Akasha concentrated as her mind swam through the murky remnants of Duane’s memories and emotions in order to grasp onto her own. She opened her eyes and tried to focus on the gray concave ceiling she knew was above her. Slowly, the blurry smudges of light began to come into focus. She was back home on Paleon. She blinked away the loan tear in her left eye and sighed, “Tuli…” The lump in her throat choked her words.
Akasha closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and inhaled the stale, chemical laced air. Slowly she became aware of her arms, fingers, lungs, and the rest of her body. Her stomach ached the worst. A pink, globular substance named tnar, surrounded her body. The tnar provided her with the necessary nutrients to keep her alive, but it was no substitute for food.
She ignored the ache in her stomach tried again to speak. “Tuli.”
Tuli appeared at her side. His red eyes stared down at her. “Are you back, Akasha?”
She nodded to indicate yes.
“Good.” as the substance quickly drained leaving her stasis tube cold and empty. Akasha knew Tuli had pushed the small button that released the tnar from her tube.
“Are you ready to be disconnected?” Tuli asked.
Akasha sighed. “Yes.”
Tuli moved from beside her and disappeared. She knew he was in front of her head, where the machine that was attached to her brain sat.
The pain began, streaks of lights blazed across her eyelids as the prongs extracted themselves from the base of her brain. Her body jerked, stretching the restraints. After a few seconds, the pain started receding and the shower of lights became fewer until they completely disappeared. Her body stopped jerking uncontrollably and she relaxed. A few seconds later, the restraints were removed from her body, and Akasha opened her eyes.
Tuli stared at her, worry and curiosity written on his face. “That was a difficult awakening.” He said, lowering his head and wiped the remaining tnar from her body with a large sponge.
The cool, gently touch of the sponge felt good on her skin, but the phantom touch from the prong left her head throbbing. “Yes, this host lived and died violently.” Duane Tyrone Atkins with his lack of fear, morals, and respect for authority was completely different from any human host she’d ever inhabited. Other than her first awakening, she couldn’t remember a more difficult return to her body.
After Tuli was finished wiping her down, Akasha sat up and looked down at her gray, pale hands. Right now her skin was soft because of the tnar, but once her skin dried the soft texture would fade to be replaced with dry, cracking, virtually lifeless skin. It was strange looking at her hands and not dark hands of her human host.
As a Paleon explorer, her essence was sent to Earth and implanted into the subconscious of a developing human fetus. Neither the human nor the explorer were aware the explorer was there. Akasha could only recall the life of her human host once she returned to Paleon.
The sides of the tube lowered and she threw her long legs over the now flattened tube. She hopped off and stretched her arms towards the ceilings, trying to awaken her muscles and joints. The tnar helped circulate her blood but the life sustaining substance couldn’t fool her body.
“How long was I out?” Akasha asked.
“Not long. A little over three months,” Tuli replied, returning to his workstation. Time on Earth moved faster than time on Paleon. For every Paleon month six years passed on Earth.
Akasha walked over the first tube to her right and saw Siom, the newest explorer, laying immersed in tnar. Much like some gifted humans can see what they call an aura; all Paleons can feel each other’s essence or energy signature. Akasha couldn’t feel Siom’s essence emanating from his body. Normally, this would mean that he was dead and his energy source had been extinguished, but Siom’s chest rose and fell, indicating his essence had traveled to Earth, leaving his body functioning on Paleon.
She passed Siom and approached Meehkah’s tube. Meehkah was older than Siom and his dry, cracked callused face showed it. “Hello, my love,” Akasha whispered, kissing his rough cheek. She wondered who and where he was on Earth. Had they crossed paths, her host and his host, while she was on Earth?
She walked to the end of his tube reached into the warm tnar, grabbed one of his legs and began bending his leg at the knee for exercise. She did this ten times before she switched to the next one. After she was finished with his legs, she moved to his arms.
The machine underneath Meehkah’s stasis tube, reminded Akasha of Earth’s myth of vampires who inserted their teeth into a someone’s neck and fed on their victim’s blood. This was similar, Akasha thought, the machine sank its metal teeth in the back of the neck of its victims and drank their essence out of their Paleon body and inserted it into a developing fetus on Earth.
Akasha finished Meehkah’s exercise routine and walked into Tuli’s office. His workstation was dim except for three monitors and three consoles, one for each explorer.
The screens showed the status of all three tubes. The first showed ‘return successful,’ the second, Siom’s, showed ‘out,’ and the third, Meehkah’s, showed ‘status unknown’.
“Tuli,” Akasha said, casually, “what is wrong with Meehkah’s monitor?”
Tuli paused. “There is nothing wrong with his monitor.”
“Then why does it say, ‘Status Unknown’?” Akasha asked nervously.
“You will have to talk to one of the representatives about that,” Tuli said with no expression.
“I don’t understand.” Akasha’s heart sped. For the years Akasha had been doing this job the monitors had only been displayed one of two things: ‘out’ or ‘return successful’.
Akasha approached Tuli, forcing him to look at her. “Tuli, answer me. Where is my husband?”
“Husband?” Tuli asked.
Husband was an Earth term that she and Meehkah had secretly given each other. My husband, my lover-those were terms of ownership. The government was the only entity allowed to own anything on Paleon.
“Where is Meehkah, Tuli?” Akasha asked once again while fighting her tears of hot anger and confusion.
“You have to ask the representatives, Akasha. I am not classified to give you that information,” he answered.
“Tuli, nothing in this building goes on without you finding out about it. Tell me what’s going on,” Akasha screamed. Anger flowed through her body. It was an emotion that she had never expressed on Paleon before, but she was used to the feeling of anger and violence through her past host Duane.
“You have to ask the representatives, Akasha. I am not classified to give you that information.” Tuli inched backwards away from Akasha.
Break his fucking neck, A thought, a voice, a feeling, a desire. Couldn’t name it, but it was familiar. Akasha grabbed Tuli by the back of his neck, and slammed him into the laboratory wall. Blood erupted from his nose, but she held on to his neck.
“Tuli, tell me where Meehkah is before I break your fucking neck,” Akasha snarled into Tuli’s ear. Break his fucking neck. It was a voice. She recognized it this time. It was Duane.
“Meehkah has been lost,” Tuli struggled to speak, as the blood poured from his nose and into his mouth.
She let go of Tuli’s neck and stepped back. “What do you mean he’s lost?”
“His essence is lost,” Tuli labored, trying to stop the blood from escaping his nose.
She sank to the floor, her anger spent and with it all of her strength. She’d lost herself. She’d let the shadow of Duane’s anger control her and now he was receding back into his resting place. She wished she could do that for her own consciousness. Recede; become non-existent, pretend she hadn’t heard what Tuli had just told.
Meehkah was an explorer, like herself, involved in the program since its conception. He had told her about the many mistakes in the beginning, where instead of returning to Paleon, the traveler’s energy pattern never returned to its body but would be lost somewhere in between the two planets.
“I need to see his tracking record,” Akasha said calmly to the bloody attendant leaning against the wall.
“Once his essence was lost, his record became classified. I have no access to it anymore,” Tuli answered.
Akasha approached Tuli and whispered in his ear, “Then find me someone who does.”