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Author's note: I was in World Studies and we were discussing Hitler and World War 2 and I was like... "What would happen if there was a World War 3?" Therefore, this idea came to mind and now here I am.
Rain downpours and smacks the pavement harshly. Hundreds of destroyed buildings loom overhead, dark and damp; broken and scattered across the now soaked ground. The streets fill with water, overflowing; drowning; the moon shines dully above, no stars in the black cloudy sky, crying for its loss; the loss of humanity, of the life that was taken.
She lifts the hood higher up on her head trying to keep her hair dry, although her hood is already soaked from the sky crying for its loss. She walks blindly, unable to see well into the night. No light is there to lead her. She hugs herself, trying to recover the warmth that long ago left her. She needs to find somewhere to stay. She needs to find food and some other humanity. She needs to know she isn’t the only one left alive.
The world was at war. Women and men alike fought to be free, but it was deadly. Millions of people were killed instantaneously. Everyone thought the war would end at that point, but the death rate continued to go up. They realized too late that it was a massacre. Many went into hiding or ran away from the danger. Where they went though, she doesn’t know.
She was once a part of an abusive family. When the war started, it only got worse, but once her father and mother realized that they could die, they started to go into hiding. They began to pack everything and find an underground tunnel to stow away in. She took the chance to run from them. She ran from everyone.
The war is over as far as she knows. There haven’t been any bombs or gun sounds around; no screaming or dying people calling for help. It’s deathly silent. She sighs to herself as she moves towards the right, a large building ahead. It’s broken down. It’s not somewhere she would ever call home, but it’ll be enough to get her through the rain. If she’s lucky, she’ll find clothes and leftover food.
She ducks her head as she enters, then stands tall as her eyes gaze over the house. Her hand reaches down to gently touch the butt of the cool metal in her pocket, easy enough to pull out and use if someone is here. She wants someone to be here, but she can’t help but know that it’s empty, cold, and dead silent. Of course it would be.
She shakes her hood off her head, long light brown hair spilling out over her shoulders and down to her hips. She moves slowly towards the first room, her hand clenching the gun. The first room is a kitchen. It looks as if it hasn’t been touched for months. A thin layer of dust and grime cover the surface, but she pushes past that disgust. She shoves aside a painful memory coming to the surface, but it bypasses her shield.
His eyes red and puffy from a whole pack of beer as his face came close to hers. His breath was musky, ranking of alcohol. Behind him was her mother, popping pills while he beat down on her. She didn’t cry out, instead tried to stand as tall as she could while he hit her; in the stomach, across the face, grabbing her roughly and having his way with her. The kitchen sink behind her was her only way of knowing what was real and what was a dream, because when her father came around, she couldn’t help but sink into a fuzzy haze.
She whips the memory from her mind, taking her eyes off the sink, which seemed a lot like the one she had. Only now, it was filled with disgusting dishes that were left behind in a hurry. She let’s go of the gun and pulls her hand out of her pocket to reach out and open the door to the refrigerator, which to her surprise was still working. How could it possibly be working?
She shrugs and rummages through the fridge, smiling in satisfaction when she comes across some water bottles and some cheese sticks. She pulls off her small backpack and starts shoving the water and cheese into it. She then goes to the cupboards next to the fridge and finds cans of spaghetti, boxes of chocolate goodies, and crackers. She shoves those into her backpack as well.
She closes the bag and lifts it onto her shoulders. Outside the rain pours harder. Wind rushes past, howling in pain as it tries to find its friends. The world is alone now. Everyone is gone.
She exits the kitchen and finds herself in a living room. Across the room is a fireplace, logs already in them; seems like the people who left were just about to start a fire, but found out the news of the massacre and hurried away. She doesn’t mind though, because then that means warmth and protection for herself. She sees a pack of matches on top of the fireplace and grabs them in a hurry, sparking one on the top and throwing it onto the log. The log sparks and slowly comes to life as the orange flame licks up its meal.
She nods to herself as she slowly pulls her hoodie over her head, hating the way it peels from her undershirt and her bare arms. She sets it down next to the fire in hopes that it will dry. Now, she just needs some clothes. She slips off her worn out converse and then her socks. She also pulls off her black jeans, laying them all next to the hoodie. She takes out the gun from her jeans and holds it tightly in her hand. She stands in a grey tank top with light blue panties. She slips her hair into a bun, then swiftly heads towards the staircase on the right side of the room. With the gun in hand, she climbs the stairs, keeping her eyes and ears open. Upstairs is much like downstairs; a large room to the left and a bathroom to the right. Obviously the couple that lived here had no children. She heads into the bathroom first, wiping off the mirror and stares at her reflection. It’s been a good few months since she’s looked at herself in the mirror.
She rubs her forehead with a sigh. Her once shining green eyes are now dull and sad. Her face is thin and sick looking, probably from her lack of eating. She turns slightly and smiles just a little. Her hair is shiny and wavy, cascading down her shoulders and swaying at her hips. Her hair is the one part of her that she hasn’t neglected to care for, simply because if her hair gets ruined, she’ll feel as if there is no point in continuing. It’s a silly thing, but it works for her. So long as her hair stays healthy and clean, she can find hope in any situation.
She tests the toilet and finds it working. She nods happily to herself before leaving the bathroom and heading towards the bedroom across the hall. The door is wide open, revealing a soft looking bed covered in a dark blue quilt and light blue pillows. Across the floor is clothing of what looks to be a woman, quite close to her size. She moves slowly across the room, eyes darting around until she reaches the dresser next to the bed. She opens the drawer and smiles again as she finds, to her satisfaction, that not only is there lots of dry clothes, but also that they are indeed in her size. She grabs armfuls of clothes and staggers back down to the fireplace room.
The fire is now bright and warm, leaping up from the logs hungrily. The room has reached a comfortable temperature. She shuffles through the clothes and finds a thin pair of sweatpants and a thin long sleeved shirt. She yanks the tank top over her head and pulls the sweatshirt over her head, pulling her hair out of the shirt. She then leans back against the wall, her legs spread out in front of her as she pulls out the crackers and cheese. The gun sits still next to her right leg.
“Stop” she cried in shock as the gun was raised to be in sync with her forehead.
He grunted, eyes red as blood and the scar above his left eye brighter than ever. She squeezed her eyes shut, accepting death. It would be a million times easier than waiting for someone to come painfully kill her. At least she would die at the hands of someone she unfortunately had to call family.
“Stop, Richie, the sirens are going again” her mother shouted out in terror, gripping her only bag in her hands, eyes wide and for once, not glazed over from all the drugs she takes.
Richie lowered the gun and turned away. “Go pack a bag. You’re coming with us, b****.”
She nodded without saying a word, then rushed past him towards her room, never to come down again.
She shakes her head from the memory. The day she ran away. The day she made her own choice, not caring if her parents would die. She often wonders if they are alive somewhere though. She can’t help but wonder, only because it seems as if she’s the only one alive these days.
She places the leftover crackers and cheese back into her bag and then grabs the blanket and pillow she found behind the old chair next to the fireplace on the ground. She curls up on the floor and lets her eyes slowly close, until she’s drifting into a world far better than the one she’s in now.
The smoke caught his eye. It wasn’t unusual to see smoke, mostly because smoke seems to be everywhere here, but when it’s coming from a building, he couldn’t help but be curious. Part of him hoped that it would be another person, and the other half was scared of talking to someone again for the first time in months. He holds the gun in both his hands as he shuffles towards the building to his right. It’s been a few days since he’s had a decent meal, and a nice shower. Perhaps this building is just empty and he’ll finally have a place to stay for the night.
