It made no sense. Chance was right there, putting his shirt back on, his chest smooth, white and spotless. Not a single hole, not a stain of blood, even though yesterday night I saw him get punctured by real bullets. I saw him lose his balance as dark red splotches appeared on his bright red leather jacket. I saw my love die. And yet, here he was now. Unharmed, alive, my new fiancé. Though I couldn’t even get myself to celebrate the fact that he had popped the question. Words could not express how grateful I was that I hadn’t lost him after all, but I could still not calm down. There was the fact that Chance had gotten himself in some shady business, all for my sake. Then there were the gun wounds that seemingly healed themselves up. And then there was the vision we shared.
Chance’s shirt was still covered in blood, although the holes were gone and the stains were much smaller than I remembered. He put on his jacket and sat down next to me and turned his deep-set, dark brown eyes to me. His compassionate gaze would usually soothe me, no matter how bleak things would seem. Not this time, however. I put a hand on his cheek and stroked the scar above his left eye with my thumb. I gave the most genuine smile I could muster. But I could tell that wouldn’t work either. We both knew no looks, smiles, or kisses would save us from what we had to do. He grabbed my wrist and leaned in closer. His chinstrap beard tickled, but I soon stopped noticing it. The kiss we shared was long, deep, as if it was to be our last. Though it made me feel sad, in some strange way it reassured me that we would be okay. Once our lips parted, I brushed my fingers through his hair, through the prematurely white streak just above his forehead that stood out like a sore thumb against his regular dark brown shade.
“I think we need to find Angela now,” I said to him.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “I feel it too. We need to pay her a visit.”
“Do you have any clue as to what it is we’re supposed to do?”
“No.” He dropped his gaze to the floor. “But I don’t think anything’s going to be the same anymore.”
I knew that he was right. The thing we saw was out of this world, and whatever it was that we were supposed to do, things would be different for the whole world from now on. Surprisingly, a part of me was glad. And here I thought a medical career was what I really wanted.
“Let’s go see her then.” I grabbed his hand and stood up, pulling him up with me. “She was in the center of it all. Perhaps she knows something more.
Holding hands, never letting go, we made our way to the elevator. The warmth from his hand made me feel as if I was in another world, somehow suspended in an otherworldly moment, somewhere beyond time and space. The hum of the elevator seemed to be coming from miles away.
“Just so you know,” I said to Chance in a light tone. “No matter what happens, I hope you realize you’re not breaking off the engagement anytime soon. Even if aliens tell us marriage is wrong, I took a chance on Chance. Don’t you dare lose Hope.”
“I wouldn’t dare,” he chuckled and squeezed my hand tighter. I found myself feeling much better after that.
The people stood outside, their eyes fixed upwards, their jaws agape. Everyone gathered to admire the magical lightshow. We’d already seen enough of the lights through the window, so we didn’t care to stop and admire them again. We went straight for the monorail. When we got off, we didn’t really need to look very far. Outside the station we saw Angela walking around frantically, her face flushed, as if desperately searching for something. I felt a tug within me, and I could tell Chance felt the same. I guess we really were meant to find her.
“Angela!” Chance called and we ran towards her. At first she didn’t hear us, but after he called her a second time, she noticed us and ran up to us. She was out of breath. That moment, we all spontaneously went for a group hug. It was a pretty strange feeling. I could feel tears run down my cheeks. I didn’t know if I was so glad because I wanted to see her so badly, or because we were programmed to feel relieved when we found her. “We’ve found you. We’re here for you now.”
“Are you okay?” I asked as I broke away from her, still holding Chance’s hand. “You look really shaken.” As if you don’t have a reason to feel shaken yourself.
“It’s hard not to be,” her voice was shaking. She wiped a single tear from her cheek. “I have no idea what we’re doing, but it feels a bit reassuring that you guys are in this with me. I think we’re supposed to be waiting for someone now…”
“What do you mean?” Chance demanded.
“I… I have this feeling that… I can’t really explain it. But I think that whatever it was that’s bringing us together has a pretty firm grasp on what it’s doing. Now it makes me feel compelled to sit and wait. But I just can’t.” Her voice shook once again.
“What happened?” I asked her as I put a hand on her shoulder.
“I can’t find Ellie anywhere,” she said, doing her best to stay calm and collected. That’s right, I thought. Ellie was in part of that dream too. “I woke up this morning and she was just gone. I have no idea where she went…”
“Well that’s weird.” Chance’s brow furrowed as he said this. “She was there with us when we saw that eye thing in the dream, wasn’t she? Both Hope and I had this urge to find you. She should have it too, right? She had you around anyway.”
Angela looked at us both with a puzzled expression.
“I think what Chance meant to say is,” I said, “she’s bound to come looking for you as well, right sweetie?”
“Y-yeah,” Chance hesitated.
“Don’t lose hope, Angela,” I gave her another tight hug. “If we don’t find her, she’s bound to find you. Now, let’s all go look for her, alright?”
