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Quenched. This thirst for something to make me feel alive. Standing alone waiting outside. A haze of smoke around me, a net of safety to consume me and keep me from the teeth just beyond the fugue waiting to sink into my flesh. To tear me. I suck and pull and fade. Cling. Breathe.
"Look!" "Annie, be careful," Shoal said. "That place is dangerous." "But look at the lights," she gasped in wonder, her young eyes glistened. "The lights area a trick." They were. We all knew to ignore the lights to avoid becoming some gnasher's dinner. Annie wasn't listening. I knew Halesh and his gang prowled the streets in search of us, which meant we needed to stay hidden, but the darn child stumbled to her feet, eyes reflecting the glow of the gnasher, and left the shadows, arms stretched to the creature. I cursed under my breath.
It wasn't so much the medical that bothered Gerlin, it was what came after. The medical examination was quick, at least that's what the other recruits said. But after the medical came the mental assessment, and Gerlin was infamously unstable. Mother called her a nutcase, and maybe she was. She saw things. Things other people never did....
Shelis shivered, damp in the dark. Two more hours and it'd be over. Two hours seemed longer than a decade in the little space, goosebumps burning on her icy skin, water dripping on her head, down her face, into her soaked clothing. But scared as she was, cold as she was, none of it was worse than going out there before dawn.
"Buffalo!" Kelly shouted. It was the code word for "sexy but brutish male approaching". I ducked and grabbed a magazine along with the other girls in the group, and we pretended interest in the articles. These football buffs with their popped collars and bulging arms thought they were the shit, but we didn't have time for them, not until they'd passed and we could grade the quality of their asses. "A five," Nancy said beside me, shrugging. The guy looked back over his shoulder, confused, and I stifled a laugh.
Tomato soup clung to my lip. I licked it off and glanced about. Nobody had seen. What a boring day at the office. I tapped the wooden desk, craned my neck to see if any clients approached the door opposite me. But no, there was nobody. The phones did not ring, and the skeleton staff snored behind their computers. No managers, no workey, right? I was restless, couldn't stop thinking about Bob. WOuld he walk past the door again? I glanced at my wristwatch. 12.15. Any minute now he'd flit past and I'd pretend not to notice. My heart fluttered in my chest.
'Gentlemen,' I held my hands out to placate them, but their moustaches wriggled more, their frowns deepened. 'Let's be civil here.' Fillin was being anything but civil. He brought his hand to his scabbard. Damn, time to back away. Things weren't working out as planned. I stepped back slowly, one foot behind the other. 'Now, Fillin, I can explain.' M<y naked parts caught a glimmer of moonlight, and Tisha squealed in the bed, delighted.
The dress swished around her feet, and Thom's clammy hands gripped her sides. Their feet did not falter once, but her heart thumped loud in her ears and her lungs struggled to suck in breaths. A sheen of sweat glistened on his forehead, and Lita focused on executing each step just the way they'd practised. The stage lights were too bright, dizzying, hiding the audience and burning on her skin.
Shahn jerked on the stitches, and Tashi clenched her teeth. Why was she clenching her teeth anyhow? The area was completely numb, but each time Dr Shahn tugged at a stitch to loosen it, she jerked. Something was wrong with her. At last the final stitch was removed and she sat up, a new creature to the brave world. When she ran her fingertips over her skin, there were no scars where the stitches had been. Not even on her face.
Sahn left him stammering and stuttering apologies, and walked into the night air with new hope on her shoulders. Had Sahn been honest, she may have found her parents much sooner than today, but today was better than never, and even though the stars were out, trekking all the way to Figuar suddenly seemed an excellent idea. Each happy step drew her closer to knowing her past, and the night's trip went by like a leaf in the wind. With sweaty palms she knocked on the door once, twice. No answer.
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