- Author : Sarah Hans
- Narrator : Ibba Armancas
- Host : Alasdair Stuart
- Audio Producer : Marty Perrett
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PseudoPod 660: Tiny Teeth is a PseudoPod original.
From the author: “This story was inspired by and is dedicated to all the people around the world who have been forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, especially those who didn’t survive it.”
fantasies of self harm, politics (abortion)
by Sarah Hans
I risk walking to the doctor’s office from my workplace, because it’s only a few blocks, and I think the fresh air will do me some good. I don’t tell anyone I’m going alone, or that I’m walking. I know what they’ll say. Outside without an escort, without the safety of an enclosed vehicle, my heart thrums like a tap dancer’s quick steps. I should be scared or thrilled by the prospect of imminent danger, but I’m too frightened of the news waiting for me at the doctor’s office to be worried about much else. As I walk, I become more and more convinced the news reports about the gangs of feral children, with their pictures of mutilated bodies and wide-eyed reporters speaking in quavering voices, are attempts to manipulate us with fear. To keep us inside. My coworkers are fools to walk in groups, to rush from their cars to the office with Tasers and pistols clutched in their fists. There is no danger here.
But then I see the girl, and I know I’ve made a mistake. She crouches behind a bush, and when I spot her, I freeze like a rabbit. She locks eyes with me and rises out of the greenery. She’s maybe four years old, though that’s a guess. It can be hard to tell the age of a child who has been feral a long time, and I’ve never been around many children to begin with, even before the virus made them violent.
She wears a tiny pair of denim shorts and a purple t-shirt decorated with glitter hearts, both caked with gore. Her hair was once styled in pigtails, but one side droops sadly, and the other side is a crusted mass of red-brown scab in place of hair. Her face is twisted into a permanent snarl. Her front two teeth are missing, which would make the expression she wears comical if she didn’t have her hands held at the ready, fingers extended to grab, filthy fingernails ready to claw. A growl issues from low in her throat. Her eyes–bright green, shimmering like beetle wings in the sunlight–are filled with hatred and bloodlust. She smells like stale urine and blood and roadkill.
I fumble the pepper spray from my pocket as she lurches toward me. I hold down the trigger and close my eyes, flinching away from the stream. I remember the instructions: always aim, always look where you’re pointing your weapon. But I can’t look. I make a sound, a sort of squeal, the sound of a trapped herbivore facing a predator.
When I open my eyes, the girl is gone. Eyes squinted tightly shut and breath held against the burning cloud of pepper spray, I run the rest of the way to the doctor’s office.
Dr. Heiss steeples his hands on the desk. Behind him, the nurse flashes me a tight, sympathetic smile. I know what he’s going to say before he says it.
“Congratulations, Hailey. You’re going to be a mother.” He delivers the news as if it’s a pizza: factually, without inflection, without excitement or dread. But at least he has the good sense not to smile.
The tight knot in my stomach unfurls and bile rises in my throat. The nurse, who isn’t much older than I am, brings me water in a paper cup. I gulp it down, my swallows very loud in the quiet room. “How do I get an abortion?”
The nurse stiffens and moves away from me. Dr. Heiss frowns. “Legally, in this state, I’m not allowed to discuss the option. We can make an appointment for you with the gynecologist next door. You’ll like her a lot. She can guide you through the pregnancy.”
My heart hammers and the edges of my vision become ragged. I think of the girl with one pigtail, her depraved expression flashing in my mind, and a shudder ripples through me. “That’s it? You’re handing me a death sentence, just like that?”
He exchanges a look with the nurse, sighs, and leans back in his chair, letting his hands go to the armrests. “It’s not a death sentence.”
I crush the paper cup in my fist and throw it at him as I rise. “Fifty percent chance, Dr. Heiss. Fifty percent chance. I’ve been your patient for ten years and that’s the best you can offer me?”
“I’m sorry,” he sighs, “but you knew the risks.”
I pace the waiting room and bite my nails down to ragged nubs. I feel like I’m going to crawl out of my own skin, so I have to move. I don’t want to risk going outside alone, not with the girl maybe out there, but the waiting room feels like a jail cell.
There’s a woman sitting there with her kid on a leash and I can’t stop staring at them both. The woman is gaunt, hollow-eyed, and her son–it’s hard to tell a kid’s gender through the muzzle, but the t-shirt with a cartoon backhoe is probably a good indication he’s a boy–sits on the floor trying to rip off the oven mitts taped over his hands. Going by his height, he’s maybe three years old. He growls every time someone enters the office, and every time I pace past him. Everyone else in the waiting room sits on the far side, as far away from him as they can get, staring at their phones, pretending he isn’t the most grotesquely fascinating thing in the room.
