The Storylet Experiment: Part 3

After they ate their supper in silence, Lily tidied up while keeping an ear out for any sounds of distress as Oren bathed. He had one coughing fit so bad that she almost burst through the door with no regard for his privacy, but it subsided quickly and was replaced by the noise of him getting out of the bath. Then once he was dressed, she saw him off to bed, double-checking that his oxygen tank was full and his mask was fastened properly. Oren made his usual half-hearted objections at her “babying” but was so worn out by the end that he was asleep before she even left the room.

Still cautious against waking her brother, Lily silently slipped out the backdoor and headed towards the small brick outbuilding in the back of their sliver of a yard. The low thrum that could be heard from anywhere on their lot (and for the several around it she imagined) intensified when she entered the building, causing a vibration in her chest cavity that was familiar by now. She walked over to the large aether machine that took up almost the entire room and heaved open its access panel. Cogs of smudged, greasy steel churned inside while tiny brass pipes flowed in and out and between them. A small vial, no longer or thicker than her thumb, was filled with a multi-coloured liquid that shimmered at the heart of the machine.

Lily was seized by a sudden urge to rip every single part out viciously, and then spend countless hours, even days, puzzling it back together again. But soon night would fall, and such an exercise to occupy her mind would become deadly. So instead she curled up in a corner and let the machine’s noise cover her sobs.

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