Ash and Cinder | chapter 3
Posted May 25th, 2018 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: hey it's friday, time for another chapter! I'm thinking of uploading bi-weekly since this book is finished and I'm impatient, what do you guys think?
Shout-out to Snow for the wonderful comment she left on the last chapter!
Song for this chapter is...*leaves to check the playlist* *checks the chapter content* *checks playlist again* Soldier by Gavin DeGraw.
Thanks for reading, feedback/CC appreciated!
p.s. I spent a million years on the spanish translations but i don't actually know if that long one says what I meant it to say, so if you read it, and it's super weird, please tell me so I can fix it ;-;
My knuckles hurt, dark red and purple bruises stretch over the bone and darken the spaces in between. Patches of skin are scrapped away in places, and it stings, but that’s nothing new. The painkillers the whitecoats have me on go a long way, but they don’t make me invincible. Pummeling people all the time has a bad effect on my hands, it leaves them bruised and bloody, and annoyingly dry.
Dieter wasn’t at breakfast this morning, there’s a good chance that he’s in infirm after what I did to him. Knock on wood he’s not dead or dying. I don’t know how I’d feel about killing someone who didn’t try to kill me first, I still don’t know how I feel about attacking Dieter. Experiments have left the dome in worse condition after fighting me, but they weren’t defenseless like he was. They at least had a chance to do a number on me in return.
Pushing aside thoughts of Dieter, I distract myself with counting the nicks in the counter. I wish the whitecoat running the infirm desk would hurry up, I want to see Elle today. The inside of the infirm is chilly and reeks of ethanol, though not as badly as it used to. Whether the scent leaks over from the lab or not is a mystery, but the floors in here are all white squares with no blood stains so my bet is on the former.
A whitecoat comes shuffling in from the hall to my right, a bottle clutched in her veiny hands. She eyes me while she fills out my Milnacipran prescription. The usual pill-pusher is a guy with hair so red it hurts my eyes and teeth lined with metal brackets, he’s used to all the experiments that need drugs to function, but this one isn’t. I fix my glasses to peer at the pill bottle and make sure it’s the same bottle my pills come in every month. I remember too well what it was like the last time a whitecoat decided I only needed sugar pills. The whitecoat behind the counter finishes and hands me the filled prescription bottle, waving me off with a flick of her bony hand.
There’s already an escort redcoat waiting to take me to my sister, I know where to go but I’m not allowed to move freely in the infirm like I do in the yard. There’s too much of a risk that I’ll break something vital. We make good time down the hall, with me walking dangerously far ahead of the redcoat, forcing him to quicken his pace to keep me in reach. The grey walls blur into the white doors, the scuffed tile barely registers in my minds eye. I’ve seen this stretch of hall so many times, I could point out every nick in the paint without so much as glancing in its direction. I can’t imagine how bored Elle must get living in here.
At the door marked ‘70’ in black sharpie I halt. The redcoat stomps past me, yanks out a ring of keycards, and flips through them until he finds the right one. The keycard swipes across the handle, and the lock clicks. With a grumble that sounds like rolling thunder, the redcoat shoves open the door and motions me in.
I inch past him into the room, the soft beep of a heart monitor and the scent of bleach greets me. The room is small, with grey walls and white linoleum floors and no windows. One wall is entirely dedicated to an array of metallic, blinking machinery. A medical bed is positioned with its head to the wall, a small bedside table sits beside it, full of bottles of pills, and three IV poles are huddled around it, all tethering to the same frail form resting on the bed.
Elle’s curly hair frames her face, her dark brown eyes are glassy from all the drugs. We have the same eyes, only hers are framed with long lashes that curl just a touch at the ends. She smiles when she sees me, and I smile back, glad that she has the clarity of mind to recognize me.
“Buenos chica, ¿como te sientes?” I sit on the edge of her bed, there are no other chairs in the room. Spanish is our native tongue. Elle picked up English fast when we first arrived, but fell sick faster and holds to the habit of mixing the two languages together. Unfortunately for us both, the only other Spanish-speaker in the compound that I know of is Maverick, who’s septlingual or something ridiculous like that.
“Sick,” Elle sticks her tongue out, “Los ‘coats prestaron me algo nuevo today.” She points to a blue bottle on the side table. New meds, huh? I pick it up and squint at the label, but the lettering is Cyrillic, I can’t make it out. I pop open the top and glance inside, the pills are round and yellow and clatter around inside the bottle, I don’t recognize them.
“Heard you won again,” Elle says, her voice is dry and whispery. She means the fight in the dome. She doesn’t know what the fights are, or what winning means, just that when I win it gets her more medicine. And that’s how I want it to stay.
“That’s right. Who told you?” I set the pill bottle on the table and turn to face her. She shrugs, the IV tubes sway.
“Una guarda. Was it hard?”
I hesitate before answering, swinging my legs up onto the bed and propping my elbows on my knees. She spots the cracked skin along my right knuckles and reaches out to take my hand. Her hands are cold and dry, the skin feels papery, like if I rubbed it too hard it would just flake away.
“Yes,” I say at last, “It was extra hard.”
After that the conversation turns. We talk about Maverick and how he came to see her yesterday, we talk about an African boy she saw the other day in radiology, his eyes glowed. I’m not sure if that’s part of his power, or if she likes him. Either way, I hope they can see each other again, Elle needs a friend. Towards the end of our allotted time together she starts to drift off. Her head droops so her chin rests on her chest, her breathing slows, and her skin begins to take on the drab green of the blanket over her lower body.
Elle’s enhancement allows her skin to take on the appearances of her environment, or lately whatever she wills it to take on. Color, texture, shadowing, it’s all there on her skin as if she were made of the things she touches. When she sleeps, her skin shifts on its own, sometimes taking on the shades of her dream, but more often adhering to the nearest point of contact and leeching the color. When the edges of her skin blends with the blankets, she looks even smaller than she is.
I rest on the edge of the bed, lingering for the remainder of my free time. Looking at Elle now, it’s hard to remember there was ever a time that we didn’t live here. We used to live in the world of humans and that world was huge. There were supercities the size of Spain, I don’t remember much about them since Puerto Rico wasn’t near one, but I do remember that when one of the supercities in America crashed, it took us down hard. Money became next to worthless and half the country was bankrupt before the end of the week. Maybe that’s where so many of these experiments come from, maybe their parents couldn’t afford them like ours couldn’t afford us. I’ve never bothered to ask.
It doesn’t matter anyways. We’re here, Elle is sick, and I have to keep fighting until her medicine works for good.
A sharp rap on the door is my cue; times up. I tuck Elle’s hair behind her ear and give her a quick peck on the forehead before I go. Day number ten thousand, we’re both still alive. That’s something, I guess.
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