Dystopia Chapter 11

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 3 by Krasniy Zakat (Monday, July 10, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 4 by Krasniy Zakat (Friday, July 14, 2006)

(posted Wednesday, July 12, 2006)

It felt like hours. It must have been hours, maybe. Her mind was a blank for quite a while, and the mere thought of rising from that floor was deeply revolting. For a while – as if something in her brain had notified her that, regardless of anything she might wish, no immediate action was necessary or helpful – she just drifted. For a while her brain seemed to focus on remembering scenes from her favourite books and movies. Then it moved on to verbs; classic movement verbs in a dozen or so languages: compare and contrast. Translate each one in the most accurate way possible, then consider what the speaker would remember best. Then move on to the next.

Then her mind vaguely shifted to simple multiplication. She felt some concentration returning as from 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128… her mind shifted onto 262144, 524288, 1048576… She couldn't continue much past eight digits anyway, yet her brain showed no indication of readiness to emerge from whatever subconscious cleanup it was busy with. She drifted off again, this time into memories.

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Sofia was in the university library again, looking out of younger, more naive eyes. At a math textbook. Angrily.

She angered easily now, a corner of her mind that retained the old Sofia was slightly amused at that. But of course, this was a memory, and the younger self she now was did not remember the future. She angered at people giving her offense, and at the world not fitting itself to her wants and wishes. Her annoyance was flammable and bursting.

Today she was annoyed at the university authorities – the ignoramuses that had decided, for some reason, that a linguist should torture herself with numbers. She was angry at the incomprehensible little hooks and squiggles, and she was even angrier at her own stupidity. Failing gave her a bitter taste in the mouth and a feeling in her stomach that wouldn't go away.

Mathematiques she mused, sont les racines do tout mal. Je suis sure. Doing her musing in French did not help one bit. Mathematics was unfair. In language, one knew where one stood. There were rules, there clearly were exceptions, and if you\d formed your sentences wrong, you were wrong. If you made a wrong statement you were wrong there, too. But mathematics… ah, that was an entirely different kettle of fish. Right here, for example, she muttered inwardly as she leaned over the book clearly the derivative here does not aspire to one. But it is enough to take out the root, switch the variables around… et voila! What did not equal one a moment ago equals it now. How… illogical.

"Oh, to the devil," she decided with finality and slammed the textbook closed. "I think I'll just throw this book that way, and be done with it."

"If you throw the book that way and apply as much force as you seem to intend, young woman, you will certainly hit the window," she was informed by an amused male voice behind her shoulder. "The Party," it proceeded with an ironic pomp, "likes unbroken windows."

She turned around and neatly hurled the book directly into the annoying intruder's surprised glasses.

"Wow." He caught the book, though not very neatly, and stared at her, clearly impressed. "That was the most phenomenally odd act I've seen so far. What's the trouble, anyway?"

"Mathematics is the trouble," she growled, trying to pretend minimal politeness.

"Mathematics is no problem." He smiled at her derisively. "Quantum physics, now…"

Sofia wished for another – heavier – book. "I'm a Linguist," she snapped "and if you can follow my French, or English, for that matter, I'll forgive you your mien."

"Oh." The presumable physicist offered. "Does the Linguist have a name?"

"Sofia Kagan," she notified in a voice that should have frozen his glass rims. "Does the physicist intend to give me back my book?"

"He does. And his name is Alexander Rabinovich." He proffered her the offender, and the instigator of all this mess. Sofia snatched the book away and eyed him again. Then she turned on a heel and strode towards the exit.

Not that he wasn’t interesting, especially with his telltale last name…

"Hey!" Alexander called after her, breaking all library and conduct rules, "I could tutor you in math, you know."

"Fine," she tossed behind her shoulder, "but I am not looking for a boyfriend."

He laughed behind her back. "The ice has broken, gentlemen of the jury!” Sofia groaned under her breath, wondering when Alexander the Physicist intended to rob her of her diamonds.


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She found herself chuckling weakly. From the world of memories, her mind drifted slowly into focus once again. The memory was still clear; her capable, verbally phenomenal mind could recall most conversations throughout her adult life at great detail. All these elapsed years, and the tumultuous events that have come since did not obscure it in her inner vision.

And now there was only her. She struggled to her feet and stood unsteadily, her head was light and she had terrible vertigo, but her mind was clearer now. Resolute. Almost absentmindedly she tucked away the photograph into a coat pocket, and slammed the door behind her back. Now was as good a time as any to return to her own dimension, to sit and wait until the CCCP team – experienced and good people, all – shows up. This was no longer a laughing matter, nor was her husband’s honour her first, or even last, concern.

But… time was too short, this she knew. The team would follow her, this she knew also. The time she would now spend in preparatory work, finding out what she could, would be invaluable, this she knew also. Looking about her now with a disillusioned, almost cool gaze she saw that the place, which she first assumed to be almost humungous, was actually quite small. Short corridor, a pair of double-doors, heavy and military, on the one end and perhaps five additional doors all in all.

The stepped quickly now, once her purpose was clear, and reentered the room of her arrival, or the Portal Room, as she now referred to it. The oppressive, ominous silence that greeted her sent a new tremor down her spine, standing the fine hairs on the nape of her neck and along her arms on edge.

Where before had been the hum of the generator, now there was nothing. Where before there had been the low throb of energies moving about now there was only still. The thin air seemed even thinner – Sofia was not getting enough oxygen. Her lungs burned and she was breathing heavily now as she stuck her head carefully into the room.

There was no portal.

“Oh, idiot!” she moaned in bereavement, with a tone that went beyond despair and into the realm of fatalistic acceptance. “What have you done? What have I done?”

The generator that held the portal open, the portal that was her return ticket, her train back home... the generator was dead now. Burned. Silenced. She moaned, a low sound and closed her eyes briefly against the terrible faintness that spread in her body.

She was stuck, she and Alex, forever. Worse yet, she was on her own. No help would come to her now, she was all there was.

Just her, in this strange, frightening world.