Distant Hope

Reads: 374  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 2  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Distant Hope

Submitted: October 14, 2018

Reads: 406

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 14, 2018

A A A

A A A

DISTANT

HOPE


 

It hurts, it hurts so so much. It hurts more than I could possibly ever describe. It’s not just what the physical pain, that is killing me, but the idea that I might have failed those final words, that is tearing me apart. My stomach, it’s disintegrating, it’s being penetrated by twelve knives and twelve sticks, over and over again. I lay down on my side, and it continues, I sit up straight, and it continues, I stand up, and it continues, I lay down flat, and it continues. I place my hands, dripping with lava red, over my tummy, and it continues. Veins burst out of forehead as I strain myself, trying not to lose consciousness. Dad always said that if I lose my sight of this for too long, then I would never walk again. I want to walk this earth, I do. So I keep fighting it.

 

Maybe I have something left in my sack, maybe? I slowly extend my arms out toward the brittle, brown bag slumped over on the mattress next to me. Opening it slowly I see the following: a long, sturdy and silver knife. A picture with a black frame. A baby blue jacket. A purple ring. Dangit, I forgot to put on the ring again, stupid me. Why do I keep forgetting to wear this thing? One of these days I’m gonna regret it. I carefully lower my hand into the sack, picking up the purple ring and slipping it down my right hand’s ring finger. It glows softly in the afternoon sun. I think of who this ring stands for, and the hunger pangs die down, just a bit.

 

I hear footsteps. They sound like they’re coming from around the corner of the alley. My heart begins to race, my breathing becomes unsteady. Pleaaaaase don’t be an adult, please! I can’t run right now, I can’t I need her I need…. But no, it’s not an adult. It’s a child, a girl. She has long, flowing brown hair, and purple eyes. She has a tan sack over her shoulder, and her long black clothes are ripped and torn and splattered with blood. She walks quickly, breathing heavily, towards where I’m sitting. She drops the sack on the moist concrete.

“ I got somethings for us, don’t ask where I got it, I don’t wanna argue right now,” She says to me softly. It was my sister. I reach slowly for the tan sack, opening it. Inside is a picture with a  black frame, a yellow ring, and a silver pistol. But there is also a freshly baked chicken, and a bag of potato chips. My eyes widen, my mouth drips, my hunger becomes the definition of insanity.

“ You… How…” I mutter, words becoming hard. The girl sits down on the mattress next to me, placing her head on her hands as she watches me.

“ You wanna ask or eat?”

“ I…” I rip the chicken out of the sack, tearing off the casing. My hands scream in pain as blood flies in different directions. With Scarlett’s help we split the meat in two. For the next five minutes we sit there, on the dirty speckled mattress, gorging down the chicken like it was our life support. Like it was the only thing keeping us alive. Funny thing is, it was.

 

After it was reduced to mere specks on the mattress, I faced my sister. Her body was shivering, and it wasn’t from cold weather. Her face was dotted with scarred over cuts and bruises. She tried for a smile, for me, but I can tell she’s faking it. I move into her, hugging her tightly, painful as it might be on my ribs and hands.

“  I’m going to ask you about where you got this,” I say. “ Please tell me, like you never do,” Scarlett hugs me back, her hair falling down over my face.

“ You know why I never tell you, Owen,”

“ I know, but that doesn’t mean I like it,” I say. I hear her let out a laugh. Such a jarring thing, for her to laugh, or me, or anyone in this city. ABUSAR really isn’t a place for people to be laughing, not unless you’re a higher up. They only laugh upon the suffering of others. However, her laughing is one of the few joys I find in this world. If anything it gives me a reason to keeping fighting. Not just the people who hurt us but also the inner demons who hurt just as much if not more. I smile.

“ Come on, please,” I say.

“ I might tell you if you eat those chips,” She says.

“ Only if you eat some with me,” I say.

“ Alright,” I take the bag of potato chips out of the sack and open it up. The aroma flows out of the bag and swirls into our nostrils and into the air around us. I think I’m tearing up. So is Scarlett.

“ Owen are you crying over a bag of chips?” She asks.

“ N-no! I just got something in my eye, that’s all!” I say. Scarlett smiles. I notice something about this smile, it’s not the one she uses to get what she needs, no. It’s a different smile. The kind that only her brother would see. She was crying also.

 

Another few minutes float by, and the bag of chips lays on the concrete beside the filthy mattress, empty. I wipe the bits off my mouth and lick my fingers.

“ So, can you tell me now?” I ask. The sky is getting closer to night time. The sun is near the horizon line and the blue is fading to orange. Scarlett lays down on the mattress next to me.

“ Hmm, okay,” She says. “ From that shopping market just around the corner,” I let out a sigh, putting a hand to my face.

“ Why? You could’ve been caught you-”
“ I know, but I didn’t and we were hungry,” She says.

“ Sis, but what if you DON’T come back one of these days?” I ask. It’s a question we go over every time.

“ Same answer as always,” Scarlett turns over onto her side. “ You’d move on without me,” I flinch.
“ I really hate it when you say that,”

“ I know, but that’s the answer,” She says. “ We both know accepting the answer is better than avoiding it,” I sit in silence, my hand sliding over hers. We stay like that for a little bit. It may seem simple to some, but us these are the only moments we can live for. I lay down on the mat, and my eyes close. I enter a dream.

 

I assume it would be a nightmare. That’s what I normally get, visions of things I’m afraid of, that have happened, or what could happen to me. Because why would my brain give me a good sleep? Especially when sleep is so lacking in this city, why would I be granted some peace for once? This dream was no different. It was the same I’d experienced for months at a time.

 

There was me, as a little toddler. And Scarlett too. Babies just playing around in our rooms, with our toys. I would eat Scarlett’s dolls and she would get mad at me. She in return would break my toy in half. Our mom would have to step in and break us up, by giving us each a candy bar to suck on. Then we’d have a competition to see who could finish their candy bar first. We’d watch movies with our parents, and we’d eat delicious dinners too. It was so great.

 

Then, as I got to around thirteen years of age, Scarlett fourteen, we realized that dad wasn’t coming home as much as he had been. We asked mom, and she said he was just busy with work. We could accept that, for awhile. Eventually we’d barely even see him during the day. Mom said he was having troubles with his work that required him to stay even longer than usual, but she assured us he was coming back. So we waited. For months, we waited. Then one day he came home, but he was different. He wasn’t the happy, optimistic person we looked up to him for. He was sullen, depressed, worried. He came into our apartment one night, with two men flanking him. They were dressed in pitch black military suits, rifles in their arms. Mother told us to go into our room. Scarlett listened through the crack in the door. I remember her face being a mix of fear and confusion as she listened. I was scared, I didn’t know what was happening. I was too afraid to do much. We heard a gunshot go off.

 

It vibrated throughout the house, sending out a pulsation that rocked Scarlett and I. Scarlett closed the door as the soldiers walked down the hallway, looking for us. After a few seconds Scarlett ran out into the living room, and I followed her. I could hear the soldiers in the other side of the apartment. Our dad and mom were on the ground, red dripping from them, and coughing. My dream ended with their final words.

I believe you can be alright. You just have to try, and never stop trying. You will be alright, if anyone, for me. Okay?” Said Dad.

Please, find a way to be happy and live a better life than the one I couldn’t offer you. Please my loved ones.” Said Mom. These were the two sentences that kept us going, together, Scarlett and I.

 

Talking. Fierce, upset talking. Two sets of footsteps splashing on the pavement. The click of a gun. My eyes open, the surroundings nebulously coming into view.

“ I swear I heard the little shit coming this way, I’m telling you,”

“ You better not be wastin’ my time Chris, I got customas in-” Two long, slender figures stopped in the alleyway, staring at us. They each had a pistol, and they looked ready to kill.  

“ There they are! Ya sonofabitches are paying for stealing!” One of them began towards us, in a slow walk. I shot up, shaking Scarlett hard.

“ Scarlett get up get up now!” She was quick. We’d been in these situations enough to know when to move. She jumped up, grabbing her sack. I did the same. We bolted out the other side of the alley as the two men ran after us yelling. It was still midnight by this point as we jogged across streets and in between buildings.

 

We narrowly avoided bullets as we rounded corners, nearly slipping on the wet ground. We approached a park. A shoe store that was currently under construction loomed on the other end.

