My destiny? Strange. Where? Annie expected fear, instead curiosity flooded in. She turned her hand over. In the soft light the coin sparkled, adding its own brilliance.
“It is what it is,” a gentle masculine voice responded.
Before Annie could ask a question the illumination in the cabin dimmed.
“Relax. The journey begins.”
“No. Let me out of here.” Annie struggled against her restraints. “You can’t do this to me.”
Engines grew louder.
The soft glow the coin brought went out.
Childhood demons gathered. Annie squeezed her eyes closed. Fear, absent before, grew. All the monsters who had ever invaded her dreams gathered. A big green head with glistening fangs snapped. Before her imagination allowed other creatures to materialize completely, a sweet fragrance grew. Warm memories joined to comfort her.
“Now Annie, you are letting your imagination get away from you.” Grandmere’s soft remonstration surprised Annie.
“What?” Annie sputtered.
Grandmere’s face glowed in the darkness. It chased the demons away.
“How?” Tears wet Annie’s cheeks. Grandmere had passed from this life when Annie was still in school. She felt the loss of their special relationship many times over the years.
“Don’t cry dear.”
Annie wiped her face.
Grandmere’s voice softened. “You will learn more soon. For now, rest.”
“But?” Annie’s eyelids grew heavy. Her question went unfinished.
Engines took on a steady drone. The ship departed the spaceport. Annie felt more than heard the change in the steady rhythm. Out through the diamond studded richness of space the little ship traveled. Oblivious to her destination, Annie drew on the comfort of her grandmother’s voice.
“It’s time to wake up, dear.” Grandmere’s voice called.
It reached into Annie’s dream. She refused to stop running. “Wait until I win,” she called. Behind her, the heavy breathing of her three cousins drew closer. In reality and in all her dreams she’d never won the races she ran, especially with these three. She didn’t want to give up that opportunity now.
“That will have to wait, dear. Wake up now.” Grandmere’s fragrance grew less. Cold crisp air replaced it.
“No,” Annie whined. Against her will, her eyes opened. Bright sunlight streamed through the portholes. Engines hummed softly, then faded to silence.
The restraints around her released, allowing Annie to stand. Before she had a chance to look out a window, a whoosh of air escaping announced the opening exit. Two robed figures stood at the portal. A female, whose long blond hair fell unrestrained around her shoulders, stepped forward.
“Please follow us.” Her voice carried a soft melodic rhythm.
The male, a head shorter than the female, bowed. Ebony eyes sparkled. “You don’t have to be afraid,” he said. “Your choice will come.”
“I want my choice now. To go home.” Annie stiffened. Her lips moved into a pout.
He turned back to his comrade. “Remind you of someone?” he chuckled.
“Yeah.” She frowned. To Annie she said, “We don’t have time for this now. Come with us. You won’t be able to breathe here soon.”
At that moment a sucking sound announced the drawing out of breathable air.
“Fine,” Annie moved down the gangway with her two guides. At the bottom they took positions, the male behind, the female in front. They led her to a small dark portal.
“I like it better in the sunshine.” Annie stopped short of entering. “Why don’t I just stay out here?”
The female took a deep, exasperated breath. “That is not an option. You might as well face it and get over it.” She stepped aside.
The male pushed Annie forward. “Go ahead,” he chided. “You’ll feel better once you know.” He pushed again, this time until Annie entered.
The opening snapped closed behind her. The darkness from earlier came back to surround her.
“Welcome. Please step forward.” A male voice that matched the one from the coin called from somewhere before her.
Annie looked at her hand. A soft glow grew.
“It is what it is.” The voice carried a strange consoling tone.
“Fine.” She took a deep breath and forced it out through clinched teeth. “But then I’m leaving.”
A soft chuckle belied that choice. “First you must face your destiny. Come and learn. Then, and only then, will you know what to do.”
Annie stomped forward. My destiny, always my destiny. I’m really getting tired of this. I’ll show him my destiny.
Inside the entry, darkness remained. Ahead two wise golden eyes blinked. “It is what it is.” The voice repeated.
Can he read my thoughts?
The sound of laughter grew.