My hands ached with the effort. I crawled along a suspended wire high above the chasm, nothing but blackness - a void that sent phantom drafts of cool moist air up my gaping shirt. The earthquakes had separated us from our supplies and it was my turn for a salvage mission. The four other people onmy crew waited impatiently in one of the few surviving running vehicles (a van) inside the only passage remaining that was large enough to drive into. They were not idling - fuel was not to be wasted. The burning pain of my shoulders pulsed down my arms. The line was shaking badly as my terror swayed to a panicky rhythm .
Halfway across is when it happened. I could see the supplies amongst the rubble of what remained of the storage cache. Earth's population, as far as we knew was annihilated in one catastrophic event after another. If it wasn't our severe weather storms, or maximized volcanic activity, there were always the other attacks.
A mild earthquake shook the cavern as the bellows of the earth belched a green-grey mist. Goosebumps stood up my arms, back and neck. A tingling numbness spread over my body. I don't know what happened that day, I can only guess that what caused my transformation started with this moment.
I breathed in the rising mist. A bone-chilling cold moved through me as the serpentine strands crawled into my airways. Suddenly I could move again, the paralyzing fear that had held me to a shaking suspension had been lifted. I quickly maneuvered, knee to hand across the guide line to the other side. Using the pack I'd brought, I shoveled handfuls of medicine, preserved food rations and any other supplies that would fit. There were a lot of unspoiled food items still left in the cache- but I could not afford to take anymore this trip. All the while mild earthquakes continued to rock the cavern where my comrades and I were parked. I could not let them down, and I knew as the most feeble member of my crew they often wondered how I had survived to be a part of them. I am tall and slim, athletic except for a complete lack of coordination and self confidence.Being female made me valuable for survival reasons. More than one man had asserted his right to procreate, though I had never conceived. The knowledge of those moments sickened me with shame making me whither inside with a sort of weakness. I learned to force those emotions down - to focus on the present moment for survival.
The chilling force that moved through my body erased all fear. I knew with certainty that I was dying from what I breathed in, and could eerily see a short time into the future -the cavern would soon collapse. We had perhaps 10 minutes. With agility I couldn't have feigned before, I moved across the guide rope like a spider on her web. I pulled the sliding door open with a force that rocked the van and threw in my pack.
"What are you doing Jade?"
"Get this piece of shit moving, now. We have to get out of here before the whole cavern collapses!"
"But there's a lot more supplies still in there! Earthquakes like these won't make this cavern collapse" Heith accused.
"I know that Heith." I spat "Even as I know you're thinking about how to get Alornea to go with you tomorrow night to council - I know with the foresight of the doomed that we need to get out right now."
The cold certainty in my voice and the tendrils of energy that I could feel emmenating from me affected my crew's emotions. Rumors of the doomed, as they'd come to be known, were growing. Eventually I'd be marked as "Doomed" by my eyes. I retracted my will from theirs, even as I infected them with fear for survival. I had no idea how I'd done what I'd done, but I knew I was responsible for projecting my feelings outward and into them. It was as natural as breathing. Keisan put the van in gear as I slammed the door. The whole place began to shake violently. I was calm and silent as others around me shouted in fear. In the end, Keisan saved us all. The jagged edges of rock shook threateningly above us. The movement of the speeding van was accentuated by the now violently shaking earth. I could smell and taste sulfur as a huge section of rock fell with a thunderous crash in front of us.Keisan wove us past as rushing water parts before a boulder. We made it outside as the mouth of the cavern collapsed.
All eyes in the van turned to me. To find myself the scrutiny of such intensity nearly unnerved my new found confidence when I remembered my warning had just saved us all. Heith glared at me as Keisan looked straight ahead and offered "I think we should report back. We can't go back in there until we can get at least two other crews to help clear a path again, and Jade, if you are... what you say you are, Brocam will need to know." I shuddered at the mention of his name.
"Ok, turn the heap around then and lets head back" Chase said as if he were anticipating a good show. He looked at me knowingly, Alornea refused to look at me at all. The 5 of us were a newly formed crew, and not likely to form the closeness some units had. For one thing, Heith enjoyed drama and felt he should be the commanding officer, he often raved about how much better off we'd all be if Brocam weren't in charge. A sentiment that was easy to agree upon. Alornea was quiet, efficient, and utterly loyal to Heith. Chase liked upsetting Heith more than anything else, and Keisan patiently endured all of us. if I had any role, it was a pathetic one. I was the one the slowed people down, was clumsy, eyes downcast. I deliberately tried to make myself as small and quiet as possible. The best I could hope for was not to be noticed. I think that may be why Keisan chose to listen to me, as much as anything else. I never, ever, spoke out or tried to get attention. I nearly regretted that I had, and wondered reflectively if I should have kept my secret hidden.