“ In there!” Scarlett said. “ We can hide!” I didn’t say anything but followed her through the dark grass. I hit a rock and fell. My heart pounded a hundred a minute. The men behind were catching up. Scarlett pulled me up, and she held onto my arm as we went around the park fountain and towards the store. The roofing, doors, windows and floors hadn’t been built yet, so it was easy to hop inside. The walls concealed us in solid darkness. I couldn’t see anything, only trusting the grasp of my sister to bring us to safety as usual. She pulled me downward behind a large piece of wood, and we sat there quietly. I made an effort to cover up my heavy breathing. I heard the men talking and stalking around the building. They didn’t come in. If they were seen messing in construction zones they could be fined. Finally I heard their feet moving away.

 

We were both so tired we conked out immediately.













 

The morning sunshine hit my face, blinding me for a few seconds. Once my eyes dilated properly, I sat up, rubbing my face. People were outside, walking around. A woman was seated at a park bench, with a bag of fast food beside her. My stomach growled at the sight of it.

“ You want that bag don’t you,” Scarlett was against the wall a few feet away. Her pistol was in her hands, being rotated and inspected. She hadn’t used that thing since she stole it last week. I wasn’t sure how much ammo it had. “ I want it to,”

“ W-what does that mean?” I ask.

“ We’ll take it. We need it more than she does.” She says. “ Don’t worry, I’m not gonna shoot her,” She saw me looking nervously at the gun.

“ So..?” I say.
“ I say we distract her, one of us, then the other steals the food and we meet back here,” Scarlett says. That seemed fine to me.
“ What if we’re caught here?” I ask.

“ All the workers can do is kick us out remember?” She says. That’s true, only the worse people murder on the spot. The workers might just humiliate you.

 

Scarlett goes over to the woman.

“ Excuse me ma’am, do you know where the nearest bathrooms are?” The woman looks down at her, a scowl in her face.

“ Well don’t you look like the dirt on the street. Where’s your parents little one?”

“ Just ‘round the corner ma’am. I just need to use the bathrooms very badly. Do you know where the nearest ones would be located?” Scarlett asks. The woman glances around quickly. I watch intently, getting ready to move.

“ I think you can find one in there, you see that clothing store? In there little one,” The woman says, pointing to a small store across the way.

“ But ma’am,” Scarlett shifts in place, acting awkward. “ I’m… Too afraid to go in by myself, could you come with me?”

“ Why the hell would you ask a stranger to come with you?” The woman considers for a second. A sly smile stretches on her face. The same face the rapists get when they think they can take my sister’s virginity. “ Actually, sure little one, follow me,” The woman gets up, leaving her food on the bench. Scarlett follows her to the store. I make my move.

 

I dash over to the bench, snatching the bag of fast food. I take a look inside. A cheeseburger, two fries and a small pack of nuggets. My mouth dribbles just looking at it. But I can’t stay here long for I may get seen. I run back to the construction zone with the bag. As I come back, a man in an orange vest stops me.

“ Kid, where do you think you’re going?”

“ Uh…” He’s with some other men, they’re in workers gear. They must be builders for the construct. “ I was going to… Uh…”

“ Kid, don’t stay here, we have enough of problems with this damn spa as it is we don’t need rats like you here, go!” He orders me. With a squeak I say yes and go around the side of the zone. There’s a street behind it, with some benches. I sit down at one, hoping that Scarlett can find me. Five minutes later, I see her walking up to me. She seems fine. She sits down next to me.

“ Nice job Owen!”

“ Thanks, what’d you do?” I ask. She wipes her hair out of her face.

“ Not much, I just followed her around the store for a bit, before this one guy at the cashier counter yelled at me for being too dirty and small to be in a place like that. Gave me a good excuse to leave. I hardly think the woman noticed.” it wasn’t unusual for us to get kicked from places that didn’t like homeless kids. Which was most places.

“ Oh, well here.” I split the food with her and we ate. It was still fairly warm, and it was great!

 

After that, we had to move. That bench was apparently a bus stop bench, and we couldn’t sit with the wealthier people waiting for a ride. We found our sacks by the side of the construction zone. The workers had set it there for garbage disposal. Least we made it there in time. We walked around the city. I hate this, I really do. People watching you, giving you nasty looks. People avoiding you, not wanting to be within fifteen feet of a gross child like Scarlett and I. Some of them would shoo us away, and deliberately change their course to avoid us. We’d have to walk through more alley ways to get away from it. They smell so bad. They’re littered with trash, and bones, and bullets and mentally insane men who rip off their flesh and try to sell it to us. One of them attempted to steal my sack, until Scarlett shot him with her pistol. I told her it was a waste of ammo, but she insisted it wasn’t. The sound of that shot still rings in my ears. I hate guns, and I hate violence. Even if I have to see it all the time. Like a man robbing a woman’s jewelry, a woman trapping a toddler in a side street, and raping him. A man taking a starving homeless girl’s only food, and leaving her to cry and die alone in agonizing pain only she and us know. They never know, the ones who do it to us. They don’t care to know.

 

We reached the apartment complex of ABUSAR. Tall slender buildings housing the men and women who actually get lucky. No wonder so many rooms are empty. As we crossed the late morning street, the blazing sun in the sky, Scarlett tugged on my arm.

“ Hey, look at that!” I raised my gaze to follow hers. One apartment, had a reddish tint to it, had a poster on the front of it. ROOFTOP POOL PARTY! COME EVERYONE! FREE! This was odd. Things like this are exclusive to military meetings. In the past I’ve seen these things get shut down and the party benefactors executed. I figure this part will meet the same fate. “ Let’s go there! Cool off some steam.”

“ But, Sis, isn’t that risky?” I ask, my voice low.

“ So? I’ve told you so many times now, this is what allows us to experience what they do, so we shouldn’t waste this chance,” She says. She always says that, and she’s usually right. We’ve pushed our luck so many times now, when will the climax finally come and take our lives?

“ I dunno…” I say.

“ Well I’m going,” Scarlett starts toward the building on her own. I stay put for ten seconds before I run up next to my sister and enter the apartment with her. As we do so, I can see her smirking. She did that on purpose.

 

Other people are walking around, most of them head up the stairs to the rooftop. We ask clerk if an elevator is available.

“ If you’re in a rush then you can use the stairs, the elevatas aren’t working.” She tells us. They never seem to be working, I swear. I’m too scared to move up the stairs with strangers.

“ Just hold your knife and me,” Scarlett says. I do so as we make our way up with the crowd. I’m not sure if I can even use this knife on anyone, I can’t fight.  By some fortune we didn’t need to. We made it to the roof easily. There were some tables spread out, and drinks passed around. A hot tub was on and people were in bathing suits relaxing. The normality and peacefulness of it made me queasy. This was just an illusion. Something like this couldn’t last long. Scarlett handed me something.

“ Here, this is a drink, I think.” I look at the glass in my hand. It’s long and slender. The brown, bubbly liquid inside pops in my nostrils when I smell it. The man who gave it to Scarlett passed me again.

“ Puedes beberlo, es muy simpático!” He said to us. We both stare at him dumbfounded.

“... what?” Scarlett asks. I shake my head shyly.

“ don’t worry about him kids.” A woman said to us. She was leaning on a reclining chair, sipping a beer. “ he’s not akin to English.” Oh, so that’s the deal. Foreigners are allowed here if they have enough money to maintain themselves. There’s no organizations setup to help or aid anyone. If you can’t sustain yourself, you might as well be dead. You need money, and you need loyalty. If you don’t have those things, then you might as well be dead. Often enough foreigners arrive to ABUSAR, and they end up in the burner.

 

I set the glass on the ground, I didn’t want to be contaminated by it like so many others have been. I heard that drinks and substances like it can help cheer you up. I saw what it really does to people. Walk around the streets long enough and you’ll see the real effects that temporary happiness gives you. Drugs, alcohol, impatient love. It’s all the same really. All leave you broken, and shattered. More destroyed than what can possibly be put together again.

 

Scarlett and I stared at the hot tub the party had. A couple of people were in, enjoying themselves. They were wearing their normal clothing, since they couldn’t afford swimsuits. They talked, but I could tell it was stressed.

“ So, how’s everyone been today?”
“ I’m fine.”
“ Yeah, it’s been alright.”

