World of Radiation

We need a Favor

Continued from ‘Not My Life

We skirt the street and its chaos. The four girls surrounding me seem not the slightest bit fazed by the exorbitant amount of death or the smell it fills the air with. I gag on it. My hand draws up, covering my nose and mouth to ventilate my oxygen, but it does little to help. The stench permeates everything.

“You act like you haven’t seen this before,” Jade comments as she draws up next to me. Her body blocks my view of the street, whether on accident or purpose, I can’t tell. Either way, I’m thankful for the reprieve.

My eyes find hers and I nod. “I haven’t seen it before,” I mumble through my hand.

Her dark eyebrows draw together. “How? Have you been living in a hole since the wall went up? Death is everywhere.” Her words are callous, but her tone is blank, neutral. I can’t tell what’s more baffling, the concept of constant death or the attitude these girls have towards it.

“For a while…” I peer around her at the body of a small child as we walk past. His eyes stare up into the sky or… at least they would if he still had eyes. My stomach churns and I lean forward, waiting for my body to purge.

Lea snags my arm and drags me on. “We don’t have time for your weak stomach,” she hisses.

“Then let me go back,” I plead. My voice shakes, displaying my fear and horror to the group of girls around me.

“You can’t go back alone and we can’t split up to take you back. You’re stuck with us,” Car snaps. Her eyes bore into me with disgust.

I could care less about her distaste for me at this exact moment. I can’t think about anything other than the carcasses rotting and beating eaten by crows. “Why’d you bring me in the first place?” Tears prick the corners of my eyes and I bite my lip to keep them at bay.

The five of us round a corner and Mal shoves me up against a wall. Her arm braces across my chest and her wrist bends to point a dagger into my throat.

I choke on air in my surprise. My eyes widen as I try to glance down at the gleaming metal preparing to slice me open.

“You whine like a baby,” Car grumbles from behind Mal’s shoulder.

“Hush!” Mal doesn’t look to Car, but it’s obvious the order is directed at her. For a moment, she lets the silence slip between us, her blue eyes flicking back and forth between my own. “You’re not part of the theater group.”

I’m too frightened to respond.

“But she said-“

Mal interjects Lea. “I don’t care what she said. There’s no way this girl is from theater group. It’s not possible.”

“How can you tell?” Jade is the only one still holding a calm voice.

“Because theater group doesn’t have any girls.”

I inhale as the knife pricks my neck. Hot blood trickles down my throat into my shirt collar.

“Who are you?!” Mal demands. Her eyes narrow and the girls behind her step closer as if readying to attack me.

“I told you who I am,” I squeak.

She applies more pressure with her arm.

I try to push back into the wall, but only succeed in rising up on my tiptoes. My eyes pinch closed like it might contain my fear, but a whimper escapes me nonetheless.

“Theater group doesn’t have any girls, especially sniveling girls like you. Who are you? And why do you claim to be with them?” Mal sneers at me, her own disgust spilling into her expression.

“I’m no one,” I whine. “I was saved by a boy who told me to meet him at the theater. That’s all I know. I swear!” My voice breaks and a sob racks through me. The shaking of my body, dips the knife further into my flesh and I try to still myself.

“She’s lying,” Lea snaps. “Why would a boy from theater group save a girl?”

Car looks to Lea, a darkness settling into her eyes. “For pleasure.” Her teeth grind together in a gesture that drips with hatred.

My eyes widen at her comment. My heart races, slamming against the inside of my chest. “What?”

Mal’s expression softens, but remains just as icy as before. “Theater group has been known to take girls before, but not to bring them into their group. They use them, Natalie. They toy with them and play with them and toss them aside once the girl has broken.”

I settle my gaze on her. “How could you possibly know that?”

Behind Mal, Car drops her head. Her fists clench at her sides until all color bleaches from her knuckles.

“Because we’ve saved girls from them before,” Mal explains. She doesn’t say who, but she doesn’t have to.

I glance between the four girls surrounding me, still not sure what’s going on. “But… why’re you telling me this? If you knew I wasn’t from the theater, why didn’t you just say it in front of everyone back in the building?”

For the first time, Jade speaks. “I don’t like this, Mal.”

Mal dips her head as if directing her voice to the bronze girl. “This could be our only chance.”

Jade shakes her head and wanders to the end of the alley. Her arms cross over her torso and she stares into the sky. Lea glances between her and Mal before following the girl.

In the following silence, I meet Car’s gaze. Fire glows in her eyes, but fear, too. Something dark and deep within that she’s tried to bury, but it looks like it’s trying to surface.

“I still don’t understand.”

Mal draws the knife from my throat and I settle back down on my feet. My hand clasps around the wound on my neck as I wait for answer.

“We need you to do us a favor, Natalie,” Mal informs me. Her face is stoic, a mask. She’s all business now.

“Wha- What kind of favor?” My breathing shallows and quickens. I don’t like where this is going.

Car inhales and finishes for Mal. “You said the boy wanted you to meet him at the theater.”

I nod.

“You’re going to do that.”

“But you just said they-“

Mal holds up a hand. “We know. We know what they do, but this could be our only chance at finding where their base is and taking them out of the equation.”

“You want me to spy on them…” My voice trails off in disbelief.


Next Installment: I’ll Be Your Spy

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