The rain is pelting down harder now, and since he’s already soaked, he just walks. Staying out in the rain a little longer isn’t going to be any more dangerous than anything else he’s gone through. And besides, it seems like human civilization has come to an end anyway. At least he doesn’t have to worry about parents anymore.
He once had an incredible life. His parents were rich, and he had all the money he wanted. All the clothes and things he wanted. When the war started, they paid money to be left alone. So, the government took the money with the promise that they would be safe, except no one really knew that it would just become a massacre. His parents weren’t snobs. They donated money to charities and did kind things. He was the same, always helping those in need. He just had a lot for a kid his age. He was smart, well dressed with large dreams he had hoped to go to college for. Only now, that probably wouldn’t matter much.
He steps into the building, eyes gazing over everything as he pushes his way into the first room, the kitchen. He’ll come back in here later if the building is as safe as it looks. His mouth waters just at the thought of eating any food. He shoves the feelings away. A dim glow comes in from the next room, so he starts moving towards it. As he enters, he hears a c*** of a gun and turns in surprise to see a girl, her gun raised and pointing directly at his chest. He brings his up too, and now they both just stare at each other, guns pointing at one another.
“Who are you?” she asks, a hint of worry in her voice.
She’s gorgeous, despite being all gross looking. It’s obvious she hasn’t showered for a week. Her hair though is long and neatly combed back, as if she’s only spent the time to wash her hair. He lowers his gun and gives her a small polite smile.
“I’m sorry, were you sleeping?” he avoids her question.
He can’t tell her his name. What if she can’t be trusted?
She ignores his question. “Who are you?” She presses.
He sighs, his arms falling slack at his sides. “I’m hungry and tired and not in the mood to play the ‘who are you and what are you doing here’ game.” he grunts back.
She lowers her gun as well and nods. “I have some crackers and cheese if you’d like some.”
His mouth waters again, but he refrains from jumping at her offer. “Did you check the rest of the house?”
She nods, looking a tad bit annoyed.
“And you didn’t find anyone?”
She shakes her head. “I was kind of hoping I would.”
He knows what that feels like. Everywhere he has gone, he’s looked for someone else.
“You are real, right?” he asks, not believing that this is really happening.
And the strangest part is that he’s being so calm about it, when seconds before he was scared to talk to someone.
She laughs softly. “Of course I am. And wow, that was the first time I’ve laughed in months.”
“How long do you think you’ll last here?” he says.
He might as well make conversation. Who knows when he’ll talk to someone again?
“A day or two at the most, I’ll have to start moving again soon.”
He rolls his shoulders. “Same here. Where are you heading?”
Her eyes glaze over for a few seconds. She shakes her head to clear her thoughts. “I’m not sure. Wherever there is civilization I guess. I’m just walking aimlessly.”
He can understand that. “I’m heading towards my hometown.”
“A long ways from here, but it’s in New York.”
She smiles softly. “I’ve always wanted to go to New York.”
“Who’s stopping you?” She looks at him in thought, not having realized that she’s not tied down until that moment.
He shakes his head roughly to rid his hair of the rain, then pulls his shirt over his head. She blushes at him, but he doesn’t notice. He slips off his pants too, then sets them by the fire.
“Are there men’s clothes up there?”
She nods, turning away from him. He hurries up the stairs, the cold biting his bare skin. He ruffles through the clothes, tossing on a white shirt and grey sweatpants. He comes back down stairs to see her pulling out cheese and crackers. She had also pulled out another blanket and pillow.
“Thanks” he says softly as he sits next to her on the ground.
She doesn’t respond. She hands him the crackers and cheese and pulls the blanket up around him. She leans against the wall and closes her eyes. A small smile covers her lips.
“You know, I never imagined I would find someone. I was convinced I was the only one still alive.”
He looks at her, taking in the thin shape and tiredness underneath her eyes.
“How about you get some sleep and I’ll keep a lookout. We can take turns. That way we know we’re safe. You do know how to use that gun, right?”
She responds, “Of course I know how to use it. And alright, that sounds nice. Thanks.”
She shifts her weight and lies on the ground, her feet brushing against his right thigh and her hands curled to her chest, her breathing slow and relaxed. He can only imagine the crap she’s been through. He’s not saying she’s not strong, but to be alone for months, it could drive a person insane. He had a friend with him for a while, but they got caught and his friend told him to go while he stayed behind to be a distraction. He never saw him again.
That’s when he knew that he couldn’t rely on anyone else. He knew that after tonight, the girl and he would part ways, despite him not wanting to. It’s been much too long since he’s had company. He doesn’t even know her name.
He looks down at her again to see her sleeping peacefully. It’s probably the first time she’s really slept in months. He pops a cracker in his mouth and brings his gun up to study it. He doubts that anyone will find them. The world is empty. Everyone he’s ever known and loved and helped is probably dead. He can’t imagine that anyone else is really alive.
He sighs, his head lying against the wall. The rain outside lets up, now a gentle tapping on the windows and the wind doesn’t howl anymore. If they get lucky, they’ll be able to leave with sunshine. He knows they both need that sunshine.
He stands up, careful not to move her and wake her. He heads into the kitchen, hoping to find some food to take with him. He wouldn’t dare take the food the girl offered. She found it first. She deserves it. He opens the cupboards and starts to pull things out. He finds a lot of out of date food, which wouldn’t help him any. Just as he’s about to give up on his search for food, his hand closes over a key. Why would someone hide a key behind a lot of disgusting food? He brings the key close to his face, looking over it in curiosity. He wonders where it goes to. Perhaps the girl found a box or locked chest?
He won’t bother her with it now. He tucks the key into his pocket. He’ll bring it up later when she’s awake. Maybe they left food and emergency plans, or something of the sort.
“Run, son! Run and don’t come back” his father shouted as he began to grab his shotguns off the wall.
“I love you, darling” his mother called as he turned and started to run, just as they told him.
The government was coming. They didn’t stay true to their word, and his father and mother knew that they would die. They only hoped that maybe their only son would live. That way he could continue down the line, and maybe start a whole new life after the war. They could only hope though, as he sped out of sight.
She jerks awake to find the boy sitting up, his head against the wall and his eyes closed. He must have fallen asleep at some point. She doesn’t blame him. She looks at him clearly, able to function better now that she’s had some sleep. His hair is short, spiked up in the front naturally and a beautiful chestnut brown color. He’s tall and tan, with rough looking hands and a nice toned body. She saw it earlier. There is no mistaking those muscular arms.
She blushes at her thoughts and gets up. She stretches her arms above her, the shirt she’s wearing riding up a bit to reveal her stomach and used to be belly button ring. It’s gone now. It ripped out when she was running a while back. The scar doesn’t look too good now, but she didn’t have medicine to heal it with at the time.
She heads over to the fire and places a few more logs in it to keep the fire going. It’s lighter outside and the rain has stopped, leaving a dim ray of sunshine in its place. That’s a good sign. That means she’ll be able to go farther without being held back. Her eyes wander back to the boys figure. He’s sound asleep, but she wonders what he’s going to do when he wakes up. Will he leave instantly, thanking her for the food and protection? She kind of hopes he won’t leave. It’s been much too long since she’s really had anyone around her. She kind of likes having him around, even if it’s been less than a day since he found her.
Was it fate that he found her? What are the odds that he would have come around just in time to find her? She sighs softly, then heads into the kitchen, tugging her shirt closer around her. She avoids looking at the sink, instead opening the freezer to see if there are any fresh foods up there. If the toilet and fridge still work, then she can only assume the stove and oven would too.