“ Me too. Anyone have plans for later on?”
“ Oh you know, just the usual haha.”
“ Yeah, just the usual.” They tell each other. Multiple faces, all different, yet so much the same. Scarlett makes a step towards the tub, as if she wants to go in. Then she stops abruptly, and looks at me. Silently she asks me you want to go in with me? I can’t go in without you. I look at her back. Eyes connecting. I want to, I really do. But I can’t. I tell her back. She nods. She understands. If we were to join, we’d only disrupt their happiness. Their short, temporary session of simply feeling pleasure. In this world, pleasure only comes in short bursts. So, if that’s true, then why not enjoy it? We stand their, together, watching them. Someone laughs, and the others join in. I can see the slight defects in their motions. The walls slowly breaking, the tears desperately trying to get out. To reach someone, someone for help. But no one here can help. We’re all strangers.

 

It’s getting chilly out. I open my sack and slip on my blue jacket. A bit warmer. Alia was already wearing a jacket, torn as it is. That’s fine, so is mine. I see the knife yet again. I could slit their throat, I could drown them. I could take their stuff, make it easier to live the next couple days. That’s what they do around here anyway, the lost ones. Fighting the rich just to survive. But I can’t.

 

I hear footsteps. I turn around, to see the roof door fly open. Several cops swarm outwards.

“ This party is over! By law number thirty seven: No parties unauthorized by the Court or by the President is legal!” They became to grab, shove, hit, and take people away. Someone tried to run, someone jumped off the side of the building. The woman from before screamed as she was grasped by two men. I watched in astonishment, sewed to the ground. A hand grabbed my arm and pulled down the stairs. I followed after Scarlett, nearly tripping over everystep. We passed an open doorway, wear a TV was on. I stopped, and looked at it. It was an ad for another city. From here it was far away. Named RELACIATION. It was labelled as “The City That Demands Aid!” It invited anyone over. I thought that place was illegal to go to. You couldn’t charter a flight or car ride over there, you’d get jailed for that. Scarlett came over to me.

“ Owen, what are you-” She saw what I was looking at. A smile grew on her face. The only time that occurs is when she’s thinking of something dangerous. “ We should talk.” She pulled me out of the building.

 

We continued running until the gunshots and screams were faint sounds in the distance. We stopped at a bench into between two buildings. Scarlett sat down, and I did the same. I was shaking. She spread her arms, and I leaned into her. She closed around me, letting me cry into her chest. I don’t like cops, and the president and the court. They’re scary. They’re really scary. They scare me, I don’t like them. We stayed like that a few minutes.

“ Hey, Owen.” Scarlett says.

“ Hmm.” I say.
“ You remember that ad we saw on the TV?” She asks.

“ Yeah.” I say, my voice semi-muffled in the cloth.
“ We should go there.” She says.
“ Can’t, dangerous.” I say.

“ But we might have a chance there, we’re gonna die.” She says.

“ But is not legal.” I say. It’s hard to talk and cry.

“ I know Owen, I know.” She strokes my hair. “ But if we could, it may be worth it.” I release, looking into her eyes, purple in the afternoon light.

“ Scarlett, it is so far away!” I say.

“ So?” She puts a hand on my cheek. “ I think it’s possible, if we did it together.” I look at the streets. More people walking, more faces pretending. More suitcases full of money and job missions. Maybe it was time to try something new.

“ It’s dangerous. I don’t want you to get hurt.” I say. Scarlett smiles again, a sad one.

“ Nothing can hurt me if you’re here alongside me.” She says. I hold her hand.

“ You aren’t joking?” I ask.

“ No, not this time. Please Owen?” She’s asking me now. I sigh.

“ I guess so. But if we do, I want to do it.” I say. Scarlett removes her hand.

“ No.”
“ Why?” I ask.

“ I’ve told you it’s a deathwish going back there.” She says.
“ But just for a bit please!” I say. Scarlett rubs her hands over her face.

“ If I did, would you promise to leave with me?”
“ Yes!” I say. I see her hand ball up, then relax.

“ Fine. I’ll be watching close, anything goes in the slightest wrong and we’re out. Got it?”

“ Yes thank you!” I say. Excitement builds up in me. We’d be seeing my only other friend.



 

The Child Center. A place for kids who have no home, and no money to support them. It contains over three hundred kids. We were lucky to escape the first time. We shouldn’t be here again. We waited till nightfall to get in. That way there wasn’t any adults watching. A window was open, and we could climb in. It had the same feel it did back then. Eerily quiet. The air dense, death wandering around at all times. Abusive whips, pins, stretchers, vibrators, and the incinerator waiting nearby. They’re motto was: If they don’t listen, they don’t live. As we pass these, Scarlett shudders, and stays closer to me, hand on my shoulder. She’d been through at least of these, being the older of us. The older the more you have to endure, that’s what they expect. They don’t see us breaking on the inside, they don’t care. Listen, or don’t. Our choice, they said.

 

We enter one of the halls where the kids sleep in cells. I stop at one, I-seven. On the bed lays a girl. Her black hair falls over the side, touching the cold cement. Her face is laid back, relaxed, blessed with the gift of sleep. One of the only temporary pleasures one can have without repercussions. She’s so peaceful I almost don’t want to take it away. Like those in the hot tub.

“ Hey, Emily.” I say very low. She doesn’t stir. I look at Scarlett.

“ Emily, it’s us, the Yeebs.” She says. Emily eyes open, she sits up, and looks down straight at us. Her face flashes with joy, and she calms herself. Carefully stepping down from the bed, she limps over to us. She’s wearing a white gown, her legs arms and face scarred and cut. Her lips are split, her nose broken. Each step hurts her groin. Emily grasps the bars of her cell softly. Her eyes are green, and filled with happiness she hadn’t felt in a long time.

“ Y-Yeebs… You’re… Here?” Her voice is cracked and soft.

“ Yeah, it’s us.” I say, looking at her. Emily was a kid that Scarlett became friends with before I was born. They became incredibly close, and I joined in later on too.

“ We’re leaving this place.” My sister says.

“ You’ve… Said that before.” Emily says.

“ I mean the city. We’re heading somewhere better.” Scarlett says.

“ To the other place, RELACIATION.” I say.

“ Oh…” Emily look at the ground, her hair over her eyes. “ But… I’m alone then.” Scarlett glances at me.

“ Emily, you can come with us!” I say. She flinches.

“ I...I… Can’t.”

“ No, Emily please no!” Scarlett says. She puts her hand over her mouth, realizing she’s talking to loud. “ Not like last time, please don’t do this to us.” Emily clasps her hands together, still looking at the ground. A delicate, yet stubborn girl, gone through so much, yet still she stays.

“ I can’t. It’s much more...Dangerous out there.” She says.

“ I know,” I say. “ I wouldn’t go either, but I will, with my sister.”

“ And you can come too! We can all help each other out there!” Scarlett says, trying to be cheerful. Emily’s cracked expression stays the same.

“ Maybe… For you too that is so… For me?” She gestures towards herself. “ I know I am a lost cause. Mentally, physically, they’ve ruined me…”

“ But, that doesn’t matter.” Scarlett says.

“ Yeah,” I say. “ If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my sister, it’s that with the right person you can do the impossible. As impossible as that seems.” I say. I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t believe that. Emily shakes her head.

“ Not for me. You two have been the best things in my life, and yet I messed it up.”

“ Wha…?” Scarlett breathes.

“ When you two ran away all those months ago… I stayed.” Emily says. “ It’s too harmful out there for me.”

“ Not with us it isn’t! We can protect and heal you! Just like before.” Scarlett says. I nod in agreement. Not much to add to the truth.

“ Please… I’ve already accepted that my life is here, not there. I missed my chance long ago.” Emily looks up at us slowly. “ But you, dear friends, can go. You know how to survive, you can make it.”
“ Emily…” Scarlett begins to tear up again. “ Please… No.” I reach carefully, and touch Emily’s hand. She doesn’t recoil.

“ If you won’t come, we can’t force you. But, just please consi-”
“ I’ll help you escape.” She says.

“ Wait, you’ll what?” I say, confused.

“ I will… There’s… The eastern gate near here, you know of it, we can get you out through there.” Emily says.

“ Then we can get you out too!” Scarlett says. Emily looks up at her. Scarlett steps back. Emily’s expression is filled with agony, sadness, regret. But also determination.

