I tried to book it out of bed, eyes still closed. I tripped over my sheets and face planted into the floor, as I was scrambling back up, I heard very familiar laughter.
“That was amazing.” He said between fits of laughter and loss of breath. “That was so awesome 47!”
“Fuck you Cruz!” I said, seething and holding my head.
“Emergency preparedness much?” I heard him pull out a chair and sit down.
“What the hell? You’re so childish!” I got up and looked at him beaming his stupid grin. “Could you get any worse?”
“I could try.” He retorted.
“What do you want? Get-”
“Breakfast.” He said hopefully.
I sighed. “You tried to kill me to get breakfast? Get out, I need to get ready.”
“But Alice… I’m hungry, and your food is better.” He looked as pitiful as possible.
“Then cook better at your house,” I said. After a long period of silence, I finally said, “fine, but I’m deciding what we have.”
Even before the screaming started, I knew what it was. Lots of people have cracked. Especially those who were around before this. People like me, we grew up in this, so it’s normal. It was still hard to take.
We got up and ran out toward where the sound came from.
I can’t say I was surprised when I saw her…
I didn’t know Madeline well, but we had talked a few times. She’d told me a bit about her life, and how she ended up here. There had been murmurs across the camp for weeks now that she was breaking. She had started fretting about being a recreant, sometimes screaming and crying that she was afraid they’d take her and turn her.
It was a mess. She had stolen one of our “power pistols”. These little things pack one hell of a punch. Unlike many of our weapons, this one still shot metal bullets. It has an extra large barrel to accommodate .50 caliber bullets. Around the center barrel, there were 8 much smaller holes. They shot what looked like pellets, but packed a surprise. The pellets were heavily explosive. When you pull the trigger, the heat and pressure make the chemicals inside the pellets unstable. When they hit something after leaving the barrel, those unstable chemicals combust. Since they are in such a tight space, they cause a disproportionately large explosion. Salem had said that four of the pellets equaled the power of a stick of dynamite, which Cruz succinctly explained as the original big boom wet dream.
I started to hear retching from several people. Most of the bodies on the battle field didn’t look this bad. On the field, we mostly use laser and chemical based weaponry that does a good job of disintegrating, lacerating and… melting, for lack of a better term. More is gone and the holes and cuts were smoother, and often cauterized. This was a totally different story. Most of Madeline’s face was gone. What was left was ragged and torn bits. Her right eye was blood stained and bulging. There were burn marks all over her face from the pellets. The air was ripe with burnt flesh and the soft green grass was matted and covered with blood and… bits.
I wish this wasn’t a regular occurrence…
I had been charged with caring for Hope, Madeline’s daughter. The poor kid was only 12… She had seen the aftermath. It had taken hours to clean up, and as I tried to clear Hope away from the area, I learned that she had one hell of a punch.
Standing over the sink, the flow of blood out of my nose finally slowing down substantially, I told Hope, “You know, I’m not mad at you.”
“Okay.” she said into her hands, body still wracked with the shivers of grief. She got up and walked toward the kitchen.
“Do you need anything?” I shoved some padding into my nose.
“I need to see my mom again.” I heard another sob, and turned around. She had my fillet knife in her hand, up to her throat.
“Hope. Honey, give me the knife.” I said, taking a small step forward.
“No! I need to see my mom again.” She took a matching step back.
“How can I help?” I held out my hand, and motioned for the knife. She backed up another step, and ran into the counter. She jumped, and nicked her throat, a small sliver of blood appeared on her tender skin.
“Do you know how you got your name? Did your mom ever tell you?” Hope shook her head, her hands shaking. I was afraid she was going to accidentally cut herself again.
“I can tell you. She told me. You’re mom loved you, you know.” I stepped a little bit closer.
She gripped the knife tighter and lifter her head up, exposing her neck more. “She left me! She ran way and left me here! She betrayed me, left me to die! Her body shook violently, again overcome with sobs. Voice thick with grief, she almost inaudibly whispered “I need to see my mom again.”
Somebody pounded on the door. Hope jumped and looked. Her hand fell from her neck. I rushed her, grabbed her hand and pinned her against the wall.
“Let go! Let me see her! Let me go!” She screamed, trying to bite me. Quickly she turned to pleading. “Please. I can’t do this. I can’t. I can’t do it without my mom. Let me see her, please let me see her. Alice, please.”
“I’m sorry.” I whispered, and dug my fingers hard into the inside of her wrist, forcing her fingers open. The knife dropped as she yelped in pain. There was more pounding at the door.
“Hold on!” I yelled. I put Hope in a full chicken wing to disable her, and took her with me to the door. I managed to turn the lock with my foot and told the visitor to open the door.
“Blackwell! What is going on here?” Salem said, walking into the doorway.
“Please, grab her, and hold her tight.” I pushed her toward Salem, and he wrapped his large frame all the way around her tiny body.
“And why am I doing this?” Hope struggled uselessly to get out.
“Please let me, please let me, please let me…” She continued to repeat those words under her breath as her fight started leaving her.
“She tried to kill herself with my fillet knife sir.” I reached toward Hope, trying to stay stoic. She kicked me in the chest. Fair enough.
“Stay away from me! You don’t know! You don’t know what it’s like.” she said, spitting at me.
“I don’t know what it’s like?” I started, for a moment seething. Salem glared at me, his eyes telling me I better not dare to start that right now. Almost all of us had lost our parents. Many of us had seen them die. Cruz watched his parents die, as did I, and there was nothing I could do about it, just like there was nothing I could do to help Hope bring her mom back. I took a deep breath before I said something stupid. Now was definitely not the time.
Salem took Hope over to my chair, and he sat down, holding her in a bear hug until she finally calmed down. “Why?” Salem asked.
“I want to see my mom again.” She said, breathe still stuttered, eyes shining with the remnants of the pained tears that would never truly go away. Her eyelids were becoming heavy, closing a little more with each blink. She tried so hard to fight the oncoming sleep, but there was no energy left in her. She started snoring almost right away, and Salem picked her up like a small child, and laid her gently on my bed. Covering her with my blankets.
“I had a duty for you, but I’ll get it. She needs constant watch, and you’re the one to do it.” He looked at the knife on the floor. “You better step up your game Blackwell.”
“I didn’t know…” Salem shut the door, gone. I dropped to the floor, mourning for Hope. “I know, Hope. I do. I’m so sorry.”
[Ivy’s note: Hey sunshines, I really want constructive criticism and feedback. I hope to make this into a full sized, printed book one day, so please let me know what you think, and thank you ahead of time for those who do.]