Tear Eater

I was born with no tears. Ask me why I was here, traveling deep into the Garden, and I would say it was because of that. Oh, there were other factors. I’m strong, she’s my friend, I could never break a promise; any of those were good reasons, but it always came back to the tears. Katy never had that problem. She cried all the time. It’s what I liked about her.

“Laura, you’re moping again.” Katy’s breath came out in deep puffs. “The way you’re acting, I would think you were the one dying.”

“Yeah, you might think that.”

She looked at me and then turned away. “We’re almost there.”

She had been saying that for the last two hours, but I didn’t mind. Why should I? Instead I watched Katy’s back; the fragile rise and fall of her chest, the way she stumbled over the thick roots. I know lots of Augs wouldn’t have wasted their time with her. Looking at the way her legs trembled, how her breathing got tighter, I could see why. Naturals didn’t last, especially when they’re sick.

I moved ahead of her and cleared the path. She looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. The other Augs were probably right about her, but then again, they had all their tears.

I took a step forward and walked straight into the path of one of the Mishaps. This one looked like a big dog; floppy ears and everything. The only difference was that it had at least two inches over me and I was not a short girl. It lowered its head. We didn’t move. Its nostrils flared.

“Are you going to kill it?” Katy didn’t look at me when she asked that. Her eyes never left the Mishap. I could tell what she was thinking.

The Mishap’s thick brown coat rippled. Its lips pulled back, revealing teeth glistening with saliva and blood. It moved. I killed it.

“He looked like Beast.” Katy was crying.

I wanted to remind her that she hadn’t even liked Beast. Beast was a small white mutt with gray patches, but Katy had cried when he died too, so I said nothing. Instead I went over and ran my hand down the thick brown fur of the Mishap, wiping the blood from my hands, and waited for Katy’s tears to stop. I wanted to cry with her. I wanted to cry for all the different Mishaps that were wandering the Garden, discarded because they didn’t quite turn out as expected. I wanted to know what it felt like to have tears spilling from my eyes, but those tears would never fall. When Dad arranged my pre-birth, he made sure to have my tear ducts removed. Instead he gave me strength, agility, and all the augments he could afford. All he wanted in return was to never see his daughter cry.

I looked up and saw how low the sun hung. “Let’s go.”

We walked until Katy’s legs gave out. She flopped into the grass and laughed. “I think we should make camp.”

It didn’t take long. We sat in the grass, listening to the all the Mishaps shifting deep in the Garden in search of Paradise. It grew darker and Katy moved closer to me.

“Do you regret coming here?”

“No.” I paused. “I want to see them too.”

She smiled. “I hear they’re beautiful.”

“People are afraid of them.”

Katy shrugged her shoulders. “People are always afraid of something.” She pressed closer to me. “They have white wings with small blue dots on them. I heard that after they drink tears their wings turn completely blue.”

She could barely keep her eyes open. I told myself she was just tired.

“Probably. Scientists used to do a lot of useless things like that. Still do, even with the laws.”

Katy nodded against my shoulder and we were quiet again. I listened closely to her breathing. It was like the flutter of wings.

“Hey.” She tilted her head to look at me. “Will you cry for me?”

I leaned my head back, gazing at the sky, and looked for wings. “That’s cruel.”

Her fingers brushed mine. They were cold.

She shifted. “It’s all right. I’ll cry for you.”

I looked at her and she closed her eyes. The flutter of wings grew fainter and then stopped. I looked up once more. The moths didn’t come.

I should have waited for daylight, even as an Aug the Garden was treacherous, but I didn’t. Instead, I lifted her in my arms and carried her. I walked for a long time. None of the Mishaps came out. Maybe they recognized me as one of them.

The terrain got rougher and I stumbled, catching myself before I dropped her. I looked at her face and she was smiling. I tilted my head up to the moonlight and felt my heart tightened. Something brushed my cheek. I pushed it away. It brushed my cheek again. I twisted my head and saw the white moth. It fluttered back and forth and then, slowly, its wings turned blue.


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