Between Worlds

Between Worlds

She woke with a start, gazing around with a confused expression.

“Where is this? What’s going on?” She asked in a voice rough from lack of use.

I stood up and came to her bedside. “You’re on the Zephretti in the infirmary.  Or what passes for it on a freighter.”

The girl, who had been unconscious and fighting a fever for several days, shook her head. “No, this isn’t right, how’d I get here?”

I handed her a glass of water with a straw.  “You’ve been sick since we left the mining station.  You don’t remember leaving the station?”

Again the look of confusion. She pulled at the saline line taped to her arm. “I shouldn’t be here, not that I’m complaining mind you. Glad to be rid of those flies.”

There was something about her voice that was tugging at mental sleeve. I’d heard the girl speak before, her family had come to meals at the commissary the same time my family and I had.  I remembered her and my daughter laughing together and playing ja’phinks during an evening gathering not long before we’d been evacuated. The difference in her voice wasn’t solely due to lack of use.

I wondered what she meant about flies.  It wasn’t that we didn’t have flies and other pests on the station, but their numbers weren’t the kind of thing that caused much concern. I didn’t have a chance to ask before she resumed speaking.

“They were everywhere.  The flies.  I watched them come up from a crack in the floor, near the corner.  At first there were only a few, I wasn’t bothered by them.  Within an hour or so, they were boiling out of that crevice, covering the walls.  They didn’t make any noise, just streamed out like living, black smoke. I should have been alarmed, but instead I was mesmerized.  The walls seemed to ripple rhythmically, as though they were alive, as though I was inside a living being. All this time I had not moved, but I was overcome by the need to touch the wall closest to my bed, where I was lying.  I only moved a little but I felt the pressure of the room change and then they came were in flight.  They flew at me, covering my whole body, crowding their way into every orifice.  I could not breathe without taking them in, I could not cough to clear my throat and lungs. I could not see through the blackness of their bodies crowding into my eyes.”

“I felt myself lose consciousness, fade back into a deeper darkness and I thought, ‘This is it.  This is how it happens for me.’ I wasn’t in pain, just a little disappointed.” She looked at me curiously.  “Is this heaven or hell?”

It wasn’t just that her voice sounded wrong, the words she was using, her whole manner of speaking did not match the eight year old girl I’d been watching over for the past week. “Sadie… that sounds like a really scary dream, but you’re alright now, you’re safe and now that your fever has broken, you’ll be up and about soon.”

I didn’t know how to tell her about her family, but that could wait.  She hadn’t asked yet and the station doctor had been clear that I wasn’t to volunteer anything until she asked.  I reached over to press a button on the console on the bedside table, belatedly remembering that I was told to call for the doctor when she awoke.  ‘The doctor will be here soon to check on you, you’ve been in this bed with a fever for a week, everyone will be relieved to hear that you’ve awakened.”

The story about the flies had shook me.  Though I’d spoke to about it being a dream, it hadn’t sounded like a dream.  I glanced at the door, hoping the medical personnel would arrive soon.  There were other refugees under medical care, but Sadie had been in the worst shape.  I’d volunteered to sit with her, not entirely out of do-gooder generosity but because she was my daughter’s friend and neither of us had anyone else left.

The girl looked at me with pure consternation, “Who’s Sadie and who are you?  My name is Cissy Bryant.  Is this heaven?  Doesn’t seem like it, but it ain’t bad enough to be hell either.  So where is this?”

I didn’t have time to respond before Dr. Jewett and a woman I recognized as a teacher from the station school came rushing in.  Jewett told me I could go, that they’d take it from here.  I tried to tell them there was something wrong, maybe something mental, but they pushed me out of the room before I could complete my sentence.

I could hear voices rise from within the room and fade as I headed down the narrow passageway toward the mess.

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