She’d been on the road for almost 20 days; she knew, she’d counted. And it was really hard. She usually didn’t mind the heat, but here it was unbearable. It wasn’t the temperature: it was the sand. It infiltrated everywhere. Discomfort was… always. Every movement felt stiff and awkward. It wouldn’t leave her joints. Every articulation felt… cranked. But she didn’t dare go to the main roads. Her father said to stay away from them. There were – how did he say that? – esurient people who would hurt her. She didn’t worry too much. But her father did. And he said she would only be safe in the desert.
It didn’t seem safe though: there were few places where she could hide. Shrubs were too small to protect her from the sun or the wind. At night, it was so cold one might have wondered if it were summer. The temperatures resembled those of a winter night at home rather than a July one but they were less taxing than the day. When she stopped to rest, she kept replaying the images of her last conversation with her father.
“You must go to Cobalt City Ailbhe.” He had said, his face set in the serious expression he sometimes had when he imparted some crucial knowledge upon her.
“Will you go with me father?”
“No.” She had almost talked back then, but refrained. “I will stay here and protect you. I may be gone if… when you return.”
“Do you think it’s possible I die?”
He had seemed on the verge of crying, and he wasn’t a man who cried. Instead of answering, he’s spoken of other things. In hindsight it was probably a cruel and stupid thing to ask, but she’d wanted to know. She should stop… she couldn’t waste time getting lost in memories.
Still it was hard to believe he was gone. Technically, she was the one who left, but she was aware of the risks: he would have done everything to protect her and her final destination. He said she carried the secret to restoring… she hadn’t understood the word. And he hadn’t explained. She would understand in Cobalt City. But it was important she crossed the desert. She still had some days to go: 5 more maybe. If she managed.
And through the sandy gritty desert, there was something heavy in her chest; like a stone. It was made of sadness, sorrow. They were companions on her journey; new ones. She’d never experienced them before. It was so hard. Why had he sent her away? She needed him and he needed her.
There were precious moments. She knew that. Their lives were weird. They lived alone, which could be dangerous, but there was laughter. His mostly, always bright despite the awful situation. And love. He loved her. That was why he’d sent her away. To give her a chance. The realization hit her and she stopped where she stood, hesitating: should she go back? He told her to cross… but… In the end, it allowed them to capture her.
She opened her eyes. She was lying on a table and there were a lot of people around her. Machines too… She couldn’t move. She was restrained. NO! Who had found her? How? She remembered… what? Her father… she’d been thinking of him. She’d felt sadness. She’d felt. She’d got swallowed by the feeling something that had never happened before. So she’d only heard the sound when it was too late. Where was she?
“You’re in Cobalt City Ailbhe.” One of the men in white scrubs said.
“How do you know my name? How long have I been here?”
He cast a quick glance towards one of the machine. There was a giant cord that ran from it to her head; it was plugged behind her neck. The screen showed words:
Artificial Intelligence Liaising Between Human Entities.
Where am I?
How does he know my name?
How long have I been here?
What is this? Why are all my thoughts transcribed on that monitor?
What’s going on?
“My name’s Dr. Brook. I worked with Dr. Finnegan some years ago. But I must admit he surpassed himself here. You’re a very special specimen Ailbhe.”
She couldn’t take her eyes away from the monitor…
“What’s so special about her Dr. Brook? She’s just another AI.”
“Not so. Do you know what is special about you Ailbhe?”
“Do you know what AI means?”
“My father engineered me. I’m artificial.”
“He did. But he did something quite spectacular. You have a secret, don’t you?”
NO! He couldn’t know. Father said nobody should know. But she was in Cobalt City. But Father said she couldn’t say.
“Doctor, her electrical wave lengths are all over the place. She’s… she’s afraid. How is it possible?”
“As I said, quite a spectacular DNA engineering. Dr. Finnegan left a message in your bag pack.”
NO! NO! NO! The message was encrypted. No one was supposed to be able to decipher it.
“I could. Because it was meant for me.”
“You’re pregnant aren’t you Ailbhe?”
The lights in the entire place flickered… What were they going to do to her baby? Father had risked his life so they could be safe and now this? What were they going to do?
“Oh we’ll wait for your child’s father Ailbhe. Declan knew the only way to put the final test to his theory was to send you away. See if somehow you could feel. If you didn’t, you could have become a power to destroy us all. As it is…” His face broke into a happy smile. “We might yet find a way to restore peace and have children again.”
Our challenge today on Flash Fiction Month was to randomly get numbers that gave us themes to work with. I pulled numbers that gave me the following
– an extraordinary secret
– story happening over the course of a summer month
As it happened the Daily Post writing prompt was Journey today, so here goes.