Chapter VI: Schwarzwurst
My body shot up from the covers.
I panted heavily as the sweat dripped from my brow. I ran my hands over my damp face and through my hair. My fingers brushed the back of my head, where that raised scar rested.
I swallowed roughly.
That nightmare haunted my sleep since the event. Amara's death, I wasn't taking it lightly. The past two nights, Levi had to wake me from my dreams, even though he allowed me to share his bed. I couldn't shake the guilt, the memories.
I was on my own.
"Get up. You're late for your chores, brat," Levi said unexpectedly. I looked at the door opening to see a non-to pleased man. His arms were crossed and I could hear the drumming of impatient fingers.
I nodded, "Yes, Sir." I shifted the covers.
"Tch, make sure you don't get any oil on the table this time. Took a shit load of effort to-"
I forcefully interrupted my superior, "I-I want to see her."
I heard Levi's uncomfortable silence.
Levi sighed a deep breath, "I don't believe in revisiting the dead. She's gone. What's done is done." I licked my lips before I stared into his cold eyes.
"I-I don't believe it, Sir. There-there are things I need to say. Please, Sir. She's-Amara is my best friend. I would have died without her, " I said as directly as I could. Still, I was unsure about pressing Levi. I clutched the blankets.
I choked a few tears, "I-I just want to say good-bye."
"Are you sure about this, Levi? I mean we are talking about a child seeing a dead body. Just saying it seems-"
"There's nothing you can say to change the memories she saw. The brat's seen death. No point in restricting the reality of the shitty world, now."
I listened from the other room as my caretakers bickered about the situation. Isabel was also against me seeing my friend. For once, Levi was on my side. Eventually, I emerged from my old bedroom. The squeaky floor and my raspy breaths gave away my hidden figure.
"The rule is still in effect, brat. Patch now," Levi commanded. My head drifted from his intense gaze. My hand fished inside the jacket's pocket.
"She doesn't need that Levi-Bro. No ones going to-" Isabel's contradiction was cut short. Levi made his way towards me.
"I'm not taking anymore chances. That damn thing is going to be hidden."
I stood quietly as Levi pulled the strings tightly. The black patch covered my eye. Levi didn't realize the humility in this. He didn't understand the hurtful feelings this cover up caused me. I didn't want to be different. In my mind, this singled me out.
The rule was stated two days ago.
In the presence of others, indoors or out, I was to wear the eye patch. I was not to be seen without it basically, until bed.
I heard the final pull. My lungs let out a slight sigh.
"Now, you may proceed."
My face was hidden in Isabel's clothes. I was instructed to wait until a sheet could cover her body. And as expected, I did as I was told. Together Isabel and I stood. She let me hug her through the entire moment.
"Alright," Farlan huffed. He still had not accepted the idea.
I gave Isabel a final squeeze before I slowly pulled away. Mentally, I braced myself. Though, I had relived the event and dreamt nightmarish thoughts, nothing compared to stepping back into the scene. My heartbeat elevated.
A hand rested on my shoulder.
I looked to see Levi. He nodded. His permission, his encouragement, gave me bits of strength. Nevertheless, I resembled a nervous mouse. I would take a step, then flinch, then I would take another and stop. My jaw tightened. The scent of old blood pierced my nose.
I spun my head around. My trio of caretakers stood watch. I gulped the nerves and continued. As I neared, I saw the corpse. The red stain on the concrete wasn't completely gone. I cradled my injured wrist. I toyed with the splint, even against the pain. Finally, I surrendered to the tension and dropped to my knees.
I couldn't see her beautiful face.
My eyes scanned over the lumpy sheet. Spots of red could be seen trying to bleed through. I let out a shaky sigh. Then with a bowed head, I pulled the beige feather from my inside pocket. Earlier, I had tied a small pebble to the end. The rock's red and brown hue blended well with the ground. It was difficult to swallow the entire scenario. There was my dear friend, frozen, lifeless, while I kneeled over her with a beating heart and caretakers who watched over me.
Amara, never experienced love.
"I'm-I'm so sorry, Amara. Amara I'm sorry," I tearfully said. A trembling hand lifted the sheet and placed the feather inside her pant pocket. I lay the cover back down, "There, now you can fly."
I let the emotions run down my cheeks.
"Elke, common lets go," Farlan said. His presence shadowed behind me. I, however, shook my head.
