The New Beginning

June 21, 2013
By kcasey95 SILVER, Grantsburg, Wisconsin
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kcasey95 SILVER, Grantsburg, Wisconsin
6 articles 6 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything happens for a reason


Author's note: I actually got the idea for this piece from a dream that I had. I switched quite a bit up from my dream, but the base line of the plot came from the dream. If I could get comments on what's good and bad about the piece or some advice, that would be great. Please, give me some feedback, it is greatly appreciated.

The author's comments:
Please, feedback would be great!

I put my finger to my lips as my group crouched down and began making our way along the store shelves. Various merchandise was strewn all over the floor; bottles of pop, toilet paper, random stale foods crumbled all over the floor. We all picked up what we could that was still good and tossed it into our separate backpacks. I heard a can of pop fall down off a shelf and I looked back to see my brother give me an apologetic look. I held my hand up for everybody to stop and peaked around the end of the shelf. Just outside the store windows I could see it.

It was slightly crouched down peering around for it’s next prey. Thick, slimy, dark saliva was dripping from its jagged sharp teeth. Both of the eyes had a red bloodshot look to them and the pupils were quite small. The nose was pushed up and flattened and there was dried blood caked around the mouth. It was a sickly grey splotchy color with bruising and scratches everywhere. The earlobe of both ears looked like they had been ripped off, but that didn’t fool me, I knew how well they could hear. Like all others, it had no hair. They all usually looked alike, just with a few different distinguishes here and there. It was hard to think that at one point in time, it was a human that had lived a normal life just like the rest of us used to. But now, all it was, was a horrendous, bloodthirsty mutant. All it takes is the tiniest bit of saliva to enter into your system to become one of them.

Out of nowhere I saw a person run across the street. I wasn’t the only one who saw the young girl running. The mutant had caught up to her right as she hit the other side of the street. The thing bit into her neck in an instant, blood squirting all over the street. I heard her screams of terror ringing in my head, but I knew there was nothing I could do. I felt someone brush up against me and I saw a shotgun pull up. I dove backwards right before the shotgun was shot to prevent any injuries to myself. I watched as the bullet went right into the back of the mutant’s head, splattering matter all over the street. The mutant, and the girl, both collapsed onto the ground not moving.

“Damien! Are you stupid?” I yelled at him.

“What? I killed it didn’t I?”

“Yes, but you also didn’t think of the consequences yet again!”

“What do you---” his sentence was cut off as we heard the horrible deep, low growl of several mutants.

“You idiot! Now they know where we are!” I mumbled furiously to him.

I turned around to face the rest of the group and gave them a nod; they knew what to do. I watched as each one of them pulled out their weapons. I pulled my pistol out from its holder on my thigh. I held my finger to my lips telling everyone to not make a sound. Before I could turn to look back out the store windows, I heard another shot from Damien’s gun and heard another mutant drop.

“Damien!”

That’s when all hell broke loose. Five more mutants started to rush into the store. Each and every one of them had dark slimy drool dripping from their jagged teeth and their splotchy colored skin was repulsive. There really was no way to tell males from females anymore with them.

“Split up into your groups! You know what to do!” I yelled out. I fired my pistol at the nearest mutant hitting in the stomach. It fell over backwards but got right back up in an instant. Being the leader, since there was an odd number of people in our group I was to go off on my own and distract the mutants. I barrelled my way through the front of the door.
“Hey come and get me!” I yelled behind me. I saw three of the mutants see how easy I was and came running after me. “S***,” I mumbled under my breath as I began running down the street. I could hear their low growls coming from behind me and they were coming up on me fast. My heart began beating out of my chest and my lungs were on fire. My legs felt like jelly but I kicked it up into high gear and began running faster. I turned down the first street I saw that would lead them away from our safe house. I felt one of the mutants grab onto my backpack and yank me back. I let the backpack fall from my shoulders as the other mutant grabbed for my arm, leaving scratches down my forearm as I yanked myself away. I got a little lead before I turned around and aimed for the mutant on the right, shooting it right between the eyes. I didn’t have time to wait and watch it fall. One down, two to go.
I ran into the nearest store and began yanking shelves down behind me, leaving an obstacle course. It slowed them down as they came crashing through the big windows in the front of the store, sending glass shards everywhere. I felt a few slice my cheek and forehead. I ignored the pain and took aim. Another right between the eyes. I saw it fall back out through the window just as I was tackled down by the last mutant. Its rotting, disgusting, hot breath was surrounding my head as it growled a long, very deep growl into my face. I pulled my pistol up and fired it right in its heart splattering blood all over me and knocking the mutant up and off of me. I layed there for a minute or two catching my breath, realizing how close to death I had just been. I’m really glad they had two spots to hit to kill them versus just one, or I would’ve been dead meat, literally. I got back up to my feet and began worrying about everyone else; especially my brother. I hope they all did what they were supposed to; split into their groups of two and took off in different directions splitting the mutants up and leading them away from the safe house. I left the store and made my way slowly and stealthily back to the store where it had all began. Hopefully they were all back there, meeting like we were supposed to. I stepped into the store and took count of who was there and who was not.
“Holy s*** Sky, are you okay?” I heard Callie ask me.
I ignored her and walked right up to her boyfriend Damien shoving him in the chest. “Are you stupid?!” I yelled at him.
“What’s your problem?” He asked.
“Why would you go and put us all in danger like that?! You know better than to make noise when we are out in the open! It attracts them! It lets them know that we’re there and where we are!”
“I was trying to help that girl,” he stated.
“Bullshit! You saw she was bit and that there was nothing we could do about it. We both know you only wanted to shoot the mutant. You didn’t care the least bit about the woman. You never think about the consequences.” I shoved him one last time as he glared at me because he knew I knew his real intentions. I then turned to face my brother Myles, getting down to business. “Where’s Blaine and Jackie?”
“The last time I saw them they went out the back door of the store.”
I ran my fingers through my hair thinking about how we were going to find them just as they came walking through the door, Blaine covered in blood. Apparently one of the mutants had followed them and they had taken care of it.
“Hey are you okay Sky?” Blaine asked me.
I ignored him and asked the group, “Is everybody okay? Nobody got hurt or bit or anything?” I saw everybody shake their heads. “Alright, let’s get out of here then before somebody decides to do something stupid again,” I said glaring at Damien. I was beyond pissed with him. He is always doing things like that.
They nodded to me again and we began making our way back through the disheveled store and to the back room. I made my way to the front of the line and asked, “Ready Damien?” Even though I was pissed at him, we needed him for this part. When I got no response I turned around to see him smirking at me. “You can get up there yourself you’re not incapable,” he said.
“Are you kidding me?” I’m not that short, but I am kinda short. I’m only five foot five, I couldn’t get on top of the freezer by myself; he always helped us all up. And I couldn’t believe he wasn’t helping me all because of what happened back in the store.
“I’ll help you,” Blaine said walking up next to me. He was one of the nicest and most helpful guys I had ever met, even before the world went all to s***. We also needed him in our group, he had been a med student. He looked at me sincerely with his big blue eyes and laced his hands together for me to step on. Good thing Damien wasn’t the only stronger guy we had on our team. I stepped up onto his hand and he boosted me up to the top of the freezer. I pushed the panel from the ceiling up to the top of the roof and boosted myself up out the top and onto the roof. Blaine climbed up to the freezer himself and helped up his girlfriend Jackie and then Callie and lastly Lacey. I helped them up to the top of the ceiling and then all of the boys helped themselves all the way up.
I stuck the panel back where it belonged and went to the edge of the rooftop and peered over. I looked all around and saw no mutants in sight. I signaled for everyone to follow me and we made our way over to our makeshift catwalk. Our catwalk consisted of a ladder with plywood over the top that got us from rooftop to rooftop. Good thing the buildings in this rundown Wisconsin town were close together. We began walking silently from building to building being weary of our every move. Eventually, our path stopped and we had to climb down an emergency ladder to the abandoned street below. I checked behind me to make sure everyone was still with me and I saw that Jackie was still standing at the top of the building with her hands on her hips.
“What are you waiting for?” I whispered loudly up to her.
“I’m done going down these grimy, slimy, nasty things,” she called down with her tongue piercing shining in the light. I held my finger to my lips to quiet her down. How could you still act all high maintenance when you’re in the middle of surviving? Ever since her and Blaine have joined the group, she has always been the model type with her perfect long brown hair, perfect body and bright blue eyes. I always wondered how Blaine ended up with her, they were absolutely nothing alike; he could’ve done much better.
“You have to! You don’t have much of a choice. We will leave you here.”
“Blaine will stay with me and help me find a different way down.”
I turned to look at Blaine just as he called up to her, “You’re on your own babe.”
She rolled her eyes and made her way slowly down the ladder and smacked Blaine when she was on the ground. “You asshole, you’d leave me here?!”
“I got you down didn’t I?” He asked her sincerely.
She rolled her eyes and went back to stand with Lacey leaving Blaine for himself. He shrugged his shoulders before everyone turned their attention back to me.
“Seriously? Has everybody completely forgotten the seriousness of our situation in the world that we’re worried about grimy ladders and killing everything in sight?”
“I haven’t!” My brother called from the back of the group, holding his arm up. My brother isn’t even really an adult yet; he’s only seventeen but he’s growing up fast standing at six foot. Nobody can help but love my brother with his big brown golden eyes and blonde shaggy hair. He knew how to lighten up the mood and would help anyone in need.
“Well we all really need to start worrying more about surviving and less about how our hair looks and killing everything in sight,” I retorted eyeing Damien first and then Jackie. She gave me a nasty look and I bit my tongue before I said anything else. We continued making our way through the damp, dark, creepy alley. We kept our backs to the wall and silently crept to the end and slipped through the door. Once we were all inside, I slid the huge metal lock across the door and back into place. Home sweet home.

As the others continued on down the hall, I grabbed a hold of Damien’s arm and held him back with me. I waited for everyone to be out of sight before I pushed his chest so he was against the wall. His big six foot two stature made me feel so tiny.

“You need to quit pulling stunts like that! You put us all in danger out there!”

“I don’t have to listen to anything you say, I can do what I want!”

“Quit acting like a child! Do you not understand the seriousness of our situation out there?”

“Oh I understand it clearly, I just don’t care,” he said, taking a step closer to me forcing me back towards the opposite wall.

“If you keep doing the things you do you’re going to get us all killed!”

He pushed me back against the wall and leaned in so close that I could smell his minty aftershave and his eyebrow piercing grazed my cheek. He held me against the wall hard and whispered in my ear, “Well maybe I think someone in the group should be dead,” putting emphasis on the ‘should’. With that, he gave me one last shove into the wall and turned around and walked away. I was dumbfounded as I watched his bulky form walk away and turn the corner. What did I ever do to him for him to be this way towards me? I’m only trying to keep the group safe, can’t he see that? I shook my head to clear it from all of the day’s events. My mind needs to stay clear if I want to stay sane. No need to end up like Damien.

“Hey sis are you okay?” Myles asked as his head popped around the corner.

I took a deep breath and said, “Yeah, I’m good,” then went to catch up with him.

“You know, you should probably go and clean yourself up,” he stated as we started making our way through the abandoned apartment building.

“Why? Do I look like shit?”

“Well you always look like shit, but that’s besides the point,” he replied with a smile, leaning down to give me a shoulder bump.

“Gee, thanks so much.” I smiled back at him and linked my arm through his. He could always make me smile, no matter how crappy of a mood I’m in.

Every time I walked through our apartment complex it gave me hope. It made me feel like there was still hope for humanity to live on. The complex (which had originally been college dorm apartments) consisted of two apartments on each of the fifteen floors. Myles and Lacey (I told Myles I trusted them together) shared an apartment on the top floor and I had my own apartment on the top floor. The two other couples had their apartments on the next floor down. Each apartment had two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room. Each floor had a community kitchen or dining hall which reminded me of a school lunchroom. In the top floor dining hall is where we kept all of our supplies and food; one person was elected each day to take count of everything so we knew if anybody was stealing for themselves; we work on portions. We only used the electricity on the top two floors so that it would eliminate some noise. Once the sky begins to turn dark, we have lights out. Lights out is when we put dark blankets up over all of the windows on the top two floors and turn out all of the lights, using just lanterns for light, that way, the mutants had no chance of seeing us. That’s also the point in time when we really quiet down. The mutants are more active in the dark.

“Hey, wait a second,” my brother stopped me just before we reached our separate apartment doors.

“Yes?”

He looked around a little shyly at first and then asked, “Do girls like to get gifts all of the time?”

I rolled my eyes playfully at him and asked, “This is about Lacey isn’t it?”

He nodded and I continued, “Well I’d say that it depends on the girl. If you look at Jackie, she’s the type of girl who would want expensive gifts all of the time. However, girls like Lacey, Callie, and I, we could care less about receiving gifts. As long as we’re around the people we care about, that’s all that matters. Does this information help you at all?”

He gave me a sudden bear hug taking my breath away. “Yes it does, thanks.” He set me down and turned to go into his apartment.

“Hey, be smart okay? You’re only seventeen and we are in the middle of an outbreak. I don’t think we need babies to take care of, understand?” I told him seriously.

This time, he was the one to roll his eyes at me and said, “I know.”

I turned to open my door and mumbled, “We’re in the middle of an outbreak and you’re worried about girls.”

“You’d understand if you had a guy to worry about,” I heard as he shut their door.

What a smartass. I entered my apartment and shut my door. I took the binder from my hair and let my hair fall loose onto my back as I ran my fingers through it. That’s when I realized that my hair was caked with slimy, sticky, dark purple (almost black) mutant blood. Disgusting. I looked down to my forearm and saw four red, burning scratches from my wrist to my elbow where the mutant had scratched me. I didn’t even want to know what my face looked like, but I soon found out once I entered my bathroom and took a look in the mirror. My face and clothes were splattered with the same dark, sticky blood, and all over my face were cuts varying in depth and length; I even picked a shard of glass out of a few, wincing as I did. Then I hurried and took a quick hot shower before lights out. Once I was out of the shower, I wrapped up my forearm with the cuts to keep it from infection and applied antibiotic ointment from our medical supplies we each have in our apartments to the scratches on my face.

Once I flopped down onto my bed and bundled in my thick, green comforter, I felt at ease. But I knew that tomorrow we had a lot to do. We had to go through what we collected today, take count of our supplies, and go scavenging for things that we needed and that we had lost today in the chaos.

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We were running through the woods, just me and Nathan. Tree branches were slapping our face, leaving stinging scratches. The leaves were dropping droplets of water that splashed us all over, and the roots in the ground were causing us to trip and stumble in the middle of our chase. I knew the mutants were so close, I could almost feel their splotchy, cold hands reaching for my clothing. Our lungs were burning, legs aching, and heart was beating so fast. Next thing I knew, I saw Nathan jerk to a stop and get pulled back from my side. The two mutants were fighting over Nathan, pulling at him in every which way. He was yelling at me to go, but I couldn’t move. He was telling me to hurry and get to safety, but I couldn’t leave him behind; not my boyfriend. But he was risking his life to save mine, I couldn’t make that all for nothing. I took off in the opposite direction, leaving Nathan behind to be torn apart and eaten by the disgusting bloodthirsty mutants.

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I woke up with a jolt, sitting straight up in a sweat, tear streaks down my face. Oh God, that dream never goes away. Every single night I have to relive that terrible nightmare of losing my boyfriend when the apocalypse first began. I just want it to stop, I just want to forget.

I wiped the streaks from my cheek and checked the time on my phone. It was approximately six o’clock, same time the nightmare woke me up every morning. I got up and wandered out of my apartment and into the community kitchen; I didn’t care how I looked. I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass of the microwave and instantly realized that I made a mistake coming out looking like I did. My ice blue eyes were still a little red and puffy from waking up crying, my dark brown wavy hair was all tangled and disheveled, and I could now see newly formed bruises on my face from yesterday that just happened to form overnight to go along with all of the cuts which were beginning to scab. Even my cheekbones which are normally defined, had black and blue marks.

I just ignored what I saw in the reflection and began heading towards the tables. I only took three more steps when my foot kicked something which sent me tumbling forward. I let out a grunt as I landed right on my stomach, knocking the wind out of me, and smacked my hurt arm on the floor with the landing. I grit my teeth in pain instantly and rolled over onto my back, bringing my arm into my chest, holding it with my other hand.

“Oh my God Sky, are you okay?!” I heard somebody grumble sleepily to me.

“Blaine! What the hell are you doing?!” I whispered angrily to him through the shooting pain in my arm.

“I’m so sorry! Jackie wouldn’t let me in the apartment last night! I had to sleep out here,” he explained.

“In the middle of the damn floor?” I got to my knees and looked to him sitting on the floor.

He grabbed my arm and began feeling it and pushing on it.

“Ow!” I complained, “Must you be so rough?”

“I’m sorry, I’m just making sure you’re okay. It’s not broke or anything.”

“Well I know that! But I do have mutant scratches on that arm, and I did just smack it off the floor.”

He looked down and stared at the floor as he said, “I’m sorry.”

“Why did you decide to lay in the middle of the floor?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking. I figured I would wake up as soon as someone walked into the kitchen, but I guess not. It took someone kicking me in the chest and stumbling over me to wake me up.”

“Oh I’m sorry! I forgot that I had kicked you!” I exclaimed.

“It’s alright, I think you took most of the hurt here.”

“That’s for sure,” I said, rubbing my arm. “So why did Jackie keep you out of the apartment this time?” I asked him as I got to my feet and took a seat at one of the tables. Jackie has pulled this stunt many times on Blaine. She would enter their apartment, and lock it behind her so Blaine could not get in. He could definitely got in if he tried, but he didn’t think it was worth the fight.

“She was still upset about when I said I’d leave her behind.”

“You know, I honestly don’t know why you put up with her.”

“Some days, I don’t know why I do either,” he admitted.

I took his hand and gave it a squeeze before saying, “Next time, will you please just come stay in my apartment so we don’t have this happening again?”

“Yeah, I can do that.” He smiled at me appreciatively and then said, “You really did get pretty messed up yesterday didn’t you? You’re putting antibiotic cream on those scratches aren’t you?”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Don’t worry doctor, I have been.”

