– CHAPTER SEVENTEEN –
For the first time Clara did not wake up in gloom.
Bright light woke the young conduit. Fluttery, frantic light pulsed directly in front of Clara’s face. It was as if the light was teasing her, drawing forward than retreating, again and again.
Clara blinked. She rubbed at her eyes and groaned from the sharpness for the light jabbing at her vision.
Spots fading from her vision, she glanced around her prison space to find the source of the light. The light and the fool who thought it funny to shine the light directly in her face!
Fear struck her. What if they’ve finally come for me?!
After realizing no hands were reaching for her, Clara settled herself and noted several details about her—unfortunately—all too usual surroundings. Her cage door remained closed. Darkness pressed up against the conduit kennels; no was out in the gloom with a candle. Most importantly, the other conduits were awake. The light that woke her had drawn their gazes, a beacon in the night guiding a ship through a turbulent storm. Faces pressed against the bars of their cages, their hands gripped those bars as if letting go meant death by a mile-long drop.
Each set of hallowed out eyes stared at the ball of tinkling light hovering in front of Clara as it shifted into a shape reminiscent of a beautiful young lady. The brilliance of the light—blue light, Nite light—awed the captive conduits.
Tink! Clara blasted the Field with her greeting, trying to hold back the tears that had been lapping at the lip of her emotional pool.
Like the others, Wendy too pressed herself up against the bars of her cage, trying to stick her head through and in with Clara.
“C-Clara… is that…” Wendy pointed a finger through the bars and at the hovering Nite regarding her neighbor. “But it can’t be.”
Clara could not see the girl, but she imagined Wendy’s eyes bulging with the same wonderment she herself had experienced upon seeing the Field for the first time.
Of course, this was not the first time Wendy or the other young conduits had seen a Nite, the pixie-like inhabitants of the Field, usually no larger than a pinkie fingernail. Conduits saw the Field and its Nites everywhere, circulating around all living things, a twisting ribbon of life.
However, they had never seen a Nite that could shift into a tiny female form. That would detach itself from the Field and take intelligent interest in a human. Wait until they sensed Tink communicating with Clara.
Tink usually did not let other people aside from Clara see her, not even other conduits. In that way, Clara felt special, unique even among the freaks of the new world. She guessed Tink’s intent was just that.
Wendy kept pointing at Tink. A rude gesture. Tink did not abide rudeness. In the past, when Clara gave lip to the Nite, she let the conduit know her displeasure.
Bold as if seven-feet tall, Tink transformed into a ball of light, zipped over to Wendy in a shower of blue sparks, and shifted back to her dainty girl form to stand on the tip of the girl’s nose and bend over at the waist.
The Nite’s luminescence revealed a dark face framed by a matted nest of hair, the face too thin—hungry-thin. Underneath the tiny nose, a mouth frowned naturally in a pout. A set of large eyes, so light a shade of brown they were nearly yellow, looked out—amazed—from the wild tangle of hair. Wendy crossed her yellow eyes in attempt to take in the hazy details of Tink’s girlish form.
Mimicking Wendy, Tink jabbed a slim finger at the space between the conduit’s eyes.
Not. Nice. To. Point. The Field pulsed with the blips and pings of the code Tink used to communicate. Apologize, please, the Nite demanded.
Wendy shook her head, failing to understand why the Field was pinging against her own Field sense. She squinted and tilted her head.
“Nites don’t talk,” Wendy insisted in that whispery falsetto Clara remembered from the tunnels. “But this one… I could swear it’s trying to tell me something. It’s different, yeah? Clara?”
Tink stomped a foot.
She is so rude, Tink pinged to Clara. Who have you been hanging around with while I’ve been trying to find you, hmm?
“Tink! There’s no time,” said Clara a little too sharply. “No time for games, I mean.”
Who’s playing? She drifted over to Clara, pushing off Wendy’s nose in a shower of sparks.
Holding out her hand, Clara formed a landing pad for Tink.
For the first time, Clara allowed herself to weep.
Don’t cry, Clara. I’m here. Sorry it took so long. They have some barrier keeping me out. It… It feels like the Field but… not.
“Doesn’t matter,” Clara said softly. With a flick of a finger, Clara wiped her tears away. “Can you get back out? Tink, can you find someone? Can you get to Uncle Marty?”
The Nite’s energy composed body shook the way someone might wrinkle their nose.
When this junk pile stops moving it shuts down and the barrier drops for a short moment. I can get out then!
“Then do it!” Clara pushed the Nite away, puckered her lips, and blew out a breath of air. “Go. Find Uncle Marty. Find someone. Anyone. Bring them here to save us.”
Count on me, Tink blipped and pinged. Hold on and count on Tink to save the day!
“I am,” Clara whispered, taking hold of a promise and a hand. Lifelines. “Hurry, Tink. There is not much more time for me.”
Time ended up being shorter than Clara realized.
She had known there would come a time when the Junkers used her as they did the other conduits. When the pirates would slot her into the hellish rotation.
Just so happens, her entry into that rotation was the same moment Tink used to pass through the barrier the Junkers kept for… for whatever reason. Clara did not know the purpose for this barrier or for that matter, what the barrier exactly Tink mentioned was.
She had no more time to consider such issues.
Less than hour from when Tink left her, rough hands came for Clara. They dragged her out of her cage and brought her before the person the caged conduits whispered about while drowning in nightmares.
Captain Kell came to give Clara a special tour himself, an intimate introduction to the beastly golem’s bowels, to feed her personally to the beast.
Wanna read more? Turn the page to Chapter Eighteen by clicking here.
© 2015 Clinton D. Harding, All Rights Reserved
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