The Seventh Hour(15)

By: Tracey Ward


The guy closes the door behind him, plunging us back into darkness. He comes to the clean side of the bed to hand me the clay cup he’s carrying. He’s careful not to let our fingers touch.

“Thanks,” I whisper faintly.

He grunts in reply.

I bring the cup to my lips hesitantly. I’m relieved that it smells normal and when I take a sip it’s surprisingly cold and clean. I risk a larger drink, then another, the cold liquid soothing the raw feel in the back of my throat.

“What happened to my shoulder?” I ask over the rim of the cup.

He looks away, giving me another profile glimpse of him. “It was dislocated. The doc popped it back in while you were passed out.”

“It was dislocated?”

“Yeah.”

“How?”

“Probably when your ship sank, don’t you think?”

It’s an odd answer in that it’s not an answer at all. I open my mouth to press him further when the door swings open again. A shorter shadow stops short.

“What’s with the candle?” she asks, reaching for the doorframe. “Why are the lights off?”

“Because I didn’t want to blind—“

Snap.

The room bursts with light brighter than the lightning in the storm. I cringe, my eyes screaming at the intrusion. My head spins with a renewed dizziness.

“That’s why,” my new best friend answers. “I was trying not to blind her.”

The room begins to slowly take shape as my eyes adjust. The clay cup in my hand is shiny with lacquer and perfectly formed, almost identical to the cups we have onboard the Dashers. The desk on the wall and the table next to my bed are covered in a similar lacquer, black and glossy. The thick blankets draped over my legs are soft, the linens on my pillow crisp and clean. The clothes on the strangers staring at me from opposite sides of the room are well tailored. Their shoes are clean and mended. The hair on the woman in the doorway is combed smooth, glossy in the light pouring down from the ceiling.

“Do you want me to turn the lights off again?” she asks.

I stop myself before I shake my head. I don’t know if my stomach could take it. “No. Thank you.”

I’m glad I can see clearly but nothing about the scene is reassuring. I’m trapped in a room with two Moles, probably far underground, and I’m deeply injured. My shoulder isn’t the worst of it; it’s my head. I can’t get it right. The dizziness is more debilitating than a broken leg. I wonder if they’ve done something to me or if there’s something about this place. Maybe a gas leaking up from the ground that I’m not used to. One their lungs have learned to live with. Maybe I’m being poisoned to death with every breath I take.

“What’s that smell?” the woman asks, her nose scrunching up tightly. “Is that vomit?”

The guy juts his chin toward me. “It’s her. She’s thrown up a couple times.”

I look at him in the light for the first time, and he’s not what I thought he’d be. He’s not as pale as I expected. His skin isn’t translucent, not webbed with blue veins the way I’ve heard whispered by the crew on the ships. It’s actually a little ruddy. Healthy looking. His features are flatter than mine, less angular, blunter, but his eyes are totally normal. Not black the way my father told me they’d be. They’re blue, cerulean and deep. Annoyed.

“Something wrong?” he asks coldly.

I recoil from his tone, shaking my head. Immediately wishing I hadn’t. I have to close my eyes, taking several deep breathes to keep from turning back to my bucket.

“She can’t move without puking,” he tells the woman, his words warmer for her.

“That’s odd.”

“She’s an Eventide,” he replies, as though that explains everything.

The woman hums thoughtfully. “I’ll be able to give a more thorough evaluation now that she’s awake. You’ll need to step outside.”

“I need to check in with Captain Fuller.”

“Go. I have this under control.”

“Thanks.”

I open my eyes to watch him go. He looks at me one last time before stepping away. He looks like he wants to say something, but instead he jerks open the door and disappears behind it with a decided click. I’m grateful that he doesn’t slam it again.

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