Chapter Five: Miri

“I don’t know how to thank you,” I said, drinking the rest of the soup from my bowl. Now that I had a full stomach, I felt like a completely new person.

Which was funny, since I didn’t know what my ‘old self’ would have felt like.

My strength had returned, and I was no longer feeling dizzy and disoriented. Sure, my memories still hadn’t returned, but it was a start.

“No need to thank me, dear,” Kanna smiled, placing a cup of tea on the table. Steam rose from it toward the ceiling, but I went for it and took a small sip anyway. It had a sweet taste, and I closed my eyes and let out a small moan. “These days, it’s important we look after each other.”

“I wish more people were as kind as you are,” I told her, not entirely sure if my words had anything to do with my past or if they were just a generic statement. Either way, it was still the truth—there could never be too much kindness in the world.

Sitting by the table in Kanna’s small store, I rested my elbows on it and peered out the small bay windows. The two guards from before were just standing around in front of the store, and they threw me casual glances from time to time. I was no longer afraid of them, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the fact that aliens were now a reality.

A reality that everyone else seemed comfortable with, even took for granted.

When exactly had that happened?

“You really don’t remember anything, do you?” Kanna asked me, sitting opposite me, watching as I studied the strange green men.

Not little green men, that’s for sure. I choked on my tea.

She took a sip out of her own teacup, leaning back in her chair as she waited for me to reply. When I didn’t, she offered me a small smile and decided to continue. “What about the Xathi? Does that word ring a bell?”

“Xathi?” I echoed, looking down at my hands as I turned the word around inside my mind. The word was familiar, yes, but at the same time it was a completely meaningless one. I had no idea what a Xathi was, or why it was important for me to know that. “Is that a city?”

“Not a city, I’m afraid,” she said patiently, shaking her head slightly. “Valorni? Skotan? Puppet Master? Do you recognize any of those words?”

“Not a single one,” I sighed, blowing the rising steam off my tea. “It’s like…I can feel the answers to all those questions, just like you can feel your body growing hot or cold…but I just can’t seem to grab any of them. They just seem to slip away from me.”

“Well, don’t strain yourself, dear,” she smiled. “Someone will be able to help you, you’ll see.”

“Someone? But who?”

“I think the answer to that has just arrived,” she smiled, jutting her chin to point toward the windows. I followed that direction with my gaze just in time to see an alien appear right in front of the store. And there was no better way to describe what had just happened than that. There was a blinding light for a moment, as if a doorway into another dimension had just opened, and then the alien materialized out of nowhere.

He was muscular, more than the two outpost guards, and there wasn’t a single hair on his head. His skin was completely white, except for slight tinges of red, and he struck a more imposing figure than the aliens from before. It seemed that he was their superior: the guards saluted him almost right away, and then they started speaking in what seemed like a formal tone. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I was pretty sure they were talking about me.

Nodding to the guards, the white alien then turned on his heels and started heading toward Kanna’s small store. My heart started beating anxiously, but Kanna didn’t seem too concerned with the newcomer. Apparently, to have aliens pop out of nowhere in the middle of the street was a normal occurrence.

“Is this Kanna’s?” the alien asked, scanning the inside of the room. He had a stern expression, one that almost made me want to shrink and disappear, and he was even taller than I had thought. If he wanted to, he could pick me up and tear me in half without breaking a sweat.

“Yes, it is,” Kanna nodded. “I’m Kanna. Are you here because of—”

“I am,” he cut her short, his eyes now focused on me. He had acquired his target, it seemed. “I came to pick her up.”

“Very well,” Kanna continued, getting to her feet slowly. “She has already eaten, but you must get her to a doctor. As I’m sure the guards have told you, she’s suffering from memory loss and—”

“I’m aware,” he grunted. I wasn’t sure if the aliens had any special abilities but, if they had, small talk was definitely not on the list.

“My name’s Zarik,” he introduced himself, stopping just a few feet away from where I was sitting. He was so tall that I felt as if I had a skyscraper in front of me. “Please come with me.”

I hesitated, not sure if I should trust him. Perhaps feeling my anxiety, Kanna laid one hand on my shoulder and tried to soothe me. “It’s okay, sweetheart,” she said. “They might look mean, but they’re real softies when you get to know them.”

Zarik raised one eyebrow at that but didn’t say a word. Apparently he wasn’t too keen on being described like that.

On that, we agreed: if I had to describe him, ‘soft’ would definitely not be one of the adjectives I would use.

“Okay,” I finally said, pushing my chair back and standing up. As if on cue, the alien turned around and started walking out of the store. Not knowing what else to do, I thanked Kanna hurriedly once more and followed after Zarik.

“Have you ever used a rift for travel?” he asked me, and only then did I notice he was pointing at what seemed like a portal. It was right there on the street, light streaming out of it, but no one really seemed to pay any attention to it.

“No, I haven’t,” I admitted, already dreading the experience. “At least, I don’t think so.”

Did he really expect me to walk through that thing? I felt the palms of my hands grow damp with sweat and, for a moment, I considered making a run for it. Was I really going to trust this guy?

In the end, though, he didn’t give me a choice.

“It’s not hard,” he said, laying one hand on my shoulder and guiding me forward. “It is not, technically, painful.”

I stumbled through the portal with him.

It felt as if I had dived headfirst into ice water.

My nerve endings came alive with the shock and, even though the experience didn’t hurt, it still left me completely disoriented.

So, yeah, not technically painful was accurate.

Still not something I was looking forward to repeating.

In the blink of an eye, I had left the small outpost and now I was standing inside a building. Zarik and I were in a small room that was almost completely bare, but we didn’t stay there long: the moment we stepped out of the portal, he marched out of the room and then down a long hallway. I trailed after him, my eyes growing wide as I saw even more aliens roaming the corridors of the building I was in.

Green, hulking ones, with purple stripes. Gray-skinned ones with … circuitry embedded in their skin?

Broad, tall ones that looked a little like Zarik, except they were all shades of red. None were like him, not exactly.

And that probably wasn’t the top of my list of concerns right now.

Maybe all the ghost-white aliens were in another building.

Having a party.

“Where are we going?” I asked Zarik, trying to get my thoughts back under control, but he said nothing. Either he hadn’t heard me or he simply didn’t care about me. I thought about repeating my question, but decided against it and remained quiet.

At the end of the hallway, Zarik made a sharp left turn and stepped inside what looked like a doctor’s office. There was a large desk in the center of the room, and a small stretcher bed to the side of it; one of the walls was covered with tall cabinets, but another was lined with tables filled with medical equipment I didn’t recognize.

Sitting behind the desk was a woman wearing a doctor’s white coat. She smiled the moment she saw Zarik walk through the door, but her expression turned into one of concern the moment she laid eyes on me.

“This is Dr. Evie Parr,” Zarik announced. “She’s going to fix you.”

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