Hush (Unnatural)

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The fluorescent light above the man behind the desk flickered. The stark white walls of the small room made it something more than annoying.

“Do you know why you’re here, Sara?”

As if it mattered.

“No.”

The beige jumpsuit they’d made her put on was itchy and stiff. The material rasped against her fingernails as she scratched her arm.

“You’ve been selected to assist our project.”

She knew that much. Men in white vans with no licenses plates didn’t show up at your high school for any other reason.

“I want to call my mom.”

The man’s lips pinched into a shallow smile. He flicked through the tablet on the desk before him.

“Sara, I see you were in a lot of activities at school. Track, swimming, debate team, and choir. Is that correct?”

“Where am I?”

He looked up from the tablet. His eyes were invisible behind the flickering glare on his glasses. He waited.

“Yes.”

“Very good.”

He tapped the tablet and turned it so she could see the screen.

“This is June.”

The face of a small girl stared back at Sara. Straight brown hair, brown eyes, round cheeks, small mouth. She must’ve been ten at the oldest.

“She’s cute.”

“You like kids?”

Sara shrugged. As an only child she didn’t have a lot of experience with anyone not her age.

“You’re going to help us with June.”

“For how long?”

The shallow smile again. He put the tablet down.

“She needs some company right now, a big sister. Understand?”

Sara didn’t, but the man wanted an answer. She nodded.

He stood and came around the desk. His polished shoes slapped against the concrete floor.

“Follow me,” he said and opened the door out of the room.

The hallway was cold and the guards who’d been there before looked the same. They watched her pass, hands still locked around their rifles. The flashing yellow lights in the hallway hadn’t changed either.

He led her down the everything concrete hallway, the walls occasionally punctuated by steel doors, or lengths of pipe. After a couple turns he stopped before one such door. He unlocked it with a key from his pocket then turned to her with his hand on the doorknob.

“She’s inside. You just need to get her to go to sleep. Understand?”

She didn’t. Not at all.

“Can I call my mom afterwards?”

“Of course.”

He opened the door, and held it for her as she went inside. The room was brightly lit.

“She likes music.” He paused on the other side of the doorway, then added, “You can leave when she’s asleep.” And closed the door.

Sara was so busy staring she barely heard the lock click home.

This room was like the one before, but longer, and the walls weren’t white any more. Her eyes picked out every detail, she couldn’t stop them. The grout was almost brown, the tiles smeared almost pink.

She took a step back and her foot came down on something hard and cold that skittered away. It was white like a dice, but wasn’t. Dice weren’t used for chewing. It bounced off a foot in a beige jumpsuit.

Sara’s hand scrambled behind her for the doorknob, but there wasn’t one on this side. She wanted to look and double check, but her eyes were stuck in place, still soaking up the room.

Beyond the body was another, in a white lab coat. There was nothing but red above the collar. Red splattered everywhere.

“I can’t sleep.”

Sara drug her eyes up past the gore to find a little girl in a blue dress sitting against the far wall with her knees tucked up under her chin.

“Because of the voices.”

The little girl named June watched Sara through tear filled eyes.

Sara tried hard for words, got out, “What happened?”

The girl’s shoulders shook as a sob bubbled up, and hot pain lanced through Sara’s temples. She cried out and fell to her knees.

June cried harder, and Sara’s skull buzzed as if  a tuning fork rang against it. Only the tone wasn’t a note, but a voice. High, pleading, screaming.

“Help me!”

The voice shattered, fragmented, and a dozen dozen voices flooded in. Curses, nonsense, snatches of conversation. Sara’s head was coming apart a synapse at a time. She grabbed on with both hands.

Blood filled her mouth. This was terrible, impossible. She didn’t understand. Black crept in, smashed her vision down to a tunnel ending in a crying little girl.

She wanted her mom. She wanted to be home in bed, like when she was little and her mom sang her to sleep. Memories of her mom’s strong arms and soothing voice filled the invading darkness.

June’s crying caught, as if snagged on a hook. The swelling behind Sara’s eyes retracted a hair.

Sara seized the only clear thought in her screaming mind, drew a breath and forced it out past her lips.

‘Hush my tiny robin,

There’s no need for sobbin.’

The girl was watching her through her tears.

‘Hush my little finch,

Don’t you fret an inch.‘

June moved. Tentatively at first, then faster, she crawled forward, across the blood and bodies, directly toward her. Sara wanted to draw back in horror, but kept singing.

‘Hush my darling dove,

You have all my love.’

Then June was crawling into her lap.

She was covered in ichor and gore and tears, but after a moment’s panic, as the girl nuzzled closer, Sara felt the rapid beating of the girl’s heart, the shallow rush of her breaths. She felt like any other scared little girl. Despite the throbbing in her teeth, Sara wrapped her arms about June and held her close.

‘Hush my precious sparrow,

I’ll hold you ‘til tomorrow.’

June’s breath slowed, her tears stopped, her eyes closed.

The lights in the room snapped out.

All that remained was a soft scared voice, singing to a tiny soul, lost in the darkness.

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