The hotel room was dimly lit. I took a look at my watch. It was morning already. I grabbed my phone and made a quick flight booking to Chicago. I had little time to lose. The faster I found the Contact, the better. I sat up and began to stand up from bed when a hand slid out from under the sheets and grabbed my wrist in a firm grip.
“And where do you think you you’re going, Seryi?” Petya grumbled, his gruff baritone as raspy as it usually was in the mornings.
“I thought you were asleep, Petya.”
“You may be old, my friend, but my ears still work perfectly fine,” the stocky forty-something sat up. He rubbed his hands in his scruffy, round face, then proceeded to ruffle his short, thick, black hair. “Why are you going to Chicago?” he asked in a monotone he often used when he was annoyed by something.
I wanted to tell him. If anyone in my life deserved to hear an explanation for all this, it was him. But I knew he wouldn’t believe me, and the clock was ticking. Someone could reach the Contact before me, and then I would fail my mission. Why bother to go through with all this, however? I asked myself. What’s in it for me? – The fate of humanity, I told myself. But there was something more to it. There was now something in me that compelled me to do it, against any logic I may present against it. I guess it doesn’t matter if he knows or not. It’s not like all this really meant anything in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like it was really worth fighting for...
“You know, this whole scandal…” I began. Perhaps it was a stroke of luck? I used to think all the reporters gathered around my house, making me seek refuge at a hotel, were an inconvenience. Now it turned out they could be used as a perfect excuse. “I think I need to disappear for a while.”
“And you didn’t think to ask me to come along with you?”
“Well, I know you wouldn’t have come. You and your little résistance have some business to attend to, do you not?”
Petya scowled at me. I knew he hated when I said it like that. To be fair, I really respected the fact that he had enough passion to do what he was doing. We are a castrated nation, he would say. Our pride has been stomped upon on this new global government and we will fight for our individuality. Perhaps I was too old. Perhaps my wish for peace made me lose my edge. After all, Petya always claimed it was my lectures that had inspired him to begin this underground movement.
“I will be back as soon as I can,” I lied. I had no idea if I could ever come back.
“You’re probably going with someone else and just won’t tell me,” he said in a mocking tone.
“Oh my, you’ve seen right through me,” I smirked as I buttoned up my shirt. “You see, the papers were wrong. I didn’t rape that student, because she and I are actually having an affair and I’m taking her to Chicago to be as far away from you.”
“That really hurt me, Professor,” he said with a pout. “My whole life is a lie. You could’ve at least told me you liked women,” he said with a straight face, but then we both laughed.
I hastily packed up my things and took one last glance at my watch to see how much time I had left. I should make it.
“Seryi,” Petya’s voice called to me from the bedroom. “Come back safe, okay?”
I hesitated for a moment. My hand curled into a fist. “I will,” I lied yet again. “Goodbye, Petya.”
I hastily made my way down the chilly streets of Saint Petersburg. The sky was clear that day, the dim sun dying the sky in a multitude of colors so awe-inspiring I could hardly believe they existed. Still, I couldn’t stop to take in the view. I was walking quickly, glancing at my watch at regular intervals, covering my face with my scarf and the hood of my coat to avoid any chance of being caught by paparazzi. After a long trek that included several metro rides, I’d finally made it to the airport. The flight seemed very short due to all the sleep I had. In my dreams, I saw plenty of eyes, ebony towers. Petya was there too, always just out of my reach.
As I dismounted the plane, I set my watch to the correct time. It was still very early, but I had no time to lose. The faster I found the Contact, the better. I still needed a place as a sort of base of operations, so I quickly booked a room at some hotel my phone found for me. It was pretty expensive, but right in the middle of the city. A perfect place to start my search.
