This is a dream, same one from last night as time itself shifts slightly off centre, out of focus. Her memory is of what is now happening: not deja vu, but something more fluid, insubstantial yet holding cast iron appearance of reality. Ami’s whole body hurts simultaneously: heavy-limbed and tight-necked, pressure at back of skull which is something unnatural, intrusive, trying to pull everything apart.
Understanding dawns: there’s someone inside her head that shouldn’t be. Instantaneously last night’s dream has been removed, almost yanked from brain by force, yet faint echoes remain. Her desperate whisper, Chris’ scream wasn’t imagined but real, before comprehension blossoms. The future which already happened, yet in the here and now has yet to take place… you saw it. Last night, you existed in the present and future simultaneously.
‘Linear time is your anchor. It is not ours.’
She should be frightened, pleading at Chris whilst he unknowingly backs too close to the pillar but if he’s rescued, everything changes. This is hard work to comprehend, could be considered as intrusion because the being now co-habiting her mind didn’t ask for permission to enter, but they are communicating, her and it. The alien’s happiness at her lack of fear is tempered with seriousness: her observations have all been totally correct. This is a test, all of what happens an experiment, but there is a problem. Something only now has been grasped about her unique genetics, and as a result intervention is essential.
This presence isn’t running the experiment either: they’re an underling, part of a team, and it is important that the WHI understands this. She must let time exist as it does, as it is seen and felt by her kind, or else there will be attention drawn to alteration of chronology.
‘You must trust these choices: if the EX or WHI are damaged, they will be repaired.’
The pleading look on Chambers’ face finally pulls Ami back to what remains their joint present.
‘Why shouldn’t I step back?’
‘Chris, please… I think I know what’s going on… my head -’
‘I can’t have you lose it now, you have to stay with me.’
‘I’m here but not alone, you don’t understand -’
‘You’re absolutely right, I’m here and there is nothing here to be afraid of -’
Ami knows what’s coming but won’t stop her hand, moving to his shoulder, attempt to pull man away except he doesn’t want to be handled, suddenly angry that she should do this. As the sun goes down in a couple of hours he’ll apologise, explaining how thought had been given to not touching her for reassurance because it showed respect of personal space. For that future to happen, he has to wrench himself from her support and stumble back into the light…
Everything slows as it did back in the coffee shop, and as Chris brushes one of three time portals in the Experiment there is noise and light unlike anything else Ami has ever experienced, and she’s nowhere, body and brain finally separated. The Dark encloses and protects, and she is safe.
‘These areas are dangerous.’
There’s a new voice in her head, warm and calm, distinct and separate to that which existed previously, which no longer exists.
‘You must avoid contact with the portal as it is fatal. Both EX and WHI must be preserved until observations are complete. Reanimation will commence shortly.’
As everything reconnects, Ami’s feet are no longer on concrete but grass. They’ve been shifted from where the Hotel stood, relocated to what she knows is Trinity Square Gardens, in the shadow of Tower Hill. It’s a long second later before the lifeless, charred body of Chris appears out of nowhere before falling to the ground, heap of burnt flesh and cloth. All Bishop can do is stare in stunned amazement as the air moves across an obvious corpse, same way as had been the case with the coffee bar table, literally rebuilding her impromptu partner back to existence.
Then, as suddenly as it appeared, both movement and presence are gone.