Beyond The Wall
By Catalina Sinotte
Out of the facility, out of that goddamn suit, and into the city.
The moment she stepped through the lab's disinfection chambers and
the weekend began, well, that was the highlight to Nancy's day,
always ecstatic to see the looming skyscrapers from her taxi window.
They lived up to their name that was for sure, gently tapping the
dark blue of the expansive universe, the stars the only lights up
above. Any streak seen was always a shooting star, never anything
else, but there were nights where Nancy wondered what it would be
like to fly amongst the galaxies and see the city from a giant's
perspective. To maybe, just maybe, see beyond The Wall. Not that
there was anything there, but still, curiosity crept up even on the
most cautious of souls.
The Wall had been there since before Nancy's grandmother was born,
tall and foreboding, a constant reminder of history's mistakes. A
nuclear wasteland was hidden behind the metal barrier protecting the
people of Nova Hampshire from radiation and sandstorms. That's all
that was there, sand and radiation, save for the one or two small
winged lizards that had managed to survive--and be mutated beyond
belief. The amount of times Nancy's employer TERRA plopped the
specimens in front of her and expected a detailed analysis of a
lizard-rat-bird hybrid, well, let's just say it happened a
lot. The poor mutated creatures she examined reminded Nancy every
time that beyond The Wall was everything but fun. Even in the dead
of night The Wall's form was intimidating, a shadow in the already
existing dark, gray surface expansive and overwhelming. Just looking
at it made Nancy's throat clench and stomach churn, fearing the
'what if's that existed behind its protection. It was taller than
any skyscraper in the city, taller than everything. Standing beside
it, hand on the cool gray surface, always made Nancy feel incredibly
The taxi ground to a halt right outside one of the largest buildings
in the city. Nancy slipped through the door, happy to be home, happy
to be able to sleep, but as the elevator hit each and every floor,
she was reminded of what awaited her in the apartment. A ding, a
step, and a word of self-motivation all fueled Nancy's entrance into
her home, closing the door with a soft click. She really wasn't all
too surprised to see the ginger-haired girl standing in the center
of the living room, eyes trained on the television.
"You're awake." It was matter-of-fact, more Nancy acknowledging the
girl's presence if anything.
She didn't answer, head instead snapping toward the noise. Bare feet
shuffled slightly in the small circle of safety, shards of glass
near surrounding them. Around the slender frame a large blue shirt
cascaded downward, a waterfall of blue fabric that enveloped her
figure. It was Nancy's ex-boyfriend's shirt she had forced the girl
to change into, the older clothes stained with blood and dirt. With
their height differences and the need to mutilate the back by
cutting two large holes, the shirt really was the only option. Glass
littered the floor near the window's empty skeleton, metal storm
grate pulled to block the wandering winds of the sky. Perhaps Nancy
should have cleaned it up before leaving for work, but being late
was last on her list. Nancy's feet tentatively took each and every
step, attempting to make their way back to the door for two
necessities: an escape route and a dustpan.
"Who are you?" Nancy asked. There was a long pause, the only
communication through eye contact. "Hello? I helped you out. You are
literally wearing my clothes and slept in my bed. The least you
could do would be tell me your name."
During the silence Nancy shifted her gaze to the television. It was
muted, but flashing red colors flickered about the screen, the words
'Breaking News' loud and proud. Either the girl in front of her had
an identical twin who was not making any friends with the law, or
Nancy was harboring a fugitive. Nancy sucked in a breath, turning
towards the present ginger hair and gaunt face, wondering why she
even bothered to help place dozens of bandages on every scrape
instead of calling the police. Sure, the redhead was attractive, but
Nancy hadn't focused on that, hadn't even looked her in the eyes for
the first hour she'd been traipsing around the apartment. What kept
Nancy distracted was infinitely more eye catching. It was the reason
the holes were sliced out of the shirt, the reason the girl had
managed to even make it to the 32nd floor of the skyscraper, the
reason the police were the last to call in Nancy's mind: the
beautiful autumn wings sprouting from the girl's back. They
awkwardly avoided bumping into any furniture, fidgeting and wiggling
at the slightest of sound. As a biologist, Nancy wanted to take a
closer look. As a normal person, Nancy didn't want to believe they
"Who are you?" Nancy repeated. Weapon at the ready, a dustpan and
flimsy brush, she faced the bird girl.
Slowly, the girl lifted up a hand, a lanky finger softly pointing
out the windows.
