The darkened room kept time determination at bay. It also added to the terror of the screams she witnessed. Annie sat up on the hard bed. Dim lights, meant to add comfort irritated her. She slid off the solid surface and moved to the door.
“Enough.” Hoarse, her voice rattled the silence. “I can’t…, can’t do this.” She wrapped the robe tighter around her. Rough material scraped against her skin. Strange, it returned a semblance of control.
“It is what it is.” The voice from Golden Eyes, “the Master”, filtered throughout the small enclosure.
Annie found no comfort. “It is what it is. It is what it is.” She whined. “I just want to go home.”
“The time for a choice will come. Now sleep. See.” Briton’s voice commanded.
“No.” Annie screamed. “I want out of here. Now.” She kicked out slamming her foot into the solid surface. Pain shot through her leg. Even in the muted light she saw the mark her blood left on the flat barrier.
“It is what it is.” The eyes winked at her from a far corner.
She turned and limped back to the bed. “You will not win,” she called, annoyed with the tears that cascaded down her cheeks.
“It is what it is.” Where the eyes had blinked, now large red numbers scrolled in decreasing numerals. 0:11:17:22 moved to 0:11:17:00.
“I’m not going to sleep.” She pulled her aching toe closer, pressing her fingers against it. The throbbing grew and helped her determination to avoid sleep.
Soft music played. The numbers in an easy rhythm counted down.
Pain from her foot eased into a dull throb. Her body built a tolerance. She could no longer use it to keep awake. Annie surrendered.
“I don’t want to,” she whispered, then settled back against the soft pillow that cradled her head against the firm surface.
This time instead of the scenes of war, Annie faced her Grandmother.
“Now Dear, you need to understand.” Short white curls framed an ever youthful face. The frangrance of crushed rose petals brought back memories of Annie’s childhood. “Your choice will affect you for the rest of your life,” Grandmere continued.
“But.” The whine in Annie’s voice embarrassed her.
“No. Pay attention. You can, as your mother did, decide to turn away. But.” Grandmere took an emotion filled breath. “You must face it full on before you can come to a conclusion. I know you’re scared. Now lay back and see what you must see.”
“Yes and so must you. Now relax. Let us show you.”
Was it her imagination, or did Annie feel Grandmere’s fingers smooth her unruly hair. No there it is again. Annie closed her eyes.
Instead of the scenes of war, this time stars swirled and grew into planets. In a solar system, a blue green world, third from a bright warm sun, twirled on its axis. It grew to fill her field of vision. Annie recognized continents and island masses in the northern hemisphere.
Home, she smiled. Exactly where I want to be. She relaxed. The knowledge that soon she would make the journey that would take her there, soothed her. It would be easy to walk away to look for a life in the familiar surroundings of her childhood.
Annie frowned. Something’s wrong.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean a spark grew. Larger and brighter, it spread over the land masses. Valley floors thrust up. Mountains buckled and fell in on themselves. The flame grew to a fiery red hot blaze that spread out over the surface. As quickly as it started, the light died. No longer the blue green shade of life, the planet’s surface cooled from hot molten red to a dark lifeless crust.
Annie struggled to sit up, to brush away the image. She couldn’t. Instead she lay there watching a murky darkness cross the sky, blocking the light of twinkling stars. It spread out to encompass the planet. Crackling and popping sounds preceded ribbons of fissures that spread over the surface. Annie fought harder to open to her eyes.
“I can’t. Stop let me wake up.” Did I get the words out? Or were they just unheard screams?
“It is what it is.” The Master’s soft voice wrapped around her.
The image faded from her mind but not from her memory. When she sat up, finally able to open her eyes, the numerals winked 00:00:25 then 00:00:00. The lights brightened.
A knock sounded at the door. “Annie?” Briton’s familiar voice reached into the room.
“Wha…, what?” Annie swallowed hard.
The door opened. Briton stood outlined by the rising sun behind her. “It’s time.”
“But I don’t understand.”
“I know. The Master will show you the rest. After that you must decide–.”
“I must choose? Now?” Annie slipped off the bed. Fear grew stronger than she had ever felt it before.
Briton shrugged. “It is what it is.” She took Annie’s arm and led her to face whatever destiny lay before them.