Day 723

There are two Possibilities. One; humans have given up after a nuclear war killed half the planet, in return, those without money either succumb to the trash or sort it. Two; humans have abandoned Earth, took to their spaceships and gone on the journey to their new planet.

Thea Alderson has a reluctant foot in each one, tasked with the notion of slowly losing her mind in the first, and an invisible, intergalactic foe in the second.

One thing is clear, however; when humanity is involved, nothing is ever easy.

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27. Zarmina

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven - Zarmina

Possibility Three

 

Cotton sheets enveloped Thea, the miles and miles of fabric twisted around her. She was warm and comfortable, stretched out like a starfish and she still did not find the edges of the bed. She felt well rested, her eyelids no longer weights when she opened them, and the room around her was decorated in cool blues, breezy curtains and polaroids. There was half a wall dedicated to the photographs and she padded out of bed to look at them; a childhood one of her Joshua and their father, Exe and her when he was a robot, her in front of the MJ-Saviour, and her team.

She had picked this possibility because it hadn’t looked all that different from her own and she wanted some stability.

(But what was her own reality when she would eventually find herself in a thousand realities? She didn’t want to think about it.)

Outside of her window, the landscape was laid bare in front of her eyes; electricity was their basic commodity and pinnacle-like buildings shot up into the sky, bridges connected waterways to stone buildings, and people thrived. Humans walked along the paths as if they owned them. What caught her attention however was the dome that separated the orange clouds from the rest of the city, and the international space station, circular with several blades covering the dome, that spread and shot like spaceships like they were nothing more than silver birds.

Humans had made it. They had carved their own image into a world and from what she could see of solar panels and the like in the distance, they were at one with nature too. The words from the Georgia stones gripped at her and she smiled. Maybe this world was everything she needed it to be.

She changed, shrugging on a dressing gown to protect her shoulders from the cold and emerged from her bedroom. She passed a mirror on the way out of the room and time had grown her hair out a little into steadily lighter locks, her eyes brighter and a smattering of freckles across her forehead and nose. In each possibility she was different and that was not a bad thing at all. But she could still see the Thea that picked up trash for a living and she didn’t mind it.

The corridors were panelled with textured wood and she couldn’t resist running her fingers down across them. The space had been arranged in a square shape, rooms around the perimeter, stairs at the very end and a wide-open space in the middle where she could look down, trace each individual step down, and look at the very bottom, a wide-open office space decorated with flower arrangements and chairs.

She followed the voices down to the very bottom, which revealed that it was a kitchen, where Daniel sat lounged in an armchair with a cup of tea warming his hands, Marlene tending to the plants and another gentleman stood at a counter slicing a tomato in two. The gentleman looked up and he was younger than she had expected. Mousy brown hair, barely there eyebrows, deep-set eyes that were focussed but widened minutely when they saw her, a birthmark on his neck that looked a bit like a letter if she scrutinised it enough.

It had to be Exe, that smirk and amazement couldn’t be from anyone else. She had never physically seen his other personas – R C Christian and Edward Jones – but Eddie Montoya looked at her through those eyes.

“Lachlan you’ve never been enamoured with Thea before, is there something you want to tell us?” Daniel joked, craning his neck to look at them.

Lachlan coloured, his cheeks flooding with a blush as he put down his knife and went to wash his hands.

“You know I don’t do crushes and relationships, Danny,” he said with such an Irish tint that it took Thea aback for a moment. Exe – Lachlan -  just smiled at her and asked her if she wanted tea, she nodded dumbly and watched him prepare it.

“You know I hate that name,” Daniel grumbled. It seemed that in all possibilities the only proper thing that Daniel retained was his hatred for nicknames, preferring his actual name as his only identifier.

“He only does it to tease you,” Marlene said, putting down her spray bottle and going over to wash her hands, ridding them from the pollen deposits. She asked her if she had had a good sleep and as Thea nodded she realised how carefree this Marlene was. She didn’t have her hair in a ponytail, and it wasn’t greasy, but slightly curled and well managed, cut a little shorter than Thea was used to.

