Udrys Ivaska woke up in a hospital bed with a terrible headache. He propped himself up and looked around, shaking off his bleariness and surveying his surroundings. The medical equipment was very standard for any hospital in the Directorate, which didn’t help him, and there were no windows with which to gauge the time of day or location. He looked down and was surprised to see that he was not handcuffed to the bed. Why was that surprising? He did not recall. Did he do something wrong?
The door opened suddenly, and Udrys felt an awful dread, as if expecting someone to enter. He saw in his mind a pinstripe suit and curly hair. Who was he envisioning? Who was he expecting? Why couldn’t he remember? That was strange. The man who entered was not who he feared. In fact, it was a doctor, and one Udrys had never seen before. He relaxed slightly, and studied the man, who didn’t appear very threatening.
“Hello. I am Doctor Janketic. I have been in charge of your care since you arrived here at Mirjana Bacic Memorial Hospital. You suffered from a gunshot wound in your shoulder and severe trauma to your head and back. As a side effect of your injuries, you may be experiencing some memory loss, but brain scans show that there was no permanent damage.” It was strange that the doctor spoke Valish instead of Slaviskas - he still looked Zemedievan. Did he think Udrys was a foreigner?
“What day is it?” Ivaska asked. “Where am I? Am I still in . . .” He couldn’t recall the name of the city he was in before. Sarmin? Saria? Samras? Sarmiestas? Yes that was it. Sarmiestas. “Are we still in Sarmiestas?” The doctor’s name wasn’t Kamyachyn in origin, though. They could be in Milisteni, but that was too far from Sarmiestas. Maybe it was just an immigrant. What was he doing in Sarmiestas? He remembered a cold wind and a dark night. Was he on business? He couldn’t recall. That frustrated him.
“We’re in Saragrad, if that’s what you mean. It is the 30th of March. You were brought in a few days ago, but your recovery so far has been extraordinary. You’re really quite lucky.”
Recovery? From what? Then he finally processed what the doctor said earlier. “I was shot?” He regretted it immediately, because then, he remembered. He remembered the face of Chief Director Metternich, the loud gunshot as he killed Lieutenant General Andrejauskas, the ringing in his ears before he realised that he had been shot as well, Metternich’s massive form shoving him through the open window. The fall . . . He didn’t even realise he was hyperventilating until the doctor snapped him out of it.
“Please calm down, sir. You’re perfectly alright. Whoever shot you hasn’t come back, and we’ve talked to the Saragrad Police Department about investigating the event. Can you tell me your name?”
“Your name. Can you tell me?”
“Uh, yes. Yes. My name is Udrys Ivaska. I’m a, uh . . .” What did he do for a living? Was he a Professor? No, that was someone else. “Architect! I’m an architect. I own my own firm, Ivaska Building Design. I’m from Kurmariai, but I was visiting Sarmiestas to see some friends from university.”
The doctor looked extremely confused. “Sarmiestas?”
“Are we not in Sarmiestas? What was that name you said before? Saragrad?”
“Yes, we’re in downtown Saragrad. Where’s Sarmiestas?”
“It’s kinda in the northern part of Kamyachyn, a, uh, territory of the Directorate,” he added, catching the doctor’s blank stare. “Where are we? Where’s Saragrad? Is it in the Congregation?
“I don’t know where any of those are, I’m sorry. We’re in Aivintis.”
“Zemedievai? Yeah, that’s the Directorate. I don’t know any cities named Saragrad in— Wait what did you say? Ai— What was that word you said?”
“I said Aivintis.”
“Aivintis— that’s . . . No. That . . . why do I know that word? The man in the stars said it, too, and I knew it, then, as well. I remember now. I saw him when the world was ripped away.”
“Stay with me, Udrys. I understand you’re confused. You can’t remember much from before your accident and that’s okay. Your dreams from the coma are bleeding into your waking thoughts. It’s perfectly normal, but you have to stay with me.”
His eyes had glazed over and his voice seemed to echo and distort as he spoke. “He was made of stars and he made the stars and he was a god and a king and a god of kings and king of gods he told me of the paths ahead and the road to walk and I saw the ending and it was far too soon, far too close. I begged him to send me along a different road, because I saw the end of my own and it was haunted by a ghost with a broken body and a bleeding chest. I chose the path to night and chaos and he sent me here.”
“Udrys, breathe. Stay with me. Stay grounded. Look around you. What can you see?”
“I see a worm beyond time, beyond space and in the space between, writhing and burrowing, writhing unseen. I see a mirror reflecting the sun and I see it crack along a billion fault lines and I see the worlds within and they are infinite and they are beautiful. I see a baby bird hatch from a blue egg and fly into the yawning mouth of the void. I see a cloud of dragons, larger than any fury I’ve ever seen, approaching a distant land on black wings. I see the stars extinguish and a man cloaked in shadows. I see him extend his hand and I see—” Udrys collapsed as the sedative Doctor Janketic had administered went through his bloodstream.