West of Paradise, Galatia
“Any sign of her?” Gideon asks suddenly.
Shaking her head, Sylvia answers, “Nothing just yet.”
Gideon continues scanning the foliage and trees around himself as Sylvia works her way back to him from the detour she had taken into the brush.
The duo had been searching the area surrounding the building they had spent the night in for much of the early morning. Ever since the first rays of light worked their way through the cracks in the old building, they had been up, looking for Meghan.
There was no knowing where the girl went for sure, Gideon could now see that she was a lot better at hiding her tracks then he thought he would ever be able to do.
The only evidence that Meghan had even been here was the bump on the back of his head and Sylvia’s still-simmering anger.
Breaking through the last layer of sticks between her and Gideon, Sylvia huffs, “Think we should check the river?”
Gideon allows himself a brief shudder as the thought of unseen river hybrids flashes through his imagination. Land-based monsters was one thing, he could see them coming. The thought of beasts hiding in water he couldn’t see into was entirely another.
And then there was the matter of his never seeing a river before. He had no idea if they were dangerous, drinkable, or if there were any critters in them at all.
Seeing that Gideon wasn’t answering, Sylvia repeats herself, this time saying it as more of a statement, “We should check the river.”
Nodding silently, Gideon follows Sylvia as they double back and make for the river that hemmed in one side of the structure that they had lodged in. Pursing his lips, Gideon assures himself that there was no such thing as river monsters. None of the textbooks mentioned any tests with any animals that belonged in the water. The river had to be the safest place in the wilderness.
“You know, I’ve always enjoyed the river,” Sylvia starts in a chit-chat tone that didn’t match their current dire straits.
Despite the disparity, Gideon can’t help but join in though, something about talking felt relieving. Like it could distract him from his current surroundings long enough to remind himself that he was human and had a future. Taking a breath, Gideon asks, “You’ve been to a river before?”
Nodding, Sylvia answers, “In the sims, yes.”
“The simulations that we were put through to train us. Come to think of it, I guess those rivers don’t exactly count as real rivers though.”
“What were they like?”
“The sim rivers? They were lovely… The sound of running water along felt so good, sooths the soul. It’s crazy to think that water could run so freely when we were forced to ration it so tightly at home… I think that could be why I enjoyed the sound so much, just knowing that there was so much water to be had.”
“Well, there are several kinds of beaches for rivers. Some are just dirt, some were carved straight through stone. Others were gravel, sand, and one didn’t even have a beach, it just went from plants straight to the water.” Sylvia stops and laughs, “You know, Maverick fell right through the plants, as it turns out they were floating on the surface! It took us two hours to fish him out, and by the end of it, we were all drenched.”
“Was it scary?”
Beginning to walk again, Sylvia shrugs, “Well, I guess it was, but we didn’t really think about it at the time. That was our first experience with a river, so we weren’t sure what to do exactly. It’s crazy to think they could get so much water just to use in one of the sims, now that I think about it.”
“A lot of this is crazy.”
“Yeah, it is… Hey, so what exactly were you and Meghan talking about before she… before she went crazy?”
Frowning, Gideon slowly recalls the conversation, “Nothing much, I guess. I mean, we talked about Tyson, and I was doing everything I could to make her feel less awful about it. I mean, it was horrible that she abandoned him to die, but… well, I don’t know…”
“She didn’t say anything that seemed out of the ordinary?”
“Well, she blamed herself for it all, that’s for sure. She also told me to stay away from her, said she’d get me killed too…”
“I guess I wasn’t of much help with all of that,” Sylvia turns back and frowns, “Sorry about that.”
“You did what you felt like you had to do,” Gideon shrugs, feeling hollow about it all. For one reason or another, everything felt very resolved already. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something told him that this little chapter was coming to a close.
“What’s that look?” Sylvia asks as she scans Gideon’s face.
Realizing that his brows were furrowed in thought, Gideon allows his face to slacken before he says, “I don’t know. Something just feels weird about all of this.”
“Well, being outside of the domes is bound to feel weird when it’s your first time.”
“No, that’s not it… There’s something else.”
“…You going to tell me about it?”
Gideon sighs as he considers his plays. On the one hand, he could tell Sylvia about his dreams and how they were the reason why he was out here now. He could tell her that his dreams were of the outside world, the world they were in now. He could tell her that the hybrids that he had seen were the same hybrids he had drawn and how those drawings changed the course of his life. On the other hand, he could hide all of that and simply give her a vague response.
“What is it?” Sylvia asks when Gideon takes too long to answer.
“It’s… complicated. I—well, there’s something about me that’s a bit weird—”
“I doubt it’s as weird as trying to hear you skirt around it,” Sylvia interrupts, “Give it to me straight.”
“Well, I have dreams.”
“So do a lot of people,”
“They’re not really normal… They’re of the future.”
“Lots of people dream of the future. It’s how their brains cope with the present. It lets us hope—”
“No. Like they literally are of the future.”
“I knew what the hybrids looked like before I got out here, I drew a picture of one and that’s what got me sent out here. One stupid drawing.”
“I’m not following. Are you telling me that you’re some kind of prophet?”
“A prophet? I… I never thought of it like that.”
“You’re serious right now?”
“I… Well, if you’re a prophet, then prove it.”
“Tell me my mother’s first name.”
“I already met your mother,” Gideon laughs.
Laughing in response, Sylvia admits, “Oh, right. I forgot that. Well… Tell my what my middle name is then.”
“I don’t know, that’s not really how it works for me.”
“So, you’re just a baby prophet then!” Sylvia announces teasingly.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that, I don’t even know if—”
“Oh, you’re a prophet alright. At least if what you’re telling me is true.”
“Well, then I guess I’ve got a lot to teach you, because I knew several prophets back at home.”
“Yep, they’re sort of the reason why I got sent out here. I’d hear them talking about secret Coalition stuff that they had seen in prophet-land, so I’d go and check it out to see if it was real. Admittedly, I had a lot of doubt in their abilities. Fast forward a few yeas, and here I am. I guess prophecy gets people sent out of the domes! First me, now you.”
“Now, think you could tell me what’s about to happen? Maybe tell me where Meghan is?”
Gideon shakes his head as he continues walking. He hadn’t ever thought of honing his ability to dream of the future before, up until now it hadn’t served any purpose, it was just a means to keep him up at night. He is about to verbalize that he couldn’t tell her anything when he stops dead in his tracks.
Before him was a tree that was far too familiar.
It was the tree from one of his dream visions.
The gnarled bark, the baby ferns that were growing in the decomposing bark on the south side. The reaching branches that blotted out the sun. Even the dancing lights on the ground that broke through the dense canopy. It was all from one of the earliest visions that he could actually recall.
“Syl—Sylvia!” Gideon chokes. When she doesn’t stop, he calls out louder and in a stronger voice, “Sylvia!”
“What?” Sylvia asks, started. She looks Gideon over and a look of worry overcomes her face, “W-what is it? Don’t tell me what I think you’re going to tell me…”
“I… I know where Meghan is…”
“Gideon, you’re scaring me. Why do you look like you just saw a dead body?”
Because I did, Gideon answers in his head. He had seen a dead body, but it was many years ago. Easily a decade. That body was one that he found not long after circling around the gnarled tree with the baby ferns.
A look of dread crosses Sylvia’s face and she asks the question that Gideon dreaded, “Meghan is dead, isn’t she?”
Closing his eyes, Gideon allows his head to drop in a defeated nod.
Suddenly the idea of being a prophet didn’t seem nearly as amazing to him.