Fear The Dawn: Chapter 46

It's time.”
He had waited patiently for his opportunity since that night, but it had not come quickly. After their ordeal the others had been in no great hurry to go their separate ways, instead they lingered about, talking and celebrating and going on silly adventures in the mornings. They tried to involve him as well, and he made an effort to be sociable in the hopes that it might make future interactions easier. He had even made a kind of peace with the scary orange-furred woman called Sabre, though he still preferred to avoid her if possible. Nevertheless, his true focus remained steadfast on finding Line and convincing Lapse to help bring him home. He hadn't allowed himself to go back to Lace since that night lest he become distracted, though tonight he longed for her support more than ever as he went over his plan one last time.

If she remembered him, she would remember Line as well, that much was obvious. Unfortunately, she was no more likely to want to assist Line than himself, and that had stumped him for some time. Ultimately though, it was his own fault. Line might have been annoying, but he was never cruel, not until he had encouraged him to be. He had never meant to hurt the girl, he just had terrible taste in friends.
It's fine if you hate me”, he thought, rehearsing what he would say. “I deserve that. But please don't hold it against him, he didn't mean to hurt anyone.”
She might buy that, after all it wouldn't be hard to believe that he had misled Line into saying those things after all he had said and done. He just hoped she didn't remember whatever it was that had happened between Line and herself in the other world. He had no answer for that, all he even knew about it was that Line had done something very bad and he had no way to take the blame. Perhaps Line was equally responsible for his fate after all, but he had to try. He had come this far.

He took one last look at her ship through his spyglass. She was alone tonight, and that too had not come easily given how much time she had spent with Pack lately. There was no telling when he might get another chance, it had to be tonight. Karma took a deep breath and lowered his sails as his ship began bearing down on her. Tonight's mission was not one of stealth, but he couldn't help retreating to his favourite perch out of habit. He only had another few moments to remain hidden before he would have to own up to his past sins and account for them.

His first trial came when he pulled up alongside her ship. Somehow, in spite of all his planning, he hadn't thought to plan how he was actually going to approach her. Surely, she had to know his ship was there by now, but if so she made no sign of it, she was just standing there on the other side of the deck, looking up at the stars. Did he dare board her ship on his own? Wait for her to notice him? Call out to her? None of those options seemed ideal. He certainly didn't want to spook her, but what if she never even noticed him? He walked up to the railing of his ship closest to hers, trying to figure out what to do.
What do you want with me?”, she asked, coldly.
She knew he was there after all, but he wasn't ready yet. That wasn't how he had planned to start the conversation, and it threw him terribly off-balance. He stuttered and tripped over his words as he tried to re-collect himself.
Uhh- I, err... well, uh, please-”.
She turned to look at him. He expected to see anger or scorn on her face, but instead there was a kind of wary curiosity. She was giving him a chance to talk, and he knew he had to make use of it, even though all of his planning had fallen though. All he could do now was come out with it and try to improvise from there.
I-I need your help. A friend of mine is lost in the other world, and you're the only one who can help him.”
She considered him for a moment. “All right, I'll do it.”
He was completely caught off-guard by that. “You will? Just like that?”, he stammered.
She looked back out towards the ocean. “Pack told me how you looked out for him, and I know that people can change. If you need my help, then I'll do it.”
He hadn't planned for this either, and once again he didn't know what to say. “Thank you”, he finally managed.
I just want to know one thing”, she said, and he had some idea what it might be. “Why were you so mean to me when we had only just met?”
I was mean to everyone back then, even to my friends, and they're all gone now. There's no excuse for what I've done, but I have to try to make amends.”
She looked down at the water for a moment. “All right, so what do we have to do?”

He explained to her about what he had seen that morning when he saw Line in the moving room.
He was waiting to apologize to someone. It has to be you.”
I don't remember anything about it”, she said, shaking her head.
I don't know the details either, unfortunately, but knowing Line I suspect he must have said something stupid.”
Okay, but how are we going to find your friend? We found Mr. Corsair, but I don't know quite how that happened.”
He's been waiting for you for a long time. If you've decided that you want to find him too, then I think we'll be all right.”
She nodded. “Honestly, I'm a bit afraid after what happened last time.”
That'll probably make it even easier to find him”, he thought grimly, remembering how the others' fears had come true in the mornings. “I'll do what I can to keep you safe”, he said.
All right. I'm as ready as I'll ever be.”
Yet the sun was not up yet, only the faintest traces of light were starting to appear on the horizon. Karma had nothing more to say, so they stood there in a kind of awkward silence.
I really am sorry about what happened before”, he said, eventually.
She nodded. “I hope we find your friend.”


