Bronze skin, bold chin. That hair... Those eyes.
Cassidy Ives woke up again. Under the stars. And how clear it was. A black sheet, ablaze with incandescent rhinestones. At least, that’s what Cassidy thought it looked like.
She smiled, calm and serene. I haven’t slept that well in years. Rolling onto her side as if to check her alarm clock. Like she did every day. Only she was alarmed to see she was not in her bedroom.
The sunlight usually streaming through the Venetian blinds, and the blinds, were gone. Her feather pillow and downy sheets were missing. Her bed, the boxspring and the headboard had disappeared. Even her nightstand and that pesky clock were surprisingly absent. In fact, once she rolled onto her side she felt a sense of panic. Like she was falling through the air. Because she was.
All of a sudden, Cassidy squealed, “EEK!”
Then once she hit the ground she grunted, “Oof!”
Luckily she didn’t fall far, and she had a soft landing. As soft as sand could be.
Spitting and spluttering, Miss Ives realised she had not been dreaming. She remembered she was in some barren dystopian future. And then she remembered the man. Mmm... the handsome man…
Cassidy gasped, as she recalled, That’s the man who knocked you out, you fool! Where’d he go?
Rubbing the dust out of her blurred eyes to look around, she saw her hands were bound with rope. It frayed in places, but it was too sturdy for her to wriggle free, and impossible to untie.
Rubbing her sore back with difficulty, as she tried to take in her surroundings, she couldn’t find the man in question. Though she didn’t see much of anything. Much less the man.
“Pffft!” she spat again.
But as she continued to blink and as she glanced up, she began to see a strange-looking creature. Some kind of animal she had never seen before. She couldn’t begin to guess what it was now.
Not a horse or a camel, but a pale and grey scaly thing. A giant lizard. Resembling a monitor of some sort, it towered high above her. It stood an impressive ten feet at the shoulder on its well-developed limbs, though was three times as long; half of its length was just its robust and powerful tail.
It can’t be a lizard though, thought Cassidy. Because a fuzz grew between its scales, a large pair of horns weighed down its head, and it has a beak the size of my head!
And it wasn’t just one. A caravan of over a dozen of the strange lizards waddled through the desert, saddled and mounted by mysterious riders. Riders who wore blue robes like the man. The man with the magic touch. No, stop thinking about him like that!
Lazily, the beast of burden turned its head to look at Miss Ives, shot out its three-pronged tongue, and began to drool.
“What are you, you… lizard thing?”
Awkwardly rising to her feet, using the rope tied to the beast’s harness to hoist herself up, Cassidy approached the creature, doing her best to appear non-threatening. It was docile enough to let her sleep on top of it, so she suspected she would be able to touch it.
“Well, it’s less skittish than a horse at least.”
When she ran her fingers over its tough hide, she found it softer than she expected. With hair that felt like angora. But it looked impossible to clamber onto its back, being that it was so tall and there was nothing to grab onto. If she could grab onto anything, with her wrists tied together. She turned around again, seeing the caravan moving forward without her. Not even paying attention to her.
That’s peculiar. But I guess there’s no point in running. Where could I go besides back to a broken time machine? I don’t even know where that is.
Before she could attempt to mount the lizard thing, it started to move on, following the others. Quite quickly too.
“Wait! Hold still!” Cassidy pleaded, trying to hold the creature back without success.
It was then that she saw it. How she was supposed to get on. The ladder. Its tail is like a set of stairs!
“Oh, you are a genius, Cass!”
About to climb up the lizard’s tail, something yanked her by the foot.
“Aaahhh!” she cried, falling face-first into the sand once more. Then she snarled, as she sputtered up the dirt. Though she wasn’t as worried or as afraid anymore now. Mostly, she was annoyed.
Dragged through the desert at the ankle, with dust blowing into her face, Cassidy could barely see her other restraint. Though she correctly assumed the tether was hooked to the creature’s bridle. But it was tied so tightly around her it had begun to wear through the fabric of her jumpsuit, and dig into her skin.
She seethed in pain, pathetically trying to reach for her leg to untie the cord which pinched her flesh. But the lizard moved much too fast for anything to be done about it.
Finally, the beast came to a halt. But as it was, Cassidy could already hardly move. The sand had rubbed her back raw, her foot felt like it was ready to be torn off and her eyes were red and dry. Cassidy groaned, exhausted. And she blinked and cried. Constantly, in an effort to heal them.
Her tired eyes looked up at the clear skies, where the moon should have been. Where Cassiopeia, and Andromeda should have been. Then coming into view was a robed figure. It could have been any one of the riders, but their was an air of familiarity. The blue was sharp and crisp, as if sand could not stick to it. And the hood was up to obscure his face. Yes, a man based on the height and big build.
With chapped lips she asked calmly and bravely, “Who are you? Where have you taken me?”
He pulled back his hood, and Cassidy knew right away it was the man. Despite what he had done to her, his handsome smiling face immediately put her at ease.
“It’s you.” Miss Ives said relieved. I feel better already.
The man smiled again and made her blush.
“What do you want with me?”
But there was no response. He merely cocked his head as though Cassidy’s language was as confounding to him as his was to her.
“You don’t understand me either. Alright then.” Cassidy sighed. Though she couldn’t use her hands freely, she was determined to communicate. She poked her chest with her thumbs and said. “My name is Cassidy. Cassidy Ives.”
Then she pointed to him, waiting for an introduction. One that didn’t come so easily.
So she tried again. “Cassidy. Cassidy Ives.” And for a second time, she pointed at the man.
Slowly, the man began to speak, gesturing toward Cassidy first. “Cazidee. Cazidyifs.”
She shook her head. “No.” Now she took care to enunciate every syllable. “Cassidy Ives.”
Cassidy smiled. Close enough for now, I guess.
Then the man pointed to himself and said quickly, “Joor Ahlamuut Az’inbe Tokmoor Felaan Bik Mahaal.”
“Um…okay…” Cassidy had heard… his name clear enough, but it would be difficult to remember.
A third time she pointed at herself, but this time she made it short. “Cass.”
Up and down she shook her head, anxiously awaiting his nickname.
He seemed to comprehend what Cassidy was driving at and thus replied, “Ahlam.”
He nodded too, happily showing off his teeth. Cassidy couldn’t help but grin like a fool in return.
“Cass. And Ahlam.”
Wonderful. What progress we’ve made.
Suddenly, Ahlam took a massive knife from his robes. Cassidy’s eyes shot wide open.
“Stay back!” And frantically, she shuffled backward like a crab until she hit the lizard beast’s leg. A hard and robust limb, which clonked her head. “Ow!” she muttered.
Right away, Ahlam realised his mistake. He dropped the knife, and threw his hands up in the air, and began to, Cassidy believed, apologise. Then he drew her attention to the rope tied around her ankle with a finger, and pantomimed having ropes around his own wrists.
Ohhh. I see now.
Warily, she crawled back to Ahlam, and then with extreme caution, stretched her hands out to him.
In a flash, Ahlam cut through the restraints, and lifted Cassidy to her feet.
“Uhh… I’m sorry about that. That was a…” she looked to the ground and chuckled, “a little embarrassing.”
Ahlam cupped Cassidy’s chin in his palm and stared deep into her eyes. She did the same, getting lost in his warm dusty ones. And in a very firm voice he said something in perfect gibberish. Words she would not have heard had he said them in English she was so smitten.