TITLE: The Cobalt Mask
GENRE: YA Dystopian
"Don't." I grabbed my ten-year-old trainee's wrist and saved his hand from the spinning blades. "The turbine will eat your hand in seconds. Pluck your fingers right from their sockets."
The youngster snatched his hand away in alarm.
"Always turn it off first." I waded through the shallow water and flipped the breaker. The steady thrumming of the blades ground to a stop, and the rush of the river buried us.
I kicked a metal bucket across the concrete floor. It stopped beside the trainee, and he filled it with debris from the clogged turbine. Once the idle blades were clean, I sent him up the tight access tunnel to the dam. I trusted no one to seal the lower hatch.
Seven years earlier, my own ten-year-old gaze fixed on the ungainly wrestling match between corpse and would-be rescuers as they extracted my own trainer from this very tunnel.
"They'll send him downstream," a fellow trainee said offhand.
"Downstream?" I asked.
"You know, downstream. He's no good to anyone now."
"Right." I pretended to know. No one I knew had ever gone downstream.
Workers heaved the corpse over the dam. The roiling waters swallowed it, but the bloated husk resurfaced and drifted away as its vacant eyes watched the sky. My mind replayed its final living moments as a jumbled loop of outstretched fingers and panicked eyes engulfed by dark waters that surged and gnashed at my heels. I'd come this close to being its companion, a discarded thing adrift downstream.