“ Scarlett, please let her do this for us.” I say. Scarlett shakes, tears splatter on the floor.

“ I-I don’t want this.”

“ I know.” I hug her. “ But this will make her the happiest, right?” I glance at Emily, who nods, thankful that I understand. Scarlett holds onto me, still crying.

“ Scarlett, please. Let me do this at least, which I am willing to do.” Emily says.

“ W-we need to get her out of here.” Scarlett mutters. I nod.

“ Where’s the key?” I ask.

“ I’ll go look for it.” Scarlett says immediately. She’s always the one who wants to jump into danger.

“ Then I’m coming with you.” I say. Scarlett shakes her head.

“ No, stay here with her.” She motions to Emily.

“ But…” As much as I could tell that Emily wanted someone here with her, I also was not okay with leaving my sister. “ Are you gonna be quick?”

“ I...Don’t know.” Scarlett says.  

 

It took her too long to come back. It really did. I waited there, sitting next to the bars to Emily’s cell. Emily herself sat on the ground next to me, trying to talk to me. I think she wanted to make me feel better my giving me something to think about other than the impending doom we’re facing. Would be, are, same difference. I just spoke back to her to make her feel better, since my feelings wouldn’t change unless my sister came back. I attempted to ask Emily how she managed to survive this long in a place like this. She wouldn’t answer. She’d just look away, and stay silent for awhile. I didn’t press, I knew that topics such as this weren’t easy to simply say. The more curious adults on the streets would ask Scarlett and I those same, similar questions. I wouldn’t know how to respond, how DO you answer something like that? Scarlett would say a word or two, and then we’d move on. It was more about the fact that they weren’t trying to hurt us or take advantage of us kids, rather than them asking such questions. Eventually Scarlett did come back.

 

She was wearing a depressed mouth, and sunken eyes. Gold and red keys swung in her hand.

“ I… Found it.” She said.

“ What…” I didn’t need to finish the sentence.

“ So many…” Scarlett said. “ So many of them, like us, trapped here. We’d never be able to free ‘em all by ourselves.”

“ You, had to pass through more cells, didn’t you?” Emily asked. Scarlett nodded. She inserted the key into the slot, and turned it. The lock clicked open, and the bars receded into the walls. Emily simply stayed on the ground, looking around. I stood up, and offered her my hand. She looked at my hand, as if she wasn’t used to this kind of opportunity. I understand. None of us, not really. None of us really do. I kept my hand out patiently. Only kids like us understand the preciousness of patients and following a distant hope. No matter how far away it seems. Emily slowly takes my hand, I feel the roughness, the cuts scratching into her skin, into her soul. I heave her up nicely. Scarlett smiles, and softly hugs her old friend. I can tell the physical contact hurts Emily, but she lets it happen. This was one kind of contact she’d give anything to have.

“ Now,” She releases Scarlett, facing us both. “ I… Can show you to the gate.”

“ You can still come.” Scarlett says. “ Please.” Emily faces downward, and leads the way.


 

I hate travelling through this city at night time. It’s even more dangerous than the day. I never know if a predator or money maker is around the corner. Maybe they’re waiting, or maybe they just happen to be there, and won’t miss an opportunity if they see one. Same difference. I almost got kidnapped during the night. Guy wanted to sell me on the black market, would’ve had a good amount of older men and women eager for a small boy to abuse however they like. That was the first time Scarlett had shot her gun. First time I realized I hated guns. Scarlett had never gotten kidnapped, and so far I haven’t had to save her. Always been the other way around. Someday I wanna make it up to her, if I can.

 

 

We manage to reach the eastern gate, right where Emily had said it’d be. The wall loomed large and monstrous over us. At first it seemed as if no one was there. After a quick double take I see three soldiers standing guard. They’re suits outlined in white, making it obvious they’re there. I knew these kinds, they had on special helmets with visors that let them have night vision. They also tended to be the more skilled with aiming, since crimes were up at night around the gates. We were a good distance away, enough to where we weren’t a threat to them yet.

“ Do we have a… Plan?” I ask softly.

“ Main objective is to get the guards away from here, so we can move on through.” Scarlett says. We all whisper.

“ But you need to unlock the gate,” Emily says. “ I can do that. I’ve heard some things at the Care center, I may be able to input the password in the terminal.”

“ You can do that?” I ask.
“ Then Owen and I will make the way for you.” Scarlett says. They were ignoring me.

“ Make way?” I ask. Scarlett pulls her gun out of her sack.
“ Yes.”

“ Sis we can’t fight them!” I say, panicking a little inside.

“ No, not fight, distract.” She says.

“ How am I supposed to distract with a knife?” I ask.

“ If you throw it it’ll make a sound when it hits the ground, use that to your advantage. Lure them away from the gate.” Scarlett says. “ I can do the same.”

“ Long enough for me to get the passcode in, and for you two to escape.” Emily says. I consider this. I am a better runner than a brawler. Night vision may improve vision during the night, but it doesn’t make it perfect.
“ Ok, when?” I say. Scarlett looks towards Emily. She goes into a nearby alley, and nods to us. “ Owen, you go over to the right and distract that guard, I’ll take left. Loop around and we’ll run through the gate together.” I nod.

“ Ok, please be alive after this.”
“ You too,” She says, and runs left. I inhale, steeling myself to move. I look to Emily, who puts on a fake smile, and gestures for me to move. I run right.


 

I’m surprised this worked. Somehow it did. I ran through an alleyway, and came too close to the right guard. He hadn’t seen me yet. I took out the silver knife. I chucked to the side, and it clanked on the ground. Things are a lot louder at night. The soldier instantly noticed, and advanced towards me. I hugged the corner of the building, watching as he picked up the knife. I needed him to move away further. I wasn’t sure what else to do, until he saw me.

“ Hey kid get over here!” I dashed down the street. I could hear his footsteps charging after me. Adrenaline pumped through my veins. Excitement, terror, the thought that I was doing something useful, and the thought that I could die if I hit a rock and fell. I tried to suppress the thoughts of dying, and just kept going. The city was a black maze, the buildings geometrical objects, meant to keep me trapped and destroy me from the inside for the government’s amusement. After some time I couldn’t hear the soldier’s footsteps anymore. I could hear his distant shouting. This was good. He was still in the area looking for me. I turned around, and made my way back to the gate. I kept thinking that at any moment on my way back I’d get caught. The guard would see me, and he would fire. Or I would run into another adult, and something else would happen to me. Every door, and window I passed, the opportunity came and went. I’d passed here plenty times, yet this was the first time I was actually leaving.

 

As I neared the gate, I saw the other two guards were gone. I heard a gunshot in the distance, near where Scarlett said she’d be. I pushed down dark thoughts and continued on. I halted at the gate, long and rectangular. Emily was at the green lit terminal. It was casting an eerie glow in the night atmosphere. Emily was barely standing, leaning on the keyboard. I hadn’t thought that this would put stress on her body. I moved in carefully, and grabbed her waist for support. She let out a small shriek, then calmed, seeing it was me. She finished inputting a long series of numbers. How long it’d taken her to memorize it, I couldn’t fathom. Too long. The gate itself had two layers to it, one for people and one for vehicles. Emily opened the people one, as it would make less noise. It still made noise. It screeched along the cement. I cringed, fearing others would hear and come. A person came, rushing along towards us, a sack in hand.

“ Move!” Scarlett said as she passed us. She raced through the gate. Emily looked at me.

“ Go.”

“ Please come.” I said.

“ No.” She says.
“ Please!” I say, my voice cracking like hers. “ We can help you we-”
“ Stop it Owen!” Her voice was raising. “ You know I can’t go, I just can’t. Please go.”
“ I…” She stared me in the eyes, weak but serious.

“ You and Scarlett were the best people I ever knew, thank you. Make it to that other place, and do it for me.” She said, and with the last of her strength shoved me into the gate. I wanted to say something, but the guards were back. They seized Emily, and started for me. I ran ahead, and pasted through the gate. As I came, Scarlett pushed another terminal set on the outside wall.  The door closed shut behind me. I kept running, I don’t know where I am or what’s around me, but my legs won’t stop. I hit a rock, and fall face first into the ground.