When the sun finally rose, Lapse found herself surrounded by a cacophony of shuffling feet and overlapping voices unlike any she had heard before. She opened her eyes to find a veritable ocean of strangers coming towards her. She quickly pulled her arms in to her body and tried to make herself as small as possible, but the throng of strangers simply parted around her without paying her the slightest attention, as though she might as well have been a tree. She stood there in a kind of stunned silence for a moment as the crowd went by, totally unsure of what to do. Was Mr. Karma's friend here somewhere? She had never seen so many strangers, most mornings she only saw one or two, and she felt terribly out of place here. Perhaps someone could point her in the right direction?
Excuse me”, she said to someone next to her, “do you know where I might find Mr. Line?”, but the man just kept walking, undeterred. She didn't have any better luck with the next stranger, either. They were all so focused on wherever it was they were going it was as though she simply didn't exist.

What kind of place is this?”, she wondered. She tried standing on the tips of her toes so she could see over the sea of strangers. The room was long and thin, and there was a long dark tunnel at both ends. There were a lot of bright lights along the ceiling and there was a big set of stairs on the wall farthest away from the tunnel. None of that made any sense to her, in fact it made her feel even more lost than before.
Mr. Karma?”, she called out, scarcely heard at all over the crowd. “Mr. Line?” There was no reply from the crowd. “Pack? Anyone?”
Something must have gone wrong. There had to be some mistake. Surely Mr. Karma's friend wouldn't wait for her in a place like this, she would never find him. She didn't like it here, all the people made her nervous. She just wanted to go home...
A terrible high-pitched whine filled the air. Lapse covered her ears, but even that didn't block out the noise. She turned towards the direction of the sound, and a huge thing came out of the tunnel. She jumped back and braced herself against the back wall, but it came to a gentle stop a moment later. It was a very strange thing, now that she could get a better look at it, it had windows and doors, almost like a building, but somehow it had come through that tunnel. She moved a little closer so she could get a better look, now that it had stopped. It was sitting on some sort of metal bar, that extended from the tunnel it had come from to the one on the other side. The doors on the strange object opened and several strangers got in.
Last call for boarding”, an ambient voice echoed through the room. “The train will be leaving the station shortly.”
The moving room!”, she finally realized. Mr. Karma had told her about this, this was where he had found his friend. So she was in the right place after all. She knew she had to get in there, so she sprinted towards the doors. She heard a swishing sound and they started to close on their own, but she managed to leap inside just before they closed on her. She put a hand on her chest to steady herself and took a quick look around the room. It was long and narrow and there were a lot of seats aligned in rows all the way to the back. Apart from herself, there weren't too many other strangers in the moving room, not nearly as many as there had been outside. Could one of them be Mr. Line?
Take your seat, miss”, the stranger at the front of the room said to her. A moment later, the room lurched forward and she was almost thrown back into the seat behind her. The room slowly started to build up speed, and a moment later everything went dark as they entered the tunnel and left that noisy room behind.
Wow!”, she couldn't help but exclaim as the moving room left the tunnel. Somehow, they were outside, she could see all sorts of buildings and trees passing by outside the window near her seat, she could even look up and see the sky. It was already dark out, though the stars didn't seem to be out.
For a moment she just sat there transfixed, watching the world go by out her window. The noisy room had been terrible, but this place wasn't so bad, there were a lot of interesting things to see and it was much quieter. She had a job to do, though, she had to try to find Mr. Line. She had found the moving room, he had to be around here somewhere. She turned around and looked over the back of her seat at the rest of the strangers in the room. There weren't that many, perhaps twenty or so, but unfortunately Mr. Karma hadn't been able to give her a good description of what he looked like, all she knew was that he was a man and he was looking for her. Maybe Mr. Line knew what he was looking for? She looked at her own reflection in the window. She had brown skin and long black hair, and she was wearing a black coat and dark pants. Her mismatched eyes were the only point of colour on her outfit, but besides that she looked pretty much the same way she usually did. She looked over the room again. There was one more dark-skinned woman, though she had shorter hair, most of the others were men. She leaned out the side of her seat to make sure they could see her, but none of them seemed to be paying attention to her, they were either talking to those sitting beside them or looking out the window.
Mr. Line?”, she called back. “I've come here to see you, are you there?”
There was no response, but the lights in the room dimmed a little and the room itself even seemed to shake a bit. Lapse quickly ducked back into her chair. “I'd better not do that again”, she thought. The last thing she wanted was to mess things up and waste this chance. If the moving room came for her, perhaps Mr. Line would as well if she just waited patiently. She went back to watching out the window, and the lights went back to normal as though nothing had ever happened.

