World of Radiation

Quartered Off

Continued from ‘Mixtures

The sun returns to my body as we pass through a gap in the giant, stone wall. This side looks the same. The houses are the same. The paths are the same. Yet, the men in powder-blue uniforms release me like we’ve reached our destination.

I don’t catch myself in time. My body drops to the ground, my head bashing into the compact dirt. A wail of pain bursts from my lungs.

“Hey!” Someone shouts. Footsteps ring out above my head. “You can’t treat her like that!” The person demands.

“Who’s gonna stop me?” the angrier of the two men returns, a warning in his voice.

Hands snag me by the arms gently, hoisting me to my feet. Dark splotches dance about my eyes. Yet, a woman with curly brown hair stands before me, crouching down to my level. “Are you okay?” She asks softly.

Her tone reminds me of mother’s. My bottom lip starts to wobble again as tears sting my eyes.

“Oh,” she breathes suddenly. Her arms wrap around me, tugging me against her like she can block out the world and all the horrors it holds. “It’s okay,” she coos.

“Get back in line!” One of the men growls.

The woman moves from holding me, rising to her full height. Even so, she clutches my hand in her own. It’s rough with calluses, but it’s more comforting than anything in this moment. “You can’t treat us like this! We haven’t done anything wrong!” Her voice holds such ferocity.

“You’re mixtures,” the air adaptation accuses. “That is a crime in and of itself.”

“Mixtures!” A man cries from a crowd of people huddled off to the side.

The people stand there, confused and shocked. I don’t know who any of them are, but none of them make a full family. Some are adults. They stand alone. Others are children, tears staining their faces.

What are we all doing here?

The air adaptation in his clean powder-blue uniform contrasts greatly with the dirt-covered faces. “You heard me, old man. You’re mixtures of the elements and, as such, are being sentenced to live your lives in isolation.”

“What?!” The woman holding my hand snaps. “You can’t be serious!”

The other air adaptation directs his attention to her. “We are. We’ve been given orders to quarter off all elements.”

“Why?!” Someone from the crowd calls out.

“Because the mixing of elements is too risky.”

“For some,” the woman corrects, her tone low and intimidating.

I duck behind her, wanting to run back home and hide under my bed once more. But it’s gone…

“You know that not all of the mixes are dangerous. Otherwise how would we exist?”

The more aggressive of the two air adaptations steps forward, drawing himself to his full height. Even so, she doesn’t back down. She inclines her head, meeting him boldly.

“The fact that you exist at all is disgusting,” he growls. The sneer returns to his face, the one that shows his disgust, but why? Why are we disgusting?

Something shifts in the crowd of people. No more traces of confusion or shock can be found, rather anger fills them. Scowls rest on their faces. Fists clench at their sides. Shoulders tense towards their ears.

“You can’t do this!” Another person calls out.

A second joins in. “We have rights!”

“Your rights will remain the same,” the calmer of the two air adaptations states. “So long as you remain within your quarter. Should you leave, you will be breaking the law.”

The crowd inches forwards. “The law?!”

“The council has established a new law that quarters off all citizens based upon their adaptation. This is to protect the citizens.”

“Protect?!” Someone shrieks.

The woman in front of me grumbles, “you call this protection?” Her tone’s dark now. It shoots shivers through me. Fear rips through me and I yank from her hand, no longer feeling safe near her.

“This is to prevent the dangerous mixes of adaptations that call stillbirths,” the calmer of the two men continues.

My legs carry me towards the wall, towards the gap, towards home.

“You little-!” The angry air adaptation shouts. No feet follow me. No feet have to. Instead, a gust of air slams into the middle of my back, propelling me forwards until my body collides with the stone wall.

Air expels from my lungs. Stars dance over the world. Pain sears through every point of my body and tears stream down my cheeks as sobs of fear and pain crash through me.

Gasps sound behind me, dulled by the agony in my head. My hands clutch my skull as I slip to the ground. I curl into a ball. The tears plink onto the dirt below me when a hand touches my back gently.

“No!” I cry.

“It’s okay,” the woman coos. She huddles over me like a shield and strokes her finger over my cheek. “It’s okay. I’ve got you.” The tenderness returns to her voice, but I can’t move. I can’t find the strength to move. I just want mom and dad. I just want to go home. More tears spill from cheeks along with sobs that cut off my air and strangle me.

“She’s a child!” The woman calls out. “We may be mixtures, but you’re the monsters!”

A yell erupts from the crowd. More follow until the sound grates on my ears and I’m forced to cover them, trying to block out the world, out the pain, out reality.

Next Installment: Alone

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