"Are you there?"
My voice, soft with concern, drifts through the gloom of my sisters home. Silence answers me, just as it had when I knocked upon the front door. Luckily, I still have that spare key she had given me when we first moved to Columbia. That was before our differences in opinion had driven us apart.
In the hallway connecting the front door and the living room, something crunches under my boot. Glass. On the wall hangs a frame; the remains of a mirror, a few shards hanging onto the edges. I can remember how she would look into it and analyze her appearance before we would go out to explore the majesty of our new home. Sarah was always so concerned with appearances. Worry and guilt churn in my stomach as I carefully crouch down to examine the collection of slivers. Could this be the sign of a struggle? Was she hurt? Was it my fault for leaving her to follow the ideals dreamed up by a madman like Comstock?
I straighten up and my knees pop; the sound seeming to echo throughout the emptiness of what once was a home. As I walk into the dead living room, I try to work out how much to blame myself. I know I'm at least partly at fault. I never should've left her like I did, no matter how much her obsession with American purity disturbed me. I never understood it. We weren't even from this godforsaken place. That must have been Mothers doing. She always thought of our moving to the United States as a rebirth. She even went so far as to change our names in an attempt to whitewash the past. Our skin was light enough, only a little tan, thanks to our English father (though I wouldn't thank him for leaving us), so that wasn't an issue. Our names and our skin played crucial roles in getting us, two kids from India, into an American bastion like Columbia. And Sarah's genius with machinery didn't hurt either.
She was always the smart one. At least, in some areas. As the older brother, I've always been well aware of her gullible nature. I took advantage of it myself when we were children, but only for the purposes of some harmless pranks. Up here, however, there's very little that I would call harmless. That's why I should have stayed. I'm the sensible one; I should've known better. Now Sarah is dead for all I know.
I try to look around the room for more clues about what happened, but its too dark. I hold my arms out like antennae as I feel my way to the curtains, the fingers of outside light grasping their edges. I pull them open, releasing a cloud of dust that assaults my lungs. I press my shirt against my mouth in an attempt to smother the violent sounds of the resulting coughing fit. For some reason, I'm afraid to make too much noise.
Once the coughing subsides, I peer through the currents of disturbed dust into the newly illuminated room. I don't see much of interest. Couches, tables, and chairs are all wearing a coat of dust, and I can see signs that mice have adopted the residence as their own. Then my eyes are drawn to a small scene of destruction under a barren shelf. I can't quite make out what lies ruined there from the window, so I take quiet steps towards it. As I get closer and begin to recognize what has been discarded, a feeling of deep dread joins the host of tumultuous emotions I'm already carrying.
They were pictures. Family pictures. Mother, Sarah, and I are all torn up on the floor. I gather the pieces in my hands and stare at them, trying to figure out what disturbs me so much. A loud sound from a back room startles me and the fragments of the past slip through my fingers. I immediately shift into a crouched position and listen for any other movement. Nothing. I'm getting nowhere just staying in this room, so I decide to explore. I come to a door hanging slightly ajar and nudge it open, wincing at every creak. Just the laundry room. I head towards where I remembered her bedroom to be. That feels like it would be the most likely spot to find her, if she is still here to find.
Before I open the door, my thoughts go back to the pictures. No murderer or thief would bother tearing them up. Those hands had to have been guided by a strong rage. A deeply personal rage. The only one who would do that is . . . But why would she? I have to find answers. I turn the doorknob.
This room wasn't so vast before; the walls must have been removed so that it takes up half of the house. Its size baffles me, as do the mounds of scrap metal and mechanical parts. Windows line the wall on the opposite side, causing the piles to cast shadows that swallow me, but they also reveal the sterile whiteness of the place. Walls, floor, and ceiling are all like snow. Once I calm down, I become aware of a sound. A steady, sickening thud.
I stand paralyzed. Thud. The sound is close; I'm sure I could see whats causing it if I just looking around the mountain of metal directly in front of me. Thud. I can make out a kind of liquid element to the sound. Thud. It's echoing in my head; I can't think! The next thud is accompanied by horrifying snap and a groan. I have to do something.
"Sarah! Are you there?"
I rush out, and, though I don't know what I'm looking at, the horror of it seeps into my very being. A pure, white mannequin in a dress that blends in perfectly with its skin stands in front of a table bathed in crimson. A man limply lay on it, groaning as blood drains from the stump of a recently detached limb. The mannequin turns, a bloody cleaver in one hand.
"What the hell is this?!" I scream backing up. "Whats going on?!"
"Jason, how many times have I told you not to interrupt me while Im working?"
What? What is this? I can't . . . What?!
"Sarah?" My voice is soft with stunned disbelief. "There's no way . . . What did you do?!"
"Why, I've embraced our new home, of course!" Her voice is accompanied by the clicking of metallic lips, and her arms are flung open as if they could contain the world. Is she even human anymore?
"What's that supposed to mean? What did you do?" I think there are tears running down my face, but I can't really feel anything.
"I know Mother said not to tell, but I couldn't lie to him. And he accepted me! Even with my dirty skin! Even though I'm just trash that floated to this great nation through lies and luck! He said I could earn citizenship through my skills! But I just couldn't stand it. That tan flesh! Mother was wrong, you know. You aren't like us. You're a dirty foreigner. But I can clean you up; make you just like me! It hurts so much, but you'll be the pure white of America!
I can only stare. Who cares about skin? Who cares about America?
"Comstock. That bastard did this to you, didn't he?! I told you he was a maniac!"
Blind with rage, I don't even see her before she is right in front of me, the light from the windows shining off her metallic flesh. She violently pushes me into a mound of scrap, the metal biting into my back. There are limbs in this pile; mechanical arms and legs. I look at the bleeding man on the table, and I know why Comstock wants to keep Sarah around. He wants an army. He's insane.
"How dare you say that! You don't know what that man is trying to do! He is our prophet and the Lamb will save us all!"
I can feel blood run down my back, and tiredness consumes my body.
"Sarah, little sister, stop it. I can fix this. Just come back with me. Let me fix this."
If she could still smile, I think she would do it now.
"How can you fix anything when you're the one who's broken? Besides, you were never much of a handyman. But . . ." Sarah taps her chin with her index finger, like she always does when she's being clever, "I think I can change that."
*For the Bioshock Infinite creative writing contest