Outside, the buildings gradually started to thin out. As they went, the clouds above gradually parted, and she gasped happily as she caught her first glimpse of the giant white ball in the sky. It was like a star, but much bigger, almost the same size as the sun. She knew the strangers called it “the moon”, and that it could take on various shapes, but it was a full circle tonight, shining pale white light down on the world below. She loved it, it was so serene and beautiful, but since they usually went back home when the sun went down she very rarely got to see it. She was so focused on it that she didn't even notice at first when the moving room came to the edge of the land and started over the sea. When she first noticed it, she panicked, thinking that the room was going to plunge into the ocean, but amazingly it started to rise up into the air, sailing gracefully over the waters below. She looked down at the water far below, and it shimmered in brilliant white, just like the sunset she had seen with Pack, but somehow with the brilliant white moon shining down upon it it seemed even more magical. “It's beautiful”, she thought, wishing she had some paper to make a sketch of it. Despite their goal of finding Line, she made sure to remember it for later. The moving room gradually crossed over the water and into a forested area.

That horrible sound startled Lapse again as the moving room gradually came to a stop.
This can't be right”, she thought, looking out the window, “I haven't found Mr. Line yet”.
They had stopped at a small elevated platform, not at all like the place where they had started, this place was outdoors and there was hardly a stranger to be seen. A few lamps lit the area, but it was very dark out.
Oh no”, she thought, “I must have done something wrong and missed him!” She looked out the window again. She didn't see her ship, but she figured it had to be out there somewhere. She figured the best choice was just to stay in the moving room, that was where Mr. Karma had found his friend, so it had to be the right place, but everyone started to get up and leave.
Last stop, everybody off”, said the man from the front. She didn't move at first, but then he addressed her directly “that includes you, miss”, and she knew she had to leave the moving room. The doors whooshed shut behind her and the moving room gradually started to leave.
Now what?”, she wondered. It was cold on the platform, and the rest of the strangers quickly dispersed. She looked up at the sky. The moon was still out, and a few stars, but she knew her time was running out. She looked around the platform for anything that might lead her in the right direction. The lamps lead down a set of stairs, and there was a bright light coming from somewhere down below. With nothing else to do, she walked down the stairs and towards the light. It was coming from a small building with large glass walls and a number of small tables inside. The rest of the pathway was dark, so she opened the door and walked inside.

There was a strong scent inside the building that she didn't quite recognize, but somehow it seemed distantly familiar. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, although there were a fair number of strangers inside the little room they were mostly just talking quietly to each other at the little tables and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Perhaps Mr. Line had come here. She looked around to see if anyone stood out at any of the tables, then she spotted someone waving to her.
Finally!”, she thought, “that must be him”. She was a bit nervous as she approached the man sitting alone at his table. She didn't know what she needed to say to bring him home, only that he had been waiting for her. She took a deep breath as she tried to figure out how she was going to begin.
There you are”, the dark-skinned man at the table said to her, “it's me, where have you been?”
Oh, Mr. Karma”, she said, a bit relieved, “I found the moving room, but there was no sign of your friend. How did you get here?”
I've been here the whole time” he said. “There's nowhere else to go. Line isn't here, and apart from you no one else has come in or gone out. I figured something must have gone wrong when you didn't show up, but maybe this is the right place after all. You said you found the moving room?”
Yeah”, she replied. “It was just like you described it, we went over the water and everyth-”
The door to the little building opened again, interrupting Lapse mid-sentence. They both turned to look at the new entrant, a man in a dark grey coat and pants with fading orange-coloured hair. He walked up towards the counter, not paying any attention to them, and picked something up. Lapse was just starting to think that it might not be him when he noticed them.
It can't be”, he said, looking squarely at her. “Nisha, is that really you?”
She almost responded “no, I'm Lapse”, but then she realized that if he knew her when she was in this world she might have had a different name, the strangers always had funny names. Surely they wouldn't have come all this far for him to be mistaken.
Yes, it's me”, she replied.
I can't believe it”, he replied, “it's been so long, I never thought I'd see you again. Surely you still remember me?”
Lapse winced, she didn't really remember him at all. Even though she had never forgotten how upset she had been that night, the individual details had grown hazy. She didn't even recognize Mr. Karma at first, and he was easy to pick out of a crowd. The other one had maybe had... light-coloured fur? Or perhaps his fur had been several different colours?
She had nothing. They were both looking at her, expectantly, but she didn't know him from any other stranger. She was going to blow the whole thing, but what could she do? Even if they had known each other once, that was in a different life, and it had ended badly. She remembered nothing about the time she had been away, only that she had been very sad and lonely when she came back, pretty much the same as always. She just wanted someone to like her the way she was, why did things never work out?

