Zara pushed herself up, balancing first on all fours, as if she had been born a feline. Sunlight pierced across its shards. Zara twisted her face into a frown; she was sure it had been night before. In fact, she was certain. To doubt fact meant to reject every epistemological result.
So, why was the world filtered through golden ropes? And from where had the grass under her feet appeared?
The right thing to be done was to clear her throat. She did so, forcing her eyes wider. She stamped her feet, hearing those dull thuds, black boots on the rough mud below. Hmph. It couldn't be a dream. Dreams were never so vivid. Zara knew life when she lived it; she knew dreams when she dreamt them.
The expanse of green travelled to the horizon of her vision, where four orange bricks hovered, resembling houses only through their slanted hats and white-framed buttons. Civilisation lived in the barren, if this place took that title willingly. Zara didn’t particular want to race forward to them. Not when she had been cosily inside the machine only a minute before. Perhaps she had hit her head. Yes, this was a hallucination. They solidified more than the occasional nocturnal picture.
Still, she didn’t convince herself.
Walking up a slight incline plane, Zara weighed up her options. She was hallucinating. She had hit her head and was facing dreadful death in the exploding manipulator. Zara couldn’t stop herself from wincing.
Against any wishes, she pinched herself. This was reality all right. Reality begged the question of how she had…transported. She swallowed, already feeling colder from the hypothesis.
That was an impossibility.
Zara thrust a hand down to the soil beneath her. Clumps peeled away into her hand, as arid dry. Yet, the grass itself was verdant. She stood, brushing her hands off. The houses had shot out of the ground – simply by moving up the four-metre, Zara had landed beside them.
But the track of cement behind them reminded…
Yes! The relief soaked up her cold dread. Zara licked her lips and broke into her run. She picked up her hands and her pace, turning at the next corner. The house had sheltered her, but now the plain lay bare; the Costello-Masters’ home stood a short walk away.
She laughed aloud, not minding that it sent her curls flying into her eyes. In less than five minutes, she would be back, and she would smooth their wisps away indefinitely.
The questioning had been foolish. For a moment, Zara whirled around in her fancy ecstasy – elevating her panic as the ache in her shoulders subsided.
The question still nagged: how had she ended up in a field to the back of Grassland Close? If it had been the chaotic space of the grassland, maybe she would have understood that logic – the grassland covered the space the Physics Institute had abandoned – but to have wandered, without memories, from lab 13 to the grasses external of the college plots…?
Perhaps that vortex had simply been the side-effects of letting herself get carried away. She had dizzied and thrown herself around, as if she had drunk a glass too many.
That became the only reasonable explanation – her hours had been destroyed by her mishandling of the manipulator leading her astray.
She hurried down Grassland Close; footsteps hammered heavy on the concrete – but Zara relished the ground from which she had been parted. She stormed up to the front door. First she would ground Friedrich’s poison pen into paste, then she would strip her goggles from her head and down a cool glass of water. Her mind needed refreshing.