"If it's ok, I would like to stay a little longer."
Footsteps scuffed the pavement, "Farlan, let her be. We have obligations to fulfill today. When she's done, she knows to return home," Levi said. His tone was unusually soft. Farlan eventually agreed. Isabel patted my shoulder before they all took their leave.
I sat in the company of my dear friend.
Time passed leisurely, and as it did I took the moments to explain everything to her. I mentioned the guilt. My tongue voiced the concerns of the dream. I discussed the fears that were dwelling deep within me. How I was scared to be alone. How I was terrified of the monstrous disease that was consuming my eye.
"How-how am I suppose to live like this, Amara?"
My friend was unresponsive.
"Tell me, what should I do? This-This hunger," I whispered. I rocked back and forth. I had already checked under the sheet and was relieved to know that I had not even taken a bite out of her. It was all in my head, or so I thought.
Amara remained quiet.
I stopped rocking, "You know you're starting to creep me out."
Again, nothing was mentioned.
"I guess I better go," I sniffled a dry sob. I scooted towards my friend. There she lay covered. Suddenly, I noticed the color of the fabric that concealed her body. My eyes widened at the sight. Why had I not noticed it before? Goosebumps traveled up my arms.
"Why-why is it blue?" I asked nervously.
Were my dreams becoming reality?
After collecting myself and shaking off the horrible sensation, I made my way home. Having to leave Amara was difficult. It was hard to say my final good-bye. It took strength to walk away. I had kissed her on the cheek. Then told her she could spread her wings that we would indeed meet again someday.
"I'll be fine," I told her.
I headed down the usual path. I passed the typical vacant buildings and ignored the weary homeless. Things seemed like the usual. That was until a loud crash halted my tracks.
Fearing another confrontation, I continued on my way.
My heart exploded with concern. Even my muscles twitched at the familiar voice. Isabel's yelling sent little alarms throughout my head. Everything inside me screamed to find her, to save her. Without thinking, I raced to the scene.
I zipped into the depths of the maze like city. My feet carried me around a stack of crates and boxes. I made a few left and rights before venturing upon the sight of my caretakers. I stood in the light of alleyway. My mind was scrambled like eggs and frying like them too. I couldn't comprehend what I was seeing.
"Elke! Elke it's alright-its alright-" Farlan tried to comfort me.
There was my trio of guardians all bound and forced on their knees. Levi's face was smashed into a mud puddle. I cringed, knowing his cleanliness habits. I saw Isabel's worrisome face. What was happening? A group of members dressed in moss colored capes diverted their attention towards me. A broad chested man with blue eyes and fine blonde hair zeroed in on me.
"Now, who might this be?" The stranger asked. I took a step back.
Isabel wormed under the restraints, "Don't touch her! She's not apart of this!" I couldn't take my eyes off the man before me.
"She related to any of you?" He questioned.
"No! Leave her alone! Elke-" Farlan grunted vigorously. He tried to get to his feet.
The blonde stranger ignored the threats. His hand began to reach towards me. His fingers neared dangerously close. Panic stung within me. My uncertain eyes happen to glance at our leader. Levi's stoic face burned into me.
"Run brat! Go-run!"
I couldn't believe what I heard.
"Go now!" Levi yelled. His mouth spewed the muddy water.
I stumbled back with doubts. I pleaded with Levi. I couldn't leave them. No, I wouldn't. I tried to muster up some words. Except Levi overpowered me.
"Fucking run! Don't stop, don' look back. Run, go now!"
The stranger advanced and soon others began to follow his lead. With a final look at my friends, I took off. I could hear Farlan and Isabel encouraging me to run faster. I could also overhear the sounds of chasing footsteps. Shouts and commands to stop were following too. I did as I was instructed, I didn't look back.
My stride lengthened and my lungs expanded. I allowed my arms to pump me forward. The balls of my feet kept me light and accelerated my pace. I opened my airway and fueled my body.
"Damn she's fast!"
"Engage 3DM gear!"
It didn't take long for the followers to disappear. I ducked under a broken canopy and headed straight for home. I figured I could seek shelter under the staircase. I would hide in the shadows until my guardians came back. They were fighters, thugs, and rulers of the city. No one could overpower them. They would return, they always did.
Everything would be fine.
