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It took a very long time, before the Walkers forgave Astra her refusal to marry Holger. But in this one matter she did not budge. Otherwise she did her best to contribute to the project’s success. Nevertheless, she always felt observed. When would they finally trust her?
Well, she could not do anything else, but to commit herself fully to the case of the settlers. Those were grateful and approached her more and more for advice. Naturally, the Walkers noticed that as well.
One evening, when Astra was supposed to participate in a meeting with the Walkers, she sat alone in the conference room. The door to the adjacent computer room was left ajar. Was that a test for her? Did they plan to tempt her into looking at the computers? She would never pass this test; she was far too curious! Her only problem was that she did not know, if the Walkers had put up surveillance cameras …
She tried to remain steadfast, but her eyes wandered again and again to the unclosed door. ‚I will tiptoe over and have a look inside. If anybody is there, I will silently sneak back‘, she thought. As she thought, so she did, the sneaking was done. Nobody was inside the computer room. But she was sure that there were cameras. They would spot her immediately, and then she could start anew with the trust winning. If nothing worse happened to her. Things like that could always be camouflaged as an accident. Why, oh, why was she always so inquisitive? She preferred ‚inquisitive‘ to ’nosy‘ and thought that it described the actual situation much better.
She entered. All walls of the room were covered with screens of different sizes. Scenes from all over the world were shown. Europe, Asia, Africa … how could that be? There were people everywhere, cars moving around, what was this, a museum? Astra looked at the date on one of the screens; it was today’s date. She felt dizzy. Had she been right and the entire story was a dirty lie from front to back? But why? Why?
She felt a movement behind her and then a sting in her neck. ‚The Walkers and their stupid injections‘, she managed to think, before she fell.
When Astra woke up, she was back in the room, where she had spent so many days when first she came to Stewart Island. She sighed in foreboding of the events to come.
Holger and her grandfather did not come to see her before the next day. They had a serious look about them. „Astra, your situation is precarious, in spite of your popularity with the new nation’s citizens.“ ‚Even now they have to uphold the lie‘, Astra thought. „We can only protect you in future, if you marry Holger now. You have seen too much.“
„Why don’t you explain to me what it was that I saw? Were the screens showing millions of zombies?“
„You will soon lose your sense of humour!“ Holger spat out. „And you expect me to marry you?“ asked Astra, „do you plan to beat me up?“ A deep red spread over Holger’s face.
Her grandfather interfered: „Mammon put Stewart Island to our disposal as refuge for all those, who wanted to follow us. They let us live. The settlers don’t know anything about this, for them the project is real. And one should leave them in their blessed illusion. Mammon was too strong for us, he has too many supporters. We did not have the slightest chance. That is why we agreed to this solution.
„And what will happen, when the „new nation“ grows? Where are they supposed to move to? Astra’s tone was scornful. „The new nation will not grow. After a few years, no children will be born anymore. That is part of the deal. We will die out, but at least we won’t have to live under the permanent fear to be prosecuted and killed.“
„How can you trust somebody like Mammon?“ „Dear child, there is no talk about trust. We have distributed the sleeping poison all over the world. If anything should happen to us, it would automatically be released. Mammons servants are, of course, trying to find the depots, but they will never find them!“ If he had not been her grandfather, she would have said, he was chuckling. It really sounded like it.
Astra was of two minds. On the one hand she was relieved that no worldwide genocide had been committed. On the other hand she was furious to have been played for a fool. But, in the end relief prevailed. „You know, grandfather, I will play along until the end, even if I am very disappointed about all your lies. But I won’t marry Holger, no matter what will happen to me. Did you tempt me on purpose with the door ajar, so that I would marry Holger anyway out of fear? You are, actually, rather pathetic!“ She started to laugh out loud and after a bit her grandfather with his bass joined her, while Holger was deeply offended and left the room.
The Walkers, who were the oldest of the settlers, died first. But a new group had formed under Astra. They surveyed life on the island. Holger had in the meantime accepted that one should not force somebody into a marriage and gave his full support.
When finally Astra’s grandfather was dying, she went to him on his deathbed, and he whispered into her ear: „The sleeping poison does not exist at all, but don’t tell anybody, not even Holger!“ All the people standing in the corridor outside were surprised when uncontrolled laughter could be heard from the death room.
„Grandfather, there is one thing you need to tell me: who is this ancient man with the wrinkled face and the funny cap?“ – „No idea“, he replied, „ one or the other busybody, who has to poke his nose into everything!“
A „Puff“ was heard and the ancient man stood at the end of the bed, his face dark red with fury. „We will talk about that when you arrive, you arrogant old blockhead!“
Astra snorted with laughter, the expression on her grandfather’s face was priceless. Before she could ask anything, the old man had – as usual – disappeared again. „That might get cheerful“, her grandfather muttered, „I think I should rather stay here for a while longer!“ And so it happened.