“Care for a beverage, sir?” the Gervian flight attendant asked.
Francis sat with one arm folded, the other holding a piece of parchment in front of him. “I’m certain you will find it to display the-”
“Err, sir?” she kindly interrupted.
His fixation on the paper broke and he stared at her blankly, lost in thought. Her long brown hair was pulled back and it reminded him of Odette’s. He then shook his head and laughed, realizing he had yet to reply to the young woman.
“I’m sorry! I’ve never been one to speak in front of crowds,” he said, tapping the paper. “So I’m really worried over this speech.”
How rude of me, he thought. He smiled and thanked her, but passed.
He then stood from his seat and made his way to the nearest window. He peered through down at Espoir, the planet that his beloved, Odette, himself and the rest of the Inarians in Colony 88HP now called home. Much of the planet was covered in lush greens and cool blues. The atmosphere had a brown and orange tint to it, making for quite a piece of colorful, contrasting beauty. He remembered thinking that he couldn’t have gotten a better view to find when we first left the core worlds to colonize this brilliantly crafted place. Truly, there is no better artist than Vemére, herself.
He found the rest of the view, however, to be quite the eyesore. Honestly, he thought, who could find space beautiful?
It had nothing there to smell, taste, touch, hear, see... aside from whatever was beyond his grasp. It reminded him of a painting where merely a small amount of space had been used, the rest left blank. Ugh, maddening.
“Um, excuse me, sir.”
He turned to see the same brunette from earlier looking up at him. Her warm, red eyes seemed so utterly confused with him, yet it reminded him of a look with which he had grown all too familiar.
“You may wish to take a seat. We’ll be passing through the gate in just a moment.”
“Ah! Yes, yes. Again, my apologies! I will right away.” He nodded with a smile, swiftly returning to his seat.
As he sat, he giggled to himself at the thought of the look upon her face. It was the exact look Odette gives him when she catches him lost in thought, unable to hear her as she pries to obtain his attention. She must have been trying to get my attention for a short while, he laughed, realizing how much he already missed his Odette.
“Attention, this is your captain speaking.” A voice boomed through the vessel. “We’ll be entering the Quantum Gate in precisely one minute. Please make your way to your seats until after we’ve arrived in Sector 35.”
He had a strong voice. Fitting for that of a captain, the thought making him feel slightly more comfortable being aboard.
However, he did not look forward to the jump through the Quantum Gate. When he had passed through to arrive to Espoir, he couldn’t stand the feeling that had come over him. I swear, he remembered telling Odette, it felt as if I had been drained of every sense I had, left to merely wait for it to be over. He also recalled Odette having told him that he had been dramatic about it and that she had felt as if it was over within the blink of an eye. But, it had felt like an eternity to him. It was a moment he hadn’t planned to experience again.
So, instead, he decided to take the opportunity to further practice his speech. He buckled himself and closed his eyes. Slowly the sound of various passengers talking began to drown out as he dived deep into thought. When everything had become quiet, he then began to hear whispering and people talking amongst each other quietly.
“Now, we’ll have he himself, Francis Aubert, take the stage!” A voice echoed in his head.
He opened his eyes to see himself standing before a pedestal, looking out at a group of hundreds staring back at him. They were applauding him as he readied to begin his speech.
Their applause came to an end and he let out a slight laugh, hoping to lighten the atmosphere that was beginning to weigh on him. He maintained composure and stood tall. “Thank you! Thank you! I’m very glad to be here. A wonderful day, is it not?”
He looked into the crowd as if he was waiting for some type of feedback, but the faces looking back at him seemed so very intimidating. He noticed the glossy skin of his palms quickly becoming slick.
“I have come all the way back from 88HP to introduce to you my latest work,” he turned, raising a hand towards a tall object behind him, covered by cloth. “A statue of the Saraven Eternal, Chausiku.”
The cloth flew off from the statue, revealing it in all of its glory. “As you can see I…I…”
He smiled and swallowed hard as he desperately tried to recall what came next. His legs felt heavy beneath him as he pulled at his collar and began to fidget with his hands.
He closed his eyes momentarily in an attempt to calm his racing thoughts, bringing about a memory of him and Odette holding hands, staring up at the night sky as they laid in a beautiful meadow. He listened to the crickets as they made a sweet soundtrack for a night with his Odette that he would never forget. He looked over at her face as she smiled back at him through the grass.
Opening his eyes once again, he looked back towards his creation. “This sculpture,” he motioned as he tried to continue, but found himself looking frantically about. “It, well… I’m certain you will find it to display the… uh…”
The room quickly began to spin, and his stomach suddenly felt ill. Laughter ensued, tearing him down further. All he could manage to hear were various people laughing; the sound of it pouring into his ears from all directions.
“Oh, Fraaanciiis,” said a voice, overpowering the commotion. His heart began to pound, for he knew the voice.
He then saw her, Tichaona, the Saraven girl who had caused such issues for him. She had been a sculptress whose skills rivaled his, and she had managed to break him down every encounter they had. She stood, grinning from ear to ear. “Hello, Francis.”
He winced immediately at the sight of her.
She then began to grow in size while the rest of the room grew dark. Her eyes glowed bright and she laughed, continuing to grow until the only thing he could see was her mocking face towering over him. He then fell to the floor, closing his eyes and covering his ears.
His body jolted with fear, and he began to shake. He was sweating profusely now, and his heart felt as if it would break out from his chest and spill onto the floor only to be stomped on.
“No, go away!” He yelled.
He felt a sudden strike of pain in his jaw and it quickly coursed up his temple and through his forehead. He blinked a couple times, shaking and panting. He looked about confused as he found himself on the floor and a dark figure standing above him.
“I’m sorry, but you were scaring everyone!” The figure exclaimed, though the words were muffled.
He managed to make out the frightened faces of some other passengers.
Had I let my illusion get out of control yet again? He asked himself, the room increasingly beginning to darken around him. How do I always manage to make a fool of myself?
“Oh, quiet you, you’re being silly.” The words worked their way through his mind.
Her face again, Odette. Smiling, always smiling.
Ah, your voice. Soon, soon I shall hear it again...
(by Chet DeLano)