Cradles the Brain: A Book of Short Tales

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Conductivity Ep 2 (Pt. 3)

“Hanna, wake up.” Hayley shoved on Hanna’s shoulder, pushing her onto her back.

Hanna sat up, snatching Hayley by the shoulders. “What?” she asked, blinking her eyes rapidly.

“Clear the fog from your eyes. A meeting of the Keepers has been called. It is time.”

“Where were you? They called the meeting almost half an hour ago,” she asked, staring at the clock on the wall.

Other girls chattered from their beds, filling the bunk house with echoing noise.

“I had to hide out for a bit. The other kids are not happy with me, meaning we need to hurry.”

“What’d you do this time?”

“Doesn’t matter, just get up,” Hayley hissed. She bent down and grabbed two packs from under Hanna’s bunk. Hanna threw her covers off and slipped into her boots.

“Which course?” Hanna asked.

“M.”

M? Boy, you must’ve really pissed off those kids.” She laughed.

“Keep your voice low. Nobody needs to know where we’re at.”

“Well, we are in a room full of cognizant girls.” Hanna shrugged. “Think we can make it to the training zone in time?”

“I think so.”

They slipped on their backpacks and filed out of the room. The eldest girl there, and also the Bunk Keeper, stopped them at the door. She poked at Hayley’s backpack.

“And where do you two think you’re going?” She cocked her head to the side, a strand of dark hair falling next to her eye.

Hanna blurted, “I have blood in my underwear!” She suddenly started to cry. “I don’t know how I got hurt.” Her sobbing intensified, catching the attention of other girls.

Bunk Keeper Copper gawped at Hanna, only being fifteen herself.

Hayley glared at Copper. “We have to get her to the infirmary. Are you going to stop us?”

Her face slack, she shook her head. “Go—go for it.” She opened the door, punching in a code.

They quickly slid out, waiting until the door closed to speak.

“Good acting, Hanna. That improv group has done wonders for you.” She sofftly laughed as they glided down the hallway.

“No sergeants wandering around. How weird.” Hanna mumbled, keeping pace with Hayley.

“Remember the way?”

Hanna nodded. “Left here.”

Hayley did so, her eyes trailing the graffiti covered corrugated walls.

“Right… Right… Left… Go straight…” Hanna whispered, keeping her voice especially low in front of closed doors.

Hayley looked back to Hanna with a smirk as they reached a heating vent in the floor. A typical adult couldn’t hope to fit even their thigh into the opening, but a certain size of child could fit. Hanna whipped out a screwdriver and got to work as Hayley kept watch.

“Hurry before someone sees us on the cameras,” Hayley whispered.

Hanna pulled the fourth and final screw free, lifting the vent panel off the floor.

“Backpacks first,” Hayley said, stuffing hers into the hole.

Hanna followed suit, keeping an eye out for anyone watching. “You first,” she whispered, hoping Hayley would hurry. “I don’t want you to get caught.”

Hayley, smiled. “We won’t. We’ve got it all planned.” Hayley sat on the ground, feeling a slight warmth puffing from the vent. She stuffed her small combat boots in and shoved off.

Hanna watched Hayley’s head disappear into the darkness, listening to her body slide along the metal. After counting to ten, she grabbed the vent panel and sat down.

Not a soul passed through the hallway. She looked up to the camera, her eyes still dark with war paint, fearing that someone was watching her. Hayley had always told her that fear was something to be overcome. It was something to be squashed. So, Hanna lifted her arms above her head, holding the panel on the tips of her fingers and slid into the vent. The panel caught as her fingertips left it, and she funneled after her sister.

It was dark, and despite the warm air, the sheet metal sucked the heat from their small bodies, even through thick camouflage uniforms. Hanna slid down, catching speed quickly. She would need it when she rounded a bend below her. Her feet abruptly kicked out as her body slid down this right angle. She pulled her face back in time to miss the sharp edge of the venting’s upward curve, although it was impossible to see. On her back, she slid for what felt like forever, the slick feeling of her uniform finally coming in handy. Her feet dropped off an edge, something she was not expecting. This wasn’t in the schematics. Before her boots could catch the venting wall facing her, she slipped into the void, her forehead hitting the upwards sheeting and then the sheeting facing her. Her head swam and her lungs floated as she fell down in complete darkness. Her heart soared, threatening to escape through her esophagus.

The impact knocked the wind out of her. Pain shot up from her toes to her knees. She settled there for a minute, gripping her legs in the dark. After a few seconds of catching her breath, she clicked her tongue. Hayley clicked back, and Hanna followed the sound, finally bumping into Hayley. They crawled forward in a previously decided, mutual agreement not to speak. The venting had opened up since the drop, making it easier to move around than they had expected.

