Below is the first bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
The nebula filled her eyes, spun and swirled in orange and blue and yellow. She searched it for green, green like Linea’s eyes, looked for words in her head to describe it like Javi would as parts of it detached and drifted away from her, fading, replaced by the black backs of her eyelids and the feel of the bed under her. Tubes. Aching knee, aching head. Nanite itch and a ghost sensation of tremors in her muscles.
She opens her eyes and sees Trini–she sees the name, Trini, in her head, but it doesn’t find its way out of her mouth. So instead she stares and stares at her sister, no other words in her head but Trini, knowing that Trini shouldn’t be here, Trini should be at home.
“Hey, Sissie,” Trini says with a smile. Her chin is resting on the pillow next to Tace’s head. She stretches out a finger to run down Tace’s nose, a familiar gesture, but Tace doesn’t know why.
They sit there, and Tace keeps staring at Trini–her dark curls askew and greasy, her nose, her chin that means something, but Tace doesn’t remember what. Her hazel eyes and the smile that makes the tremoring feeling go away.
It’s not peaceful.
Tace spends a day throwing up, cold with a fever and shaking hard enough to dislodge monitors and tubes. Trini holds her through it when she can, stands back and talks to her, reassuring and calm, when she can’t–and Tace knows that Trini shouldn’t be here for many reasons, even if she doesn’t know the words for why, but she also knows no one will quite dare to send her away.
Slowly the medics get Tace’s body under control. She falls asleep; Trini is already asleep, her head on the bed next to Tace’s hip.
She’s not sure how long she’s been in the bed or the big room with all the machines; there’s been a lot of sleeping and the lights never entirely brighten. She knows, though, that Trini should have left long ago; there’s an urgent, uncomfortable feeling in her back and shoulders insisting, No, no, wrong.
The medics take Trini aside to talk to her. When she comes back she sits on the bed and takes Tace’s hand. Trini’s hand is small and soft; her thumb rubs at Tace’s. “They said I should talk to you more,” she says. “They’re not sure how much you understand, but if we want you to get your words back, I have to feed you some. Or something. That’s a terrible metaphor.”
Tace feels her mouth twitch and Trini raises her eyebrows in a pleased Really? “I have no idea what to talk about,” she says. “I guess … our parents are much the same. They’re messaging me every day–they want updates on your progress and to berate me for shirking my duties by being here. Because clearly the demesne will burn to the ground if the Plenum rules in my absence for more than a week.” She rolls her eyes, a half grin on her face. “Mother’s pleased because my being here is polling well. The people still adore you.”
Tace’s shoulders and back relax. Trini openly defying their parents is familiar. Trini keeps talking: about their mother’s treatment options, their father’s restlessness in retirement, and Tace drifts through Trini’s exasperated tone as through the scattered debris of a battlefield until she falls asleep again.
“Stop.” Trini reaches out to catch Tace’s hand and pull it away from her scalp. “You’re rubbing it raw, Tace, quit.”
Tace snatches her hand from Trini’s grasp. Glares at her. She knows the nanites in her head are itchy. Nobody believes her, they all say there’s no way to feel them, but she does.
“Do you want nasty scars all in your hairline?” Trini asks. Tace nods, which makes her head spin, but she grinds her teeth through it to continue glaring at her sister, who throws her hands up and sits back in her chair with a frustrated sigh. “Fine, rub it bloody, whatever, it’s your face.”
In the end, she does rub her scalp bloody, and the medics sedate her to get her to stop. The nurses shoot Trini dirty looks, but none of them have the nerve it would take to ask the Cisara of Harekaanan why she didn’t stop her sister from rubbing her skin raw.
copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.