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Chapter 1 of Quintina
A steady, low pitched hum radiated from above and pulled me out of the darkness. I rolled over to my side, buried one ear in the soft pillow I laid on, covered the other with my hand, and prayed for it to go away. Whatever it was – my brother, a neighbor – I didn’t care. All I wanted was sleep. Lots of sleep.
But the sound didn’t go away. My attempts to block it only seemed to make it louder, like voices echoing down a tunnel. I tucked my hands under my head and told myself to ignore the sound, to focus on the blissful feeling that came from being on the edge of slumber.
But I couldn’t. My senses were uncontrollable. I tried to reign them back in, but it was too late. I became increasingly aware of my surroundings.
An annoying chill stretched up my legs from my feet. I promptly drew them toward me banging my knees against something cold and hard. I gasped and squinted firmly against the pain, letting out a groan. The room…it didn’t smell right. It smelled like a…shower curtain.
I rolled over and opened my eyes. Something clear like glass hung low and distorted the dark ceiling above me. Confused, I reached out and touched the barrier, sliding my hand across it from where it met the white padded bed I laid on to the slick curve it made over me like the lid of a coffin. This wasn’t the thin, flat glass of a window pane, but thick and molded. I followed it with my eyes to the foot of the bed where it continued to surround me.
What the –?
I twisted my body and looked behind me, toward the source of the humming. It was coming from a large white case attached to the head of the bed. When the doctor was trying to figure out the source of my hallucinations, he put me in an MRI machine about this size, but it wasn’t as large. I stared at it trying to process what I was seeing, but the longer I lay there, the more it felt like the glass was closing in around me.
As I reached up with both hands and gently pushed on the glass, the long sleeves of my plain white shirt slid down my forearms toward my shoulders. It held firmly in place.
I ran my hands along the seam between the barrier and bed trying to feel for a latch or button, but there was nothing. I once again reached up with both hands and pushed, harder this time. The glass refused to budge. My heartbeat quickened. I’m trapped!
I looked down at my white pants and bare feet. What am I doing here? I thought back over the last 24 hours. It was fuzzy, but it was starting to come back to me – stargazing, Jared, Doctor McCormick, Steve, the shadow man…some hazy images of space. Is it true? Did I really travel to another planet?
The sound of a voice broke my train of thought. The glass acted like a conductor, making it resonate around me. I couldn’t understand exactly what was being said, because the language was none I had ever heard before, but I could tell it belonged to a man and he was angry.
Through the distortion of the glass at my feet, I noticed something moving. Focusing on that end of the room, I could just make out a gray door with a window. It was closed, but someone was standing in front of it. Their body blocked part of the white light that was passing through the window. I was sure they were the source of the voice. Their shoulders rose at the climax of each angry sentence and it occurred to me, whoever they were, there was a chance they were hostile.
With both hands, I hit the glass full force. It lifted off the bed a little, which was just the encouragement I needed. I hit it again. It gave a little bit more and fell back into place.
I hit it again and again and again. All my emotions from the memories of Jared, Dr. McCormick, Steve, and my family came flooding out of me.
I pounded the glass until my knuckles split open and tears streamed down my face. Then, surprisingly, the glass slid back behind me. When I blinked away the tears, someone was standing in front of me.
“Quintina?” It was the man with the blue eyes I had seen when I first arrived. Now, fully awake, I saw I was wrong: he wasn’t the man I had seen in my visions on Earth. He had the same blue eyes, thick angular brow, and close-cut brown hair, even the same chiseled jaw, but the mouth was wrong. It was smaller and carried a permanent hint of disapproval at its corners, not the teasing of a playful grin. And the nose didn’t match. The ridge was bowed, like it had been broken and never healed correctly, but it seemed fitting for the 5 o’clock shadow and general ruggedness that he seemed to encompass, a contrast to the man in my visions, who was more refined and polished, like the gentleman you’d find in a Jane Austen book.
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