Author's Note: So the plan was to post this chapter yesterday but I honestly forgot. Ok so the truth is my MMO did a massive server merger this week and I got caught up playing it. So yeah, guilty of having a good time lol. This is a quick and short chapter, leading to some interesting things to come down the road. I can happily say that this story is going along nicely, I'm currently in the middle of writing Ch.11 :). Now I must propose a question to everyone: If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Think about it real good, especially if you're a writer ;).
There was a loud ringing in my ears.
And dirt in my mouth.
The ringing was so loud for a long time I couldn’t realize someone was shouting at me. The same someone who was currently laying over the top of me. Trying to push myself up, I turned to the side, hoping the person would get off. He did and I finally let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. I also finally got a look at where we were. I think it was a ditch. I’d seen them lining the roads as we were driving along, on the other side of the guardrails. When the explosion happened...
I tried to get up but a hand pulled me back down.
That voice again.
This time much clearer.
The ringing had finally stopped.
“What happened?” I snapped, trying to free myself from his grip. “What’s going on?!?”
He didn’t answer.
The gunfire did that for him.
It was fast and loud. Much louder than I remember. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. I’d been to the range a few times with my father and brothers. I was never allowed to participate though. I was too young. I was also always wearing some kind of ear protection. I’d heard the guns going off though. It was always so surreal though. It was there but I had always been safe. The range was a closed environment, a place where men and women knew what they doing. They were professionals and the gunfire---though scary---was not dangerous.
This gunfire was so much different.
A moment later, there was another explosion.
I think I heard someone scream.
I put my hands over my ears and screamed.
I was the one who screamed.
I was still screaming.
What’s going on?
Why were people shooting?
Who was blowing things up?
The Jarhead had his gun out, firing wildly.
It wasn’t a standard issue military pistol I noticed. Most in the military were using M9s these days, my father had a pair of them locked up at home. The gun in his hand was different but I couldn’t place it. I didn’t really know guns all that well. Hunter would have been able to tell me what it was instantly, he was that guy. It was one of the things he and Dad shared. Their love for firearms. The second of course was basketball. Me, I always felt out of place when they talked about those things. Just something else that made me so different from the other men in my family.
Ok, so I was much different now.
The Jarhead finally stopped shooting.
The others had not.
“We can’t stay here!” he said loudly, trying to make himself heard over the noise.
I could barely hear him though.
Yeah, I was shouting.
“WE HAVE TO MOVE!”
He didn’t have to tell me twice.
He jerked his hand wildly over his head, pointing behind us.
“THE TREES. WHEN I GIVE THE SIGNAL TO MOVE, YOU RUN.”
This was crazy.
I nodded my head though. I wanted to get out of here more than anything. He was in charge. I would do whatever he told me too.
It didn’t take long.
He snapped up again, shooting. I couldn’t even tell what he was shooting at. There was so much smoke and fire. I couldn’t even see the other side of the road. Then there was the smell. I’d never smelt burning metal before but it was horrible. There was something else though, something I couldn’t quite place. Burning plastic maybe? There was another smell though. One that I knew. One that scared the hell out of me. I’d been to a few backyard barbecues in my day so I knew what burning flesh smells like. Hamburger. It was a horrible analogy but it was the only thing my mind could think of.
I felt sick to my stomach.
Then he gave the signal.
It took me a second to realize he was shouting for me to “GO”.
As soon as I realized it though, I was gone.
It was strange because I didn’t feel like me. I mean I knew I was me but I felt like I was someone else too. Or maybe that I was on the outside of me watching all of this happen. I was running and yet my mind wasn’t processing that I was running. Even the whipping branches that stung my face didn’t register. It wasn’t until I couldn’t run anymore that things came crashing back to me. By then I wasn’t sure how far I was in the woods. I was panting and coughing.
Then I threw up.
It was strange when I did. It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten. As strange as it sounds, the whole time I was in the hospital room no one brought me food. In the SUV, I didn’t eat either. Even now, I wasn’t hungry. I’m not even sure what came out of me now. I didn’t look. I tried not to think about it too. I managed to pull myself away from it, walk a few more feet before dropping to the ground.
I put my back to a tree and cried.
I noticed I had no problem crying.
I cried for a while. I closed my eyes and covered my ears too. It did little to stop the distant sounds of death behind me though. I curled up into a ball a second later, sobbing and hoping it would stop. I’m not sure how long I stayed like that, to be honest. I was scared out of my mind. Everything seemed to be happening all at once. My crazy gender change, people lying to me, people kidnapping me. Now the explosions and the gunfire and the death. I was terrified. I wanted to go home. No, I wanted to be home. I wanted this to all be a dream. It had to be a dream. Soon I was going to wake up, back in my own bed and all of this was a horrible nightmare.
I never woke up though.
The nightmare was real.
The gunfire had finally stopped though. I’m not sure how long it took because I lost track of time. Curled up, crying like a baby tends to do that. Ok so I wasn’t a baby but I felt weak for doing it. Sure everyone was allowed a moment of weakness but it was counterproductive to the situation. I was running for my life and I stopped to cry? I’m such an idiot. There were people out there killing one another. Only a few moments ago, some of those people actually had me as a prisoner.
