Page 17

“You can't say something like that and not explain it.”  Elle says.
Kinzie has already turned and is opening the door
They exit the apartment the same way they came in - except they use a ladder to reach the window.
Kinzie leads them through the city, using mostly empty alleys and side streets.  When they stop, Elle immediately aps Kinzie on the shoulder.
“What girl did you meet two years ago?”
Elle shrugs and starts signing. “Probably met lots of different girls two years ago.  Which one?”
“You said… You said you met a girl just like me two years ago.”
“No.  I said I met a girl with the same story as you two years ago.”  Elle looks around and then points at a dumpster.  “See that dumpster?  You watch the street for any purple shirts and let me know if they show.”  Elle hands Kinzie a rock.  “Throw this at the dumpster if you see one.”
Elle runs towards the dumpster, pops open the lid and dives in.  Elle rolls the rock in her hand.  Smooth.


Page 16

“How'd you sleep?”  Elle sets down the book she was skimming.
“With my eyes closed.  And you?”
“Funny dreams.”
“Ha ha funny or weird funny?”
“Weird funny.  Creepy funny, really.”
“Headless corpses kinda creepy?”
“No.  White empty hallways are all I remember.  Lonely empty.  Like I was the only one there.  If I was there are all.  Maybe I was just seeing them - not walking through them.”
“Best advice my mom ever gave me was to ignore my dreams.  Night time brain vomit is what she called them.”  Kinzie smiled.  “Wanna go over the alphabet?”
Elle nods.  They sign and eat bread.
“You can chew and sign at the same time.”  Elle rubs her forehead.
“Amazing stuff, right?”
Kinzie starts packing up a bag.
“Where are we going?”  Elle gestures at the bag.
“What?  I wasn't looking at you.”  Kinzie points at her ear and makes a gesture like a bomb going off.  “I'm still deaf, right?”
“Where are we going?”
“Okay.  So when we met and I told you I couldn't remember where I was from, you said ‘this again’.  Why did you say that?”
“Because I met a girl just like you two years ago.” Kinzie closes her bag and hands an empty bag to Elle.  “Here, carry this.”


Page 15

Elle’s stomach grumbles.  She laughs.  “How about hungry?”
Kinzie shrugs.  “What?  You hungry?”
“Of course.  Didn't you… Right.  Of course you didn't hear my stomach grumble.”  She turns red.
“No problem.  Sometimes I forget I'm deaf too.”  Kinzie walks over to a box, pulls out a loaf of bread and throws it to Elle.
Elle rips off a piece and chews.
Kinzie makes a c-shape with her hand and runs it down her chest.  “Hungry.”
Elle imitates the action several times.
“Very hungry.”  Kinzie picks up a book and reads while Elle finishes off the loaf.
“What's a scavenger?”  Elle waits until the girl looks up from her book to speak.
“Someone who picks stuff up that other people don't use, right?”  She makes a sweeping motion at the piles of boxes around the room.  They appear to be mostly filled with electronic parts.
“You said it though like it was some kind of group that you belonged to.”
“It's more like a group that other groups put us into because we don't belong to their groups.  Because to them not belonging is so wrong they got to fit everyone into some box.”  She kicks a box lightly with her toe.
“What other groups?”
“The fighters you saw?  Those guys are boxers.  That's what they call themselves.  That's what they are.  That's how they live.  That's how everyone sees them.  Gotta belong to be seen.  Everyone has their label.”
“But you don't?”
“Nope.  I'm a scavenger.  If you don't give yourself a label, one will be provided for you.  Scavenger.  Unbeliever.”
“I don't make it a habit of running through doors that get my head chopped off.”
“So say the believers, yes.”  Kinzie rummages through a box. “You still hungry?”
“No.  Tired.”
“Alright.  Let's talk more tomorrow.”


Page 14

Kinzie taps Elle on the shoulder.  /Come!/  She grins, turns and resumes walking.
Elle follows.  “Bottom house.”  Kinzie keeps walking.
They stop at the backside of a building, in an alleyway.  Kinzie looks in all directions and then squats down next to the wall.  She pries a basement window open and drops inside.  Elle scrapes her elbow against the wall trying to follow suit and lands heavily on the floor below.
Kinzie offers her a hand up.  Elle takes it and stands.
The room is full of cleaning equipment.  “No place like home, right?”  Kinzie winks and heads over to a wall full of mattresses.  She reaches behind one.  There is a click and then the mattress swings open like a door.  Elle balks.
/Come./  Kinzie slips inside.  Elle looks around and sees no one.  Hears no one.  She jogs over to the open mattress and slips inside.
“An old coal room!”  Elle exclaims, pointing to the closed coal door on one wall.
Kinzie nods and closes the mattress door - which from this side, is just a door.  There is a click.
“I know the cleaning guy pretty well.  He’s an old friend.”  She sits down on a bed covered in books and begins stacking them out of the way.
“A family…”  Elle starts and then stops.  Kinzie isn't looking.  She waves a hand to catch her eye.
Kinzie waves back.  “Good signing.  Here.  I’ll teach you some basics before we go to sleep.”


