Last time we saw ANDA… (click for recap)
After arriving at the Unseen, Anda meets Ben and Mica, who claim to be her brother and sister. She is uncertain, but Ben restores Cassandra’s memory, and Cassandra assures her they’re telling the truth. Tempted with the promise of a family, Anda agrees to let Ben restore her memories. Except it doesn’t work. She meets Hannah, a Seer, who tells her about Juliette: the First Prophet who saw the future. Anda realizes she must learn more and talks with both Ben and Mica. Ben is grieved that he could not save her and tells her how wonderful their life before her Burn was. But Mica is dismissive and negative about their past. Anda asks if she or Mica have abilities like Ben’s, but Mica says no. Left without answers, they are whisked away to meet with the Colonel. But Anda and Hannah are asked to wait outside…
So many doors. So many possibilities and mysteries. But there was only one door Anda cared about.
“Do you know what they’re talking about in there?” Anda asked Hannah. They sat on a wooden bench across from the conference room door where Mica, Cassandra, Ben, and several others whose names she didn’t know met and discussed… something. Anda stared at the door, running her thumb over her flower pendant, wondering what was happening on the other side of that door. It was such an ordinary door, ordinary like the door in the doctor’s office. Ordinary like the doors in her tower and down the hall in her apartment building. Its simplicity and commonness filled her with fear. She knew something bad was happening on the other side of that door, and she knew that soon she would have to go through it again.
Hannah shook her head. “You know as much as I do.”
Anda’s forehead crinkled in thought, and she kept her eyes fixed on the door.
Light flickered out of the corner of her eye. At the end of the hallway through another open door, the light flickered again. Something about the shade of the light seemed familiar.
“This is your office, isn’t it?” Anda asked.
“It was. However, my post was usually out on the mountainside, so I was rarely here.”
“What’s down that hallway? There are lights down there.”
“That’s where the Surveillance Department keeps us safe. They have cameras all around the city and mountain.”
“Hannah? Can I speak with you a moment?” a voice called.
“Stay here,” she said to Anda, standing up. “I’ll be right back.” Her staff clicked down the stone towards the voice.
Anda sat staring at the light at the end of the hallway.
Her eyelids began to flutter as the light shifted—
Hands. And blood. The world was black and white, grainy and distorted, and….
Anda opened her eyes with a sinking sick feeling: she understood the light. She stood up and walked down the hallway. The doors on either side glimmered in the flickering light. Anda reached the end of the hallway pushed the door all the way open.
She found herself in a large room with desks and chairs and tables all facing the far wall. Hundreds of sparkling CRT displays lined the far wall. Images of the Unseen City flashed black and white before them, grainy and distorted on the blue-gray screens. All the images on the screens were strangely shining.
“What is this place?” Anda asked, staring at the screens.
A guard turned to her, startled from a cup of steaming coffee he’d been bent over. “You can’t be back here,” he said. He set his coffee down, sloshing it over the side and onto his hand. He cursed and shook black coffee from his hand as he moved to escort her out, but Anda waved his hand away and stared at the screens. The man fumbled with his drink.
“But, this is just like… I mean, it looks just like my….”
Her heart pounded, and blood rushed to her head as she realized what she was seeing. The monitors and the flashing screens looked like her vision. The screens showed the same color, flicker, and shining light that her vision of the dying man had.
She wondered what that meant. Was he here? Was the dying man somewhere in this city?
The guard put a dripping hand on her arm to lead her from the room, but Anda shoved his hand away and ran back down the hallway for the conference room. Whatever was happening inside that room, she needed to see.
Anda burst through the ordinary door and found herself staring at the black and white vision before her. Her vision, strangely shining, was now real before her eyes. The image sparkled and flickered in front of her. She hadn’t been seeing an event: she had been seeing this moment, this recording flickering before her. She walked closer, captivated by the image.
Everyone at the table looked at her, then looked back to the screen.
Colonel Mason rose from her chair and rushed to Anda, telling her she couldn’t be here, she had to leave, where was Hannah? Hannah! But Anda didn’t hear her. She stared in horror at the screen as her vision played out in shining and horrible detail.
She stared at the man, still unable to see his face. He pleaded with someone. His hands outstretched to the figure before him. Anda barely registered that there was another person on the screen. She only saw the dying man alive on the CRT display before her.
Maybe there was still time to save him.
The man on the display jerked, a flash of light, and he staggered.
“No… that’s not right…” she said.
Hands. And blood. The screen before her was black and white, grainy and distorted, and strangely shining, but she knew blood when she saw it. The wet shining blackness on his hands was blood.
The hands reached out, stretched for… not her, but that figure holding the gun. She couldn’t do anything to stop it. The hands kept reaching. She raised her eyes from the bloody hands to see who they belonged to—she needed to see who was reaching for her and dying and—
The man suddenly looked up, and she finally saw his face. He had a kind face, at least, she imagined he would be kind, despite the pain and disbelief clearly written on his face.
Anda stared at him, and the dying man stared back at her. Then the second figure on the screen turned. It took a moment for the realization to seep in: the second figure was herself. She was on the screen, too, staring down at the dying man and holding a gun. She was the figure holding the gun. She stared in horror at her own image on the screen, standing over the dying man she had fought so hard to save.