I didn't hesitate. My legs didn't stop. Even with an aching wrist and a tired chest I pushed onward. I owed it to my caretakers to follow their wishes. And I would so without a second thought. I saw our house. It was clear in view. I sped forward, the jacket squeaked the harder I ran. I dived under the concrete bridge and pushed myself as far back as I could.
You're safe. Just stay calm. Just keep quiet. I told myself.
The seconds turned to minutes.
Shouldn't they be back by now?
I coughed a few rattled breaths. I let myself relax. My legs slid away from my chest. The knots in my shoulders untied. I took a second to adjust my eye patch. My ears were too late to have detected the approaching danger.
A hand latched onto my ankle.
Startled, I let out a cry as the hand gripped tighter. I struggled to free myself from the hold, yet it didn't seem to matter. Within a blink my body was being dragged out of my cover. I twisted around and dug my nails into the ground. I pulled back with all my might. My arms trembled against the pulling weight behind me. The flimsy nails were no match, I felt the skin underneath being torn back. The joints in my legs screamed as they were being separated. I clenched my teeth in order to cease the pain. The circulation was depleting.
"Come here, you," a man said roughly. His hand practically swallowed my tiny bone. Still, I heaved forward. My shoulders grinded and strained the more I fought. I even went as far as to kick out. However, it was all pointless.
My fingers lost their anchors and when they did, there was no mercy as I was yanked out of my shelter. My chin and throat erupted in a burn as the friction from the dirt rubbed against them. I yelled and thrashed as my small frame was pulled upward. Multiple hands blinded my vision.
The last I recalled was another patch concealing my only sight, I wished for my caretakers, and the faint thought of death lingered.
I had been shuffled into a room, which was hours ago.
My throat was parched. My eyes stung with dried tears and my injured wrist only grew more inflamed the longer I had to wait. The same man who wrangled me out from the staircase had taken off the other blindfold. He too had blonde hair, expect it resembled more of a bowl cut. His upper lip had a fuzzy critter on it and he had this strange intimidating habit of sniffing me.
I scooted awkwardly away from him however, the chair would only move so far. I duct out of the path of his nose. My shoulders flinched at every sniff and snort.
"That's enough, Mike."
I was relieved when the commanding authority ended the interrogation. I adjusted the onset shiver that tried to crawl up my spine. I fiddled with my hands that were placed lightly in my lap. My pants were dirty and scuffed from the fight.
I heard a chair scrape the floor, "So this must be all very scary for you. I do apologize for the way you were treated earlier. Do forgive me, that is not normally how we handle things here."
I didn't meet his gaze.
I had been placed in some sort of square box. The sun's warm hues passed through elegant cut windows. The rich orange and red décor flooded the room. Papers were filed neatly across the table, while a ceiling tall stack of books consumed an entire wall. Everything smelled fresh. The area was both astonishing and threating. I hadn't been in such an exquisite atmosphere since, I was little and in the company of Dad.
"You hungry?" The blonde man asked. I peeked my eyes up, barely showing the slits of my irises.
"Wh-where are my friends?" I gulped my question. The stranger raised a brow before letting out a chuckle. I sunk in my chair, unsure of how to handle the situation. He leaned back in his seat.
"Ah, so they aren't related to you. From the way they sounded, I figured you must be at least a cousin? Sister? Perhaps even a daughter? Strange seeing criminals taking care of a child. Never would have guessed they would have any affection in their hearts. Especially that shorter guy, Levi."
My attention spiked, "Can-can-may I see him?"
"All in good time. First, I would like to know a little more about you. What's your name? I'm Erwin, by the way. It's a pleasure to meet you." The man leaned forward. I darted my eyes up and down.
"I-I'm Elke. Or-or Mister Levi calls me, brat a lot," I shrugged, "And it's nice to meet you too." Erwin thundered an unexpected laugh that caused me to jolt in my wooden chair. I had to steady myself so I wouldn't fall.
"That he would. Not surprised," Erwin trailed off. Then his eyes snapped back to me, "tell me Elke why is it you're living with them? They didn't kidnap you did they? What's come of your parents? Do you have other siblings?"
I debated about the rambling of questions. Would my guardians want me to spout all the answers? What did Mister Levi think of this man? I picked at the splint on my arm.
"If-if I answer your questions. Can I go back to-to my friends?" I pressed hopefully. Erwin lifted a grin across his face.
