Two: Warped

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                                                  Two:

                                               Warped

I stand among Them for what feels like ages, my legs going stiff beneath me. This room is no warmer than the rest of the ship and the tips of my fingers begin to burn. I try tucking them beneath my armpits, hoping that they won't begin to turn the sickly black that sometimes claims peoples limbs during the cold season. It barely helps.

I stare at the giant screens in the room, my mind barely registering the streaking lights. Instead, my thoughts are back on Earth, with my family. I imagine Ackon trying to load Father back onto the cart without me, his face stiff with guilt. I wonder if Father has even noticed my absence, if his faraway brain can even recognize what happened on the dock.

Tears spill down my cheeks like raindrops and I vaguely wonder if I should wipe them with my sleeve when a hand grips me. I bite back a scream. I don't recognize the face staring down at me, all I know is it's another one of Them. He smiles, the patterns marked on his cheeks stretching. I am too numb to try and return it.

"I'm supposed to take you to your room." He says to me, his voice forming the words as if he's speaking to a child, which is good because his voice nearly growls each syllable. I nod, hoping he'll remove his hand from my skin, but he doesn't. He is shorter than the first male, the one who stabbed Ackon with his invisible sword, but I am still afraid of him. I remove one of my hands from beneath my arm, curling it into a tight fist at my side.

The male begins chatting to me and I can only assume he's trying to keep the banter happy because the smile has yet to leave his face. The only part of the conversation I catch is "human" and "new clothes". My ears perk at the thought of being warm again, but the rest of me shudders. I do not want to don one of Their suits.

The male stops outside what appears to be a blank wall decorated with only an odd-shaped clock. He presses his hand to it, causing the dials to whirl within the frail glass. A soft shushing sound alerts me to a panel sinking into the wall level with my waist. It's the kind of thing Kate would be enticed to climb into, but not me. It's the size of a coffin.

The male gestures towards it, his bright smile still in place as if he thinks I will happily oblige him. I shake my head and take a small step back. His smile fades. "It will not hurt you." He says slowly. He pats the inner most edge of the hole, like Mother does an available seat when she wants me to help her darn socks. I shake my head again and move backwards. This time my back hits the opposite wall.

The male's smile has flipped. He frowns and leans down into a crouching position. He mimes crawling into the hole and tries to shoot me an assuring grin which is rendered useless by his tattoos.

I'm frozen. There is no way I'm climbing into the hole but there is also no where for me to run if I refuse. I've come to a stand-still, and there is no way I can win. The male rises to his feet and I cannot help but hope that he's given up the whole idea of me going into the small space.

He takes a step towards me and it's all I can do to stop myself from running. Afterall, where would I go? He doesn't grab me roughly by the shoulders and shove me in like I'm expecting. Instead, he gently takes my hand into his own. His flesh is warm, like a loaf of bread fresh from the oven. My fingers burn with his warmth. He guides my unwilling body back towards the hole and, without taking his eyes from my face, bends to press our clasped hands onto the edge of the opening.

Air, warm and moist coats my palm, banishing the burning and easing the chattering of my teeth. I gasp and eagerly shove my second hand in to join the first. The male laughs, the rough sound echoing down the hallway. I stare at him, still unwilling to climb into such a small space even though it offers such bliss.

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