The Seventh Hour(14)

By: Tracey Ward


“Where am I?” I whisper roughly. My lips ache and crack with the movement. When I lick them they taste of sea salt and copper. The sticky feeling on my skin smacks of dried brine. Wherever I am, dry or not, I’m still wearing the ocean.

“Gaia,” the shadow answers dully.

“I don’t know what that is.”

“It’s a town.”

“Where?”

“Outside Porton.”

Things are coming into focus. Not the shadow, but the space by the candle. The wall behind it leads up to a ceiling that merges seamlessly, both made of the same material. The same stone as the floor I threw up on. It’s everywhere, on all sides, and there’s only one place I know where that makes sense.

The mountains.

“What am I doing here?” I croak mournfully.

The shadow takes an impatient posture along with a little more clarity. I can tell it’s a man, but how old or what he looks like I’m not sure.

“You’re throwing up all over the room,” he says irritably. “That’s what you’re doing here.”

“You’re a Mole.”

“And you’re a Posher.”

I frown. “I’m a what?”

He steps closer, carefully avoiding the puddle I’ve created. “A Posher.”

I can see his face cut in half by shadow and candlelight. He’s young, my age, with pale skin and shockingly dark hair. I can’t see the color of his eyes. As far as I can tell they’re black as night.

“You’re a princess,” he continues, his contemptuous tone making me shiver.

“I’m not a princess.”

“That’s not what your arm says.”

I pause, willing myself to breathe deep and even. “You saw my tattoo.”

“It’s hard to miss.”

I glance down at my arms holding me up on the edge of the bed. They shake with exertion and an unfamiliar weakness, a deep burn down in the joints, but the black markings are clear in the candlelight. A circle to represent the sun with three rays swirling out from its edges.

The more I look at the spinning pattern of the rays the more I feel like I’ll vomit again.

I shake my head, trying to clear it. “It doesn’t mean what you think it means. I’m not what you think.”

“You’re somebody important.”

“Trust me,” I mumble, closing my eyes against a rising dizziness, “I’m not.”

“Then who are you?”

“I’m—it’s…” The world is swimming again. Flying. It soars too high, dives too deep, and suddenly I can’t breathe. I lean over to vomit again but nothing comes out. There’s nothing left. “What’s wrong with me? What have you done to me?!” I demand.

A black metal can appears under my face, his white hand retreating quickly from the line of fire. “I don’t know, but here’s a bucket. I’d love it if you didn’t flood the whole hospital in puke.”

His tone is biting, his words clipped and annoyed as I hover over the floor in abject misery.

If I had anything in me to throw up, I’d miss the bucket on purpose.

“Water,” I groan. “I need water.”

I hear his feet shuffle over the floor, the click of a door opening roughly. Light spills into the room.

“Since you said ‘please’,” he mutters sarcastically.

He bangs the door shut behind himself.

Hostile as he is, I’m shocked to find I’m more afraid without him here than I was with him in the room. I’m shaking scared to be alone.

I should get up. I should try to get out of here, wherever here is. I’m probably buried so deep down in the mountains I could dig a hole in the floor and hit lava. And I’d give it a shot if I thought I could walk. The world is spinning faster and faster, constantly shifting, throwing me off balance. I feel like my brain is sloshing from side to side. I can’t get used to it. I can’t get my bearings, and even if I could I’m pretty sure my shoulder would give out on me with one swing of a hammer into the floor. It burns in the muscles, in the joint, in a way I’ve never felt before. When I test it out it protests angrily but it moves. It’s not broken.

The door snaps open. I catch a glimpse of the hall outside. It’s brightly lit, almost blinding.

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