Chapter 1

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

Emily’s foot jerked at the moment she felt she was on the brink of sleep. She hated that. Why did the human body have those weird twitches? Hypnic jerks, that’s what Layla had called them when Emily had complained a couple of nights ago. Layla was her mentor. She was older, and she knew things that Emily didn’t. Emily trusted her. Something she couldn’t quite do with Rob.

When she had returned the previous evening from the bookstore, her mind was clear as crystal but she couldn’t remember what she had been doing there. When she had asked Rob to remind her, he had said: “tadjiki ramaj” – good job. And then he’d turned to Layla to speak to her in a higher dialect which Emily didn’t understand. The higher orders never taught them the higher dialect. They sufficed in using the basic lingua the recruits were taught in stage one. Emily was now in stage two, the practical phase of her training.

But she couldn’t remember what had happened at the bookstore. Had she done something wrong? But Rob had said good job. Was this a normal practice in stage two? To delete memories? Layla wouldn’t say, which made Emily even more agitated.

“It shouldn’t worry you,” she had told Emily, sitting on the couch opposite the girl as they sipped their afternoon drink. “Tomorrow- well, that’s for tomorrow.”

Emily disliked it when Layla hinted at something to come and then chose not to share whatever she had meant to. Why couldn’t she just know?

A hazy feeling suddenly overwhelmed Emily. As she lay her head back against the pillow, she drifted off to the distinct feeling of someone watching her from the corner of her room, though she had no strength to twist her head around and see for herself. The sticky, sore feeling in her neck returned, seemingly pushing her harder against the pillow till she felt she would suffocate. Emily fell into an uneasy, drugged sleep.


When she woke up, the sunrays were shining bright through the slats in her blinds, drawing a striped pattern on the grey floor of her room. Dragging her legs out of bed and sitting upright, Emily realised she no longer felt dizzy or uncertain. She could remember the night before, drinking her afternoon drink with Layla and then falling asleep. Yet perhaps not so strangely, she could not remember the topic of their conversation or any feelings it had caused.

A clear image drew itself in her brain. A bridge on the edge of the city, glowing golden-red in the afternoon light. She had to get there before dusk. There was a man standing there, waiting. He didn’t know she would come. She had to be careful. He was waiting for a sign in life; she could feel his angst as he stared into the waters. She would find him under the bridge, by the riverbank. He would never know who she was. But she would be his sign.


Oh gosh, I'm in love with this but hope I do Anna proud. This is wonderful Sci Fi with a plot that could have several meanings and go in any direction. I have to make assumptions and follow the story line and see where it takes me. This is so well written Anna. I'm loving the fact that Emily is in stage 2 and the sticky neck is right out of the X files. The last paragraph really got to me. What a hook. Yes, I'm going on and on but this is so good. Well done, Anna.
I agree with Ray. This is very clever with the introduction of a higher order dialect and communication through visions. One of the hardest things to do is to create a believable 'other' world yet you have done it with believable characters and events. Terrific!