Hayley chewed on the tip of her tongue, curious as to why the schematics differed from the actual system. Without the option to bounce the idea off of Hanna, Hayley felt at a loss for thoughts.

They crawled on until they bumped into a wall, then crawled on more. Nervous sweat broke out on Hayley. She didn’t want to lead them into something they couldn’t handle but knew staying was not an option, even before they had dropped into the vent.

The school was suffocating them.

With hours of learning and activities, the girls had no time to talk. They slept as soon as they returned to the bunk house, having no energy to even ask how the other was. They got along well in classes and during training hours, yet they missed the bleakness of school and the highlight of seeing each other at the end of the day.

The school allowed for creative expression, introducing them to things like coloring outside the lines, or papers with no lines, something Hanna and Hayley had never thought even existed. In the beginning, they reveled in the emotional relief, letting tension go through creative and aggressive outlets, but that time was over.

They had both agreed that life in the school was not their life. The other children were too happy for them, always asking to partner up, not realizing each Hanna and Hayley had an eternal partner. Hanna was the half Hayley was missing, and Hayley was the half Hanna was missing.

Hayley realized she could see the walls of the vents. She scurried faster on her hands and knees, pushing the backpacks in front of her. Around a bend, she saw it. She clicked her tongue twice, and Hanna quickly clicked back. Hayley climbed over the backpacks and reached back. Hanna slid a flathead screwdriver out of one of the packs and handed it to Hayley. She snatched it and pried on the vent. A few, tense minutes passed as Hayley pried on each corner. Satisfied with it, she leaned back on her elbows, hiked her foot back, and kicked on the vent cover.

It flew outward, landing a few feet away. Hayley looked back to Hanna with a smile. Tears rose to Hanna’s eyes and she grabbed Hayley’s face, holding her forehead to Hayley’s. They separated, took a deep breath, and Hayley slid out.

She landed on sand, something she vaguely remembered from a past family vacation. The smell of salt barreled into her lungs and sunshine assaulted her eyes. Hanna shoved the packs out and tumbled out after them, landing on her shoulder. She scrambled to her feet and brushed herself off.

The sea lapped only twenty feet away. Seashells covered the beach, which stretched out as far as the eye could see. The sun sat at an angle in the sky, blinding the two girls.

Hanna admired the sea as Hayley looked around. The venting protruded from a rock and led into a larger rock. Seeing no one, Hayley ran down the beach to look around this rock. She found nothing.

Breaking the code, Hayley said, “It doesn’t make sense. We just crawled through all that ducting and,” she paused, “now we’re nowhere near the school.”

Hanna shrugged, encapsulated by the ocean.

An engine started nearby, startling the girls. Hayley tackled Hanna, covering her body. After a few minutes, Hayley stood and helped Hanna up. Hayley peered around the rock they had just exited, spotting a parking lot full of armored trucks. She gasped.

“Hanna,” she whispered, beckoning her sister closer, “it is the men that took us.”

Hanna gasped. She whispered back, “What do we do?”

“We hitch a ride.” Hayley slipped on her backpack and threw Hanna’s at her. “Be quiet. No talking. And follow orders.” Hayley watched the men move around, loading things here, unloading things there. She saw no children but knew these were the trucks in charge of hauling kids like her.

When she thought no one was looking, Hayley ran. Hanna followed close behind. They ran as quickly as two eight year olds could go, finally making it to the cover of a truck. Hiding behind a tire, Hayley thought about where to hide.

A man set a trunk next to them, startling the two. He did not see them and left before they could make a noise, exposing themselves.

Hayley lifted the lid, finding it empty. She peeked around the tire, seeing no one, and hopped inside. Hanna’s eyebrows knit together, and she shook her head. Hayley’s hand popped up and waved her in. Hanna sighed and pulled herself into the trunk. Hayley closed the lid and prayed.

Someone picked them up. They bounced up and down as the person walked and then were jarred as they got set into the bed of a truck. Hanna closed her eyes as soon as she heard the truck start up. She would rest as she used to on long car rides.

Hayley lay crushed up against her sister and the wall of the trunk with her eyes wide open. They scanned the darkness, searching for her next inspiration. Her inspirations always came when she stared at something. They started out as small images and through hard thinking and mental role playing, they always turned into films. She would watch them play out before her, analyzing every possibility, every flaw, until she knew she had the correct plan. In a trance-like state, Hayley watched as she entered her old home and took revenge on her makers.

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