When I open my eyes, Rachel is no longer in the car. I sit up and look around. We appear to be in the parking lot of a motel. Rachel is outside, arguing with a woman wearing white pants and a blue shirt reading Island Hospitality. I guess that must be the name of this place. Julia (that’s what her name tag says) doesn’t seem too hospitable, though. From what I see – long, wavy blonde hair, green eyes and bold red lipstick – she’s just another of those snotty teens, nothing special. Definitely a spoiled brat. But I guess it’s wrong to judge when all I’ve done so far is looked at her.

I get out of the car to stretch, and Julia and Rachel look like they’ve worked out their differences. Rachel explains that there was a small problem with the fact that she’s not yet 18 and therefore shouldn’t be able to get a room, but she says they’ve been friends the whole time they’ve been in high school and Julia is going to speak to her parents about it. In the meantime, we bring Rose out to the pasture (almost every hotel has one on Jorvik, along with a stable) and let her loose. Rachel and I treat ourselves to Stablebuck’s, and when we return to the motel, Julia has good news.

“You can stay for a maximum of two days. Some police are coming to investigate a room where a lady’s money was stolen, and they don’t want you here then, since you’re ‘missing’ and all. They promise not to tell anyone and understand that you’re searching for your family,” Julia says with a wink. Rachel and I thank her and haul our suitcases up to our room.

Once we’re unpacked, I flop onto my bed. “Now what?” I ask. “I mean…how am I supposed to know where to ask you to take me? What am I supposed to do? The only vision I had today was in the car on the way here, and the only new detail was a hedge in the background.”

“Any particular shape of hedge?” Rachel asks, but I shake my head. “Well,” she says, “you just have to wait. Hopefully it’ll come soon…you’ve only got 9 days after today, and it’s already two p.m.”

I moan. She’s right. Though I’m not quite sure 9 days is enough for me to prepare to die….

I’ve been thinking like this a lot recently. If I succeed, I’ll probably die and maybe get sent into an unending loop of these same events. If the Keepers like me, maybe they’ll save me from this fate. If I don’t succeed, I’ll die anyway, but then I’ll die for good. Even though Rachel hasn’t told me anything, I’m sure there must be some kind of reward after you’ve saved someone.

I reach for the heart pendant around my neck and am relieved to find it’s still there, though I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be. I think of Chase, and Ms. A, and Simba and Harley and all the other farm animals; the sheep, the goats, the cows, the chickens, the annoying old barn cat. I’m even going to miss the rooster waking me at sunrise and pecking at my feet while I feed the hens. But I know I have a life, a life with a real family and friends. A life I’m living right now, though in truth, I’m really not. I don’t think it’s the same me if I don’t know who I am. The real me is out there somewhere, and I’m wondering what “she” is doing right now, who “her” family is, when really, it’s me doing those things. Yet I’m not conscious in that body, nor is the other me conscious in this one. It makes zero sense.

Rachel senses my dismay, and she invites me to go down to the pool for a swim. I ask if there isn’t something more important I should be doing, but she says all I can do is wait.

And hope.

______________

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