Literati! Here comes Claudia Barillas entering our contest once again. I swear, it’s not too late, but I do have to remind you the last entries must be received by Thanksgiving day. Every author gets three chances to make the finals. Six finalists will then be given a prompt and parameters (I LOVE parameters!) to …
Here comes Claudia Barillas entering our contest once again. I swear, it’s not too late, but I do have to remind you the last entries must be received by Thanksgiving day. Every author gets three chances to make the finals. Six finalists will then be given a prompt and parameters (I LOVE parameters!) to make sure we have a winner and our winner has a check for $500 by December 15th.
Here is Claudia’s entry #2.
by Claudia Barillas
He’d never felt pain like this. Not when they’d run the kid so hard for so long he’d thought his lungs would burn right through his ribcage and fall out of his chest. Not during sparring practice when he’d been slammed onto the ground so hard that it had driven out both his breath and his memory of how to draw in a new one. Not when he’d been made to do such an inhumane amount of pull-ups that he couldn’t lift his arms–but had to, for the aforementioned sparring match. This pain was deeper, at the very core of the kid’s mechanism for perceiving it. It started in his foot, were the beam had hit, passing right through his sturdy boot like radio waves. It traveled frighteningly fast yet still impossibly and agonizingly slow, through his ankle, along his calf, burning on its upward path, leaving not even the dying embers of a dull ache behind it. And all the kid could do was scream. Scream and cry and beg the doctor, the nurses, for what, he didn’t even know.
“Please! Oh, God, please!”
He hardly understood his own words, much less those shouted by the medical professionals fussing over him, trying to ask him questions. Finally something did break through to his comprehension. “Cut it off.” Now he had something to plead for.
“No!” the kid screamed, voice already raw. “No, don’t!” Yes it hurt, no he didn’t know if he could stand it much longer, but losing his leg? He struggled against the nurses, but they were many, and strong. He saw the device in the doctor’s hand–some kind of laser blade, like a guillotine–and watched with horror as it was positioned above his knee. “Please,” he forced out one more time, merely a whimper. The blade of concentrated energy dropped, bringing with it pain to rival even that which tormented him seconds before, unimaginable even with priming that great. It was too much, finally too much. His mind gave up trying to process it, his body gave up trying to handle it, and he passed out.
He woke–exhausted, still–in the hospital ward, surrounded by ill and injured soldiers, some from the very same intrusion, he was sure. How had they been breached? And so deeply? Even he hadn’t had access to the weapon that was nearly stolen, the one that had been used on him, the one that had cost him his leg.
Except, had it? Looking down the length of his body, obscured by his blanket, they seemed to both be there, though when he tried to move the one in question, nothing happened. He yanked the blanket off. It was there. And it was definitely his. There was a scorch mark at the point of the incision, but no indication that the leg had actually been removed and replaced with a prosthesis. He prodded the limb, feeling his leg with his fingers but not his fingers with his leg. Panic swelled up inside him, and he tried, against the better judgment that told him that with a dead leg it was a terrible idea–to get out of bed. Before he could land himself in a heap on the floor, his supervisor was there.
“Hey, hey, easy kid!” the large man said, entering the ward. The hands that pushed the kid back and held him down in the bed were strong, but the actions were gentle. “Relax a second. Take a deep breath.”
The kid took said deep breath and several more before he had calmed.
“Better?” his supervisor asked. The kid nodded and the man let go, taking a seat beside the bed. “Good. Now where were you off to in such a hurry, huh?”
“My leg,” the kid said, gesturing at it. “I just–I wanted to ask someone about my leg.”
“Your leg is fine,” the man assured. “Or at least it will be, if you stay in bed and rest and let everything grow back properly.”
“G-grow back?” the kid asked. “So it…did get cut off and…?” Even if he weren’t quite so tired he’d still have trouble articulating this particular brand of confusion.
“No, your leg is your leg,” his supervisor explained. “It’s your nervous system that has to be grown back. The blast from that weapon eats away at it. If it had gotten to your spine, you would’ve been hard to fix, and if it got to your brainstem you would have been dead, so we had to sever the nerves to stop it.”
“You can grow back nerves?” the kid asked.
“We can do a lot of things that you’re not supposed to know about yet,” the man said. “Too late to worry about that now. But as for saving your leg, I swear, it’s not too late, so just relax and get healed up, all right?”
“The… the others,” the kid said. “Are they all right?”
His supervisor sighed. “We lost Midrian. Danico will be fine. She’s right over there, but she needs her rest too, so don’t bother her. And well, you saw what happened to Wres. I’m sorry, kid.”
“The guy,” the kid said, not in a state where he could properly process the two loses, though when they finally hit, they would hit hard. “Did we get the guy?”
“No,” the man said. “God, if I ever get my hands on him– But that’s an issue for me to worry about. Not you.” He stood up. “Go back to sleep if you can. Oh, and when your leg heals up, it’ll probably twitch.”