The familiar feeling of breaking the atmosphere crawled through Avery’s senses. The feeling of awe as she looked out into the stars overtook her. In that memory everything felt right but in the present her head felt like it was about to crack in two. Avery’s memory slowly starts to return but what will it cost her? The story continues in the fifth chapter of Catching Time!
[Read First Chapter Here.]
Chapter 5: Welcome Back
“Hey, you ok miss?”
The lights on all the street corners had gotten brighter. They were blurry and mixed together, creating streaks across the night sky in Avery’s vision. An older man had stopped by next to her, he was wearing a tacky printed t-shirt and had a grocery bag in his hand filled with a six pack of beer. He was trying to speak to her.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Avery lied.
“Ok, if you’re sure,” The man walked off and blended into the growing crowd on the street.
Avery had walked to Lincoln Street after another hour at the bar. During that time her headache had started to grow worse and she had failed to start up a conversation with anyone else besides Misha. She thought that maybe if she could just get some fresh air she’d feel better.
Without question, she knew that this headache had to do with her returning memory. An older teenager that she first thought was herself crossed her mind. Avery realized the teen was her sister. Despite their similarities, their noses were different and they had different eyes. She felt the rejection and indifference emanating off of the teen in her memory in waves. It hurt. The girl must have been at least ten years older but Avery couldn’t remember what the girl must look like today.
Flashes of her childhood now became easy to recall. She tried to dig deeper, trying to remember any other image of when she was older than a young girl. It was a relief to know who she was but each image that she tried to hold onto was met with a wave of nausea. The closer it was to the present, the more she felt like she was going to throw up and her head was going to split in two.
“Hey, watch where you’re going.” A young couple almost stumbled to the ground trying to avoid her. The man looked at her angrily and his girlfriend held on tight to his elbow as they walked off.
At that moment, Avery realized that she needed to sit down for a moment. Her vision was blurry, the headache, the new images of her past, and the nauseous feeling in her stomach was taking her full attention. She found an empty space and sat down on a curb on the street. As the minutes ticked by the area started to get more and more packed.
“Congratulations,” An older woman from her memory said, shaking her hand. The woman was wearing a flight uniform. She was one of her mentors but Avery couldn’t hold onto the memory for long.
“Shit.” Avery cursed under her breath, feeling disoriented. She wanted to ask Sierra what was going on but then again, Sierra was the one who did this to her in the first place. At a loss of what to do, anger and hopelessness starting taking over.
The lights on all the street corners had gotten dimmer as the area started to prepare for the parade. Only a few cars drove past her on the street as Avery sat on the curb. The atmosphere around her was changing. Music started playing in the background that was so loud she could feel the vibrations running up her legs. Showing up here was probably not her best plan. If Avery had money, she’d rent a motel until she was feeling better.
“Hey, is that you?” Avery heard a voice and this time it didn’t come from her muddled memories. She felt a tap on her shoulder and looked up. Misha was standing above her. “Hey, it is you!” He said.
“Hey?” Avery squinted, he looked way more excited than he should be for finding a stranger he had just met at a bar a few hours ago.
“You look like shit,” He said above all the noise.
“Everyone keeps on telling me that,” Avery almost shouted back to be heard above the music. She wanted him to go away.
“Don’t listen to him, he just likes being an ass.” A women stepped up behind Misha. She had black hair and even darker eyes.
“This is my sister.” Misha said, and pulled her forward to introduce herself. The woman yanked her arm away from Misha and then extended it towards Avery.
“I’m Freya,” she said, and took Avery’s hand from her lap and shook it.
Misha and Freya looked nothing alike but they shared their over friendliness and infectious smile.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Avery,” Avery pulled her hand away to rub the back of her ear. Her headache still took up the majority of her attention.
“I knew that,” Misha said. He had never gotten her name at the bar. His sister just looked at him and ignored him. He already looked like he was losing interest in this conversation and was scanning the crowd to go talk to someone else.
“Not to be rude but you really do look terrible,” Freya said.
“To be completely honest, I feel terrible.” Avery replied, she got up slowly so she wouldn’t be talking up to the pair.
“Then why did you show up?” Misha watched her get up.
“I don’t know,” Avery said truthfully, she didn’t know why she was saying this to strangers but if she got seriously ill on the street they were the only ones who could do something about it.
“Ignore him, he’s always more interested in finding someone so he can get laid.” Freya offered her arm to Avery so she could steady herself.
“Hey!” Misha looked offended.
“He’s also never successful but I’m sure you know that.” Freya continued.
“Well it’s not my fault. Maybe, I would have been successful but she is the lesbian I was talking about,” Misha said, he still looked offended.
“Oh.” Freya just stood there with nothing to say for the first time.