She doesn’t find much and lets out a frustrated soft shout. She whips around to see the boy standing in the doorway. She lets out a strangled cry of surprise, but then catches herself and takes a deep breath.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” he says with an amused smile.
She rolls her eyes at him. “There isn’t any food to eat.”
“We’ll have to keep moving.”
“We?” she asks.
“Well, I meant separate, unless…”
She finishes his thought. “You mean unless we stick together.”
“Yeah, I was only thinking. If you don’t like the idea, yah know, we could…”
She cuts him off. “I would love to stick together. I was actually afraid that we would have to separate. It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed someone’s company.”
He nods in agreement.
She moves past him and heads to the living room. She turns back to look at him. “Should we find another bag and put the blankets in there?”
“Actually,” he starts. “I found this key and I was wondering if you saw anything that it could possibly belong to.” he pulls the silver key from his pocket to show to her.
She reaches forward and grasps it. “You know, now that I think about it, I think I saw another door upstairs. I just didn’t think to check it out because it was closed.”
She leans down to grab her backpack, then with the key in hand; she leads him up the stairs. They both turn to glance at the closed door, almost invisible next to the bedroom. The boy reaches over and takes the key.
“I’ll do it. Stand back, just in case it’s dangerous.”
She almost makes a witty response, but decides better. “Hey, so what’s your name?”
He chuckles, looking over his shoulder. “Noah.”
“Chrissie.” She responds, as he looks back at the door.
He places the key inside the hole and turns slowly, his gun in his left hand, raised to shoot if needed. The door opens and a thin light leads down into it, stairs obvious to see.
“It’s a tunnel” Chrissie whispers from behind him.
Noah jumps a bit, forgetting she had been behind him. He looks down into the tunnel worriedly. “We don’t even know what’s down there.”
“That’s why we go down and explore.”
“What if it’s dangerous?”
She nudges Noah’s shoulder. “Are you a wimp? We both have guns, and I’m sure there’s a flashlight somewhere. If not, then we can make our own torch.”
He sighs but nods. “Alright, I trust you with this.”
She rolls her eyes and moves away from him, scurrying down stairs. “As you should” Chrissie calls back.
Noah rolls his eyes as he looks down into the tunnel again. It’s dark and damp, he can smell the mustiness. He’s kind of worried. What if it’s a trap? But if it was, would they really have hidden the key? He ponders the different scenarios that come to mind as he waits for Chrissie to come back. The warmth from the fire drains from his body and he’s left cold.
He turns to see Chrissie walking towards him, a bright torch in her hand and two backpacks in the other. Upon his confused glance she says, “I stuffed the blankets into a bag so we have them just in case. And this bag holds my food and… stuff from home.”
Noah doesn’t question her about the other various things her bag holds, instead takes the bag of blankets and the torch from her. The bag is thrown onto his shoulder and he looks at her for a second.
“Have your gun ready, but keep a hold on my shirt alright?”
She nods, grasping her small hand on the back of his shirt, reassuring Noah just a little bit. They start descending the stairs slowly, flinching at every creek that the wood makes underneath them, guns poised and ready to shoot. As they reach the bottom, they first realize that they are in a basement, probably well below the house at this point. Noah holds the torch out in front of him as they glance around. It’s empty besides for a small cot in the top left corner of the room. Farther past the cot is a small entryway, probably off to somewhere else.
Chrissie moves closer to Noah, shivering slightly under the cold temperature and simply because it’s strangely quiet down here. She can’t hear the wind or anything, just the quiet breathing of her and Noah. He seems to notice the tension and moves his hand to his back to grab hers. She lets out a shaky breath of relief.
“Do you want to follow it?” he asks softly.
She debates it. If they follow the tunnel, they could possibly find something important. That would explain why it was locked, almost hidden and the key was put somewhere not to be found, but if they follow it, there is also the possibility that something bad lurks beyond the tunnel and is actually a trap just waiting for them. Who knows which is actually right? Chrissie sure as hell doesn’t, but she isn’t sure just which one seems more likely.
“I guess we should follow the tunnel.” she finally answers, tightening her hand slightly on his.
He nods, hardly visible in the dim light, and starts forward, pulling her with him. They walk in complete silence, the torch light giving off a small glow so that they can see inches in front of them. Noah doesn’t take his hand from hers, giving her warmth and reassurance within his fingers entwined with hers. She doesn’t feel like those girls in the movies. None of this is romantic, and she most definitely does not know enough about this boy to even come close to falling for him, but there is something about his liquid blue eyes that seem to look into her green ones and see her soul. It’s as if he can see every mental scar of pain she endured with her dad, and the throbbing ache of what her dad did to her.
Briefly, she wonders about where he came from. She thinks of who his parents could have been, and then she also wonders how in the world he ended up here, in Ohio, when he’s originally from New York. But then, everything looks the same now. Perhaps when he was running, if that was indeed what he was doing, he was simply looking for an escape. He was looking for safety and weapons and food, just like her.
Noah stops, causing her to bump into his back and snap away from her ever wandering thoughts. He’s tense.
“What’s wrong?” Chrissie whispers softly, hoping not to make too much noise.
“Someone lived down here.” he responds, moving slightly so she can see the room.
The tunnel is far from the end, but the room that opened up in front of them had rows of made beds and clothes across the floor. A few lamps were on bedside tables and shoes lay scattered around. There is no sign of anybody, or that someone has been here recently, but once, someone had used this as their hideaway.
“Do you suppose since they found the people who were here before us, they could find us too?” Chrissie asks.
Noah moves forward, pulling her with him once again. He goes to the closest bed and gently lies a hand on it, testing the mattress. He then picks up the clothes and smells them.
“No, I don’t think they could. By the feel of the mattress and the smell lingering, it seems as if the attack here happened months ago. Let’s hope they forgot about this place.”
She lets go of his hand and heads across the room, flicking on the lamp switch. She cries in delight when the light glimmers on. He looks over at her and gives her a smile. With the light now on, Noah finds some old water and extinguishes it. She sees now that he wants to stay here for a while. She could see why. Although there is no food, there are beds and clothes that hopefully will fit them, and shoes. When was the last time she had a new pair of shoes? Okay, so maybe not new really, but new to her at least.
Noah lies on his back on the bed, wide awake. Across the room he hears the gentle breathing of Chrissie, who he assumes is sleeping. She deserves to sleep. He could tell by looking at her that she was frightened. He wanted to tell her that they were safe, but she would never believe him. Will they ever really be safe? Somewhere, out there, humanity must be rebuilding themselves. They must be looking for survivors. They really couldn’t be the last two on Earth, could they?
He sighs and turns on his side, looking over at Chrissie’s figure in the darkness. Just a day here, and then they should move on. If someone comes looking, they’ll know that someone was here and come looking. Noah knows they must move fast and not leave many tracks behind to be followed by.
He feels like he’s gone way too far in just one day. Sure, he’s been traveling for months, but now, he’s not alone. He doesn’t have to worry just about himself. Now he has to worry about someone else too. Just like when his friend was with him. Maybe he should leave now. Chrissie was doing fine by herself and he was too. Maybe they need to just separate again.
He closes his eyes and shakes the thoughts from his mind. What is the point of being so cruel to his self? He’s only making the situation worse by talking himself down from something good that came his way. Maybe for once, he needs to just allow what will happen to happen.
