Part 1: An Emu in the Cold
“For the last time, no! You’re not going away to any fancy school. You’re staying here!” Sophia’s father’s words rang in her ears as she chased Hagrid through the snow-covered fields.
“Emus are supposed to hate the cold!” she yelled at the idiot bird. The snow was up to her knees and was falling fast enough that the emu’s tracks were getting harder and harder to follow.
Of course, her father was right. Without her, who would fix the farm’s equipment and computers? They’d have to start paying for replacements and the new school, and that was ridiculous.
She was so concentrated on Hagrid’s tracks and her own thoughts that she had gotten completely lost. It wasn’t hard getting lost in a snowstorm when you couldn’t see your hands in front of your face. I wasn’t snowing that hard but the wind was strong, blowing the snow everywhere and biting through her coat.
“Fine! Freeze out here, you stupid bird!” she yelled and turned to head back the way she’d come. At least, she hoped it was the way she’d come; her tracks were gone. The world was a constantly shifting curtain of white in every direction.
She’d take two steps when she heard the tell tale grunting of Hagrid. She didn’t have many choices and decided to follow him. She caught up to him and he bobbed side to side, his head going in the opposite direction of his body. He gave another grunt and pecked at her playfully before turning around and running away again.
When she lost sight of him again he would grunt and come back to her, like he was leading her somewhere. “It better be home,” she mumbled.
It wasn’t home; it was a small cave entrance that barely fit a full-grown emu and a twelve year old girl. The cave itself wasn’t much bigger and offered so little protection from the wind that she tried to leave. Hagrid wouldn’t have any of it and pecked.
In trying to avoid another emu bruise, she fell back and hit the wall. She landed with a thump but it was followed by an odd swishing noise and a smell like old books.
Looking at the wall, Sophia found that it had opened into a doorway. There was no inner struggle; her curiosity pushed her through the door metaphorically, while Hagrid pushed her literally.
Dim lights turned on and the door closed. The smell of dust being heated came with blissfully warm air. “Where are we?” she asked Hagrid. He responded by bobbing his head excitedly and shaking his feathers.
The walls seemed to glow on their own and several colours flashed over another door. The flashes were accompanied by weird symbols. Sounds came from all around them and Hagrid ducked his head looking around.
The voice was calm and monotone, reminding Sophia of the pre-recorded voices on the subway in Toronto. She assumed the voice was giving her some sort of information and she walked towards the door. It slid into the wall with a hiss the way doors in Star Trek, or at the Timmins Square, did.
One door led to another and she walked for a good twenty minutes following the lights and unknown language. She tried a few times to enter doors that didn’t have the lights and they never opened for her. She saw plenty of corridors, but she knew she was at her destination when she walked into a room that had all sorts of knobs, buttons, and a computer screen.
The screen showed symbols, colours, and patterns she didn’t recognize. One of the screens had the solar system, another had dots that looked like her math homework, and another had shapes.
When the storm cleared, she brought Hagrid home, but every day she found her way back to the cave. Slowly over time, with the help of the computer, she learned its language. When she’d mastered the basics, she found a folder of stories. Slowly she learned to read them. They were all stories about a Prince. They described him as tall, strong, handsome, and a little awkward. Each story was different and often they contradicted themselves. Some had the Prince in intimate situations.
When she graduated high school, she was fluent in the language and had re-read the stories multiple times. She also used it to teach herself about the ship, because that’s what it was; a starship from a distant world.
As she attended the local college for automotive and computer repair, she learned about star drives and how to repair the ship. By the time she was twenty-two she was certain she’d repaired the ship to almost new. She’d had to invent or manufacture several parts, but she’d managed to fix it.
Despite her ten years of work and exploration, there was one room the ship had never let her see; the bridge. When she was confident she’d finished repairs, she forced the computer to open the door.
The bridge looked like the cockpit of a plane but was the size of a small meeting room. There were four workstations and lots of computer screens, including a view screen. She’d studied the plans before going in but there was something extra that hadn’t been in the plans.
A flat table was at the back of the room. The tablecloth on it had the Prince’s seal which made her heart beat a little faster. She went over to the table to get a better look and saw that it wasn’t a table at all, but some sort of coffin. Inside, the beautiful face of the prince looked like it was sleeping.
Putting a hand on the coffin, she wondered what had happened. A grunt and squawk from behind her made her jump, pushing on the coffin.
“Hagrid, what are you doing here?” she asked the now old, but still troublesome, emu.
Recovering from her shock, she turned back to the coffin and found the cover open and the prince sitting up. He stared at her with unseeing eyes and she did the only sensible thing and screamed. As she fell backwards onto one of the workstations, she heard the engines start.
“Oh no,” she said in the alien language she’d taught herself, “what have I done?”