Rapture burns bright.
The ocean blue of the windows makes everything look like night inside, the shadows of sharks and fish and creatures there are no names for passing over the steel floors like bad omens. Bolts fall through the ceiling and walls, and they sound like thunder, scattering away the parasites that feed on the insides of Rapture until they burst.
The city is falling apart, crumbling under the pressure of the ocean outside, being ripped to shreds by the splicers inside. The glow it once had is faded away, and she no longer sees ballroom dancers and men in caps. There are no rose petals here, no plush carpets and whitewash walls. She’s lost her second sight, and it’s never going to come back.
Mr. B still carries her, sometimes- even though she is much larger than she used to be- when her feet are too sore to walk, cut open with glass and needles and pockmarked with sores from searching the city for too long. These days, it’s hard to find angels laying in wait. These days, it’s hard to find much at all.
When she asks, they tell her she is eleven. She’s very old for a little sister, and if she’s good, if she survives, they might make her a big sister. Wouldn’t she like that? Wouldn’t that be nice? She stares at her hands and thinks of needles and drills and splicers falling around her like stars, and it makes her want to cry.
There’s a leak somewhere in the west wing, and she likes to play in the puddle. Mr. Bubbles always makes noises at her, tries to get her to move along, but she’s been moved along all her life, and she misses when she was too young to go out and collect. Those times are very far away now, and it’s hard to remember them.
She can smell an angel in the air, sweet and cloying all around her. It grabs at her insides and pulls, drags her along the dirty hallways and makes her ache to feel it under her skin. Her needle gun weighs heavy in her hand as she points in forward, uses it like a dowsing rod to lead the way through the city. She can hear splicers in the walls like spiders, crawling and crawling and crawling.
The angels still glow to her, always glow. She sees their wings spread across the floor and her heart swells inside her chest, fills the filthy cotton of her old, tattered dress with love and sweet, sweet tenderness. She drops to her knees next to it and touches its cold, cold face with her small hands.
“You’re so very pretty,” she says, and her voice echoes inside her head. “So, so very pretty.” She hears Mr. B’s footsteps heavy and loud around her, and she hums to drown it out. “There’s a land called Lillipoppy, and living there is the Lillipop!” She holds her little gun to the angel’s chest and hums. “I’ll go there soon with Mr. Bubbles, and we’ll search the place from tail to top.”
Her needle sinks into the angel’s throat easy, and bubble bright red blood fills the vial. Her skin is buzzing already, the bad things inside of her longing for the bad things inside of it. She coos to the angel and watches its skin collapse in, pink and sallow around the point of the needle, falling in on itself. It’s so pretty, and she wants to be as pretty as it is.
Around her, the splicers scream.
She pulls the needle from the angel’s throat and unscrews the back, fingers shaking. She hasn’t had a meal in so long, and her mouth feels dry, empty. She holds the vial to her mouth and drinks, long, filling pulls that fill her all the way up It tastes like cherries do, she thinks, even though she has never eaten a real cherry in her life. The blood sinks down her throat and into her chest, and she feels it pulse inside of her like a brand new heartbeat.
When she begins to go dizzy, all of the blood rushing through her and making her too hot to stand, Mr. B gathers her up in his cold, steely arms and holds her to his metal chest. She presses her hot cheek to his mask and sighs, fogging the faceplate with her breath. Her double heartbeat makes her fingers twitch on Mr. B’s shoulders.
“It’s dream time now, Mr. Bubbles,” she says sleepily, and curls into his arms.
He brings her to a portal, and holds her up to it. She’s almost too big to fit anymore, but if she squirms just right, she can squeeze her hips inside with only a little ouchies on her skin and only a few tears in her dress.
The fever is burning bright inside of her, and her skin burns as she crawls through the vent. She’s so tired, so very, very tired, and the room where all the other little girls are seems so very, very far away. She curls up in the vent, her scraped knees drawn up to her chest, and presses her fever warm forehead to the inside of the vent.
The worst part about ADAM, she thinks, is that it always makes her tummy hurt.
She can hear the little sisters in their bedrooms, and Mr. Bubbles clomp, clomp, clomping away, and the splicers dancing and dancing and dancing outside. Her tummy hurts with the monster inside, and she is ill.
“In the house of upside down,” she sings, voice wobbling and echoing against the walls, “cellar’s top floor, attic’s ground.” Her tummy aches as she tries to process the ADAM, and her hands shake. “In the house of upside down, laughing cries and smiles frown.” If she closes her eyes, she’ll feel so much better. If she closes her eyes, the ache will fade away. “Found is lost and lost is-“
Outside, the splicers smell blood.