With the road ahead clear, Avril turned to Zin. “You said you were looking for me last night. Why?”
Zin said, “I’m not sure.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Avril said.
“I know,” Zin said, “but I get confused. I dream a lot. Did I already tell you that?” Avril nodded, and she continued, “Some of the dreams are like flashes, and others are entire lives, and I can’t always tell if I’m awake or asleep and dreaming. Each dream is its own reality. Sometimes I’m not even me, but in the dream, I always know who I am, even if it’s not me, but I don’t always remember when I wake up. I was looking for you because you’re in my dreams a lot. I thought you might be like me, that perhaps I was in your dreams.”
Avril shook his head. “How long were you looking?”
Zin stifled a yawn. “A long time. You were in some of my dreams yesterday. In one, I got you ice cream and—”
“That was real,” Avril said.
“Really?” Zin asked.
Avril nodded, and Zin blushed. “Sorry, I get frantic when I don’t sleep, but sometimes it’s necessary.”
“I thought you were delirious with suns stroke,” Avril said.
“Just very tired. I knew I was close to you, and I was worried if I slept, I’d lose you again. Maybe I’d dream entire lives and forget I was looking for you.”
“Lose me again?” Avril asked.
Zin nodded, then hurried on, “I’ve had that dream before, the one with the ice cream. I’ve dreamed about you and the others many times.”
“Others?” he asked.
“Yeah. I don’t know who they are, but I dream about them a lot too. I guess we’ll find them. Maybe one of them knows what this is.”
Beads thought I was an experiment, Avril thought. Are we, Zin, me, and these others, part of an experiment?
Avril said, “People are looking for me. I don’t know why, but it’s not safe. I can drop you—”
“They’re looking for all of us,” Zin said with such calm certainty that Avril accepted her words without question. “We need to stay together and find the others. We’ll be safer together.”
Avril nodded, still surprised how easily he trusted this woman. “Why are they looking for us?”
“I don’t know. In the dreams, I always run away or wake up before I’m caught.”
“Who are they?” Avril asked.
Zin shook her head.
He reached into his pocket for the AI from the grith skull and looked at the display.
“What’s that?” Zin asked, leaning in to see. Her jaw cracked with a yawn, and she covered her mouth with a hand. “Sorry.”
“Whoever killed that guy back there left this. It might tell us something,” Avril said.
The face of a young man with dark skin, golden eyes, and an angry expression was displayed on the AI. The words locate and retrieval flashed in red letters across the screen.
Avril knew this face. It was the dualist from Taral.
Zin smiled and said, “I dream about him too.”
“Who is he?” Avril asked.
“Maxian Tralitson,” Zin said.
“Do you know that from the dream?”
“No, silly. It says it right there.” Zin tapped the screen, and the image of the young man was replaced by the picture of the woman with platinum hair.
Avril felt the now familiar sense of recognition, but he couldn’t remember ever seeing her before.
“She’s so clever,” Zin said.
“You know that from your dreams?”
“I’m not crazy,” Zin said. “I dreamed about you, and then I found you, and I’ve dreamed about her and Maxian. We’ll find the others, and then you’ll see. I’m not crazy.”
“I know,” Avril said.
“You believe me?”
“Yeah. It’s illogical, but I think so.” Avril nodded and read the name beneath the picture of the woman. Laurill fi’Simil.
“Should we find them?” Avril asked.
“You don’t want to?” Zin asked.
Avril shrugged. “I don’t know. What if nobody is looking for them?”
“Somebody is.” Zin tapped the AI.
“Right,” Avril agreed and shook his head at his own denseness.
Zin reclined her seat and closed her eyes.
“You can’t be tired,” Avril said.
“Sure, I can. I was awake for a long time before today, and dreaming is hard work.”
“What if your dreams make you forget?”
“I have you to remind me.” Zin smiled at him.
“What about these?” Avril asked and tapped the screen on the AI. A new face replaced the woman.
Zin closed her eyes and said, “I’ll see them in my dreams; they might tell me something that will help us find them.”
“Are you serious?” Avril asked.
“Learn everything you can. I will too,” Zin said.
Zin shushed him and turned her back on him.
Avril stared at her for a moment, then shook his head and looked at the screen. I must be crazy, he thought, and Zin shushed him again.
Avril sat back in his seat and looked at the profile on the AI. This one showed a young man with gaunt features.
Just as with Zin and the other faces he’d seen on the screen, he felt a sense of recognition, but he couldn’t remember how he knew this man.
Maybe I’m going crazy, He looked at Zin and added, Maybe we’re both crazy, and Beads was right.
Avril took a breath and thought, Let’s see what this thing says about me.
He tapped the screen, and the image changed. This time it was a young man with reddish-brown hair and a cocky smile. The name Gabe was beneath the photo.
Avril tapped the screen again, and an image of Zin with a large white flower in her hair replaced the man.
Avril exhaled. Shit.
The next image was of Avril, and he read his own name at the bottom of the screen before the words locate and retrieve obscured it.