Hilda was waiting at the bus depot for the transport which would take her to the spaceport. Giselle had been giddy when she spoke with her sister and immediately sent her money for the ticket. The waiting area was decrepit and dusty. It was open on three sides with an extra long awning to protect passengers from the sun. There was no breeze today to relieve the heat. It was always hot here, and humid. Crops grew well, but people seemed to stagnate.
In the far corner a thin man in a wrinkled yellowed shirt sat behind a desk. He was there to check tickets but seemed truly surprised when Hilda gave him her transport number.
“Going to the capital? Are you going to the rally?” he’d asked her and then quickly added. “No, I guess you’re not.”
She told him she was going to the spaceport and then sat on a bench, the only person in the depot. Her oldest friend Stella had driven her, a two hour trip with three of her five children in the back seat of her old truck. Stella had alternately chatted and scolded the whole way there.
“Going to visit Giselle, huh? That’s nice I guess … Phineas, be quiet, I have had it with you today ... Don’t know why she left, though. Going all the way to Terra Nova … Charan stop kicking your sister … There were perfectly nice men for her to marry here, you know … Trista, stop crying, you’re not hurt … Hilda, you be careful out there.”
Hilda had nodded but she hadn’t really been listening. There were too many thoughts swirling in her mind, unsettling thoughts. She fingered the necklace her grandmother had given just before she departed. She’d never seen it before and she was so sure she knew every item in their house. Where had the old woman been hiding it all these years?
The pendant was a thick silver disk on a silver chain. There were two small, flat, inlaid jewels. They were multi-hued and iridescent, changing as the light shifted during the drive.
Beatrix had put it into her hand and then motioned for her to come closer. She whispered one sentence into her ear, a shocking set of words which didn’t make sense. What could her grandmother have meant? She knew she was…
“Hilda Ashman?” a male voice asked.
Hilda looked up to see a tall man with short dark hair. His eyes were intense. He neither smiled nor frowned.
“You need to come with me.”
“Is there a problem with my ticket?” she asked. He said nothing but reached out for her.
Hilda tried to sink into the chair but his hand clamped onto her upper arm. Without hurting her, he pulled her up to her feet. He was a full head taller than her. Her satchel was in his left hand and they were walking. All this had happened in a few seconds.
Hilda wanted to scream, “Let go of me!” She wanted to ask him who he was and what was going on, but her voice was lost. She felt an unaccustomed chill in her muscles. Although it was a steamy day she began to shiver. She looked back but the thin clerk was gone.
They were almost out of the depot when the man asked, “Do you have a coat?”
She stared at him in disbelief. He was wearing a dark blue suit and black leather gloves. She was thinking, “Are you kidding, a coat?” But she could only whisper, “What is going on?”
Hilda’s mind was racing. Teachers and old aunts always warned about strange men attacking. She remembered that they said she should do anything not to be taken away. She took a deep breath and then collapsed to the ground, grabbing the legs of one of the benches. The man was not expecting this and momentarily lost hold of her. She began to scurry away, but almost immediately felt an icy grip on her ankle.
Again he pulled her up. She was now on her tip toes. Their faces were very close.
“Don’t make this hard,” he hissed between clenched teeth. “I don’t like doing this, but it’s my job.” The man smelled good – like incense and soap and the forest.
Then Hilda smelled something else, a chemical. He had put down her satchel and taken a small metal cylinder from his pocket. He turned his face and pressed a button. A tiny cloud of gas emitted from a pin hole.
Hilda tried not to breathe but couldn’t stop herself. She felt woozy and could barely walk. She leaned heavily on the man who was leading her away from the depot. Her vision and her consciousness were fading. The last thing Hilda remembered was being slid into the back seat of a dark vehicle. She felt it rushing forward. Then everything went black but for a moment she could still smell incense, soap and the forest.