Mariqah tumbled through darkness.
"Uncle Haytham," she said, trying to cover her ears as torrents of wind and blew her about in this unseeable place, "What is this bullshit!"
"If you could change one thing, Mariqah," she heard him say, his voice echoing multiple times as the sound came to her, "If you could change one choice in your life, what would it be?"
Mariqah thrashed around in the darkness, feeling dizzy and afraid - completely oblivious as to what she'd gotten herself into and uncertain as to whether she'd ever be able to get back out again.
"Speak!" Haytham demanded, his voicing booming like you imagine the voice of a god.
"I..." Mariqah shouted, "I wouldn't join the Army! I would have done something else!"
"Where would you have gone?" Haytham asked her.
Mariqah gasped for air, trying to think, "I would have ran with the sailors! The sailors I washed clothes for when I lived in East London!"
The howling winds stopped.
Silence. Complete and utter silence. Mariqah didn't believe it. She thought it was a cruel trick that the stone was playing on her. She kept her eyes shut and ears covered with her hands clamped to them, teeth gritted and body braced for another gust of torrential wind.
"Oi, there," said a voice. It slithered through her mind and took time for her to register it, "Hello? Firdy?"
Mariqah cracked open her eyes and saw a familiar face, "Callum?" she stared at him, touching his face, tentative at first, and then stroking his hair.
This couldn't be real, she thought to herself, looking at her own hands.
He laughed, "I saw you not ten minutes ago in the Leaky Tavern, out there, how'd you get in my cabin?" he asked, "and what the hell are you wearing?"
"You're dead," Mariqah whispered to herself, "They told me you were dead."
Callum, clearly not having heard her, said, "You alright? Look like you've seen a ghost."
Mariqah knew she was looking at one, and she stared at him - frightened and bewildered, unable to say or do a thing for a very long time.
She must have arrived. This must be the other world.
"Excuse me," she said, hurrying passed this same-looking but clearly-different Callum.
Callum laughed and called after her, "Aye, always in a bleeding hurry to get away from me!"
She stepped out onto the deck of the ship, and didn't move as she emerged into the sunshine. The crew aboard stared at her and she stared back at them. The awkward silence that followed was brief as she climbed off the ship and onto the harbour. The smell of fish and decay filled her senses and she looked around - still disconcerted by her journey here. She looked at the squalid buildings and the drunken men dragging their feet as they lumbered across the streets. She saw women dressed in scant clothes, dancing and singing for coin. Mariqah took notice of her own attire and realised she was no longer wearing what she had been in the mountain cave - but a blue coat with brass buttons, twin cutlasses in her belt and a turban upon her head. Her hair was shorter than she remembered, and gold discs and bright baubles hung from her ears and from her belts. She looked, for all intents and purposes, like a pirate.
Remembering the other-worldly Callum's words, she made her way - very slowly so that she could take in the scenery - to the Leaky Tavern. She had to meet this other version of herself.
Mariqah's boots clipped on the wooden panels as she trudged up the steps. She took a breath, and made her way into the place. She didn't need to search for long. A woman in a band of men wasn't hard to pick out (except if she was in disguise, of course), especially when this said woman was already the centre of attention.
"Jaq," said one of the men standing by her, "We can't hope to destroy the fort. Not without another hundred kegs of gunpowder. We need allies."
Jaq rubbed her forehead with the palm of her hand, "Will you quit your grouching, Benjamin? It'll be fine. We need one more ship, that's all. Then Jamaica is ours," she said, "but that's enough thinking for today. Another flagon of rum for me, Bess, these boys have been turning my gears all day."
Mariqah examined this "Jaq", this other version of her. She looked similar, but had a scar across her left eyebrow. She wore a dark tricorn hat with gold trimmings and a tunic of mixed blues. Twin cutlasses where in her belts and several pistols were strapped to her chest. She wore heavy kohl-eyeliner that streaked her cheeks, and a black line crossed down from her bottom lip to her chin. But behind all this, they looked exactly the same.
Mariqah sat down. She had to. She didn't have the faintest idea as to how she should introduce herself, or whether she should at all. What had happened to her? To Jaq? That made her a pirate?
It seemed she hadn't the need to introduce herself.
"Oi, you!" Jaq called.
Mariqah looked up slightly as the woman that looked so much like her stomped in her direction.
"Haven't seen you here before, you knew here?" Jaq asked, and then turned a little, "Bess, where's my goddamn rum? I'll need it before I get my memories back!" she turned back to Mariqah, who lowered her head, trying to think how she should explain this. Jaq sat down in front of her, "Oi. 'Ello? I'm talking to you, mate. Who are you? Why've you come?" Jaq laughed, "You look like you're hiding something... You don't have anything to fear, 'less you're with the British."
Mariqah shut her eyes, took off her ridiculous turban and looked straight at Jaq.
Jaq narrowed her eyes. It was as if she was looking into a very unflattering mirror, "What is this then?" she murmured.
"I don't know how to explain this," Mariqah said, her accent sounding a much purer British than Jaq's rusty cockney when she spoke, "But I'm you, Jaq."