My phone dings when I receive the text from Tyler: I’m here. I move for the door and the boy snarls and lunges at me, spittle flying. He brushes me with an oven mitt before his mother yanks his leash. I step out the door into the fresh air.
I slide into the passenger seat of Tyler’s sedan. “What’s going on, Hail?” His eyes are intense, frantic. He’s guessed why I went to the doctor.
“We used protection.”
“Urine tests don’t lie.”
“Did you sleep with anyone else?” His voice takes on an edge of panic.
I’m too numb to even be upset he’s asking me that. “No, of course not.”
“I just don’t understand how this could happen.”
“No birth control is one hundred percent safe,” I hear myself saying, echoing Dr. Heiss. “Abstinence is the only way to be sure.”
“Okay, so, how do we get rid of it?”
Seagulls wheel and shriek over the parking lot, looking for dropped tidbits. A couple approach the door to the doctor’s office and the gulls flap away. The man is pushing a stroller. The toddler strapped inside, wearing a pink dress and a muzzle decorated with shiny plastic jewels, screams like a banshee. The sound makes it impossible to think. Her open mouth is pink and red and her teeth are like white needles, snapping at the air. Her father walks robotically to the door, but her mother, for just an instant, meets my gaze through the windshield. In her eyes I see regret and exhaustion and bone-deep sorrow. She turns and goes into the office and the door shuts behind them, thankfully cutting off the screams.
“Can we just go home?” I ask.
“Can you give me a second to process this?” Tyler answers.
I sigh. “Abortions are illegal now.” Nobody would have children anymore if they weren’t.
“There has to be a way.” His hands grip the steering wheel hard, as if he’s imagining strangling his problems away.
“Of course there’s a way. But I can’t exactly google it.” My pregnancy is on record now. If something happens to the fetus, I have to be able to document a miscarriage, or I’ll face jail time. It’s pretty much my worst nightmare. I want to scream at Tyler that this is his fault, because I want someone to blame, and if we sit here much longer, I’m going to do it. Tears sting my eyes. “Can we please go home? We have some time to figure this out.”
“How long do we have?”
I press one hand against my abdomen. It doesn’t feel any different yet. How is it possible there’s a tiny monster in there, waiting to rip its way out of me? It doesn’t seem real. “Dr. Heiss said they can’t test for the virus until the second trimester. I’m about a month along. So we have about two months to figure it out. Obviously I want this thing out of me sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t have to be right this second.” I do want it out right this second, but I need time to calm down, think, strategize. I can’t just tell him to drive to the grocery store and and buy me a gallon of bleach to drink.
But damn, I want to.
My friend Anna knows a woman. For a fee, she’ll make a concoction. “It’s one hundred percent safe,” Anna tells me. “Legally speaking, anyway. It’s all natural, too.”
“What’ll it do to me?”
She shrugs. “Nothing that fetus isn’t going to do to you if you let it get any bigger.”
Anna goes with me. I want Tyler to see this through with me, but I know better than to ask him. He already won’t look at me, his eyes sliding away from mine as if repelled by a magnet. I’m losing him. I need this thing out of me and over with as quickly as possible so we can get back to our lives.
The woman’s house is on Fourth Street, in the dangerous part of town, a place I don’t often go. I glance anxiously at each shadow, jumping every time a bush rustles, but I take comfort from Anna’s confidence. She saunters up to the front door like she’s done this a lot, which she probably has. She’s always been the risk-taker in our friendship. I’m the boring one who stays at home and watches movies in my pajamas while Anna’s out clubbing. Not for the first time, I’m thankful for her resourcefulness, her bravery, and the path she’s blazed ahead of me. The gratitude almost chokes out the fear.
Almost. Down the street, under a streetlamp, there’s a silhouette of a small person, a small person with one pigtail and her hands held up, ready to rip and tear. She’s too far away for me to hear her, but I can almost feel the thrumming of her growl in my bones.
When the woman answers the door, Anna has to speak, because I’m temporarily paralyzed. “Hey, Dee.”
Dee is short, shorter even than I am, with white hair and a nose too big for her face. She narrows her rheumy eyes at us but nods understanding and opens the door, beckoning us in with a casual gesture. I glance back at the streetlamp, and when I’m sure the silhouette is no longer there, I follow Anna into the house. It smells like herbs–every herb except weed, ironically–and cat piss. There are four cats I can see, and I suspect there are more, hiding. My nose immediately starts to itch. I stay close on Anna’s heels, my heart thundering.
We go into the kitchen. Filthy dishes are piled on every surface, and crushed cockroaches cover the floor. There’s a litter box next to the oven, heaped with stinking piles of cat shit. Something foul-smelling simmers on the stove.
“You want the usual?” Dee asks, opening the refrigerator.
“Yep.” Anna places her hand on my arm.
I fish the bills from my pocket and offer them. Dee snatches them from my hand and draws a bottle from the fridge door, slapping it into my palm. I cradle the bottle in my hands, staring at it. My salvation is a gray-brown sludge in an old coke bottle with a piece of cork shoved into the opening.
“Should I drink it now?” I ask.
Dee snorts. “Take it home. Get sick in your own bathroom.”
“Is there anything else I should know before I drink it?”
“Drink it all, if you want it to work.”
So I do. Sitting at my kitchen table, dressed in the old clothes I usually reserve for painting parties and moving day, I drink the contents of the bottle. It has the texture of the sludge they give you for colonoscopy prep and tastes like stale beer. I have to alternate between gulps of abortion potion and soda just to get it all down.
Anna squeezes my hand. “I have to go to work. Just remember, you’re going to be okay.”
Later, as I’m sobbing on the bathroom floor through the worst pain of my life, I hate her for saying that. I’m pretty sure nothing will ever be okay again.
I visit Dr. Heiss early one morning before work a week later. He frowns at my lab results on the computer monitor. “How do you know you had a miscarriage?”
I try to crane my neck to see the computer screen but it’s angled away from me. “There was a lot of cramping and blood. Isn’t that what happens during a miscarriage?”
He nods. “Traditionally. But it appears you’re still pregnant.”
My stomach drops. “Could that be like, residual hormones or something?”
“Afraid not.” His eyes are very cold and blue when he looks at me again. “I’m not going to report you this time, Hailey, because your baby lived, but don’t try this again.”
I swear my heart skips a beat. “What?”
“I know parenthood is scary right now. But a cure for the virus will be found. It’s not fair to murder an innocent child because you’re scared of what motherhood will be like.” He rises and removes his glasses, casually sliding them into the pocket of his coat. As he strides from the room, his parting shot is, “Don’t be so selfish.”
I bite back the scream that rises in my throat. Selfish? He thinks I’m selfish. Selfish because a fifty-fifty chance I’ll survive the birth isn’t good enough odds for me. Because I don’t want to be like the hollow-eyed ghost-people with their snarling, muzzled monsters on leashes, living day by day because humanity’s last best hope is for a cure that might never come. I’m selfish, but he’s the one forcing me to live this nightmare for what? His moral superiority?
I dress myself with shaking fingers, remembering the vomiting, the blood, the cramping, two days of pain and misery and shitting myself, two days of dying from poison, then another week of missed work while I recovered myself, and this parasite is still clinging to life inside me. Rage makes my face hot. I have no idea what to do next. I think about wire coat hangers. I think about throwing myself in front of a car. If I miss anymore work I’ll lose my job. I’m already losing Tyler.
The door opens and I jump. It’s the nurse. At first I think she has my checkout papers, but instead she moves to me urgently and presses a postcard into my hand. “What’s this?” I ask.
“Don’t tell anyone where you got this,” she hisses, curling her fingers around mine and giving them a firm squeeze. She nods once, her expression intense, and then hurries from the room like a phantom.
The postcard is glossy and shows a small yacht, festooned with lights. Visit the Ophelia, it advertises. Contact us now for harbor tours, day or night! Perfect for your next ladies night out. There’s a phone number at the bottom.
I call outside the doctor’s office on the sidewalk. I should wait, or maybe call from a pay phone, but I’m frantic, impatient. While the phone rings, a car pulls into the parking space in front of me. The man driving the car has the empty look all parents have, so I’m not surprised to see the carseat in the back. I register the oddness that the creature strapped into it isn’t wearing a muzzle. I drop my phone in shock when the father steps from the car.
His arms and neck are covered in bruises and fresh scabs in the tell-tale half-moon shape of bites from a small, human mouth.
The screen on my phone is cracked so I have to call the Ophelia from the phone at work after I clock in. A smooth voice answers. “Thank you for calling the Ophelia. This is Kendra.”
“Kendra. I…a nurse gave me a card with…your number…”
“Are you pregnant and you don’t want to be?”
I’m not sure how to answer. All the air gusts from my lungs.
“I’ll take that as a yes. What we do is completely legal and absolutely safe. Can you come in tonight?”
“That’s our soonest opening. Do you have doubts about whether to go through with the procedure?”
Reality snaps back into place. “I just wasn’t expecting it to be so soon.”
“We want to help you get back to your life.”
“How is it legal?”
“Our doctors wait to perform the procedure until we’re in international waters.” Kendra sounds impatient, like she’s answered these questions so many times she has the script memorized. Before I can ask anything else, she says, “You’ll experience a little spotting and possibly a small amount of cramping, but it should be minimal.”
I suck in a shaking breath, my hand going to my sore belly. “How much will it cost?”
“Whatever you can afford. It’s a sliding scale thanks to our donors.”
“You have donors?”
“People who want to ensure women maintain their reproductive rights in these troubled times.”
A sense of relief washes over me. There are people who want to help.
My shift lasts until 7, so we set the meeting for 9 o’clock in the evening. I spend the rest of the day in an excited, terrified haze, getting little work done. When I get home in the evening, I tell Tyler the good news. He scowls.
“I might be cramping again so someone should probably drive me,” I say. “Anna will be at work, so I’d appreciate it if you could do it.”
He won’t look at me as he shakes his head. “I can’t do that, Hail. That’ll make me an accessory to murder.”
“What?” I reel back from him. “Ty, I need you right now.”
He still won’t meet my eyes as he fidgets with the cords on his hoodie. “It’s illegal. We could be prosecuted.”
“I told you, they do the procedure in international waters. It’s completely legal. And besides, what’s the alternative? Do you want me to die?”
“It’s not for sure that you’d die.”
I take two more steps back from him, my pulse thundering in my own ears. “I thought you wanted me to get rid of it. Do you want me to carry it to term?”
He shrugs, pouting. I used to think that pout was cute, but right now it’s making me hate him in a way I’ve never hated anyone. “I don’t know. Maybe. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week. I just wish you’d let me help you make the decision. It’s our baby, Hail.”
“It’s not a baby, it’s a monster.”
“It’s a little bit of you and a little bit of me–”
“And a whole lot of virus!”
“–and you just want to kill it.”
“It’s going to chew its way out of me in the third trimester, Ty.”
“They have medication for that now, tranquilizers and stuff.”
“And what then? Say I do survive. Now we have a monster child.” I’m shouting, images of the girl with one pigtail swimming in my vision. She’s strapped into a carseat behind me as I drive around town, running errands, hollow-eyed and miserable, a slave to a creature I never wanted to create. I’m so angry, it’s amazing my head hasn’t popped off my body.
“Only until they find a cure.” Tyler gives me his biggest, saddest puppy dog eyes, but it only sends a spike of fury through me.
“Oh my god, you’re delusional.” I’m so loud the neighbors are probably going to call the cops. “There isn’t going to be a cure, Ty. It’s been five years. This is it. Humanity is over. And we can live out the rest of our days together, happy, or we can live them out trying not to be eaten alive by the monster we made.”
“But it’s our monster. We made it. It’s a sin to kill it.”
“You don’t even believe in God!” I grab my jacket and purse from the hallway and head for the door. I need to get out of here. Forever.
“We created it and we should take responsibility for it,” he calls after me.
“That’s exactly what I’m doing,” I retort. His keys are in the bowl by the door and I grab them on my way out. I hope Anna will be okay with me sleeping on her sofa, and maybe also picking up my stuff later, because there’s no way I’m ever coming back to Tyler. I never want to see him again, and I can’t get his DNA out of me fast enough.
It’s been more than a year since I wrecked my car and stopped driving, but I remember how to do it. I can’t bring up GPS directions on my cracked phone but I know the city pretty well, even at night. A driving instructor once told me never to hold in my tears while driving, because they’ll blur my vision, so I let them flow as I maneuver my way through the city toward the harbor. I must look a hot sobbing mess to anyone who glances my way at a traffic light, but it’s not like there are many drivers out after dark to see me, anyway. I try not to think about Tyler, I really do, but it’s like my heart hurts so much, my brain doesn’t even have a say over my body anymore.
