Sophia started packing their things before waking up Georgia. They had to leave the inn as soon as possible if they wanted to find a seat on the train. A carriage was out of reach at the moment. They had to go meet her husband. After the complete interruption of telecommunications two days ago, chaos prevailed. Everyone seemed to want to go to the headquarters of the area, in case there was a chance to learn news and talk to their own people. She, like the others, could only hope.
Georgia was smiling in her sleep but there was no time for beautiful dreams. She woke up a little awkwardly opening and closing her blue eyes in surprise, while her mother dressed her for the trip. In a very short time they ran to catch their only means of escape at the last moment.
Outside the huge building of the Telecommunication Center, thousands of people waited for hours for something that didn't seem to come. The people in charge had informed them that they were trying to solve the problem and that the damage was probably temporary. In fact, they themselves had no idea what had happened and were beginning to fear the spark that would make this mob rush into the building. Rumors circulated around the people of a coup against the government.
Sophia decided it was dangerous for a woman with a two-year-old kid to be near a bomb ready to explode, and they discreetly walked away. She was trying to figure out where her husband might be and if he had even managed to come to town. So she found a stone recess on the opposite hill where she could see the train station descending between the dunes, but they could not easily be seen, she laid out a large towel and they sat and waited. The sun went down without a new train arrival. She opened a food box for them to eat and put Georgia to sleep in her arms. She ate some food herself but was very tired from the tension and their food boxes were quite reduced. She did not realize that her eyes were closing but when she woke up the sun was high and the time was past ten. Georgia was playing near her and Sophia was grateful that no one seemed to notice them. She opened another food box for breakfast.
And then she saw them. Hordes of miserable people descending from the dunes. They seemed to have walked the huge route from the nearest town in the desert, which was unlikely. Some were families with children terribly distressed. Others among them, however, walked steadily with red-hot eyes and their bodies covered in various places by a tar-like blackness. She had heard about the "infection" days before the communication was cut off but she did not imagine that she would see it up close or that it would look like that. Darkness, in some less and in others more widespread, continued to spread throughout the body. All she knew was that it was an epidemic that some attributed to failed scientific experiments and others to another way of resisting the government. The second seemed completely absurd. The people next to the "infected" did not yet know how to react. On the one hand they were trying to keep a distance and on the other they did not want to challenge them.
Despite the hours that had passed, it seemed that the train had not yet arrived. Unless it had come and gone while she slept. As the crowd of newcomers headed for the city center, she thought she could ask at the station. The man in charge, a short, sloppy man, looked at her carefully and, after warning her that it was dangerous to travel alone with a small child, informed her that the train had not yet arrived because it had been damaged at the previous station and that it would come at some point, who did not seem to know.
"Lies," shouted a man who heard the conversation lying on the bench next to them. "The train will not come again. We are cut off from the world and yesterday blood shed at the center. Something big is happening and no one tells us what! ”
The person in charge abducted him, telling him that he was drunk and the man spat and left, muttering. Sophia was trying to keep her self-control, feeling very lonely and weak, while Georgia next to her was muttering a children's song.
The situation seemed very difficult. She expected that by now they would have found her husband and the problems would have been solved. The government would protect them. Instead, they had nowhere to stay, the food boxes would soon run out and, as nothing electronic seemed to work, she could not use her cards. And it was in the center of the cyclone, where anything could happen.
She collapsed on the bench of the desert station. She had not had her weekly immunization vaccine and felt weak and vulnerable. Georgia wanted them to play, like any child who does not understand the world of adults. Sophia's heart was frozen and she did not have the courage to play or resist her demand. So he succumbed. She pulled out a drawing pad and her colorful markers and timidly began to make their own happy microcosm. Georgia enthusiastically began to decorate the buildings with flowers and the streets with trees. Sophia was slow to remember where her daughter had seen such images, which were now in the history books, until she recalled happy memories, where she watched with her dad a dvd with old cartoons. Coarsely chopped trees, birds and butterflies played the background in those stories that her childish mind had wonderfully captured.
In fact, there were no more trees, no more animals, no more butterflies. There were only found in old stories and rare old dvds. When humans ran out of oxygen, scientists built huge crops of mutant algae that produced the oxygen they needed. And long before every meal was over, they made the food boxes, ready to eat at any time. There were various flavors reminiscent of foods of the past, at least at the beginning, until people stopped remembering what those foods were like and the production companies cut spending on flavorings. Now they had a neutral taste that reminded them of nothing but was pleasant enough to eat when you were used to it. And people were used to it.