“She’s bi,” Misha pointed towards Freya and walked off, “That’s the last nice thing I try to do for you, Freya.” He called back.
Avery and Freya watched him leave and he immediately started a conversation with a young woman at a food cart a few feet away.
“He should have been a salesman after he got back from being drafted.” Freya said.
“I can see that.” Avery still didn’t feel very good but the distraction of the pair got her mind off of her discomfort for a few seconds.
“I don’t know if you’re interested but we have a group of friends here. If you want to join us for awhile, it might be better than sitting alone and looking miserable.” Freya smiled. “I can get you some water and an ibuprofen too.”
“Sure,” Avery said without thinking. She had to admit that Freya was way more charming than her brother. Also, way better at picking up on people’s needs. Freya convinced her immediately by the word ‘ibuprofen’.
Hooking their arms together, Freya led her through the crowd and down the road. Many people lined the streets but Avery was able to distinguish the group that Freya was leading her towards. They all looked easy going, young, and dressed much like Freya. They weren’t dressed up near as much like the fancy suit Misha was in. Freya blended in seamlessly.
“Hey, Freya, did Misha actually find you a date?” A man said and stood up from the group as they approached. He handed Freya a beer and Freya took it with her free hand.
“That’s no way to speak to someone you just met. Her name is Avery and maybe I just ran into an old classmate.” Freya said to him somewhat teasingly.
“Ok, Sorry.” He put his hands up in defense, “Forget I said anything,” He said.
Avery just smiled, not knowing what to say as Freya led her up to her friends. She started introducing them to Avery one at a time and Avery shook their hands politely, not catching any of their names. Her headache was too distracting and she was regretting her decision to follow Freya.
It didn’t take much longer but the group set out an empty camping chair for her and she sat down. Freya brought her a water and some pain meds and set up her own chair next to her. As soon as she could, Avery popped the ibuprofen capsule in her mouth. It fizzed and dissolved immediately on her tongue, leaving a minty taste in her mouth. She washed the taste down with water. It had an immediate effect.
“Feeling better?” Freya smiled, she looked comfortable and relaxed on her chair next to Avery.
“Yeah, thank you,” Avery said, the capsule had worked. Her headache wasn’t completely gone but she could ignore the pain now. She was also so busy with the introductions that she hadn’t tried to chase any of her memories. The feeling of nausea that came with them was also now nonexistent.
“I’m glad,” Freya said, eyeing Avery with amusement.
A man across from Freya had launched into an elaborate story and most of the group became engrossed in what he was saying. Avery pretended to listen but she really wasn’t paying attention to him. Now that she wasn’t in pain, she could focus on bringing her memories to the surface. She was willing to try again If she could just hold onto the images.
“So, where did you meet Misha?” Freya asked, starting her own conversation.
“At a bar not too far from here,” Avery said, turning to Freya. She didn’t really want to talk, she wanted to focus on what she could remember. She’d be polite because Freya was the one who tried to help her.
“That old fashioned sports bar down the street, probably. It’s his favorite one. The buffalo wings are great but I could never find the right company there,” Fraya leaned over and grabbed another cold beer from a cooler, “But it looks like he found you. Maybe, I should go more often.” Fraya winked, as she sat up.
“It was my first time there, I don’t really know anything about this city.” Avery watched Freya as she twisted of the cap to the beer bottle. It was obvious that she was flirting with her.
“If you need a tour guide, I can help show you around?” Freya placed her hand on top of Avery’s. Her hand was still cold from her beer fresh out of the cooler, giving Avery goose bumps. She hoped Freya wouldn’t notice.
“To be completely honest, I don’t know how long I’m staying.” Avery said. She could feel Freya rubbing her thumb over her own in gentle circles.
“Not to be blunt but if you just need a guide for tonight, I’m willing to keep you company?” Fraya said.
“You sound just like Misha.” Avery smirked and shook her head. Physically and mentally she wasn’t feeling up for this. Freya was attractive but she had so many other things on her mind right now.
“Ouch,” Freya said and removed her hand, “You could have just said no. I’m offended.” She finished. Despite what she said, she had a slight smile on her face, letting Avery know that she wasn’t upset about the rejection.
“If I met you without a splitting headache it might be a different story,” Avery said.
“You don’t have to explain yourself.” Freya took another sip of her beer.
Avery smiled at her and they both turned their attention to the man finishing up his story. They just caught the tail end of it as the others laughed.
“Hey, Freya.”Another of Freya’s friends said and Freya turned to him, taking the attention off of Avery.
Gratefully, Avery took a long gulp of her water and turned her focus back on trying to get the images of her past to stay in her mind. The nausea and the headache returned.
