Who Did This Belong To?

Horror filled Sofi as if they'd taken her head off and poured it into every nook and cranny. Barely visible above where the hands over her mouth and nose covered her face, Sofi's eyes were wide with shock and sudden terrible understanding. As much as she didn't want to believe what the girls were saying somehow she knew it was true. Sofi might have given the Eloi an extremely mean spirited opinion in her mind to start with but it had been washed away with shared tears.

Sofi joined the group gathered around Oh, seeking to reassure her by touch and comforting sounds that she was safe, that people around her loved her and wouldn't let anything happen. It didn't have to be real, there was no way Sofi could promise or provide that, but it didn't matter. Oh was hurting, they all were, and Sofi had added her own little bit of it to what the girls carried. How could she have been so stupid, so mean hearted? It wasn't like how she normally was.

Joe was forgotten. Getting home was forgotten in her need to help comfort another girl. Sofi thought she'd had it bad getting flung here from West Virginia but at least no one had ever murdered her family and - eaten them. Or refused to help them because of what had happened. That was awful. The Machine Men or Machine City or whatever had rescued the girls then cast them out because of what had happened? That was worse than slut shaming. What kind of monsters were they?

As Sofi reached out to soothe Oh's hair, the Memory Link on her wrist slipped down. "Oh my God," she whispered. "Then...then this? Whose was this?" she asked, voice plaintive. "Who did this belong to?"

She saw in the Eloi's eyes that she was right. This wasn't a new device, fresh from some factory in China and packaged in sterile technological elegance. The bracelet on her wrist had belonged to an Eloi girl whose blood may have been spilled and as dark as the ruby decorating it.

"I want to know," she told them and sat down amongst them, her fingers working the Memory Link's simple interface. Io reached in and guided Sofi. At first it was pictures from her phone; Sofi's family, a ton of selfies, then videos she'd made for her channel and rough drafts. Cute images and clips she'd saved from TikTok, all quickly scrolled past going further and further back.

"Wait, go back," she said and with Io's help found the moment the device had ceased being the Eloi girl's and had become Sofi's.

"How do you - okay, that's the play button I guess?" Sofi tapped it.

Screams, screams dragged out of the soul of the girl by what the Morlocks were doing to her filled the little room and tried to suffocate the group of girls. There was no acting that could possibly simulate it and the images Sofi viewed briefly before shutting her eyes and trying to stop the recording showed unspeakable misery the Morlock inflicted on the girl they were torturing. Torturing and - and slicing off pieces of her to shove into their maws as they ate her alive. Finally Sofi managed to stop it and sat there in shaking understanding.

The Eloi were stunningly beautiful and sweet spirited and - and people ate them like they were animals. Worse, no one tortured animals before processing them.

"I didn't know,' she said, too shocked to cry. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I didn't."

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