Of Earth and Ice
a sci-fi web-serial
by Jeremy C Kester
edited by Beth Townsend-Smith
Evie steadied herself. This was her first time attempting to walk since waking up in the clinic. She’d never imagined having to adjust to using a prosthetic limb, but given the circumstances she was eager to try anything that would allow her to prove herself.
She was in a strange position. Being the only member of her caste ever awarded an officer’s rank, she felt vulnerable. She was a target. Everyone wanted her to fail. Even her own caste wanted her to renounce her rank and fall back in line.
Only Gerald was anxious for Evie’s success.
The prosthesis was uncomfortable. It was ill-fitted but long enough to replace the bottom half of her leg. She had lost it up to the knee. Given the limited resources, there weren’t many alternatives for her. Her legs quivered as she placed her weight firmly on the ground.
“Take your time,” her therapist, Jo, urged. Although he tried to sound compassionate, his tone did not translate. “This isn’t going to happen quickly for you.”
Evie ignored him. She had no interest in listening to anything that she felt might encourage her to give in. The hard socket chafed against the soft padding of the gauze. Though it had been weeks now since losing her limb, the wounds all felt fresh. She winced as she shifted forward, trying to take the step. Before she knew it, she felt herself falling.
Jo rushed over to his patient, who was now on the floor cursing loudly. “It’s alright,” he tried to say reassuringly, before getting hit with an elbow as the young woman threw her arms back in an attempt to recover her balance.
Unable to get up, she instead spun around and sat down on the ground. She unbuckled the straps from around her thigh and threw the prosthesis across the room. “FUCK YOU!” she screamed. “FUCK YOU!”
Hand on his face, Jo looked exasperatedly at the young girl. For weeks he had been working with her just to reach this point. He knew that Evie was stubborn, but he had hoped that she would understand the painful and slow reality of the process of learning to walk again.
Only two castes above Evie’s own, Jo, like most of the people in the colony, remained steadfast in their dislike for Evie’s kind. He reasoned that she should feel damn lucky for an Iradile . Any other of her caste would have been left out in the cold. Why does this scum get treated any different? She should know her place.
He wanted to take her in for the blow to his jaw, but such accusations wouldn’t work against an officer. Militia rules superseded social law. But Iradiles were not supposed to be officers.
“You need to take your time. It will not happen on the first try.” Jo’s voice was stern and angry.
“I don’t need to take any goddamn time! I need to walk!” she yelled, commandingly. “Help me or leave, but don’t you dare hold me back!” She glared at him. Jo could only focus on the tattoo above her eye. The mark of the Iradile. It made him angrier.
Not saying a word, Jo turned and walked out of the room. It was as Evie expected, though it hurt her the same.
Alone, Evie began to cry. It was the first time in a long while that she felt comfortable enough to do so. She let the tears drop on to the floor, leaving perfect little circles of moisture. She watched them carefully as she regained her focus. She allowed herself to feel pity for only a moment. No one else besides Gerald would do so, and she was not going to allow herself to be swallowed by it.
She wiped the tears away, her hands shaking. They were still bandaged, as well, save the fingers she had remaining. As they grazed past her eyes, she saw them. The tips of her fingernails were white, something that she had never noticed before. She never was able to get them that clean before. The grime that usually coated her nail beds had previously left them almost permanently black.
Shaking herself, she crawled over to the bed and pulled herself up as best as she could. She grunted and hissed from the seething pain. The wounds were not healed enough and she was no longer allowed any medication for the pain. Such comforts had been allotted to her only briefly and swiftly taken away. She swore that, if they could have, they’d have somehow harvested back what they had put into her body. It was only her rank that had graced her with the bare minimum of relief.
Once on her foot, she pushed herself away from the support of the bed and simply stood. She didn’t move; she just stood, letting her mind focus on the pain and the quiet of the room.
She could hear the hum of the reactors through the thick concrete of the colony. It was where the warmth was generated from. Evie was used to the cold, though, or at least she was used to less heat. She wavered a little as she forgot that she was concentrating on balancing. Already her leg was beginning to quake from standing. She wasn’t strong enough, but she knew that if she wasn’t able to make it happen, she was doomed.
Previous Episode: 2 – Deep Sigh
Next Episode: 4 – coming on February 18 2015