Before Blaine could make any more of a fuss, the lights switched on and Callie walked in. The very first thing I noticed was the black and blue finger marks on her forearm.
“Callie are you okay?” Me and Blaine asked in unison.
She gave a half-hearted smile and waved her hand as if she was shaking it all off. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a misunderstanding last night when I was asking Damien about his decisions yesterday.”
There was always a “misunderstanding” with Damien and Callie. She was always blaming herself for the things that happened to her. Last week she had a bruise on her slightly freckled cheek-bone, and the week before that, her brown eyes were accented with a black eye; which she blamed on getting in a scuffle with a mutant when she was out with Damien. Damien was just an asshole, but nobody wanted to say anything for fear that he would do something really stupid; like attract mutants to our safe house.
“If you ever need anything, don’t be afraid to ask,” I told her as she nodded and got back to her own business. It wasn’t long after Callie entered that everybody else started making their way into the kitchen to see who’s turn it was to have breakfast duty. Breakfast today consisted of eggs and toast from our home-made bread.
“Who has breakfast duty today?” My brother asked chirpily as he was the last to enter the kitchen. I picked up a spatula from the counter and tossed it to him.
“It’s all you little bro.”
He gave a dramatic and playful sigh and eye roll before beginning to prep for breakfast. This time of the day tended to be our social time with each other, whereas the rest of the day always had some sort of business to it. But right now was our time of the day to pretend that nothing was wrong, that the world wasn’t completely messed up.
Myles’ breakfast, as always, was quite delectable. He definitely knew his way around the kitchen. Looking around the dining room, you could see on everybody’s face that they knew the time was coming to begin business. I grabbed the chart from the counter and began giving out everyone’s job duties for the day.
“Jackie and Callie, you two will be filtering more water.” Sure, we get our water right from our faucet, but we aren’t sure what kind of things are in the Country’s water system anymore, so we filter the water into water bottles just to be on the safe side.
“Lacey, you have laundry duty.” It’s a good thing that we still have electricity and working appliances in this hell hole of a world.
“Damien and Blaine, you two will be going out to look for more supplies that may have been lost from yesterday. Myles, you--”
Myles cut me off by throwing his silverware into the sink with a huge metallic clang. “You never let me go out for supplies, ever!”
“Myles, I have other things for you--”
“Stop! I’m finished with all of your excuses. Let me go out there.” I saw Lacey reach over and put her hand on his shoulder to comfort him, but he just shrugged it off.
I threw my chart down onto the table and began yelling back at him, “Your job today is to check on all of the electricity to make sure it is all running correctly and we have no hazards!”
“I’m not a child anymore!” He knocked a stack of paper plates off the counter causing them to scatter everywhere as he stormed out of the dining room. Lacey ran out after him.
I ran my fingers through my tangled hair and mumbled, “And I have supply duty.”
Blaine put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Let him cool off for a bit and then go talk to him.”
I just nodded and walked away, heading back to my apartment to get ready for the day. I threw on a random pair of dark jeans and a red tank-top. I brushed through my hair, detangling my waves, brushed my teeth, and then finally headed to search for Myles. I knocked on his apartment door across the hall and Lacey answered.
“Do you know where Myles went?” I asked her.
“Hey may have been headed down to check the electricity, but I’m not really sure. He didn’t say much.”
“Thanks.”
I made my way down the stairs until I hit the basement. I searched everywhere in that basement for Myles, but he was nowhere to be found. I began to get an empty feeling in my stomach once I started worrying. Where could he be? I searched the whole building, every floor, and still no Myles. I leaned against the wall in the stairway as I caught my breath and slowed my mind down so I could think clearly. That’s when it hit me. He went out on his own. My heart began hammering against my chest as the realization hit me. I wasn’t there to protect him; he had nobody with him to keep an eye on him. I kept telling myself to calm down, that he would be okay and get home safe. Eventually, my heart slowed down a little as I tried to put all thought from my mind. I had to perform my duties; there was nothing I could do about Myles right now. Though my stomach still felt sick with worry, I headed back upstairs to take stock. I pulled everything out of our supply closet and began taking stock while Callie and Jackie were filtering water at the sink.
I went through everything we had; food, water, toilet paper, soaps, etc. I then made a list of things we were running low on and was actually quite shocked when I was finished with my duty. We were missing quite a few food items. Somebody had been taking from our food, and it had to be somebody from our group. I looked up to Callie and Jackie and asked, “Have you guys seen anybody sneaking into this area during lights out or any other time?”
Callie looked surprised at the question whereas Jackie seemed a bit expectant. They both shook their heads and continued their duty.
I put everything away and made my way to the laundry room where I found Lacey folding clothes. When she saw me come in she asked, “Did you find Myles?”
“I’m pretty sure he snuck out on his own.”
“Oh no, I hope he’s going to be okay!”
“He should be fine.”
When I didn’t leave, Lacey asked, “Is there something else on your mind?”
“Have you ever seen anybody sneaking into the dining area during lights off? Or even in the middle of the day?”
“Um, I don’t think so, why? Did something happen?”
Not wanting to worry her at all I just shook my head and left the laundry room. I was just about back up to the dining area when I ran into Blaine in the hallway. They must be back from their running.
“Did you guys find anything useful?” I asked him.
“We found a few things, maybe you can cross some things off your new list you made today. We set everything on one of the tables in the dining room for you to go through.”
“That’s perfect, thank you.”
“Any luck with your brother?”
I sighed and looked down at the ground, running my fingers through my hair again; it’s a habit of mine. “I think he snuck out on his own and I’m really worried.”
“Awe I’m sorry Sky,” he said, pulling me into a comforting hug. “If I would’ve known he was out there, I would’ve looked for him for you.”
I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a tight hug, “I know you would’ve, thank you. I just hope he makes it back okay.” Blaine was like an older brother to me, he was always looking after me and Myles even though I’m the leader and I’m supposed to have everything together, but sometimes, I need comforting too.
“He’ll be okay, he’s a smart kid.”
I pulled away from Blaine and asked, “Have you seen anybody sneaking into the dining area at all and leaving with food or anything?”
“Actually, I didn’t want to say anything considering Jackie is my girlfriend, but I’ve found food wrappers and stuff in our garbage can in our apartment. I figured it was just from things that she’s grabbed when we are all out scavenging. Why? Have things come up missing?”
“Don’t tell anybody else, because I’m trying to keep it on the down low, but we are missing a few food items,” I whispered to him after making sure nobody else was around.
“I will keep a closer eye on Jackie, and then we will find out if anything else comes up missing. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds perfect, thank you.” I gave him another hug and then asked him, “Do you think maybe you could check the electricity today also since Myles took off? It would be greatly appreciated since you’re the only other one here that knows how to do it.”
“Sure thing, I can handle that.”
“Sorry, I know you already did a ton today.”
“It’s really not a problem.” He smiled at me before he headed down the hallway towards the stairwell. I went to check out everything that the guys collected and cross some things off the list. All that was left on the list was soap, canned foods, toilet paper, and personally, I needed new books to pass time, and maybe a few pieces of clothing considering most of mine were ripped and bloodstained with mutant blood. I put the remaining supplies into the closet with the other stuff and peaked out of the window. The sun was already setting and still no Myles. I played with my hair nervously as I continued watching, hoping I’d see him come in from the back alley. The sun was nearly fully set when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I spun around to see Myles standing behind me with a grin on his face. My mood went directly from worried to half enraged. I pushed his chest and said loudly, “You asshole! Why are you even smiling right now?! Do you have any idea how pissed off I am at you? You’ve been gone all day, and you’ve neglected your duties.”
For some reason, Myles laughed a little and said, “Will you just stop yelling? It’s not a big deal, I told you I could handle myself, I just had to prove it.”
“That is no way to prove it! This isn’t a joke! This is real life! You could’ve been killed!”
“You need to realize that I’m not a child anymore,” he said seriously.
I looked at him as my mind went from angry to a mix of happiness that he was back and sadness that he could’ve been killed. I began to tear up a little as I said quietly, “And you need to realize that you’re all I have left for family.” I walked past him, bumping our shoulders as I walked quickly to my apartment, shutting the door and sliding down to sit on the floor, head in my hand. A few minutes later, I heard a knock on the door and I mumbled, “Go away Myles.”
“It’s me,” I heard Callie say.
I got up off the floor and opened the door for her to come in.
“Is everything okay? I heard you and your brother.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know how to feel about all of it.”
“Well if you let me in we can talk about it? Have some girl time?”
I smiled slightly and moved out of the way for her to come in. We made our way to the living room and sat down on the couch.
“I really wish we had some ice cream or cookie dough right about now,” I said only half sarcastically.
Callie laughed and said, “I would supply you with some if I could.”
“Being the leader, there’s just so many things and emotions going on in my head that sometimes it’s just too much you know?”
“That is definitely understandable.”
“Maybe I have been a bit too hard on Myles keeping him cooped up in here with the girls, but he’s really all I have left, I just worry too much about him.”
“He is right though you know Sky. He is growing up, he’s been through just as much as you have. If you trust him a little more to keep himself safe and to make the right decisions to send him out with the guys or with you when you go, he will feel like you trust him more.”
I gave a dramatic sigh and leaned my head back against the couch. “You know, you’re right. He’s almost eighteen, I need to lighten up the leash a little.”
“There you go, now you’re thinking.”
I looked at Callie and gave her a smile. “Thanks for coming in to talk to me, you helped a lot.”
“I’m here to talk whenever you need me, just remember that.”
“You are a lot like Blaine,” I said with a chuckle.
“Hey that’s not a bad thing at all, Blaine is a great person.”
“Exactly.”
For a while, Callie and I just sat there talking like we were having a sleepover, like the world was still functioning. We probably would’ve continued talking if it wasn’t for the knock on the door. I got up and opened the door to Damien standing there.
“Is Callie in there?”
“So what if she is?”
“It’s time for her to come to our apartment for lights out.”
“You don’t control her life, she can do as she pleases,” I stated just as Callie came into Damien’s view.
“Come on babe, let’s go,” he said to her, pushing past me.
“Do you mind?” I asked as he took her by the arm and they walked out.
“Bye Sky,” I heard Callie call out.
What an ass. I was about to turn to go back to the couch when I heard another knock on the door. I opened the door to see Myles standing there.
“What?” I asked.
“Look, I’m sorry about today okay?”
I just rolled my eyes and left him standing in the doorway as I went to lay on my bed face down. I heard him follow me and sit on the edge of the bed.
“I know you’re always going through a lot always dealing with the group and the duties and everything and keeping everybody safe, so it was wrong of me to just take off without warning and leaving you with even more stuff to run through your mind.”
When I didn’t move, he continued. “I also didn’t really think about the fact that I’m all you have left. And also that you’re all I really have left. I put myself in your shoes and thought about if you would’ve taken off and I was stuck worrying about you and that truly was difficult. I just wanted to say that I’m really sorry and that it won’t happen again. If you want me to stay inside every day than I will I guess, okay?”
I sat up and looked over to him. “That was truly the longest apology I have ever heard from you.”
“Yeah well the end of the world can change a guy I suppose.”
“Well as long as we’re handing out apologies, I’m sorry I’ve kept you cooped up inside all of the time. I just worry a lot when I think about sending you out because I don’t want anything to happen to you because that would kill me. But I thought about it today and I’m going to trust you more and let you go out with the guys when they go. I am trusting you to remain safe though and not do anything stupid.”
He leaned over and gave me a big bear hug as he said, “Thank you! And I really am sorry about today, it was very stupid of me. I just sat outside around the corner anyways.”
I smacked him once in the arm before hugging him back and saying, “You idiot.”
He smiled at me before getting up off the bed. “You might want to clean your wounds again before you go to bed, you can never be too safe.”
“I will, I promise.”
“I love you sis.”
“I love you too, now go comfort Lacey, she was worried about you today as
well.”

“Shit, she’s going to kill me.”

“You’re just lucky I didn’t.”

He rolled his eyes as he turned and walked away. I got up and headed into the bathroom to start taking off the wrap on my arm. The scratches were scabbed over and it was slightly red around the cuts. I grabbed the peroxide, clenched my teeth, and dumped some onto my arm. The wounds instantly started bubbling and burning. As the peroxide worked on my arm, I began applying more antibiotic ointment to the cuts on my face. I dried off my arm, re-wrapped it and got ready for bed. As I laid down in my bed and snuggled up into my comforter, I began worrying about the dream that I knew would haunt me in my sleep.

“Callie and Lacey, the garden is ready to be picked. Your job today is to go collect the fruits and vegetables from the roof gardens,” I told Jackie and Lacey the next morning as I was giving out job duties for the day.
“Damien and Jackie, it’s both of your rest days today. Blaine, I need you to clean up the place and go around the whole building and make sure no big repairs are needed anywhere. Myles, today you are going out with me. It’s our day to look around the town for survivors, and there are a few things I need to look around for.”
I saw Myles give me a big smile as he hurried off to go get ready to leave. Once I had nods from everyone about their duties, I also made my way back to my apartment to dress for going out to search for others. Blaine, Damien, Myles and I are the only four that ever have this duty. In order to go out for this duty, my rule is that you must wear an appropriate outfit that will be safest in any given situation. You never know what kind of mutant situation may turn up. Blaine and I actually found Lacey in the town by herself locked up in a motel room when we went out on one of the searches.
I entered my apartment and began searching through the clothes in my closet. It wasn’t long before I knew I had picked out the safest outfit. My pair of tight black skinny jeans; to avoid my pants getting caught on anything. A simple tight white t-shirt under my black leather jacket; hard to scratch and bite through the jacket. Black combat boots; thick, comfortable, and heavy duty. I threw a heavy duty watch on as well, to keep track of time in case something were to happen to my phone. I stuck a knife in a sheath inside my boot and grabbed my pistol from the bedside table and went to meet back up with Myles who was also ready for combat.
“All set to go?” I asked him.
He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and began walking with me. “You know I’m ready. I’ve been ready.”
“Now this isn’t a game Myles, this is dangerous. I want you to do whatever I say no matter what. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, yeah I understand.” He dropped his arm from around me and straightened up to look like a soldier going to war. I rolled my eyes at him dramatically and held out my pinky. He wrapped his pinky around mine and smiled his smile that could brighten up anybody’s day. Ever since we were kids we have never broken a pinky promise with each other, it was as sacred to us as swearing on our lives. We dropped our pinkies and headed to the door.
As we made our way over the catwalk, we continued peering over the sides watching for any sort of movement or danger. We were nearly all the way across when I saw a quick movement out of the corner of my eye. I grabbed Myles’ jacket and yanked him down forcefully onto our stomachs and we peered over the side of the hard catwalk. I saw the movement again and pointed towards an old, grimy, horrendous smelling, beaten up dumpster. I heard a woman scream in the distance as I noticed a little boy, no older than eight all by himself behind the dumpster. He was shaking and looked beyond terrified. I was about to yell out to him when I saw something else make its way around the corner of the building. This mutant was an older mutant; darker in color, more splotchy looking, and he just happened to be covered in fresh crimson blood. He was starting to creep up on the poor little innocent boy. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, I couldn’t yell, that would make the mutant just move even faster. So, I did what I could.
I made the big drop down to the dumpster and whipped my knife out as I landed. I felt the impact of the drop on my ankles and I grimaced in pain, but ignored it. The mutant barely had time to look at me before I took aim and threw my knife. I hit the mutant right in the chest as it let out a growl and began to stumbled backwards. I ran up at it, ignoring the throbbing, fiery pain in my ankles and gave it a kick right in the chest, kicking the knife in farther for a sure kill. It fell over onto its back, thrashed around a few seconds longer, and then fell still. I ripped my knife out of the mutant and re-sheathed it. I turned around to see the young child cowering in fear against the slimy wall by the dumpster.
I crouched down and beckoned him to come to me, I didn’t want him to run off. He seemed a little hesitant so I said quietly, “Come here, everything is okay now, I promise.”
He took a few meager steps forward. “We’ll keep you safe sweetie, come on.” He couldn’t help his self control anymore. He ran to me and I scooped him up into my arms as he began to weep uncontrollably. I rubbed his back and kept repeating, “Shhh, it’ll be okay. Everything is alright.”
I heard Myles walk up behind me and he said, “Are you stupid Sky? That drop could’ve seriously hurt you!”
“I had to save the little boy.” Now that Myles mentioned the drop, I began to feel the terrible ache and pain in both of my ankles. It hurt just to stand on them. But I lied to my brother and told him that I was perfectly fine as I grit my teeth and started to walk back home, carrying the boy, trying to keep him quiet so we didn’t attract anymore mutants our way.
Luckily, we made it back to the safe house without anymore mutants attacking. Once we were safe behind closed doors, I set the sobbing boy down to stand and crouched so that I was eye-level with him.
“Hey Bud, can you tell me your name?” I asked him softly.
“My-my name is-is Jacob,” he said between breaths.
“Well Jacob, my name is Skylar, but everybody calls me Sky.”
He smiled a very small smile and said, “You have a pretty name.”
“Thank you Jacob. This boy here is my brother, his name is Myles,” I said, pointing to Myles. “We are going to take good care of you. There are a few others that are here with us also. Would you like to meet them?”
Jacob gave a slow nod. I reached out and took his hand and began leading him up to the top floor. All of the stairs took a huge toll on my ankles-which I could tell were now swollen because they barely fit in my boots- but I stayed strong and tried to ignore the pain. I was beyond relieved when we finally made it to the top.
“Are you okay?” Jacob asked me. He must’ve seen the pained look that I was trying to keep off of my face.
I chuckled and said, “I should be the one asking you that question.”
He just looked away quickly and we continued our way to the kitchen where everybody was gathered for lunch. When we entered the kitchen everybody was dumbstruck and silent; they didn’t know what to say.
“Well everybody, this is Jacob.” When nobody moved or said anything I began introducing everybody. “Jacob, this is Blaine, Jackie, Lacey, Callie, and Damien.” He mumbled a small, “hello,” and then looked down at his feet.
Damien walked over to me, grabbed my arm, and pulled me out into the hallway.
“Are you f*ing stupid?” He asked angrily.
“What’s your problem?”
“Having a child in our group is just going to hold us back! Slow us down!”
“What the hell should I have done? Left him there to die?” I whispered harshly.
“That would’ve been the best choice for the group!”
“You’re a murderous son of a bitch, you know that? And the way you treat Callie also has to stop!”
I had absolutely no time to react before I felt his hand slap against my face really hard and then he slammed me up against the wall. “What happens between me and Callie is none of your damn business!”
“I’m the leader here! Everything is my business!” I brought my knee up into his groin as hard as I could. When he doubled over I kicked his feet out from under him and watched him tumble to the ground. I whipped my other knife out of its sheath, jumped on top of Damien and held the knife to his neck, the tip of the knife grazing his skin and spilling a drop of dark red blood. “If you don’t straighten your shit up, you can leave.” I could see the absolute anger in his eyes as I got off of him, sheathed my knife and entered back into the kitchen, leaving him to lay on the floor.
When I walked back into the kitchen, I saw that everybody was crowded around Jacob throwing questions from left to right. Once Jacob saw that I was back, he quickly ran back to my side and clenched my hand.
“Guys, hold off on the questions. The poor boy has been through hell and back and probably has enough on his mind already,” I told the group. I crouched down to Jacob’s level and asked him if he was hungry. He nodded once so I led him over to a table to sit down. I fixed him a sandwich, some chips, and a bottle of water. He thanked me and ate the food so fast that I don’t think he even tasted it. The boy probably hadn’t eaten in quite a while. When he had devoured all of the food, I asked if he wanted some more.
“No thank you.”
Blaine grabbed my arm lightly. “Can I talk to you please?”
“Can’t we talk here?” I asked, not wanting to go anywhere because of the terrible pain in my ankles.
“It’s actually about something private.”
I looked to Jacob and asked, “Will you be okay here until I get back?”
He nodded and I followed behind Blaine so he would not see me limping. He brought me all the way to the stairwell and we sat down on a stair, my ankles slightly relieved.
“What did you want to talk about?” I asked.
“I wanted to talk to you about the whole food situation.”
“Did you find something out?”
“Well I kept an eye on Jackie like you said.”
“And?”
“And I found more food wrappers in our apartment. I think we found who is stealing the food.”
“Did you confront her?”
He looked a little guilty as he replied, “I haven’t, I was actually hoping that you could.”
I put my hand on his shoulder gently and said, “I understand. She’s your girlfriend and you don’t want to start anything with her.”
“Exactly.”
“I’ll handle it.”
He gave me a big hug and said, “Thanks.”
I hugged him back tightly. “Thanks for helping me figure this whole thing out.” He just smiled and then we made our way back to the dining area. It killed my ankles terribly since he was following me now, so I could not limp. I took my place next to Jacob and pushed his shaggy blonde hair from his face.
“Hey kiddo, do you mind if I call you Jake?”
He shook his head and said, “That’s fine. That’s what my mommy called me.”
“What happened to your parents Jake? Do you know?”
He got a little teary-eyed and said, “They were with me today, but the monster grabbed my mommy and daddy and they screamed for me to run and I did. Then you found me.”
I wiped every tear from his face and wrapped him in a tight hug. “It’ll be alright now Bud, I promise.”
For a few hours, I just sat with Jake and got to know him while everybody else was finishing up their chores for the day. He’s a normal little boy; he loves playing with trucks and cars, his favorite color is blue, he loves pizza rolls, he enjoys school, he had five friends in school. When supper was over I asked him, “Do you want to stay with me in my room?” He nodded before I asked, “And would you like to take a bath?” Jake was covered in dirt and dust and grime that all you could really tell of him was his shaggy, slightly curly, blonde hair and grey-blue eyes. He nodded again before I headed over to my brother who was talking to Lacey by the sink.
“Hey, do you wanna go rummage through all the old apartments and see if you can find any clothes that will fit Jake? And bring back what you can.”
“Sure, I can do that.” He smiled, gave Lacey a kiss on the cheek, and headed out the door. I chuckled a little once I saw Lacey’s bright red face and went back over to grab Jake’s hand. “Come on Bud, I will show you where you will be staying and then we will get you into a bath.”
I led him into my apartment and to the spare bedroom that I had right next to my bedroom. It was kind of plain because I never really thought I needed to fix it up, didn’t think I was going to have anybody else staying with me. He let go of my hand and hopped up onto the bed.
“What do you think Jake?”
“I think it’s great! It’s really comfy.”
I laughed a little and led Jake around the little apartment, showing him around. As I showed him around, I proceeded to tell him about the rules we had and how we ran the place to keep us safe.
“So we have to shut all the lights off when it gets dark?” He asked a little worried.
“Yes we do, and we have to make sure all of the blinds and curtains are shut on the windows. We don’t want to be seen by the monsters, that’s what keeps us hidden. But don’t worry, we light up some lanterns around the place, so it’s not completely dark.”
He let out a sigh of relief and I showed him to the bathroom and started to run him a bath. I left a towel for him on the counter and said, “Let me know if you need me okay? I will be right out in the living room.” I shut the door behind me and literally collapsed onto the couch with a groan of pain. I basically had to yank the boots off of my feet because my ankles were so swollen that they took up the whole boot and more on the inside. Once my boots were off, I noticed that both of my ankles were bruised and purply all around. They burned and ached and hurt so bad.
“What’s wrong?”
I threw a blanket over me quick and looked up at my brother who was standing in the doorway of my apartment, holding what looked like a bag of clothes.
“Nothing is wrong, did you find Jake some clothes?”
“I found him a lot of clothes actually, and I will go back and grab him a ton of toys that I found as well, and books. Now don’t lie to me, what is wrong?” He asked as he made his way closer to me.
“Nothing.” I knew that if Blaine or Myles knew I was hurt, they would keep me from doing any chores around the place and they would make me rest and not move. I have a group to protect and keep in order, I don’t need to be down for the count.
He set down the bag of clothes and grabbed onto the blanket to pull it, but I held on tight. “Sky, let go of the blanket!” He pulled and pulled and pulled and I could feel the blanket slipping from my grasp.
“No!” No was all I could get out before the blanket finally came out of my grip and fell to the floor. Myles took one look at my ankles and said, “I’m going to get Blaine, that looks pretty bad.”
“I’ll be fine! Myles-!” But he was already out the door. A few minutes later, Jake came out of the bathroom wrapped up in a towel. I grabbed the bag of clothes and dumped them onto the floor and said, “Take your pic Jake.” He grabbed a blue long-sleeve pajama top with a big truck on it and a matching pair of pajama pants that were just plain blue then headed into his room to change. When he came back out, now that he was all clean, I could actually make out the complexion of his skin. He was somewhere in between pale and tan; he wasn’t pale, but he wasn’t tan either. He sat down on the couch next to me and asked, “Does the TV work?”
“There’s no companies that still run Bud, so no TV aires, just like there’s no cell phones because the companies don’t run.”
He looked a little let down so I added, “But we do have a DVD and VCR and some movies. Would you like to watch a movie?”
He got the biggest smile on his face as he said, “Can we please?!”
“Of course we can!” I said, smiling back. I was about to get up when I heard, “Don’t you dare get up.” I stopped and watched Blaine and Myles as they came through the door.
“What did you do to yourself this time?” Blaine asked me as he knelt down in front of me and lifted one leg up to inspect the ankle.
“I didn’t do anything, I am fine.”
“No you’re not, you have a pretty bad twisted ankle, both of them are pretty bad actually. You shouldn’t even be walking on them at all, they need time to heal.”
“You guys know I can’t rest, I am the leader of this group, I have to keep order and help with chores!”
Blaine grabbed some wrap from his medical bag and began wrapping up both of my ankles as Myles went and grabbed me two ice packs from the dining area. Blaine made me sit on the couch so that my legs were elevated and laid the ice packs on my ankles.
“I want you to stay in this spot, okay? I mean it, you should stay off of your ankles unless you have to use the bathroom.”
“I will make sure she stays!” Jake piped up, and we all laughed.
“Good job buddy, keep her here,” Blaine told him and messed up Jake’s hair.
“Could you maybe get the movie ready for me then?” Jake asked Blaine nicely.
“Of course I can, what movie did you want to watch?” He asked as he got up and moved towards the entertainment stand.
“Do you have The Incredibles?”
“We sure do, but we have to keep the volume pretty low Jake cause it’s almost lights out and that’s quiet time.”
“That’s okay with me, I will just sit closer.” He got up from the couch and moved to sit about two feet from the TV as the movie began.
“Now Jake, you keep Sky on the couch okay? Don’t let her get up unless she’s going to the bathroom,” Blaine told Jake.
“I will, I promise.”
“I mean it Sky,” Blaine warned as he gave me a stern look and headed for the door. “And don’t hide injuries from me anymore. Speaking of injuries, the next time you go to the bathroom, change the wrapping on your arm and put some more antibiotic ointment on the cuts on your face.”
I just rolled my eyes playfully and dramatically at both of the boys. They shut off all of the lights, shut the curtains, and lit the lanterns before they walked out of the room so that I wouldn’t have to get up later and do it. They locked the door to my apartment on the way out.
I then looked down at Jake who was staring intently at the TV. Watching Jake watch the movie reminded me of when times were still okay, when Myles would sit right in front of the TV at Jake’s age and I would nag at him and tell him that it was bad for his eyes and that he was going to be blind by the next year. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t wish that things were back to normal, that none of this apocalypse stuff was really happening. However, we all have to make due with what we’ve got and that’s what we’re all trying to do.
When the movie was over, Jake shut off the TV and came over and sat down next to me on the couch. When I saw him yawn I smiled and said, “There’s a spare toothbrush in the bathroom. Why don’t you go and brush your teeth and then we will get you ready for bed.”
He grabbed my hand and said, “You come with me, so you can change your wrap just like that guy said.”
I chuckled at his sweet concern and nodded my head. “Alright buddy, let’s go.”
I followed him into the bathroom and took care of my arm as he brushed his teeth. The cut along my forearm was now just nasty and scabby looking. I applied some ointment before re-wrapping it and then applied the ointment to my face. The scratches were very faint now on my face. When Jake was done using the sink, I took that time to brush through my hair and then brush my teeth.
“All ready?” I asked Jake who was waiting patiently by the bathroom door.
“I’m ready,” he said with a smile.
I limped after him into his new room and tucked him into the bed and smoothed down his hair.
“Thanks for saving me today,” he said quietly.
I kissed his cheek and said, “No problem Jake. And if you get scared at all, don’t be afraid to come and wake me up.”
“Alright.”
I gave him one last smile as I walked out of his room, leaving his door open a crack and headed into my room and laid down. The bed felt so comforting to me as I rested my legs up onto a body pillow so they stayed elevated and hopefully the swelling would go away. It wasn’t long after my eyes closed that I drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Four

