Nine: The Iron Harvest

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                                                Nine:

                                        The Iron Harvest

Kairim's "space" is nothing but a hole in the wall with a section of cleared pathway before it. He shows it to me with a beam of pride. I try not to wince, remembering my first day here. He calls it his own slice of the ship while I try to perfect the smile painted on my face.

When Paula comes, bearing a still sopping workers uniform, Kairim hands her two small pieces of metal. They look like metallic blades, sharpened in haste. My eyes widen in fear when I see them. "You're making weapons?" I ask, my voice coming out in a high, terrified squeak. Kairim laughs.

"Of course we are! You don't think we're just going to sit around and wait for Them to take everything do you?" I look down at the floor. This was exactly what I was hoping.

"Azra," he pulls himself out of the narrow hole to sit with me on the floor. His long legs spread across the aisle, his feet nearly brush the opposite wall. "You've only been here one day. You don't know what it's like for most of us." He uses his index finger to brush a stray section of hair back behind my ear. "You've been treated differently from the rest of us, but that will change now, you'll see. You'll come to understand why people could become desperate enough to carve weapons from scrap." He shows me his hands, the scars that decorate the inside of his palms. All I can see is the blood pooling around Ackon's pale face, all I hear is my mother's scream.

I do not tell him of these things. They are my secret, my burden to bear. I let him show me his stash of knives, the sharpened forks he's managed to smuggle from the feeding room. I don't tell him about Zyngar's vanishing sword, that his efforts are all in vain, it would crush him. I let him fade into sleep while whispering to me of his rebellion, then I curl into a ball at his feet and pray for sleep.

It doesn't come. The pools of dark blue light burn against my eyelids, reminding me of the untrustworthy shadows that lie just beyond. I squeeze my body even tighter against itself, finding myself needing to get re-used to the idea of wearing human clothes. I am cold without my bio-suit; the drippings from my still-damp uniform seem to have frozen to my skin. My teeth chatter against one another and I know I'm going to be sick.

I whimper into one of my palms, biting the inside of my cheek so I don't wake Kairim. This is so much like the beginning—like my first few days here—that I find myself reverting back to those same fears, only now, there is no smiling Zyn to ease the burden. There is Kairim, with his weapons of pilfered metal.

I move closer to wall beneath Kairim's hole. I feel so alone. An ache has started in my chest, burning, eating me alive. I need to hear him breathing, need to know that I'm not as alone as I feel. When my back is pressed firmly against the cool metal I close my eyes again, trying not to think of the hideous place surrounding me. I focus on Kairim's calm breathing, trying to get my own ragged breath to match his.

The pressure of the wall against my back is soothing, and, paired with the soft sigh easing from Kairim's lungs, it's almost as if I am lying next to him. I relax slightly, imagining myself warm, pretending that I am only wet because I've just stepped from the shower to the bed and I'm just taking a quick nap while Zyn keeps me company. 

I freeze, my eyes popping open with the force of my shock. It is amazing to me how quickly my thoughts switched from thinking of Kairim to Zyn, but even more startling is the amount of comfort it brought me. "No, no, no!" I whisper in the darkness, needing the extra force of my outward voice to admonish myself. I press the heel of my palm into my lips, letting the pain burn away any lingering feelings.

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