Light pokes through her closed eyes, causing a dull aching of her head. She hears his humming, but chooses not to move yet. Maybe it’s because she secretly enjoys just hearing him, or it’s the fact that for once, she doesn’t have to hurry up and leave. Well, they will have to hurry and leave, but she knows that if something happens, he has her back just as she has his. A few seconds later she hears the sizzling of food. She half thinks it’s her imagination, but she opens her eyes and sits up to see that he, indeed, was cooking food. And what more, it was eggs and bacon.
“Where did you find those?” She asks half falling out of the bed to get closer and be sure her eyes were not playing tricks on her.
He chuckles at her clumsiness. “I found them, in the next room farther down the tunnel. They aren’t old. It seems as if whoever lived here before only recently had to leave.”
She stops. “Or, they’re going to come back and find us and kill us.”
He rolls his eyes at her and takes two plates to put the food onto. “If that’s the case, then at least we can try and reason with them. I’m sure they’ve been going mad from lack of socialization as well.”
She takes the plate he hands up to her gratefully. He stands up and heads over to the bed he slept on, crawling up on it and sitting cross legged, his platter on his lap. She follows behind him, sitting exactly across from him. They eat in silence for a few minutes, savoring the food. As they eat, she thinks. They obviously need to start moving again. If they don’t start moving, someone will catch them, especially if the food here is recent. The last thing she wants is to be caught, although being caught couldn’t be any worse than what she’s been through these last few months.
The yelling was growing louder and in any instant she knew he would bust through the door, red eyes glowing with anger and a beer bottle in his hand. He would sneer at her, and let his eyes roam around her room before they would settle on her, deep and bright and demanding her. He would then throw the beer bottle away and come towards her. Chrissie wouldn’t dare to move. She was never frightened, but she was always aware, always cautious of what to say and what to do. No, she was never afraid of being hit. She was afraid of herself. She was afraid of the fact that when he came to her, she didn’t fight back. She let him have her way, when he hit her, raped her, touched her. She just sat there, unable to make a sound and unable to fight back in order to gain back her innocence that she lost so long ago.
Chrissie sighs as the memories fly through her mind. The torment she went through will never be gone. She’ll always remember that she was ridden of the one thing she could never get back. She lost her innocence. She lost her dignity. Now though, with as she assumes her parents being dead, she can start over as well as she can. She’ll never gain back her virginity. That’s the one thing she’ll never have the chance to give to someone worthy. Her father took that from her.
She only hoped that one day, someone could love her for everything she is and was; for everything she was put through and all the scars that were left on her heart. She knows though, that because of how Earth is now, things may never be the same ever again. Sadly, she knows she has to accept it.
Chrissie gets off the bed, and sets her plate on the bedside table. She then turns to Noah.
“We should get going. If we don’t keep moving, there’s a better chance someone will find us, especially if the food is recent.”
Noah nods in agreement. “Alright, but let’s see if we can bring any more food with us.”
Chrissie grabs her backpack, hoisting it up on her shoulder, the weight from her memory book weighing the bag down. She would never tell anyone that she brought it, just as she wouldn’t admit that she also has pencils and a journal in it too. And she most definitely would never tell Noah that she brought pictures of her parents with her despite what they did to her. Some things are just better left unexplained, and as far as she can tell, Noah must have had a pretty nice life up until the war.
She’s not envious of his life. She doesn’t even know what happened in it and as far as she’s concerned, it is none of her business. She has no right to pry unless he is willing to open up about it.
Noah grabs the other bag and they head through the tunnels again until they reach the room he mentioned.
“See, it’s like jam packed with food.”
She looks around in amazement. It’s like a kitchen, a freezer and refrigerator sitting side by side, and cabinets lining the walls. Noah opens one of the cabinets and shows her how they are filled with bags of chips and crackers, canned vegetables, nuts, cereal, jerky, granola bars, and trail mix. Chrissie starts grabbing things, left and right, shoving them into her bag. Noah helps, laughing loudly.
“Why are you laughing?” She asks, but can’t help but smile herself.
“We look like starving kids.” he comments, throwing a bag of nuts into his bag.
She shakes her head and steps away. “I think we’ll be good for a while.”
He nods in agreement and they hurriedly close their bags and continue heading through the tunnels. It’s quiet between them. Chrissie’s gun rests lightly against her thigh, reminding her that just because she’s not alone doesn’t mean that it’s safe. She has to remind herself that, or she’ll wind up getting both of them hurt.
Noah looks over at Chrissie as they walk, his gun cold against his hips. He worries for her. Sure, she seems real tough and could probably kick anyone’s ass in two minutes flat, but she’s also a girl who’s vulnerable. He can see in her eyes how hurt she was in the past. He doesn’t know what she went through, but he knows that when she’s ready, she’ll let him in. And he understands why she’s hesitant. They haven’t even known each other for more than a few days. He feels as if they’ve been together for a lifetime though.
It could be because he’s been alone for a long time, and so has she as far as he can tell. She hasn’t mentioned having anyone before him, but then again, he didn’t mention his best friend who gave his life so he could live. Everyday Noah wishes he had stayed behind and saved him, but if that happened, then he wouldn’t be here helping Chrissie.
They freeze as the sound of whispered voices flows through the air towards them. Chrissie pulls out her gun, holding it up and pointing in front of her. She whips her head to look behind her but Noah flips out his gun and moves so that his back is pressing against hers, his gun pointing at the area behind her. He hears her let out a breath of relief.
For a moment, he gets scared, worried for her life more than his. He already had to watch someone give up their life for him, he’d be damned if he let her do it too. If anything, he’d give up his life for her.
The voices grow louder, and he presses himself closer to her, his free hand reaching down to grab hers. She closes her hand around his and very softly whispers, “thanks.”
They stand rock still as three people come down the tunnel way, right in front of Noah. He cocks the safety off the gun and stares down the group. They stare back, wide eyed in surprise.
Finally, one of the boys talk, “What the hell?”
Chrissie turns; Noah’s hand still in hers and stands next to him; her gun points at the middle girl, the two boys on either side of her gazing at them intently.
The girl cocks her head to the side. “Are you part of the Periculum?”
Noah furrows his eyebrows. “What is that?”
The girl looks towards the guys. “It’s cool guys. They are obviously on the run.” She then turns to Noah and Chrissie. “I’m Miranda, and these guys are Matthew and Chris.”
Noah looks at Chrissie for a moment to see she that she just tenses up some more. “Who the hell are the Periculum?”
Miranda smiles hesitantly. “If you put your guns away, we can all sit down and explain everything to you. I assume you’ve been on the run since the war?”
Noah cuts in before Chrissie can respond. “We’d love that, but I’m not so sure we can trust you. You haven’t proved to us that we can.”
“Well, first of all, we don’t have guns.” Chris snaps and Miranda places a calm hand on his arm.
“Relax, Chris, they are right. In this time, everyone must be careful. Tell me, boy, have you and that girl been on the run together long?”
Noah eyes Miranda curiously. “It’s Noah, and no, not long. We ran into each other and decided to stick together. Being lonely isn’t fun all the time.”
She nods, “Of course it’s not any fun, Noah. Chris and I have been together since the beginning, but we met Matthew a while back and came across this place. Whoever was using it before us were long gone.”
Chrissie moves away from Noah, letting his hand drop to his side. “I don’t like you already.” she says, staring at Miranda.
Miranda shrugs as Chris glares at Chrissie. “Oh well, I didn’t ask to be liked. But like you two, I’d like to survive. The Periculum are a group of officers who enforce the dictator’s laws. Whoever is caught disobeying those gets beaten, or worse, killed depending on the law broken.”
