Short story and title photo by Wanda Sonnemann

They brought her in the morning. A fragile looking girl with scorched marks in her face. He didn’t even know her name, yet he felt sorry for her, for the pain she was going to live through.

During the day he only heard whispered rumours. Her infection was worse than usual. And yet she had not cried; she was strong. But the augments were not fully compatible. She would not live through the night.

Those few who had already lived through the surgery took turns watching over her. When he started his Vigil in the early hours of the following morning, she was still alive, tossing herself around beneath her bed sheets when she should be resting her torn body. There was nothing he could do.

She went still. He did not dare checking her sensors, afraid of what he might find. The first light of the coming day, still colourless, found its way through the windows. She moved.

She was watching him. Big, gleaming eyes in the darkness. He could hear her breathing now.

“Hello.” she muttered: “Who are you?”

“Remo.”He replied, shocked to hear her speak. He remembered not being able to utter a word for days after his own surgery.

“My Name’s Remo. What’s yours?”

“Iva Lynn”

There was a long silence. Her gaze scanned the dim room. His own breath was thunder in his ears. The quiet was deafening. His mind was empty of words.

“Are they going to kill me?” Her Voice was so anxious, he’d almost laughed out loud.

“Why would they do that?” he wanted to know.

She stared at him.

“At home everyone said those taken away because of dust sickness never return. That’s why I tried to hide it.” Her eyes held him captive. “Can I go back then? I miss everyone.”

A sad chuckle escaped his throat.

“No. I am sorry. You are no longer considered human.”

Her fingers found the metal augments in her face.

“Because of these?”

“Yes”

“Can’t I remove them?”

“No.” He kept his voice very soft. “They have been drilled into your skull. Without them you would be dead. With them, you have a chance. Look.” He leaned towards her, pointed at the shiny metal in his own dark face: “I have them as well.”

Her slender hand reached out to him. Her own face was a gleaming oval with a gust of pale hair cascading down her back. There was an eerie beauty to her.

“They say that if you live through the first night you are going t live through it all” He added, trying to give her some hope. Her hand sank onto the blanket.

“And you survived?”

“Yes” He didn’t tell her that he had been found at a much earlier stage of the infection. And that he had otherwise been healthy and strong, while she looked as if she had not eaten enough for quite a while. Which seemed likely, considering where they had found her.

“What will happen if I survive?

“You will go through training and the pain will eventually cease.” He smiled at her. There was enough light for her to see it now. “You will be one of us.”

“Friends?” She asked him uncertainly.

“Family.” He promised, although there although hours of uncertainty lay still before them.

She smiled back at him, fierce and determined. “Then I’ll live through the night.”

He wanted her to be right.

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