‘No, what?’ he asked cautiously.
‘It’s why you’ve been cautious, it’s why you’ve treated me with kid gloves.’ She leaned over and touched his arm. She felt so real, how could she be a hallucination?! ‘I’m pregnant.’
He opened his mouth to speak but she went on. ‘I’m as shocked as you are after what the gynaecologist said last year. That day, that terrible, terrible day.’
*Play along* he remembered the voice from the mirror. *Don’t arouse suspicion* ‘Did she actually say you – we – couldn’t? I don’t recall those exact words.’
Her face softened and for a brief second, the face of the other woman – the military uniform, the ship, anxiety on her face – replaced the image. ‘You’re right. You were there too. I remember everything, I remember where we went for lunch and what we ate. I remember us both crying. I guess the words just washed over me. She said “the chances of you having children are highly unlikely”. “Unlikely” never meant “impossible” though, did it? But that’s how I read it.’
He reached out and touched her arm then, and the image around him dissolved almost like wet paint getting too hot and dripping off a canvas. He shook his head, trying to clear the image from his mind.
That woman stood over him again, the one in the military uniform – the one with the cut on her forehead. Her hands were firmly on his shoulders, pinning him against something cold and hard. He couldn’t tell if he was standing or lying and the background – the fire, the fallen beams – none of it gave any indication. He tried to rise but she held him back and shook her head. She spoke to him but he could not hear her words.
Still holding him down, she turned her head to the left and shouted something. Someone else appeared – a man, early 50s in officer uniform. He crouched down next to the woman and they repeatedly shouted one word – miri? mirrah? mirror? Mirek!
He didn’t notice the sound of ringing until it started to die off. Each painful second that passed, the voices of the two people before him became clearer and more distinct.
‘Mirek, are you alright? Thank God, we’ve got you! No, don’t move, we need to ease you off the shard carefully or you’ll bleed out,’ said the woman.
‘Listen buddy, you gotta keep calm,’ said the man, ‘They attacked us. They came out of nowhere, the bastards. I guess we can say the ceasefire is over now.’
Mirek went to speak, to tell them they had already said that but the words would not form and his lungs ached through even the smallest amount of effort.
‘Don’t talk, save your energy. We’re heading back to Starport. We’re limping but we’re still outrunning them. I guess that’s the advantage of flying a Lightning Class, huh?’ the man smiled. ‘We’re going to get you out. For now just relax. Everything is fine.’
‘Halluc a nash, feel ree.’
‘Yes,’ the woman took over again. ‘They hit us with a chemical weapon. They used them before and promised never to do it again, I guess they changed their mind. Not all of us are affected yet. The important thing is to fight it – don’t let it swallow you! Mirek! Mirek!’ Everything went black and he was back in the room with the woman who claimed to be his wife.
‘What do you say?’
He smiled. ‘Why not?’ Something was bugging him now, and it wasn’t the hallucination. He simply couldn’t shake the undeniable fact that the voice in the mirror was not the same as the woman on the ship. Mirror Voice was Polish; the two people in the ship sounded American to his ears.
Go to Part 4 here