Chris adds in, “And we’ve broken our fair share of them, so being caught is not on our agenda of things to do.”
Chrissie puts the safety lock back on her gun and stows it into her pocket with a soft sigh. “I’m sorry, I’m just anxious.”
Miranda nods in understanding and starts walking towards them as Noah also puts his gun safety on and shoves it into her pocket. She smiles again. “Noah, is it? And what about you?” She looks right at Chrissie.
“Chrissie, I understand that you’re anxious and worried, but trust me when I say this. Continuing to run in search of humanity is not going to help you. They will find you and they will bring you to the city and you’ll be trapped.” Miranda looks from her to Noah, her eyes displaying how serious she is.
Chris and Matthew stand behind her. Chris with his dark brown hair, spiked in the front with deep blue eyes and a muscular build. Matthew with his light brown hair with golden highlights and light brown eyes, and a somewhat muscular build. He appears to be more skilled in brainwork while Chris is the protector, the one who does the fighting or hard tasks. It seems as if Miranda uses them as bodyguards, although she’s probably nothing of royalty.
“How do you get out of being caught?” Noah asks curiously.
“We hide a lot, and we spend many days out, scoping and planning every move we make as well as they make. We know their routes like the back of our hands.” Matthew answers.
“Doesn’t that sound like a lot of work?” Chrissie asks. “Why don’t you just go live in the city?”
“You don’t understand.” Miranda says with a sigh. “Why don’t we all go into the bedroom and I’ll explain what’s been happening.”
Noah and Chrissie exchange a small glance and then nod together. Miranda turns and starts back down the tunnel way towards the kitchen area, Chris and Matthew following behind. Chrissie moves close to Noah, whispering so no one ahead can hear.
“What if they turn around and kill us?”
Noah rolls his eyes. “I think they would have done it already. Three against two, and I’m pretty sure Chris counts as two instead of one.”
Chrissie sighs. “I just don’t know if we can trust them.”
“You trusted me, and you didn’t even bother to wonder if I would turn around and kill you in your sleep.” Noah snaps back softly, feeling irritated over how fast she’s willing to not trust them.
Chrissie stops, stunned by his remark. He doesn’t stop walking, allowing her to think it over and make her own decision. It isn’t Noah’s job to tell her what to do or who to trust, but he finds it silly that she trusted him and will not trust Miranda. They could have killed Noah and Chrissie if they had wanted to without breaking a sweat. Of course, Noah knew Chrissie would wind up trusting them, just as he trusts them, because he’s sure that they don’t mean any harm.
Chrissie watches them walk away with a cold chill. Noah’s right, she knows, but she’s too stubborn to admit it. Either way, trusting Noah was a huge step for her and she only did it because he made her feel safe somehow. He walked into that building and when she pointed her gun at him, she knew that he would never harm her. It was just her heart telling her, but if Chrissie has learned anything these last few months, it’s that she always trusts her heart.
Miranda and her guys make Chrissie feel uncomfortable as if someone turned the heat up too high. She couldn’t help but think that they were just distracting them. That they are going to send them to the Periculum, whatever that is. She is still somewhat confused on how everything works now.
Miranda said that the Periculum is a group of, Chrissie assumes, soldiers that are kind of like police. They keep the bad from getting away with it, but she also makes it sound as if they do it for the fun of it, and actually hurt them to show everyone else what happens when they disobey whatever it is that they do.
Chrissie lets out a heavy sigh and jogs to catch up with the group, stopping when she gets close. She listens softly, just in case she was right all along.
“You can trust me,” Miranda’s voice says, lulling. “You can trust my friends too, they’ll be here in a minute.”
She hears Noah’s voice respond. “Wait, you said it was just you and the guys.”
Chrissie has to hold herself back from throwing herself into the room to scream “I told you so.” She can’t help but feel a little smug. She was right, of course, because why would Miranda just now tell him that her friends are coming. Unless she means that she called the Periculum and they are on their way to get Noah, and possibly look for her. If that happens, she knows she has to run for her life, but what about Noah? Will she come back for him?
She shakes her head sharply, clearing her mind. Of course she would come back for Noah, after all he’s done for her in the short two days they’ve been together. He’s a partner, a friend, someone who deserves to live.
Miranda is talking now. “Don’t worry, Noah. You’ll be safe, and so will your friend, unless she already left you.”
“She didn’t leave. I trust her, and I know she wouldn’t. She’s just confused and probably waiting for me to come back and tell her it’s okay.” he answers tightly.
Chrissie takes a deep breath. He trusts her enough not to leave him. Why would he do that after just two days? But then, isn’t that exactly what she was just thinking? She’s ripped from her thoughts at the sound of heavy padded footsteps behind her. She twists her head to see people she’s never seen before.
They wear helmets with a big P on them in big, bold letters and padded clothing. It’s all black and gold, and they have big, metal boots on. The boots thud on the ground as if it’s a heartbeat, ceasing to beat. They are tall too, towering over her as if she was simply a flower in a garden. She tilts her head up to look at them in amazement and fear at the same time.
“Ah, here they are.” Miranda says, and Chrissie hears her gentle footsteps until they stop right behind her. “Oh, Chrissie, I see you’ve already met my friends.”
She’s dead silent, still staring up at the figures, the P glaring down at her. She feels a hand grip her wrist and slides out of her daze to see Noah clutching her arm. His eyes are wide too, with fear and worry more than amazement.
“Chrissie, Noah, meet the Periculum.”
Before either of them could process what was happening and start moving, one of the very, scary large men reached forward and yanked Chrissie forward, causing her to yelp in pain and surprise. Noah is then pulled away from her, and Miranda looks at them with a smirk.
“You know, it’s been ages since we’ve found some outcasts.” She says smoothly. “It’ll be interesting to hear your stories on how you survived so long, and I’m sure the boss will want to hear too.”
“What do you mean?” Chrissie asks, her voice oddly small.
She knows now, that she was most definitely right. Now though, she doesn’t want to shout “I told you so.” She just wants to get out of here and go back up through the stairs and back down to the kitchen in the house with Noah by her side. She wants to fight for her life every day. She wants to be on the run, but she knows that won’t happen and right now, she’s trapped.
Noah clenches his hands into fists, anger churning in his stomach as he briefly feels a surge of violence overtake his body. He wants to slash and kill everything in sight just to be sure Chrissie will be safe. She’s the only person he’s talked to, that has connected with him and has trusted him since this whole mess went down and he’ll be damned if he lets her get hurt, especially after mentally promising to himself that he would keep her safe.
The large group of men pulls them down the hallway as Miranda and her two guys follow closely behind. It’s obvious that Noah and Chrissie are about to find out what city and organization Miranda briefly mentioned before she called for these guys.
They walk for a while until they come to a single door at the very end of the tunnel. A key pokes out of the keyhole of the door and one of them men, not one of the ones holding Noah or Chrissie, turns the key and opens the door before slipping the key back into his pocket.
Noah keeps the key in mind as they are pulled out of the tunnels. If he can play his cards right, he’ll be able to get the key, and get Chrissie through the door to lock them out. Then they could hurry out of the tunnels and back to the house and start running again.
That’s all he wants. Noah thought before that he would want to find a whole group of people again, to be normal, but now, he just wants it to be him and Chrissie and the whole wide world out in front of them. He used to be so afraid of what was out there. Meeting Chrissie made him realize that he shouldn’t be afraid, and that she needs him as much as he needs her.
