She asked me if I was leaving.
The question, like the sound of her voice, caught me off guard. I thought I was alone in the small room in which I had made my camp. It took me several minutes to find where she was, and when I saw her, I was surprised I hadn’t seen her before.
She was a comely young girl, dressed as though she had just finished having her photograph taken. As our conversation progressed, I learned that was absolutely the case. Miss Annabelle Burrelli had died shortly after having stood for her portrait. One of the nurses had decided there were quite enough orphans in the world and that something needed to be done about it.
The nurse’s method for population control among the orphans was to insert a scalpel at the base of the skull where it met with the first vertebrae and then wiggle the blade a bit just to make sure everything was severed.
When Annabelle walked out of the small room established as a portrait studio, still holding her Sunday hat, the nurse had executed her.
After she finished her story, Annabelle asked me again if I was leaving.
I replied, I would be soon.
“Good,” she said with an approving nod. “Burn this place down when you go. We’ve been here long enough.”
I told her I would, and I promised the buildings would burn.
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