Cursing my stupidity, I quickly crawled to my feet.
I brushed the snow from my knees.
Then looked at my hands.
What the hell?
I’d been in the snow before. Many times. Everyone knows what happens when you’re in the snow. Especially when you’re not wearing the proper clothes for it. Your appendages get numb, your fingers and hands get red and eventually hypothermia. I’d never actually been to that last stage but like most kids, I’ve stupidly taken my gloves off more than once. It is much easier to make snowballs with your bare hands than it is with mittens on.
The point I’m trying to make is that my hands should show those signs.
There was none.
They looked absolutely fine.
No red, no tingles.
No pruny fingers.
It made no sense.
It was scary.
Not as scary as what was happening elsewhere but still it terrified me. Why wasn’t I exhibiting the signs of being cold? I could see it all around me. There was a load of snow on the ground. There was ice on the trees. Earlier, I’d seen the Jarhead shiver. He was wearing gloves and a knit cap. Yet here I was in my hoodie and borrowed pants and no winter protection of any kind. Yet, I was perfectly fine. I could see my breath but that was it. I wasn’t cold in the least. This wasn’t normal.
Experimenting, I bent down and scooped up some snow.
I couldn’t feel it.
I mean sure I could feel it. It was snow. My sense of touch wasn’t gone.
I just couldn’t feel the cold.
It was strange.
I could definitely feel the cold coming off of White Hat though. His hands were like ice. Yet, the actual snow and ice felt fine to me.
What the hell was wrong with me?
I dropped the snow from my hands, cursing.
Was this the change he was talking about?
I quickly dropped to the ground, sliding to hide behind a tree.
I recognized the voice.
It was Jarhead.
So clearly he survived the onslaught.
That was good at least.
Did I want to go to him though?
He was one of them after all. Sure he was nicer than the others but he was still one of my captors. Sure he saved my life, he put his own life at risk to keep me safe too. But could I trust this guy? So far he showed himself to be a good person but it could have been an act too. Mr. White Hat came across as a seemingly nice guy too but I knew he wasn’t. None of them were. They were all bastards. Especially Grant. I had a chance now. I was away from them. Freedom was within my grasp. All I had to do was take it.
I bit my lip.
Why the hell was I debating this?
These guys kidnapped me.
Cursing, I stood up.
I didn’t step out from behind the tree but I took a peek around it.
I could see him.
He was walking through the forest, crunching the snow. He was unarmed I noticed. So that’s why the gunfire had finally stopped. The soldiers must have run out of ammo. Looking past him, I could still see the smoke. It was hard not to see. I bet it could be seen for a mile or so. I was willing to bet that people heard the gunfire and explosions too. My ears were still ringing a bit from it all. Not as bad anymore but it was still there. I tried not to concentrate on that though.
He was the one I needed to pay attention too.
He was trying not to draw attention to himself. That much was clear. He was moving at a steady pace. He kept looking behind trees and bushes. He was clearly looking for me. When he was no more than maybe twenty feet away, he stopped. I saw him tap his throat mic.
I could only hear one side of the conversation though.
“No, I didn’t find her. Yes, she’s out here, I can see her footprints.”
I forgot about those.
Looking down on the ground, I saw my trail as clear as day.
It was leading right toward this tree.
“No, I’m out of ammo. No, I’m fine, I can do this myself. Grant, I’m fine. No stand down soldier, that’s an order. Contain the situation, bag and tag the bodies. I said STAND Down.”
He stopped talking in his mic.
Then cursed as he lowered his hand.
He looked at the ground.
Then directly to where I was hiding.
“I know you’re there. I can see your footprints in the snow.”
Cursing, I stepped out from behind the tree.
He sighed. “You can’t run. They’re not going to let you.”
“You still have a choice you know” I said, hoping I could get through to him.
It was just the two of us here after all.
He was a good person. He wasn’t like them.
“The ones from before,” he asked, looking behind us. “Were they your friends?”
What ones from before?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
He narrowed his eyes. “They were good men that got killed. Guys just doing their job to protect this country.”
I really had no idea what he was talking about.
“I’ve been in the hospital for the last two months. They lied to me. Told me I was there for a week. Then they drugged me. Kidnapped me. Then nicely threatened me. Whatever happened out there, I had nothing to do with it.”
“Says the girl who ran.”
“Says the guy who told me to run.”
I saw it.
It was the way his shoulders slumped.
I had him.
He reached into his pocket, taking out a phone. He took the back off of it, then took out the sim card. He snapped the card in half then dropped the phone on the ground, grinding it with his heel. He sighed after he did so. Then looked at me, a sad look on his face.
“You have any money?”
I nodded, reaching into the pocket of my hoodie. I took out the bills that Grace gave me. I never even bothered to look at them when she passed them to me earlier. Now I saw I had about a hundred bucks. I held it up to show him. Without saying anything, he took out his wallet and emptied it out, holding out what he had to me.