Outside, the sun is shining down brightly, hot and humid compared to two nights ago with the pouring rain. The sun shines with happiness, radiating with a glorious glow as if it’s finally been freed. Unlike the sun, Noah was spiraling down into his anger and gloominess. He looks over at Chrissie, but her eyes are closed and her breathing is slow, as if she’s trying so hard to be calm. He lets out a silent sigh, watching her peaceful face, but knowing that underneath her façade, inside her mind she’s scared and she’s right. She was so right about Miranda. He should have just listened to her.
The men shove them into a car, the automobile much like a police car, the back cut off from the front and no door handles on the inside, therefore they have no way to try and escape like he planned. They are shoved into the car and the door slams behind them. The group splits up into three groups of two, the two guys who handled Noah and Chrissie get into their car, twisting the key to ignite the engine and then are crawling down the road.
Chrissie is silent, her hands tangled together tightly as she stares at the window and Noah sighs softly, regret filling his body.
“I’m sorry” he says tenderly, looking down at his lap.
“It’s okay. You didn’t know, and I didn’t expect you too.” She responds quietly.
Noah fiddles with his hands for a second before responding. “I should have trusted you. I should have listened to you, and now look what I’ve gotten us into.”
“We’ll get out, stop worrying so much.” she hisses under her breath.
The conversation drops between them, but Noah thinks on her words. Stop worrying so much. It reminds him of his family, especially his mom.
Sharon looked over at her son with a bright smile, her long dark brown hair swishing behind her as the wind picks up. Noah smiled slightly back, leaning against the pickup truck as she came closer.
“Look, I found them!” Sharon exclaimed, showing her son the flats she had left outside the dance theater.
“How did you even manage to forget them?” He asks with a chuckle.
She shrugs, looking down at the shoes.
“Hey mom.” Noah says.
She looks up at him.
“You and dad are going to be okay, right?”
She sighs softly and then nods. “Noah, baby, everything is fine, quit worrying so much.”
Noah sighs. Chrissie, in a way, is much like his mom; strong even though she’s fragile, a liar when it means protecting someone else. She hides everything inside. Maybe if she just let him in, she’d be happier. She’d be able to feel unafraid and finally smile like she means it. Sometimes, Noah thinks, she smiles as if she’s forgotten everything and other times, it looks as if she’s just been struck and a whole mixture of emotions will momentarily cross her eyes and disappears before he can make sense of what happened.
Her past makes him curious to know her. He wants to extinguish that fire of pain inside of her heart. He knows it’s there, simply by the way she presents herself in certain situations. She’s hesitant.
She lays her head against the window, drawing Noah’s attention again to the perfection of her skin, milky white, her dark brown hair lying limply against her shoulders and sticking to her back, making her even paler than she is because of the dark contrast. She’s gorgeous though. He could never imagine anyone being prettier than her, and whatever she’s been through in the past, he just cannot see it, because who would want to hurt such a beautiful, sweet girl?
The car jerks to a stop and the men exit the car, moving towards tall white gates and start talking. Noah leans forward, his forehead pressing against the car window in a failing attempt to possibly hear what they could be saying. Perhaps a password of some sort?
Chrissie turns to look at him and he notices the fear sparkling in her green eyes.
“Don’t worry,” he whispers. “Like you said, we’ll be okay.”
She shakes her head slowly, moving towards him and placing her hand on his knee.
“No, Noah, they are taking us to the city.”
“What do you know about the city?”
She hangs her head. “I don’t know anything about the city, but if you listened to anything Miranda had said, you’d know that those men are obviously the Periculum and this is the city they were talking about.”
He nods, placing his hand over hers. “We’ll get out, I promise.”
She pulls away, looking up at him with an intense stare. “Don’t promise me things you don’t intend on keeping.”
He leans forward, their faces inches apart. “I never make promises I don’t intend on keeping.” he replies softly.
The footsteps cause them to jump apart, appearing as if they never even spoke a word. The door is yanked open, and Noah is pulled out before the door slams shut again, leaving Chrissie alone.
Chrissie watches as Noah is pulled across the ground up to the gate. The man’s mouth moves, and she desperately tries to make out what it was saying. She sure hopes Noah will keep his promise, because goodness knows they both need to get away from here. This whole place screams danger. She can’t help but feel like once they enter those gates and are within the city, they will never be able to leave.
The gates open, lifting up like in a movie with a castle and how the drawbridge lifts up. That’s what it reminds her of. The man hauling Noah around stalks off with him back towards the car but doesn’t get in. Another one of the men comes to her side of the car and opens the door, yanking her out. She hates being handled like this. Without thinking she kicks him in the place where the sun doesn’t shine and starts to run. The man holding Noah screams out in an unfamiliar language and behind her she hears the thudded footsteps of the men chasing her. For a second, she finds the situation funny. If you would have told her a year ago that she would be in this position today, she would have called the mental hospitals.
Now though, she couldn’t even imagine being back at home, her father’s breath beating down on her neck, or her mother’s popping of pills, or even the sound of screaming and beer bottles being thrown in the kitchen. None of that seems real anymore. It feels like a distant story book that she read a long time ago. She keeps running, but then remembers Noah back there, probably looking after her with sadness, thinking she’s abandoned him. She stops, allowing the men behind her to seize her and throw her over their shoulder. When they get back to Noah, the man holding him looks relieved, but Noah looks surprised.
“Dammit” he curses, as the man starts pulling him through the gate, Chrissie following behind with no obvious choice. Once they are inside the gates, they close, and Chrissie watches with a churning feeling in her stomach and heart.
Will they die now? After all they’ve done these past few months to survive, are they finally going to die?
They walk for a while, until they appear to be in the heart of the city. It’s quit, almost deserted besides for a few people out and about. They seem pretty happy, but as Chrissie peers closer at them, she can see that they are frightened, dirty, and sad. The people watch as they walk by, then they bow their heads, as if they are praying for them.
Chrissie twists her head a little to see where they are and her eyes instantly widen in shock. In front of her is the largest building she’s ever seen. She knows for a fact that back before the war, this building was never here. Ohio has always been a small, lay low kind of place. This place was obviously built for this purpose. It looms overhead, painted in a dark blue with black shutters, millions of windows peering out. The doors in front of them are large double doors, painted in black as well. When they reach the front of the doors, they open wide, allowing them in and then closing shut behind them loudly, echoing within the front room which is also huge. It’s as big as a football field, a chandelier above and several other paintings and decorations on the walls.
Noah lets out a gasp as she stares with wide eyes, taking it all in. This is obviously the leaders house, or president, or whatever it is. One of the men who wasn’t holding onto Chrissie or Noah heads forward through another door ahead and is in there for a while. The man holding Chrissie drops her to the ground then reaches down and pulls her up by her hair. She flinches, but doesn’t cry out in fear he’ll hit her. She is thrown back into a memory.
“Get up!” he screamed at her.
She whimpered, tears on her eyelashes. He was leaning over her, the rank of alcohol engulfing her as she joked back her sobs. Her face is surely to be bruised as well as her upper arms.
“I said get up you worthless b****!” He yells, reaching down to yank her up by her hair.
She struggles to stand up, pain rushing through her body, but she manages to stand and he shoves her into the wall and continues to have his way with her.
Chrissie closes her eyes tightly, feeling the same rush of pain from the memory enter her body even though she’s not actually hurt. She stands up and he keeps a hold on her hair, to keep her from running off again. She opens her eyes slowly to see Noah peering over at her.
“Are you okay?” he mouths at her.
She nods very carefully, as to not have him feel her move her head. When he does nothing, she feels successful in not alarming him. Finally, the man who went through the doors comes out and motions for them to follow him. Chrissie and Noah are shoved through the doors with the two men holding them and then the doors shut behind them as well.
