Episode Eight ♦ Remembrance 

Luis remained mute, thinking about her revelation. He looked down the well-lit platform; only a handful of people milled about. Thank you for telling me… What can I say?

“If I am pregnant,” Avinashika said, “I don’t want my baby born in prison.”

Luis nodded.

“It’s just…”

He sensed she was troubled. “Have you seen a doctor?”

“No.”

“Well maybe you should before running off. You have not done anything wrong, have you?”

“You mean other than sleeping with Willem?”

“No, not that.” He rubbed his forehead. “What did you know about his plans?”

“He planned on taking the first train to come and heading west.”

“Yes. No idea where, when, or what…”

“Exactly.”

After a few moments of silence Luis said, “I know I need to go to the investigators, but what can I tell them? He was going west. That’s about it.”

“I know. That’s what worries me too. They won’t believe us.”

“Maybe if we go together?”

“Won’t help.”

“Okay, separately then. We will tell them what we know — it will be the same. That will be that.”

“I don’t think so.” She shook her head. “That’s not how things work – at least not for my family. See — my grandparents were born in India. They were old-fashioned, fortune-tellers, and married within their caste.”

Luis nodded.

Avinashika took a bite of the apple and chewed. “They were from small villages in the Darkness – remote places – but after union with China people who followed the old ways were hounded by the authorities. So they left India. All four were interred in a Confederation resettlement camp near Minsk.”

“That is awful.”

“It gets worse. At that time international tension ran high. De Authoriteit didn’t want to let in people from the Union or the League. Everyone was a terrorist.”

Luis interrupted, “Maybe I will take an apple after all.”

Avinashika fished another out of her bag and handed it to him. “My grandparents didn’t like to talk about it, but I understand that they endured a lot of forceful interrogation.”

“You mean torture?”

“Probably. They never went into detail, but that’s my guess.”

Luis shook his head. “Oh, how horrible. People are cruel.”

“It might’ve been done to discourage people from resettling in the Confederation. Lots of people would confess to something – anything – to get the interrogation to stop. Most would say they stole something and were sent back. Some said they were spies and disappeared. Probably sent to another camp.”

“How do you know this?”

“Well, I know people who knew people… It doesn’t matter.”

“And your grandparents?”

“All four endured. My parents were born in the camp. My father’s parents were settled in Hartfield and my mother’s family were sent to Madrid. But the marriage had been arranged and when my mother was old enough she was sent to marry my father.”

“Are they still alive?”

“No, my dad was killed in a factory accident. Mom didn’t live long after.”

Luis swallowed a bite of apple. “I am sorry to hear that.”

“See, even though my sister and I were born in the free settlement, we’re only resident aliens.”

Luis nodded.

“I just worry I’ll be sent to some camp.”

“But if you have done nothing wrong…”

“I don’t think it matters what I’ve done – or what you’ve done. Right now we’re close to the wrong person.”

“Maybe it will still be better to go back.”

“I can’t.”

“So, where are you going?”

“Don’t know just yet, but there’s someone I have to see first. Will you come with me?”

“I have to work tomorrow.” Luis’ eyes grew wide in understanding. “I won’t have a job tomorrow.”

“Now you’re catching on.”

“But I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Neither of us have.”

They sat in silence eating their apples. Luis broke the long quiet. “I want to go back.”

“Okay.”

The station chime sounded in their heads. “Attention. Now approaching platform three, northbound local for Pittsburgh.”

Avinashika tossed the core of her apple into a nearby bin. “Well, this is my train. Good luck.” She stood and walked down the platform.

Luis was conflicted. I have to go back. He studied his finger as the train pulled into the station.

“All passengers please prepare to board.”

Luis looked down the platform. Avinashika was a couple car lengths away. She stepped through the doorway. His gaze slid down the sleek, white train and stopped at a window near where he remained seated. An elderly woman looked out the window.

Avozinha?”

Luis jumped off the bench and dashed towards the nearest doorway. The doors were closing. He lunged sideways through the opening just before the door shut.

He walked down the well-lit car examining the faces of passengers, but none looked familiar. Back and forth he paced before going into the next car back. And then the next. At the rear of the train he returned forward. He examined the faces; some people gave him an odd look. He kept walking. Car after car, she was not there.

“Luis?” It was Avinashika.

 He stopped. “I saw her. As you got on the train. She was standing at the window.”

“Who?”

“My grandma. But I can’t find her.” He flopped down on the seat across from her.

“Are you okay?”

“She’s been dead for fifteen years. But I saw her. She was holding a sign with the words ‘Roseville’ and ‘Agosto’ written like an X. The words shared a common O. That O had a dot in the center.”

“Clearly, a message. I understand the evil eye...”

“Avozinha hated the month of August. ‘Agosto mês do desgosto.’ August is the month of grief – more or less. She would not travel during August, hating making decisions, only shopped for necessities.”

