Chapter 10: Path

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  Mar

The day went too quickly and rain wouldn't cease. Magda stayed in her bunk, Hatsui didn't come out to yell at her to get up, which confirmed what we all couldn't say. Magda was dying and all we could do was sit around and wait. I tried to work, but I ended up fumbling around and slicing my fingers in a tangle of metal. Karl helped me put superglue on the cuts after I washed the blood off in the sink. Working afterward was painful, but the sting kept my mind off Magda for a few moments at a time.

When night fell and Hatsui left, we didn't sigh in relief, his presence didn't change our reality enough to be comforted. Once we were alone, we huddled around Magda again. Alfred tried to get her to eat, but she covered his hand and smiled while shaking her head.

"You should eat, Magda," Karl insisted.

"Not unless it's chocolate," Magda whispered, her voice was lost. I laughed, a nervous high sound. Alfred grabbed her hand, she squeezed his massive fingers between her bent ones. They looked at each other seriously, a secret conversation between them. It felt intimate, looks shared between parents. Her fingers fumbled in his until they formed what she wanted to say. She spread all of her fingers out as straight as she could manage, save for the middle and ring finger. Sign language I recognized. Alfred nodded firmly, tears welling but never falling down his face. He brought her fingers to his mouth, kissing her knuckles before he set her hand back on her lap. The exchange went all too quickly.

Suddenly Magda was grabbing my hand,

Magda pulled her hand from Alfred's and grabbed Karl's and my own.

"This sucks," she said, raspy. We laughed with tears in our eyes."And everything I have done has been in reaction to this terrible world, except for raising you guys. Raising you two was the best thing I could have ever accomplished."

She coughed and paused.

My world was splintering apart. I couldn't fathom the next few moments and yet, they came crashing on me.

"And I love you both more than you could ever know."

Karl and I crawled closer to her on her bunk. The palm of her hand found its place against my cheek, her other hand on Karl.

"This," she vaguely gestured with a roll of her eye, "is a hard lesson to learn, but a very important one. You don't yet realize the power of pain, of death, especially combined with the motive of love."

Her eyes glistened. If she had more energy or more time, maybe she would've cried. I wanted to stop crying, but the tears were endless. I wanted the world to stop spinning. I wanted to stay tucked against Magda, her heart rumbling against mine.

Magda held Karl and I loosely against her as we listened to the eighth song on Alfred's music device over and over. She smiled, remembering that song from her childhood, that her mother would sing it to her, just as I did, just as she did to me when I couldn't sleep. I wished so deeply that she wouldn't sleep then, that should would never let me go. I wished she hadn't told me that the singer of the song who crooned of leaving on a plane died in a plane crash some years later. I hated irony in that moment. I cursed it.

I didn't want time to move, I didn't want Magda to leave. But eventually we all fell asleep and time raced by us. The sun rose and life was never the same again.

...

The door opening startled me awake, like it did every morning. I was stunned for a moment before someone wrenched me by the arm and I was up and rolling across the floor. Tumbling down to my knees, I could see Hatsui's shoes in perfect clarity. They were plain, practical black slipons, probably printed them from the comfort of his own home. The vantiy of his existence struck me. The convenience of his life, the freedom. Eventually, I pulled my eyes up to Hatsui's shadowed face.

"Get up."

I moved to my feet and stood still under his glare, eyes planted on the ground. Shadows of two figures kissed me toes.

"How dare you betray me," Hatsui spit and his hand twitched. I looked up to him in disbelief, then to Magda who remained completely still in her bed. Karl and Alfred watched on, their face frozen in fear.

"I didn't do anything," I murmured, confused. My eyes focused on the two androids behind him, their Dead World van parked on the curb.

My feet stumbled back.

"I didn't do anything," I repeated, more serious.

"Then what's this?" Hatsui asked and threw a small piece of black plastic at me. It was a piece of the drone I destroyed. I couldn't believe I missed it the other night.

I couldn't speak. I couldn't breathe. Everything felt fake. Dreamlike in a frighetening way. My eyes found Magda again, registering the stillness of her body. Karl sat next to her still, stunned.

"Take her," Hatsui ordered. My body fell to the ground and I tried to launch myself at Magda, to hold on to her one last time. I managed to grab onto her limp arm but the police droids pulled me away from her. They wrenched me to my feet and I knew time was slipping away from me. Karl's eyes were glassy, his features struck by the loss in front of him. He didn't look 14 anymore.

"Magda!" I screamed out as they pulled me farther from her. Then I seriously considered how much time I had left to speak.

"I'm sorry! Karl, I'm sorry!" I yelled, desperate. I wished my hands were free to sign to Alfred, but maybe he read the words on my face.

"I'm sorry!" I howled again, trying to kick against the guards.

They wrenched me up, their hard fingers digging into the insides of my arms. Their eyes scanned the numbers on my throat. One held me against the truck while the other looked through his database.

Time passed slowly as I watched Karl crawl over Magda, as Hatsui yelled at Alfred to clean something. I stared at the rainbow-hued oil stains that coated the workshop floor. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to never have been born.

And then:

"Dead World."

I kept my mouth clenched as they threw me into the back of the waiting van and sealed the doors. I sat on my hands and knees, saliva pooling through my teeth, my insides twisting. The misery of inevitably vomiting filled my body. I felt so sick I couldn't move through time normally. Bile released into my throat and I spewed it over the black floor. Fresh tears rolled across my face and into my mouth. They tasted like sour metal.

The truck rumbled to life beneath me and started moving forward. My path to Dead World began.

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