Chrissie feels a brief moment of fear. Whatever happens now, will determine her and Noah’s fate.
How does one react to that?
The room is high, an elegant chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The room is gold and silver, shiny and sparkly and overall neat. Chrissie rolls her shoulder back as she feels the beginning of the ache from where the man had his hand clamped down on her. Noah is ahead of her, his back muscles rippling under his shirt. She can tell he’s a million times stronger than he first appears to people. She’s surprised he hasn’t tried to get away yet, but part of her knows it’s because of her.
She looks around and takes in the room, feeling very small. The room is nearly empty, the walls gold and silver pillars on the sides, almost like decorations. The walls are bare though, and the floors are covered in elegant ruffled carpets. Ahead of them, a large gold covered chair sits in the middle of the room, supplied with servants on either side, guns in their hands. The thought of those guns being there to kill her comforts her little.
The man sitting in the chair is old, probably in his forties, light, short brown hair and dark brown eyes. They are dark and cold; concealing any feeling or thought he could have been feeling. Chrissie shivers as he turns that cool gaze onto her. He smiles slightly, his teeth just poking out behind his teeth.
He’s actually really ugly, and he definitely has that scary feel about him. It’s no wonder he’s in charge.
“Aliquam commodo mecum relinquere. Te sunt dimisit.” (Thank you; please leave them here with me. You are dismissed.)
Chrissie scrunches her eyebrows together in confusion. What language could he possibly be speaking?
The man holding her lets go, and the man holding Noah bows low before releasing Noah and both leave, closing the door behind them. Well, obviously they understand better than Chrissie does, because she continues to scrunch her eyebrows together while rubbing her arms where the man gripped her. She moves up until she’s brushed against Noah, seeking and giving comfort. He moves his arm down, his fingers touching hers.
The man sitting in the chair before them stands and starts to walk forward towards them while his servants instantly move to be next to him. Chrissie stays stock still, unable to tea her gaze away from his deep, brown eyes that seem to go right into her core.
“You are American’s, yes?” he says, his voice gruff and odd sounding in English.
Noah nods for her. “Yes, we are, and I assume you speak Latin?”
The man shoots Noah a glare.
“I was not talking to you, yes? Why does the girl not speak?”
Chrissie feels her heart beat wildly as she struggles to form words with her mouth. “You’ve frightened her.” Noah responds for her again, his mouth tight and hard from obvious anger.
“Huic lingua eius. Oportet figere quod.”(This child has a tongue on him. We must fix that.) The man speaks in his native tongue, directing towards one of the servants who nods and heads towards the back of the room where Chrissie now sees a door.
The servant comes back a few minutes later with scissors and some kind of medication in his hands. Chrissie’s eyes widen as fear settles into the pit of her stomach. What the hell does this man think he’s going to do?
“How long have you been on the run?” the man asks as the servant puts himself back into his spot next to him.
“Only a few weeks.” Chrissie lies, finally able to speak.
The man’s eyebrows raise, and a smirk crosses his lips. “She speaks, so tell me, girl, how you escaped the cold harsh war.”
Chrissie looks down for a second before raising her eyes to meet his. “I ran away, and then I hid for a while but I only recently started to try and find stuff. I was living in a house stocked with food for two months and then I came across this guy and we were going to try and find life, to ensure that we weren’t the last alive.”
He chuckles, his laugh throaty and harsh sounding. “My dear, running away was not smart, you know. I’m sure your parents could be very much alive, and nonetheless, us finding you is better for me than you.”
“How so?” Noah steps in.
His head whips towards Noah, and he grins. “Son, there are many things you do not understand. Since the war has ended, things have changed drastically. There is no freedom of life anymore. You came here, and now you live under my rule.”
Chrissie puts her hands together, and then dares to ask the question she’s been dreading. “Will you kill us?”
The man’s smile slips from his face and he gets into a serious mood. It’s almost like he really has to debate on whether or not to kill them. And she doesn’t blame him. From what she can tell already, he wouldn’t be afraid to hurt them at all, but it’s almost like he knows they can be helpful in some ways.
“I’ll tell you what, if the boy joins the Periculum, then I’ll allow you both to stay and live, but if either of you decline my offer or even get into a peep of trouble, I’ll cut out your tongue first, then let you suffer until I kill you.” He holds the scissors up with a smirk.
Chrissie presses her hand against Noah’s thigh, moving her body so the man can’t see. Noah’s hand moves down over hers and he takes the slip of paper from her hand without being noticed. Then he sighs and nods. “Alright, I’ll join.”
The man waves at his servants and turns his back on them. “Excellent, you shall start immediately, and you will now be known as Soldier 196. The girl shall be known as Worker 822.”
Chrissie feels her heart sink. She has a terrible feeling that everything is about to go downhill from here.
Noah watches as the servants drag Chrissie away. For now, they’ll be separated, but he knows he’ll get back to her sooner or later. They can’t stop him from that. He slips the paper into his pocket, determination swelling inside of him. Chrissie said all the right things when she could finally get the words out. He just knows though, that all of this is his fault and that she shouldn’t be saving his ass right now. He should be saving hers, and he will, when he learns more about this place and learns the layout of the town outside the gates.
He also plans on learning some Latin while he’s here, seeing as the leader and the Periculum speak it. If he’s to get inside their heads, he’s going to need to pull out every trick he’s got.
A Solider comes to get him, escorting him back through the double doors and outside the gates. Noah turns his head to watch them close silently behind him, then turns back around and walks quickly to keep up with the long legged soldier.
Noah’s not that short, but the Soldier has about four inches on him, standing at 6 foot four. Which makes Noah about six foot and Chrissie would be five inches shorter than Noah, making her five foot five. And seeing as she’s small; petite and fragile despite her big attitude, she could easily be taken out. So the fighting is going to be left to Noah to accomplish while she stands in the background shooting off victims.
Noah locks the plans in the back of his head just in case he has time to write them down somewhere. If they even allow paper. If they do, he’s going to have to be very secretive about it, somehow. The Solider and Noah get closer to a very large hospital looking building. They enter through, what Noah assumes, is the back door and go up a winding staircase covered in black paint. It’s obvious they painted it a while ago and sloppily at that for it was peeling and chipping away.
The staircase goes up for a while, but neither of them complain even though Noah is getting tired and he knows for a fact that the Solider in front of him is too because his breathing is a little harder than before. When they finally reach the top, the Solider stops and turns to gaze down at him with a hurried small smile.
“Not everyone is your enemy.” He whispers softly, before returning to an expressionless position and turning away to continue to lead Noah down a long hallway colored in dark greys.
Noah, more confused than he already was, follows dumbly behind him, the words echoing in his mind and his hand in his pocket thumbing the paper. When did Chrissie even find the time to write something down? Or did she have a feeling something like this would happen?
The man stops in front of a closed door, painted dark grey with unrecognizable words on it. The words said, Militis Plagis, which made absolutely no sense. The man notices his confusion and rolls his eyes in a way that tells Noah he’s faking it.
“It’s Latin for Soldier’s Quarters.”
Noah nods, burning those words to memory for later, just in case he happens to come across them again. The man knocks on the door three times and it opens to reveal three men, all looking exactly alike with their black and gold padded armor and helmets with the gold P in the middle. He now knows what it stands for, even if he still doesn’t understand what the word means per say.
They usher the man and Noah inside and then shut the door. They all turn on Noah as if he’s a fresh piece of meat they’ve been dying to roast.
