Soon? No clue.
A voice, soft and lilting, invaded the void.
“What did Sister May mean… about the ‘restructuring’ thing? That it would involve the ‘entirety of the institution’?”
Jer lay back, head punching a small divot in the dune below him. He looked up at the night sky—the twinkling blanket never ceasing to amaze him—and scratched his chin in thought.
“S’a Company thing: harmless. We’ll need to give them names, serial numbers… that sorta thing. I wouldn’t worry about it.” He felt a warm weight against his chest and allowed his eyes—and chin—to shift downward for a moment. A face-full of curly locks quickly prompted him to return his gaze to the stars above.
The feminine voice piped up once more: “And those men with guns?”
“Guards for the scientists,” Jer concluded, tracing a particularly enticing curve of celestial lights with his slate eyes. “Probably has to do with the annual core sampling at the mines in New Kilkenny.”
“Yeah, but they didn’t have them last year.” The weight shifted on Jer’s chest shifted, and he was suddenly staring into a pair of deep, brown eyes. She was frowning. Jer hated that: she shouldn’t do that.
“There also wasn’t a union forming a year ago.” The relaxing orphan settled his arm across his companion’s lower back—a warm saddle between two peaks. He had been cold before, the desert sand serving as a sink for all of his body heat, but now…
Well, now the temperature was much more pleasant.
“But nothing, Dulce,” he gently warned, rubbing the girl’s back with tender care and giving her a meaningful look. “I want you to stay away from the west-side meetinghouse from now on.” The girl’s frown deepened, and Jer pressed onward. “It’s dangerous to be near them, honey, especially with those Company men here. Promise me you’ll stay away.”
Dulce snuggled closer, burying her head in Jer’s shoulder and squeezing his sides with her thin, yet powerful, arms. She stayed like that for what felt like hours before speaking, voice hitching, breathless and weak.
“I… I promise…”
And the warmth Gerald felt soaking into his chest became something unbelievably terrifying and wrong; a moment of clarity flashing inward and outward as could only happen in a dream…
Blood in the sand.