I could see it. At first it was clear, close. Just like in the pictures I’d seen on the Internet. I could see clouds soaring over masses of green continents and the endlessly navy blue seas, the snow white ice caps, the sunlight reflected on the seemingly calm waters. It was breathtaking. But then, in an instant, the clouds got less distinguishable. Everything was blurry. The whole globe shrunk, becoming a small ball of swirling blueness. Soon enough, it was impossible to tell it apart from all the stars soaring by. The stars themselves came closer and closer together. They’d melded into a single, all-encompassing light. I felt tears run down my cheeks. At least, I thought I did. Why? Ellie was with me, I could feel her hand, its reassuring warmth. There was no need for tears. I was doing the right thing. There was no other way…
I lost track of time. I don’t even know if it’s been weeks or months since I found out. They say ignorance is bliss – I’m still not sure how I feel about that. Up until that point I’d lived a normal life and now I was leaving all of it behind. Not that there was much to leave behind. My sister was with me. And that was it. There was no one else that would miss me. And now there was no turning back. I no longer had a chance to change that.
That day seemed to be just like any other. I doing my part of closing up the game shop just like I did every day. I had to hurry if I wanted to catch the monorail home. As usual, Josh volunteered to help me so that I can make it in time. He was a really sweet guy. Tall, dark-haired and blue-eyed, he was really good-looking, if a bit awkward. I think I was in love with him. There were days when I would hope that what we had could one day develop into something more. At other times, the same thought would fill me with dread.
“You think you’re gonna be free this Saturday?” he asked me as he placed a large box full of collectible cards on top of a huge shelf. “I was thinking we could grab some coffee or something.”
“Oh, sure!” I exclaimed in a pitch that was way too high. I almost made him lose his balance. “I’d love to. I just hope Ellie doesn’t burn the house down. You know how she is.”
“Well, in that case, how about we take a bike ride out of town?” he hopped down the ladder. “I mean, the three of us. You know Ellie and I get along pretty well.”
“Oh, don’t be fooled,” I grinned. “I’m pretty sure that’s just your opinion.”
“Oh come on…” he said. Even though he kept smiling his cat smile, I could see the disappointment in his eyes. I gave him a peck on the cheek.
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said as I turned around and gave him one last wink. “Last night was pretty amazing, by the way. I hope we can do that again someday. And thanks for taking care of my stuff!”
As the door closed behind me, I heard the sound of boxes falling on the floor. I was just about to check if Josh was okay, but then I heard him swear under his nose. He was fine. I took a look at my phone – time was running out. I ran down the back alley into the main street. The orderly rows of cars rushed by. The sky was orange, lights from the glass buildings making it seem dimmer than it actually was. As I passed a television store, I noticed a broadcast of President Nguyen. She was giving some sort of important speech, but I didn’t have the time to stop and watch. I looked at the skyline behind me – the monorail was already coming my way. I ran all the way to the station.
The hall blinded me with its pristine whiteness. I passed by a couple of people checking the interactive timetables, rows of others waiting patiently for their turn. Squeezing by them was quite a feat, but I finally reached the gate. I flashed my card in front of the sensor and hurried to my platform. Perfect. The monorail had just stopped at the station and the doors opened with a soft swoosh. A couple of people exited the tram, a couple more entered it. The doors would soon close, I picked up the pace. And then everything turned upside down, my knee scratched the surface of the even floor, and I lay sprawled on the cold ground. There was no way I could make it in time. I heard someone run past me, yelling “hey”. I lifted myself up and saw a man holding the door of the monorail for me.
“Come quickly, you can still make it,” he called out to me in a deep voice. His accent seemed funny. I had no time to question it, so I quickly grabbed all my stuff and entered the train.
“Thank you so, so much,” I heaved.
“It was my pleasure,” he said with a slight bow. His accent sounded perfectly British. There was something too perfect about it, though, and something too rough about the “r”s. He must have been a foreigner, though I couldn’t pinpoint where he came from. As he lifted his head, I noticed that he was much older than me. He could have been around sixty or seventy, though the way he’d run past me did not indicate that. He looked at me with piercing, cold blue eyes from behind his delicately framed glasses. Those elegant specs, expensive-looking coat and neatly trimmed, mid-length, graying blonde hair and goatee indicated I was dealing with a man of supreme wealth and taste. “Are you not hurt?”
“I think I just scraped a knee,” I said brushing some of my cropped hair out of my ear, where it had tangled itself so bad it was starting to itch. The man just stared at me, a crooked smile on his face. There was something off about him, though I have to admit, he had a certain allure about him for someone his age. I decided to break the silence and extended a hand towards him. “I’m Angela, by the way.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Angela,” he said as he shook my hand. His grip was firm, but there was a strange gentleness about it. Then, just for an instant, I felt nauseous. The feeling quickly went away, thankfully. “My name is Sergei. I am glad I could be of help. Now, if you could only tell me which monorail I can take to get back to where I was, I would consider the favor returned.”
“You mean you helped me even though you weren’t even taking this train home?” he nodded. I suddenly felt really ashamed of myself. “Well, why did you help me then? You really didn’t have to make the effort.”
“You would be left stranded there at the station, wouldn’t you? The next monorail doesn’t come for another hour at this time of day, correct?”
He was correct. But if he knew the monorail schedule, why did he need me to tell him how to get back? I suddenly felt somehow unnerved by his presence. His narrow eyes and cat grin made me feel as if my soul had been laid bare in front of him. I told him how he could get back and he mercifully got off at the next stop. Still, he felt the need to finish it off with “I am glad we met today, Angela. I wish you a safe journey.”