3 DAYS TO THE PORTAL
Sav was again seated in the back of the car. Neither Mev nor Jessica even looked at him. They didn’t even seem to notice he was in the car with them. A heavy silence hung over them.
Once more, he began his unheard pleas for mercy. Neither the guilt nor the retribution had abated over time. Time, they say, is the greatest healer, but it wasn’t doing anything for him after four years. Suddenly he realised he wasn’t talking with them anymore. He was talking to them—but not from within the car. He became an observer rather than an occupant of the car.
Which sped on its way.
He held out a hand to stop them. But they were out of his reach faster than lightning. He bit his lips, muttering a fervent prayer. Silent, helpless, he watched.
The car ran on. There was every reason to put thousands of miles between them and him—and that included landmarks and all. A railway loomed in the distance. It cut a metallic swathe through the landscape, a swathe that carried its usual and only passenger, rumbling and churning. Sav could hear the loud horn blasting from the foot of a great black billowing pall of smoke.
It may have been bad judgement. Probably a mind hazed over with rage and regret. It could even have been a combination of many other emotions spinning crazily inside him, but whatever it may have been, it didn’t preclude the next scene and incidents thereafter.
Right there on the level-crossing, the crossing bars on each side broken down and through, the train, a huge machine of speed and impersonal momentum, crashed into the side of the car, unaffected by the flames that erupted until it had completed its personal job. It went right through.
The car was torn in two, each half an enormously raging inferno. Heat and fuel combined into an explosion, which tore the wheels from their holds. The inferno rose into the air like a red, hot ball…
…And then he saw her face again. It flashed before his eyes, seeming to come through the last hot dying wisps of smoke in his dream, its bleak intensity rivalled only by its muteness. It felt like a surrealist painting, following close on the heels of his dream and, unlike the fire and heat of the dream, with an equally penetrating solemnity.
He woke with a start, sat upright in his bed and mopped sweat off his brow with the edge of his bedclothes. He was in a muck of a sweat.
From his vivid…visions.
Visions…yes, those they were.
He had no doubt she was real and somewhere. But of what use was seeing her face in his sleep? If she was in trouble, there was no way he could help her. Despite the doubts he stubbornly entertained, he knew one thing though: she was in trouble, with probably imminent death hanging over her head. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be seeing her face in his sleep.
His precognition endowed him with a foreknowledge that was more a curse than a gift. It brought only imminent disasters to his knowledge, never a way to avert them. Or doing anything about them for that matter.
He looked around the room once more. Moonlight spilled in through the diaphanous curtains, casting the room in a greyish hue of night. The thin sounds of night came through the windows—toads croaking, crickets chirping, nocturnal birds twittering, and the steady sough of the Harmattan wind through the boughs of trees outside.
Sure enough he was still in the room he had been put in two months ago in the building that house the National Psychic Research Institute (Natpris). It was a multi-storey edifice sited about a mile and half off what he remembered to be an expressway. It was better than the sterility of a psychiatric hospital. As far as the public was concerned very important studies in behavioural sciences went on behind the doors of Natpris. For some others it was nothing but a resting place to escape the pressures of life, ensconced in the sweet arms of medication and mind-numbing chemicals. Sav belonged to the latter category. When Natpris had been suggested to him, his mind was so close to being made up that he believed it had been his idea all along.
Yet Natpris was still the last place he wanted to be. He got out of bed, padded to the bedside locker installed on the wall across the room. Helping himself to the spare provisions, he hastily and clumsily made himself an egg shake and returned to the I-can’t-do-anything-about-it comfort of his bed.
He faced the window, stared through it and tried to remember in detail the face he had seen. His fingers idly cradled the glass. Against his wishes, thoughts of his brother kept getting in the way, filling his head with remorse and self-loathing. In frustration, he downed the entire glass. Mev blotted out everything he had ever believed in before. Failing to get a composite picture of the agonised face, he gently dropped the glass to the floor and concentrated on getting himself to sleep.
That’s when he heard the scream.
It cut through the crepuscular stillness of the night. It came from the room abutting on his, feminine and filled with terror. Sounds of rushing footsteps came up to him as the guards and doctors dashed to the room next to his. He poked his head through his door and watched them scurry into the next room.
“Would you please return to your room?” a guard demanded politely.
Sav went back in and listened to the pacifying voice in the next room.
“It’s all right…it’s all right,” one doctor was crooning.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.” The terrified voice was screaming. “I want to leave. This place is driving me nuts. Please…I want to leave…you have no use for me anymore…Why don’t you let me go?”
“It will only take a little more time.”
Sav couldn’t match the voice to any face in particular. She was beyond question one of those special cases that were not allowed access to all and sundry, always kept in solitary confinement for as long as the intensive testing period lasted. Well, he sighed, she sure was a special case. Had she been trying to escape Natpris? Or was it a nightmare? Fallout, perhaps, of the intensive therapy her fragile mind had been put through?
He could do nothing about it now, and, pushing the whole business out of his mind, he went back to his bed.