by H. A. Titus -
Hazy whiteness blurred with colors as they moved in and out of his line of sight. The sound filtered to his ears, sounding similar to the time that Denton had shoved his face into a vat of brine for salted bug meat.
The one thing that he could clearly feel was the pain—the throbbing ache in his right wrist, and—not really pain for his left hand. More like a cramped, prickly feeling. Like someone had been clutching his hand tightly for hours.
One word, a familiar word, floated by, and he grasped at it, rolled it around in his head like a bearing, until he understood it.
He forced his eyes to focus. They felt bruised and ready to fall out of his face.
His sister's blue eyes came together, clear in the blur. "Hey, sleepy-head!"
A second face joined his sister's, a woman in white with a funny-looking cap on her head. "Stay calm, Clock. Your brother just went through a lot of trauma—you shouldn't excite him."
"Trauma?" Cog muttered, trying to sit up. His right wrist felt weird. He was putting all of his weight on the wrist, not the palm of his hand. Why? Was his hand asleep and bending under the wrist weird?
He looked at the empty space where his right hand should be. A splotchy red and white bandage wound around the stump of his wrist.
His heart lurched. "Clock?"
"It's all right, it's all right," the nurse whispered hurriedly. "You just had an accident."
Accident. His memories came flooding back. It hadn't been an accident. Money had run out. He hadn't been able to find work for two weeks. He'd been stealing food for Clock and a meat vendor had come after him with a knife.
The nurse's lips drew together. "Such a shame," she murmured under her breath. "Such a waste." She turned away. "I suppose I should contact the orphanage about you two. Goodness knows that you'll need someone to take care of you now."
Clock's blue eyes flared. "Don't you worry about us. Cog's got a mind of metal and gears. Right now I bet they're spinning so fast that there's smoke just about ready to come out his ears. So don't you worry about us—Cog can take care of us. Right, Cog?"
Maybe so. Maybe not. But he wasn't about to go to an orphanage, not after the horror stories he'd heard from runaways.
Cog grinned at his sister. He had to be confident, for her sake, even though his own insides felt like gelled bug's blood. "Sure, sis. Sure."