Sylvester is sitting silently in his painting studio, his eyes filled with tears. He is trying to draw something, but he is unable to.
Someone knocks on the door.
—Come in, he says.
Lucia enters the room.
—Sylv, tell me what’s wrong, she says worriedly.
—Oh, Lucie, I don’t know who you are anymore…. You’re sad, and you say nothing. It’s like you’re somewhere else. It’s you who has to tell me what’s wrong…
He gives her one of those looks she is unable to resist. She can’t keep him in the dark anymore. She needs to confess to him what’s been eating her up lately and why her happiness has gone. She’s fought it as strongly as she could, and she tried to be positive about her life on Earth, but she was definitely homesick. How would he react?
—Sylv, I’m not happy on Earth. It’s not my world.
—You’re an Earthling, though…
—I grew up in a Delta world, Sylv. Here, everything is so primitive. Except for your Epsilon things in this apartment…. I promise, I tried; but this is not how I want to live. Furthermore, I miss my mom and dad, and my sister and brother. I miss them so much.
—You told me once that I can go all over your planet now, didn’t you?
—Yes, you’re not confined to the Earth-Dalygaran Territory anymore.
—So we can visit your family whenever you want.
—Sylv… I already go there regularly…
—When you’re in here drawing in the afternoons, have you never asked yourself what I’m doing during this time?
—I thought you were with Paul, Nelly and little Joshua. When I finish, I always find you there with them…
—You’re right, but I’m not with them all the time you’re drawing… I go to see my family. When I arrived here, I was lost and scared because I had a choice to make: be definitively transformed into a Frigellyan woman, or remain a human being. I was not ready to be a Frigellyan. Something told me I had to go to Earth. And I have no regrets. I found you, Sylv. And I love you. I’m absolutely sure of this. But I love my planet too, and my planet is not Earth.
—I thought you didn’t want to live on Frigellya anymore. It’s what you told David and Beth the day you arrived, wasn’t it?
—Yes, but I was wrong. I was just afraid of a new turn in my life. And as I said, even if I wasn’t really aware of it, what led me here to Earth was you. I saw us in love as a little girl, and I’m sure I didn’t come here accidentally.
—You don’t want to stay on Earth, is that what you’re trying to tell me?
—I… I feel out of place here. It’s not my world.
—It’s not my world either. Mine is far away in the future. I’m an Epsilon man living in an Alpha world, you see?
—You mean you would agree to go away from here?
—I mean I would be happy to live in a more advanced world, where I don’t have to hide what I’m working on. I’m an inventor, Lucie. And materials here are so … old-fashioned. When Paul and I ran away to Frigellya—it was some time before you arrived here—I had the best days of my life… well, technologically speaking. I loved living there, even if I was under the threat of a sentence.
—My parents always tell me to speak with you. They were so right. But I didn’t dare. I thought you were attached to this place…
—Is this why you were so elusive this past while? You didn’t answer my questions; you even avoided me. Lucie, I believed our love story was over…
—No, Sylvester, no. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I made you think this.
—I’m so happy I was wrong. Oh, Lucie, let’s move wherever you want. I just want to spend my life with you… I want to be your children’s father, I want…
—Children? You want children?
—Plenty of children! Don’t you?
—I haven’t thought about it, she answers laughing. But I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful father.
—And you an amazing mother…
—How about locking this door?
—So that no one could disturb us?
—It would be a shame and a little bit embarrassing if someone interrupts us, don’t you think?
Sylvester sits silently in his Frigellyan painting studio, his eyes filled with tears. He is trying to draw something, but he is unable to.
Someone knocks on the door.
—Come in, he says.
Lucia enters the room.
—Sylv, talk to me, she implores.
He gives her this look she is unable to resist. There is so much sadness inside that look today.
—Talk to me, love, she insists.
—I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. It’s impossible, I can’t do this.
—Sylv, it’s ok. I proposed this to you because this is the only way we could have the children we wish to have…
—How ironic this is, hey? Too genetically different to have a child together.
