Forever Young (Chapter 2, page 2 of 3)

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Chapter 2

Darkness presses all around her. A stench like that of a rotting corpse fills her nostrils, cutting off air to her lungs. She gags on the foul air as she tries to take in enough oxygen to scream for help. A sour taste muffles the sound that comes from her throat. No one can hear her. No one can help her.

A hand took hold of Samantha's hair, yanking her back to the surface in a blaze of pain. Prudence grabbed Samantha around the neck and then dragged her towards the shore. Samantha squirmed against Prudence's chokehold, but couldn't break free. She finally stopped trying, letting Prudence haul her onto the beach. While Prudence dried her with a towel, Samantha looked down at the ground at her gigantic feet. No matter how hard she bit down on her lip, she couldn't keep from crying. "Are you hurt?" Prudence asked.

Samantha shook her head violently. "It's not that. I'm ugly, I can't remember anything, and everyone hates me."

"Everyone doesn't hate you."

"What makes you so sure about that?"

"I don't hate you. I don't think you're ugly either."

"You're just saying that."

"Well, look at me. I'm fat." She patted the stomach bulging against her apron for emphasis.

"You're not that fat."

"I'm the fattest person in Eternity."

"Haven't you tried to lose weight?"

"I do." Prudence stopped drying Samantha. "I skipped meals for a week and didn't lose an ounce. I'd give anything to be skinny like you. Then no one would call me names anymore." Prudence blushed and then cleared her throat. "We better get you dressed." Prudence handed the pile of clothes to Samantha.

"Why does everyone wear the same thing?"

"Everyone is treated equally in Eternity."

"Why aren't there more adults?"

"There used to be, but they disappeared. No one knows where they went, so the reverend takes care of us."

"Everyone's parents disappeared?"

"I can't remember mine. They left when I was a baby."

"How old are you?"

"Nine, I think."

"How do you know that?"

"I don't know. I just do."

Samantha put on the clothes Prudence had brought and frowned. The dress was too loose and too short and the shoes pinched her feet so she couldn't take a step without wincing. She started to take off the stockings, but Prudence grabbed her arm.

"You can't do that!"

"Why not?"

"It's forbidden by The Way."

"What's 'The Way?'"

"It's a set of rules the reverend composed to make sure we all get into Heaven. You'll hear more about it during morning services. Until then, no bare legs. No unbound hair either."

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