Nathan and I are running through the forest as fast as we could; our lungs were on fire, our legs felt like jello, and our heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird beats its wings. Tree branches were slapping our face, leaving burning scratches. The leaves were flinging droplets of water that splashed our skin, and the roots in the ground were causing us to trip and stumble in the middle of our chase. I knew the mutants were beyond close, I could almost feel their splotchy, cold hands reaching for my clothing and their musty, hot breath breathing down my neck. Next thing I knew, I saw Nathan jerk to a stop and get pulled back from my side. The two mutants were fighting over Nathan, pulling at him in every which way. He was yelling at me to go, but I couldn’t move. But then he kept saying my name over and over. He wouldn’t stop saying my name, he wanted me to help, not to run. Something was pulling at me now, pushing me and shoving me. I kept hearing Nathan say my name repeatedly. Nathan… oh Nathan…

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“Sky, Sky, please wake up.” Nathan was still calling out to me.
I woke up with a jolt and sat straight up in bed, sweat covering my forehead and body. It wasn’t Nathan calling out to me, it was Jake. My body was shaking slightly so I tried to make it stop as I grabbed Nathan’s hand.
“Are you okay?” He asked. He looked a little frightened.
“Just a bad dream Jake, I’m okay,” I answered, thankfully with a steady voice. No need to scare the kid more.
“Me too, that’s why I wanted to ask if I could sleep with you. I had a very bad dream.”
“Of course you can buddy, crawl on up here. Do you want to talk about your dream?”
He crawled up into bed with me and crawled under the covers and cuddled up to me before shaking his head and resting it next to my shoulder. I laid back down and wrapped an arm around him and said, “If you ever need to talk about anything, you can talk to me.” He just scooted closer to me and made himself comfy. It was not long before I heard his breathing slow and become very relaxed. I ran my fingers through his hair repeatedly to relax not just him, but me as well. I eventually drifted off, matching my breathing with his.

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Two weeks seemed to take forever to pass. I was stuck sitting around all day every day while everybody else was going along as usual. Everybody except Damien and Jackie would come in to check on me and keep me company. And Jake stayed in the apartment with me as much as he could because he was still shy around everybody and he had to keep me from getting up and actually being productive. Myles ended up going back to the room he got the boys’ clothes from and bringing back a whole bag of toys; trucks, cars, coloring books and supplies, video games, movies, toy guns, every toy a little boy like Jake would want. That seemed to make his whole day when Myles brought them to him, so now he stays pretty occupied.
My ankles were already feeling pretty much healed, the swelling and discoloration was gone and taken care of, which I think makes me able to get back up and doing things. Along with my ankle problem being gone, I also no longer had cuts all over my face or on my forearm. Blaine is supposed to come tell me today if it’s alright. Just on cue, Blake walked through the door, but he was looking pretty down.
“Hey Blaine, what’s wrong?”
He put a grim smile on his face and said, “Nothing is wrong.”
“You’re a liar, you know you can talk to me.”
“We’re here about you, not about me. We need to check to see if you’re good to go.”
“Fine, you check, then we talk.”
“Are you having pains still when you walk around?”
“Not really, only occasionally, and even then, it’s not a terrible pain.”
He felt around my ankles, pushed in different places, and moved them around. “Well you seem to be ready to participate in life again.”
“Oh gee, thanks doc, now tell me what’s up with you.”
He sat down on the couch next to me and played around with his hands. “Well I found something out today.”
“What did you find out?”
“Well I ended up confronting Jackie about stealing food for herself and she did admit to it and I told her that she had to stop. Then she said that she’s not the one stealing it, Damien steals it for her. When I asked why she asked Damien to do it for her instead of me she confessed that she’s been having a thing with Damien behind my back.”
I reached my arms around Blaine and hugged him tightly. “I’m so sorry Blaine, does Callie know?”
“I’m assuming that she knows but she’s too scared to say anything or to get out of the relationship. I ended it with Jackie, I figured like you said, that I deserve better anyways.”
“You do, you deserve a lot better. Frankly, Damien and Jackie make a good couple anyways, they’re both deceiving, reckless, and uncaring people. But I do think that you should talk to Callie. Maybe you could put some sense into her. And you’re more than welcome to stay with me in my room you know so you don’t have to live with Jackie. I’d give you the guest room, but that’s already taken,” I said as I pointed to Jake playing xbox.
“Thank you, that would be great. I don’t even want to stay with her any longer than I have to. Now that I’m not dating her, I see her for who she really is, and it’s nothing good.”
I punched his arm playfully and said, “I told you that from the beginning.”
“And I should’ve listened.”
I patted him on the shoulder as I stood up and walked over to Jake. “Hey Bud, I’m heading to the kitchen to start supper, you going to be okay here?”
He was so into his game that he couldn’t even respond, he just sort of nodded his head and didn’t even take his eyes from the TV. With that, I just left him in front of the TV and made my way down the hall and into the dining area. Just my luck, Damien was in the kitchen sitting at one of the tables. I chose to ignore him completely as I went and looked over the menu to see what I would be making. I didn’t even hear him approach me until I heard him right behind me.
“Great to see you’re back,” he said sarcastically.
“Oh I know, you must’ve missed me kicking your ass so much,” I replied as I set the menu down and turned to face him.
“It’s only because you catch me off guard.”
“Whatever, but I do have something to say to you. You take any more food for Jackie that isn’t authorized, you will both be gone.
Damien pushed me back into the counter forcefully. “Don’t you worry about what I do or don’t do.”
“You mean like having an affair with Jackie? Like that is so much better than just beating Callie right? You have to add some affair to the mix as well?” I said to him nastily.
He gripped my arms so tightly that I could not move them at all and he stepped even closer to me, so close that his body was up against mine and he leaned in to whisper in my ear.
“Why is that any of your business? Are you jealous that you aren’t involved with me too?” His breath was hot against my ear and I shivered in disgust.
“You are so conceited. There is no way that I would ever want to be with anybody like you.” I went to bring my knee up quickly into his groin but he quickly deflected it.
“Nu uh, uh, we won’t be having any more of that.”
“Let go of me and go do your duties,” I snarled into his ear since I couldn’t get out of his grip.
“I don’t have any, it’s my day off. Everybody else is doing their duties, it’s just me and you in here. I’m sure Blaine and your brother are back out by now.”
I tried as hard as I could do get out of his strong grip, but it was no use. I even tried to kick my legs around, but he pushed his legs against mine so mine were stuck against the counter.
“Let me go!” I yelled. He quickly put one hand over my mouth and gripped both of my wrists in one hand.
“You better keep quiet, or it’ll only get worse.”
I did the only thing I could do and bit his hand. He pulled his hand away from my mouth and let go of my wrists reflexively. I pushed his chest hard back off of me and I jumped to the side to evade his grabbing hands. I felt his fingers as they just barely grazed past my legs as he tried to trip me. I ran out of the dining area and yelled out for Blaine and for Myles and for anybody else who was listening, but still tried to keep it quiet enough that the outside world wouldn’t hear me. It wasn’t long before I ran into Myles running out of his apartment. He took me into his arms and asked me what I was yelling about just as Damien rounded the corner in the hallway and stopped dead once he saw I was with Myles.
“What the hell are you doing?” Myles asked Damien angrily.
“I was trying to talk to her and she ran away,” he replied innocently.
“Bullshit!” I yelled quietly. “You were trying to hurt me and who knows what else.”
“What the fuck Damien? What’s wrong with you?” Myles chipped in.
I gained my strength back knowing that my brother was by my side and I said, “I want you gone, today. I don’t care what you or anybody else has to say, I want you out of here. You’re reckless and you don’t care about the group or anybody but yourself. You think this is all a joke. I want you gone in an hour. Pack your stuff and go. I will give you a little food and water, but then I want you out of our lives.”
“Well then I’m going with him!” I heard somebody say from down the hall. I turned to see Jackie holding a laundry basket full of our clothes. “I think it’s wrong that you’re kicking him out, I think he’s a great guy.”
“That’s just because you’re conceited yourself,” I said. “And fine, you can go as well, you hold us back too.”
“Come on Jackie, let’s get our things,” Damien said. “To hell with this shitty group anyways. We could do better. But they’ll regret it.”
“What about Callie?” She asked.
“Screw Callie, she can stay here.”
The hatred I had for Damien was just boiling up inside of me like water over a full flame. The sooner they leave our lives, the better off we will be. I clenched my fists together as Damien and Jackie trudged off to pack their things. I hugged my brother tightly and mumbled a “thanks” before stalking off to find Callie. I found her in the basement with Lacey using the sink and all of our filtering technique to filter water. By the time I reached the basement, I had calmed down enough to break the news to her nicely instead of angrily.
“Hey Lacey, that’s enough filtering for the day, I have to speak with Callie. Could you go finish the laundry that Jackie didn’t finish?”
“Sure thing Sky,” she said cheerfully as she headed up the stairs.
“Did I do something wrong?” She asked worriedly once Lacey was gone.
“No, you haven’t. It’s about Damien and Jackie.”
She began to tear up as she looked down to the ground and mumbled, “I know, they have a thing with each other.”
I walked over to her and rubbed her back soothingly with my hand. “No, that’s not it. I actually just kicked Damien out of the group… and Jackie decided to go with him…”
“You what?!” She jumped away from me and looked at me with anger in her eyes.
“Listen, Callie, he tried to hurt me just now and it’s not the first time that it has happened. Also, he risks the whole groups lives every time we go out to gather supplies. Not to mention, he was cheating on you and also beat you. We all know the truth Callie.”
It wasn’t long before her anger turned into quiet sobbing as she came back over to me and I hugged her tightly. “You’re right you know,” she said through sobs.
“What am I right about?”
“Damien was nothing but a conceited asshole. I have no idea what I was doing staying with him for as long as I did.”
We both chuckled a little before I said, “Callie, you could do so much better than him.”
“That’s hard to do considering the whole world is falling apart around us. There’s not much of anyone left.”
“Love will happen when you least expect it.”
“You truly think so?”
“I know so.” I squeezed her tightly. “Now I have to go finish my duties, if you ever need anything, or you just need to talk, come see me.”
“Thanks Sky, I’m glad you’re the leader around here. You really do know what’s best for all of us.”
I gave her a big smile before walking all the way back up the top floor and back to the kitchen. I was halfway done with making grilled cheese and tomato soup when Blaine walked into the kitchen and said, “I heard what happened, good for you. It’s about time we make that much needed decision. And for some reason, I’m really not upset that Jackie went with him.”
“That’s because you didn’t truly love her,” I replied honestly.
“You know what, I think you’re right.”
“That’s the second time I’ve heard that today.”
“I think it’s because you really are right all of the time,” he said with a laugh.
I laughed back and said, “Nobody is ever always right, we all make mistakes.”
“Well, I have yet to see it with you.”
“I hope when it does finally happen, that my mistake doesn’t cause something drastic and terrible.”
“Don’t worry, you always figure things out,” was the last thing he said before walking back out of the kitchen leaving me by myself once again. I finished supper, and laid it out just as everybody (minus Damien and Jackie) came filing in to make their plates. I was impressed that even Jake took his eyes off of the video game to come and eat with us. Last night, it had to be brought in for him. For the first time in a while, we were actually all quite happy having nobody to argue with or tell us that the food sucked and just complain about everything. All in all, it was quite peaceful.
We ate our food and told each other stories about when things were normal; the funny times, the sad times, and any other times you could possibly think of. Everyone told a story except for Jake, but I did not want to push him and ask for a story because he was still probably mourning his parents and did not want to talk about them.
When supper was finished, I took the liberty to clean up and wash up the dishes. Then, for some reason, I felt the need to step outside for some fresh air. I grabbed my pistol from my apartment, put it on safety, and holstered it in my boot. When I finally reached the barricaded door to the outside, I saw a white piece of something laying on the floor. I bent down and realized that it was a piece of torn copy paper with handwriting on it. I grabbed it and read it:

I told you that you would regret making the decision for us to leave. Well here is the part where you start regretting. You’re just lucky I was nice enough to leave behind a note to give you a little time to react… that is… if you get to it in time. Jackie and I have left loud alarms around the outside of the apartment complex to attract who knows how many mutants, but they will all be coming. Don’t bother looking for the alarms, because you won’t find them. They will be going off tomorrow at noon. Good luck to you, are you regretting it yet?

That bastard! I need to warn everybody and we need to get ready and make a plan and get out asap before we all end up in a horde of mutants with nowhere to go. Shit.

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Chapter Five

I ran so fast up the stairs that I nearly collapsed at the top from lack of oxygen. However, I needed to warn everybody as fast as I could. I knocked on apartment doors and announced, “Urgent meeting in the dining area,” as I made my way down the hall. Within two minutes, everybody had made their way into the dining area, thoroughly confused. The first thing I said was, “We need to pack what we can and get out asap.”

From there, everybody began freaking out and making statements and trying to talk over everybody else. I clapped my hands loudly and said, “Hey, let me explain,” to get everybody’s attention.

“Damien and Jackie left a note saying they left alarms around the building to go off at noon tomorrow to create a horde of mutants coming our way. So we need to pack, hot wire some cars, and get our asses out of here.”

“How do we know he really did it?” Myles spoke up.

“For one, he’s an evil jackass. And for two, how do we know he didn’t? I rather be safe than sorry. If we don’t leave and they go off, we are all going to be surrounded with nowhere to go,” Blaine chipped in.

“Blaine’s right,” I concluded. “Everybody begin packing the things you need and get them to the cars in the apartment parking lot. We will take the black Ford escape, the black Escalade, and the Silver Chevy Tahoe. They are each fairly new and they each have pretty big storage spaces compared to all the others. The Escalade will strictly be used for the supplies and food since it has the most storage room. It will be driven by me and Jake will ride with me. Myles and Lacey, you take the Tahoe, and Blaine and Callie, you take the Escape. The Escape and Tahoe will be used for our personal luggage and anything else of importance. Now, anybody know how to hotwire cars?”

Myles held up his hand and said, “I watched a tutorial once, so I could attempt to do it.”

“That’s the best we got, we will go for it. Blaine if you could haul Jake’s and my stuff down once it’s packed, Myles and I will get the food and supplies out.”

“Way to think quick Sky, that’s one reason that you are the leader here,” was all Blaine got to say before we all filed off to our own apartments to pack. Right when Jake and I got to our apartment, I knelt down, held his shoulders, and said, “Now Jake, you have to pack your clothes and whatever toys you want to take into a big bag or two okay? It’s important that you take the necessary things. Do you understand that?”

He nodded and said, “Yes, I understand.”

“Get to it.”

We both packed our things as fast as we could and soon after they were packed, Blaine stepped in to take my things. “Come on Jake, you can carry your stuff down with me.”

Once they headed out, I went to join Myles in the dining area. “Did you get your things packed and to the car?”

“Yes I did. You know, it’s a shame we have to leave. Where are we going to go?” He asked when we started packing the supplies and food.