As Thea settled down with her tea she allowed the feeling of her team wash over her. Daniel sat next to her at the table in the corner, hooking a strand of hair over his fingertips. “A curse of having shorter hair is bedhead,” he snarked, trying to flatten down some of the strands. She flushed slightly, knowing that it didn’t go down to her neck and tried to hide behind her bobbed hair. “It makes you look adorable,” Daniel finished, watching her carefully as she drank her tea. The tea was herbal, a mixture of spices and chai that made her want to curl her tongue up to keep it in her mouth. It was hotter than what she had expected but the roar at the back of her throat was worth it.

“It looks like you had some good dreams,” Lachlan said over the rim of his own cup, coffee from the looks of it.

Thea dragged the sleeves of her dressing gown over her fingertips, watching as Lachlan picked at the patches on the elbows of his jumper. She liked the glow in his eye, that all-knowing look. She didn’t know how she hadn’t recognised it more in both the previous possibilities.

“I did, they were very refreshing,” Thea answered, gulping more down and moving to sit in the high-backed chair Daniel had previously vacated.

“I hate that you two have some sort of inside joke,” Daniel sighed, moving to another chair, spreading his body across the length of it. He missed the roll of the eyes that Marlene sent him as she buttered toast and instead grabbed a remote to flick on the television. There were, of course, shows that Thea didn’t recognise and old recordings of shows she remembered from Earth.

She remembered that on board the MJ-Saviour they had packed several crates with cultural items to remember the true culture shock that Earth had exhibited. She was fascinated for a moment before she realised Marlene’s eyes on her. She jumped minutely and then dabbed at the liquid she had spilt on her sleeve.

“You seem a little different,” Marlene asked, leaning forward in her chair.

Lachlan moved to sit on the rug in the centre, cross-legged and with his coffee balanced on his knees. He sent Thea a small look before beginning a conversation with Daniel about a show.

“I’m just well-rested,” she smiled, hoping to convey that the memories she had in her brain realigned with the persona she was putting on just then. She didn’t exactly know how it worked and she didn’t want to know the logistics of it, but her head was slowly filling with memories, sitting quietly along with the two sets of memories she already had.

“It looks good on you,” Marlene finally hummed as she sat back.

Her team had not changed much Thea decided, and for that she was glad. She watched and sat quietly through the morning, just observing them and settling back in a day not filled with panic and destruction.

It was a lazy day in their household, an apartment block they owned. They were researchers, lead professions of the field and they still had their respective ideologies.

Thea had majored in environmental sciences alongside astronomy. Her professions melded from her experiences in both the previous possibilities.

Marlene was also environmental sciences but with a major qualification in botany and biology.

Daniel had twin degrees in psychology and medicine.

Lachlan was their engineer and currently studied a further physics degree on the side.

They shared stories, Thea relying on the memories still filtering through, of how Lachlan slept more in the basement where they stored their mechanics and the AI he was slowly building, than his own room. Eddie had died due to complications with arriving on Zarmina and Helix had shut down with his death, the MJ outside the house, quiet and still without his friend. Thea had memories of stepping into the MJ, of crying when Helix’s voice didn’t greet her because he was just as much a part of their family as Eddie was.

In this possibility they had made it to Zarmina, the Earth Order was effective and split into different fields to maximise the success of the planet. They had built the domes to resist the cold temperatures and existed on the light side of the planet since it was tidally locked. The dome they were in – called Martalee, for the two members of the Earth Order who built it  - was the capital and where the government resided. Lachlan found them and became their engineer a mere month after they had eventually settled, fitting into the crew just as seamlessly as Eddie had.

Thea was pleased, humanities plan had finally worked out. Thea reflected on it as the night fell and the starts slowly came out. She could look through the stars now, knowing what layout there even though they were light years away from it.

She wondered whether Proxima b still existed or if the Nothingness still patrolled and through the growing darkness beyond the front door she saw a figure coming closer. When she found out who it was she ran to hug him. Joshua was taller than what she knew, hair still cropped short but not buzzed like the two previous possibilities. He looked less haunted and his eyes didn’t glow, but they didn’t cast shadows either. But he was there, alive and breathing. When she hugged him she just felt him breathe for a few minutes, revelling in the fact that he was safe. Relief and love tugged at her and formed lumps in her throat.

