A Vision of Death
The Sunday afternoon sun shone bright and hot. Thankfully there was a decent breeze to offset this. Sam used her hand to shield her eyes as she looked up at the sky. “Thank God we’re gonna be walking under trees most of the way, otherwise that sun would be a bitch.”
“No kidding,” Morgan agreed.
Matthias and Diana rolled up in their green minivan. “Ready to go girls?” Matthias asked.
“You bet, Dad.” Sam said cheerfully.
Diana and Matthias then looked quizzically at the backpacks the three younger women had at their feet. “Where are your suitcases?” Diana asked.
“Um, Mom? Wouldn’t suitcases be a little problematic for hiking?” Sam asked with raised eyebrows.
Diana looked confused for a moment before laughing. “You mean you thought…? Oh geez. I guess I should've explained better. We have a hidden road. We’re gonna be driving the whole way.”
Sam’s hand promptly went to her forehead. “You coulda said that sooner, Mom.”
“Well, let’s load these in the van, then we can pack some more stuff,” Tia said.
Sam walked over to her mother. “Mom, is it okay if I bring the fuzz butts?” she asked hopefully.
Diana frowned in thought. “Yeah, I suppose we can. But we’ll hafta have a new cage built. We don’t have room in the van for their current one.”
“I gotta call Lynds and tell her she won’t need ta take care of ‘em, then I’m gonna go get ‘em and we’ll get the rest of our stuff. Be right back,” Sam said, giving her mom a quick hug.
Twenty minutes later everyone was seated in the van. Sam had a pet carrier on her lap, with Rachel and Winter sleeping soundly inside. Matthias turned to his wife. “All set, love.”
Diana nodded. “Okie dokie,” she said with a smile as she put the van into drive.
As they pulled away from the house Sam’s heart began beating fast. She was nervous and excited at the same time. “How long will it take to get there?”
“About four or five hours, depending on traffic,” Matthias answered.
“Ick,” Sam said. “Thank God I brought my DSI.” She reached into her backpack and brought our the portable gaming device.
Four and a half hours into the trip Diana turned off the highway onto a barely noticeable dirt road. In fact Sam doubted anyone would find it unless they were looking for it. She watched out the window as the forest closed in around them. The road wasn't very well kept so the drive was a little bumpy, making her already nervous stomach a little nauseous. “Uff. Are we gonna be on this road long? My stomach is not loving it.”
“Not too much longer, kiddo,” Matthias replied. “About another twenty minutes.”
Sam groaned and closed her eyes, hoping the action would quell her nausea. Thankfully for her stomach it wasn’t long before she felt the van stop. She sat up straight and looked around. The road seemed to have ended and in front of them was a sheer cliff wall that had to be at least eighty feet tall. The only thing that indicated any amount of civilization was what looked like a small ranger station to the left of the road. “Mom? Where’d the road go?”
“You’ll see. Stay here. I’ll be right back,” Diana said with a grin as she got out of the van. She disappeared into the station for a few minutes before coming back with a concerned look on her face. She walked over to the front passenger door and opened it. “Matt, something’s wrong. There’s no one at the station.”
Matthias’ face quickly mirrored his wife’s. “What? Are you sure?”
Diana nodded. “I looked everywhere.”
Matthias got out of the van. “Let’s look around back. They might be patrolling.”
“Should we help?” Tia asked.
Matthias' expression was serious. “You three stay put.”
The three friends sighed in reluctant obedience and waited for Diana and Matthias to return. They didn’t have to wait long, however, as about six seconds later they saw a huge Kodiak bear lumber into view. It was only twenty feet away from Sam’s parents.
“MOM! DAD!” Sam shrieked as she saw the bear head toward them. She and her sisters quickly got out of the van just as the great beast reared up and let out a deafening, mighty roar.
Matthias noticed the girls get out of the van. “GET BACK INSIDE!” he screamed.
Tia and Morgan obeyed, but Sam just couldn’t leave her parents to face that bear alone. As soon as she reached them she saw her mother’s expression grow confused and then switch to deep annoyance.
Diana sighed heavily. “Matt, it’s the guard.”
Matthias let out a gurgling growl of irritation. “It’s alright girls. You can come out.”
Sam’s expression was incredulous. “How can it be alright?!”
Diana walked right up to the bear and Matthias had to hold Sam back. “Trust her. That’s not a real bear.”
Sam looked from her father to the beast. “What?”
Diana reached into her purse and held up what must have been an ID card of some kind. “We’re Atlantian. You can drop the illusion.”
The bear abruptly stopped roaring and a moment later it faded away to leave a man about Sam's age. He looked like he was at least part Asian but he had the Atlantian skin tone. He was five foot eight, had dark brown hair very similar in style to Matthias, forest green eyes, a light tan, and wore a pea green forest ranger uniform. “How did you know I wasn’t a bear?” he asked, his tone disappointed.
“Well for one, you hide your thoughts about as well as a first semester psi student, and two, bears don’t have green eyes, genius,” Diana answered sharply as she pointed at his eyes. The guard looked embarrassed at his mistake. “Why were you being a bear in the first place?”
“Truthfully? I was bored. The forest ranger ruse gets old after a while,” the guard said offhandedly.
“You’re supposed to turn people away. Not scare them half to death,” Matthias complained angrily.
“Sorry. Um, would you like to sit in the station while I scan your IDs for the gate operator?” the guard asked.
“Thank you. My name is Diana Harris, this is my husband Matthias, and my daughter Alexis. The other two ladies here are her friends, Morgan and Tia. They’re not Atlantian so I need you to make them some visitor’s passes,” Diana said.
