Breed Book 3, Part 13

CW: Cris is let into the general detention facility among the other children. Most are sleeping, a few are weeping, one is despondently punching the floor. I struggled with adding a warning to this one. It was a hard chapter to write, and it’s just as hard to read, but it kind of should be read for that reason. Because we did this. And maybe aren’t doing it on the same scale, but we still are, and we need to understand that ugly truth.

Cris was still uneasy on his feet; most of the healing was done, but his knees buckled with every step he took. He was glad to see a friendly face waiting at the gate when the guard unlocked it, and closed him inside. “I was worried, when I woke up and you were gone,” he said.

“I’m about halfway through my EMT training, so they let me help out in the infirmary. But I don’t stay there all day. A girl needs to get her vitamin D.” Angela gestured at the ceiling, and the sickly-looking fluorescent lights fifty feet overhead.

“This used to be a warehouse,” Cris said.

“Still is. Only the ‘wares’ it houses now are people.”  

Fully half of the kids on this side of the fence were curled up under flimsy foil sheets, the kind that came packed in emergency kits. “They don’t turn off the lights?”

“That little twinge of humanity you’re feeling? They don’t have that. You’re just lucky it’s late. Come the morning, this place will be a chorus of crying children, whimpering for their parents. You’ll have to hear it eventually, but this way, maybe you get one good night’s sleep before it haunts you for the rest of your life.”

That was when Cris heard it, the slap of meat against something that didn’t give. There was a moment’s silence, before it was filled with a half-choked off sob, and another crack. This time he followed the sound with his eyes, to a toddler, alone, near the corner of the enclosure, sobbing and pounding her fists on a mat.

“Not sure that’s the,” Angela stopped, as Cris started across the room at a brisk pace, “crap.” She rushed after him. He was kneeled beside the toddler before she caught up to him.

“Hi,” he said. “Hey.” She bashed the mat again, neither seeing nor hearing him through her tears. Her tiny fists were cracked and bloody, and he couldn’t help but wonder how long she’d been at this. “Hey,” he said, gently touching her shoulder. She leapt back, scurrying across the floor in a crabwalk. “It’s okay,” Cris said, holding out his hand. “I know it’s scary. I know you feel alone right now. But I’m here to help.” Her tiny face contorted with anguish, as her fragile mind tried to understand if he really was safe, but even the possibility was too much, and she ran at him, hitting him hard enough she knocked him onto his back. She stared at him, terrified he might react angrily. He laughed. “I think you have a bright future as a tackle.” She grabbed onto his leg. “Is that a position, or just a thing you do?”

“Yeah, something told me you weren’t much the football type,” Angela said.

“Can I see your hands?” Cris asked. The toddler wouldn’t let go of his leg, so he balled his hands around her and the fabric she was clutching.

“Wait,” Angela did her best to block what he was doing from view, as his hands started to glow.

“See?” Cris asked, wiping the toddler’s hands off on his pants, to reveal that her hands were healed. She stared down at her hand for an instant, before jumping at this neck and latching on.

Cris stood, lifting the toddler with him because she wasn’t about to let go of him. Already, he could hear another child nearby weeping, muffled very slightly by a foil sheet. “What the hell happened to this country?” Cris asked, the words shuddering out of his mouth.

“You’re not from around here, right?”

“You are?”

“Born in Texas. They burned my documentation in front of me, then took me into custody; I have duplicates, but no way to get to them. But I asked the question because it’s been fucked up here. My grand dad got beaten nearly to death after 9/11, because apparently bigots can’t tell the difference between a Guatemalan and a Saudi Arabian- most of whom weren’t in on the terror attacks, by the way. Dad got deported a few years ago, because he had a name similar to a cartel smuggler. It wasn’t worth the hassle to come back, so I haven’t seen him since. So you ask what happened? America took the mask off. I guess I always knew she wasn’t a looker, but I’ll admit some shock as to just how ugly she really is.”

“Jesus,” Cris whispered.

“That’s a lot of the problem. American Jesus doesn’t give a shit; his followers, even less so. They’ve got a new messiah now. A cruel fucking orange one.”

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