“To be honest, I do not know yet. We will figure out a plan once we all get down to the parking garage. Do you know if weapons were packed?”

“Lacey took the liberty to pack all the weapons she could find and just put them in the vehicle we are driving. You go your pistol that dad gave you?”

“Yes I did, I would never leave it behind.” The pistol was given to me by my dad once I turned nine. He decided to hand it down to me because he never used it anymore. Of course, I didn’t use it until around thirteen, but now I’m basically a professional with it and it’s very important to me.

We packed everything in silence and got it all down to the parking garage and into the Escalade. We then grouped up in the middle of the parking garage.

“Alright, we need to figure out where we are going for the moment. It doesn’t have to be anywhere special, we just need to find somewhere to rest for a day or two and figure out a plan.”

“My grandpa owned a cabin out in the woods in the middle of nowhere. We could stay there for a day or two? I mean, nobody has really lived in it for a few years, but it should suit our purpose. It has a generator and everything,” Lacey piped up.

“Good, that’s perfect! Do you remember how to get there?”

“I do.”

“Well than you and Myles will be leading the way. Did we grab lanterns? That way we don’t have to use a loud generator.”

“I grabbed them,” Callie said.

“Smart thinking.”

“I found these the other day in one of the apartments on the fifth floor. There’s one for each car, that way we can keep in touch if something happens or if something is needed. The batteries are brand new and the walkie-talkies still work,” Blaine said as he handed Myles and I a little black walkie-talkie.

“These are a great find. Now Myles, did you get the cars all hot-wired?”

“I only had to hot-wire the Tahoe. The Escalade had a spare key in the car, and the Escape had the keys right in the ignition.”

“Well that was pure luck. It’s like everybody just up and left,” Callie mentioned.

“When we entered the place a few months ago, everybody who had lived here were already mutants I’m assuming, so necessarily, everybody did just up and leave,” I replied.

“Enough with the small talk, it’s going to be dark in three hours, we want to get to the cabin before dark so that we can scope it out first,” Blaine chimed in.

“Good point, let’s move out.”

We each got into our designated vehicles and started them up. So far so good, everyone’s vehicle ran well, no issues. We all then took off with Myles and Lacey in the lead, Blaine and Callie behind them, and Jake and I trailing in the back. Once we pulled out of the parking garage, a few mutants popped out from around the corner of buildings and gave chase. However, at the rate we were going, they gave up within seconds and backed down.

As we were driving down the road I asked Jake, “Did you get your clothes packed?”

“I got a shirt and pants, yes.”

I look at Jake appalled and said, “Are you serious Jake? That’s all you grabbed?”

“That’s all I could fit in with my toys…”

“Oh my God. You didn’t grab your toothbrush and toothpaste either did you?”

He fidgeted with his fingers and mumbled, “I forgot.”

“That’s just great.” I took out my walkie talkie. “Guys, Jake didn’t pack any of his necessities. We need to run to walmart quick and sneak in. We might as well get whatever else we can while we’re there as well. We can drive around back and sneak in, and silently kill whatever may be left inside and lock it down while we raid.”

“10-4,” I heard them both say back.

We drove to the Walmart in town and I was a little surprised at what I saw. It seems as if somebody had hid out here for a while. There was a wooden blockade around most of the building, and cars had also been pushed up bumper to bumper in front of the barricade. Hopefully whoever had been here was long gone, or there may be a little danger to deal with. Everybody is out to survive, and if you have to kill to keep what is yours, I have seen groups willing to do that before.

We pulled around back and parked near the entrance. We all shut off our cars and I turned to look at Jake. “Jake, you are to stay in this car, crouched down on the floor with the doors remaining locked. Do you understand that?”

“But I want to go with,” he whined.

“You heard me, this could be dangerous. I promise we will be back for you okay? You don’t have to worry about that.”

He got down on the passenger seat floor and said, “Okay.”

“Don’t unlock the doors for anybody but one of us alright?”

“I understand. Be careful.”

I leaned down and kissed his forehead. We will be back in no time, I promise.”

I locked the doors on my way out of the vehicle and walked over to Myles. “Do you have my pistol?”

“I thought we were doing this silently?”

“You saw that this place is barricaded, somebody was here and may still be here. If we have a problem on our hands, I want us to be ready. However, only use the guns if necessary. Stick to knives.”

Myles handed me my pistol and I holstered it on my hip and kept hold of the knife in my hand. “Once we get inside, we go to different locations. Callie and Lacey, I want you girls to hit up the apparel sections. Grab some bags and stuff clothes in them, men’s, women’s, and children’s. Get what you can to fit in the vehicles. Myles, I want you to hit up the hygiene sections. Grab toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, everything you can. Blaine and I will hit up food. I will start at one end, you will start at the other, and we will grab what we can. I will lead the way in and call out, make sure nobody is still inside. I’m positive there are no mutants inside at least. Does everybody understand?”

Once they all nodded we made our way to the back entrance. I went to open it and it was locked tight. “Shit.” Lacey gave me a bobby pin out of her hair and I crouched down to pick the lock. It took maybe three minutes before I finally got the lock picked, it was a tricky one. We then slowly made our way inside. The entrance had been a fire exit and it opened up into the baby section of Walmart. Strollers and car seats were laying everywhere all over the floor, and colorful baby clothes were scattered everywhere on the floor and hanging from shelves. It was a sad sight to see. And the only light we had was coming in from the skylights in the roof.

“Hello? Is anybody here?” I called out, my voice echoing slightly. “We mean no harm.” We took a few steps down an aisle, stepping over bottles and nuks strewn all over. I continued calling out the same sentences repeatedly a few times. When no answer or movements sprang from anywhere, I turned and told everybody, “I think it’s safe. Everyone do what you have to do as quickly as possible.”

We all dispersed our separate ways and I went to the far end of the food section. I was grateful that whoever had hid out here had cleaned out all of the rotted fruits and vegetables and meat. The stench was still slightly lingering in the area, but it was definitely not as strong as it would have been if it had all still been here. I grabbed the nearest of the carts that were laying around everywhere, picked it up right and began throwing what I could as I went up the first aisle. I threw in rice, and canned goods and everything that was non-perishable for a while. I was almost to the end of the aisle when I thought I saw a quick shadow dash to the aisle on the opposite side. I unsheathed my knife from my boot, left the cart, and quietly walked to the end of my aisle. I jumped from my aisle to the one next to mine with my knife held out in front of me, but there was nobody there. I untensed my body and laughed quietly to myself. I’m just being paranoid. I was about to turn around to go back when somebody or something grabbed me from behind and stuck one hand over my mouth while the other arm wrapped around me to keep me still.
Once I began to struggle, they kicked behind my knee, dropping me to the ground and my knife slid half way down the aisle. I twisted and squirmed my body until I was finally able to turn onto my back and look up at my assailant. He had a knife drawn and whispered, “If you make a sound, I will cut your throat. Do you understand?”
I slowly nodded, hoping that Blaine would reach me soon as he made his way up and down the aisles. But I knew it would still be quite a few minutes until he got to me. Maybe this guy was going to grab me and keep me for himself. I’ve heard of it being done. Groups of guys taking girls and keeping them for toys. And I sure wasn’t about to let that happen. I went to take a swing for his jaw, but he dropped the knife and quickly grabbed my arms to pin them down. He was sitting on my waist, so my legs were no use to me. I was about to scream out when he brought his face close to mine and whispered, “Make a sound, and I will kill everybody in here.”
I clamped my mouth shut and got a closer look at my assailant. I could tell that he was a couple years older than me and that he was quite muscular. He had a strong chin and jaw and piercing emerald green eyes and dark brown shaggy hair. He was actually gorgeous. I could tell that he was also sizing me up because he was also looking at me.
“Now what are you doing here? What are your intentions?” He whispered. Even in his whispering, I could tell that he had a deeper, smooth kind of voice.
“We aren’t here to hurt you or anything. We just came to get some supplies,” I whispered back.
“So you wanted to steal all of my supplies?”
“Look, we called out and nobody answered, so we figured this place was vacated a while ago. I’m sorry, we can leave if you just let me go.”
“How many of you are there?”
“Counting myself, there are six of us. We just had to leave the place where we were residing, and we were going to pick up a few supplies before we left town completely.”
“Where are you guys going?”
“Why is that any of your business?”
His eyes became softer as he got up off of me and held out a hand to help me up. I ignored his hand and got up myself, scowling at him for even tackling me down in the first place. I went to pick up my knife and he stayed where he was, showing that he meant no harm.
“I was asking because maybe I could join you?”
“You just tackled me to the ground and held me at knife point… and you’re saying you want to join our group?”
“I’m sorry about that, it’s a tough world, I didn’t know what to expect. You guys could’ve been here to kill me.”
“Yeah, sure.”
“Besides, what say do you have?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, a little angrily.
“Well you just don’t seem like the leader type,” he admitted.
I took a few steps closer so I was almost right up next to him and said, “For your information, I am the leader in our group, and I’m pretty damn good at it according to everybody within the group.” I probably didn’t seem quite as menacing for the fact that I am only five foot seven and he had to be at least six foot one so I had to look up at him.
He held his hands up in defeat and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by what I said.”
Just then, Blaine walked around the corner and held the gun up at the man pointing it at the back of his head. The man kept his hands up in the air and I saw him gulp.
“It’s okay Blaine, holster your gun, he’s good.”
“You sure?” Blaine holstered his gun at his hip.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. He wants to join the group…” I trailed off, waiting for Blaine’s opinion on the matter.
The man turned around and stuck his hand out to shake Blaine’s. “The name’s Jackson.”
“Blaine,” Blaine said shaking his outstretched hand.
“Look, I’ve been here for a long while now, it gets pretty lonely being away from absolutely everybody. And I think I’d be safer within a group as well.”
“Yeah, but the more people we have, the more supplies we have to continue to find,” I replied.
“Well, I have information that you guys probably would like to hear.”
I looked at him, curious now. “What kind of information do you have?”
“I bet you guys are curious as to how all of this happened in the world right? And maybe you’d be curious as to their weakness?”
My curious expression turned to one of shock as I asked, “And how do you know all of that?”
“My father worked for the government… when he was still around.” Jackson’s face turned to one of sadness for a quick second before going back to a poker face.
“I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. So can I join?”
I looked at Blaine as he gave me a quick nod. I looked at Jackson and said, “Well the information sure would be helpful I suppose. And another helping hand wouldn’t be so bad. Alright, you can come with us, but you’re riding with me. I have more questions for you.”
“Okay, let me grab some things,” he said. “And you guys can continue grabbing whatever you need.”
And we did exactly that, we stocked up on everything we could and stuffed it all into the backs of the vehicles with Jackson’s help. Once everything was loaded and everybody was standing outside the vehicles, I took that time to introduce everyone. “Jackson, this is Callie, Lacey, my brother Myles, and you’ve met Blaine, and this,” I said, pausing to open the car door for Jake to be seen, “is Jake.”
“Hi everybody, thank you for allowing me into your group,” he replied, shaking everybody’s hand. When he got to Jake, he messed up Jake’s hair and said, “Hello bud, I guess I’m riding with you.”
“You’re not going to hurt us right?” Jake asked timidly.
He crouched down to meet Jake’s eyes and said, “Of course not, I promise.” Jackson held out his pinky and Jake wrapped his pinky around Jackson’s. Jackson gave Jake a big bright smile and gave him a high five.
I looked at the sky and saw that the sun was nearly dropping behind the trees. “Okay everybody, we need to get going, it’s going to be dark soon.”
Everybody got into their vehicles and Jackson got into the passenger seat of my vehicle as Jake crawled into the back and buckled up.
“Did you get me some clothes?” Jake asked as we drove out of the parking lot.
“Yes we did, we got everything you needed,” I told him.
“Thank you, I’m sorry I didn’t pack what I needed.”
“That’s okay.” I then looked at Jackson who was looking out the window and asked, “So how old are you exactly?”
He looked at me and said, “I’m twenty-one, and yourself?”
“I’m nineteen.”
“And you’re the leader at that age?”
I gave him a stern look and he just chuckled a little, not taking my stern look seriously. I ignored him and asked, “You have any special things you’re good at? Like, Blaine was a med student and my brother is good with electricity and electronic type things.”
“And what are you good at?”
“She’s real good at shooting and fighting those monsters!” Jake piped up.
“Oh she is huh?”
“Yeah she is! I saw her!”
“You didn’t answer my question,” I told Jackson.
“Let’s see… I’m also good with a gun and fighting and tactics. I have to be when my father was a bodyguard in the government. He taught me a lot of things.”
“And your mother?”
“She left when I was little…” He moved his gaze back to the window.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”
“It’s fine, it was a long time ago. I’m also good with vehicles.”
“Well that’s a good ability to have.”
“I suppose it is.”
I looked back over to him again and told him, “Just know, that if you attempt to hurt anyone in the group or anything like that, I won’t hesitate to throw you out on your own or kill you.”
“You don’t seem to like me very much,” he said looking back at me. “Is it because I overtook you back in the store?” He asked with a laugh.
I looked at him appalled and said, “You just caught me off guard! Anyways, no that’s not why. I just don’t know you enough to trust you yet.”
“That makes sense. You’re not too bad of a leader so far.”
“Gee, thanks.”
After ten minutes on the road he said, “I’m not too bad of a guy you know.”
“I will find that out for myself.”
The rest of the ride remained silent. I could tell we were getting close to our destination when we began hitting dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere. There was not a single mutant to be seen, and it almost made things seem normal besides the fact that I had a random man in my passenger seat and a little boy in the backseat. It wasn’t much longer before we turned down a long narrow driveway that seemed to go on forever. However, we finally reached the end of the driveway and saw a little older log cabin. It definitely wasn’t in perfect condition… but it would serve the purpose we needed it to serve.

When we all parked our vehicles and stepped out, we got a better look at the outside of the cabin. The wood was old and peeling and slightly smelled of musty wood. The red tin roof was dented from hail and miscellaneous things from trees falling on it. The wooden shutters were just barely hanging onto the sides of the windows. The porch looked mostly intact and had a couple of wooden chairs seated on it that looked safe enough. A good fact about the cabin is that it had an upstairs. If we were lucky, we could all have our rooms just like our old apartments for the night.

I walked over to the porch and took a step up on one of the stairs. It strained quietly against my weight having not been used in a while. Once up the stairs, luckily, the porch made no more noise. I then drew my gun, just in case, and pushed the door open. No need for locking when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. I walked in and did a quick scan around. It was actually quite beautiful on the inside. It reminded me of my family’s cabin back home that we always went to in the summer time. I held back a few tears as the memories sprang forward… not just with my family, but also with Nathan. I shook my head to forget the memories and continued to look around. The wood was in better condition in the interior, it wasn’t peeling and also just smelled of oak wood versus musty rotting wood. There was a fireplace centered in one of the walls and furniture also made from logs along the opposite wall. There was no TV, however there was an old timey radio in a corner, which I knew we wouldn’t get any channels on because there were no radio stations anymore. From what I could see, there were two bedrooms downstairs along with a bathroom and kitchen. As I made my way upstairs, I found out that there were three more bedrooms. There would be enough rooms for us after all.

I made my way back outside to the others and said, “All clear,” Just as the sun cleared it’s way below the tree-tops. “Let’s only bring in the things we need for the night.”

Some food for supper, the lanterns, and water was brought into the cabin and set on the kitchen counters which were also, wouldn’t you know it, made of wood. Once everything was brought in, I began assigning rooms. “Myles and Lacey will share one of the room downstairs and Callie will get the other room downstairs. Blaine, you and Jake get one of the upstairs ones to share.” Blaine looked at me in understanding and nodded his head. I didn’t need to scare Jake with my nightmares again. “Jackson, you get the room that is connected with mine upstairs. I need to keep an eye on you until I know that you can be trusted completely. Everybody here but my brother basically went through the same process.”

He nodded and said, “I understand completely.”

“Supper tonight will just be peanut butter sandwiches and some chips. We don’t have anything to cook on, so we are keeping it simple. We also have to get some lanterns lit. Everybody will receive a lantern except for Jake because he will always be with somebody.”

Lacey began to make supper as I worked on lighting the lanterns. Everybody else dispersed to check out their rooms. Everybody, besides Jackson, he stayed standing by me.

“I can handle this,” I said to him.

“I figured you could, but I’m not going to wander off, I don’t want you to get any suspicions of me at all.”

“Well, I’m not worrying too much about you. I know you’re not going to kill us, you don’t seem the type.”

He tried to wiggle his eyebrows in a creepy way and asked, “Do I seem the type now?”

I couldn’t help but laugh and say, “No, even less so now than before. Why don’t you go check out our rooms upstairs and make sure there’s no spiders or anything.”

“Really? You’re not scared of mutants, but a little spider scares you?”

“I never said I wasn’t scared, I just know how to ignore a fear when I need to.” He said nothing back as he made his way up the stairs and disappeared around the corner.

When the last lantern was lit and supper was handed out, we all sat together around the living room. Once we began to eat, I looked at Jackson who was sitting on the platform of the fireplace and said, “I believe that you have some information for us.”

He rubbed his hands together and said, “I sure do. Well, first off, my father was a guard for the government. They had an underground operation going on under this very city. They had top notch doctors and scientists down there experimenting, trying to find a cure for cancer. However, something went terribly, an experiment gone wrong. Something they did to their patients, turned them into mutants that craved blood and meat from anything they could get their hands on. It wasn’t very long before they found out that those mutants could transform others into mutants as well through their saliva. The mutated patients began biting scientists and doctors and guards, whoever they could get their hands on. Once the mutation spread through their bodies, they began mutants as well and the disease spread globally from there. My father barely made it out of the underground lab alive. He got home as fast as he could, told me everything, and said that we had to leave now. In the time we had together on the run, we found out a weakness. The mutant’s eyes are so sensitive that bright flashes or lights momentarily blind and confuse them. And that is also why they are not at their best during the day.”

We were all looking at him a little astonished and dumbfounded as I asked, “All of this is from an underground experiment?”

“Yes it is, and it is spreading all of the time,” he answered.

“The public wasn’t even aware of what was going on,” Myles added.

“And those that are left probably still have no clue,” Callie said.

“They were working on something exceptionally good down there, and got something terrible out of it,” Blaine chimed in.

“I’m confused,” Jake said.

“Don’t worry bud, it’s nothing for you to worry about,” I told him. He folded his arms, discouraged that we wouldn’t keep him up to speed. “Thank you for your insight Jackson, it was all very helpful. But as of now, we need a plan. We can’t stay here.”

“Why?” Jake asked.

“There is no running water, and also because we don’t know how safe it is out here exactly, or how the place will hold up in weather.”

“What if we just stayed in a walmart like Jackson did?” Lacey asked.

“You don’t want to do that guys. There’s nowhere to shower, and it’s not fun risking your lives almost every other day to go into town and find somewhere to shower,” Jackson told her.

“And we would eventually run out of food, we need to find somewhere where we can plant things and start gardens,” I added.

“So what about a big house in one of the suburbs around here?” Myles asked.

“If we did that, we would be out in the open too much, and we would have to stay even quieter and more cautious than we used to,” Blaine said.

“That’s true…” I trailed off, but then an idea hit me. “Okay guys, this is a little far fetched, but what about an island off of a coast?”

Everyone looked at me like I was a genius, but Jackson said, “You’d have to find one that already has a house and the set-ups in it like running water and a good generator and everything.”

“My family owns an island like a half hour off the coast of Louisiana. It has all of the set ups.”

“Good area for gardens?”

“Sure is, and there’s a greenhouse as well if I remember correctly.”

“That’s perfect. And if we ever need to go on a supply run, a few people can run in, get what we need, and get back.”

“I think we have our plan,” we all agreed.

“But where will we get gas to get all the way to Louisiana?” I asked.

“Farms,” Jackson said simply. “That’s what me and my dad did. Most big farms have fuel barrels.”

“Perfect idea,” I said as Jake yawned. “Alright everybody, I think we have our plan all figured out, so let’s go get some rest, we’ve had a pretty eventful day.”

We all finished off our waters and grabbed our lanterns. I grabbed Jake’s hand before he went off with Blaine. “You will be okay for the night with Blaine won’t you?”

“Yes I will, I like Blaine.”

“Just making sure.” I gave him a quick kiss on the head and sent him off with Blaine. Jackson and I then made our way up the stairs and stopped right outside our bedroom doors. “Was there any spiders?” I asked him.

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, there’s a huge, black, fuzzy spider on your wall.”

“And you didn’t kill it?” I asked, freaking out slightly.

“No way, I hate spiders,” he said seriously.

“Jackson! Are you serious? Who knows where it is in there now!”

