Holly prayed for the 403 bus to crash. "Go and join the queue," her mother repeated, as their car idled by the sidewalk.
She prayed for it to happen at the top of Dane's Hill two miles back, with a long skid into the heather. Sore ribs, nose bleeds. Nobody should actually die, unless they were perverts or terrorists.
The 403 arrived in perfect roadworthy condition. In the waiting car, her mother’s impatient fingers tapped on the wheel. Mom didn't ask about the bleeps in her pocket that started at breakfast: eighty, maybe ninety text messages hitting Holly’s phone, each ping like a drop of acid. Holly gathered her coat and bag, and left the car without a word.
She messaged Sheryl as the queue shuffled forward.
"Where u at?"
The tightness in Holly’s shoulders eased a little.
Illustrations by Justine Knox and Julie Beer
Written in the Original Pragonese Language, believed to be approximately 2318 AD.
|Kal Trison staring out at Elevan
illustrated by Justine Knox
I have lived a full life despite the horrors I’ve seen. I belong to a race called the Pragonese. Distinguished by our red skin, elongated faces, and wide, bulbous eyes, we have lived in the rugged mountains of our Mother Planet since the dawn of our recorded time. We are well known for our arduous lifestyles. Anytime one navigates the steep inclines, caverns, and crags of high altitude terrain, he or she faces multiple dangers – falling, extreme-cold, rock-slides, and avalanches. We encountered these hazards on a daily basis. Building our homes, hunting for food, collecting rainwater – these are but a few of the tasks we carry out to this very day as alpine inhabitants.
As onerous as our lifestyles have been on us physically, they have been mentally as well. Witnessing one’s clan members immersed in loathing and intolerance towards another culture only serves to sour one’s soul, and the children of my generation, myself included, were spiteful to the core. In my old age, however, I have mellowed - my entire race has. Whatever resentment that lingers among my people is destined to die-out with the last of our older generations.
The next time Don's really, truly awake again, it's in the early hours of the next morning. He must have been out for the whole day.
He supposes he'd walked back to the hotel, but he doesn't remember. He can sketchily recall, though, stepping into the lobby and being hit by a sudden crippling wave of exhaustion despite the few hours of sleep he'd gotten, stumbling into the lift while the television buzzed loudly with the report of a gang shoot-out on the bayou
He pops out into the dark and silent corridor and buys a few packets from the closest vending machine. His first thought, when he enters his room again and looks over the small amount of luggage that has somehow managed to fling itself everywhere, is that there's no reason to stay anymore.
It takes a long time to pack. It doesn't have to, but Don finds himself putting things in then taking them out again, refolding and rearranging. It almost feels like reluctance.
He wonders if it's all another dream. If what he heard and saw was nothing more than one last flashing nightly vision. If everything will go back to normal once the daylight comes again.
He makes it to the bayou in less than half an hour. The run is done on rote.
There's not even a moment of doubt before he spies the glow on the waterfront, a few hundred yards from where the St John's University back gates open out. He twists his arm to see his watch, and subtracts the hour he's still yet to set.
In the distance, he hears the first beat of a drum. It's deep, resonating, pounding in a steady rhythm that matches the rush of blood in his ears. But it's not loud, not very. It probably can't be, in an urban area like this. A chant starts up, sibilant and undulating, though he can't make out the words.