Continued from ‘Quartered Off‘
“You can’t do this!”
“We have rights!”
“This is wrong!”
The shouts grow louder, angrier, scarier.
My hands hold my ears. My eyes pinch closed. My body curls tightly into a ball, trying to disappear, but it does me no good. The yells squeeze through my fingers. They bash against my ears, causing me to jump as they swell to a peak. The peak explodes.
Footsteps add to the noise. Not slow steps, but fast ones. They beat against the dirt. The ground shakes beneath me, but I try to huddle closer to it, to melt into it. What’s going on? Why is this happening?
The woman’s hand halts its strokes on my back. Her tension ripples through her fingers, splaying them over me before she grasps my arm in her hand. “Come,” she urges gently. “We have to get you out of here.” She tugs on me, trying to get me to stand up.
I don’t. I shiver against the cold ground, frozen with fear.
“This is no place for a child,” she explains, still pulling on my shoulders, but it does her no good.
I don’t budge.
A scream splits through the chaos, high-pitched and agonized. It jolts me from my hiding place. My eyes peek out from between my arms in time to see a woman soaring backwards through the air. Her arms flail in front of her. Yet, nothing stops her descent, nothing except for the hard, stone roof of a building. Her impact echoes with a thud. Her body crumples lifelessly, sliding off the building into a heap on the ground.
My voice erupts. It releases from my throat in a shriek, brought about by my terror. Yet, my eyes lock on the woman’s body. I can’t pull myself away.
The woman standing beside me wraps her arms around my waist and hauls me over her shoulder. I don’t fight her anymore. I can’t do anything other than scream as tears pour down my cheeks faster than I ever thought possible.
“It’s going to be alright,” the woman says, jogging away from the riot. Yet, she doesn’t move fast enough. With me draped over her shoulder, I see everything.
The two air adaptations sweep their hands back and forth in front of them, manipulating the air. It collides with the people. They knock sideways. They fly backwards. They crumple as if crushed from above, but more and more take their place. The crowd surges forward. They scrabble for the air adaptations and just before we round a corner, they reach one.
Their fists bash into his face. The sound of cracking bone snaps above all the other noise just before the man tumbles out of sight, overcome by the people.
The sounds hardly fade away. They carry through the countless paths, echoing off the houses like we were still standing right beside the battle. Yet, the woman sets me down. She leans me against the side of a house, crouches before me, and presses a hand to my cheek.
“Are you okay, little one?” She asks.
I stare at her vacantly. My eyes may watch her, but I don’t see her. I don’t see anything other than the people dying, their last words nothing but screams of terror or agony.
Why? Why is this happening? What’s going on?
“Hun,” the woman says again, tucking hair behind my ear. “What’s your name?” Her voice is so soft, barely audible over the noise.
No more tears drip down my cheeks, but she brushes my face with her thumb as if there were. I don’t think I can cry anymore. I don’t think I can feel anything anymore.
How can people do this? How can they kill others?
My arms hang limply at my sides. My hands lay in the dirt.
“Goodness, you must be freezing,” the woman says in a caring way. She holds my hand between hers and rubs fiercely as if trying to warm them.
It’s that motion that flickers me back to life. My eyes lock onto her face, round and kind, despite the harshness her voice held earlier.
“What’s going on?” I whisper, my voice no more than a croak in my throat.
Her attention flickers to meet my eyes, her mouth gaping. She shakes the look away. Her gaze settles back on her hands as she picks up my other one, heating up my fingers. “Now, don’t you worry yourself about that,” she informs me. “Everything’s going to be alright. You’ll see. We’ll find your parents and-“
She freezes. It takes a moment between pausing her actions and raising her eyes, but they fill with shock.
“They’re dead,” I clarify, my voice oddly hollow.
“But-” Is all she manages before her brows droop into sadness, sadness she holds for me. “Oh, you poor dear.” Her hands release mine and she pulls me onto her lap as she sits against the side of the building. She rocks back and forth.
I let her manipulate me, hold me, whatever she wants to do because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is I’m… alone.
Next Installment: Blood and Dirt