He then laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I killed what spiders I saw. You’re fine.”

“You asshole,” I said as I let out a deep breath, relaxing. “You freaked me out.”

“I’m sorry Sky, but in all seriousness, you should be fine in there tonight.”

Besides the nightmares, I thought. “Thank you,” I told him as I went into the room and shut the door. The bedroom was pretty plain with just a wooden dresser, nightstand, and oak bed, but it suited its purpose. I plopped down onto the bed, completely exhausted and crawled under the covers. The bed was actually pretty comfy, and the woodsy looking comforter was very warm and soft. It all seemed pretty homey, just like our summer cabin. I kept away from thinking about those memories, and just tried to fall asleep without thinking at all, hopefully I will have a peaceful, uninterrupted sleep tonight… very doubtful.

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Of course, there was no peaceful sleep for me, more nightmares of Nathan evaded my dreams. It was no more than a few hours later that I woke up in a sweat with a few tear streaks down my cheeks and panting. I ran my fingers through my damp hair and realized that I was not going to get back to sleep any time soon. I sighed and pulled the covers off, stripped my long sleeve shirt off so I was just in my tank top to cool off and rolled my jeans up as far as I could. I then tried to tip-toe my way out of my room and down the stairs, but I made a few squeaks here and there in the floorboards, luckily waking nobody up. When I finally reached outside onto the porch, I sat down in one of the old rickety wooden chairs, hoping it would hold me. Thankfully, it did, and I ran my fingers through my hair again, and pulled it up and held it there to get some cool fall air to the back of my neck. I rested my head back against the old chair and closed my eyes, listening to the sounds of the woods. The leaves were rustling as they floated from the tree to the ground, slowly losing life for the winter. There wasn’t much for animal noises which I thought was slightly off, but I didn’t think too much about it.

I jumped once I felt someone touch my arm and nearly fell out of my chair, but Jackson steadied me.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just came out to see if you’re okay.”

I got a little defensive, putting my tough side on and said, “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”

He took a seat in the chair next to me, holding his arms out for balance in case it collapsed, but it held up so he laid his hands in his lap. “Well I just heard you mumbling things and screaming a little, and crying. I was going to go in there and see if you were okay, but I didn’t know if you would like that or not.”

I looked at him and saw that his eyes were an even brighter green when the moonlight reflected off of them, and they were softer than they were earlier, more understanding. “I’m sorry,” was all I told him, looking away and out into the dark forest.

“Is that why Jake had to go sleep with Blaine?”

I sighed. “Yeah, it is.”

“So it’s like that every night?”

“Unfortunately. I haven’t found any way to make it go away. It’s been forever since I’ve had a good, uninterrupted night of sleep.” I had no idea why I was telling everything to a stranger that I barely even knew.

“What do you dream about?”

I clenched my hands to hold back any memories of my dream and said, “It’s hard to explain.”

“Maybe if you talk to somebody it will help.”

“Are you my therapist now?” I asked sarcastically.

“If it helps you to sleep, sure.”

I sighed again and said, “When this whole thing started, it was just my brother, myself, and my boyfriend. We left my brother where we were hiding out and were making a run into town. We hit a bad place that was swarming with those mutants. We ran as fast as we could, but there was just too many of them. They got ahold of Nathan, my boyfriend, and they began fighting over him. Nathan told me to run, to get out of there before they got me too. I wanted so bad to stay and help, but he wanted me to go… I should’ve stayed and helped. Maybe I could’ve saved him. I let him die…” I trailed off as a few tears escaped down my cheeks as the memories came flooding back. The guilt, everything.

Then Jackson did something unexpectedly, he wiped my tears and pulled me in for a hug. I hugged him tightly as he said, “It wasn’t your fault at all, he knew that it was too late for him and he was looking out for you. It’s what he wanted Sky.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said as I pulled away and said, “Sorry,” as I wiped my tears with the bottom of my tank top.

“Don’t be sorry. I know I’m just a stranger to you right now, but in all honesty, you can come talk to me if you ever need to talk.”

“Thank you.”

“It must be hard to raise a son in all this, you must’ve had him with Nathan right?”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little as I said, “Jake? He’s not my son. I rescued him a few days ago when some mutants got to his parents.”

He got a little red in the face and said, “Oh, I’m sorry to have made that assumption. He looks up to you like a son would his mother, that’s why I thought he was yours.”

“That’s because I’m really all he has now.”

“Well you do a good job of taking care of him along with everybody else.”

“Thank you, I try.”

“And are you and Blaine a thing?” He asked.

I laughed again and said, “No we are not, he’s like a brother to me. Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“Did you lose a girlfriend or anything when this all happened?”

“No, I did not have a girlfriend to lose, which I guess is a good thing depending on which way you look at it. Having a dad that works for the government means a lot of moving around and adapting. Never really had time for a serious relationship.”

“Well at least you didn’t have her to lose then.”

“That’s true I suppose.”

I sighed and said, “The world went to shit real fast and nobody could do anything about it.”

“That’s why we all have to do our best to enjoy what we have left.”

With those deep words said, we just sat there for a little while staring out into the darkness with our thoughts wandering. Out of nowhere I said, “The memories hurt sometimes. Do you ever feel that way?”

He looked at me sincerely and said, “I know exactly what you mean. There’s times when the memory of my dad dying really gets to me, or seeing people around me turn into those things.”

“It’s terrible that the memories that were once good are now tainted with bad memories.”

“I agree,” he said as I yawned. “You should get some sleep you know.”

“Yeah I guess I should. You probably should too.”

“You’re right.”

We both got up, said our goodnights and went to our separate rooms. I cuddled back up under the blankets praying that the bad dreams would stay away for the rest of the night. I eventually fell asleep thinking that Jackson is going to be a good asset to our group.

I actually woke up refreshed in the morning. Apparently that talk I had with Jackson last night did end up helping at least a little bit. I got dressed for the day and headed downstairs to see who else was already awake. I walked into the kitchen to see Myles and Lacey starting some breakfast and Jackson sitting at the counter.

“What’s for breakfast guys?” I asked as I sat next to Jackson on a rickety wooden stool.

“Just some toast. We had some homemade bread left over when we left our safe place,” Lacey said.
“That sounds good, thank you guys for making us all breakfast.”
“Oh, we were only making breakfast for ourselves,” Myles said
jokingly.
“Well than you’re just an asshole,” I said with a smile.
“Kidding, everybody gets some.”
“We better, we have a long day ahead of us,” Blaine said as he walked into the room with Callie at his side and Jake following behind.
“Two pieces for everybody,” Lacey chipped in perkily. She was always such a happy person no matter what the circumstances. I wish I could be as happy as her all of the time during the end of the world.
“So now that we are all here, I have a question that needs to be
decided among the group,” I told everybody.
“What’s that?” Callie asked.
“If we leave in about a half hour, we won’t hit Louisiana until
it’s pitch black outside. Should we play it safe and find a place to bunker down right before it gets dark and then head back out in the morning? My opinion is that it would be our best bet to do that because I really don’t think it’s safe for us to try loading boats and everything in the dark when the mutants are at their highest peak.”

“She’s right about that; the mutants could really cause a problem for ust at night, you want to avoid them at all costs once it gets dark. Their eyesight is even better and for some reason they are quicker. I honestly think the sun slows them down and I don’t know why,” Jackson said.

“Well I think that pretty much settles it then, it’s not safe to try to mess with things at night, so we find a place and bunker down when it starts to get dark,” Myles added.

“But where should we bunker down at?” Lacey asked.

“I honestly think that if we just found a back road in the woods, we could just park our cars on the road or trail and then sleep in our cars for the night. I know it doesn’t sound very comfortable, but the woods seems like our best bet, it’s pretty desolate,” Blaine said.

“I think Blaine is right, does anybody want to object?” I asked. When nobody said anything I continued, “Well then it’s settled, that is what we will do. When we leave here we will hit the first big farm we see and fill up our vehicles with gas. Sound like a plan?”

As everybody nodded, Lacey and Myles began handing out peanut butter toast and everybody began digging in. As we were all eating, I couldn’t help but keep glancing at Callie and Blaine, it looked like they were flirting. Callie was giggling like a little girl and playing with her hair and Blaine was smiling and laughing and telling her some story. It was actually a very nice thing to see considering they both just got out of a terrible relationship; they needed each other.

Jake came over and sat by me and I asked, “Did you sleep alright with Blaine last night?”

“Yeah, I did. I missed you though, it’s different not having the apartment.”

I roughed up his hair and said, “I know buddy, but things will get better, I promise you that.”

He nodded his head and finished off his toast around the same time that I finished off mine. “Want to help me load up the lanterns and stuff while everybody finishes up eating?” I asked him.

“Oh boy, can I? I’d love to help,” he replied excitedly.

“Of course you can, come on.” He followed me over to the coffee table in the living room where everybody had set their lanterns this morning. I handed him two lanterns to carry and I grabbed the other four and we brought them out to Blaine and Callie’s vehicle and set them in the back. Then Jake grabbed my hand and tugged on it so I would crouch down to his level.

“Did you have any bad dreams last night?” He asked, quite concerned for a little boy.

“I did at first Jake, but then I slept perfectly. You don’t have to worry about me alright? I will be okay,” I reassured him.

“Do you promise?”

“I promise bud,” I said right before he smiled and ran back into the house. Then I heard some rustling behind me and I did not hesitate, I grabbed my gun from the holster, spun around, and took aim at whatever was behind me.

“Jesus Sky! It’s just me!” Jackson said as he threw his hands up into the air.

I re-holstered my gun and let out a sigh as I told him, “You can’t sneak up on me like that or I will probably end up shooting you.”

“Well that’s surely reassuring,” he said sarcastically as he brought his hands down and walked closer to me.

I shrugged and said, “Well if you don’t sneak up on me you won’t get shot.”

“Thank you very much for the warning. I just came out to see if you needed help with anything.” Jackson leaned his long frame onto the bumper of the Escalade.

“I really think this is it except for some water if you’d like to go grab that from inside.”

“Sure thing boss,” he replied as he saluted me and headed for the house. I rolled my eyes after him and shut the trunk of Blaine’s car. I headed over to the Escalade where Myles had been a few minutes ago and started it up, then started the Escape. When I went to start the Tahoe though, I was at a loss. All I saw were wires hanging here and there from the dash so I figured I would just leave that for Myles to deal with.

I heard rustling in the woods next to me and said, “Quit playing around Jackson, it’s not funny.” All of a sudden a mutant burst out of the woods and tackled me to the ground, its nasty slime covered teeth just inches from my face. I brought my legs up and kicked it off of me backwards and it rolled back up to its feet. I rolled over to the side of the car and took aim. It was hard to get a perfect aim when the mutant’s body was practically rotting away. I had never seen one as gross and gruesome. The mutant’s skin was practically peeling off in places and just dangling there, and it was salivating so much that it was like a constant waterfall of slime coming from its mouth. It began running towards the car so I rolled to the side away from the car, took aim, and shot the thing right in the heart, watching it tumble to the ground. Once I shot, everybody ran out from inside to see what was going on.

I looked at them seriously as they all saw the mutant and I said, “We need to get going… now.” Just as that was said, there was more rustling in the woods and five more came out into the opening where we were all standing. Everybody frantically ran to grab their weapons as I shot another one down before it could get any closer.

“Everybody just get in their vehicles and let’s go!” I yelled. The mutants were quite a ways away so it gave us some time to get to our vehicles and hop inside, however, it seemed that Myles was having trouble getting his car hotwired again. A mutant was running over towards his vehicle and beating on his window, sooner or later, it would break. I jumped back out of the car and ran over to the mutant beating on Myles’ window. I yanked the thing back and onto the ground as I yanked my knife from my boot and brought it deep down into his rotting flesh right through his heart. I felt a rip at my shirt as I felt sharp nails drag down my back while a mutant was yanking me back down to the ground. I pulled away from it, ripping a big hole in the back of my shirt and fell down to the ground. I could see that it was just about to pounce down on me when somebody took a shot and blew the thing’s head off as it fell sideways to the ground. I looked up to see Jackson had taken the shot.

I heard Myles get his car started up, so I ripped my knife out of the first mutant and rushed back to my car as the last remaining mutants began rushing towards us. We all peeled out of the driveway and got away just as the mutants were reaching our vehicles. I didn’t realize how heavily I was breathing until Jackson asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just got a little full of adrenaline and fear back there. Thanks for saving me by the way.”

“No problem, but you were crazy for going out there by yourself,” he said sternly.

I looked at him appalled and said, “That was my damn brother that thing was going for. I wasn’t just going to let them take him like they did Nathan!” I didn’t realize I had raised my voice at the end and turned back to face the road as I felt a tear roll down my cheek. It had almost been my fault again that someone had died. All because I didn’t try to get his stupid car started like everybody else’s.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” he said softly.

I didn’t give him an answer, I just ran my fingers through my hair and leaned back into my seat. That’s when I felt the red hot burning in my back. I clenched my teeth and pulled away from the seat so the deep scratches in my back wouldn’t be touching anything. They were very painful, and I hadn’t really felt them until now.

“You okay?” He asked again.

“I’m fine, don’t worry about it.” I checked back in the backseat to see if Jake was okay, but he was not there. “Where’s Jake?!” I asked frantically.

“He got into the car with Blaine and Callie in all of the rush, he’s fine.”

I let out a deep breath and said, “Thank God.”

“You know, those mutants back there hadn’t eaten in a very long time. That was why they were rotting away. If they don’t get any food, their bodies start to rot slowly.”

“It’s very sad to think that they were once people just like us…” We both grew silent then as we kept watching the long road ahead of us on our way to Louisiana.

Just up ahead we could see a huge farm, and it looked pretty desolate, so we all decided to stop there to get our gas to fill up. We drove our vehicles around the farm searching for some sort of fuel tank. We eventually found one back behind one of the many barns, it was a huge fuel trailer. Let’s just hope it’s full. We got out and checked the trailer and found out that it was full.

“Alright, anybody know how to run these things?”

“My grandpa used to own a farm and he owned one of these things. I can give it a whirl,” Jackson said.

We all stepped back and let Jackson take on the work of fueling up our vehicles. It didn’t take more than fifteen minutes to get each of the vehicles to a full tank of gas.

“Way to go Jackson,” Jake said as he cheered. What a peppy little boy. I grabbed onto his hand and smile down at him.

“Are you going to ride with us again? Or do you want to stay with Blaine and Callie?”

“Can I ride with you again?”

“Of course you can,” I said as I roughed up his hair.

We all got back into our vehicles and headed off towards Louisiana once again.

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After stopping one more time to fuel up, and after eight hours of driving, we decided to stop for the night once we hit Perryville, Missouri. We ended up pulling off onto what once was a snowmobile trail and rode in as far as we could before parking our vehicles and stepping out. The trees were still trying to hold onto their green as September was coming to an end. Little critters scampered from here to there trying to stay out of sight. They didn’t know if we were one of those things running amok around here.

I pulled Jake to my side and said, “No running off, okay?”

“I won’t,” he said as he ran off to converse with Myles and Lacey who were sitting on a dead tree that had fallen to the ground. I looked up at the sky and saw that we had maybe a half hour or an hour left before the sun went behind the trees and created darkness everywhere. I dug through Jake’s bag of clothes from Walmart and eventually came upon a sweatshirt. I brought it over to him and told him to put it on.

Blaine came up to me and said, “You need to let me clean up your back or you’re going to get an infection.” I had completely forgotten about it until he had said something, so now I could feel them again, burning my whole back.

“Thanks for mentioning it,” I said a little sourly.

“I’m sorry Sky, but it’s got to be done.”

I followed him around back of the Escalade and he dug through the trunk for the supplies he needed. I took a quick look around to make sure nobody else was around and pulled my shirt off so Blaine could do what he had to, so I was just standing there in my bra and pants. He began spraying some peroxide on my back and I grit my teeth in pain and gripped the bumper of the vehicle.

“I’m really sorry, this must hurt terribly, that thing cut you pretty deep with four scratches.”

“Just please hurry and get it done,” I mumbled through my gritted teeth. He then applied some antibiotic ointment and spread it all around the scratched area, I continued to grip the bumper. Last but not least, he applied some wrap to it and taped it up. I threw my ripped shirt back on and then grabbed my leather jacket from the back seat and put it on.

“Thanks,” I told him. He nodded and walked away to help Callie light some lanterns.

I decided to grab something for everyone to eat for supper. I dug around to see what I could find and saw a few cans of Raviolis. I found the can opener, opened them up, and distributed a can to everybody and then handed out bottles of water. I then took a seat next to Jackson who was also sitting on a log and started eating my Raviolis.

“He’s really cute,” Jackson said.

“My brother?” I asked a little shocked.

Jackson nearly rolled backwards off of the log laughing so hard. “No not your brother, I was talking about Jake.”

I chuckled a little and turned a little red as I muttered, “Oh, my bad.” I looked over at Jake and saw him sitting on the ground making a race track in the dirt for his little cars. “Yeah, he really is. He’s a brave little guy, but I think he’s still in shock or something.”

“Why do you think that?” Jackson asked, looking at me.

“Well he hasn’t really cried for his parents or anything since that day I rescued him. It’s like it didn’t really happen in his mind.”

“Maybe that’s just the way he handles his grief Sky, by pretending it’s not real and that his parents will come back one day. He is a boy, we tend not to cry all of the time.”

I looked back at him and said, “Yeah, but he is a little kid, there’s a difference. And you know, it’s okay to cry if you’re a boy.”

He seemed to look a little sad then, but he changed that almost instantly by giving a smile and saying, “Yeah, but I’m a man.”

I rolled my eyes and punched him playfully as I said, “Yeah, sure you are.”

“Are you saying I’m not a man?” He asked jokingly.

“Oh, I’m saying you’re something,” I told him as I got up and threw my empty Ravioli can in a garbage bag. I looked up at the sky again then told everybody, “We should be getting into our vehicles soon, it’s getting dark. Everybody, make sure you lock your doors as well just as extra precaution.”

Jake started headed over to his car, but I grabbed his arm lightly, bent down, and said, “Jake, you will be staying in Blaine and Callie’s car tonight. When we leave in the morning, you can come back with me. Is that okay?” He nodded at me and headed back to join Blaine and Callie as Myles walked up to me and gave me a huge bear hug, being careful of my back.

“Hey little bro,” I said.

“Thanks for helping me back at the cabin,” he replied as he let me go.

“You’re my brother, of course I’m going to help you, you don’t have to thank me.”

“Well I love you and I just wanted to make sure that you know that.”

“Of course I know that, I love you too.” I gave him one last hug before he went back with Lacey. I walked back over to the log where Jackson was sitting and said, “Come on, you’re with me.”

“I figured I was.” He laughed and got up off the log. “You can lay down in the backseat, I will take the passenger seat.”

“You can take the back if you want,” I told him.

“No, that’s okay. You work hard every day, you need a comfortable night’s rest.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you,” as I crawled into the backseat. He laid in the passenger seat and leaned the seat back a little ways. I grabbed a sweatshirt from the back seat and used it as a pillow. I turned to lay on my side and moved a little ways from the back of the seat so that I didn’t have to lay with my back pressed to any seat.

“Do you have enough room back there?” Jackson asked me.

“Yes I do, you can lean back more if you need to.”

“I’m alright.”

“Would you like a sweatshirt to use as a pillow?”

“No, thank you though, I have the headrest.”

We laid there in silence for a while, but I just could not get to sleep. My mind was too full of everything to even shut down for a while. “Hey, are you still awake?” I heard Jackson ask.

“Yes I am, I can’t sleep.”

“Me neither.”

After a few more minutes of silence I asked, “So what was life like for you before the whole word went to shit?”

He turned on his side so he could look back at me and said, “It had its good and its bad days. My mom died of cancer when I was young, and I think that’s what really got my dad to work with the government on their project underground to find a cure for cancer. Since my father worked for the government, he wasn’t really home all that often. I’m not going to lie to you, I had a bad part of my childhood when I was a freshman in high school. Not having a mom or a dad around was tough on me, so I actually tried drugs once, but that didn’t really stick with me, it wasn’t what I needed. I even stole once and got busted by the cops. Luckily it was my first offence so they let me off free. However, I saw that it really disappointed my father and I think that’s one thing that got me to change. The one thing that really got me to change though was a girl. Her name was Mattie. We were together for almost three years until she moved a few states away. The distance wasn’t hard for me, but apparently it was for her. She ended our relationship and said that she had found somebody else. It was hard, but I got through it. From then on I really just stayed in the house besides for school and read books or played video games. I actually became quite the loner. And then all this shit started going on in the world, and you know my story from there. Sorry, that was probably a lot more than you were looking to hear,” he finished.