She had killed him.
“No. That’s… that’s not right. I was supposed to save him. I’ve been trying to save him!” Anda screamed. She reached out to her black and white and distorted self, covering her shame with her hands. “I left to save him—she’s gone because I had to save him… Zoe, I’m sorry—I’m so sorry!”
All at once, darkness closed around her, blocking out the light and the bright and the good. A deep, dark storm cloud rolled over her and filled her lungs. She looked at Mica. Mica stared at her with such hate and disbelief, and Anda understood who the dying man was. Peter.
Anda crumpled to the ground, knowing that the woman who called herself her sister would never forgive her.
Hannah was at her side.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” Anda said, her voice a pathetic whimper, but she couldn’t make herself stop.
A slow, haunting song began and filled the room as Hannah’s voice rose and fell, clear and strong and deep, tolling and echoing and ringing in her ears.
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,” Hannah sang. “When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
“I’m sorry I’m so sorry,” Anda kept repeating as Hannah helped her to her feet and led her back through the cavern, up the stairs, up the hallways, and back to the medical bay. Hannah kept one hand gripped tight on Anda’s arm while the other guided her staff, gently tapping it out in front of her. And Hannah kept repeating the slow and rolling song as they walked. As the words and the tune washed over Anda, her mind barely registered that this was the moment from her visions: the woman with a white scarf over her eyes singing… but even as she realized it, the thought was gone, overwhelmed by Peter.
She had killed Peter. The one good thing about their lives in West Six. Why would she kill him?
Hannah kept singing as they walked, and Anda kept wailing. The world flashed by, and the next thing Anda knew, Hannah was helping her onto a gurney in a little exam room in the medical bay.
“What happened?” Dr. Henderson asked, bursting through the door.
“I don’t remember, I don’t remember. I don’t remember killing… Why did I want to save him if I killed him? Why did I kill him?” Anda asked, staring into the white silk of Hannah’s scarf.
“What is she talking about?” Dr. Henderson asked, grabbing Anda’s wrist and checking her pulse.
“I’m not sure, I didn’t see the footage they were watching,” Hannah said softly.
Anda felt the world go sideways, her stomach churned, and nausea rolled in her belly. How could she have fought so long and so hard for someone who was already dead? How could she have fought so hard to save someone whom she herself had killed? Her breath started coming shorter. She couldn’t breathe out, just in, but the air wouldn’t fill her lungs. Her fingers tingled. Her arms went numb. Her throat closed up, and she made strange sounds as she struggled to breathe.
“Doctor,” Hannah said. “Do something.” She dropped her staff. The wood clattered on the stone floor. Hannah sank down onto the bed and put a well-muscled arm around Anda’s shoulders. Anda continued to hyperventilate and struggle to breathe.
“She needs to calm down,” Dr. Henderson said. “Anda, can you hear me? I need you to calm down now.”
The anxious look in the doctor’s eyes only sent Anda into further panic. She wondered if she would ever breathe again. What if this was it? What if she couldn’t catch her breath ever again?
But it didn’t matter because she deserved it. She had killed Peter, and then Zoe had died because she had been obsessed with trying to save a dead man. A man she had killed.…
Hannah’s distant voice kept telling her to breathe, and Anda grabbed the woman’s wrist to steady herself and to keep the room from spinning. She felt Hannah’s pulse under her fingers beat slow and steady, like a gentle rain. The song she had been singing echoed through Anda’s mind. She knew that song. She had heard it in her visions.
Dr. Henderson said something to Anda, but Anda wasn’t listening. She was focused on Hannah’s breath and heartbeat and hands. Her hands were scarred and calloused and strong. They were masculine and not pretty hands, but they were comforting and sure hands.
A needle slid into Anda’s arm. A warm and tingly feeling spread over her mind and flooded her heart. A feeling of largeness, like she was too big for her own body, eclipsed the panic and immediate fear. Anda let her eyes close. As she drifted off to sleep, she realized that she had been wrong. She had seen Hannah in her visions, but the voice singing to her from her more-than dreams was wrong. The voice in her vision wasn’t Hannah’s…. so, she wondered as her eyes shut and sleep lay a heavy hand on her eyes, who sang the song in her vision?
When Anda awoke, she didn’t know how long she had been asleep. It could have been moments, it could have been hours. Somewhere outside herself, she heard Hannah and Dr. Henderson speaking, and then Cassandra and the Colonel’s voices joined them.
After everything she went through to save the dying man, Peter, she had killed him. Cowardice smiled down at her. He whispered soft words and sweet thoughts and if only’s, and his breath stank. He’d never seemed… she searched for the right word. Rational. Thoughtful. Kind. But he was right, she saw that now.
Everything went green and gray.
A fountain covered in snow. Sky. Mountains….
Three kilns laid out like three coffins. Two of the kilns held people….
A slick voice, oily and dark and sticky. “Thank you, Mara….”
“… it’s time to wake up….”
Then there was nothing.
Her eyes snapped open, and cowardice stared down at her with a gap-toothed grin, and for the first time, she saw his gaze as friendly, compassionate. What good were visions, if they were visions of death? He seemed to ask. What good was she if she couldn’t even use her visions to save one single person? Wasn’t it time to put herself first?
And Anda realized there was only one thing for her to do.