 

The morning sun rises over the desert. The sky is speckled with clouds. Vulture caw in the distance, cacti come into view. Shadows from the war ruined structures stretch out.  I am on the ground, my head propped up by something. A figure is looming over me, sitting on the sand. For a second I couldn’t remember anything. My mind was at a blank. That blissfulness only lasted a short while. It all recalled back to me. The gate, the guards. Emily. I sit up, rubbing my head where I fell. My eyes adjusted to the light. I felt warm and odd. There was no sound of other humans around, which I’m not used to. Someone hugged me.

“ Owen! Are you feeling ok?” Scarlett asks.
“ Uh, I guess so. What...Happened?” I say. It’s peaceful, that’s weird. Scarlett looks me in the eyes, hands on my shoulders.

“ We got out! We really did, look! Look around us Owen!” She seems excited, which is very rare. I take a better glance around the desert. Sand, sand everywhere. The walls of ABUSAR stand tall in the distance behind me.
“ How far did you carry me?” I ask.
“ Enough, I think. But we should move.” Scarlett stands up. She lifts her sack. “ Can you stand Owen?” I attempt to do so. At first I lose balance, as my feet are asleep. I pick myself up, using Scarlett’s aid.

“ But… We don’t know what’s out here, do we?” I ask.

“ We…. Uh…” Scarlett falters. “ We will, we just have to keep moving, that’s all.”

“ And food? And shelter?” I ask. I can see my sister’s face. She’s happy, wondering, but also scared.

“ We’ll manage.” She says. I take hold of her hand.

“ I think so.” I say. We may not know what’s out here, or how we’ll do anything to survive, but we just have each other, and that’s enough.

 

Five days. Five long, dry, painful, sucking, endless, hopeless, tan, green, silver days. The desert was not the city. It did not have people who wanted to use you, and it did not have a government in which it would torment you with. Yet it did have it’s set of skills. The desert had skills to use that would make sure our time in it wouldn’t be easy. I knew they were supposed to be dry. I had always imagined going into a desert with supplies for the journey. Some water, and some tents for the night. Those of which we had neither. The air was multiple degrees hotter than I had ever experienced. The sand, countless number of grains underneath my feet. We stepped on it, hearing the small crunches as our worn shoes dug into them. Some moments the ground was soft, and I was enveloped by it, but Scarlett would pull me out. She would begin to shrink shortly after, and I would pull her out. We’d be ten feet under if not for the other. During the night we had no home or alley to stay in. Only the moon over us. We had to stay in trenches. Miles long ditches dug to cover soldiers during wars. ABUSAR only had a few allies. There were too many they did not, and they were the ones ABUSAR was always fighting over. By the time I was born the most recent war had ended, 3045. I’m not sure if any other wars are going to happen or not, I’m not in a position to be educated in those sorts of things. Seeing these, brings up a memory of our father.

“ If we ever leave this city, I’ll show you something.” He had said to infant us. “ The trenches that the soldiers use for cover. You’ll know if they’re getting ready to use them if there is boxes and supplies littered around and inside of them. If there isn’t any around, that’s good.” Seeing them now, there wasn’t any supplies or crates or anything. Just sand and the half-pipe that was dug. Good, I think.

 

It wasn’t easy doing basic things like eating, sleeping, and focusing. This won’t be the last time I say this, probably. Sleeping in those trenches was fortunate because there were so many of them, about every couple miles away from each other. The sand itself was cool at night, not like a bed, but I’m used to not having that. The stars glittered overhead, with no sounds of anyone nearby, it was peaceful. It was easier to sleep also, since I’d be so exhausted from the day’s travelling my body was out in an instant. One night I woke up with a start. Not a nightmare, not this time, but it was Scarlett. She had a vulture in her hand, squeezing its neck shut, pistol in her other hand.

“ This guy fell for our trap, this late at night too, weird.” She said. Her and I had come up with a way of getting food. It all had to do with using each other in ways that would outsmart the animal in our favor. If it was a vulture, we’d play dead. When it came down to check us out, one of us would grab it, and then Scarlett would hammer it with her pistol. She had run out of bullets long ago. Now it’s a bashing tool, still effective enough. For a cheetah, wolf or cat, one of us would have it chase us, and the other would throw the pistol at it, hitting on the head and knocking it out long enough to bash it dead. Of course, this was very hard, and too much of the time it barely worked. We were incredibly lucky to even be alive. One of us would miss the vulture, miss throwing the pistol, or the animal wouldn’t buy it. All times we’d have to run away, just barely escaping. Where the desert is barren of humans, it’s filled with wild animals. They distract each other, allowing us to slip through, mostly. I and Scarlett each have new cuts and tears in our body from the unlucky times. Our stomachs ache nonstop for more food. We manage slivers of enough to keep walking. In this case I can thank mother nature for keeping our predators busy so we can keep going, at the cost of our healthiness. I also remind myself often about the things I have that are keeping me going. The ring, the family portrait, and of course, Scarlett, my sis.

 

Now it’s the beginning of day six. Scarlett hadn’t found anything for us to eat, no animals showed up. We have to move on. Taking our worn sacks, in our withering clothing, we trudge on. The heat, it’s been going on for all this time, how am I not dead yet? My mind barely works, sweat is a norm, coolness is rare. I can see a structure up ahead. It seems like a military compound. I think it may not be such a good idea to go there, as people could live there, and that wouldn’t be good. Then again…

“ If we try going there, we might find help,” Scarlett was saying. “ Could be better than out here…”
“ I guess.”  I say in a low voice. If there’s any chance of living till tomorrow, that’d be it. The things we’ve been relying on probably aren’t gonna help us much longer, so better take the chance, I guess. We approach the front of the long rectangular building. There’s a human sized door, and on the other side is much larger gate for vehicles. It seems odd, standing out here all by itself. Why would anyone still be here? If there’s not a war there wouldn’t need to be a reason, would there? What city is it owned by? Please don’t be the one we came from, please. Scarlett places her hand on the steel door knob, and turns it. As she pulls it open, it creaks, echoing in my dry ears. I should’ve heard the steps towards us. The faces looking down at us, the hands on our shoulders, the invitations and smiles. The door closing behind us.

 

Gang. It was a gang hideout. Called themselves the Arobabians. They’d come from RELACIATION. They wanted to live a law free life on their own, and moved into this abandoned war facility. It consisted of twelve men who all wore white short clothing, and showed most of their skin. They’d left the inside of their place mostly empty, save for some food and weapon containers. They had made bedrooms and bathrooms out of the old weapon storages.

“ Please, don’t worry lil’ ones.” One of them said. “ We honestly want to help you, so don’t worry about a thing!”

“ Are you… Safe?” Scarlett asks softly. That was the million dollar question she used to ask. Eventually she just stopped asking since we both knew it was always no. Another one of the men laughed. They were all wearing black suits, as if they wanted to hide in the dark. Gloves on their hands and beanies on their heads.

“ We most certainly are. We know how hard it is to live out here.” Said the one holding my hand, leading into a room. “ We’ve been out here for a long while. Cities are too busy and bustling, but out here is a lot simpler of a life.”

“ You got that right.” Said a man at a counter. It looked like he was making some sort of food dishes. “ Maybe it’s harder to get food, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to make them afterwards. No restaurant policies and whatnot.” I saw others in there. There was maybe about a dozen in there in total. They’d renovated the facility big time. It looked more like a homeless shelter than a military compound. As of yet there wasn’t any indication that this was dangerous.

 

We were lead into a side room, with a double sized bed, some nightstands, a window and a lamp. I got flashbacks to my parents old room.
“ This is where you’ll be stayin’. You can stay as long as you like. We got ya covered.” Said the man next to my sister.

“ And if you need anything, then just holler and we’ll come as fast as we can.” Said the one next to me. They stunk, they smelled bad. I guess there isn’t much method in showering out here. No wonder they all smelled the same. The door closed and Scarlett and I were left in the room together. I was split. On the one hand I desperately wanted to cry out with joy. We’d actually survived the desert and made it somewhere. Whatever kind of place this is, it was still something. The other part of me said this wasn’t the home we’re looking for. It’s a trap, or it’s something not good. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Looking at Scarlett she felt the same way. She was stiff as a  slab of cement, and despite the weather, she was ice cold to the touch.

“ They aren’t what they seem,” She said. “ We can’t get comfortable here.” I fiddled my hand into hers.