“No, that’s okay, I liked listening. I’m sorry about that Mattie girl, it must’ve been tough losing her after three years.”

“Yeah, it was. But then I started thinking to myself, she just must not have been the girl for me, you know? That one special person who is supposed to make your whole world just come together.”

“I understand completely. I thought I had found that person, but I guess not…” I trailed off, pushing away all of the memories.

“I’m really sorry.”

“It’s alright. Have you ever heard the quote, ‘everything happens for a reason’?”

“Yes I have.”

“Well I strongly believe in that quote. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. We may not understand that reason right away, but one day it will all become clear.”

“I think you’re right.”

“I normally am,” I said to lighten up the mood.

He let out a small chuckle as he said, “I bet you are.”

“Try to get some sleep Jackson, you’re driving tomorrow,” I told him.

“Damn,” he said as he turned around and shut his eyes. It wasn’t long before I heard his breathing steady and I knew that he was asleep. I laid there, trying to match his breathing hoping that maybe it would help me get to sleep. After a while, it eventually did help me.

“What the hell?” I mumbled under my breath as I opened the car door and got out. I maneuvered around a few abandoned cars and headed up to Blaine’s vehicle. “What’s the hold up?” Then I looked out in front of the vehicle. There were almost a dozen cars lined up in the road, and if we were to take the ditch to go around, we’d end up totaling our vehicles, it was a steep and treacherous ditch. Everybody had gotten out of their vehicles now and was gathered up by me at Blaine’s vehicle.

“Do we know another way around?” I asked Blaine.

“This is the only way I know and we don’t happen to have a map. I don’t want us getting lost,” he answered.

“What are we going to do then?”

“We can move them,” Jackson said. “Push them out into the ditch, I mean, they are useless after all.”

“What if there’s no keys in them? Do you expect me to hotwire them all? It’s going to take a while,” Myles said.

“No need to hot-wire them. If there’s no keys in the cars or if the cars don’t start, we just have to mess with the shift linkage.”

“The what?” I asked.

“Okay, don’t worry about that part, I will handle it. However, we can all start finding the vehicles that do have keys and start and get them out of the way first.”

“You heard the man, let’s get moving those cars as quickly as possibly, we’re wasting daylight,” I told everybody. I grabbed Jake’s arm and said, “Jake, please wait in our car okay? I can’t help and keep an eye on you to make sure you’re safe. Will you do that for me?” He nodded and made his way back to the Escalade.

One by one, we slowly started moving the cars out of the way that we were able to start. As we were all moving the easily moved cars, Jackson began getting underneath the cars that needed the work done with the shift linkage. Once we got all of the cars out of the way that we could manage to start, we all tried to do what we could to help Jackson.

We were just finishing the last car when I just happened to glance down the road behind us. That’s when I saw the mutants that were coming up on us pretty quickly.

“Guys let’s move!” I yelled. “We need to just drive around the last car. Hurry!” Everybody glanced back to where I was looking before moving quickly towards the vehicles. We jumped in as fast as we could, however it was not fast enough. I was just about to slam the driver’s door when a mutant shoved it’s arm into the opening, grabbed my shirt and ripped me out of the car. I landed on my back and I felt the burning sting of the deep scratches on my back rub against the tar through my jacket. I stuck one of my arms up to hold the mutant’s disgusting, splotchy face and its slimy dripping fangs away from me as I slipped my other hand down to unsheath my knife and drive it up into the mutant’s heart. I threw it off of me as I felt it go limp and glanced to see that there was only a few seconds before the other mutants would be upon us. I got into the Escalade as fast as I could and we all peeled off just as another mutant grabbed onto our bumper. I swerved the vehicle side to side until I saw the mutant fall off and tumble to the ground in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t help but flinch as I watched it skid along the road.

“It didn’t get you did it?” Jackson asked from the passenger seat as he started to pull on the collar of my jacket to look around. I shrugged him off and said, “I’m fine, it didn’t get me. I think I opened up the cuts in my back though.”

“Can I take a look at it? If it’s bleeding bad, we should really stop the bleeding.”

I blushed slightly and said, “Um, I’m actually just in my bra underneath this jacket.”

He rolled his eyes at me and asked, “Why are you just wearing your jacket and not a shirt as well?”

“After Blaine wrapped me up I didn’t bother to go and find a shirt… I just threw my jacket on,” I admitted with a small laugh.

“Well Sky, this is important okay? I promise you that I won’t look at anything but your back.”

I bit my lip nervously before looking back at Jake through the mirror and said, “Cover your eyes.” It was easy taking my shirt off for Blaine because he was like an older brother, but with Jackson… it just seemed different. I took a deep breath before leaning forward and sliding my jacket off at the same time as I payed attention to the road.

“Um, Sky, you’re bleeding pretty good. Jake, can you dig in the back for the first aid kit?”

“But Sky said I had to close my eyes. How am I going to do that with my eyes closed?”

I chuckled and said, “Jake, it’s alright, do what Jackson asked.” I could feel little trickles of blood down my back. I heard Jake rummage around for a bit before handing the kit to Jackson. He opened it up and took out some wrap and held it onto the scratches with applied pressure to stop the bleeding. My eyes began to water as I felt the wrap push into the sensitive, deep scratches on my back. To distract me from the pain, Jackson began talking to me.

“I’ve noticed that you’re always the one getting hurt, why is that?”

“Um, I guess it’s mainly because when danger gets close to my group, I jump in front of the whole group in whatever danger it may be to keep it away from the group. It’s my job to protect them.”

“Well sometimes you should let people help you, it’s not you against the world.”

“I have to protect them at all costs.”

“You can’t protect them when you’re dead.”

With that left to ponder, he began rubbing the scratches with alcohol and I couldn’t hold it in anymore, a few tears left my eyes as I gripped the steering wheel harder. I heard him mumble, “I’m sorry,” as he applied the antibiotic ointment. The pain began to feel numb as he moved onto the last steps of cleaning up around the wounds and wrapping it up.

“Am I good?” I asked.

“Yes you are.” He looked out the window as I leaned back from the steering wheel and slipped my jacket back on. I was actually a little impressed that he didn’t even sneak a peak.

“Thank you,” I told him as I moved my attention back to the road.

“It was no problem,” he said as he too, turned to look at the road ahead of us.
It was nearly dark by the time we reached the coast of Louisiana, not far from Jungle Islands. We parked the vehicles and checked around the perimeter surprisingly to find not even a single mutant. I breathed a sigh of relief. We didn’t need anymore run-ins with mutants. We searched along the beach until we found docks that had boats on them.
“Lacey and Callie, can you two search the boats and see if you can find any with spare keys hidden anywhere?” I asked.
They nodded and headed off to search boats. “Everybody else, we need to start unloading the vehicles and bringing the supplies to the boats.” We all began to carry as much as we could per trip to bring the stuff closer to the boats. Once everything was put out on the dock, Callie and Lacey came back. “The two boats on the very end of the dock had hidden keys, but we couldn’t find another one with a hidden key.”
“I can try and hotwire one,” Myles said as he headed out to hotwire a boat.
“Well let’s get some supplies loaded up into the two boats on the end,” I told everybody as we hauled the stuff to the two boats. Once Myles figured out how to get the third boat hotwired, we stuck the last of the supplies onto the third boat.
“Now, does anybody know how to drive these boats correctly?” I asked, considering they were fairly new speedboats.
“I do,” Blaine said.
“As do we,” Ryder said pointing at himself and his brother.
“Well then we have our drivers, everybody split up into the three boats.” Myles, Lacey, Ryder, and Sadie got into the first boat, Jackson, Jake, Blaine and I got into the second boat, and Callie, Liam, and Laila got into the third boat. “Blaine is in the lead, everybody else follow,” I yelled to everybody. I looked at Blaine nervously and asked, “You do know how to get there right?”
“For the most part,” he said before starting the boat and taking off.
“For the most part?” I asked him.
“Don’t worry, I will get us there.”
I sat down in one of the seats and saw Jake shivering in the seat in front of me. “Come here Bud,” I told him. He came over to me and sat on my lap and I wrapped my arms around him to keep him warm. I have no idea how long it was before we finally reached the island, but when we did reach it I was completely and utterly stunned. The house was beyond immaculate, and the island was larger than I even imagined.
The outside was made completely of bricks that were multiple colors of brown. It was literally a mansion. The roof was a light grey type of shingles and there was so many windows or all different shapes and sizes. I could tell from the outside that there would be vaulted ceilings and of all other sorts of shapes. There was patio furniture outside on the lower deck on the side, and I could tell that there was a patio around back more than likely with more patio furniture and a huge grill.
I stepped out of the boat and began making my way towards the house in awe. The walkway to the house needed the weeds cut back, but besides that, the colorful concrete walkway was beautiful. As I was approaching closer to the house, I noticed the big double glass front door. I reached for the door handle and was happy to feel that the door handle was turning to open. I pushed the door slowly open and I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped in amazement. I have never seen a house so beautiful and immaculate before. Right when you walked through the door and to the left was the huge living room. In the living room was a grand piano and richly made red furniture to match the golden colored walls. There was a huge plush red couch facing the solid marble fireplace which sat in the center of the wall. Straight ahead from the door sat the gigantic spiral staircase that led up to the second floor where I’m assuming the rooms are at.
Just to the right of the spiral staircase was the dining room. There was a huge mahogany cabinet built into the wall with very fine glasses and china inside with candles surrounding the opening of the cabinet. The tables and chairs were also made of mahogany while the chairs had red and gold colored plush seats.
I left the dining room and went past the spiral staircase and back deeper into the humongous house. There was a great room in the back that had two whole walls of windows overlooking the green backyard, the spacious greenhouse, and the trees beyond. There was also a second marble fireplace located on the one wall without windows. Right next to the great room was a bathroom that actually seemed fairly normal compared to the rest of the house. The only real fancy thing in it was the clawfoot bathtub.
On the other side of the great room was the kitchen. The kitchen was just beautiful. The cupboards were all made of some sort of wood that was painted green, and it also had a green granite island in the middle with barstools. The fridge was a double door fridge with a water and ice machine, now we no longer had to filter out our water. The microwave happened to be a hood microwave right about the chrome stove.
There was one bedroom on the main floor that was a little ways down the hall from the kitchen. It had a king bed and it was a room mostly centered around the color purple.
I then made my way back to the spiral staircase and all the way up to the second floor. Just like I had thought, the second floor was where four of the bedrooms where. Each bedroom had a king size bed, and also had a different type of look and feel to the room. For some reason each room had its own color theme. There was also a second bathroom on the upper floor. It looked exactly like the bathroom on the main floor had.
There was a four season porch that you could walk out to right next to one of the bedrooms, and like I had predicted, that too had patio furniture. There also happened to be a sunroom filled with more red and gold plush chairs, though these were recliners, and the sunroom also had some bookcases filled with books of all sorts.
I made my way back down the staircase figuring I was done touring the house until I heard Blaine chuckle at the door and say, “You aren’t going to check out the lower floor?”
“You mean there’s more?” I asked in amazement.
“There sure is, head on down.” He pointed to a staircase with red carpet that led down to a lower level right on the other side of the door. I began my way down to tour the last bit of the house. Down in the lower floor was yet another bathroom, the same as the other two, and another bedroom. This bedroom was centered around the color green and it had another few bookcases in it filled with books. I ran my fingers across the spines of the books and could feel the dust cake my fingers. They sure hadn’t been read in a while. This bedroom also had a couch and a chair unlike the other bedrooms up on the top floor.
Also on the floor was a theater room with an 85” tv centered on the wall, built in with more red plush recliners seated all around it. The shelves built into the walls were lined with movies of every genre. There was one last room on the lower floor and it was a big sitting room with yet another marble fireplace centered in the middle of the wall. They must have all of these fireplaces connected somehow. The sitting room had a big red plush couch, a tan leather love seat, and two tan leather chairs. The colors clashed with each other in a good way. They kind of accented each other.
I made my way back up to the main floor and saw everybody else looking at the house with the same look on their face as I had. As long as this place has a generator, I think we are going to enjoy this and have a great start to a new beginning.

Once we were finished unloading all of the supplies into the kitchen and we were all crowded around the island in the kitchen eating some sandwiches, I said, “So this place has a generator right?”

Blaine finished chewing and said, “It sure does, the same kind that was at the apartments. It will run for years because it was just replaced last year.”

“That’s great news.” I flipped on the kitchen light as it began to get dark outside. “And we don’t have to have lights out anymore or anything. We’re perfectly safe here.”

“It’s very nice.”

“So, the next thing we have to worry about is rooms. Who wants what room?”

“I want the blue one!” Jake piped up.

“Is everybody okay with that?” Once everybody nodded I said, “
Callie and Blaine, you two will have to share a room, Myles and Lacey will share one, Ryder and Sadie will share one, Laila and Liam will share one, and I’m sorry Jackson, but you’re going to have to sleep with me in my room since there are not enough rooms. So I’m thinking I should take the one downstairs for the fact that it also has a couch.”

“That’s fine,” everybody agreed.

“Alright, so who wants the purple room?” Sadie instantly raised her hand. “It’s all yours. Who wants the orange room?” Myles raised his hand and I nodded at him. “The dark red room?” Blaine raised his hand first however Ryder also raised his hand. “Blaine you raised your hand first. Would you like to keep the room or let Ryder have it?”

Being the nice guy that he is he said, “That’s alright Ryder can have it. That leaves us with the dark green room, correct?”

“You’d be correct. Does anybody else have anything to cover or that they object to?” Myles raised his hand. “Yes?”

“I vote that you go take a bath and the rest of us will take care of putting away supplies. You’ve been through a lot keeping the rest of us safe and to be honest, you kind of look like shit,” he said with a smile.

“Boy do I love your honesty,” I said with a laugh. “Is everybody okay with that?” They all nodded and I made my way down to the bathroom on the bottom level. I began to run some hot water and took a look at myself in the mirror. Not only was my face dirty, but so was my neck and probably the rest of my body. I took my clothes off, threw them into the corner, and began to take the wrapping off of my back. Some of the wrap was stuck on the scratches because of dried blood and pus and it hurt bad to rip the wrap off. A few spots began to bleed and I could see that these scratches were definitely going to leave scars, the cuts were fairly deep. I eased my way into the bathtub and nearly let out a scream once my back touched the hot water and the scratches burned even more, however it stopped the bleeding.

I had no idea how long I was soaking in the bath for, all I know is that my fingers and toes were pruned by the time I got out and that I felt totally refreshed. I wrapped myself with a towel and then realized that I hadn’t brought any clean clothes down with me. I opened the bathroom door and yelled out to Callie, “Callie, can you bring me some of my clothes down?”

She yelled back, “All of your things are already in your room if you want to just head in there and change.”

“Thank you! Can you have Blaine head down here in about fifteen minutes to wrap my back?”

“I sure can.”

With that, I made my way into my new room and when I opened the door I realized that Jackson and I had a walk-in closet. I shut the closet door, let go of my towel and began to dig through my clothes on the floor. I saw that I even got some of the Walmart clothes, just my type of clothes too. As I was digging, I heard the closet door open and turned to see Jackson standing in the doorway who immediately closed his eyes and started repeatedly saying, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you were in here, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see anything I promise.”

I quickly grabbed my towel and wrapped it back around me. “Jackson! Didn’t you hear Callie and I talking?!” My face turned extremely red as I began fumbling for clothes. Jackson back out of the closet and shut it as he said through the door, “No I didn’t, I was outside for a while looking around, checking out the area, I’m really sorry, nobody told me. I was going to come down and grab some clothes so I could shower as well.” I looked to the side and saw another pile of clothes which I’m assuming are Jackson’s.

I threw on some undergarments, a pair of black leggings, and a lime green v-neck t-shirt with a chest pocket on the front. I walked out of our closet, still with a red face and asked Jackson who was sitting on the bed, “So you didn’t see anything?”

“No I didn’t.”

“Good,” I said as I walked out of the bedroom and headed back towards the bathroom. As I reached the bathroom, Blaine came down the stairs with all of this medical stuff.

“Ready?” He asked.

“Yeah I am.”

“Why’s your face so red?” He asked as I was slipping my shirt back off.

“Jackson walked in on me changing,” I admitted as he began to clean the scratches out.

“Oh no, and did he see anything?”

“Well he says he didn’t, but maybe he was just saying that for my benefit,” I replied with a slightly fake laugh. Once my scratches were all wrapped I asked, “So how long do I have to keep them wrapped? When can I stop getting them wrapped?”

“Well they’re still kind of bad, but I’d say as long as you’re not doing anything that will rip them back open after they scab, this should be the last time.”

“That’s great news doc, thanks.”

He nodded and we both headed out the bathroom door as Jackson headed in to shower. “Is everything put away upstairs?” I asked before he headed up the stairs.

“It is, everything is where it belongs. Tomorrow Sadie and Laila said they will start planting some seeds in the greenhouse.”

“That’s great, thank you. I’m going to put our stuff away in our room, I will be up in a little bit.” I headed into the closet in our room and hung up all of Jackson’s and my clothes and laid out our very few pairs of shoes along the floor against the wall in the closet. I was just beginning to put our weapons under the bed when Jackson came in with just a towel around his waist and water dripping from his hair. I had to admit, he looked pretty damn gorgeous. And my was he very toned. I looked away from him and went back to arranging our weapons under the bed.

“Sorry, I would’ve changed in the bathroom if I would’ve known you were in here,” he said.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I can leave for a second if you would like to change,” I said, looking back towards him.

“That’s alright, I will use the closet,” he said with a slight laugh. He walked into the closet and shut the door. Through the door he called out, “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

“Just figured it would be more home-like.”

“I like it.”

“Well I’m going to see how Jake is doing,” I said as I left the room. It seemed a little awkward between us now considering he may or may not have seen me completely naked. I made my way upstairs and knocked on Jake’s bedroom door, but there was no answer. I walked into the kitchen and saw Myles washing up some dishes that got dirty on the journey here. “Hey, do you know where Jake is?”

“He’s out back playing basketball, there’s half a basketball court out in the backyard.”

“In the dark by himself??” I asked appalled, my heart speeding up quickly.

“Hey, it’s completely safe here, Jackson and I did a perimeter check while you were in the back and then Jackson taught Jake how to make a basket. And there are yard lights out there, it isn’t dark.”

My heart began to slow down slightly as I grabbed a glass and some water from the fridge door. I headed to the back sliding glass doors to peer outside. There Jake was, tossing a basketball up into the hoop. I went out and sat on the lawn to watch him. “So, how do you like the place?”

“I love it,” he said happily as he threw the basketball at the hoop again.

“I’m glad you like it.”

“It gets a little lonely though not having any kids my age to play with,” he said honestly.

“I know Bud, maybe soon we will find a family with a kid for you to play with.”