—You’re from the edge of time, and I’m from the very past. We are both humans, but time did its work. We’re not compatible…
—I’m not ready to become a Frigellyan, Lucie. I’ve been a full human for only a couple of years. I’ve already been transformed once. I don’t want another operation. That’s way beyond me.
—I said, that’s ok.
—We’ll never have children.
—We’ll overcome this together. Remember our wedding vows.
—Lucie, building a family was so important to me. And I know it’s important to you. I feel so guilty. I’m the one who was always talking about children, and I… I…
—Leave me. I’m not the one you deserve…
—Don’t talk nonsense, Sylv.
Her voice rises and a hint of anger can be heard. Sylvester’s face freezes. Lucia knows there is nothing to do. He is already lapsed into his silence.
—This conversation is not over, she says, regretting immediately having slammed the door behind her.
Beth wakes with a start, shouting a “no” as she sits upright in the bed.
—Hey, Betty darling, what’s up?
Beth smiles hearing the nickname her husband chose for her. He only calls her Betty in very tender moments.
—Don’t worry. It’s just a bad dream.
—A dream? he retorts, sitting in the bed too, and passing his arm around her waist.
She puts her head on his shoulder.
—I dreamt Sylvester is having trouble with Lucia. I felt so much sadness in his mind. He was almost depressive. It was horrible.
—I sensed tension between the two of them yesterday evening.
—I sensed it too.
—Do you think my dream was caused by what we saw yesterday?
—Maybe. I don’t know.
—And if it wasn’t a dream?
—You think you did it again?
—I don’t know. Being pregnant changed something. I’m more sensitive. And you know, Sylvester is like a brother to me…
He strokes her hair, gives her a kiss.
—Let’s try to go back to sleep. We’ll talk about this later, shall we?
She smiles at him, and kisses him back before lying again. She falls asleep almost immediately. But not the Major. He is on his guard, waiting for something to happen. If Beth’s mind escapes, he will feel it. But he finally falls asleep before noticing anything.
—I have to check, David. I must know if this is reality or not.
—I’m not sure going to our friend’s future is a good idea.
—I have to go.
—David, if what I saw is the reality, I can help. The future won’t collapse if Sylvester is happy instead of being sad. I just want to give a hand to a friend if he needs it. What’s wrong with that? We both have already changed the future of almost-humans. We know we did, even if we haven’t started yet. Helping Sylvester is nothing in comparison.
The Major sighs.
—Do as you feel, he finally says.
—Trust me, I’ll be careful. I just want to speak with him.
After waking up in the middle of the night again, having had another dream, Beth was almost sure it wasn’t one because this time she saw something helpful for what she wants to do today: the date. She knows exactly what period she has to go to.
After a good breakfast, she enters the coordinates into the transporter. She is two months pregnant, and her belly is just beginning to grow. She has chosen appropriate clothes so that it won’t be visible. As usual, the transporter lands in the entrance hall of the castle. If she has not dreamt, she knows exactly where to go. Sylvester likes to draw after lunch. She hopes she’ll find him in his studio. When she is in front of the door that’s supposed to be Sylvester’s, she does not even hesitate and knocks.
Sylvester’s voice. She smiles.
—Beth? What did you do to your hair?
—Sylvester, I have to confess, I may be younger than the last time you saw me.
—Well, never mind. You know my Dalygaran abilities. What’s led me here is your sorrow.
—Through time and space, you can feel so far?
—Only for the ones I care about.
—Well, I don’t think you can do anything for me.
—Oh, I’m sure you’re right; you’re the only one who can do something for you.
—What do you mean?
—Am I right to say that you’re having trouble with Lucia?
—Well, it’s not a secret. We argue almost every day, and it’s been going on for a little while. Not being able to have children is killing our relationship.
—But you could?
—Oh, Lucia talked to you.
Beth does not answer.
—Sylvester, I came here only to give you one piece of advice: talk to Paul. He is the one who can understand you best. He loves you. He will listen to you.
—What can he do for me?
—Open his heart, open your eyes…
—I’ve not seen him for a long time.