"Very nice painting," the man in the sand-colored hood told them. Tall, slender and with an appearance that would hardly stand out in a crowd. Sophia thanked him, trying to understand why he seemed so strange to her but could not. Georgia, on the other hand, held out her hand, smiling as if she knew him.
Explosions and unrest were heard from the city center. People shouted incomprehensible words, then silence and then new voices and noise. Sophia wished her husband was there.
The tall man was still standing in front of them. Did she have to worry about him too?
"Could I talk to you in private?" he said.
They were alone at the station so the question sounded strange. Sophia hung on to a faint hope. Did he know her husband and had a message for her? He would look for them also. It was a thought drawn from the hair but nodded in agreement and the man led them to the top of the hill that its recess had hosted them the night before. Up there it was difficult to see them as people were no longer coming from the surrounding dunes and as people had long since stopped looking up.
"What's going on, sir?" Do we know each other? Did my husband send you? Where is he? Speak, please! ”
The man took a breath as if he did not know what to do first.
"You do not know me but we know you. Your husband did not send me and I can assure you that he never got here. It is located in another city, where similar riots occur. In most cities, incidents occur or are about to occur due to the situation."
The man shook his head as if talking about something self-evident.
"Infection is spreading around the world, communications have stopped, people have nothing to eat because they can not buy food boxes, companies are collapsing, a chain of sabotage in many parts of the world has destroyed most of the algae crops and scientists are trying to fix things in vain and all three protectorates of the planet, instead of doing something helpful, they blame each other with the aim of seizing as much power as they can, as always."
"And how did all this happen suddenly?"
"The infection was slowly caused by the corrosive effect of mutated foods, what you call food boxes, on people's weak immune systems combined with the unexpressed emotions that are suppressed by the vaccines you do. The sabotages were carried out both by revolutionaries against the protectorates and by the protectorates themselves trying to intervene in each other's sphere of power, thinking that it would be easy to recreate the crops once their plans were achieved. But their arrogance did not allow them to see that the damage would not be reversible. Oxygen is still holding but its reduction will soon begin to show. Telecommunications ... ”
"Telecommunications?" she repeated.
"I have to admit that this is our interference. We are in the last act of the project and it makes our job easier.”
Sophia shook her head, refusing to accept the pile of information she had just received.
"So who are you?" You keep talking in plural as if you were a member of a team that has power and knowledge. How is it possible for you to know about all these and how could you stop communication.”
The man realized that the time he had been waiting for had come and that he had to be careful with this woman who was going to collapse.
"My lady, you do not know me but I ask you to trust me for a while. We do not want to hurt you. If you listen to me, I can explain everything."
Sophia nodded in agreement.
"Our name does not matter. Many have called us "Travelers" or "Others" or various other names and these myths have existed for a long time because we too have a long time we observe the Earth and live among you. When a species, such as man, comes to destroy the natural environment of the planet it inhabits to such an extent, we are there to help make the planet easier to move on and restore."
"What are you talking about;" cried Sophia, forgetting the plural of politeness. "These are stories for children. Who do you think you are and what gives you the audacity to play such games with a desperate woman? Because there are no aliens and the "natural" environment we destroyed was dangerous for our lives. Everyone knows this. From school we learn about the monstrous animals that existed before humans. ”
The man sighed. He waited for this reaction but no matter how many times he had this discussion in the past, he always hoped for something better. He raised his right hand and a white energy left his fingers to create a vortex in the air. When it cleared, it was a window into another world that made Georgia jump to applause. Sophia was stunned, not believing what had just happened. She could see clear green mountains with fruit trees, small streams full of fish jumping out of the water, flowers many flowers in colors she could not recognize because she had never seen in her life, small and large animals jumping in the trees or they ate grass, birds that filled the forest with melodies, and many colorful butterflies. The scents from the flowers reached the strange company at the top of the hill. A lot of beauty brought her to her knees. She could not have imagined that human technology had reached such a point. Could he have been not human, then? She cried like a small child acknowledging that she had not really lived a single day of her life. A red-yellow butterfly passed through the vortex and flew around Georgia, who chased it laughing frantically, before returning to its world.
"Governments have taught you what worked for them. For hundreds of generations humans lived with animals until they became greedy. The planet itself is a living creature that suffers unbearably because of man. All other creatures that have been exterminated also had a right to life. For a long time now, the imbalance you have caused is no longer reversible.”