As I was taking a drink of my water, Jake asked, “Why don’t you and Jackson just have a baby for me to play with?” I choked on the water that I was swallowing and spit out the rest all over the ground.
“Um, Jake, Jackson and I aren’t… together,” I said for lack of a better explanation.
“Oh, okay,” he said as his face fell a little.
“Don’t worry Jake, I bet we will find somebody for you to play with before you even know it.”
He nodded at me and began to throw the basketball at the hoop again. “Did you get your room all organized and get all of your stuff in it?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Alright Bud, just be careful out here okay?” I said as I took a few steps back towards the door.
“I will,” he replied as I walked back inside the house. Everybody was sitting around the table in the dining room and I sat down to join them. I looked around at everybody and said, “So I think that tomorrow, Blaine, Jackson, Myles, and I should go back to the city and look around for survivors, or for any signs of survivors. It’s been a while since we’ve gone out to do that.”
“You mean Blaine, Jackson, and Myles?” Blaine asked.
“No, I meant what I said.”
“And you heard what I said when I told you not to do anything to open those scabs back up on your back. If a fight or something were to happen tomorrow, they would more than likely open up.”
I grit my teeth, a little upset that I couldn’t go. “I don’t want Myles going without me with,” I told everyone.
Myles gave me sort of a death glare as he said, “Please don’t start this again. You know I can handle myself, I’m not a child. I will be with Jackson and Blaine.”
“You guys seriously go out and risk your lives just to go out and look on the chance that there’s any survivors left? Don’t you think that’s stupid?” Ryder asked.
“We saved your sorry ass didn’t we?” I replied.
I watched him basically bite his tongue as he leaned back in his chair. I saw Sadie rub his arm soothingly to cool him down.
“I will even accompany them if that makes you feel any better,” Liam spoke up.
“Liam, don’t you think for one second that you are going out there to risk your life,” Ryder said, basically slamming his fist down on the table.
“Ryder stop your nonsense, there’s other people out there they may need our help like these guys helped us. Should we just leave them out there to die? Is that what you were taught with the army?”
“Don’t even bring the army into this. These are different times.”
“No, they’re really not. It all depends on your perception of it. We are all trying to survive in the world, just like we had to survive in the world when it wasn’t all to shit. They’re just different kinds of surviving.”
With that, Ryder got up and just as he left the room he turned back and said, “Do whatever the hell you want.” Sadie gave us a small apologetic smile and followed Ryder out of the room.
“He’s kind of right Liam, I don’t want you to risk your life out there,” Laila said while looking directly at him.
“I will be okay, I promise.” After giving her a soft little kiss on the lips, Laila said nothing to object.
I sighed and said, “Fine. Myles, Jackson, Blaine, and Liam, you guys can head out tomorrow. Just all of you be careful, safe, and cautious.”
They all gave a nod before I said, “Now everybody should go head to bed, it’s going to be a busy day tomorrow.” I walked out of the room and went to get Jake from outside. “Come on buddy, bed time. There’s going to be a lot to do tomorrow.” He ran inside and I brought him to his room, gave him pajamas to slip on, and tucked him into bed.
“Goodnight Jake.”
“Wait,” he said as he pulled my face down and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you bud, goodnight, sweet dreams.”
“Goodnight.”
I left his room, said goodnight to everybody else who was making their way up the stairs and followed Jackson down to our room. Jackson had already laid out a pillow and blanket on the couch.
“Does it pull out?” I asked him.
“No it doesn’t, I checked.”
“Well it doesn’t look very comfortable to sleep on.”
“I will be alright, it will be better than the Walmart floor.”
“You know, it’s a king bed. I can share if you’d like to sleep on it. You’d get a better nights sleep.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive,” I said as I crawled onto one side of the bed. It was a Tempur Pedic bed, very comfortable. Jackson walked around to the other side and crawled in. There was plenty of room for the two of us with room between us to spare.
“Goodnight Jackson.”
“Goodnight.”
No matter how long I laid there with my eyes shut, I could not get myself to fall asleep. I tossed and turned and tried no blankets and blankets but nothing seemed to work. It seemed like an hour later I finally began to drift to sleep, however, it was no more than two hours later that my nightmares woke me up in a light sweat. I listened next to me and gladly heard that I had not woken Jackson up, his breathing was nice and even. I rolled out of bed as quietly as possible and headed into the sitting room and tossed some wood in the fireplace that must’ve been left here from the last time anybody was here. I made a fire and sat down on the comfy couch, basking in the heat from the fireplace.
“You couldn’t sleep either?” I jumped as I heard somebody call from behind me. I turned to see Ryder standing in the doorway of the sitting room. I turned back to the fire and said, “I can’t most nights, it’s not really anything new.”
“Nightmares?” He asked as he sat in a chair that was sitting kitty-corner to the couch.
“How did you know?” I asked.
“Because I get them too, every night. However, mine are from the war, I bet yours are from something different.”
“You have nightmares from the war?”
“Every night.”
“What from?”
He pulled his shirt off and pointed right below the collarbone on the shoulder. There was a circular scar located there. He turned slightly so that I could see his back, and in the same spot as the front, there was a similar circular scar though a little bigger.
“You were shot?” I asked.
“I was, and that was why I was pulled from the war.”
“How’d you get shot?”
“To put it simply, the troop was way outnumbered and we were being shot at from everywhere. We made it out of the building that we were in and were backing out when I realized that we were missing somebody. I ran back inside to save him. I got shot in the process, but I got him out unharmed.”
“That was very brave of you.” I was not used to seeing this side of Ryder where he wasn’t being all sarcastic and angry, it was very different.
“I just did what any good man would’ve done.”
“What about Liam? Was he at war with you?”
“Luckily he hadn’t been enlisted in the war yet before all of this happened. He’s just got all of the training, but none of the nightmares.”
“I bet he was very worried and so was Sadie when they were told you were shot in the war.”
“Yes they were, they would’ve leave me be for weeks,” he said with a light chuckle.
“It was only because they really care about you.”
“That is very true, enough about my nightmares though. What could yours possibly be about?”
I went into the whole story of Nathan and what happened, though this time there was no way I would let tears fall in front of Ryder, he already thought of me as not being the greatest choice for a leader.
“That must’ve been a terrible thing to go through,” he told me sincerely.
“Yeah it’s terrible, and there’s no way to stop the nightmares from coming.”
“I understand what you mean, I’ve tried everything.”
I laid my head against the arm of the couch and said, “I understand why you don’t see me as much of a leader. I just let people get eaten alive, I just left Nathan there.”
“He gave his life to protect you because he knew that you would do great things, don’t let him down Sky. I’m beginning to see why you are the leader around here. You are a very bright young lady and you’re a quick thinker. And I also realized that you guys are all right about trying to find survivors. They deserve to be helped too. I’m sorry about the way I’ve been acting, I’ve just grown up learning that I have to be tough and do what I have to, to survive.”
“I understand, it’s okay. How did you and Sadie meet?” I asked, to get off of anymore bad subjects. I hadn’t realized how tired I was until Ryder began to tell stories of him and Sadie together, and I realized that she is what gets him by. It must be very nice to have somebody like that. As he told his stories I began to get sleepier and sleepier just like a kid being told a bedtime story. I ended up falling asleep in the middle of one of his stories.

When I woke up, I was laying in the bed all huddled in the blankets with Jackson asleep beside me. Ryder must’ve brought me in here once I fell asleep. I must’ve been in a deep sleep because usually I would wake up if I was picked up when I was sleeping. I looked at the time on the big clock on the wall and saw that it was seven o’clock. I jostled Jackson gently to wake him up. He must not have realized that I was trying to wake him up because he just mumbled something and rolled over onto his other side so his back was to me. I pushed on his back a little more forcely, rocking him to wake up him.

“Just another hour dad,” he mumbled as he swatted my hands away.

“Dad?” I asked myself very quietly with a laugh. I began roughing up his hair and saying, “Come on sunshine, time to wake up.”

When he still didn’t wake up, I did what I had to do. I looked over the side of the bed and realized that it wasn’t that long of a fall. I shrugged my shoulders, put my feet on his back, and pushed him gently off the bed. I heard him give a little yell as he fell off the side of the bed and landed on the floor with a slight thump.

“Damn Sky, what was that for? Did I hit you in my sleep or something?” He asked as he got up to his knees and looked at me on the bed.

“You wouldn’t wake up, it’s time to get up. You even called me dad.”

He laughed and said, “Oops, my bad.”

He got up from the floor and stretched out. “I don’t want to sleep in here anymore with you,” he said sarcastically.

“Well maybe you should get up next time.”

“Quite rude awakenings.”

“Well it’s your fault.”

He stuck his tongue out at me like a mad little five year old and said, “You’re an asshole.”

I laughed, shrugged, and said, “Hey, it’s who I am.”

He rolled his eyes and headed to the closet to get dressed for the day. I got up and made my way to the bathroom to brush my hair and my teeth before walking up to the kitchen to see Lacey beginning breakfast.

“What’s for breakfast this morning?” I asked as I sat on a bar stool at the island.

“Well I began getting ingredients together to get more fresh bread baking, but for breakfast, we are having blueberry muffins to get everybody charged for the day. I found three packs of them to make that we must’ve forgot about, and I figured why not something good this morning? It’s going to be a long day.”

“That was a very good decision.” Then out of nowhere, I got an idea. “Do you think that there are anymore cows and chickens anywhere that would still be alive?”

Sadie walked in and said, “Chickens would be easier to find. If cows do not get milked every so often, they develop a disease and die off. And if you were to get chickens, it would probably be a good idea to build a chicken coop and some fence around it so you don’t have chickens running around and shitting everywhere. And if you were to have any chance of finding cows, you would have to find a farmer that is still alive and taking care of his cows.” She sat down next to me on a barstool.

“I think that is something we need to look into sometime soon when we are all settled in,” I told the two.

“That would be a very good idea because then we would have fresh milk, fresh eggs, and meat if we wanted. However, you’d need to get the chickens and cows across the ocean to this island.”

“Yeah, that would be the tricky part, and finding them.”

“And we would have to run and get hay occasionally.”

“Well it’s just something to think about. By the way, where’s Myles?”

“He’s still sleeping, I didn’t want to wake him up,” Lacey said as she pulled the muffins from the oven and the sweet smell of blueberry muffins emanated throughout the room. I took a big whiff in and felt like I was in heaven. However, I had to go wake Myles up. I bounded up the stairs and barged into Myles’ room and jumped up onto the bed jumping around.

“Myles, time to get up sleepy-head,” I said as I continued to jump around on the bed, bouncing him up and down. He grabbed a pillow and threw it at me, hitting me in the face. I picked the pillow up and smacked him in the chest with it repeatedly. I heard him laughing as he kept saying, “Alright, alright, stop, I’m up.” I laid down next to him and stared at the ceiling.

“Lacey made us all blueberry muffins this morning, you missed out because you slept in so late, now you have to eat some fruit.”

“Are you kidding me?” He asked jumping up from the bed and throwing on his jeans from the day before, his hair all disheveled.

“No I’m not kidding you, that’s what you get for sleeping in until ten.”

“It’s ten o’clock?!” He asked as he ran towards the door. “Damn it.”

I ran after him all the way down the stairs and into the kitchen where he stopped dead and stared at the muffins on the counter. He turned and gave me a sarcastic evil glare. “I hate you,” he said.

“I love you,” I said with a laugh.

Everybody made their way into the kitchen and had themselves a nice warm blueberry muffin, and let me just say something, we definitely savored those delicious muffins. It has been a while since we’ve had something so dilectable. I looked around and noticed that Jake had not joined us for breakfast. I grabbed a muffin and made my way to Jake’s room and opened the door quietly and went to the side of his bed. I gently shook his shoulder to try and wake him. After a few shakes from me, he pulled the covers from his face and let out a raspy cough.
“Hey bud, are you alright?”
“I don’t feel very well.”
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m just really cold and I got a stuffy nose and a cough,” he said
through a few coughs.
“Maybe you’re getting a cold, you should just stay in bed today.
Would you like a blueberry muffin?” I asked as I handed it to him.

“Yes please.” He grabbed the muffin and took a few bites. “This is really good.”

“I will bring you some soup for lunch if I can find some, maybe that will help your cold. You should get some rest though,” I said as I tucked the blankets back around him. I kissed his forehead, messed up his hair, and left his room shutting the door quietly.

“Everything okay?” Jackson asked. “I came up to give him one as well,” he said, holding up a muffin.

“He’s actually coming down with a cold I think, I told him to just rest and that I’d bring him soup for lunch if we have any.”

“Poor little guy, I hope he feels better soon.”

“It should only last a day or two, I’m pretty sure it’s just a cold.”

“Well that is good I suppose,” he said as he followed me down the stairs. Everybody was still sitting in the kitchen so I said, “Alright everybody, Jake has a cold, so if we could try to keep quiet in the house so he can rest, that would be great. Most of the things we have to do today involve being outside anyways. Boys, when are you guys leaving?”

“I was thinking around noon,” Blaine spoke up.

“Alright, that is good, then you boys can help here for a while. Myles, I would like you to please check on the generator, just make sure everything is working correctly. Ryder, can you and Liam do one more perimeter check just to be safe? And Blaine, can you just organize what we have for medical supplies and see if you can find something for Jake to take to help his cold?”

Everybody nodded so I moved on to the girls. “Lacey, you made breakfast, so you can take a rest for a little bit, you will just be the cook for the day. Callie, can you cover the laundry? Which means everybody get your laundry to the laundry room in your own laundry baskets before anything else. Sadie and Laila, I will get you guys the seeds that we have, if you two could start the work in the greenhouse that would be great. I will begin to clean the house and take care of all of the dust and cobwebs, and make this place look… even more brand new.”

Everybody nodded their heads and went off their separate ways. I found where the seeds were stashed and gave them to Sadie and Laila before bringing my dirty laundry down to the laundry room. I searched under the sink for some cleaning supplies, found a rag, and began to basically clean the house from top to bottom. I got through a floor and a half before I realized that it was reaching noon.

I searched through our canned foods looking for any kind of soup, and luckily I found one can of chicken noodle soup. I dumped it into a bowl, heated it up and brought it into Jake’s room. I gently woke him up.

“Sit up bud, I got you some chicken noodle soup.”

He coughed a few times and sat up, taking the bowl. “Is there anything else you need?” I asked.

“Can I lay in here and watch a movie?”

I looked over and noticed for the first time that there was a TV in his room right along with a DVD player. “You sure can, what would you like to watch?”

“Do we have Turbo?”

“I’m not sure, I will go check.” I ran downstairs and began searching through the movies. I was happy to find that there was a whole shelf dedicated to kids’ movies. I looked through every title, and the very last title just happened to be Turbo. I brought it up to his room and stuck the movie in. “Anything else?”

“No, that’s alright, thank you,” he said as he pulled the covers up higher.

“Let me know if you need anything,” I told him as I left his room and went to find the boys; they should be leaving soon. I found them all huddled together in the great room coming up with a game plan.

“You guys be safe alright? I mean it.”

“We will, don’t worry.” Myles got up and gave me a huge hug. I hugged him back tightly and whispered in his ear, “Don’t do anything stupid. None of you.”

He kissed my cheek and rolled his eyes at me before going back to huddle with Blaine, Jackson, and Liam. I went to the kitchen and brought them all back a pb&j sandwich before I got back to my duties of cleaning up the house. After a little while of cleaning, I heard one of the boats pull away and I silently hoped to myself that everybody would be okay, and that nothing bad would happen to any of them.

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When my cleaning was finished, it was about three o’clock. I peaked into Jake’s room and saw that he was asleep. I put my wrist to his forehead and felt that he had a slight temperature. I wonder if Blaine found anything for him to take? I pulled the covers up around him and very quietly left his room and made my way out to the greenhouse to see if Laila and Sadie needed some help. I walked inside and saw pots and plant holders of all shapes and sizes, hanging and sitting on shelves. Laila and Sadie were in the middle of planting some tomato seeds when I asked, “Do you guys need help with anything?”

“If you would like, you could start watering the seeds we have already planted. There’s a hose by the back door,” Laila said.

I grabbed the house and turned it on, watering the plants that I could see had been planted. When I was finished Sadie placed her hand on my arm and motioned for me to follow her outside.

“Hey, is something wrong?” I asked.

“I am not sure if Ryder has apologized, but I would like to apologize for how he has been acting.”

“Oh, there’s no worries, him and I chatted last night about everything and I understand,” I replied with a small smile.

“Oh that is good to hear,” she said cheering up slightly.

“Him and his brother just had a tough childhood. Liam took it differently than Ryder did which is why they seem so opposite. Ryder is more independent and stubborn than Liam ever will be. It’s not often that people other than me get to see the soft and gentle side of him, so if he showed it to you last night, that must mean that he approves of you.”

“I’m pretty sure that is a very good thing to hear. Tention within the group is not a good thing and I’m glad Ryder and I could work things out.”

She was about to walk away when I grabbed her arm gently and said, “He loves you very much you know. You’re the one that holds him together and keeps him strong, you keep him going.”

She looked at me sincerely and said, “You really think I am?”

“I know you are, I can tell.”

She surprised me by giving me a hug and I hugged her back. “The others may not say it, but I will. Thank you for saving us back there and letting us join your group,” she said as she pulled away from the hug.

“You are very welcome,” I said as I headed back towards the house to check on Callie down in the laundry room.

“Need some help?” I asked.

She pointed to the laundry baskets and said, “If you could help me bring these laundry baskets to the rooms that they belong to that would be great.”

“Sure thing.” I helped her bring the baskets to the rooms that they belonged to, but stopped her before she could head off someplace else. “Hey, I have to ask you something.”

“Yes?”

“Anything going on between you and Blaine?” I asked with a wiggle of my eyebrows and a quick laugh.

I saw her turn a little red and then say, “Nope, absolutely nothing at all.”

“I think you’re lying to me,” I said, nudging her arm.

“No I’m not.”

“You are too, let me in on this secret.”

She sighed. “Alright, alright, we kind of maybe sort of like each other.”

“Ooooooo.” I winked at her and she blushed even more, making her freckles stick out more than usual.

“Oh stop, it’s nothing serious as of now.”

“Keep me updated,” I told her as I winked at her again and bounded up the stairs. I was about to go check on Jake when I heard the boat pull up to the dock. I rushed outside and to the dock just as the boys were getting out of the boat. None of them seemed hurt, nobody were missing, nobody had scratches or marks or bites. I cheered silently to myself as I ran up to my brother and gave him another big hug.

“I told you we’d be okay,” he said with a chuckle.

“I worry,” I replied as I pulled away. “Didn’t find anybody?” I asked the group.

“There were signs of survivors in places, but we couldn’t exactly track them to a specific place,” Blaine told me.

“They’re smart survivors,” Liam added.

“Well I’m just glad everybody is okay. Perhaps on the next trip in we can find them.”

We all started walking back towards the house and Jackson asked, “How is Jake doing?”

“He’s upstairs asleep. I brought him soup for lunch, and a little later I felt his forehead and he’s getting a fever. I just really hope things get better rather than worse.”

“Agreed. I will go spend a little time with him.” Once we entered the house, Jackson made his way to Jake’s room and I asked Blaine, “Did you find any medicine for Jake?”

“I found some nasal decongestion and gave him one of those pills, but that’s all I could find that would help his cold.”

“Well I can feel that he’s getting a fever now, is that normal?”

“It’s his body’s way of fighting off the cold. If it gets any worse, that is when we should be concerned, but right now, don’t worry.”

I nodded at him and watched him head down the hall to give Callie and big hug. She saw me watching so I winked at her yet again and saw her blush. I laughed to myself and went to see if Lacey needed any help with supper. Tonight, Lacey was making beef soup out of cans for supper. I helped her dish out everyone’s bowl of soup and distributed it among everybody. I brought Jackson, Jake’s, and my own soup up to Jake’s room and we stayed in the room and ate with Jake.

“Feeling any better buddy?” I asked him.

“Um, my nose is a little less stuffy, but not really.”

“You’ll get better soon, don’t worry,” Jackson told him just as Jake had a fit of coughs.

When we were finished eating, I tucked Jake in and kissed his forehead while Jackson grabbed everybody’s dishes. “Goodnight Jake.”

“Goodnight guys,” I heard as we shut the door.

“He sounds terrible,” Jackson said as we were walking to the kitchen.

“I know he does, I just really hope that he gets better soon. I hate that we don’t have any good medicine for him.”

“If he’s not better within two days, I say we go into town and raid some places to look for medicine. I think we will need to search for more food soon anyways.”

“You’re absolutely right, and we also need to go back out and try looking for those survivors again.”

“I say we give it a week for that, let things calm down in town.”

I stopped dead in my tracks and said, “What do you mean? What happened in town?”

“Oops, I wasn’t supposed to tell you this.”

I punches his arm lightly. “Damnit Jackson what happened when you guys went to town?”

“Alright, let’s just say that we came into a group of mutants and caused a ruckus, and stirred some of the mutants up. That is all you need to know.”
“Ugh! That is the last time that I send a full group of males in to get a job done. It’s not play time out there you know, it’s life or death.”
“Calm down, we were just having a little fun.”
“Fun is not what has to happen when you are all out there
risking your damn lives.”

“Alright, it won’t happen again.”

I clenched my fists together and calmed down before saying, “No, it won’t happen again because I will be going out on every trip into town from now on. If anybody is going to die out there, it’s not going to be because everybody was just ‘having fun’.”