“Ire eum arma.” (Go get him his armor.) The one who opened the door barks out.
The other two men hustle around collecting clothing while the man who opened the door stares Noah down and the man next to Noah stands stock still. Neither of them says a word and Noah doesn’t dare ask what he said, momentarily afraid they’ll give him even though the leader said not yet.
Not yet is the key word. Not yet, and that means there is a still a huge possibility they will die. Noah knows he can’t allow that though and he just hopes with everything inside of him that Chrissie is safe.
Chrissie is shoved into a large, broken down hall and then seconds after being shoved down, clothes are thrown on top of her. The man who had thrown her onto the floor spits on her leg and leaves. She trembles there for a few minutes wishing Noah could have been here to help her. She tries to act big and tough, but the truth is that after all those years of being hit and shoved around, she’s fragile and broken. This should come as no surprise to her, but she’s afraid for her life and for Noah’s, wherever he may be. She hopes he’s alright.
She lifts the clothes up to look at them, and cringes at the sight. The shirt is a three quarter sleeved, light blue shirt with dirt stains all over it. The pants are dark blue with dirt stains as well, and holes, almost as if they’ve been worn by someone else. Chrissie wouldn’t be surprised if they had, indeed, been used by someone else.
She sighs and strips from her current clothes and changes into the nasty clothes that the man threw at her. She won’t even dare think of how he spit on her. After she’s changed, she reaches into the pocket of her old jeans and pulls out two hairbands. She lifts her hair up in a ponytail and with the second hairband she pulls it into a high bun, desperately hoping that her hair won’t get dirty and gross.
If her hair gets destroyed during this process of hell, she’ll kill someone. She really will, because her hair means everything to her, since it’s the only thing she has left to love.
After she’s completely done, she allows herself to sit down, and she cries. She doesn’t want to cry, but after all that’s happened, crying seems appropriate.
“Don’t cry, you’ll be safe here.” someone whispers.
Chrissie snaps her head up and looks around for the voice.
“Don’t be frightened, please.”
She continues to look around and once she deems that she won’t find the figure to the voice, she just sighs and falls onto her back to stare up at the ceiling that she imagines was once so elegant and beautiful.
“They’ll take you to New York.” A face pops in her view and she jumps a little, but doesn’t scream.
“And why do you say that?” Chrissie responds, not bothering to care much anymore.
The face moves form her view and she hears the girl sit next to her with a small, painful sigh.
“It’s rare that they give someone such nice clothes, and when they do, that normally means they plan on moving you.”
At that, Chrissie sits up and peers at the girl with curiosity. The girl is extremely thin, her ribs poking out beneath her skin and her hair is dirty and stringy, her face long and pale from, as Chrissie assumes, lack of food and proper care. Her eyes are a bright blue, the only thing about her that stands out.
“How do you know this?”
She shrugs, her shoulder blades sticking out of her back and the bone underneath her skin rippling. It makes Chrissie want to throw up.
“Everyone here is doomed to die. The leader has only come here temporarily. I’ve heard that he’s been traveling from city to city of his kingdom to make sure everyone is working and he’s been looking for lost people, much like you, I believe. He’ll pick the most healthy and strongest of the people at each place and take them back to New York, where I’ve heard, everyone gets a beautiful house and lots of food.” Towards the end her voice gets dreamy and hopeful, but overall her story makes Chrissie scared.
She needs to find Noah and get out of here.
“That’s horrible.” she replies and the girl nods.
“Yeah, well, I’ve been here since the very beginning of the war, when he was first getting his kingdom together. He’s killed a lot of people, miss. He needs to be stopped.”
Chrissie looks at her sadly. “How would I even stop him? I’m just one person.”
The girl looks down, twiddling her hands in her lap. Her fingers are long and thin, frail looking almost.
“Well, you could go with him to New York, and maybe there you can find others who, like you, want to take him down. None of us want to live under this. He makes us all work, no matter where we go. I’ve heard from the other girls. He kills anyone who can’t keep up, and his soldiers do the dirty work for him.”
Chrissie knows in her heart that she should help, but her selfish ways make her want to just get up and walk away from the girl. But what would she do to even take down the leader?
“How are you safe here?” Chrissie wonders, thinking back to the very beginning of the conversation.
“He doesn’t bother us much here. Ohio is pretty small and sad, and those of us that are still here are barely alive as you can tell. He’s just waiting for us to die out now. So you’ll be safe from work and harm for a while.”
“I came here with somebody, but the leader made him join the Periculum. Will he come to New York too?”
“No.” the girl replies, and Chrissie knows now that she’s not leaving Noah behind.
It makes her feel awful, knowing that she’d rather save Noah than a thousand possible lives (if there are even that many of them left) but she couldn’t help them even if she tried. She’d get killed one way or another, because of her stupidity and lack of thinking and planning.
She sighs, knowing she has to do the right thing anyway, because that’s how she is. Even when her parents shoved her around and hurt her pride, she always was nice. That’s why people didn’t like her usually, because she’d rather be nice and step aside while others pushed forward and did what they could to get to the top. She simply wanted to be on the bottom with someone who cared.
“I’ll do what I can.” Chrissie softly replies, mentally reminding herself to actually keep this promise.
It’s not that she doesn’t want to, and she knows she’ll do everything she can to free these people, but she also knows that without Noah, she may not be able to help them. She won’t go down without a fight, even if it means her dying for them.
Noah looks in the mirror, the armor heavy on his body. His mentor, the man who brought him here, told him that eventually the armor would become part of him, and not be as heavy as it is now. In the back of his mind he wonders what Chrissie could possibly be doing right now, but that thought is abandoned as his mentor walks in to admire the armor on him.
“It fits you well for being a scrawny kid.” he comments.
Noah shrugs. “Can I ask you something.”
“I have a friend here, and she’s a worker, I think. Do you suppose she’s okay?”
He gazes at Noah through the mirror. “Is she healthy? Is she strong and brave? Has the leader taken an interest in her?”
Noah turns around and looks up at his mentor, whose name he still has yet to learn. “She’s healthy, and brave, but strong I’m not sure. And I don’t really know about the leader thing, but is that bad?”
His mentor sighs. “I don’t want to worry you, but most likely he’ll be taking her to New York.”
“New York?” Noah responds, feeling suddenly sad and yearning for his home.
That’s where he came from; New York City. What could the leader possibly want her for though?
“But why would he be taking her to New York?”
“Well, he has an army of some sort. He makes them work and build, and basically live under his rule. Many of them have been killed lately, due to a protest which didn’t end well. Now he’s looking from village to village to find recruits to fill in their spots.”
“Do you think I could convince him to take me?”
His mentor shakes his head sadly. “There is no way. We stay here and die here, loyal.”
Noah looks back at the mirror. “No, I’m not loyal. I did this to save Chrissie, and I’ll be damned if I let her go.”
His mentor moves towards the door with a nod of his head. “Very well, boy. I suggest you pay very close attention then, and follow any orders I give you if you want to be sure your friend lives. I’m risking everything to help you.”
“But why are you helping me?”
His mentor gives a small chuckle. “You act as if I chose to do this. Like you, I was forced into it, vowing to save my wife by joining them. He killed her, the bastard, and I swear to get revenge. I won’t let your friend die if I can help it.”
Noah smiles softly at him in the mirror. “Thank you, sir.”
“The name’s Mikhail, better start using it.”
He turns and leaves through the door and Noah reaches into his pocket to pull out the note.
No matter what happens, Noah, know I am so happy that I got the chance to meet you. I’ll do whatever I can to make sure we both get out of here alive.