It didn't take long to explain my life leading up to being rescued by my trio of caretakers since, quite honestly most of my past was fuzzy. Once I took my final breathe of words, the room was completely silent. I shifted in my seat.
"Well that explains a heap of things," Erwin said. The tall man scooted from his chair, circled the table, before making his way towards me. I grew stiff; his figure was directly in front of me. "Except, the idea behind this patch. You're not missing an eye are you, Elke?"
I shook my head, "No-no. Mister Levi won't allow anyone to see it. It causes bad things to happen. It-it got my friend killed." I lowed my gaze, "because of this- Amara's gone. Because of me." I held in the tears.
The stranger didn't push any further.
I raised my head, "Please, can I see my friends? I-I answered your questions. Please-?"
A knock came at the door, followed by the crashing of a hyper fumbling person. My eyes were huge as I watched the individual dance across the room trying to juggle a plate. I nearly jumped out of my seat.
Surprisingly, the dish of food managed to land on the table in one piece. I starred at the woman. Her matching uniform and goggle glasses had me perplexed.
"Ah, sorry 'bout that! You know how those doorknobs can be-trickily little bas- Oh-" the women with brunette hair leaned towards me. She studied me like a shinny coin. "So-so is this the girl you were talking about Erwin? My-my she's a cutie ain't she?" I blinked at her dazzling smile. No one ever got that excited over my presence.
Erwin let out a sigh, "That she is. Elke this is-" The women bounced in her own words.
"Section Commander Hanji, dear! Oh Elke, I have a feeling you and I are going to have some great times together!" She leaned her head on her palms and looked at me dreamily.
"When can I see Mister Levi?" I asked again and completely ignored the women's welcoming sentences. I was growing antsy.
"Why don't you have something to eat? Here ya go, delicious blood sausage. Freshly grounded this morning-" The women cheerfully grinned as she moved the plate towards me. My stomach went queasy. There in front of me, was the closets resemblance to intestines I had ever seen. The dark crimson and black wrinkled tube of meat starred at me. The spicy aroma filled my nose.
"Oh silly me! You probably need help cutting, here-" Hanji lifted the silverware and began slicing the thick dead tissue. I could feel the bubbling nausea in my gut. Chunks of white and pink bits were sandwiched in the middle. My tongue fizzled a goody slim at the sight.
The forked bloody meat was lifted to my lips, "Here ya go! Doesn't smell wonderful?"
I didn't bother to hold it back; I leaned over and puked every nightmarish memory.
"Farlan! Isabel!" I shouted with pure excitement. I couldn't restrain myself from rushing passed the door and embracing each one of them. My heart filled satisfaction when they wrapped me in their protective arms.
"Elke, we're so glad you're ok," Farlan ruffled my hair. Isabel kneeled to my eye level and started examining me from head to toe. She pulled my clothes and stretched my arms out.
"They didn't hurt you, did they? Because if they did-"
I shook my head, "No-they gave me a new arm though." I held up my right limb. It was braced with a new, more flexible white wrap. "The bone doesn't feel so floppy now," I said.
Isabel let out a sigh.
"And she managed to vomit her stomach raw. Poor kid. No worries though. Oh I'm Hanji Zoe. Nice to meet you all." The women waved a friendly gesture.
"Thank you for returning her to us," Farlan said as he patted my head. I let out a small grin.
Hanji leaned over, "Nothing to it. She's a cutie and has such fine manners. Guessing you guys branded that into her, huh?" The goggled lady laughed.
"Elke has always been polite since the day we found her-" Isabel complimented me. Farlan let out a cough.
"Though there has been one major influence." I heard the stomping of perfectly executed steps. I didn't hesitate to run to him.
"Mister Levi-Levi!" I chanted. I halted in front of him. His cleaning mask was raised over his nose. The short man tucked a cloth into his pocket before he pulled the fabric down. His stern expression meant everything to me and I would respect anything he commanded, that included forceful hugs without permission.
"Tch, doesn't seem like you ran fast enough." Levi's words hit me. My excitement drained. I shrugged.
"Look at me." Levi raised my chin. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach.
I waited for my punishment.
"I'm glad you're alright, brat." His thumb rubbed a smudge from my cheek. I could relax, everything was going to be fine.
Sorry for the boring chapter.
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