“ But can we try? Where else is there to go?” She didn’t answer me. “ Please Scarlett? At least a few nights, please? I don’t wanna go back out there again!” She shivered for a moment longer, then stopped. She looked me in the eyes.

“ Even if we die?”
“ I dunno, are we?” I asked. I was still conflicted on that. Scarlett shook her head.

“ We can try this, but…” Before she could continue the door opened up again. We both sprang back. A man carrying a two silver trays looked at us.

“ Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to startle ya. Here, I made some food, ya may not be used to it, but it’ll be something eh?” He set down the trays on the ground. I recognized cut up meat, and maybe beans? The liquid seemed like water. It smelled fine enough. I inched closer to it, Scarlett staying back. “ Well, enjoy, then…” The man left the room, and shut the door.

 

I ate the whole of my tray before Scarlett even moved. She kept asking if it was poisonous, and inhaling sharply each time I swallowed. I think the only reason she didn’t try to stop me was because she knew I was starving. But so was she. After drinking the meat, the beans and drinking the water, (which was fairly dry) I turned to my sister.

“ You can eat it! See I did and I’m not dead!” She looked at me, a mixture of fear and anxiety in her eyes. Scarlett slowly stepped towards the tray, and picked up the fork. She inserted a bite into her mouth and chewed. This was one of those rare times that I got to be the brave one. If this was a brave thing to do. Scarlett took a long time to finish her tray. Only hunger forced her to do so. After she sat watching it. “ Are you k?” I asked softly. She shrugged. I wasn’t sure what else to do. I found my eyes starting to close on their own. How long had it been? I looked at the bed behind us. It stood red and white, with fluffy pillows and a dirty mattress and sheets. I got up and waddled over to its edge. It was held up by boxes underneath. I prepared to climb up, when two hands hoisted me up onto it. Scarlett hopped up and plopped down with me. There may have been something to say, but we didn’t say it. We fell dead asleep in milliseconds.


 

In the morning I woke up to Scarlett standing at the door. It towered over her. She noticed me.
“ We’re going to the bathroom together.” She said. I rubbed my eyes.

“ We what?”
“ Get down here, I’m not leaving this room without you.” She waved for me to join her.

“ You can’t go yourself?” I asked, falling off the side of the bed.

“ No chance you’d be able to protect yourself in here alone. So come on.” She said. I walked up to her, and poked her arm.
“ I could!” I said. She smiled a tad as she reached for the door’s knob. Her arm turned and the door swung open, barely missing her face. Another man, still in black was in our way. He had a beard going down to his breast.

“ Mornin’ lil’ ones. Hungry?” He asked, very politely.
“ Bathroom.” Scarlett said.
“ Ah, right. Over there and to the left, we only have one.” The man pointed down a small hallway. Scarlett began past him and I nervously followed. As I pasted the man, I glanced up at him. He was smiling, and licking his lips. The way one would if looking at food. I turned the corner and made sure I was close to Scarlett.

 

I had to wait too long for Scarlett to finish in the bathroom. It did give me time to think, leaning against the grey wall. This reminded me of the times when Emily would come to our house. She loved to prank me by staying in the bathroom for hours. Scarlett would be in on it too. She pretended like Emily was missing, and then my parents would go searching for her. Emily would finally come out hours later, laughing so hard she could barely walk. It was especially bad when she took my toys in with her. Emily. My brain faulted when I thought of what is becoming of her now. Is she still alive? Would she even get the chance to use the restroom ever again?  I looked down at the sack in my hand. I still had it with me. I got so used to carrying it that I never let it go now it seems. I took out the picture of my family. Only person missing was Emily. She wanted to be in it, but her mother was spending the day with her at a concert. It was one of the last concerts she’d seen before she was taken to the care center after her mother’s death. If I remember right it was a few weeks before us. Those were odd weeks. We had no clue what happened to her, since they don’t tell you when they take your friends away. Scarlett opened the bathroom door.

“ Your turn.” She said. “ I’ll be right here.” I went in, taking the picture and sack with me. My dad said it was unhygenic to take belongings into the restroom. I wonder what he would say now.

 

We spent a lot of time in the bedroom. The door itself was unlocked, but every time we tried to leave someone would give an excuse for us to go back inside. “ We’re making food, we have a surprise, it’s dangerous outside, not now.” They were just lies to keep us in. We were hardly feed, some nights not at all.  The night stand’s shelves were empty, save for a few pencils and paper I found in one of them. I wrote down Emily’s name on my family photo, and Scarlett cried when I did. She asked if she could do the same, which I let her. In fact, there was a lot of crying that we did. One minute it was me, then her, then me, and then both of us. What exactly? There’s so much, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it was. A culmination of everything that’s happened, I guess. Perhaps it was the full realization that our friend was gone, and we’d never see her again. We attempted to draw on the papers. Scarlett was better than I was. She drew men and women, she tried to depict us with Emily, and our dad and mom. The men keeping us here. They weren’t the best drawings, but they were something. Scarlett wanted to throw them away, but I begged to keep them. I wanted anything she made to be mine. Scarlett didn’t understand it, but I didn’t care I just wanted them. I wrote questions to the men, and slipped it under the door. Only once did they respond. Another paper slipped back through, saying: You two are fine, trust us and you’ll be happy. This made Scarlett even more paranoid, and I just became more conflicted. What was going on here? The weird hungry faces, and this message, the overly polite attitudes? It was obvious they were trying to play us into something. But what?
“ We have to leave here, we have to.” Scarlett said over and over. She wouldn’t drop it, like she never drops things. “ We’re dead if we don’t.”

“ But where would we go?” I asked. “ Where is there?”

“ I….” Scarlett couldn’t answer.
“ Wait I know what to do.” I said. She looked at me.
“ NO you don’t, stay here.” She said. I knocked on the door. I waited for someone to answer. It creaked open, and a man poked his head in.
“ Yes?”
“ Do you know where other people are?” I asked. The man got a confused look on his face.

“ People?”
“ Yeah, more people! Do you where mister?” I asked. I could tell the man was getting more and more confused.

“ Kid what?” He asked. Scarlett shook her head at me.
“ People! Like homes and stuff?” I asked. The man thought for a minute.

“ Well, we did come across this one village in the mountains nearby. Incredibly cold place it was, and very small. The people there were nice though, pretty eskimo lookin’. Why?” He looked at me.
“ I dunno.” I said.
“ You should stay here, so we can take care of you.” The man said. “ Don’t worry, we’ll get that surprise to you soon enough.” He shut the door, and locked it.


 

Scarlett got mad at me.
“ What did you think you were going to accomplish with THAT?”
“ I dunno! Just getting info?” I said.

“ Well you got us locked in, Owen.” She said, pacing around the room. “ Now what? They’re going to do something to us, you know that.”
“ I know.” I said.
“ So why did you do it?” She asked.
“ I dunno!” I cried. “ Trying to help! I want to be able to help you Scarlett!” She stopped pacing and faced me.

“ You what?”
“ You’ve helped me so many times, and I barely ever help you, so I wanted to figure something out to help you. I’m sorry.” I said. Scarlett looked at the ground.

“ Owen, I…” She came over to me, and place her hands on my shoulders, looking into my eyes. “ I think you’re a baby, but I don’t care. Thanks.” She hugged me. She smelled really bad. I embraced her back. We were like that for a good bit of time. The rings shone on our fingers, a symbol of why we still live.


 

We decided it was time to make a plan.
“ We’re leaving.” Scarlett said.

“ I know, but to where? The mountains?” I asked.
“ I guess so, but they said it was cold.” She said.
“ Then we need protection.” I said.
“ Yeah, from where?” She asked.
“ From them?” I suggested.
“ Okay, but we’re locked in.” She said.
“ We get their attention and have them give it to us.” I said.
“ Hm, they do seem to want us to be trusting of them, no matter how creepy it is, that may work.” She said.