Thirty minutes later, the parade started. Avery didn’t have a great time getting any of her memories to stick before the main attraction started. The parade caused her to lose focus and her memories slipped through her mind without meaning. The loud music stopped and the voices around her grew to a steady murmur.
The first group of the parade was a marching band. They walked down the street wearing glow in the dark uniforms and the sound of the instruments drowned out the remaining noise on the streets.The band played a march and it took several minutes for them to clear and for the next group to follow. The next section took Avery by surprise.
“Hey, look at that. You’re not going to believe the next one.” Freya said to Avery.
“What do you mean?” Avery asked.
“Look, it’s one of ours.” Freya pointed.
A huge metal skeleton was walking down the street on its hind legs. It took awhile for Avery’s mind to comprehend what it was. Flashes of the face of the metal object kept replaying in her mind. Then, the realization finally hit her. It was one of those metal creatures, the ‘deathbringers’ marching on its hind legs.
It was much smaller than the one Avery had first seen embedded in front of Sierra’s house but it was still huge. Despite its size and its huge metal frame, it didn’t make a sound as it walked down the street, decorated in hanging lights and flowers. Avery couldn’t tell if it was a creature or a machine.
“Those things are a curse and a blessing,” Freya leaned over to Avery and said in her ear. “They won the war for us but they are also a bitch to take down.”
“Yeah,” Avery said over the noise. She didn’t know exactly what she was agreeing to but Freya had said that sentence so matter of factly that she had to be right.
The next group came soon after and the sight of it made Avery’s heart skip a beat. She knew what this was. Slowly driving past her, a plane was mounted on top of a huge float. Avery knew this plane, she had flown one like this before. Sierra had shown her that she had came in a plane like this but It wasn’t until now that she recognized it. Avery knew she wasn’t just any officer. She was a pilot.
The familiar feeling of breaking the atmosphere crawled through Avery’s senses. The feeling of awe as she looked out into the stars overtook her. She saw the image of flying towards a moon, the speck becoming larger as she got closer and then entering a new atmosphere. Sierra’s house becoming a blip on her radar and the gentle pop of the landing gear as she hit the surface. In that memory everything felt right but in the present her head felt like it was about to crack in two.
“Hey, are you ok?” Freya leaned in next to her.
“Yeah, excuse me for a minute.” Avery got up and quickly left the group without another word. Looking back, Freya looked confused and startled as she left.
Avery pushed through the crowd behind her and found an open antique shop. The lights were on inside but nobody was around. She felt like she was about to puke, her head flooded with so many images that she couldn’t focus. Quickly, she rushed towards the back where she found a single bathroom with a sign saying ‘staff only’ and locked herself inside.
The last few years of her memories rushed up at once.
She was taken back to graduation. One of her instructors shook her hand as she was getting in her plane. They didn’t have time for celebration, she was flying and fighting in a war she didn’t understand. Flashes of caskets filled her mind. Avery lost most of the people that she flew with but she knew they were lucky. They were luckier than the one’s getting drafted. She spent years doing this without getting a scratch. She felt guilty about this.
Next, she was in high school again. She was out on a class trip when north America got bombed. Again, she was lucky. Again, she felt guilty. In the present, she threw up in the toilet. She flushed and walked over to the sink, turned on the faucet, and tried to mentally steal her stomach.
“Hey, miss!” A voice in the present brought Avery out of her mind for a second. “This bathroom is for staff only, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The voice shouted and the bathroom door shook as someone pounded on it from the other side.
Her mind still continued to play flashbacks, she couldn’t focus on the present. Now, she was back a few months ago. She was assigned to take in a group of people that were charged with treason. Her first assignment was a woman named Sierra.
“Hey, Avery. Are you in there?” This time Freya’s voice pulled her back to the present.
“Freya?” Avery asked, she was still confused. Her current situation was starting to make its way back in her head slowly.
“Can you let me in?” Freya said on the other side of the door.
Slowly, Avery was able to pull herself out of her memories. Letting Freya in was more of a gut reaction. Her brain told her she wanted to be alone but her body told her she needed help. She slowly walked over to the bathroom door and unlocked it. The door knob turned from the other side and Freya walked in, closing the door behind her.
“I’m ruining your night.” Avery stated, as she stood leaning over the sink and shielding her eyes from the bathroom lights. Her head was no longer spinning.
“That’s ok. I know it’s hard to watch.” Freya stepped over to her and placed her hands on Avery’s upper arms. “Most of us are having a hard time too. It’s not great remembering the war.”
“Yeah,” Avery nodded, she wasn’t about to tell Freya that this was the first time she was remembering anything. Her situation would take a lot of explaining and she wasn’t up for it.
“You’re not going to throw up again, are you?” Freya asked, ducking her head so she could get eye contact from Avery.