“You must have missed me,” he chuckled into her shoulder, lifting her off from the ground. She purposely didn’t think of the time her feet had been off the ground when Exe’s hands had been around her throat. Or when Joshua was dead. “You only saw me two days ago.”

“You’re my brother, I can still miss you,” she said and dragged him inside for dinner. The crew greeted him pleasantly and she remembered that Joshua was a common fixture in their house, coming around for dinner every week or so.

Joshua just rolled his eyes at her last comment and sat around the table, heaping roast potatoes onto his plate as they were served.

“Anything interesting happening at work?” Marlene asked, taking a keen interest.

Joshua worked in the tourist industry, getting people out of their home domes and across the planet to learn about different cultures.

“There has been a proposal to set up an Earth remembrance dome, fill it with all the great and bad things of Earth to let people mourn and remember home,” he swallowed his mouthful and looked intently at Marlene, who sat across from him.

Thea didn’t know what plagued Joshua here, the great flaw that made him the antagonist in every possibility, but she was willing to pick him apart and find out.

“That’s nice, you’d like that especially since you are a home bird,” Marlene said, pausing in eating to return his stare.

“You know me so well,” Joshua flirted and turned back to the food.

Marlene blushed and Thea smirked, there was a relationship budding between the two, a feeling lingering across the wood of the table. She was alright with that, the two would be well suited and it would be great for Marlene to finally become apart of their true family. Thea knew that she smiled stupidly because Daniel nudged her and asked her what she was so happy about.

Once dinner was over Thea grabbed the camera that she had noticed in her room and set it up on the designed tripod to be angled at the table. “I want a photo of us all, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Here we go with the photo thing again,” Daniel teased, turning his chair around so that he would in the shot. According to her memories, she took countless photographs because she didn’t want to forget anything, she captured what she wanted to remember and the things that seemed mundane, to fossilise them in her brain.

She also wanted to know them when the time came to move on to the next possibility. She and Lachlan shared a look over the table when she thought of that, turning away to smile at the camera. Minutes later she was shaking out the polaroid and thinking of the perfect place for it in her bedroom. Maybe she would frame that one. It was a good photo; Lachlan in the middle, Daniel with his arm around the back of Thea’s chair, Joshua’s tentative hand lingering on Marlene’s shoulder, all bright smiles and fascinated eyes. Yes, she would definitely frame it.

When she said goodbye to Joshua at the door, she liked the way his warmth seeped into her skin and his body pressed against hers because it reminded her that he was there, she lingered. She even watched as he walked away and disappeared from view, spending her time staring into Zarmina’s sky. The stars were different here, and it still amazed her just like it had on Proxima b.

This planet was not done with her, far from it in fact. There was a lot to do and a lot of time to achieve it in.

“You’ve been staring at the stars a lot,” Daniel murmured in her ear, slinging an arm around her shoulder. She didn’t recognise the feeling that came along with the action, but she didn’t flinch away either.

Ad Astra Per Aspera,” Lachlan said as he passed, laughing when Daniel cursed at him, half out of shock and half out of their damn inside jokes.   

“We’ve come such a long way,” she whispered because they had. They had come from a planet where people had guns for mouths and bodies that swallowed danger and wanted to digest them into flowers. She was proud of humanity even though she knew that the arrogance was still there.

There they remained, standing together on the front stoop of their home, looking out at the night and Thea felt awfully romantic. She was warm, the heat from Daniel’s arm seeping into her as they stood close.

She hoped that their souls were whispers on the wind and that they would always come back to one another. She hoped that the minds of her constants connected like bridges, forging old trees in between them just to look beautiful.

Thea knew that she would be alright, no matter what possibility she ended up in because she would always have her constants. With that in mind she sent one thought into the universe knowing that whatever deity, the She Exe spoke in the In-between, would hear it; bring it on because I can handle whatever you throw at me.

 

End

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