“I’ll have to send a request to my supervisor first,” the guard said.
Diana smiled. “Trust me, kid. I outrank your supervisor. Take a closer look at my ID.”
The guard did as he was told and very quickly his eyes widened and the blood drained from his face. “I...R-right away, your Majesty. Uh, p-please make yourself comfortable,” he said, gesturing toward the ranger station.
“And please make sure the gate operator keeps our return a secret. I would prefer to not deal with crowds on my first day back,” Diana said.
“Yes, Ma’am,” the guard replied nervously.
As they all walked toward the station Sam jogged a little to catch up to the guard. “You can relax. My mom doesn’t bite,” she said with a chuckle. The guard stopped walking and looked at her and her heart skipped a beat. Now that she had calmed down from the fake bear attack and gotten a good look at him she noticed that he was extremely handsome. His face had a soft look to it and he had the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen on a boy. He was just...beautiful. Not so beautiful as to be feminine, but he was definitely a pretty boy. Thanks to the short sleeves of his uniform she saw he also has some pretty well defined arms. It was very obvious he worked out. She barely heard him when he responded.
“Thanks,” the guard said, flashing a grateful smile that made the bottom drop out of her stomach. This guy was hotter than a volcano.
“You’re welcome,” Sam said a little awkwardly, trying desperately to keep her cool.
"My name's Yuji," the guard said, offering his hand.
Sam happily grabbed his hand to shake it but was instantly hit with another vision as powerful as the one she had experienced at the karate dojo. In her vision Yuji, looking to be the same age as he currently was, was lying on the ground near a large tree, his chest covered in blood and his eyes were closed. She was kneeling on the ground next to him, crying and desperately removing his shirt by ripping it to get a closer look at the damage. Once the shirt was gone her eyes widened in horror at the gaping wound that met her eyes. She checked for a pulse and when she found none she screamed his name.
The vision ended and Sam’s legs went out from under her as she began to fall. Yuji caught her. “Are you okay?” he asked.
Sam regained her senses just in time to answer him before her silence betrayed a much more complicated answer. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just a little anemic right now,” she said as she stood straight.
“Oh. Well let me help you to the station,” Yuji said.
“It’s okay. I can walk,” Sam said quickly while waving him off.
“You sure?” Yuji asked skeptically.
Under normal circumstances Sam would have been flattered by his chivalry, especially considering how cute he was, but right then she just wanted to get away from the person who had been the cause of the nightmare she had just witnessed.
She walked into the building several paces ahead of Yuji and joined Tia on one of the sand colored couches in the main room of the station. The walls were all natural wood. There was a door on the wall to the right of the front door leading to a small office and another door leading to a restroom on the opposite wall.
Tia gave Sam a concerned look. “You okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, why?” Sam answered as she sat up straighter and threw on a smile.
“You just looked...upset about something.”
Sam waved her off. “I’m fine. Just still a little rattled by the whole bear thing.”
“Okay,” Tia said slowly, looking unconvinced.
Yuji walked in and Sam immediately stood up. “I hafta go to the bathroom,” she said quickly.
Yuji pointed her in the right direction. “Over there.”
“Thanks,” Sam said. She quick-walked into the room and shut the door.
Morgan gave Tia a look. “What’s with her?” she asked quietly.
Tia frowned. “I’m not sure.”
Sam waited a few moments, then flushed the toilet so as not to blow her cover then put her palms on the edge of the sink and leaned in, staring at the mirror. She had just met Yuji that day, but that vision let her know that they were meant to get very close. Becoming close to someone and then having them die was bad enough but to become close to someone and all the while knowing they were going to die soon.... Well, that was just something she refused to go through. “No...I won’t do it. I’ll just hafta stay away from him,” she said quietly to herself.
Sam had been in the bathroom nearly fifteen minutes and she had flushed ten minutes ago. Morgan decided she’d better check on her sister. She knocked on the bathroom door as Yuji came out of the office with the completed paperwork. “Sis? You okay in there?”
“I’m fine,” answered Sam’s voice from behind the door.
“Okay,” Morgan said before sitting back down on the couch.
Yuji looked confused. “ ‘Sis’? But I thought you weren’t Atlantian,” he said to Morgan.
Morgan smiled at this. “We’re not blood sisters. Me, Sam and Tia adopted each other a few years ago. We’re sisters in all the ways that count.”
Yuji smiled widely. “Oh, cool.” He noticed the printer had completed its task, took the papers from it and handed them to Diana. “You’re all set, your Majesty. As soon as you get back in your vehicle I can open the gate,” he said with a slight bow of his head.
“Thank you,” Diana said.
Matthias stood up from his position on a small armchair and turned to his wife. “Well, let’s get going then,” he said, as he walked over to her and offered her his hand. She took it and let him pull her to her feet.
Tia walked over to the bathroom and knocked on the door. “Sam? It’s time to go.”
“I’ll be right out,” Sam answered. There were sounds of hands being washed and then the door opened. “Ready.”
“What were you doing in there so long?” Tia asked.
Sam made a disgusted face. “You don’t wanna know.”
Tia raised her eyebrows slightly. “Okay. But if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were hiding out.”
Sam chuckled to throw off suspicion. “You’re thinking too much. Let’s go.”
Tia frowned as she watched her sister head toward the door. She wasn’t convinced at all that Sam had been telling the truth but decided to let it drop for now. The day already promised to be very busy. There was little time for such minor matters.