The young woman reflected in the mirror looked nothing like Laura. She appeared to be a good five to ten years younger, and she had long blond hair, whereas Laura’s was short and black. Her face showed none of the shock that Laura was feeling, and yet it was her. As she felt her hand move, the image in the mirror followed suit. Perhaps this woman was Janicka Bauer. Maybe she was a real person after all. So what had happened? Not only was she in the past, but she was inhabiting somebody else’s body. Except that it wasn’t that simple. Janicka seemed to still be in control. Laura was a silent participant with no way to assert her will. Was Janicka even aware of Laura’s presence? She certainly wasn’t letting on if she was.
Having straightened her hair as best as she could, Laura, or more precisely Janicka, stepped away from the mirror. She picked up the mattress and placed it back in one of the stasis units. Then she crept up to the door and opened it a crack. She peered out cautiously, not wanting to get into trouble for being in the stasis room. There were plenty of people milling about but none were wearing uniforms, so she walked out and closed the door behind her.
Laura wondered where Janicka was going to take them now. It was the strangest thing, but this new revelation was somewhat liberating for Laura. Sure it was quite scary knowing that she was inside another person’s body with no way to interact with the world, but it also meant that all the things that had happened yesterday were not her doing after all. That’s why she had seemed to be acting out of character, because it wasn’t her at all – it was Janicka. It also meant that it was Janicka who was falling for Kenneth Baily, and it was her that he was falling for in return. Laura idly wondered what had become of those two. Had they enjoyed a happy life together? There was probably no way of knowing, short of waiting to see, but Laura had no intention of sticking around. There had to be a way out of this situation. She would find it.
“Hey there my dear,” Kenneth’s voice said from behind. She turned around to face him and quickly put her arms around him. “You should come look out the window. You can see the planet very clearly now.”
“Sounds good,” Janicka said.
Somehow Laura had to take control. She had to learn.
She tried to make her mouth move – to say something. Janicka’s mouth refused to obey. She needed to make it simple. She would try just one word – wait. Laura concentrated with all of her strength. Still she could not make Janicka talk.
Perhaps speaking was too complex to start with. She willed herself to stop walking. Nothing happened. She tried again – still nothing.
Laura felt her frustration build, but she would not be deterred. She would find a way.
She tried just once more. She willed with all her might, and then, just for a second, Janicka stopped walking. She missed a step. She started walking again.
The effort had taken all of Laura’s strength – but it was a start. It proved that she could take over if she put her mind to it.
* * *
Neal pushed through the door of the old wooden boat, and kicked it shut behind him. He unceremoniously dumped Laura on the bed. His arms had grown exhausted from carrying her. He looked down at her frail form. She was still unresponsive, and she was soaked to the bone. Neal was also wet, but he hadn’t been out in the elements as long as she had. He knew that his first priority had to be to get her warm and dry. He tried shaking her again and called loudly to her. She didn’t respond. He checked her pulse – it was still strong. He held his cheek close to her face. She was breathing. Why wouldn’t she wake up?
He looked around the inside of the boat for some warm clothes. The small cupboard had a few items – but they were all men’s clothes. It didn’t matter.
Neal carefully removed Laura’s jeans, jacket and blouse. He noticed that she was wearing the necklace they’d found hanging in here earlier, but didn’t bother to remove it. It wasn’t important. He briefly considered leaving her in her wet underwear, but concern for her health quickly overtook his desire to respect her modesty. Averting his eyes as much as he could, he finished undressing her and dried her with a woollen towel that he’d found in the cupboard. He then dressed her in the old clothes. The shirt and pants appeared handmade – clearly by an amateur.
Neal then turned his attention to the fireplace. There was still dry wood sitting next to it. It took him a few minutes to get the fire going, but he knew that once lit it would soon warm the small interior of the boat. Neal picked Laura up and carried her down to the floor – laying her on the rug in front of the fire.
It was then that he realised that he was shivering quite badly. There were enough spare clothes in the cupboard that he could change too. He undressed, dried as best as he could and then put on the outfit. The clothes felt prickly and uncomfortable, but they were dry.
There was no way he could get Laura back to Moreau Town until morning. Hopefully, the rain would die down tomorrow. It would be a long way to carry her, but he would do it. He would walk to the ends of the planet to take care of Laura. He wouldn’t let her down.
Thinking of nothing else that he could do, Neal laid down on the rug and snuggled close to Laura’s unconscious body. He gripped her hand and held it tightly.
“Come on Laura, stay with me. I need you to wake up. I love you Laura. I love you.”