A monorail took me to the hotel. An eerie feeling filled me at the station. For a second I thought that meant Angela was near. Sadly, it was not her, but I did discover something intriguing. I noticed a petite woman with long, curly, golden hair adorned with a beautiful, meticulously crafted hairclip, making her way to the monorail. When I laid my eyes on her, the list I saw in the dream that I met Abaddon in showed up in front of my eyes yet again. The name Hope Beaumont became highlighted. Interesting, I thought. So, I can recognize all the others at a glance as well. A minute later I saw a teenage girl run towards a monorail whose doors were closing. She tripped and fell face-first to the ground, but someone held the door for her and she managed to catch her train. Eleanor Morgan, the list said. Angela’s sister, perhaps? I can’t be too far off.
As I went down the street, however, I encountered no more people from the list. Perhaps they simply haven’t made it here yet. And so, I made my way to the hotel. After unpacking my things, I started looking for a place to eat. It had actually been a long time since I last ate. I found it strange that I wasn’t hungry at all. Still the receptionist was kind enough to tell me the way to a lovely little café at the corner. The coffee was delightful, and the little cakes they served were divine. I was just about to sink my teeth into my fourth dessert, a strawberry cheesecake that looked stunning, when I felt my phone vibrate. I’d received a text message from Petya.
The house seems to be surrounded by even more people. I have to say, it wasn’t my face all over the Internet. How are things on your end? Was your flight okay?
I talked to him just a bit and then proceeded to devour three more pieces of cake. Once I decided I was full, I stood up and started walking again. I took in the views. The city looked nothing like Saint Petersburg. My home looked as if it had been stuck in the 2010s. This one was completely modern, with clear white buildings reaching the sky in spiraling spires. Apparently, most of the city had been rebuilt after 2020, as was the case with most countries who joined the Federation early on. We had yet to achieve that level of development.
After walking for several hours, I had that feeling again. I noticed a young man run down the street. A slender youth with dark brown hair, a white strand standing out at the front of it, a short chinstrap beard on his face, he seemed like he was in a hurry. The list once again appeared in front of me. Chance Fauntleroy Donovan, it highlighted.
I didn’t encounter the people on my list for a couple more hours. But then, as the sun began to set, I noticed her. She came out of a game shop, her figure curvy, her hair brown and cut quite short, and she was hurrying towards the monorail. I followed her as fast as I could. The crowd at this hour was big for me to reach out to her, however, so I simply followed her. And then, a very amusing thing happened. I had a peculiar sense of déjà vu as I noticed the young woman fall face-first on the ground. I was then certain that that Eleanor was clearly this woman’s relative. The monorail door was closing, so I chuckled a bit under my breath and ran towards it to hold the door. “Hey!” I shouted out to her. “Come quickly, you can still make it!”
“Thank you so, so much,” she told me as she gasped for breath. The list appeared in front of my eyes yet again. The golden Angela Morgan flashed. I had found the contact. Though one thing worried me. I was still not on the list, even though there were still only eleven people on it. I kept my cool, however, as we engaged in small talk. Then, she extended her hand to me.
“I’m Angela, by the way.” I took her hand. And then, miraculously, the list flashed again. An invisible hand scribbled crimson words at the bottom of the list. Sergei Volkov, it read.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Angela,” I said to her. And what an unexpected pleasure it was. They must have programmed me to be this ecstatic when meeting the contact, as I have no logical explanation for that feeling.
After parting ways with Angela, I went back to the hotel. I was immensely tired, so I made my way straight to bed. That night, I had a dream that seemed eerily familiar, yet was alien at the same time. The set the Ophanim had planned for us was different, much more pristine and efficient than that of the Nephilim. The eye that descended was similar to Abaddon’s first form in our encounter, and yet there was something different about it, and the colors weren’t the only differentiating factor. I could recognized the names and faces of the eleven people surrounding the Contact. A smirk appeared on my face, as I saw them all gaze in bewilderment at the eye in the sky. A red light emerged from Angela’s forehead and was promptly absorbed by the white eye. Was this being one of the Ophanim?
I woke up in a sitting position. Acting on instinct, I ran up to the window and saw them. Countless white spots in the sky. Again, a smirk found its way to my face. I’ll be there for you soon, Angela. We both have an important destiny to fulfill.