3,811 Days Since the Accident The hum of the Stitcher was a growl. After twenty years of their partnership, Eliza figured that the noise would have become an almost friendly occurrence. She could classify every beep, click and crunch that came from inside the needlelike jaws. The ability was one she might have felt proud to have; after all, most people didn’t live long enough to become so familiar. The Stitcher, however, was no friend of the people. This particular day, they were working with new silk, woven from deeper in the Colonies. It was a pale blue and it slipped through their fingers like water in a crystalline lake, making the stitches impossible. Missing a mark was worthy of punishment, but pricking your finger was a death sentence; no one wanted blood on their garments. The children were led in by a young aasimar woman. Eliza’s gaze barely grazed over her as the children walked in solemn lines. A small, curly-haired boy walked with less precise feet, his eyes wandering with bright curiosity. He offered Jude a goofy smile. Jude, his eyes dull and his shoulders hunched, avoided his gaze and did not smile back. The boy’s face fell, lagging behind the line to look up at an Enforcer. The lines of people nearby seemed to hold their breath, working quickly on their stitching to avoid what they knew would come next. The boy looked up at the Enforcer, patting his shiny, white boots. “Could I wear your helmet?” The boy died within minutes, the punishment for his actions plastered across the brains of the children and adults in the room. Eliza did not move, did not look, but instead kept her eyes trained on the inside of the Stitcher. Small flames sealed the enchantments, sealed the stitches she created. As the boy died behind her, Eliza stared at the flames, and somewhere deep inside her brain, a plan began to hatch. 3,943 Days Since the Accident Jude’s fingers did not shake despite the circumstances. Eliza’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly, her mouth set and her head down. She worked quietly, that same blue silk that had been on the Belt that day, placing her palms down on the seams and enchanting them, her mind crowded and thoughtful. As the fabric slipped through her fingers, she began a countdown, letting each number float through her head. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. The machine shuddered as her final enchantment sparked within the flames. The nearby Enforcers looked up in surprise, moving over to the Stitcher in confusion. Normally, those nearest to the mouth of the Stitcher would stay still in fear of punishment, but today, they stepped back. The Enforcers noticed, with one of them jerking his head over. “Hey,” he began. “What do you think-” He was interrupted by the machine screeching before it exploded, sending flames across the floor and throwing back the Enforcers. All Hell broke loose.