—He will be happy to see you. Go.
She smiles at him, kisses him on the cheek and goes out of the studio.
As she arrives beside her transporter, she sees Christopher waiting.
—Oh, sorry, I forgot all the protocols… I didn’t wait for anybody after my landing.
—I wondered who it was. I’m not surprised it’s you, answers Christopher with a laugh.
—I can’t stay, I’m sorry.
—You look different than last I saw you.
—Don’t ask questions. I’ve got to go.
—Well, I’ve gotten to know you, Beth, so I won’t argue. Greet David for me.
And Beth goes back home.
Paul is pleasantly surprised to see Sylvester. He just rang at the door like any stranger would.
—Hi son, I’m so happy to see you here. It’s a pity Joshua is outside with Nelly and his cousin.
Sylvester smiles. “Cousin” is how they consider Beth and David’s daughter, even if there is no blood ties at all.
—Don’t stay there on the doorstep, come in. I suppose we have so many things to tell each other, adds Paul, leading Sylvester to the living-room. —You’re home, here, remember?
Sylvester just answers with a light smile.
—Beth and David are playing Moira and Raymond today, and you know what? David’s father is dating.
—Yes, since he’s become a full human, he is completely transformed. Well, maybe it’s because he has a granddaughter now… It’s a beautiful story. He met again the woman he danced with at Beth and David’s wedding.
—It was Beth’s aunt, wasn’t it?
—Yes, she moved here after the baby was born. She opened an activity center for children. I didn’t know she was the one who gave Beth the desire to draw. She encouraged her to develop her drawing skills. I think she has in mind doing the same thing with her great-niece… A widow and a widower … completely in love, I can assure you.
As Sylvester does not say anything, Paul takes this opportunity to say:
—You should come to see us more often.
Sylvester can hear a hint of reproach in Paul’s voice.
—That’s ok, son. I can understand you’re building a new life…
Paul is surprised by Sylvester’s tone. He has rarely heard him raise his voice like this. He stares at the one he considers his first son and waits to hear what he has to say.
—My life is in tatters…
—Lucia and I, our relationship doesn’t work.
—I can’t believe this…
—Well, maybe I’m in the best position to know what is happening to us, don’t you think?
Sylvester is aggressive this time, and Paul more and more surprised.
—Sylvester, please, tell me how you both got there…
—We can’t have children together. She must not stay with me. We are too genetically different. Me from the edge of time, she from the early times. Frigellyan doctors told us it will be difficult for them to try to correct this. We are their only case. But they can transform us both into full Frigellyans, and the problem will be solved. We’ll genetically be from the same time…
—Oh, I see. Is this the point?
—Of course it is! I’ve been a real human for just a couple of years…
—Do you remember why it was so important to us to become full-humans?
—Right. It’s why we volunteered for a transformation. We didn’t do it for mere humanity. Humans did this to us. They created us and forbade us to feel love. Humans can be monsters.
Sylvester stays quiet. Paul goes on:
—Son, I know it’s a difficult choice you have to make. But don’t mistake the motives. What do you want most?
—I want to be happy with Lucia and build a family with her.
—And is this impossible?
—No, I told you, there is a possibility.
—If you become a Frigellyan, what would be different?
—I don’t know…
—Would you have feelings?
—Would it change something between Lucia and you?
—We’ll be genetically compatible.
—Is this what you wish, eventually?
—I’m so afraid, dad. My Slowdown Syndrome…
Paul can count on one hand the number of times Sylvester called him “dad.”
—Son, if Lucia is ready to be transformed, and you finally decide to do it too, I can come. I’ll be with you that day. I promise. Your syndrome will just slow down the medical process, like it did before. They must be aware of this, on Frigellya. That’s all. They’re Delta people, son. They’ll manage.
—Beth was right.
—She told me to come and see you. She said you’ll open your heart and I’ll open my eyes. It’s what happened…
—Yes, Beth! She felt my sorrow and came to see me. That’s what she said…
Paul says nothing. He just smiles.
—I’ve got to go and talk with Lucia, declares Sylvester.
