Fiction: Substrate: #1

She wasn’t sure if it was the dampness of the day, crouching here, under the crumbling overpass of the busy bridge, or the nervous beads of sweat on her forehead, but it was uncomfortable. Unbearable. Not because of being seen, but because of what she had just seen. Witnessed. Absorbed into every pore of her body. Boring into her brain, a wrinkle now imprinted into her mind that could not be erased.

Unless under hypnotherapy; even then, wouldn’t it still be there if the therapist wanted to recall it? Or a coroner unveiled it during an autopsy? That thought sent chills, heavy droplets now on her chest, in armpit folds, down her back, cold, clinging and enveloping.

The thought that she might die found out hunted down, questioned, probed and tortured was unbearable. Because one doesn’t emerge from such treatment intact. Sure, physically one might, but not mentally, not ever, not here, not ever.

Even herself. The “chosen child” of many who created her. What went wrong with their “infallible” programming of her? Did a wrinkle not take”? That imprint of learning, retaining information? Just then, she heard a rustling sound in the leaves next to her, 10 feet away. Instinct told her it meant “danger”, and to react by survival, but today, knowing what she saw, it was a relief to process that it might mean her death, a welcome respite from the horror of it all. Instead of moving, she stopped breathing, to match what was coming.

Death.

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