“ Let me do it,” I pleaded. “ I want to.” Scarlett hesitated.
“ Fine, but I’ll be here.” And she was. Whether she was tired, or hungry, whatever, it didn’t matter. She watched me knock on the door and ask the man who answered if we could receive some coats and fluffy pants and caps. I said we were cold. The man completely didn’t believe me, but he did it anyway. As he gave us our clothing, he told us the surprise was ready. Scarlett and I slipped on our new jackets, beanies, pants and gloves. I didn’t ask for the gloves, but we had them anyway. We also took our sacks. The man lead us to the kitchen area where multiple men were waiting. The oven was on, and the door was open. One of the men picked me up, and started to lower me into the oven. Just before the heat touched me, someone cussed.
“ Snakes, eating at the walls again. Damnit.” The others rushed out, to kill the snakes. I dropped to the floor. Scarlett grabbed my hand.
“ We are leaving right now Owen.”
“ What’s happening?” I asked.

“ They’re not normal we need to leave, now!” She hoisted me up and dragged me towards the front entrance. All the men had gone to kill the snakes except for one.


 

He stopped us at the door, a pistol in his hands.

“ Well, you kids did what I felt like you would. You’ve figured out we’re cannibals have you? Smart little ones. I kept telling them we shoulda put you in sooner. Damn their softness. I hate having to harm children, God knows I did that enough in ABUSAR. But, times are what they are, aren’t they?” He loaded his gun and stepped towards us. As the barrel was raised to Scarlett’s head, my brain ran. He was from the same city as us. I’m not surprised he left then. He wanted to eat us? Why? Didn’t they have food? Or was that only temporary? If so then why were they so nice to us? Decievement? It was as I had thought it would be. But I had suppressed that thought, hadn’t I? I had almost convinced myself we would be safe here, except Scarlett going against the idea. I wasn’t sure what to do as the man’s finger pressed on the pistol’s trigger. Time froze as a bag flew at the man’s face. He was so surprised his finger stopped moving. He stumbled backward, the sack falling to the side. In his daze I was pulled out the door, and into the sand once again. My feet ran alongside Scarlett. Farther and farther. I heard someone shouting in the background. The voices got too far away to be audible anymore. I just kept running, following my sister’s figure as she held onto my hand. I still had the sack in my other hand. Where were we going? We just kept running. We went for so long my limps gave out, and I fell asleep again.


 

I woke to two things. My sister raging at me and snow around me. She had carried me after I was out. We’d been close to the mountain region, where the sand met the snow. I could see the fine line where the two types of land collided. It was like a picture, two halves splitting the page. Each with its own things to tell and see. No amount of apologizing would make Scarlett not mad at me now. She kept saying things like “ I’ll leave you out here. I’m not kidding. You’re only making this harder Owen I swear to God.” I knew it was just rage. She would never mean that actually. I just sat in the snow, playing with it. I’d seen snow once when I was little, but now I could see it again. It was nice and peaceful, just simply white and malleable. I made little smiley faces, and stick men and snowballs. I wanted to throw them at Scarlett but her face told me it wasn’t a good idea. I busied myself with the frozen stuff until Scarlett told me we had to keep moving.
“ Where?” I asked.
“ Up there.” She pointed to the top of the mountain side. It wasn’t very large, more like a tall hill. I remember mom described them as “ The world’s smallest mountains.” I could see why now. I wonder what she’d say to us now. As we began, I started to feel cold. Very cold. The wind wasn’t very active, and the clothing we had certainly helped. But my nerves still became agitated. I held onto my sister for warmth, who in turn clung to me. I realized my sack was missing. I felt my jacket’s pocket. The picture was in there.

“ I p-put it in there so you could k-keep it for us.” Scarlett said. It was hard to talk in this condition.

“ Ok-k…” I mumbled. It hurt to move my icy jaw. As we went, things got impossible. The hard part wasn’t climbing the mountain itself. It was flat enough to where we could keep our balance, while still being steep enough to make it hard. The coolness felt nice after scorching in the sun for the past few days. Our main issue was our bodies. We hadn’t eaten much, and we weren’t built for the cold weather. After the initial impact of the snow, our bodies began to freeze, and my nerves got more and more sensitive. The clothing we’d gotten hadn’t much impact now. It got hard to even move step by step, hand after hand. Holding onto to Scarlett hurt a lot, but I would not let go. The wind also started to blow. White specks clouded our vision, making it hard to even see the next step. Our mouths were so frozen talking wasn’t an option. However our ears still worked. I only know this because we heard howling.


 

They echoed out as we made it to the top of the mountainous hill. In a different time we could’ve taken that opportunity to appreciate the view, and beauty of the aurora around us. Got some photos to place near the fire in the living room, and by our window sills. We could cuddle up next to mommy and daddy, and give each warmth. Just enjoy where we were with each other, with no other worries, since we had each other. The burning love of our hearts would evaporate the surrounding snow and specks. I had wanted to do that when I was little. Scarlett would say we should do it now, while we had our parents with us. At the time she was joking, talking about dad’s work schedules. She didn’t know about how true she was. I would bring that up now, maybe give some good to this. But the wolves had other plans.

 

Four, four stalked up the slope of the hill, eyeing us. Their sockets glowing yellow in the darkening afternoon. They stood where they were, staring, mouths in a snarl. Four sets of gleaming, crimson teeth. All eager and unwilling to wait to gouge into our flesh and feed their hungry stomachs. My mother and Emily hated wild animals. I never did. I thought they just did what they had to in order to survive. Was that so bad? Don’t we do the same? Maybe not some people. Some people hurt for pleasure. These furries creatures only do it for necessity. Scarlett’s reaction to this was unreadable in the snowy air. She’d been shaking uncontrollable this whole time, so I couldn’t know if it was from fear now. I could see she was looking back at the wolves. We had no weapons now. Nothing to do anything. If there was a time to die, it would be now. Stuck atop a white peak, frozen to the bone, out matched by nature.

 

Footsteps, crunching in the snow. An item being moved, a rifle being raised. A figure revealing a few feet below us on the hill’s side. The bullet being fired, the wolves retreating. The figure approaching, taking hold of me. Scarlett moving to intercept. I was placed in what felt like a sled. Scarlett set down next to me. The figure proceeding back down the hill. I sit, as the sled moves. Scarlett lying on her side, still shaking. Eyes locked only on me. What is happening? My brain is so cold it can’t think. Is this another kidnapping? Is this another cannibal? Are they from ABUSAR? What’s with the sled? Should I say something? Is Scarlett ok? Is the picture of my mommy and daddy still in my pocket? Why can I not move? I want to move, but I can’t. The air is holding me close, stopping me from making the slightest actions. Is the air keeping me here for aid or for death? Nothing gets answered as the figure pulls onward. Down the hill and up another. I hear another gunshot, and animalistic shadows running away. I see light atop the hill we are ascending. Is that where we’re going? Is that RELACIATION? I don’t know where that is, but is it here? Are we home? Please tell me we made it to a new home! Please! I still can’t move, why? The light gets closer. The figure steps over the side of the hill and the sled follows with it.

 

Six constructions. Huts. All surrounding a central fire. Wood, covered with snow. Windows non-existent. More figures coming out of huts, looking at me. The figure pulling us comes into the light. An old woman. Pink, faded coat and pants. Her whole outfit is pink. The others wave to her as she waves back. She pulls the sled up next to a hut, and a set of hands takes hold of me. I hear talking, someone telling someone to open a door, and get ‘them’ to the fire. I’m sat down on a smooth wooden bench, the blazing fire right up to my face. Scarlett is sat down next to me. Neither of us speak. So many thoughts in my head. The multiple figures sit down around the fire, adding sticks to it. The old woman calls them off, and they leave. The woman sits adjacent to me. She has a black mask over the bottom half of her face, leaving only her blue eyes visible.


 

It took what felt like hours to finally melt away the ice in our bodies and brain. As normal, Scarlett spoke first.

“ W-who… W-what..?” She muttered. Her voice was barely audible. The woman smiled warmly.

“ Worry not about speaking dears. You are safe here, we will not hurt you.” Is that trustworthy?
“ Y-you want...What?” Scarlett said.
“ Nothing dears, nothing at all. I couldn’t leave you out there to get eaten could I?” You should, why worry about us. I thought to myself.