I’m not far from the harbor, just after making a u-turn in a parking lot because I’m pretty sure I turned the wrong way, when flashing red and blue lights appear behind the car. I didn’t do anything illegal. Did Tyler let his plates expire? My rage toward him flares anew. Automatically, my foot lifts from the accelerator and the wheel turns to the right, towards the curb.
Then I realize with a sinking feeling that Tyler must have called the cops and reported his car stolen. And he may also have told them where I was headed, what I was going to do. If I get pulled over, there’s a really good chance they’ll arrest me. And if I get arrested, who knows how long they’ll keep me. I’ve read of women being handcuffed to hospital beds until their infected babies were born, because they’d tried to end their pregnancies. It was for the safety of the unborn fetus. To these people, I’m now nothing but a glorified incubator.
Sucking in a breath, I mash the accelerator, twist the wheel to the left, and head for the freeway. Anna once ran from the cops with me in the car; she did it by getting on the freeway, driving like a lunatic, and getting off on the next exit, where she pulled into a parking lot and turned off the lights until our pursuers had passed. It was the most terrifying twenty minutes of my entire life, until I found out I was pregnant. I’m not keen to reproduce the experience, but I also can’t think of anything else to do.
The police car’s sirens blare to life and my heart clenches tight in my chest. A disembodied voice shouts, “Pull over.” Now, in addition to car theft and murder, I can add fleeing the police to my rap sheet. My head spins and I ignore a red light to turn onto the freeway ramp, dodging two SUV’s.
I swerve between cars, speeding more than I ever have before, but I’m not Anna, in the end. I flinch at every honked horn and screech of tires. I’m not fearless enough to drive at a speed that will shake the cops. I take an exit ramp, tear through a mall parking lot, and head again for the harbor. The police car pursues me doggedly. Panic claws its way up my throat and I find myself cussing and shouting and slapping the steering wheel in frustration.
“PULL THE CAR OVER AND GET OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP.”
I direct my car east, toward the harbor, and run three red lights, somehow miraculously avoiding an accident on the first two. On the third, a Prius spins out of my way and I see them, surging toward me from the north side of the intersection: more blue and red lights, more cop cars cars swerving to avoid civilian vehicles but clearly in hot pursuit of me. I scream and curse and gun it through the intersection, hurtling toward the harbor. I nearly clip the fender of a flashy red sports car and the driver rolls down his window to shout curses at me, his words quickly lost to the wind.
Bright light illuminates the road in front of me, and I hear the steady drone of a helicopter’s blades as it hovers above me. There’s more shouting on a megaphone but I can’t make out the words over the revving of my engine and the rushing of my own blood. My rear-view mirror is filled with flashing blue and red lights.
I can see the harbor’s lights, now, and the dark expanse of ocean water just past the docks, smooth like black glass. I’ve almost made it.
A police cruiser pulls out in front of me and comes to a dead stop across both the eastbound lanes. I slam on the brakes, turning the wheel hard. My car slides until it’s parallel to the cruiser, and when they make contact with the crunch of metal on metal, I look over to see the officer staring back at me is a woman about my age. We’re only a few feet apart, separated by a pane of glass–her driver’s side window, as my passenger side window has shattered, the seat filled with glass. She points her service revolver and shouts orders at me.
My car’s engine is still running. “Please,” I beg her, tears streaming down my face. “Please.”
Her lips curl, her nostrils flare. And then she nods, almost imperceptibly, and lowers her weapon. My foot hits the accelerator and I’m off again, skidding around her cruiser and hurtling toward the harbor.
There’s a sharp sound that must be gunfire, and Tyler’s car careens down the dock, the steering wheel jerking and leaping in my hands. Outside the driver’s side window are quaint buildings advertising boat tours and warehouses probably filled with fish and other seafood harvested from the ocean. Outside my passenger side window, piers extend from the dock, each lit by a tall street light. Dozens of boats moored to the piers bob in the water. Everything looks hazy through my panic.
I count the piers until I arrive at number four. I slam my foot on the brake pedal and the car screeches to a halt. Behind me, police cars do the same. Not one, not two, not three–Christ, five police cars, at least. Overhead, the helicopter illuminates my car with a spotlight. I wonder if there’s a camera crew filming this, if Tyler’s at home watching the news right now.
What is happening? When did my life become an action movie?