No matter how many times she thought back on it, she was never able to explain how she came up with it. She had given up, accepted that just she couldn't do it, and then somehow, there it was.
Hello... Aidan”, she replied, finally. It felt incredibly strange to say that name, almost as though it was some sort of key to a door in her mind that was not meant to open.
Oh Nisha”, he exclaimed happily, “it's so good to see you well. After you left I just didn't know what to think...”. He looked over to Karma, as though he had only just realized he was there.
Oh, I'm sorry, you're here with someone. We're very old friends. I don't want to bother you, but would it bother either of you if I sat down for a moment? It's been such a very long time.”
Please, go right ahead”, she replied.
We're old friends too”, Karma said. “It really has been a long time.”
I'm sorry”, he said, cocking his head a bit. “I just can't quite seem to remember. Did we perhaps go to school together?”
Think back, Aidan”, he said, “you do remember. We met in the morning, high above the water, in a big moving room.”
You mean, on the train? I'm sorry, there's no way I could possibly remember everyone I might have spoken to-”.
There was a bomb on the train. They were trying to get everyone off, but you refused to leave. You told me that you couldn't leave the train, because there was this girl that you knew in a previous life, and you couldn't leave until you had a chance to apologize to her.”
Aidan staggered back, almost in shock. “That... that's impossible! That was just a dream! And I never told anyone else about it! There's no way you could know! ...Then... this must be a dream too! All just some crazy figment of my imagination! Nisha isn't really here after all, it's all just a dream again!”
The lights in the room started to spark and burn out, and the whole building seemed to be spinning, making Lapse dizzy. Karma stood up from his chair and grabbed Aidan, who was nearly hysterical. “Line! Get a hold of yourself! You're not imagining anything. Don't you get it? That other life you mentioned, that's where we're from!”
The room stopped spinning. “You can't be”, he said, “this is just some crazy dream.”
I've brought her for you. You said you wanted to apologize to that girl, so here she is. In our world, her name is Lapse, but it's the same girl, I'm sure of it. Look closer, I'm sure you'll know.”
He leaned in closer to look into her eyes, and he touched her cheek with his hand. She could see into his green eyes as well, and she remembered them. “It is really you”, he said. “Nisha. Or should I say, Lapse. You look a little different, but I can tell.”
Yes”, she said. She remembered. She remembered everything. “I saw the moon shining over the bay again tonight, just like the first night we met. It's been so long. I hope you have been well.”
I missed you so much”, he said, touching his forehead to hers. “I'm so sorry, that's twice I've messed up things for you now.”
She leaned forward and kissed him. She was a bit surprised at herself, but it felt incredibly natural and kind of nostalgic at the same time. “It's all right”, she told him after their lips parted. “We've come to take you home.”
Karma nodded. “You're one of us, Line. You've been away in this world for a long time, but it's time you came back.”
Leave this world?”, he repeated. “Something tells me it's a one-way trip, isn't it?”
Is that a problem? Surely you've wanted to return home and see Lapse again?”
Aidan looked over at Lapse. “Well, yes, I have sometimes, but... this world is my home, too. There are people that I care about here, and things that I still need to do”. He turned to Karma. “I'm sorry, but I just can't leave yet.”
Line”, he said gravely, “it wasn't easy for us to find you. If you stay here, you might never be able to return.”
He winced. “I know. Lapse. Tell me something. Are you happy, over in the other world?”
Well, yes, I suppose so. I get to see lots of interesting things in the mornings, and I've finally found someone who loves me”. It didn't occur to her until afterwards that she probably shouldn't have said that, but somehow she couldn't bring herself to lie.
I'm glad”, he said. “Oh, and I remember you now. I have seen you before, in my dreams. You showed me the truth about Nisha, that's how I knew about the other world. We were friends, weren't we?”
Yes”, Karma replied.
Take care of her for me”, he said, standing up from the table. “I have to go now.”
Line, wait!”
He turned back to look at them one more time. “Farewell, Nisha. Or should I say, 'Dream Girl'”.

And then they were alone in the darkened building.
He's gone”, Karma said, in disbelief. “We found him again, and now he's gone.”
He chose to stay”, she corrected him. “It was what he wanted.”
Karma closed his eyes. “You're right. It never occurred to me that he might be happy here.”
Even though she knew it was what he wanted, Lapse couldn't help but feel terribly sad to be separated from him again. She tried to remind herself that he would be all right now, but it wasn't working. “Goodbye, Aidan”, she said, her eyes full of tears.
You mean Li-”, Karma started to correct her, but then he stopped. “No, you're right. He is Aidan now. We should go.”
They stood up and left the building, Lapse hanging onto his arm for support. The ship was waiting for them outside, where the platform had been. Karma helped her climb back up to the deck.
Farewell, my friend”, he said, taking one last look at Aidan's world before it melted away into the sea.

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