,” Baran reasoned one more time.

“I don’t need your protection Baran, and I will protect my brother, as I’ve always done,” I said.

“Fine, he stays,” he said finally giving up. ” Though it seems, I will protect you both, and that’s that. You’ve always been too stubborn for your own good.”

“Thanks,” I muttered. Though I could certainly protect myself and my brother, it was good to know somebody cared at this point.

“And, since we settled that, would you please tell me why we are heading towards the Palace, the last place we should set foot in?”

“We are not really going to the Palace, rather we are heading towards a place near the Palace,” I explained.

“Which is where exactly?” he insisted.

“Uhm, well I’m not sure as of yet, but I will know better as I get closer to it,” I said, using caution in revealing too much.

“What’s going on Sierra, you know you can trust me,” he said. “I would do anything to protect you, you know that, don’t you? Why do I feel I’m the only one who’s excluded from your secret here?”

“That’s not true, I know nothing, too,” added Travis.

I just didn’t know whom to trust anymore. “Look, I don’t know much, too. I just get these visions, that I need to go to this place to do something, and I feel it’s important.”

“You mean you hallucinate?” Travis asked, in his usual irritating way. “They have medicine for such things sis.”

“No, it’s not a hallucination,” I said. “Look, none of you have to follow me, but I have to do this. It’s important to me.”

“Is there any way I can convince you not to do this Sierra?” Baran asked.

“No,” I replied shortly.

“Okay, then we don’t have much choice, do we, but to go where you want to go, and be done with it as soon as possible,” Baran said. “Now, let’s get some sleep.”

“Thanks,” I said, rewarding him with one of my sincerest smiles.

When he tried to spoon behind me, I stopped him. “No, not now, I’m sorry.”

The frustration on his face was for the world to see, still, he got up. “Sierra, I am not stupid, I can see something happened between you and that asshole while I was gone. But, I want you to know, I’m willing to put all that behind me, if only...” he whispered. “If only, you are willing to do so, too,” he said. “I love you, Sierra. And, this distance between us is killing me. I don’t know even know how we’ve arrived at this point. At one point, everything was perfect between us, and the next thing I know, you were pushing me away. Talk to me, baby, tell me what’s going on.”

“I am sorry, Baran,” was all I could say to him. “I need some time, that’s it.”

How could I explain to him, what I hardly knew or understood myself? Despite, being heartbroken, and betrayed, I still loved Seth. My heart rebelled against what my brain advised, and though Baran had acted like a perfect gentleman so far, the memory of him killing us was still carved vividly in my brain. I closed my eyes, hoping sleep would overcome me, and put an end to all these disturbing thoughts.

“I’ll take the first watch,” Elvan said.

It was way past midnight when Mina woke me up, “It’s your turn,” she said. I blinked my eyes a few times, scrubbed my face with both hands, trying to wipe away the remnants of sleep. The night was slowly leaving its place to the morning, and thankfully the breeze had died away. The night had been cold and had it not been for my mental and psychological exhaustion pending my expected death, I would not have slept at all. My skin felt icy cold to the touch, and it was sheet white as if all the blood had deserted me. I looked at the sky, too eager for the sun rays to kiss my face. I closed my eyes, drinking in the warmth when the first lights of dawn finally flooded the sky. The sky was the bluest blue, and the wilderness was painted in gradations of green all around us, while an amber glow danced around the lush trees as they flirted with the sun.

“Sierra, come to me,” I heard in the wilderness. I looked around to find the still forms of my friends, and my brother huddled close to one another. The soft snores of a travel weary Travis were the only sounds emitted from the ground where they all lay. I heard the voice again, and I rose up slowly as if in hypnosis. The magical voice spurred me on, my feet taking one step after another, my will no longer my own. I walked as if in a trance until I came to the source of the voice. In front of me stood a lake which lay still, calm yet eerie in all that it stood for, its mysteries and riddles craftily veiled beneath the beautiful water.

“My dear, come to me,” the siren called to me. I felt the first embrace of the cold water on my skin, it was painful, it was shocking, yet I couldn’t even gasp. All I could do was go forward, letting the water wrap around my body as I immersed myself deeper and deeper into it despite the shaking of my body like a leaf. I was helpless in putting a stop to this torture, I was played like a pawn in a game I didn’t know. One step at a time, I moved on. Despite watching in horror the water rise above my nose, I was helpless to go back.

“Come, Sierra. Don’t be afraid,” the voice said. A few minutes later, when the remnants of the breath I’d been holding left me, I knew I was dying. It was then that I saw her, her back was to me, her slim and graceful body covered in silks, her beautiful blonde hair dancing in waves around her.

“Breathe, Sierra. Or you’ll die,” she said.

Was she nuts, I had no air to breathe...I felt my face go purple, my body struggled to rise above the water, but the force that kept me there was strong, non-human, and merciless.

“Breathe, Sierra,” she said, her voice soothing, calm as if she was telling me to do a routine thing like drink water. “Breathe, or you’ll die,” she warned me.

What frigging choice did I have? I let go of any sanity, and did what she instructed me to do. I breathed in the water, in fact, breathed in large doses of it, as if I couldn’t get enough of it. And, everything was suddenly all right. My lungs expanded as if they were getting oxygen, my heart beat turned to its normal tempo, and the panic which had held me in its grip a few seconds ago departed as if this had all been part of my imagination. How the heck was that possible?

“Great,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for you for a very long time,” she told me and turned around.

It would be an understatement to say I was shocked. No, words certainly could not describe the state of my emotions when I saw her face. Nothing could.

“Abby...” I cried out. “How is this possible?”

“Long time, long see Sierra,” she said. My friend not only was here, breathing under the lake as if she was the queen of water, not to mention possessing the ability to control my body, but she happened to know exactly who I was. Unlike Payal, Seth or Baran, she remembered both who I was, and who she was. It seemed, she remembered it all.

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