—Don’t you want to wait to see Nelly and Joshua?
—I’ll be back soon, dad. I promise. With Lucia.
And he and Paul hug warmly.
The Major is lying in bed with Beth. This time, he is sure her mind escaped. Her body is beside him, but he can’t sense her presence. He feels a twinge. He can’t prevent himself from worrying. “How long will it last?” he wonders. He lays a kiss on her forehead. He knows he is going to wait for her to come back. He won’t fall asleep this time.
Sylvester has aged a lot. He looks like a fifty-year-old human now. A young man is coming toward him.
—Tomorrow will be a great day, says Sylvester. You’ll become King, my son. Abeena deserves rest. Her reign has been so long. You know, I never imagined one of my children will rule this world one day.
—I love this planet, dad. You and mom, you certainly come from Earth, but I prefer this one.
—It’s not only a preference, son, it’s devotion. People here recognize your passion for this world. They elected you.
—I was the only candidate, dad. Christopher and Abeena’s children didn’t even try.
—Because this is not what they wanted. You’re my second child, son. Your older sister Jessica chose a career in the royal guard, like Mira and Reymo. I don’t know what the others will do, but they have time to choose a vocation. I do know one thing: all my children are real Frigellyans…
—Mira is Jessica’s instructor, isn’t she?
—Yes. I saw how you look at Mira and Reymo’s daughter, son…
—She is a really beautiful woman.
—Ok, ok son, I won’t say anything else. Remind your brothers and sisters I want all six of you this evening for dinner. Your mother and I want to have a last meal with you all before you become King Henry.
—Oh, I don’t think they forgot it dad, guffaws Henry. You’ve been repeating it every day for weeks. I’m happy Nori and Rose can be there with uncle David and aunty Beth.
—And Nelly, and Paul and…
“Rose?!” Beth wakes up shouting her name.
The Major immediately speaks words of appeasement.
—Shhhh, my Betty. Your mind escaped for thirty minutes, I don’t know where. You’re back home now, everything’s ok.
And as he usually does, he strokes her hair.
Beth sits in the bed.
—No, it’s not ok. Rose lives with Nori. I saw them before coming back here. Immediately after Sylvester’s son said they will be with them at dinner, my mind was sucked from Frigellya to Earth. They’re living together on Earth. Rose and Nori!
—Hey, hey, hey, calm down. What you learned from the future, you can’t talk about with anybody—except with your lovely husband, if I’m not directly concerned…
Beth pushes him with one of her fists.
—Isn’t that supposed to be me?
—Well, I’m more and more human, you know…
She answers with a smile.
—I thought she had a crush on Benedict.
—Oh, she has. It’s obvious.
—We’ll see. Maybe Benedict is not interested…
—He is. Well, it’s obvious he likes to be with her.
—Yes, but it isn’t as strong as love, am I right?
—I have the same feeling… So what?
—Let’s let the future tells us.
—Nori and Rose… But their difference in age is … enormous.
—Beth, they’re not even of the same species.
—It’s what I said. Nori is what, today, about a hundred earthling years old?
—You know he looks like forty. And remember, a bond is woven by two, Beth. It’s not questionable. Even if those two certainly don’t feel it like Dalygarans do.
—Well, I don’t want my mind to escape while I’m sleeping anymore. Nothing is under control. I just wanted to know how Sylvester’s life would evolve. He’ll have a good life. But I learned too much about other people.
The Major looks at her. He does not say anything but she can see in his eyes something like “You see? The future is a time bomb.”
—Do you think there is something to help my mind avoid escaping? You know, like that collar that was supposed to prevent you from mind traveling.
—Yes. I need one. I can’t go on wandering like this not knowing what I’m doing.
—You’re surprising me.
The Major raises his eyebrows as he does every time Beth gives him an ironic answer. It can’t be said he is used to irony. It is so … human.
—Let’s contact our Frigellyan friends. Maybe we should ask for this collar. It could work. It prevents minds from traveling…
—We have to find something.
—We’ll find one, Beth, we’ll find one.