Everything is dead or dying. How can anyone live in this atmosphere? They can’t.
The vast atmosphere laid out before her was filled with various hues of brown, tan, deep red, or black. It depressed her; exhausted her. The red sun and red moon combined their efforts and bore down hard on the planet, drying it out, leaving everything scalding. Not many lasted for long out there without protection before the heat took its toll, and the individual’s life.
Only the otherbeings could never be defined as alive anyway. A disease raged through Eli’ane long ago. Those who survived, changed. They adapted. To survive they fed off the living, off themselves, off anything they could grab. Hoping to find sustenance. Hoping to prolong the inevitable if even for a few more hours. Finding sustenance only in the blood and flesh of anything alive, it grew harder day-by-day to survive. They were all that was left of life here.
And that wasn’t saying much.
She’d spent her whole life in this atmosphere. Being different, being the only one like her. Hiding from the otherbeings as much as possible. So they wouldn’t know. So they wouldn’t kill her.
On the distant horizon, images shimmered and blurred in a mirrory haze. The light played tricks on the eyes, making one think something moved around out there in the distance, but there was nothing. Nothing existed but that dry land and a few small cities. Rocks, sand, death.
Not even hope existed.
On the other side of Eli’ane, not even cities existed because it was far hotter. There were no survivors, it was nothing but boiling red sand and hills of it at that. It wasn’t much. It was all she knew.
Ellie glanced at her left wrist, or rather, her forearm. Spanning from wrist to elbow, one of her veins pulsed with the swirling muted grey tube she’d had since she was a child. Her vein appeared as if filled with clouds. Clouds she’d only ever seen in the many books she had in her library back at her father’s home. The books that taught her about life.
Moving with the rhythm of her body, her much needed vitamins were delivered day in and day out, helping her survive the desolate atmosphere.
The vitamin infuser was designed to help her maintain her energy, her life. Claude asked every morning without fail, “did you take your vitamins?”
“Yes, father,” she’d reply. It had become a morning ritual that tired her out. More than tired her out. It left her feeling more alone the more it happened. It was never a happy question, or a question that implied he cared. It was a duty. He was relentless. As though she would forget. As though he’d allow her to forget.
The swirling grey clouds in her infuser brightened to white, which meant she had plenty of vitamins. A contrast to the soft pink of her skin. When she experienced a heightened emotion, the vitamins brightened and she pulled more from the infuser. The men in her life never allowed her to get low. The vitamins fed her life.
So why the exhaustion? Lately the vitamins weren’t doing their job as well, and the exhaustion grew to greater heights, and a lot more frequently. It was as if being older made her pull more from the vitamins in less time and wore her out because of it. Ellie took a deep breath in. The air in her home was filtered and cooled. Much less cloying to breath while indoors than without.
The sun and moon over the blank horizon cast enough of a soft red glow to illuminate the miles and miles of terrain that surrounded her home. Dead, everything dead. Always.
“Ellie?” Stone’s deep commanding voice interrupted her reverie. His attention bore into her back, demanding a reply. Skittering along her spine, as if a hand was attempting to turn her around. “What are you doing?”
Ellie turned from the wall of glass to answer her husband. Nobody could see into the home unless their face pressed against the panes. It was a precaution that came with the unbreakable glass along the single floor of their home. She enjoyed the open feeling, but there always had to be security in place for her.
Stone sported a white collared shirt, black tie, pants, and shoes that matched hair and eye color. Long before working at her father’s office, Stone wore whatever outfit he fought in, most of the time covered in blood. It wasn’t a priority to him, Jack, or Jeremiah to care about their attire. Since employed at the office with her father, the clothes had changed.
He stood in the dining room part of the kitchen. Nothing more than a table near where food was prepared. The kitchen was just off to the left of the entrance to the home.
What served as the entrance to the home was more of a back door that led them through a small corridor and around to the garage area. Nothing more than a covered parking area for the transport. Camera monitors next to the door showed every aspect of the exterior so they’d never be ambushed by otherbeings on their exit.
In reality, with one look at the man unbuttoning his suit jacket, Ellie didn’t think anyone had ever tried to enter this home. There were too many security precautions in place. Not that Stone didn’t grill her on proper procedures every chance he got.
Stone removed the black jacket and hung it over the back of his chair at the head of the table, then folded up the ends of his shirt to elbow with deliberate moves of his massive fingers, exposing cords of muscle as his arms flexed. Arms and muscles that made people shrivel.
He tugged his tie loose with a single thick finger. Fingers that could so easily wrap around a neck and crush the bones. Once more comfortable, he joined her two other husbands Jack and Jeremiah, for dinner at the table.
Because of his question, the other two had a close eye on her as well. When Stone sat down he could pass for any other business man coming home from work. Except for the way he straddled the chair and took command of it, versus simply seating himself. A private quick look was exchanged with Jack and Jeremiah when he sat. He was incapable of doing anything without taking charge, she mused.
Underneath those clothes lurked a prized fighter. Champion no less. As were Jeremiah and Jack. Stone was bulkier and larger overall than the other two men. When he stood in a doorway, he commanded the space. He seemed impenetrable. Jack and Jeremiah were no less dangerous.
Jeremiah smirked—a rare thing for all of them, not as much him—and grabbed a piece of bread to stuff in his mouth. Why they bothered, she never understood. Maybe it was nothing more than the entertainment factor, or the semblance of normalcy it gave her. The latter was more doubtful than anything else she ever considered.
It was one of the many thoughts that crossed her mind while trying to fall asleep alone at night. Food did nothing for them. It went in and turned to dust, just like everything else they consumed. It couldn’t survive in a dying body. They didn’t feel hunger; their systems didn’t need to. Anything that went in dissolved into nothing.
“Nothing,” she said with a blank face.
He’d never understand. None of them would. They couldn’t. If she attempted to explain, she’d be overwhelmed by too many questions until they did. The last thing she needed was another lecture from Stone.
“Then come eat. You need it.” Stern. As he always was. Forever assuming she needed to be taught. To be disciplined. Despite him being her husband. He believed his job was to rule this house, her.
“Yes, father.” There was no hint of amusement in her tone, but Stone froze. Those dark eyes slid her way, cold as usual. They held her in a vise grip as was his way, never moving off her.
No emotions. Rarely a smile. Stone knew she teased him, the man was beyond perceptive, but he never took it well. Without typical emotions, humor was rare for him. Without understanding her urge to tease, he expected her to comply and behave as her father’s daughter should. The way she was told. It was why he was her father’s favorite.
One solid strong finger popped out and aimed at her chair on his right, directly next to him while he kept a steady eye on her. Still, no emotion.
“Sit.” The sound of his voice in that instant was like a massive wall crashing down. Crushing. It was a growled command, not a question, not a casual comment, not even a conversation. Do as I say. No questions was what that meant.
Ellie did as told, far too aware of the other two watching her every move as well. Jack got up to get her plate from the counter. She made her way around the edge of the couch that separated dining room from living room, and around the back of Jack’s chair, then Jeremiah’s. When Ellie risked a quick look at Stone, she swore she caught life in those dead eyes of his. Did he enjoy this? When she checked again, what she thought she saw was gone. Replaced again, by the lifeless—like his name—stone exterior.
Hope was a dangerous wish. Hope in her world didn’t make life change. Hope didn’t change who these men were. What these men were. What any of these people were. Hope. Hope. It was a favorite word of hers, despite being unable to believe in it. She liked the sound of it. She liked the familiarity of the word.
Why do I have to be so different?
With a long sigh, Ellie took her seat at the table across from Jack’s chair, facing the window where she’d been. Stone wouldn’t tolerate any other outbursts. She had no interest in pushing it. Anger was an emotion they could feel. And provoking the men who sat beside and around her, provoking any of her husbands: Ellie didn’t dare. One only pushed Stone so far. Because when his anger blew—she wouldn’t think about it.
Before she made herself completely comfortable, a plate of food was situated under her nose. Jack went back to his seat across from her. Ellie glanced at Stone. He leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms, causing the muscles to bulge while he regarded her, curious how she would react. Curious if she would react. She stared at the mark on the underside of his wrist, then raised her attention.
“Thank you, Stone,” Ellie said to her husband without so much as a smile. “How was your day?”
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