Sophia was sitting on the sand like a puppet whose ropes had been cut. Everything she knew was wrong. She had accepted everything she believed without resistance "because it was so". And now this man or whatever else was asking her to open a door in her heart that was always and by default locked.
"Even if it is so, why do you say all this to me? There are so many people, why me? And why do you look so much like a human being, damn you?” she told him angrily.
"I am not alone. At the end of each season a careful selection is made for the seeds of humanity that will inhabit the Earth when it becomes a paradise again. Because people are the mind of the Earth and they are needed too. Right now many others like me are having the same discussion in different parts of the world. In fact, of course, to be precise, I am not addressing you ...”
"But we are alone ...!", she whispered. And then she understood the truth and her heart sank.
"Georgia does not make vaccines, right?" the man said more than asked.
"No, she does not," said Sophia slowly, almost with shame. And she went on to justify herself. "My husband did not want to. He thinks she is too young and he does not trust the government." He was right, she thought now.
"That's why she expresses herself so directly and spontaneously," said the man. "Her energy is strong and pure. That's one of the reasons she was chosen to be saved. "
"What about me and my husband?"
"Unfortunately, you are older with well-established perceptions and beliefs. Your arrival would destroy the mission."
Sophia got up, continuing to look without looking at the vortex that seized to exist. She had just come to this city the day before to reunite her family and watch the clouds of her world dissipate. She wanted so much to continue her life normally... No, she did not want it. She knew when she was lying. After all she had learned, her life seemed very poor and meaningless. Even if everything happened suddenly as before, she felt that inside her she had somehow changed. She had accepted a lot very easily from imitation, habit, because she did not know anything else... But her daughter had every right to a better life than hers. Everything this man said was logical and made sense. And when Georgia left to build the next better world, what would happen to her? She just wanted to disappear, to dissolve in the air so that she would not hurt when she would stop seeing her and hearing her laughter. The man, realizing her inner quarrel, put his left hand on her shoulder. Immediately, a calmness passed over her and her mind began to clear. She turned to look at him carefully as if seeing him for the first time.
Then she went back to Georgia, who was sitting down and watching them as if she understood that they were talking about her.
"My love," she told her. "This gentleman wants to take you to stay in the beautiful place with the flowers and the butterflies."
Georgia laughed and clapped applauding what she had heard.
"But Dad and I will not be able to come. Maybe later but not soon. But you will have many friends to play with all day. ”
"But will you come later?" she said and her face darkened.
"Everything will be fine", she assured her and hugged her warmly.
When Georgia's attention turned to a new toy, where she put pebbles on top of each other and rejoiced when the pile fell, Sophia turned to the man.
"I have to say you impressed me," he said. "Usually people react badly when they learn the real reason we approach them."
"It's not that simple. I want to be sure that everything you showed me is true and it is not some hidden but very developed human technology. She is my child. I love her more than my life. I leave her to survive. So I want something from you. A proof. I want you to show me your true form. ”
The man stood motionless for a moment and then nodded in agreement. Of course he understood. He shook his hood that fell on the sand. His face became dull, his features lost. The rest of the clothes also fell as they did not have a solid body to cover. What was left in front of her was a subtle elsewhere translucent and elsewhere denser blue energy that spread without a specific frame. A creature of pure energy that could create characteristics and dissolve them at will. They were both stunned to look at him. Georgia stood up with her arms outstretched towards the Traveler. Sophia hugged her tightly and, while she really wanted to stop her, she let her go towards him. The Traveler looked at Sophia with his blue eyes, reproducing the basic features of the person she knew, and made hands to wrap Georgia in his arms, creating a protective energy field. The reminder of the small intimacy that Sofia already felt for the Traveler seeing his face, helped her feel better. The time had come. Georgia was not afraid and looked very comfortable in the arms of a creature that her mom never believed existed.
"Thank you," Sophia shouted to the creature.
"I love you, mommy," said Georgia.
"I love you too," she said breathlessly.
While the little girl was greeting her with her rosy hands that she was already longing to touch, the Traveler and the child left upwards with great speed like a blue sphere. She did not know the details of where they were going. She did not need to know. She was left alone next to the bag with their things. She opened the drawing pad and knew she had done the right thing. This world was ending. So she had nothing to lose. She descended the hill with an unprecedented confidence towards the city center. Maybe there were some things she could do or say. And she was ready for them.