Page 13

Kinzie looks around the alleyway.  “I won't be able to see what you're saying when you're following me.  So stop your blabbing and keep your eyes open.”
She turns and walks.  Elle follows.  There are only a few people out at this time of night.  Some are digging through garbage.  Some are falling over drunk.
Elle pats Kinzie on the shoulder.  “How old are you?”
Kinzie cocks an eyebrow.  “How old do I look?”
“Seventeen or eighteen.”
She signs with a open hand flipping back and forth in the air.  “Seems right.”
Elle draws her head back sharply.  “You don't know how old you are?”
“Asks the woman who doesn't know where she’s from.”
Elle shrugs.  “Good point.”
They walk some more.  Elle sees a gargantuan building several blocks to the left.  She taps Kinzie on the back.
“Can't you go one minute without asking me a question?  We're almost there.”  She signs quicker than she speaks, the final spoken word arrives past the blur of motion.
“What's that building?”
Kinzie sighs.  “Bottom house.  You got nowhere to go, you can always go to bottom house.  But going nowhere is better than going there.”
Elle rubs her chin.  “Why?”
“Go there and you can find out. Get some free drugs, too.”
“Housing for drugs?”
/Yes./ “If you sleep there, you get shots everyday.  Birth control, calming stuff, whatever else they feel like injecting into you.”
Elle looks at the building again.


Page 12

A foot wakes her.  She uncurls quickly, popping up to a standing position.  The street lamps reveal a familiar young face.
“I saw you walking in the crowd.”
The girl says nothing but raises a hand up, closes it in a fist and moves it in the air like she is knocking on an imaginary door.
“At the fight, I saw you walking.  You a pick pocket or something?”
The girl watches her face intently.  “I'm a scavenger.  Name is Kinzie.”  Her voice is monotone and muffled.  Her hands dance as she talks.
“I'm Elle.”  She looks at Kinzie’s boots.
“Jealous?”  Kinzie smiles.  “I see you lost yours.”  She continues pointing and gesturing elaborately.
“Are you deaf?”  Elle points at her.
Kinzie signs /Yes/ again, the fist knocking on the imaginary door.
“You deaf?”  Kinzie smiles as she signs and talks.
Elle laughs.  “No.”
“Well when you sleep - you might as well be.”  Kinzie laughs, closes her eyes and pretends to be asleep, pushing a little bit of drool out of the side of her mouth.  “Being that deaf will get you killed.  Or maybe more than your shoes taken.”  She keeps signing as she talks.  “Where you from?”
Elle inhales.  Holds her breath.  Exhales quickly.  “I don't know.”
“The hell?”  Kinzie growls.  “How can you not know where you are from?  Not deaf.  Maybe stupid?”  She bonks her head with a closed hand as she says the word stupid.
Elle imitates the action.  /Stupid./  “No.  I don't know.  Don't know where I'm from.”
Kinzie looks at her.  “Can't remember?”
“Can't remember.”  She tries imitating the signs.


Page 11

She surveys the people around her.  They are shouting and pumping their fists in the air.  She tries to ask a question but gives up when she realizes even she can't hear her own voice.
When the noise stops, everyone drifts away.  Some men come and start taking down the stage.  All guards except two exit the fenced in staircase.  The referee hops down and disappears into an alleyway.
“A beautiful thing, isn't it?”
She turns slowly to see an unfamiliar face.  A man in his fifties is smiling at her.
“What’s beautiful?”
His smile diminishes.  “All that work he put in.  Years, probably.  And then it all comes true… you know, to fruition… to Ascension.”
“You mean his head getting cut off?”
The man looks around quickly.  “Don't be crass, friend!  Ascension is a holy moment!”
“Right.  Of course.”  She nods.  “I just haven't eaten much lately.”
He shakes his head and walks away quickly.  The crowd is gone.  The voting booth is empty.  The stage is in pieces and being packed into a truck.  She ducks into the first alley she sees and hides in the shadows.  Laying on top of a dry piece of cardboard, she curls herself into a ball and falls asleep.