|I click my teeth. I taste my own blood, but ignore the anxiety that all my teeth will fall out. I would take Diver until more teeth fall out, and I’m just chapped lips and peeling skin, but I would rather have bones and a job, if I can have both. I’m far from having anything I want, but the myths about the knock-off Diver disintegrating your bones feel false, just everyone in Gaia trying to scare us in Aergia. Cyl is from Gaia, and he brings me knock-off diver, while saying I should believe the stories. Even though I told him the teeth I lost, I lost in a fight, he doesn’t believe me. I don’t believe a word he says, so it’s pretty even. |
Cyl is late. Again. Which means I have to wait. Again. When he arrives he sticks out his tongue and shows me a full set of teeth in his grin, like we’re the friends we both pretend we are. I won’t need our relationship to survive when I run away with Paige. When all I have is the girl who tattooed an ancient letter neither of us understand on her toe on my birthday. All we know is it’s spelled “PI” (for Paige and Iona), and it goes on forever
When Cyl gets to the broken beach, I’ve probably lost a pound of blood from spitting it out. A lot of it dribbles down my chin, mixed with phlegm. He smirks.“You look healthy.” I know I don’t look starving. “If you paid me more I’d look healthier.” “Do you really want me to pay you in money?” I raise my middle finger at him before he can finish speaking. I rip the bag out of his hands, and pull out the brown lozenge.“You spoil me.” In my head, you can hear the sarcasm dripping from my voice, but my whole body seems to be screaming ‘remain calm.’ I’m expecting him to say something like one dose of Diver costs more than all my organs.“You’d be a brat even if I didn’t.” That’s worse. What Cyl usually brings me, has around 80 billion nicknames, and is bright red. Diver is brown. I try to make it dissolve faster by using my tongue to push it into the side of my cheek. “You know I’m still not going to find her.” “But you’ll have a better chance this way.” “Keep yourself fooled.” “Whatever pays the bills” He acts like we’re the same. “My bills” I say to him. “My bills.” “Whorehouse makes you pay your share?” I know he knows I live in The Impound, even if I haven’t told him. I wait for him to say something else, if only for better grounding for my last remarks. Something along the lines of telling little girls to risk their lives in the name of science isn’t a real job.
I don’t get the chance, and when it reaches the point that it’s less dignified to keep staring in silence, I wade into the dark green water. I tear up in short-lived anticipation before my whole body is swallowed.
Dr. Lisa Dallas Ripley invented Diver when humans had killed almost everything on the planet, including most of the humans. Knowing she had the resources to survive anything fate could throw at her, she continued cross-breeding humans with every species she and her team deemed more fit to survive a boiling planet. It was made out to be some big, selfless act, like she wasn’t going to reserve it for the highest bidder. The ‘highest bidder’ didn’t exist, and 70+ years later, no one has been able to replicate what she created. Her only creations that quite literally live on to this day, are the superhumans. The people in Gaia with cells that regenerate. But everyone in Gaia has supplements to keep feeding the cells that preserve and improve them. The Impound taught me they’re made of any Aergian over 18. Me, in 11 months, and Paige in less than 24 hours.
Lise Ripley deserves to be dead.
At this point, I’m not as much swimming as I am floating submerged. I feel myself get heavier with each breath, my veins twitching, lungs swelling, helping me sink as I kick. Everything I touch is smooth against my skin, which has been folding over itself after all the time underwater. I’ve lost track.
Urgency grows in my brain, which feels like a two-dimensional void. I kick upwards, claw upwards and don’t meet air. Bodies naturally float, but since diver lets me breathe the oxygen in the water, my body is waterlogged. If I pass out, I’ll sink. I imagine my bones lying next to the skeletons of the city, long lost to oceans creeping inwards.
I break the surface. With each stroke of my arms, my brain clears. Paige is waiting for me. So close to being taken to the part of The Impound that I’ve never seen, to have God-knows-what done to her. “Paige…” I say. I spit out water. And then repeat. Self motivating.
Cyl helps me stand when I drag myself through the mud. “You handled that incredibly gracefully.” I doubt I will ever understand why this boy is so rude. “Everyone will notice that you’re out late.” “No they won’t.” I’m leaving. “Then that would give you 26 minutes to run back, change clothes, and get in bed. All of this completely silently by the way.” “Then stop wasting my time.” I start running. I don’t even ask how he’ll be paying me.
In hindsight, I would have had time to ask though, because he followed me. Anything out of the ordinary is automatically a problem, but despite that I thought it was fine. I thought it was fine when he caught up and grabbed my arm. There was a brief moment of panic when he twisted it upwards and to the side. Then I do what I hope is blacking out.