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I would look up at the stars every night. They reminded me of home.

A bitter cold breeze whistled past my ears and causedmy coat to sway

to the left, as I guided my eyes through the consolations. The wind is

the only movement in this desolate place. I wondered how far away

the stars were, one hundred light years? What had the world been

like when these stars had actually shone one hundred years ago?

I crawled out of bed as the sun craved to be noticed behind my

blinds, casting a straight line of light across my bed. I kept my room

clean most of the time – well, it was kept clean for me. All I had to

do was throw my clothes in a bucket and it would appear in my

wardrobe thirty seconds later. I watched the steam rise up out of the

shower as I washed off Camilla Mirai and became Aelius, the quiet

but resourceful Male North Korean Leader. The shower gave me

Aelius’ skin, blood, appearance, saliva, DNA everything, with the

exclusion of his mind. I always felt a sinking betrayal when I became

Aelius, a betrayal to myself and what I believed in. The shower door

opened and I was once again taller with shorter hair and coffee-

coloured skin.

The fresh, crisp air spread through my lungs like water on a

cracked pavement. North Korea was different during the day –

colourless and bleak. The land ahead lunged towards the horizon, as

far as the eye could see. Dirt mounds dotted along the way. A road

ran parallel to the horizon stretching from my left to my right. I

knelt down feeling the tracks for vibration – the train was nearly

here. A worm caught my attention a few feet away. It was attempting

to climb a vertical wall and was failing miserably. At what point I

wondered would it realise it was an impossible task? That was when

I noticed the train. I ran – it felt good to feel my heart race and my

legs move. I leapt for the carriage and the train sped into the clouds.

I enjoyed being up high, above the haunted place where I lived

and led. My stomach dropped towards my groin at least a dozen

times before we were above the clouds. A man to my left read a

newspaper, his brow creased with worry I presumed, worry for his

future. A mother held her baby close to her chest at the other end of

the carriage – it howled as the train dipped. We had the carriage to

ourselves. I grabbed the pole as the train started to descend, the pole

was like sandpaper, scratchy and hard against my soft skin. The train

whistled its warning and plunged thirty-five stories vertically into

the Government Centre.

The Quest For


Sarah Billings