“Come, Mai …” their voices taunted me. “Why are you so afraid?” How could I tell them that I was afraid of what this would make me, afraid of losing my identity?
I ignored the whispering, haunting voices as I mounted the stairs. They did not creak – my mother hated creaking stairs. I reached her room at last, or maybe too soon.
It was dark, but there was a gap in the blue curtains that let in the moonlight. Her face seemed so fragile as she slept, but I forced myself to ignore how much she looked like me.
And then it was over.
No longer would I have to be alone, because I was one of them now. I would no longer have to endure her comments, her concerns and love coming at me all day long, until I could no longer bear it. Was it a bad thing, or a relief?
I turned and fled, but was caught in the headlights of a SearchPod almost immediately. How had they known about Mother? I breathed a sigh of relief as I remember that the Searchers had routine patrols every night. This was just one of them.
And yet …
These were not Searchers. The man in the front of the Pod was someone I knew. It was the Commander.
Ah yes, the Commander. To this day I do not know why it is that I call him that. Is it because I have always thought of him as being in command? I cannot tell.
But who is he? I cannot really answer that question. He has always been in my life. He was very close to my mother at one point, but I know that he has never got on particularly well with my father. He is a fatherly sort of person, however, always there to take care of things that have gone wrong. It makes me feel safe to be with him. Maybe because I know that he will never betray me.
On Earth, people call him Chief Jan Markus. He works for the FBI, and people refer to him as German, although he puts on an English accent. It is the name that fools people, really. And yet, that is not who he is, any more than this is really who I am.
But back to that night, on the moonlit street where he found me –
I looked up at the Pod, squinting at the bright lights.
“Mai?” he said, opening the top and climbing out. He sounded concerned – and what? Disgusted? I could not make it out. “Mai, is that you?” I can do nothing but nod. He looks down and I follow his gaze.
Oh no. Oh no. My hands. Why did I not clean them before? My hands were covered in blood. The blood of my mother.
“I think we had better take you back the Centre, don’t you?” he said, and do of his men led me back to the Pod. I climbed in, too numb to resist.