The afternoon had blended into early evening and still Laura and Kenneth were sitting by the window talking. They had lost all track of time. It surprised Laura just how peaceful she was feeling. Getting to know Kenneth had put her at ease. It was clear that she felt an attraction to him, and she was certain that he felt the same way about her. Deep below all of these feelings though, Laura was in turmoil. She should have been searching for answers and trying to find a way back to her own time, not wasting the day away getting to know some man who had been dead for centuries. Laura could not understand why she seemed to have so little control over what she was doing.
Kenneth had quizzed her for several hours about living in Austria, and her life. She had continued to spin such fanciful tales on the spot that this Janicka character that she had created was beginning to feel like a real person. It made no sense at all that she could effortlessly create such an intricate back story for herself. She wasn’t even trying.
She stood to stretch her legs and looked at the window. Xinju had grown visibly closer in the time that they had been talking. She estimated that by morning they would almost be in orbit. She wondered how all the happy people clamouring around the ship would react when they realised that there was no colony on the planet.
“I wonder what it will be like to live there,” she said – but of course she already knew what the planet was like. “Do you think it will be lush and beautiful?”
“I hope so,” Kenneth said. “I have an affinity for beauty.”
Laura wanted to ignore that statement, but despite herself she turned and smiled. “Do you just?”
“Have I mentioned at all that I think you’re beautiful?”
“No,” she said shaking her head and grinning. “You haven’t.”
“Well that was negligent of me wasn’t it.” Kenneth reached out and took hold of her hand.
“Completely.” Laura was starting to feel sickened by all of this. It was like a bad romance novel.
Suddenly, someone bumped into them, pushing them hard against the window.
“Oh, sorry,” a teenage boy said. “Bit crowded in here ‘aint it.”
“Don’t worry about it Mate,” Kenneth said. The boy continued on his way. “So many people, in such a small area. I can’t wait to put my foot on solid ground and enjoy the wide open spaces.” He looked back at Laura. “I wish we could be alone.”
“That would be nice.” Why had she said that?
“I guess we’ll have to wait until we land. There’s nowhere on this ship to have any privacy.”
Laura leaned closer to him, it was almost as it some force was pushing her neck, making her do something she didn’t want to do. “Actually,” she whispered, “I do know a place that we could be alone.”
Kenneth looked into her eyes. “Seriously?”
“We’re not strictly supposed to go there of course, but I’m game if you are.”
There was an intensity in Kenneth’s eyes. His intentions were obvious to Laura. It was time to put a stop to this. She had to get away from this bloke. He was clouding her judgement. She wanted to tell Kenneth that she’d changed her mind, that she really needed to go – but she didn’t. Why was that? She felt as if someone else was in control of her body – like she was a remote controlled robot. The feeling frightened her like nothing ever had before.
“Okay,” Kenneth said. “Just one condition.”
No, this was not her. This was not Laura’s way. She didn’t want to do this. She’d only just met this man. What about the timeline? What about Neal?
“What is it?” she asked, her voice failing to betray the terror and confusion that was welling up inside her.
Kenneth reached forward and took hold of the stone hanging from her necklace.
“We turn this thing off.”
Laura gave him a quizzical look.
“Yeah, I know what it is. I’ve known all along.”
Laura nodded. “Of course. You’re right.”
Her hand took hold of the stone. Inside, the real Laura was screaming like a caged animal trying to escape. She pushed her thumb against the purple jewell and it depressed into the stone – like a button.
Suddenly, the world around her began to flicker. Then, mercifully, everything faded to black. Janicka Brauer and Kenneth Baily were gone – replaced with nothingness.
* * *
Boyd roused from his sleep slowly. It was only just starting to dawn on him that he was awake. He gradually opened his eyes – it was dark. He closed them again, rolling over so he could go back to sleep. He heard something, but couldn’t identify what it was. His eyes cracked opened again and he noticed that there was illumination in his tent. He sat up and looked toward the flap, and his mouth fell open in fear at what he saw.
Standing above him was a being like nothing he’d ever seen before. It had the form of a man, but his skin seemed to emit light. The man was dressed in all white. It was the image of an angel – but it was nothing like the fanciful creatues often seen in children’s books. This creature was fearsome. Boyd was scared that if it touched him, he might melt or disintegrate. He tried to scream but no words came out. He cringed back into he sleeping bag. Maybe he was still asleep and this was a nightmare. He prayed it was so.
“Do not be afraid,” the being said. It’s voice was rich and strong, but also slightly distorted. “I have a message for you from the Father.”
Boyd still could say nothing.
“He wants you to know that He still cares about humanity. Although you are no longer on the planet of your birth – God has not forgotten you.”
“I know that,” Boyd managed to get out – his voice raspy.
“Yes, but many others don’t. There is much fear of the past, and anxiety about the future here on this world. The father is calling you to spread his good news amongst the people. Tell them that they are loved and treasured, and that their future is in the Father’s hands.”
“There must be others more worthy than me.”
“No, there are none that are worthy – even you are not worthy. Worthiness is not important. What sets you apart Cameron Boyd is that you recognise your unworthiness. The Son is looking for followers who are poor in spirit – who are not absorbed in their own ability or greatness.”
“I am God’s servant. I will do as you ask,” Cameron said.
“No!” The being’s body flickered like fire. “You will do as the Father says. I am only his servant, as are you.”
Suddenly the being glowed with such intensity that Boyd had to cover his eyes. Then it faded out of existance.
Once again the tent was dark – and silent.