World of Radiation

Don’t Thank Me

Continued from ‘Shredders

 I wake with a jolt. Pain clutches every part of my body. My head feels light, full of nothing but air. The world spins around me and I close my eyes once more until it stops.

Opening them once more, I lay in a small room. The walls are thin. They flap in the wind like clothing left out to dry after being washed. Sticks prop them up in the corners, giving the room its shape. Yet, I’d hardly call it a room.

My fingers slide across the ground. Dirt ignites my nerve endings. I can move!

Pressing my hands into the earth, I strain my muscles to lift myself to a seated position. They give way. I crash back to the ground, my head flopping onto a bundle of soft cloth.

“You shouldn’t try moving just yet,” a familiar voice informs me.

She walks into view. Her blonde curls droop to one side as she tips her head sideways to look at me.

“You,” I croak. My throat stings when I talk.

“Me,” she gasps. A hand covers her mouth and her light eyebrows hike up as her pale eyes widen in mock surprise. She settles once more. Her shoulders sag and her expression dulls to one of boredom. “The real question is who are you?”

My mouth gapes, but no one words come out. Just a grating cough.

“Oh, right.” Turning from me, she picks something up and steps forward. She crosses her legs as she sits next to me and tips my head up with one hand while placing a soft pouch in front of my mouth.

“What-” I choke out, the rest of my question lost to the wind.

With a roll of her eyes, she sighs. “It’s water. Why? Don’t want it?” She pulls away the pouch, sloshing the contents inside.

My hand snaps around her wrist, stopping her.

One corner of her mouth curls up. “Yeah. That’s what I thought.” Once more she moves the strange bag before my lips, supporting my head, and tips the pouch.

Warm water splashes into my mouth. I gulp it down as fast as I can.

“Woah there!” She pulls the bag away.

My thirst flares, craving more and I grab her wrist again. “More.”

“Later,” she informs me, releasing my head.

It snaps back to the bundle of cloth.

I glare up at her as she pries my fingers from her wrist.

“You’ve lost too much water,” she explains, having stood up and placed the pouch out of my reach. “If we give you too much now you’ll just get sick and vomit it back up.”

I groan at the idea. My hands clutch my stomach, scraping along a material wrapped over my wrist. I raise my arm. Red-splotched cloth envelops my arm. I stare at it in confusion.

“You’re from Buffalo, right?”

She stands beside me, watching me curiously.

Dropping my arm once more, I nod.

“What’re you doing out here?”

“Out… here?” I manage.

Her arms cross over her torso. “Out here,” she repeats with attitude. “In the Unknown. Outside Buffalo.”

I left because of Alice. I left to protect her. “Alice!” I gasp, the sudden noise aggravating my throat.

“She’s fine.” She bites the words at me, as if annoyed by having to inform me of Alice.

My shoulders ease from relief and exhaustion. “Where… is here?”

Something shifts in her expression. I can’t quite tell what it is what with her face in shadow. “They’ll explain everything later.” Her pale eyes flicker over my face. “When they decide what to do with you.”

“Decide…” I swallow hard. My head rests back against the cloth, my neck unable to support its weight any longer.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” she informs me, darkness littering her tone. “Neither of you were.”

I roll my head to the side, just barely able to see her standing in the doorway. The sun hangs behind her, making her an outline. “N- ame?”

Her fingers tighten around her forearms. “Kalla.”

“Ka-lla,” I choke, swallowing once more to wet my parched throat. “Thank… you.”

Her shadow stiffens. Quickly, it relaxes. “Don’t thank me,” she whispers.

Before I have a chance to ask her anything else, she vanishes. A piece of cloth slides in front of the doorway, blocking out both her and the sun.

Next Installment: Tension

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