Claire and I went out to dinner last night. We couldn't really afford it, but we did it anyway. We needed some time with each other, and we needed to know that nobody was listening in on us.
So we went to Sydney.
I can't tell you how we managed it - I mean, even if I could tell you everything, I really couldn't explain how we found our way to a place that neither of us had ever visited before, on the far side of the globe. I'd been working on using that shortcut method of travel that saved my life before, and if I could take my clothes with I could surely bring other things along as well. And Claire had shared the dreams with me; she didn't have any trouble with the transition. So there we were... in Australia.
It was about 1:30 when we arrived - I mean, it was still 7:30 at night back in Austin, but there in Sydney it was early afternoon. I hadn't thought much about the temperature, but in the event it was very pleasant. We found a restaurant on the harbor and sat down to eat... and talk.
The first thing we talked about was the dreams. Yes, she'd had them around the same time I had. She even remembered that night when we met each other in the dream. No, they weren't any part of the Snake Cult's lore, any more than they were part of mine. Whatever the dreams were, and whatever they'd done to us, and whatever beings or forces might be behind them... well, they weren't anything to do with either of our backgrounds. Maybe, just maybe, they were the result of the two of us being together, but if that was the case we couldn't begin to imagine why.
We moved on to other topics before we'd even finished our appetizers. I started as simply as I could: "I don't want you to go."
The expression of relief on Claire's face was almost painful to see. "Good," she said. "I don't want you to go, either."
We didn't say anything for... I don't know, but it felt like a very long time. We just enjoyed the food and each other. "It doesn't change that much, you know." This was Claire's observation. "You have a lot of things that you can't tell me. I have a lot of things that I can't tell you. We were doing that anyway, it's just that now we both know that we're doing it."
I thought about that, and really couldn't find fault with it. How much had really changed in our relationship? Everything and nothing. Okay, so now we actually knew that there were things we couldn't talk about. We'd both gone into the relationship expecting that. I was willing to bet we could work around it.
I said, "Someone could still order me to kill you."
Claire shrugged. "Someone could still order me to kill you."
I nodded at that. "I guess we'll burn that bridge when we come to it."
Claire nodded back, then looked off towards the front of the restaurant. The server was coming with our food. When she'd delivered it and left, Claire said: "I hadn't planned to tell... my people... that you know about me."
I chuckled. "I hadn't planned to tell my people that I know about you. Or that you know about me. I think they have their suspicions, but I'm prepared to let 'em wonder."
She thought about that for a moment. "I'd be surprised if they didn't," she admitted.
We talked about other things as we finished our meal. After what we'd already said, everything else was trivial - reminiscences, gossip from work, stories about some of the people we (sometimes) went to church with. It was so completely comfortable that it was almost weird.
But only "almost." Weird is a matter of perspective, after all.
I paid with my credit card - a small risk, but after such a wonderful experience I couldn't bring myself to leave without paying, and I was pretty sure they wouldn't take the bills in my wallet. Then we walked around the harbor for the while. We even considered visiting the aquarium, but as much as it was afternoon in Sydney it was still evening for us. I admitted that I was tired ("exhausted" would have been more accurate) and Claire took us home.
I had to go back for our clothes, but I didn't mind at all.
I have no idea where this is going, but for now we're still on track. I don't often have this feeling, this irrational sense that all is right with the world, so I'm just going to enjoy it while it lasts. I think we need to make a few more fallback plans, but - amusingly - the war between my people and the Snake Cult provides an excellent cover for that sort of thing. As long as we act separately, I doubt anyone will even notice.
Meanwhile, however transitory and fragile our world might be, life is good.
Reflections of a Deranged Cultist is a work of fiction. F.B.I., N.S.A., and Customs agents can all rest assured that everyone is staying where they're supposed to be. Please don't put me on any watch lists. Thanks.