“Someone doesn’t want you to go back to Roseville.”

“I do not believe in superstition. It just seemed so real…”

“I understand. Where’re your parents?”

“Dad was transferred to Geneva about six years ago. He works on some highly-classified anti-matter project. Mother is a linguist. She is always traveling.”

“Are they still together?”

“They are married. That is about it.”

“Were you born in Hartfield?”

“Yes. My parents met in Raleigh while doing their doctorates. They married after taking teaching positions in Hartfield. I was born a couple years later. They brought my grandma up from Belo Horizonte after my grandfather died. I never knew him. She pretty much raised me.”

“It seems pretty clear she doesn’t want you to go back.”

“Maybe, but I do not want to believe you.”

The Informateur interrupted their conversation. “Approaching Caseville Station in two minutes. Passengers alighting at Caseville should gather their belongings and proceed to the nearest exit. Caseville next stop.”

“I’m thirsty,” Avinashika said. “Come with me to get a drink, okay?”

“Sure.” Luis followed Avinashika down the aisle. The train seemed mostly empty.

“Maybe there’s a formatter in the next car.”

The train came to a halt and the doors opened. Avinashika broke her stride forcing Luis to stop short. She grabbed his hand, dashed, and pulled him out the nearest door as it closed.

“Why did you do that?” he asked.

“Didn’t you see those two guys wearing black suits?”

“No.”

“One was standing at the train door as it pulled away. They saw us. They were on the train.”

“Who was on the train? Who do you think they were?”

“Agents. Like the guys who’re at Willem’s today.”

“You think they are following us?”

“I don’t know. But if they aren’t, I know where they are going. Next stop is near Appledorf.”

“Huh?”

“Let’s go find something to drink. There has to be a pub or diner around here somewhere.”

Together they walked out of the small, dark station ignoring the account debiting message. A quiet street stretched out in front of the entrance. A few shops lined either side of the dirt track, all dark but one midway down the stretch. A dim light glowed above the door.

Avinashika reached for Luis’ hand. He tensed for a second then felt comforted. They walked towards the light. On the door was lettered “All Ways Inn.” Luis held the door open as Avinashika entered the dingy restaurant. A couple sat at a table eating without talking or looking at each other. A man sat in a booth alone and another sat at one end of the counter.

“Howdy. You’re not from around here,” said the man wearing a sweat-soaked cap and grease-stained apron; both had once been white. “What can I getcha?”

Luis looked at Avinashika.

“I’ll take a grilled cheese sandwich and some iced tea.” Her confidence suggested numerous prior visits.

“Make it two,” Luis added.

The guy at the end of the counter got up and exited the restaurant in silence.

The cook motioned towards a table. They sat as Avinashika placed her bag on an extra chair.

“You know, I think he might actually cook those sandwiches,” she said.

Is that a good or bad thing? A message registered, “Seven credits are being deducted from your account for a sandwich and drink.”

They sat in silence as the pair finished eating and left. A couple minutes passed and the cook brought out two plates balanced on his left arm and a glass of iced tea in each hand. “Are you in town for long?” He set the glasses and then the plates in front of Avinashika and Luis.

Luis looked at Avinashika.

“Not long,” she answered. “Actually, we got off the train too soon.”

“Where y’all headed?”

“Appledorf.”

“Train don’t stop there anyway. It’s a bit longer from here, but you can still get there. Hey Joe,” he called to the lone man sitting in a booth. “You know anyone going to Appledorf?”

Joe stood up and strode towards the other three. “Might. Just not tonight. You folks got some place to stay?” He wore navy coveralls, black boots with thick soles, and adjusted a dark McStarMart cap.

Luis felt vulnerable. “No.”

“Think someone could put ‘em up, Mel?”

“Can’t hurt to ask. You mind taking them ‘round?”

“Not at all.”

Mel returned to his kitchen.

Avinashika moved her bag off the chair. “Please. Have a seat.”

Joe sat. “Thank ya kindly. Where ya folks from?”

“Hart…”

She cut Luis off. “Hartford. Here to find a friend that moved down this way some years ago. Know anyone by the name of Ugo?”

“I do. But not in Appledorf.”

Luis took a swig from the tall glass of iced tea.

Avinashika swallowed a bite of the sandwich. “Mmm, that’s good. Local cheese?”

“Probably,” Joe said.

She continued, “So, where does the Ugo you know live?”

“Hard to explain to someone who don’t know. Why don’t you finish your food? I need to make a quick stop.”

They nodded as Joe got up, walked across the diner, and left through the back door.

Luis set down his half eaten grilled cheese. “You think this is safe?”

“We’ve got to find Ugo. To do that, we’re going to need to trust people like him.”

Luis shook his head.

They ate in silence.

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