New Eden

Scene 8

Cara looked down at her hands, and felt sad. Sad and tired, every moment of her life was tired, since waking up in this nightmare. But her poor hands, that was the saddest thing of all. Beautiful hands, emotive hands; she'd once done a hand commercial. Long, slender fingers topped with perfectly manicured, perfectly oval nails. Pale and lovely; a hangnail would never dare to appear on such flawless, well-tended skin.

Now, not a nail went uncracked. Ripped and rugged, with filthy circles from digging in the dirt that would not go away no matter how often she washed, scrubbed, and scraped. Overgrown cuticles, rough sandpapery skin with bruised and scraped knuckles. Her hands looked horrible. They looked like a poor person's hands.

Certainly not the hands of someone destined to be a Broadway darling. She sat on a rock at the edge of the farthest field, wiping her brow and keeping a lookout for Father Paul, the leader of the Diggers. It wasn't lunch time yet, but she was tired and thirsty, and feeling very sorry for herself at the moment. She pulled up the hollowed-out gourd tied around her back and took a sip of the lukewarm water.

Sure, she knew that no one here had come here by choice. And there wasn't a damn thing that they could do to get back. They were all stuck, together, in this godforsaken paradise from hell. They were all doomed to a life of horrible hard work, and would probably all die of alien malaria or starvation or whatever.

But it seemed particularly unfair for her, Cara. She and Mara, her identical twin sister, had trained for fame their whole lives. Her feet should be in tap shoes on a stage somewhere; not digging in mud with gross purple worms. From their first baby food commercial, to their last teen pop dance routine, she and Mara were a solid blonde bombshell team.

And now Mara was going to dance off with all the credit, while Cara broke her nails pulling weeds from around the roots of other weeds. All while stupid Father Paul stood over her and made fun of her. Priests weren't supposed to be mean and cranky. She kicked a clod of mud to skip a few rows over before blasting to pieces against a small rock. "It's not fair!" she whined.

She folded her legs under her on the cool rock, leaning back into the shade of the jungle's edge. Hopefully, they couldn't see her. Hopefully, out of sight meant out of mind. What did it matter if one day she didn't crawl about on her knees grubbing through the mud? The weeds would still be there tomorrow, they'd just be a little bigger, is all. She needed a freaking break.

Her eyes drifted closed, and she tried to ignore the gnats flying all around her in the shade. At least they weren't mosquitos. The world seemed to vibrate beneath her, almost like to rocks were singing a really low song she could only hear when she sat on them.

Cara smiled, kind of sinking into the feeling of relaxing and taking it easy. She could hear the other diggers talking, mumbled by distance, interspersed with the occasional acerbic snap from Father Paul. Lauren's voice, whining about something or another, that woman was always trying to posture into a better position, made Cara open her eyes and look out with a sour expression.

That's when she saw the orange hand reaching for her, out of the forest.

Too shocked to even scream, she jerked back away from the hand, sliding right off the edge of the rock and landing on her back in the muddy field. She could see it now, towering over her through the trees. Orange, like an orangutan, a blue-ish black scaley face. It had horns, big curly horns like a ram, and it bared it teeth at her, still reaching.

For all her grace and training, Cara's limbs flailed about as she tried to scoot away from the beast. Her voice came back in squeaks and she wriggled and scooted on her butt, her legs pushing and kicking, her arms waving over her head and sometimes grabbing a handful of mud and flinging it at the creature.

It watched her for a moment, teeth gaping, being orange and menacing at her, and then turned and fled. Fleet and silent, within a blink the shaggy orange monster disappeared in the jungle blue. Now Cara found she could scream. All the power in her lungs, she let out a series of hideous wails, while she flung her arms and legs out, kicking and slamming about in a fine temper.

Of course, they all came running. Lauren and that hateful little prick Ethan got there first, because they were in the closest field. Cara, still a little panicked, did notice that they were holding hands as they came up. Or, at least it looked that way from her position in the mud.

"Are you alright?" Lauren asked, her head cocked to the side like a stupid puppy. How Ethan could see anything in the twit, was just beyond her.

"Do I look like I'm alright?" Cara screamed, pushing with her arms and legs and trying to stand up. Of course, now covered in mud stirred up with her flailing, she kept slipping to plop her butt right back in the mud.

Skyla, Hope, and Virginia took their sweet time walking up, and of course Father Paul strolled after them. By the time they reached Cara, Ethan had helped her up and they were all looking to see if Cara had been hurt anywhere.

"No, I'm fine. I'm not hurt," Cara swatted at Lauren's hand and frowned fiercely at them all.

"Then why in the Heavenly Father's name are you caterwauling such a fuss?" Father Paul called out.

"Because I was almost attacked!" Cara yelled back, stomping her foot, slipping a bit, and catching herself on Ethan's shoulder.

"I didn't think it was a good idea to let her in the field alone." Virginia crossed her arms over her chest, giving Father Paul a disapproving glare. Weeks later, and she was still pissed that Father Paul had been voted the leader over her.

"Nancy-boy sprained his ankle. What was I supposed to do? Let the field go?" He threw his hands in the air in exasperation. "We have people to feed, you know."

"Does no one care that there are monsters in the jungle?" Cara screamed at them? Her heart started to race again, as she thought of those huge bared teeth and reaching hand. It had thumbs! Thumbs!

Both Virginia and Father Paul turned to her. "There is no such things as monsters," Virginia snapped, her arms crossing over her chest, her sparkly tank top sweater now more rags than clubwear.

Father Paul looked at her for a moment, staring intensely into Cara's eyes. It was creepy, and she turned away. He made a dismissive tching sound. "She probably just saw a monkey, or something."

Ethan and Skyla turned to walk away, at Father Paul's dismissal.

"It was not a monkey!" Cara yelled.

Lauren ducked her chin, to avoid looking Cara in the eye.

"It was huge, like seven feet tall! Shaggy orange fur. Big, bloody fangs, like it just ate something whole. And horns! I had these huge, pointy horns!"

"She's hysterical!" Virginia gasped, looking at Father Paul. "I should take her back to camp, get one of the medics to look at her."

Father Paul looked down at her, narrow eyes behind round glasses piercing her, judging her, hating her. Finally, his mouth twisted in a disgusted grimace. "Look at this field. Not a thing has been done here. And this section, that she's been wallowing in like some overgrown sow? It's ruined. It will have to be replanted."

He kicked a clod of dirt into the mud pile. "I'll tell you what happened, here. She fell asleep over there, out of the way where no one could see her. And she dreamed up her monster."

Cara gasped. "I did not!" She looked around at all the others, none of whom were fit to hold her dance slippers, with her mouth hanging open in shock at the judgement on their faces. "I do not lie."

"Hmmm," was all that Father Paul said. He looked down at his wax tablet, where he kept his field notes until they could be transcribed into permanent record. As soon as they figured out how to make a permanent record. "Obviously, we need to change partners. Skyla and Lauren, you are now on field 3, here. Phillip will join you, once he's released from medical. Hope and Ethan, you'll take field 2 now. And Virginia, here, is going to supervise our little liar on field 1. With me. Where I can make sure there are no monsters."

Now they all turned to give her a nasty glare before they got to work. Cara stamped her foot again, and then turned to follow Virginia and Father Paul off to her new field. Because even though it meant working all day with mud caking into her skin, she really didn't know what would happen if she refused. At the very least, they probably wouldn't let her have dinner. But at least field 1 was up against the cliff edge, and far away from the jungle.

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