“How do you get by without a name?” Sara prodded, trying to pull her thoughts from the tightening in her chest.
“I’ve got by in this conversation so far. I just haven’t needed one until now.”
“So, would you mind if I gave you a name?”
The false man waited a few seconds before speaking.
“I think it would be an honour to be named by you.”
“Then I’ll call you Gerain, after my little boy.” She replied instantly.
“Oddly fitting I suppose.” He said back to her. “Though your little boy ain’t so little anymore.”
The woman’s eyes widened, and she looked more closely at the man in front of her. “You aren’t-”
“No, no,” the man cut her off. “I’m not your little boy.” He tried to clear the confusion. “Your little boy is somewhere else in this world. He’s doing well for himself, considering the circumstances. He’s happy – some of the time.”
Sara stayed silent for a few minutes after that. She didn’t know what to say next, her mind between topics.
Sara sighed. “Please don’t do that again.” She finally said.
“Do what?” The man now known as Gerain asked.
“I’ve had hallucinations tell me about myself, their-selves, and the odd things that can happen in the world,” she took a needed deep breath before she continued, “but don’t ever be telling me so-called facts, especially about my family.” She glared at the man sitting across from her until she couldn’t hold back her coughing.
“Easy, easy,” He held out his open hand towards her and her chest seemed to lighten up, as if the pressure just went away. “I thought you would have liked to hear some good news after all of… this.” He waved his hand around in the air, gesturing to something neither of them could see.
“The intention was nice, but I don’t like being lied to.” She huffed, feeling oddly stronger as her chest expanded with the filling of her lungs.
“And yet you were willing to let some hallucination talk to you? Isn’t that a lie, in a sense?” he pondered, standing up from his crate. The woman turned her head down, slightly ashamed at herself and in part annoyed by what the false man pointed out to her being partly true.
“That don’t give you the right to lie though,” she said.
“Stand up,” said Gerain, “I want to show you something.” Sara kept laying in her uncomfortable bed, quite sure that she didn’t have the strength to move. But as she thought about it she found that the burning throughout her muscles seemed to be gone. He held out his hand and she reached for it, letting her first sit up and then after a few moments stand again. It had been days. She nearly lost her balance as she stood, knocked over one of the many glasses of water nearby as her arms fell through the air.
“Oh no, not again, all this glass needs–” ‘cleaned up’ she thought, but her speech was interrupted by the man again.
“Don’t worry about that, there are more glasses.” He said, trying to calm her down. Still grasping her hand, he led her through to the other rooms and towards an open window. Or rather, a window with no glass pane. These other rooms were as messy as hers; beds made of filthy pillows, rubble from the walls, ripped apart packaging and finished-off supplies littering the floors.
“What do you see out there, Sara?” The man asked, bringing her closer to the window. She looked out with her wrinkled face, leaning her free hand on the side of the hole in the wall.
In the misty distance was a grey landscape of ruined buildings, which opened into a hot, cream-coloured desert. She could see the ripples in the air from the heat. Some of the buildings had small copses of greenery, but they were extremely sparse and hardly dotted the view.
“My city.” She finally answered, continuing to look outwards.
With a sigh the man spoke again. “What would you do if you had the power to do anything?” He looked towards her.
“That’s a pretty big question…” She wondered about all the possibilities; war, famine, poverty, disease… she could stop one – which one? Unsure of how the logistics worked she opted for something simpler. “I’d save my city from the ruins of the world.”
They looked at each other, and then back out towards the horizon for a few minutes.
“This isn’t my city, Sara.” The man spoke without looking away from the view. “This isn’t even my world. That’s why I’m sorry.”
Sara looked towards him, scrunching up her eyes. “What do you mean?”
He tried not to look at her but kept edging a glance until their eyes met. “I’m not one of your hallucinations, Sara. I have the kind of power to do most anything I want in this space.”
She continued to scrutinise him. His bald head, his clothing. “You aren’t what I imagined God to look like.”
His eyes widened at the implications and he spoke almost immediately; “Oh, no, I’m not God. I’m not an angel, either. Or a demon.”
She looked at him, more confused than before. “Then what are you?” Sara was still leaning towards the idea that he was just a more solid hallucination than ones before him. Perhaps it was almost time for her to go and she was just going more insane.
“There are beings and creatures in existence of all kind of levels of… let’s say ‘power’. You humans are towards the bottom end of beings that can comprehend of things beyond themselves.” He waited, trying to find the right words for his explanation. The woman waited with him, not sure where his words would take her.
“Did you know there are some insects on this planet less than the size of a grain of sugar?” He sifted some dust from the ledge into his palm as he spoke. “The air you breathe is like a warm thick soup to them. They swim through it. They’re carried by it.” He blew the dust off his palm and out through the window where it quickly disappeared.
Sara recalled something about this from her days as a museum biologist, decades ago. Fuzzy memories, she recalled something about how they were covered in sharp ‘feathers’ that defended them from bacteria.
“In the same sense that humans are superior to these sugar-sized insects, my kind is to humans.” He claimed, waiting for the concept to sink in.
“Wouldn’t that mean you’re incomprehensible to me?” she asked, wondering now why he would bother to explain anything.
“No, no, like I said; you humans can comprehend things beyond you. It’s just unfortunate your language hasn’t developed enough for me to get the points across more easily.” He huffed and fidgeted with a piece of rubble that was laying on the window sill. “In the same way that you humans wade easily through the air that is that is thick soup to those insects, my kind wades through the universe.”
Her eyes widened in shock. “Your kind destroys humans just by this ‘wading’??” she almost exclaimed.
“No, not unless that was our aim, and it definitely isn’t mine.” He spoke, again, with a hint of sorrow in his tone. “My kind stay out of the way, most of the time, when it comes to the affairs of… ‘lesser beings’. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, just by the way of how powerful things are.” He shook his head to get away from the tangent. “Anyway, in the same way that my kind is to yours, and yours is to the tiny insects, there is a kind higher than mine.” The man began to tremble slightly, he moved his footing and re-arranged his clothing. “There are actually multiple forces on that level, and they seem antagonistic to one another. I suppose there are higher kinds to them as well, but they are not of my concern.”
The woman was captivated by his speaking of these creatures, but then came another confusion; “Why are you telling me this?”
The man waited a few seconds in thought, as sweat began to bead across his forehead. “I need to know if I can be forgiven. But you must understand the situation first before I ask for that.” He held his breath as he shuddered.
“Why are you coming to me for this?” Sara asked, bringing her hand to her cross for comfort. What did this man need? Why her?
“Differing perspectives help, I think.” The man said. “Please, let me continue, though, I’m not sure how much longer I can continue to speak to you.”
Sara took a couple steps back, worried about the implications of what he could mean. But in the interest of curiosity she let him proceed with his tale.