World of Radiation

Who is she?

Continued from ‘Sealed

“Are you hurt?” Arabella asks, stepping forward.

I shake my head, fighting the urge to duck behind the older woman.

“Where’s all the blood from?” The younger woman glances to her mother.

“The metal adaptations didn’t take their confinement all that well,” the older woman comments with a hint of malice in her voice.

The younger sighs. Her shoulders settle as she shakes her head. “What did they think was going to happen? That the adaptations would just roll over and play dead?” She scoffs, her whole body jerking as she does so.

“None of it matters now,” the older woman scolds. “What matters are the people left alive and-” She glances down at me. “The people left alone.”

Arabella glances to me once more. “How about we get that blood cleaned off, hmm?” She extends a hand towards me.

I look up at the older woman who nods. Cautiously, I grab Arabella’s hand.

Her fingers curl slowly, pulling me towards her, further into the foreign house. I glance about as she leads me away from the door. The house has no staircase like mine did in the middle of the city. Nor is it made of the same material. The strange stone on the walls is smooth without any crevices, like it were made of a single piece. I stare at it. My fingers graze the surface.

“Won’t you tell me your name?” Arabella looks over her shoulder at me as she leads me down a narrow hallway.

I swallow, wondering if I can even form words anymore. “C-” I choke. My voice is hoarse from the rawness of my throat. I screamed so much. I cried so much. I hurt so much. My head ducks.

“That’s okay,” Arabella continues, her tone remaining light. “You must be awfully frightened and confused, but I promise you, my mother and I will take care of you.” She passes me a smile.

Glancing forward once more, she leads me into a tiny room at the back of the house. “I’m sorry about earlier,” she apologizes, dropping my hand.

My feet stop in the doorway. The room before me looks like a small bath with a tub and a stone floor. I stare at the strange colors of stone. One foot nudges the surface, sliding across it with ease. I lose my balance.

“Woah!” Arabella snags my arms, catching me before I fall to the ground. “It’s metal,” she explains, pointing to the ground. “It’s a lot more slippery than tile or stone. So, be careful, okay?”

I nod, my cheeks flushing red.

She smiles at me. “It’s okay.” Letting me go, she turns back to the tub. “Metal isn’t common in most houses, but it was easy to come by for metal adaptations and much cheaper since we don’t have to pay for labor.” Her hand dangles in the bath water like she were testing the temperature. “Oh, this might be a little cold.”

Once more, she glances over her shoulder at me, her dark eyebrows knit over her dark eyes. It deepens as she her eyes drop from my head to my feet and back again. Her mouth gapes, ready to speak, before clamping shut again.

She pulls her hand from the bath and shakes off the extra water. “You probably don’t trust me, right now, do you?” Her arms cross over her chest.

My head drops. I can’t meet her gaze. I don’t know her. I don’t know any of these people. I just- My sniffle echoes against the walls.

Arabella crouches before me. “Shh,” she coos. “It’s okay.” Her fingers brush away the tears from my cheek, streaking through the dried blood without even a grimace. “Would you like me to leave while you bathe? I can wait just outside the door if you like.” She gestures to the hallway behind me.

My hands grab the hem of my shirt, twisting themselves within the material until they disappear.

“Okay.” She nods. “I’ll be just outside the door. I’ll see if I can find you some clean clothes.” Standing, she moves for the door.

“Tha-” I choke out, still staring at the ground.

Her footsteps stop behind me. “What?”

My words vanish. My head tucks tighter to my chest.

“I’ll be right back.” Her voice is soft and calm. She doesn’t press me to continue, but closes the door with a quiet click.

I turn to it, staring at the metal gleaming with the last traces of sun pouring through the window. Footsteps carry down the hallway. Only when they’re distant do I creep over to the bath.

Glancing over the edge, I look at my reflection. Dried blood covers half my face. Tear stains streak through it like tiny pathways. My eyes are swollen and red. My hair mats against my head with a mixture of blood and dirt. The girl staring back at me isn’t me. The girl in the water is sad, terrified, and confused. Who is she?

Next Installment: More

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