“You’re going to need it. Everything has pretty much tripled in price now. Everyone is hoarding everything. The world has gone to shit.”
I took the money.
“You’re letting me go?”
He didn’t answer the question. “We’re about fifty klicks from the city. About five klicks from here, if you follow the road, there’s a farm. They might still have power this far away from town. Don’t trust anyone you meet though. The world is a different place now. People are different.”
“Why should I trust you then?”
I raised my eyebrow.
“This is crazy. They’re not going to stop looking for you. At best, I’m giving you maybe a day at most. They’re going to catch you and when they do, they’re not going to be nice this time. They’re dangerous. You can’t stop running. Don’t go home. Don’t contact anyone you know. Just keep running. Understand. Just run and don’t look back. Tell me you understand.”
He nodded. Then he tore his sleeve.
“Hit me as hard as you can.”
“Punch me in the face!”
I get it. He had to sell it.
I didn’t even hesitate. I clocked him one, hard. My hand hurt. He staggered but I didn’t let up. Call it pent-up frustration or whatever. As soon as he staggered, I hit him again. Then again. First the face then the stomach. He didn’t make attempt to stop me. After the second punch, I delivered the “killing” blow, a swift and hard kick to the nuts. That’s the one that did it. He dropped to his knees, groaning as he did so. I knew what that did to a guy. I’d been hit there more than once myself. I couldn’t help but smile a bit knowing that I was no longer going to be vulnerable there anymore.
“Good” he barely groaned. “Now, run!”
I didn’t wait.
Running before was never something I was good at.
I was never really in shape to do it for any longer than a few minutes at a time. In school every year---no matter the city or state---they used to make us run a mile. Once at the beginning of the school year then again at the end. It used to take me forever to do so. Most of the guys in my class and some of the girls in the other, would finish before me. I used to get laughed at a lot. I think it bothered my father a lot too. Here he was a very fit man, ran several miles every morning and yet his own son couldn’t even accomplish running one.
That was before.
When I ran away from the gunfire and explosions, I was doing so out of fear. Driven by pure adrenaline. Fight or Flight. I was still running on it. This time though, I didn’t feel the need to stop. Before I stopped to puke but now all I wanted to do was run and run I did. I’m not sure how long it took me to double back toward the road. When I got there though, I stopped. I wanted to make sure there was no more soldiers. I probably waited a good twenty minutes before I decided it was safe to go.
Then I started to run again.
He said five klicks.
Klicks was military speak for kilometer. Thanks to math and science class, I knew that one mile a was 1.6 kilometers. So five clicks was roughly three miles. That’s how far away he said the farm house was. It also meant we were currently about thirty miles from the nearest town too. Home. He told me not to go there but I knew some things too. I was out here, all alone, with barely any money and no shelter. I also had no food and water. Eating snow I knew was stupid. A person could go about three weeks without food but water, that was a different story altogether. Three days. If I didn’t get something to drink in three days, I’d die. I wasn’t thirsty until I thought about it. So even though the city was dangerous, it was currently the best place for me to survive. It was also the best place for me to hide.
A small part of me was convinced that my “savior” knew that too.
That he was intentionally trying to steer me away from it.
That he wanted me to get caught again.
I shook off that thought though. I didn’t have time to think about those kinds of things.
Instead, I thought about home.
When I thought I was gone for a week, I knew my parents were probably freaking out. I mean who wouldn’t. But to be gone for almost two months, they were probably going postal. Two days would have made them angry and upset, two weeks they would be crazy. But two months? Oh God, I wonder if they thought I was dead? Did they even know I was in the hospital? And what about Ashley? Was everything they told me a lie? I mean I knew they didn’t contact the base and my father. Was anyone even looking for me anymore? I’d seen missing person cases in the movies and on TV. I’ve seen it on the news many times. How long did those things go until they stopped looking?
Was there anyone to even look?
Everyone kept telling me the world has gone to shit. There’s no power. No internet. There appears to be some kind of martial law thing in place too. I got that much out of Grace at least. If people were hoarding like Jarhead said then it was scarier than I thought. What about local law enforcement? Or the FBI? Was government even still in place anymore? I had so many more questions now. I mean clearly, Mr. White Hat worked for someone, right?
Thinking about it only made my head hurt.
So I just ran.
Thankfully it didn’t take long to get where I was going.
It was a real farm, not at all like the one that we lived at.
After running for a bit, I noticed the forest stopped lining the road to be replaced by fence and empty pastures. When I saw that, I knew I was going in the right direction. It was strange there was no cows though. It was pitch black outside when I finally reached the farm itself. I couldn’t even see the empty pastures anymore. The only reason I found the farm proper was because of the lights. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw them. Lights meant power and power meant people. Maybe they had a phone. I might be able to call my parents. This whole nightmare could finally be over.
Smiling, I made a beeline for the house.
I was almost there when I saw the sign.
It was posted on a tree:
TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT.
It looked like a fairly new sign too.
Cursing, I took stock of the situation. Going to the barn would probably get me shot. Going to the house was probably the best bet.
I finally stopped running though.
That was the important thing.
Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF
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