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The cigarette looked like any other cigarette. Alice sniffed it. It smelled like any other cigarette.
“Go on,” Sing urged, “try it.”
A promise was a promise. Alice lit up and took a drag.
Nothing, Alice said, or tried to at least. But at that moment she felt a wrench deep in her gut, and some fundamental underpinning of reality slipped out of true. The lab around her blurred. Knife-sharp table edges melted into neon flowers into used genesplicers into Sing in the middle, looking nothing like herself with long hair and stone eyes even as her mouth moved in words Alice hadn’t known she remembered. I’m sorry, sweetie. I don’t have a choice. I’d take you with me if I could, you know I would.
Somewhere far away, a little girl wept.
Alice blinked. The lab wrenched back into alignment. The little girl vanished.
A tissue appeared in front of her face. “Take it.”
Alice wiped her eyes. The tears burned.
“Well?” Sing pressed.
“You froze. I called your name a few times, but you didn’t so much as twitch. Then you started–” She touched the corner of her own eye. “It worked this time, didn’t it? What did you see?”
Overhead fluorescent lights gleamed off Sing’s shaven scalp and traced the eager lines of her face. Scientific curiosity has no respect for individual feelings. The taste of whatever it was Sing had spliced together soured the back of her throat.
“Not much. The room got a little blurry, but that’s about it. I could tell you were calling me, but I wanted to see if something more would happen.”
Sing’s expression fell. “But you were crying.”
“Sensitive eyes. The smoke must’ve irritated them. Sorry.”
Sing’s mouth twisted. She turned back to her workbench. “I thought for sure this time… Well, thanks for your help anyways.”
Alice held up the remains of the cigarette. “Mind if I keep this?”
Sing flapped a hand over her shoulder, pulling a species of fluorescent orange daffodil towards herself. The pruning shears clacked in terse, frustrated bites as Alice let herself out.
Alice waited until she hit sidewalk before putting the still-smoldering stub to her lips. This time when she started crying she was ready for it. The tears tasted bitter and familiar in a way she knew from childhood, and wouldn’t have recognized until five minutes ago. I’m sorry, sweetie. I don’t have a choice. I’m sorry, sweetie. I don’t have a choice. I’m sorry, sweetie. I don’t have a choice.
She smoked until her mouth was sour as vinegar and nothing remained in her pockets but ash. Sing would have wanted her to, after all, and a promise was a promise.
|What I Write||
I write mostly science fiction and fantasy, with dashes of magical realism, horror, and straight-up weirdness thrown into the mix. I’ve fallen out of writing for a while now, and I’m slowly getting getting back into the habit of it.
Write at least 500 words per day.
Any amount is appreciated.