Suddenly the world faded into focus again, banishing the blackness. Laura wasn’t sure how long she’d been out. She was lying on a soft mattress on the floor. She looked around to get a bearing on her location. This was a large room filled with stasis units. She’d come in here earlier and had been sent away by a crew member.
She had no memory of what had transpired since she’d blacked out. She assumed it was morning but couldn’t say for sure. She noticed that the purple stone on the necklace was glowing once again. What was that thing? It was clearly behind all of this in some way. Kenneth had known what the stone was, and she had acted as if she did too, but she didn’t.
Laura felt a sickening feeling. She didn’t know what had happened last night but it seemed obvious that she had spent the night with Kenneth, although she had absolutely no memory of doing so. She hadn’t wanted to do it. Laura didn’t sleep with strangers. As un-fashionable as it might have seemed to some people, she had always preferred to wait until she’d found the right person, who she could spend her life with. She had thought that person was Neal Spearwood. Now she had betrayed him. But was it really her? She had wanted to run away, but like a puppet on a string she hadn’t.
As guilty and frightened as she felt, her mouth was smiling. She stood to her feet with a light spring. She was acting like someone who was newly in love. She wanted to fight this with all of her strength – but she didn’t know how.
Laura wondered what consequences there might be to the timeline now that she had done all of this. Would this encounter change the course of Kenneth Baily’s life? He should never have met her because she should never have been here on this ship.
Kenneth did not appear to be in the room anywhere. This didn’t seem strange to her. In fact, she believed that he had gone looking for a bathroom to freshen up. How she knew this was a mystery.
Laura wanted to cry, but instead she giggled.
She noticed a mirror on the wall a few metres away. She bounced on light feet toward it.
There, as she examined her hair, and tried to straighten it up without the benefit of a brush, she looked on with a horror that sent lighting rods through her nervous system.
The face that was staring back at her from the mirror was not her own.
* * *
Finding his way through the bush in the dark and the rain was proving to be a real challenge for Neal. His torch provided a little light, but he could have used a great deal more. His jacket was doing a reasonable job of keeping his upper body dry, but his trousers were completely soaked and so was his head.
He felt angry at Laura for putting him in this situation. If she hadn’t run off into the bush by herself then he would not be in this weather worried sick about her. Why was it that you could care so much for a person, and yet they still drove you crazy? Laura certainly drove Neal crazy.
Her biggest problem was that she was a control freak. Everything in life had to be done her way and on her terms. Neal had suggested a day trip down the river, but she had decided they’d take a tent and make it a longer journey. She was always doing things like that. Admittedly, Laura’s strength and independence were two of the things that Neal loved about her, but they were also the root of her greatest flaw. Even when they had discussed their feelings back at the river she’d wanted to be in control of it all. She wanted a relationship on her terms or not at all. It was childish really. She wanted him to actively fight for what he wanted, but she had to have what she wanted as well – and therein was the problem.
It was more complicated than that as well though. Neal didn’t think that Laura really even knew what she wanted. She claimed that she loved swimming, but the minute he’d suggested a trip she’d left the beach. The woman didn’t know how to relax or have fun. Work was all she knew. Sure he was the same – but at least he admitted it.
Neal began to feel a little guilty. She was out there somewhere, probably in trouble, and here he was getting worked up about all she did that frustrated him. It was like they were arguing in his head, except she wasn’t here to defend herself.
“Laura,” Neal called out. He had been yelling her name every few minutes but so far he’d heard no response. She had to be out there somewhere. He had to find her.
He kept on walking.
Suddenly Neal caught his foot on something and fell face down in the mud. “Ouch.”
He picked himself up and groped around in the dark for his torch. As he reached his hand out toward it he came into contact with something cold and soft. Neal pulled his hand away automatically. He had not expected to feel that. Was it some kind of animal? He reached out again and grabbed the torch, then he pointed it in the direction of the object he had felt.
Neal gasped – it was Laura. She was lying in the mud. Her body didn’t move and her eyes were closed.
Quickly, he knelt beside her and felt her neck for a pulse. It was strong. Neal took hold of her shoulders and shook her gently.
“Laura, wake up. Laura!”
She didn’t respond. She didn’t move.
“Come on Laura, wake up. You’ve got to get out of this weather.”
She still didn’t move. She must have been knocked unconscious somehow.
It was not going to be easy to carry her single handed through the thick bush but he had no choice. He wrapped her jacket around her and then maneuvered one arm under her back, while he placed the other under her legs. Grunting, he straightened, lifting her off the ground.
“Come on Laura, let’s get you back to shelter.”
Holding the torch in his hand, under her legs, he set off back in the direction from which he’d come.