"What?" Nancy felt her arms drop.
The ginger-haired girl urged further, noting Nancy's raised brows,
shaking her hand a few times.
Outside the window was more city, not really an answer to what Nancy
had asked. There was nothing but buildings, streets, and The Wall—no
name for the girl.
Maybe she doesn't speak English? she realized, breaking out her
rudimentary hand gestures. "Nancy," she spoke slowly, thumb on her
chest, tapping for emphasis.
There was a flash of understanding. The intruder pressed that wiry
finger to her sternum, nodding all the while. "Bahia." The word
rolled off her tongue, foreign and unclear, almost guttural, yet it
flowed so smoothly Nancy found herself wanting to hear it again. The
girl shook that limp finger once more,
towards the outside.
"What do you mean? Are you from the city?"
The bandaged face twisted, a grimace gracing her lips, mouth
slightly parting, "Wol."
Nancy froze. "Wol?"
"Wol? Like...The Wall? What do you mean?"
"What are you trying to say?" she urged. A pause. A hand reached
forward, mimicking Bahia. More slowly, she said, "You are from...
beyond... The Wall?"
There was a long moment of nothingness—no words, no questions. "Stop
messing with me," Nancy laughed, awkward and short in the air of the
room. "There's nothing beyond The Wall. I've done tours of it just
like everyone else in this city; there's only wasteland and
radiation. Nice try, though. You really had me going with the wings
and everything. They are really lifelike. Is this some sort of
Bahia's face subtly reddened, bandages peppered about showing the
contrast. Whether she understood or not, she insisted once again.
"I'm sorry, Bahia," Nancy cringed as she butchered the name, "but
there is absolutely no way you are from beyond The Wall."
A pounding on the door interrupted any further debating, every part
of Bahia freezing. Nancy stayed calm, pausing, confused that there
would be a visitor at such an hour. She near tiptoed over, brown eye
pressing hard against the peephole. The police on the other end were
not a big surprise considering the conspicuous events of Bahia
crashing through her apartment window that morning. Nancy's fingers
reached for the doorknob, concluding that the police would be the
best to resolve this situation. Bahia's lanky hand whipped out,
however, grabbing Nancy's own, grip more powerful than it had
appeared. Dragged swiftly across the expanse of her living room,
Nancy screamed. She watched the door shudder as the men behind it
attempted to break it off the hinges. With a slam the window opened,
loud enough to match the winds outside. Nancy had no time to react,
no time to fight it, as she was tossed out the 32nd floor with no
means to land.
Faint shouts of the officers entering the room faded while the
distance between Nancy and the window grew larger and larger . This
is what I get for being nice, she thought. When strong hands grabbed
her once again and threw her onto something—someone—soft, Nancy
considered for a moment whether or not she had entered heaven.
Nancy's white knuckled hands were wrapped as tightly around Bahia's
neck and as her legs wound around her waist. Nancy refused to open
her eyes knowing she was stuck with the same dark city and same
psychopathic mutant as they plummeted to their certain death.
Like an umbrella, the wings burst open, keeping them afloat and
lifting the two girls upward. They worked. Holy shit, they worked,
Nancy cried to herself. They're real. Nancy didn't look down,
couldn't look down, but as she felt herself spiral higher and
higher, one eye popped itself open. The city was now a toy set, the
roles reversed between the stars and building lights, and for once
in Nancy's life she felt closer to the galaxies far away. There was
an updrift, carrying Bahia and her passenger to the lip of The Wall
and onto its flat surface, so high above the ground the city was
near forgettable. For a moment, Nancy ignored that this was
kidnapping. No, in her awestruck state, stunned at the world and the
sheer absurdness of being atop The Wall, Nancy let herself be
dragged over to the edge that separated the city and the nuclear
wasteland. Standing at the other side, the edge of radiation, the
dead-zone, Nancy paused, uncomprehending.
It was clear, even in the moonlight, that there was no desert beyond
The Wall, only a sea of trees.
