Dry (778 words) by M Bae

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Charles turned his head and shot back a look at Miriam that said, [i]and why not?[/i] There was something frightening in his eyes. Hopelessness given way to something calm and deadly—defiance, determination. She had seen that look all too often as of late, in piecemeal media coverage of the demonstrations they were permitted to see. It was the same as the face the Unquenched wore as they were beaten and gunned down in multitudes.

[I]Don't,[/I] she said again, louder.

It was well past curfew and there was nobody around at the fountain. Miriam wished the Cherubs were here to stop what was about to happen, even if that meant getting in trouble herself. She would plead curiosity, reckless but innocent of heresy. [I]We just wanted to see it, Father, we did not mean anything by it. Please forgive us.[/I] What was the worst that could happen? A couple of weeks—or a few days, if their confessor was in an agreeable mood—in the meditation chamber. Of course they would have to suffer the Inquisition for years to come, watched and questioned at every turn, but that was far more preferable than consequences of what Chares was about to do.

But that was wishful thinking. She knew all the Cherubs were at the plaza tonight, because of the demonstration. [I]A big one,[/I] she'd heard one of the priests say earlier that day, [I]bigger than London last month, or even Moscow.[/I] [I]What do they want this time? [/I]Another had asked. [I]What else? What they always want.[/I] A spell of silence, and then: [I]Do you think there will be blood? Brother, there is always blood.[/I]

No shots were fired as of yet—none that she could hear anyway. But it was only a matter of a time. The Unquenched were a desperate lot. They had disturbed her deeply that one time she got to see them with her own eyes, looping around the old cathedral building in a long line of haggard faces, waiting for their daily allotment of dihydrogen monoxide and clutching to their plastic bottles like icons of faith. Always living in that state of utter and irrevocable need.

Charles had hardly seemed to notice their wretchedness, even though he was looking out the protective glass of the armored mobile the whole time. Later, when she spoke of what she'd felt—pity, fear, revulsion—in the privacy of their new Garden, he had simply nodded and quoted the Scripture: [I]For he that thirsts must needs die, and is as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.[/I] But it must have had affected him somehow, deep down, in ways she could not understand. And if she, his bone of bones and flesh of flesh, could not understand, who else could?

[I]Go back,[/I] said Charles, [I]I don't want you watching.[/I]

[I]You can't do this to me,[/I] said Miriam. [I]We're not supposed to drink. We're supposed to be one.[/I]

[I]We are,[/I] said Charles.

[I]You'll die! Please, Charlie, please, listen to me—[/I]

[I]I won't,[/I] said Charles. [I]You can't die without having lived[/I].

[I]I don't understand, [/I]said Miriam.

[I]You will.[/I]

Miriam was crying now.

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