“Miss Sella! Are you toying with us? Here we all sit, your audience, waiting for something of substance from you for the first time since you arrived here. Has your time alone taught you nothing?”

Tobi locked eyes with Miss Antonina, alarm bells sounding in her mind. The Mistress’ stare was mischievous and wicked. Her eyes traveled through Tobi as easily as the waters of a stream glide over the smooth stones of its bed. Surely, she thought, the Mistress couldn’t know. With that simple suspicion, memories began to gush and flash, a strobe light of horrors that only she could see.

Encouraged by Tobi’s discomfort, Miss Antonina continued, “What seems to be the problem, Miss Sella? Could it be that beneath that veneer of yours, is the real Tobi? That the disdain that you project onto those of us who have accepted the Technetium is simply your own self-loathing, a hatred of what you see in us that dwells inside you as well?”

Tobi’s fists slammed into her temples and her body seized into in a ball of human tension. She was sure that the pain and electricity she felt would set her ablaze, she willed it, “Please don’t!” Her words came out as less a pleading and more a statement of resignation.

Miss Antonina gave a brisk tap to the flanks of her goat with her heels, encouraging him to make his way toward the girls. “Yes, Miss Sella. Yes, this place is one of transformation and the stripping of that which makes you unfit for our society. Tonight, dear, let us begin to peel off that pretty skin to reveal what you are. You can start by telling the others about her. Go ahead, tell us all. Tell us about the little girl, Vawndila. Who is she, Tobi? And exactly how did she come to be in your life?”

With the mention of the name of her precious little girl, a guttural sob wracked Tobi’s entire body and the emotion that she had been holding back broke free, finally unbridled.

“Now Tobi!”

Enraged, Tobi exploded. “I stole her!  I took that little girl and I ran like the wind! I ripped her from her mother’s arms after I bashed the woman’s skull in with a rock!”

To be continued…