For all her life and the lives of those before her The Wall had
existed. Built for a nuclear war centuries ago that had destroyed
nearly all of the country formerly known as the United States, The
Wall was intended to keep the remaining people safe from radiation
and contain the area. Nancy had done the tours, looked through The
Wall's windows to see the barren wasteland, had done goddamn
experiments on the few creatures from beyond—experiments that always
had to do with testing the conditions of organisms, detailing their
features, deformities, the traits of common diseases they carried…
Turning her head, Nancy looked at the fiery wings, but this time she
moved past their enrapturing layers upon layers of feathers. Bahia's
face was scarred, not just by new wounds but by older ones—wounds
matching the signature marks of diseases, diseases Nancy worked with
for years, diseases she tested in the organisms plopped in front of
her, diseases and disorders that ended with her mucking around in
the animal and bacterial genomes, diseases and disorders that had
begun to be eradicated in the world.
"What is the point of lying to us about this?" Nancy whispered, "Why
were they having me examine these organisms? Why lie and say there
was no human life beyond The Wall? If life really is sustainable
beyond The Wall, if there's not enough radiation to kill anything…
then what's mutating all these organisms?"
Nancy's eyes searched the land beyond The Wall, green and lush,
nothing like what she had seen in books, through the windows inside
The Wall, and in school.
Don't tell me, Nancy nearly whispered to herself, Is TERRA using
this world beyond The Wall… as a giant experiment? It made sense:
the diseases and attempted cures being tested on the animals all
miraculously working successfully on humans, the mutated organisms
being all sorts of different hybrids, the fact that her entire world
had been lied to. The government let the truth beyond The Wall be
hidden from public view, and there was no way there wasn't something
incredibly immoral occurring. Nancy looked at Bahia, at the girl
with wings of fire, at the scarred and ragged features, knowing that
someone had taken humans' dream to fly too far by modifying the poor
girl's genetics, blending it with that of bird.
"I'm so sorry," Nancy began. "We need to tell someone about this. We
need to let the world know what's going on. People can't be lied to
like this anymore!"
Bahia didn't respond, probably not even understanding. A loud bang
reverberated throughout the top of The Wall and the bird girl
shifted her legs, ready to take off. There was a shout, officers
appearing from some hidden stairwell and Nancy recalled the sheer
amount of armed guards always stationed throughout the monument.
They surrounded the two girls, guns drawn and voices loud.
"Freeze where you are right now!"
Nancy, having wanted to be saved by these men and women previously,
now wanted anything but. Did they know? Did they know that they had
been lied to, that there were people beyond The Wall? Did they?
Still, Nancy froze, knowing that there was no use fighting. She
turned to her right to look at Bahia, the girl's eyes wide and body
shaking. Like a rabbit attempting to escape the hound, the
ginger-haired girl's bare feet slapped against the surface of The
Wall. Bahia flapped her wings, stumbling away from Nancy and away
from the guards. She cried from deep within her chest and scrambled
to leap into the air alone, wings stretching to their limits. With a
chorus of gunshots she returned to the ground, crumpled and
Nancy screamed. "What are you doing! Do you see what's there? The
wings? We've been lied to! There are people beyond The Wall! There's
"Cuff her," the tallest man of the bunch commanded, metal shackles
closing tight around Nancy's wrists.
She wanted to cry out, wanted to attempt to stir the men to listen,
but as her face met the cold surface of The Wall and a knee was
placed firmly on her back Nancy's main focus was on breathing than
any sort of communication. From her position on the ground she could
see Bahia's crumpled form, wings the color of the autumn foliage
wrapped around her body like a blanket. The backdrop of stars and
nothingness behind Bahia gave the girl her final flight, amongst the
stars as she lay unmoving.
The man from before's boots came into view. "She's dead." A pause,
the slight hum of someone responding on the phone, someone who was
not happy at all. "Yes, I am aware of how much time you put into
this. It's not my fault; she was running towards my men. Of course
they're going to shoot!" He took a step, foot kicking the ground as
he listened. "How about instead of me retraining my men you actually
contain your freaky experiments. Listen, I'll find you someone. I
know it took you a long time, but mistakes happen. We keep your
business private, that should be enough for you. We're done here."
"How can you do that?" Nancy whispered, "Kill her and lie to the
world like it means nothing." She couldn't stop the words from
slipping out, not after seeing what the government was hiding and
the lies unraveling.
There was a click of a phone, and a long pause. "Oh. How
convenient," the man hummed.
Nancy heard the creak of his bones and rustle of his pant legs,
knees cracking as he crouched down beside her head. A hand gripped
the single braid of her hair, yanking the girl's face off of the
ground and forcing her eyes to meet the man's icy blue gaze. "If
you've ever wanted to fly, now's your chance. We need to make a new
girl with wings."