“ Can you… Give trust to us?” Scarlett said.
“ Hm? Oh, of course.” The woman said. “ You may not believe me, and I wouldn’t blame you for it, but we are to help you, that is all.” She waved her hand, and a man set two bowls down on the bench beside us. Soup. Steaming soup, with noodles and carrots inside. “ If you’re wondering we’re supplied by RELACIATION. They agreed to help us on our research so they send over food every now and then, really makes living here a lot less painful.” I heard the word, and my senses kicked into high gear.
“ You know them?” Scarlett and I both asked. The woman chuckled.
“ Of course. We’re all apart of a nature research group. Here to see the effect that snow has on these hills. I wouldn’t call them mountains.” I picked up the soup bowl with trembling hands. Scarlett eyed me cautiously. My stomach was so hungry I had to eat it, I just had to. Even if it got me killed. At least it wouldn’t be my sister then. I inserted the spoon into my mouth, and sucked up the contents. Warmth and satisfaction surged down my throat and into my tummy. I got a feeling I hadn’t had since… Since… I shoveled more of it into my mouth, practically pouring the bowl in. Scarlett couldn’t take just watching me anymore. She took hold of her soup and began to eat it. At first nervous she soon fell to the same pleasure I did. By the end there was nothing left in either of our bowls.

 

We set them down on the bench, reanimated. Two heft blankets were placed around our shoulders by two more people. I held it tight to my body. The air was rapidly losing its grip on me now.
“ T-thank you…” I muttered. Scarlett didn’t say anything, just looked into the fire. The sky was dark with night now.

“ Where are you two headed to?” The old woman asked.

“ R-RELACIATION.” Scarlett said suddenly. I nodded slightly.

“ Where did you come from?” The woman asked.

“ ABUSAR.” Scarlett said again. The woman nodded.

“ I can get you there. To the gate at least, the guards should take you in.” I saw Scarlett flinch, but then control herself.
“ H-how?” I asked. The woman pointed to the sled.

“ It’s pretty close to here, the only way this expeditions works really. But we’ll have to go in the morning. Way too cold for the night time.”

“ I can take them in.” Said a man coming up next to the woman.
“ No Jimmy I can take care of them, thanks.” She said.

“ Alright, I’ll get the couch ready for them then.” Jimmy headed off towards a hunt. The woman looked back at us and smiled.

“ Can you two move?” Scarlett stood up, looking at me. I tried, and at first couldn’t. I tried again and I did it. That took more effort than usual. The woman offered her hand. Scarlett hesitantly took it. I did the same with the other hand. She could’ve thrown us into the fire and ate us right there, no sweat. But she didn’t.

 

The old woman lead us slowly to her hut. Inside was a tad colder, only some lamps to keep warmth. In the main room was a long red couch with multiple blankets laid out.

“ You may use that if you like. All the blankets are yours for now. Please.” The woman said. Scarlett asked me a silent question.  Do we try staying overnight? Would that kill us? And I answered back: I don’t know, but we have no other choice do we? With that we made our place on the couch. Using the headrest as a pillow, we laid on either side of the couch, our feet barely not touch. We wrapped the blankets around us, creating a feeling of safety I wasn’t sure if I should have, but that I knew I wanted.

“ Good night, little ones.” The old woman said. She turned off the lamps around the room, casting us into darkness. She went into another room of the hut, and disappeared. I laid there in the dark, several thoughts swarming in me. We were being helped. Honestly someone wanted to help us, and they were from RELACIATION! This means what I thought was true, doesn’t it? That RELACIATION is a good place, with good people, and we’re going there! Right? I’m not sure how hyped I should be, for I may be dead in the morning. But if I am alive, then I have no idea of what’s to happen tomorrow. I closed my eyes, and drifted into sleep.

 

This time I had no nightmares. I had a dream, a real dream. I was in a city. Not ABUSAR, but a different one. The sky was clean and blue. People walked around, talking with one another, happy. I was with Scarlett, and we had a plate of real food in our hands. We were sitting on a bench, talking about something, watching adults do yoga, and toddlers play on the playground. The sun shone down softly on us. I had no feelings of fear, or horror or anxiety. I just had simple joy. There was no bad feeling in me, only happiness. I could finally sit again with my sister, and just enjoy our life for what it was. It was the best time I had ever had. I didn’t not ever want it to end. It was just like before. With mommy and daddy. I could see their faces, looking at us.

“ Welcome. Welcome to the home you deserve, and the home you made it to. We are both so proud of you!” I woke up.

 

The light bled into the house. I heard birds off in the distance. Scarlett was sitting up, munching on a piece of bread. A plate was set down on the table in front of us. It also had a piece of bread for me.

“ It’s not poisonous, I checked.” Scarlett said. She seemed in better spirits than the night before. That was enough to make me sit up. I took the bread and tried it. It tasted a tad stale, but I wasn’t about to complain. It was food and I could eat it, so I did with pleasure. Once we finished, the old woman came up. She still had the same pink suit.

“ Good morning young ones. Good sleep?” We both mumbled and nodded. “ Good!” There was silence for a moment. “ I presume you two want to leave, yes?”
“ Yeah.” Scarlett said.

“ Then you oughta come with me to the sled. I can take you now while the others are out.” The woman started for the door, then stopped and waited for us. I looked at Scarlett, who was looking at me.

“ Is this really going to happen?” I asked her.
“ Let’s find out.” She said. We followed the woman outside. The air wasn’t as deathly cold as it had been the night before. We boarded the sled once again. This time my mind was clear as to what was happening. I knew where we were going and I had answers the questions. I thought so anyway. The woman began down the side of the hill, pulling us with.

 

The snowy hills were much better now than the night before. We could actually admire their beauty now. See the white sheeting placed around us, and see it for the art that it was.

“ Do you think Emily would have enjoyed this?” Scarlett asks me.

“ Sure she would. She liked nature, she always talked about it.” I said.
“ I wish she were here.” She says.

“ So do I.” I say.
“ We are going to make it for her, and mom and dad.” Scarlett says.

“ Yes, we are.” I say.

“ I will make sure you do little ones.” The old womans says in front of us. We don’t reply back. I take the picture out of my coat pocket. Daddy, mommy. I hope you see us now. We’re going to make it, we really are. I lay down on the sled, looking up into the blue sky. The old woman says it would take a small while to get to RELACIATION. That’s fine, I was fine with just lying there. Scarlett lied down also. Her head was near my feet. We both just relaxed there. Relaxing was a feeling we hadn’t been able to do in so long. I’d kinda forgotten what it was like to relax. I’m glad I could come back to the feeling. Emily would’ve been too. That’s why we’re doing this for her. Whether or not the ABUSAR police executed her doesn’t matter, because I know she’s with us now. In our hearts, riding in this sled alongside us. I don’t just think this to make myself feel better, I think cause it’s true. I never had too much belief in religion and spirits and such. I don’t see how God could let humanity do to itself what it does. Others may believe it, and that’s fine. I just have the belief of what around is true. And what is in my heart is true also. I guess that works.


 

The snow trickled to nothing, and the green grass replaced it. A large, expansive valley. I wasn’t sure how the old woman could walk for so long, but she insisted. The valley was cast a soft breeze against my face. I saw birds in the sky, and little critters along the ground. A structure arose close ahead of us. Large, grey walls. A gate, similar to the one at ABUSAR. Two guards stood strong with rifles. The old woman approached them, heavy with fatigue.

“ Take, them.” She said. “ From the other place, need a home.” The guards did something I wasn’t used to. They helped us. One nodded to the other, and he nodded back. The two men helped us out of the sled, and told us to follow them inside the city. I looked back at the old woman. She was tired, but she gave us a warm smile.
“ Thank you.” I said, and Scarlett with me.

“ Of course dears, I hope you’ll be happy here.” She said. She watched us go. One of the guards said something into his microphone, and the other typed in a code in the panel in the wall. A portion of the gate lifted up. I stood staring at the path ahead of us. I could see buildings ahead. People were rushing towards us, ready to help. I felt tears begin to slide down my cheeks. Scarlett put a hand on me.

“ I think we did it Owen.”
“ We…” I wasn’t sure of what to say. “ Yes.” I said. There was nothing else to say. As we were guided into RELACIATION. As the gate closed. As the men and women, with gentle touches and warm smiles, led us to an orphanage. A different orphanage. As the kids in this orphanage greeted us. Not with cries of help but with honest ‘his!’ and ‘hellos!’ There was only one thing to think. For both of us.  



 

WE made it. Whatever would happen, it would be so much better from now on. For mom, dad, Emily, and Scarlett. We had made it.

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2020 Curonn. All rights reserved.

Chapters

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments: