“Wee-nah come back?”
“No, buddy. She can’t come back.”
“Why, Daddoo? Why why why why WHY?”
“Hush now, son.”
“Wee-nah come baaaaaaack!”
“Hush, Mally. She can’t! They took her away because we’re bad.”
“Daddoo go find her!”
“No, son. They’ll hurt us. They’ll tell people what we are.”
Salt burned his hands, stinging webs in his boots. His head hurt, and his stomach. He could taste plaster dust and feel the small creeping things that lived in dry places whiskering over his arms, his nape, up his spine’s soft channel. There was rage in the space, outside. Crashing sounds and weeping, low wails that could be loosening water-swollen boards, or wind through weak shelter. He was frightened; it wasn’t safe to come out. But he felt so very thirsty.
“Oh, no.” Her voice, moaning outside. Had they found us? He braced himself for pain. Fists would come first, then shackles and whips, maces and racks, electroshocks and wild, ravenous dogs. Torture defining a thousand black terrors, ghosts licking cold sweats with twilight tongues then fading to the laughing black beyond. “Please, no.”
They were coming. He could hear their approach like the thunder of Roman legions. He rasped, “I made something for you.”
“Okay.” She was weeping, and that puzzled him. Was this their trick, then? A psychological torture, of course. More enduring than bamboo shoots tenderly inserted into his nail beds. They brought her back to him, taunting. Confusing. She was supposed to be sleeping, in the dugout with the earth over her hair. Why was she here?
“You came back?” A soft whisper that stripped away his age. “How did you fit in the wall?”
“Don’t talk, okay?” Her words were distorted, slurred with tears. Something terrible happened to make her so sad. He thought about what that might be, about Daddoo and The Bad that lived inside of them like cancer. “I’m going to call for help, now. It will be loud, but don’t be scared.”
“No! No, they’ll get us!”
“It’s okay,” she soothed, kneeling to ease his head onto her shoulder. “We’re safe here, Mally. They won’t get us.” The tide was coming in too fast. No time. There had never been enough time. “I’m going to yell, now. Over and over, okay? Don’t be scared. I’m not angry. We need the good guys to hear and come help us.”
“The good guys will find us?”
“They’ll hurt me, Lena,” he said, in his hearbreaking, matter-of-fact way. “They’ll tell everyone what I am and take my life away.”
“No, Mally, they won’t.”
“They will!” Whipping his head from side to side, a child on the brink of tantrum.
“No! Listen to me!” She straddled him and held his face firmly between her hands. She stared into brown eyes almost lost in the darkness. “No one will hurt you, Mal. Do you understand? I won’t let them hurt you.”
Holding his hand, sodden and heavy with his improvised bandage, she stepped out from beneath the pier and began to scream.
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012
Ed.: This is the last Fiction Project post for the next several weeks. It’s not quite as finished as I wanted it to be, at this point – I need to tell you more about Geri, boarding school, Mal’s flight to find Lena, and who led them to this crisis. But, I’m out of time! I’m back at school on Monday and there is MUCH cleaning and organizing to do beforehand. I am so, so grateful to all of you who have been reading along with me. Thank you!!! <3