World of Radiation

For Your Safety

Continued from ‘City Blood

Speechless. Not from confusion, but from understanding and it seizes my heart, halting it in my chest a moment. My breath catches, too. It gives me a moment to catch the darkness in the woman’s dark green eyes. She means to kill us. Despite my best efforts at keeping a brave face, I swallow hard. My heart kicks back to life, this time in a panic.

“W-” My parched throat cuts off my words. I try again. “Why can’t we go back?”

A dull boredom settles onto her eyebrows, weighing them down. “You must know the answer to that already.”

I don’t respond. I have an idea, but I pray I’m wrong.

Her lips pull into a tight line. “We can’t risk you two spilling our whereabouts to those with city blood. We can’t risk them coming for us, not after everything we did to get here.”

“We won’t tell anyone,” I blurt, panic bubbling up within me.

“You mean like the last ones we sent home with city blood?” She quirks an eyebrow like I know what she’s talking about. When I say nothing, she continues. “Of course. You were too young to remember that.” Her green eyes drop to the dirt floor littered with blankets. Sadness washes over her, tugging on the outer corners of her eyes and her lips, but vanishes before I can understand it. “No.” Her head snaps up. “We can’t risk being discovered again.”

My head shakes before I find words. “Then why heal us?” My fists clench as maddening confusion clutches me. “Why save us at all from the Unknown? Why not just let us be eaten by the shredders?”

The older woman tips her head to the side. Her golden curls tumble out in front of her chest as she fixes me with her intense green gaze. “You think we mean to kill you.” It’s a statement, not a question.

Yet, it draws some form of courage from me, allowing me to incline my head.

Her lip curls the tiniest bit as if amused, but she reigns it back in. “My boy, we’re-“

“I’m not a boy!” My fists clench again, feeling the sweat pooling on my brow, calling me to control it, to attack her with it.

The woman watches me as if waiting for a child to end their temper-tantrum. “Are you done?”

I grind my teeth together, but choose to remain silent.

“Good. Now, as I was saying, we have no intention of killing you.”

“But-“

“Silence!” Her voice fills the small space like a thunderclap, cutting off my words in an instant. Her eyes burn with anger now. “We saved you because we are not animals. We do not let people die on our doorsteps, nor do we kill them for having different adaptations!” Her voice rises to a shout, rattling around in my chest.

My breaths shake. I clench my fists from fear rather than from anger, the countless stories of dangerous electricity adaptations flashing to mind.

The woman inhales, her chest expanding to its fullest before exhaling again. When she speaks, her voice is calm. “We can’t allow you to go home, but we do not allow other adaptations to stay in the encampment either.”

“Because we don’t fit in?” I ask, surprised I could manage words at all.

“No.” Her voice is flat. “Because it’s not safe for you. Electricity is dangerous. It’s unpredictable and sometimes uncontrollable. It would be far too easy for you or your friend, Alice, to be struck. You cannot control electricity like we can. You cannot protect yourselves against our adaptations and it’s for your safety that you have to leave.” Concern is the only thing holding her expression. It worries her eyebrows and pinches her lips in a motherly way as she looks upon me.

“But…” I begin again, trying to collect my thoughts. “Where are we to go?”

“We can take you as far as the green land.”

“The green land?”

She nods. “It’s a place where there is food and water, but… after that we cannot help you.”

Heaviness tugs on my arms, dropping them to the ground beside me. “We’re to be isolated.”

The woman says nothing.

Her indifference irks me. Defiance builds within me. “And what if we return to Buffalo? Will you come find us? Then will you kill us?”

“You will never make it back to Buffalo.” She says it like a threat, with a flat expression with a hint of danger.

“Why not?”

“Because you’ll die in the Unknown before you ever reach Buffalo again.” She pauses, her eyes narrowing. “You won’t survive.”

Part of me takes it as a challenge. Part of me wants to prove this woman wrong, prove to her that we’re not as weak as she thinks we are, but I have more than myself to think about. I have to think about Alice. Would she survive crossing the Unknown? Will she even survive the night?

Realizing I have little choice in the matter, my gut tumbles. “When will you take us to the green land?”

“Once your friend has recovered, then we will escort the two of you to the green land.”

“And until then?”

“Until then,” she stands, signaling the end of our conversation.

I stand with her.

“I recommend you keep your distance from the electricity adaptations and don’t do anything stupid.” The tall woman towers over me as she steps closer. “While you are in our camp, you are our responsibility. I don’t like having blood on my hands, accidental or otherwise. Do you understand?”

With no other option than to agree, I nod. I knew I’d likely never see Buffalo again when Alice and I set out from the city, but I never thought it’d because of exile. I just thought we’d die out here. I almost wish we had..

Next Installment: Intimidation

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