“Right,” Angela smiled and wiped her eye with the sleeve of her coat. “I’ve already checked the station and the park, but I didn’t see her. I was going to check the mall, but then I bumped into you.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said. Logically, it seemed wiser to split up, in case Ellie showed up somewhere Angela missed. But I felt that we shouldn’t split up. I could tell the others felt it too, as they raised no objections.
The mall was bizarrely empty. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, considering the most interesting stuff was happening right outside the front door, yet I never could have anticipated to see something like this. The lanes between the shops, usually lined with people of all shapes and sizes with bags of clothing and groceries, were now vacant, and only a couple of individuals still trotted on the marble floor.
“Okay, so,” Chance turned to Angela. “You have any idea what places she likes to visit here?”
“Not a clue,” she said, exhaling quite a bit of air upwards, causing her bangs to dance erratically above her forehead for a second. “I don’t think she visits the stores. She rarely buys stuff, she mostly just comes over with her friends. So… the food court, I guess?”
“Okay,” I said. “It’s also pretty much in the middle of everything, so even if she’s not there, there’s a big chance, we’ll get to see her from there.”
As we walked towards our destination, we passed several people. They had confused look on their faces, glancing around the building, obviously shocked by the place being deserted. When we reached the food court, almost all the restaurants were closed, and the tables were all abandoned. Save for one. There were two bags laid on a table on the other end of the hall. Someone was sitting there, but we couldn’t see who – a fountain was in the way, obscuring the person from view. That didn’t stop Angela from running there so fast that she flipped over half a dozen chairs in the process. Chance went right after her, so I ran after him. When I saw Angela stop by the table, he shoulders suddenly slouched, the color draining from her face, I knew that I had been right in remaining skeptical. The person sitting by the table was an older gentleman. Tall and slender, with well-groomed blond hair and goatee, thin glasses, and a crooked smirk on his face that was quite handsome even now – the man was quite dashing, and yet, there was something a bit off about him.
“I’m sorry about this,” Angela heaved. “I thought my sister was here.”
“Don’t worry about it, Angela,” he said to her. I glanced at Angela. She looked at him puzzled, her brown eyes narrowed. Then, suddenly, realization came and I saw her eyes widen again.
“You’re that guy from yesterday,” she exclaimed and pointed a finger at him. “Sergei, was it?”
“Indeed, that is my name,” he stood up and glanced at Chance and me. “I see that you’ve already gathered three, then.”
“Three…? What do you mean?”
“Oh!” I suddenly shouted out, surprising even myself. Perhaps the pitch I used was too high – even Chance flinched. All eyes were now on me. “You were there too, weren’t you? In that white space, with us. You saw the eye too, didn’t you?”
A cat smile appeared on Sergei’s lips. “Yes. I too have witnessed the spectacle and I too felt the urge to find the Contact. I am one of you. Pardon my manners,” he suddenly broke off and went up to me, extending his hand. “My name is Sergei Volkov. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Hope Beaumont,” I said as I shook his hand. It was very warm to the touch.
“I’m Chance,” said Chance as Sergei shook his hand. He didn’t seem too comfortable holding his hand. Chance had always been very trusting and open towards people. Seeing him intimidated like that sent a chill down my spine. Who even is this guy?
“I hate to interrupt your introductions,” Angela said, her voice carrying a hint of irritation. “But we really need to find my sister right now.”
“Maybe you’ve seen her?” I turned to Sergei. “She’s about sixteen, long brown hair, green eyes.”
“I’m afraid not. Not today, at least. But I’ll help you search for her, if you’d let me.”
“Sure,” Angela said. “I guess another pair of eyes will come in handy. So let’s go.”
“Hey, Angie,” Chance called as Angela turned on her heel and took a couple of steps away from us, Sergei following close after. He suddenly grabbed my hand as well. “And where are we going now?”
Angela turned to face Chance and dropped her gaze. She placed her hand on her chin, lost in thought. She then lifted her head, an expression of desperation coming on to her face. “Well, we-we could check out the, um… Well, there’s some, uh, boutiques here, I guess.”
She was about to add some more options, but something startled her. Footsteps, quite a lot of them, from all around the mall. I glanced around – we were surrounded by men in suits.
“Angela Morgan,” one of the men stepped out of the circle, pulling something out of his pocket. It was some kind of badge. “Chance F. Donovan, Hope Beaumont, and Sergei Volkov – the four of you will follow us. We will take you to the seat of the Federal Government, so that you may fulfill your purpose as the Contact.”
“No!” Angela shouted. “I can’t go without Ellie!”
“Your sister is safe,” the man reassured her. “We found her this morning. She’s waiting for you on the plane.”
I could the relief come over Angela’s face. It made me smile, just a little. I turned to Chance, at the exact same moment he turned to face me. His smile was broad and warm, reassuring. Everything is going to be fine, I thought. We’re all in this together.