Elana woke up.
“No!” she screamed into the darkness. Then she clamped her hands over her mouth. She held her breath. She squeezed her eyes shut.
None of it helped. The dream was slipping away from her. She could cover her mouth and her eyes, clog her pours, wrap herself in bandages from head to toe. It wouldn’t help. The dream would still slip away. The edges of the images in her mind blurred. Their meanings dimmed. The voices and faces that had been so crisp, so real just a moment before were nearly gone. The memory of an echo.
Terrible. It had been such a good dream. She was flying through space. Great golden wings of metal and feather and starlight spread from behind her back and flapped against the void. And there had been others. Hadn’t there? And voices, singing some kind of song? It seemed so long ago, when she thought about it. So distant. As wakefulness burned the fog of sleep from her mind, it scorched the memory into cinders. She cursed the fact that she woke up so easily.
Elana stretched. It was a mistake. Her muscles ached and the pain in her neck and back screamed its displeasure. She glanced at the alarm clock next to her bed.
3: 32 AM
The sharp red numbers mocked her in the darkness. 3:32 AM. She had to wake up in a little over an hour. Was it worth trying to drag her mind back into unconsciousness? Probably not. The dream was gone. There would no more flying through space. Plus, her brother would be home soon. Maybe she’d be able to see him arrive. The though was vaguely painful. But better than laying in her sweaty blankets.
She put her slippers on and stood up. She walked towards the edge of the room that held the giant window. She shivered. It was cold up here. Always cold. But she always got colder as she neared one of the outward facing windows. Her imagination, she knew. The seals were tight. But it didn’t matter. She was still cold.
She got to the window and hit the button to make it transparent. The opaque coating melted away, like frost on glass. Elana stared out through it. The vastness of space stared back at her. She gasped. Even after all this time. As often as she looked at it. It always took her breath away.
At the edge of her vision she could see a trace of the planet below. Later on during the rotation the planet would take up nearly the entire view. But not now. Now it was just stars.
There was movement in the distance. There he was. Just arriving. He was only a shimmering dot in the distance, bright even against the stars. But he moved so quickly that she knew he would be fully visible soon. Sure enough, just a few seconds later she could make out the image of her brother. His vast, silver wings stretched out against the luminous sky.
She imagined she could see the feathers, bound in their matrix of living machinery and celestial energy, vibrating in time with the starlight. Absorbing its harmonics, sending them through his flesh, and his bones. She could just barely remember the feel as it cascaded through her own body. The hum on her skin. How it echoed in her ears. The sounds.
She sighed deeply. She barely noticed when her arm reached back and slipped under her shirt to feel the ruin of metal splinters and torn feathers jutting from her shoulder blades. It pricked her finger. She did not pull away. The pain in her flesh was small. Tiny. Barely noticeable against the deeper pain of what it meant.
A long time, now. She could barely remember it when she was awake.
But at least she had her dreams.