I step toward the door, but something hangs onto the hem of my jerkin. I look back. It’s Sara, she pinches the leather between her fingers.
“Come back,” she says. “After. Please.”
Lamplight glistens in her eyes. She bites her bottom lip to keep it from trembling. She looks tired, deathly tired. Shadows hang from her sunken cheeks. Her face looks too large for her neck and her eyes too large for her face.
No, not just tired. Sickly. Starving. If my intention has been to care for her, I’ve missed something. What have I missed?
The screech of metal silences the whispers around us. Something sharp drags along the outside of the metal ruin. The young boys cry out and huddle into their parents. The elderly couple gasps. Fuchsia Eyes and I, we merely trace the sound with our eyes. It starts near the woman and boy and continues, like nails on the schoolroom chalkboard, to the door.
Something rips the blankets from the gap in the door. The storm outside screams through it. Fuchsia Eyes jumps to their feet, a knife drawn. The children scream, waking the toddler who howls in his mother’s arms. She shushes him desperately, terror written on her features. The elderly woman cries softly into her husband’s arms.
I feel the woman trembling through my jerkin. I turn and gently take her hand in mine. I kneel in front of her. Her brother pretends to sleep behind her, but his glittering eyes peer through slitted lids.
“It’s here for me.” I’m telling her, but everyone else listens. “Stay here until…” I hesitate, then sigh and place my mother’s locket in her hand. Then I drop her hand and stand. “Stay here until I come back.”
“What does it mean”–she asks quietly–“giving me this?”
I walk toward the door.
I trigger my koganzug. The nanomechs web over my skin and slip beneath my clothes. They close over my head.
“Leiden, what does it mean?” Sara cries.
Fuchsia Eyes meets me at the door.
“I will watch the door,” she says in a woman’s mellow voice muffled by the layers of cloth shrouding her. Just those two vibrant eyes peering at me from between the folds.
I throw open the door with ease and slip out. Then shove it closed behind me…
Sand spirals around my arms and legs like swarming bloodflies. Particles strike my koganzug, ricochet, and gust past, something I feel more than see. The storm blots out the sun, leaving a world snuffed by dust…
“Leviathan.” Kog’s voice sends a thrill down my spine.
Kog,” I answer.
“Come to play?”