World of Radiation

Accusation

Continued from ‘Intimidation

Not a single person talks to me the rest of the day as I sit in the center of the camp, watching them come and go. Some glance in my direction. Some ignore me entirely. Yet, all of them act oddly… normal. They go about their daily lives, carrying bundles of cloth, building homes out of the flimsy material that they have, building fires.

I’m not sure what I imagined, but I never expected this place to function so much like the city. The only difference is that everyone here are electricity adaptations. Why did we want to kill them? They’re not different from us. At least… not in the way they look or act. They were just given up by our Gods to the Sparked God. That’s not their fault.

Behind me, someone giggles.

I turn in my seat to find the source. A couple children stand a little ways behind me, staring with wide blue eyes. They hide their smiles behind their hands, whispering among themselves.

Gasps replace laughing when they see me looking at them. Three of the children rush away to the edge of the open area, huddling by one of the homes, but one remains. One stands before me. His blonde hair hugs his head in tight curls while his eyes widen even further than before, further than they should be able to.

I smile at him.

With his hand still in front of his face, his cheeks push up and fill out as he smiles back at me from behind his hand.

My hand rises to wave at him.

He jerks, his smile vanishing.

He’s afraid of me. My shoulders sag at the thought of being scary. It doesn’t feel good to be feared, to have people, or children, cower from me. But why is he afraid of me? What did I do?

Not wanting to see the anxiety in his eyes, I turn back to the fire roaring in front of me.

More people gather around the fire as darkness starts to take hold of the land. Yet, each of them sit quite a distance away from me. Most of them glance and point and whisper. And it’s all about me.

Never before have I felt like such an outsider. Never before have I known what it means to be an exile, to be different. Is this how it was for the electricity adaptations? I shake my head, dropping my gaze to the dirt under my feet. No, I remind myself. It was worse. They were hunted, chained, murdered.

A gentle brush on the back of my head catches my attention. I snap my head up and spin around.

The little boy jumps back a few feet. Shock widens his eyes. His hand still covers his mouth, but I can easily see his fear in the rapid expansion of his chest as he breathes. Yet, even in his fear, he glances up, above my eyes to…

My hair?

I glance up at the brown locks of hair that are just a little longer than I like my hair to be. A glimpse of the dark color floods me with realization and a smile draws across my face. “My hair?” I ask him, running a hand through it.

The boy doesn’t make a sound, but his eyes flash back up above my eyes. Curiosity seems to overpower his fear as he shuffles forward a step, his hand extending before him.

Amusement bubbles through me. This boy has never seen dark hair before. All the electricity adaptations have blonde hair. A glance around the circle reminds me of that, reminds me of how foreign I am to these people, but at least the boy doesn’t fear me. He’s just… I return my gaze to him. Curious.

“It’s okay.” I bow forward, lowering my head to his level.

After a moment, his hand brushes through my hair. Tiny fingers push through the mess and a giggle erupts in front of me.

I lift my head a smidge.

The little boy stares mesmerized. His hand no longer covers his smile as both hands gently tug at my hair. He pulls on one section until it’s straight and does the same to his own, as if comparing the two.

“No!” A sharp voice interrupts.

The boy snaps away like he’s been scolded.

“Stay away from the city blood!” A man just a few years older than myself strides up and slaps the boy on the back of the hand.

Tears glitter in the young boy’s eyes.

“Hey.” I stand. “It’s not a big deal.”

The man meets my gaze with his crisp, green eyes. “No big deal?” He returns, stepping up to me as the young boy runs off. “You’re from the city. You’re one of them and you think you can just waltz on into our home like it’s no big deal?” The aggression deepens in his voice.

“Look, I’m sorry if I intrude-“

If?!

That,” I correct. “I’m sorry that I intruded. I had no idea you were out here.”

“That’s right,” the man snarls back. “You thought we were all dead. You thought you wiped us out. You thought we were gone. Well, guess what?” He doesn’t stop long enough for me to respond. “We’re not.” He advances a step, bumping his chest into me.

I falter back, not wanting a confrontation.

“We’re still here despite your city’s efforts. Despite the countless murders. We’re still alive. You can’t get rid of us.” His lip pulls back in a snarl.

“I never wanted to get rid of you. I had nothing to do with it. I-“

“Nothing to do with it?!” He spits, anger burning brighter than before. “Your whole kind had something to do with it! All of you with city blood. It wasn’t just the air adaptations or the fire adaptations, but all of you! You all ganged up on us, dragged us from our homes, murdered us in the streets, and let our blood mix with the dirt.”

“No!” Horror rushes through me. “That can’t be what happened. That’s… That’s not it.” I shake my head in disbelief.

“What?!” He shoves a hand into my chest. A tingling sensation rushes through my body, causing my muscles to twitch. “You think they just asked us politely to die? You think we volunteered to leave our homes and surrender our lives?”

“No,  I mean-” My words cut off as he pushes me again. More tingling sparks through me. My leg jumps backward, nearly dropping me to the ground in the process. “That’s not what they said happened. I- I didn’t know.”

People stand around us, watching us, their eyes dark, judgmental, angry.

I refocus my eyes on the man in front of me. “I didn’t do it. I wasn’t the one who killed the electricity adaptations.”

“No, but you probably wouldn’t have stopped the ones who did,” he snarls, the accusation clear. “You’re just as weak as the rest of them. You’re just as guilty.” With the last word, he slams a hand into my chest again.

The force throws me backward while the tingling courses more strongly in my body. I slam into the ground and slide across the dirt. The heat of the fire burns against my neck, but my arms won’t respond. The tingling numbs them, keeping them at my sides.

The man strides forward, kicking dirt into my face.

My eyes tear up and I cough to clear the dust from my throat.

“Let’s see how you like it, city blood. Let’s see how you like being murdered for something you can’t control.”

Next Installment: Responsibility

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