“I don’t think so,” Avery said, she felt a little better having someone to anchor her to the present. She wasn’t sure how long this was going to last but it felt horrible.
“Good.” Freya led Avery away from the sink and pulled her to sit down on the bathroom floor with her.
“You should be out there with your friends.” Avery leaned her back against the bathroom wall.
“I will be back in a little bit,” Freya said and positioned herself across from Avery, “I just want to let you know that you aren’t alone.”
“What do you mean?” Avery repeated, not sure what Freya was trying to tell her.
“You’re not the only one still hurting,” Freya said. She started rolling up her pant leg until it was up to her knee. In one quick motion she twisted her shin and her entire lower leg separated from below her knee. She had a prosthetic leg.
“Freya?” Avery watched her set her lower leg down. Next, Freya twisted her arm beneath the shoulder. Another prosthetic came off. The leg and the arm looked so real and had felt so real. The same arm that was now placed on the bathroom floor was the same one that Freya had placed on her hand earlier.
“I would show you my jaw but I just got my makeup to blend right and I’m not in the mood to fix it right now.” Freya shrugged.
“You were drafted too.” Avery said in realization. With her memory now returning, she knew that everyone who was still alive had some connection to the war. It had destroyed a majority of the planet, it had to affect everyone.
“Yeah, I’m not lying when I say those deathbringer’s are a bitch.” Freya started twisting back her leg and replacing her arm.
“I’m sorry.” Avery watched her until Freya was done.
“Don’t be,” Freya got up and offered her hand to help Avery up, “I’m still alive, so is my brother and most of my friends.”
Avery took Freya’s hand and she helped her up. She still felt a little nauseous but with her mind taken off of her memories, she didn’t feel physically as bad.
“Hey, I think I’ll be ok now.” Avery didn’t want to keep Freya from having a good time. She knew she was supposed to be celebrating out there on the street and she was ruining a good night.
“Are you sure?” Freya looked back at Avery quizzically.
“Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll meet you back out there in a few minutes.” Avery nodded.
“Ok, if you say so.” Freya smiled at her slightly and opened the door, she turned around before leaving to face Avery again, “Oh, and don’t stay in here too long. I stopped the shop owner from calling the cops but I bet he’s still angry.”
“Ok, got it.” Avery smirked back. She watched as Freya exited the bathroom. Then, Avery walked over to lock the door again. She wasn’t expecting Freya to check up on her and she really wasn’t expecting Freya to try to cheer her up. A now familiar sense of guilt was starting to bubble up inside of her.
She knew she was extremely lucky by becoming a pilot. She didn’t have to fight on the front lines. Pushing herself off the wall, she walked to the bathroom sink that she had left running. Rinsing out her mouth she then looked back up at the mirror.
It felt like she was recognizing herself for the first time.
“Hey, look who’s back!” The man that Freya had first introduced Avery to said as Avery walked back.
“Hey,” Avery said back and waived. She had taken her time returning to the group. She had decided that the feeling of getting sick wasn’t worth chasing down the rest of her memories. She knew the gist of most them anyway and now she had a returned sense of self. “Do you know where Freya went?”
“You’re too late, she’s back in that corner.” The man pointed towards the left side of the street.
The first thing that caught Avery’s attention was Misha sitting on a camping chair with his head in his hands. He looked upset as Freya was holding the hand of the young woman. She was the same young woman that Misha had chatted up at the food cart earlier.
“You have really terrible luck,” Avery said as she sat down in the empty chair next to Misha. She decided not to bother Freya, she was busy with her new company.
“Ha, you have no idea.” He picked up his head from his hands and turned towards Freya and the woman again. Now, Freya had pulled the young woman into a kiss. Misha just glared and put his head back into his hands.
Freya had worked quick. Avery had only been in the bathroom for an extra fifteen to thirty minutes. She was lucky the shop owner just gave her a stern warning and didn’t actually try to call the cops as she ran out the door beyond her extended stay.
“Well, you have terrible luck too because that could have been you,” Misha said. He sounded angry.
Avery knew he was just trying to make her feel bad under the circumstances of Freya stealing his date. It didn’t bother her, she was actually happy that Freya found someone on this night. Freya had just seen her at her worst and Avery knew that she wasn’t the most appealing person to kiss right now. Lifting her arm, she placed a comforting hand on Misha’s back.
The parade continued and Avery looked up at the sky. For the first time that night, the lights weren’t streaked in her vision. She looked back down at the crowd and thought she caught a familiar face in the crowd. Avery thought she saw Sierra look back at her from across the street.
Shaking her head, Avery looked again but the woman she was staring at was just another stranger. She had been mistaken. In the morning, Avery knew she was going to continue her mission.