I want to freeze, all my instincts telling me not to move. But I have to, or I’m going to lose everything. If the police know I’m pregnant, they won’t shoot at me, right? I fling open the car door and barrel out. Behind me, cops yell commands. Time slows to a crawl. To my right, on the pier, a shadowy figure motions me to a dinghy tied in the water.
Shots ring out. A bullet grazes my leg with a sensation like a bee sting and I stumble, going to the ground. The spotlight glares down on me. The air is filled with the thumping of helicopter blades, the shouting of police officers, the screeching of tires as more backup arrives.
I’m going to die. I’m sure of it. They’ll either shoot me now or my monstrous offspring will chew its way out of me in a few months. I wish I’d spent more time traveling. I wish I hadn’t given up playing the guitar. I wish I’d apologized to my mom for that fight we had. I pull myself to my feet and limp toward the pier. A bullet in the back now is better than being eaten alive tomorrow.
But there are no more bullets. The spotlight swings away from me. I turn to look as it glides over the ground and lands on a crowd of children running full-tilt toward me, emerging from behind the warehouses to tear down the dock with reckless speed. Behind me, the cops point their guns in my direction; before me, a horde of feral children approach at a rapid sprint, foaming at the mouth, making terrifying snarling sounds and snapping at the air with their small, sharp teeth. They claw at nothing as they run with fingers tipped in sharp, glinting fingernails. In the bright spotlight, I can see that one of them is the size of a four-year-old and has only one pigtail. There’s something wrong with her mouth, and I realize with an icy drop in my stomach she’s eaten away her lips, leaving only ragged chewed-up flesh around her teeth and gums. And the long nails on her fingers aren’t nails at all–they’re the tips of her fingerbones.
Pity, fear, and revulsion boil inside me. Her eyes meet mine, and for just an instant, I think about her mother. Does she sit at home right this very second, sobbing, wondering whether she weeps out of relief or sorrow?
“Hurry!” The person on the dock yells.
Her voice galvanizes me to action and I dash to the right, toward the boat, leaving the cops and the children to meet where I was standing. The cops open fire. The infected children know no pain, their nerve endings as good as dead. They can only be stopped by a bullet to the brain. Cops don’t want to shoot kids in the head and kill them–these days, that’s a capital offense. They’re taking body shots, and that does little to stop the onslaught. Screams echo across the water as the kids reach the officers, throwing themselves onto their victims with triumphant howls.
I race down the pier and clamber down a ladder into the metal boat. Three other women crouch there, staring at me wide-eyed. The pilot unties the ropes that moor us and jumps down into the boat with a grunt, making the dinghy slosh. She turns and pulls the ripcord for the motor. It sputters.
A child gallops on all fours down the dock toward us, screeching in animal excitement. I steel myself, grabbing an oar out of the bottom of the boat and preparing to defend us. My heart thunders in time with the feral child’s loping steps, hitting the dock with a sound like a rapidly ticking metronome, clomp clomp, clomp clomp.
But the motor starts with a satisfying roar on the second pull and the dinghy leaps from the pier and away with such alacrity it tips me over into the bottom of the boat. The child screams in fury, running back and forth along the pier and howling like a confused, rabid dog.
The other women help me to a sitting position. I turn to the woman steering the craft. “Kendra?”
“At your service,” a familiar voice says, her face invisible with the lights of the pier behind her.
“What did you do to piss off the cops?” One of the other women huddled in the boat asks. We watch until the feral children and the police become too small to see anymore. The helicopter continues to circle with its searing light illuminating the fray, but the sounds of gunfire and the thump of the helicopter blades become distant, like a fading memory. The metallic reek of blood wafts across the open water to us and turns my stomach.
“I told my boyfriend where I was going and took his car,” I answer. My insides feel scooped out and hollow, like there’s only echoing where my organs used to be.
“Rookie mistake,” one of the other women says, her tone sarcastic.
“You’ll be wanted now,” the first woman says breathily.
“Better than dead,” I reply. Tears cascade down my face. My old life is gone. Where will I go now? I wish I could call Anna, or my mom.
“I’m wanted in three countries,” Kendra says, and I can’t see her face in the darkness but I can hear the smile in her voice. “Most of the women on the Ophelia are wanted somewhere. It’s a mark of pride, for us. So, well done. And welcome to the sisterhood.”
My heart does a backflip. As we glide across the water toward the yacht, I have a distinct sense this is the moment where my life will change completely, forever. But as I lower the oar back into the bottom of the boat and look at the terrified women crouching behind me, I think that maybe, just maybe, this might be exactly where I belong.
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