Through the glass she saw the children. Monitors lay overturned and Matt and Lily raged around the small ward, smashing equipment and throwing supplies on the ground. They were the ones screaming, raw guttural cries that didn’t belong in such young bodies.
Jenny and Xiyu Chang, Lily’s mother, were outside the glass. Xiyu was shouting at Ryder, demanding he let her through or do something to help her daughter. Jenny stared quietly, her eyes wide and her medical nightgown open at the back. Addie walked over to her and began to tie up the drawstrings tight. For heavens sake, could no-one think of the woman’s dignity?
Ryder held Xiyu away from him when she began hitting at his chest and thrust her at Anahera. “Make her calm down or send her out.”
He stalked over to her and she stroked Jenny’s shoulder once and turned to face him.
“They’ve been like this for about 10 minutes. Ana couldn’t calm them down. It looked like they were going to turn on her so I pulled her out. Any ideas?”
She frowned, chewing on her lip. “Where’s Tama?”
She followed his gesture and saw Tama curled up in a ball in the corner, his arms round his head, rocking. No help there then.
She’d have to go in.
She didn’t want to.
She looked up at Ryder. He seemed to think she’d know what to do and stupid as it might be she didn’t want to disappoint him. Jenny shuddered and began to cry, little whimpers that hid how much she was hurting.
She’d promised her.
“I don’t know if it will work but I’ll see if I can calm them down. Maybe they just need a different face.”
He shrugged and waved her towards the door. “Give it a go. If you think they’re going to turn on you then signal and we’ll have to sedate them, no matter how much Xiyu hates the idea.”
She could understand why. Having your child awake, even if they were screaming and out of control, seemed surely better than the coma that had shrouded them with deathly stillness.
Unless you knew why they were screaming.
Ryder held the door handle and looked at her from under his brows. “Ready?”
He unlocked and opened the door, she slipped in and heard him shut it behind her. The noise in here without the benefit of the glass in between was horrific. Worse were the expressions on Matt and Lily’s faces; it was fear, not rage, that contorted their features and drove them to destroy the things that their sore and violated brains saw as threats. She knew that feeling.
She stood for a moment before walking slowly out into the centre of the room, away from the machines and medical tools and with her hands clearly out and open in front of her. Lily whirled on her and then stopped, panting, confusion making lines on her brow.
“It’s okay. It’s just me. You know me. It’s Addie. I won’t hurt you. No-one is going to hurt you here. You are safe.”
She didn’t tell them to stop. No-one liked being told what to do.
Lily looked at Matt, who had also stopped and was looking at Addie with a screwed up, hurt look. That was interesting, they seemed to be working together, not apart.
“Matt, you know I would never hurt you”
His face puckered. “But you didn’t stop them. You let them take us. You all let them take us.”
The ache in her heart wasn’t just for them. “I know. It was wrong. It’s always wrong. But you are here now and I will help you now. If I can.”
“How?” Lily’s young voice rasped hoarsely. “How can you possibly help us?”
She shrugged. “Honestly I don’t know, but I do know I can do it more easily if you’re not tearing the place up.”
The kids looked around as if for the first time at the chaos they had caused. Lily bit her lip. “Will Doctor Rongoa be cross with us?”
She shook her head. “No. She doesn’t know what’s going on but she doesn’t blame you. None of us do.”
Maybe she should be using softer words, endearments, maybe moving to hug them, but she’d lost that part of her somewhere long ago. She could only go with what she knew. Her blunt words and still figure seemed to be working though; she could see red rage dying away, fear turning to anxiety.
She risked moving a step forward, her hands lowering. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
They shuffled to meet her and then, in tandem, their eyes rolled back in their heads and they dropped to the floor, like puppets whose strings had been cut. She threw herself on the floor next to them, feeling their pulses beating but weak.
Anahera rushed through the door. She checked their pupils and sat back on her heels, shaking her head. “I can’t tell until I’ve done more tests but I’d say they’ve slipped back into their comas.”
Ryder’s voice was terse behind them and she wondered briefly who now held back Xiyu, whose wails punched the air. “Lark, what happened? What did they say?”
She pushed herself to her feet, exhaustion dragging her muscles downwards. She met Ryder’s tense eyes briefly then flicked her glance to where Anahera and her assistant were lifting the children up to the remaining upright bed, moving on to see the mothers outside, Xiyu sobbing and pushing against Marco’s steady arms, and Jenny, silent and still. Tama stood in the doorway and something in his face made her breath catch.
She rubbed her face and let out a sigh as her hands found her hips. “They said that we didn’t stop them being taken. That we let them take them. And they’re right. It’s so wrong and we let it happen every time. They’re traumatised and in pain; can you blame them for letting that out?”
“Pain? Did they say they’re hurting?” asked Anahera.
She shook her head but kept her eyes on Ryder. “No. But it’s obvious. We let the monsters take them. They were as good as dead the moment they were taken away. And we let them do it.”
Ryder’s face was set but he didn’t look away. She finally let her hands drop and walked out, ignoring him as he reached out for her.
It was all going to happen again.
I’ve now finished the first draft of Dust Bound so felt it was appropriate to share a scene! I am really looking forward to getting into rewrites now.