We both shut up then because we entered the kitchen where everybody was still eating their supper. “How’s Jake doing?” Blaine asked.
We sat down with the rest of the group as I answered, “His cough is getting worse, other than that there really isn’t any change.”
“That can be a good thing, that could mean that the sickness has hit its high and can only go down from here.”
“I truly hope so. If he’s not better within two days a couple of us
need to make a run into town to find some medicine.”
“I will go,” Jackson volunteered.
“And obviously I am going,” I said. “Two more would be great.”
“Ryder and I will go, anything to help,” Sadie offered. I was a little impressed that Ryder didn’t object to the idea.
“Thank you guys, we will give his sickness two days before we head out.”
For the rest of the night, we really all just did our own thing. I
figured that I haven’t read in a while, so I made my way down to the sitting room with all of the bookshelves. I skimmed each and every title trying to find a good book that would capture my attention. I eventually settled with a book called Divergent. It just seemed like my kind of book and the cover really captured my attention. I took the book into my room and settled into my bed with it and flicked the lamp on. As I began reading, I thought to myself that I would enjoy this book.
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“Sky, wake up,” somebody was saying as the jostled me awake. I must’ve fallen asleep while I was reading. The book was laying on the nightstand so Jackson must’ve put it up for me. I opened my eyes and saw Jackson standing next to the bed. I peaked at the clock and saw that it was six in the morning.
“Jackson, why are you waking me up so early? Go back to bed.”
“No, come on, I want to show you something.”
“Show me something? Where at?” I asked while rubbing my eyes.
“We have to walk through the woods, but trust me it’s worth it.”
“Are you serious Jackson? Really?”
“Yes, please, come on! I promise that you will like it. I came across it the last time I was doing a perimeter check.”
“Fine,” I grumbled as I rolled out of bed. I followed Jackson up the stairs and we put our shoes on and Jackson grabbed a flashlight. The sun wouldn’t be rising for another hour, it was still dark outside. He grabbed my hand and pulled me eagerly after him into the woods. We had been walking for about fifteen minutes when I said, “You better hope you know where you’re going.”
“Oh I know where I’m going, we’re almost there.”
Not too long after that was said, we made our way out of the
woods and out onto beach sand. I looked out at the clear ocean and could hear the waves making their way onto the beach. From here, it’s like I could see the whole sky. The stars were huge and shining brightly, and the moon was lighting up the whole beach. “It’s beautiful,” I said more to myself than to Jackson.
“Wait, there’s something else too.” He brought me over to a hammock that was hanging between two trees.
“Is it sturdy?” I asked.
“Yes it is, I tested it out, hop on.”
I sat on the hammock and looked out over the beach and the ocean. Jackson went to sit down next to me and we both just kept sliding into each other in the middle. “I’m sorry,” he said honestly.
“It’s alright,” I told him, resting my head on his shoulder. “It’s more comfy this way anyways.”
“You’re right.” For a while we both just laid there and listened to
the waves clap against the beach and insects make noise within the woods.
“I’m glad you woke me,” I said to break the silence.
“I told you that you would like it.”
“You were absolutely right.”
It was silent again for a little bit before Jackson said, “Can I admit something to you?”
“Sure you can.”
“I think that you are the best person for a leader in this group, no matter what anybody else thinks.”
“You really mean that?” I turned my head to look up at him.
“I really do. And um…” he trailed off as he looked into my eyes sincerely. I kept looking at him waiting for him to go on. “I think I like you.”
That is when my heart stopped completely, I definitely did not see that coming. Nobody has had any emotion for me like that since Nathan. I was not used to it, and it actually kind of hurt a little bit because it reminded me of Nathan. It actually brought some tears to my eyes.
“Sky?” Jackson asked.
“I’m sorry, I can’t…” I trailed off as I got up and started walking away, leaving him on the hammock.
“Sky? What’s wrong?”
I started jogging as I entered the woods. It was now light enough that I could see the path that we took to got here. I just wanted to put enough distance between Jackson and I right now. Once I couldn’t hear him behind me anymore, I slowed down to a walk. That’s when my mind began running in so many different places. Why did I just leave him back there? Who knows what he thinks of me now. Jackson is a great guy, and I probably just blew whatever chance I had with him. I wiped the tears from my face and took a few seconds to bring Nathan into my mind. I love him, but I couldn’t hold onto him forever. He wouldn’t want me to stay miserable. What Jackson said just shocked me because I haven’t had any emotions like I felt towards him since Nathan, and I just didn’t know what to do about it. I just needed a little while to sort my mind out. When I reach the house, I just went right up to Jake’s room to see if he was any better this morning.
He was still asleep, so I just felt his forehead which was still pretty hot. However, he had chills because his arms had goosebumps. I pulled the blankets up around him and just sat there next to his bed, waiting for him to wake up.

Two days have passed and nothing has really gotten better. It’s now been a little awkward between Jackson and I, not saying much, and still sleeping in the same bed. Also, Jake’s symptoms have gotten worse. The chills were getting worse, he was beginning to be nauseous, he won’t get up to do anything because it tires him out, his breathing is labored at times, and his cough was even worse; Blaine thinks it’s now pneumonia. I am very worried.
“What kind of medicine do we need to get him?” I asked Blaine as Jackson, Ryder, and Sadie were still getting ready to head into town.
“I’m not sure if it’s viral or bacterial, so you’re going to have to pick up either doxycycline or amoxicillin. Other than that, just rest and home treatments will have to be used. If those don’t work and his health continues to decline…” he trailed off because I knew the rest. I ignored that fact and asked, “Where can we most likely find these things?”
“Either a drug store or a hospital. They wouldn’t be anywhere else because they can’t be sold over the counter, you need a prescription.”
“Alright, well whichever we see first will be the one we go with.”
“Be safe out there,” he said as he gave me a quick hug.
“Always am,” I replied before walking out the front door. I could see that Ryder and Sadie were already to the boat, getting it started. I caught Jackson just as he came out the door.
“Can I talk to you?” I asked him.
“Of course you can.”
I shut the door and said, “I’m really sorry about what happened the other night, I shouldn’t have acted like that.”
“It’s really alright.”
“No, it’s not. I realized in these past two days that I feel the same way about you, and that we never know how much time we have left anymore and we have to live it to the fullest with the people we care about.” I saw that Jackson was just staring into my eyes but I couldn’t tell if my apology was enough, so I just went on. “It’s just that I’ve never felt like this since Nathan and I think that’s really what got to me, but I realized that he would want me to be happy and I am always happy around you and…” I could go on anymore because Jackson leaned down quickly and kissed me right on the lips. His lips touch mine gently and softly at first, but soon he kissed me a little harder before pulling me in for a hug. “You don’t have to keep apologizing,” he told me. “I understand.” I hugged him back tightly before we headed down to join Ryder and Sadie.
“Is everything ready to go?” I asked.
“As long as you two have your weapons, we’re all set,” Ryder said.
Once we pulled away on the boat I told everyone, “We need to either hit a hospital or a drug store, whichever we see first. And we are looking for either doxycycline or amoxicillin. Better yet, we will grab those drugs and load up on anymore that we find will be useful. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Jackson grabbed my hand and squeezed it because somehow he could sense that I was very worried about Jake, or maybe it’s because he was just as worried as I was. When we pulled up to the docks, we all pulled out our guns and looked around. There were not mutants in sight quite yet. I whispered, “Does anybody know where we could find a drug store around here?”
“I’m assuming it would be on a main street, it shouldn’t be too far from here,” Sadie spoke up.
“Great, that’s where the mutants are located most of the time so we have to be careful. We need to skirt around the back of the buildings and keep our eyes open,” I told them.
Everybody nodded and we kept our guns drawn as they followed me to the nearest building. We peaked around the side and saw a mutant standing in the middle of the road just searching for food, looking this way and back. I held a finger to my lips and motioned everybody to keep following me. We ran from one building to the next without the mutant so much as catching a single glimpse of us. When we hit the next street intersection, I was overjoyed. There across the road was a pharmacy. I silently cheered in my head and pointed to the building for everybody to see. We took a quick check around and saw another single mutant standing on the sidewalk right next to the building that we were behind. Ryder stepped to the side of me, took aim at the mutant and threw his knife. He hit the mutant dead center in the heart and we watched as it collapsed down to the ground. Ryder went and took his knife back, wiping it off on the mutant’s shredded clothing. We then booked it across the street and into the pharmacy, ducking behind one of the shelves.
I motioned for Ryder and Sadie to go one way and Jackson and I to go the other to search the store for a mutant. Each of us went our different ways and luckily came across no mutants whatsoever. “I think we’re clear,” I said as we each got up from our crouches and began searching for useful drugs. I grabbed a basket from the front and began throwing cold and flu medicines, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and all other useful drugs into it. I nearly had a full basket when Sadie spoke up, “I found what we need.” She tossed me bottle after bottle as I threw them into my basket. “We should get out of here now,” I was saying just as Sadie accidentally backed into one of the shelves and knocked it down. It made a very loud crash as everything fell off of it onto the floor along with the shelf itself. Mere seconds later, a mutant came crashing through the door, then another, and another.
“Get out of here! Get the medicine to Jake!” Ryder yelled as the two began taking on the mutants. I was about to throw the basket down and pull my gun out when Jackson yanked me back with him. Two more mutants came crashing through the windows and all of them growled a nasty, hungry, deep growl.
“Get out of here!” Ryder said more loudly.
“Let’s go, there’s too many,” Jackson said as he was pulling me back towards the rear exit. All of the mutants were focused on Sadie and Ryder in the front, they didn’t even notice us.
“I’m not leaving more people to die, I did it once I’m not doing it again,” I said angrily.
“There are too many, we will all die here and Jake might too if he doesn’t get this medicine!” Jackson said loudly.
“GO!” Ryder yelled as he brought a mutant to the ground.
Jackson yanked my arm, dragging me out of the back of the store as I fought him all of the way. I set the basket down on the ground and looked at him angrily. “We have to go back in!”
“There are too many! Ryder told us to go!”
I tried hitting Jackson repeatedly in the chest but he grabbed my arms and held me close to him to stop me from flailing. I began to tear up as I kept mumbling, “I’m leaving more people to die.”
“Don’t think of it like that, that’s not how it is. Now come on, we need to get out of here.”
I was about to pick the basket up and start running when I realized that it had got silent around us. I ran back inside the pharmacy just before Jackson got ahold of my arm. I looked around and didn’t see a single mutant or person inside. What could have happened? I looked down and saw something silver on the ground. I walked over and picked it up. Whatever it was, it was covered in blood, human blood. I wiped it off on my pants and realized that it was Ryder’s dogtag, the one that Sadie always wore around her neck. It had been ripped off. I could do nothing but stare at it for a while. I jumped when Jackson put his hand on my shoulder and pulled me into him. I hadn’t realized that I was crying. I sobbed into Jackson’s shoulder as I mumbled, “Just like Nathan, I left them to die.”
“No, just like Nathan, they wanted you to leave so you could do better things in the world. They knew that if you didn’t get these drugs to Jake that he may die. It’s what they wanted.” I didn’t know if what he was saying could fully take away the guilt or not, but I just nodded my head and took the basket from Jackson. I knew one thing, that we had to get out of here before more things came. We went out the back and skirted around more buildings before cutting across the road and back to our boat. That’s when I realized that we had nobody that knew how to drive the boat anymore.
“I think I can figure it out. I kept an eye on Ryder when he was doing it,” Jackson said. I just collapsed onto one of the seats and kept thinking about sweet Sadie and tough Ryder. I didn’t know them for very long, but they still became part of the group and they gave up their lives for the sake of group members. Tears began slowly falling down my face once again as I just curled up in the seat. Poor Laila and Liam, they are not going to take this well at all.
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“Oh no,” Liam said, defeated as he hung his head low. Laila didn’t say anything as she began to cry. Liam hugged Laila to him tightly and I looked at the rest of the group to see that they were all upset by our two losses. I just handed all of the medicine to Blaine as he and everybody but Jackson, Laila, Liam, and myself headed into the house after him.
“You seriously couldn’t stay and help them?” Laila asked angrily.
“I tried to stay and help, but they wouldn’t let me…” I replied.
“You should’ve stayed no matter what! Now you have practically killed two group members.”
I had nothing to say to that as I began to cry yet again and then said, “You’re right, I did.” I couldn’t stay anymore, I took off and began to run for the hammock that Jackson had showed me the other night. I crawled up into the hammock and just let myself cry. I let all of my emotions out that I normally hold in. Maybe somebody else should be the leader. Jackson is wrong, I’m a terrible leader, I just let people die.
It was beginning to become dark outside when I saw Jackson approaching from the tree-line. I wiped the last remaining tears from my face and just kept looking out across the ocean. He sat down next to me on the hammock and pulled me to his side, hugging me tight. I felt him kiss the top of my head. “Laila wants to talk to you,” he said.
“She’s said all she has to say.”
“She wants to apologize. I told her the whole story, that I dragged you out of there and Ryder yelling at us. I also told her about Nathan, I hope you don’t mind.”
“No I don’t.”
He hugged me tighter and said, “I know how tough it is to lose people Sky, but you can’t hold it against yourself.”
“Being the leader, that’s hard to do. I’m supposed to protect the group and keep everybody safe at all times. I’m supposed to be the one risking my life for the group, not the other way around.”
“Things happen Sky. They may not go the way you always want them to, but they happen for a reason. You got the medicine back for Jake.”
“I don’t know if I should be the leader anymore. I already have three deaths at my hand. If I remain the leader, that death toll could go up at any minute.”
He kissed my head again before saying, “You’re the greatest leader out of all of us. None of those deaths were your fault, you need to understand that.”
I just remained silent as I huddle more into Jackson’s side and laid my head on his chest as we watched the stars come out and the moon rise. I hope that wherever Ryder and Sadie are that they’re in a good place, they deserve that much. I got up from the hammock and told Jackson that I was ready to go back. He grabbed my hand and held my hand all the way back to the house until Laila spotted me and pulled me to the side.
“Look, I’m sorry about what I said. Jackson explained everything and I know that it’s not your fault. The grief is just a lot on Liam and myself.”
“I understand that, and I’m really sorry that things happened the way they did. I would’ve done something if there was anything that I could’ve done.”
“And I understand that, and that’s all that matters.”
She gave me a quick hug and said, “I’m also suppose to tell you that supper is done. It’s mashed potatoes and corn tonight, good thing you guys had some good potatoes left before the other ones we planted grows.”
“Thanks,” I told her as we headed into the kitchen and sat down with everybody else to eat. Supper was pretty silent tonight, and I think we were all grieving Ryder and Sadie in our own silent ways. They were both great people, and they didn’t deserve to die the way they did.
When everybody was done eating, I asked Blaine, “Did you give Jake some medicine?”
“I did, and now all it really is, is a waiting game.”
I nodded at him in understand and Jackson and I headed up to Jake’s room. He was shivering under his blankets and coughing like crazy as he was trying to watch Monster’s University. We each sat on a side of his bed and I roughed up his hair. “You’ll be better soon buddy, I promise.”
He tried to catch his breath before saying, “Are you sure, cause I feel like I’m getting worse.”
“We’re positive Jake, you’ll feel brand new in no time,” Jackson told him.
Jake actually let out a little laugh. He didn’t look that great, his nose was bright red from blowing it so much, his face was red and his hair was wet with sweat from the fever, even though he was shivering from chills. “Would you like to take a bath Jake?”
He shook his head. “I just want to go to bed.”
“Alright, we will let you sleep.” I roughed up his hair once more and we both said goodnight before leaving his room.
“I don’t know what I will do if I lose him too,” I told Jackson once we were a little ways down the hall. He put his arm around my shoulder as we headed down to our room and said, “We won’t lose him, he will get better, I promise you that.” He leaned down and kissed my cheek as we entered our room. I just collapsed on the bed not even wanting to change my clothes.
“You know you got blood and sweat on those clothes, it would probably be comfier to change,” Jackson told me.
“I don’t want to.”
“You’ll feel better,” he insisted.
“No.”
“Don’t make me change you,” he threatened sarcastically.
“You wouldn’t,” was all I said before I rolled over onto my stomach.
“Why not? I’ve seen you naked before,” he said with a laugh.
I sat up quickly and threw my pillow at him and hit him in the head with it. “You said you didn’t see anything!”
“Just your butt,” he said with a wink.
“You’re an asshole,” I said sarcastically as I laid back down on my stomach.
“Don’t make me do it.”
When I continued to lay there without moving, I heard him shuffle towards me and I felt one of my boots being pulled off, then my other one. I wiggled my feet around and said, “Stop, I don’t want to change,” with a little laugh.
When he kept reaching for my feet for my socks I said, “Alright, alright, I will change.” I got up from the bed and made my way grumpily to the closet, shut the door, stripped down, and threw on a pair of black sweats and a red tank top before crawling back into bed. “Happy?” I asked.
“You can’t tell me you’re not more comfortable,” he said.
I rolled my eyes at him because he was right, I was a lot more comfortable. All he was wearing to bed tonight was his black and red checkered pajama pants. “Oh so that’s all you’re wearing to bed now huh?”
“Well I figured since we were together now that I could sleep with less clothes on,” he said with a laugh as he crawled into bed.
“Who said we were together? Maybe I just enjoy your kisses and good looks,” I told him playfully.
“Well I already knew you enjoyed those,” he said with a wink. “However if you wanted to continue getting kisses you’d have to be my girl for that.”
“Oh I see how it is.”
“Exactly,” he said as he pulled me closer to him so that my head was on his shoulder and his arms were wrapped around me. He leaned down to give me a soft goodnight kiss on the lips and said, “Goodnight Sky.”
“Goodnight.” I slowly began drifting off into a nice, deep sleep. For the first night since Nathan died, I had no nightmares that terrorized my sleep.

A week has passed and our food supply was dwindling. However, Jake was beginning to feel a lot better; his temperature is falling significantly and he’s beginning to gain strength and energy back. Also, that dreadful cough of his is slowly going away. Another good thing is that the plants that were planted were beginning to sprout, which was a good sign. The bad thing was that they won’t grow in just one day, so we needed to go get food, and possibly find the survivors in town. We decided that the people going would be Jackson, Myles, Blaine, and myself. Laila wouldn’t let Liam go with because of what had already happened with Sadie and Ryder.
We got aboard the boat and rode our way to the docks in town. Once we shut the boat down and got onto the dock, we had our guns in our hands, ready for anything. Once again, I took lead and everybody followed me to the back of the first building. I turned and whispered, “Do any of you know where a grocery store is located around here?”
“I’m pretty sure that there is a little store located right on main street just down from the pharmacy where you guys were last week,” Blaine whispered back.
I turned my attention back from the front and skirted across the same buildings that we went by the prior week. Once the pharmacy was in sight, I looked down the street and saw that there indeed was a small little grocery store right on main street. I looked both ways for mutants before we ran across the street and to the store. I tried to open the doors, but it was locked. I tried to peek through the windows, but shelves had been shoved up to the windows so that nobody could see inside. Somebody must’ve already used this for a hideout, hopefully there’s still some food left inside. I took a bobby-pin from my hair and began wiggling it around inside the lock while everybody else kept watch. Eventually, I was able to feel the door handle turn and I pushed the door open. We each got down to a crouching stance once we entered the store.
Everything was still completely clean within the store, it still looked brand new besides for the shelves up against the windows. Thankfully, most of the shelves were also still stocked. I could see down one of the aisles, several sleeping bags and un-lit lanterns. Yep, somebody had definitely been residing here. We were just about to start packing our backpacks when I heard a clicking of a several guns and somebody say, “Drop the merchandise, it is ours. You have to find refuge somewhere else.”
I slowly turned around with my hands in the air to show that I meant no harm. There was a man with a gun aimed at us through the employee door in the back. “We don’t mean any harm. I’m assuming that you are the survivor in this town?”
“One of the few,” he replied.
“Well please hear us out, because we can help you guys. We inhabited a house out on an island just off the coast, the mutants won’t go out there and we are completely safe. If you are willing, we could grab all of your supplies that we can and you guys could come with us.”
“We don’t need any help,” he said just as I heard some mumbling coming from behind him. I couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, I only caught a few words like ‘stupid’, ‘go’, and ‘safe’. “Alright, the few that are with me are telling me that we should go with you. You promise that we will be safe?”
“I promise you that you will be very safe with us on the island.”
He lowered his gun and stepped out from behind the door with three other people. Once the began to walk closer to us, I could see that their skin was the color of rich mocha. The man that had been speaking to us had chocolate brown eyes, a skinny face, and a nearly shaved head. I’m assuming that the woman standing next to him was his wife or girlfriend because they were holding hands. The woman had the same color eyes and her long brown black hair was put up into a ponytail. I would say that she was a little taller than me and the man was about the same height as Blaine. I could just scarcely see two other figures behind the man and woman. The man stuck his hand out and I shook it gently.
“My name is Sky,” I said, “And this is Blaine, Myles, and Jackson.”
As he shook everyone’s hands he said, “My name is Kyler, this is my wife Adriana, and these two,” he said, bringing the two other figures forward, “are Mya and Erik.” Mya looked like she would be around fifteen and Erik looked around Jake’s age. Mya had dark brown eyes that matched her long, straight, dark brown hair and Erik had the same eye color as Mya’s and had a shaved head and a slightly chubby face but skinny figure.
“Are they yours?” I couldn’t help asking. They just seemed too young to have children as old as Mya and Erik.
“No they are not ours, but we brought them in when we saw them roaming alone together on the street when all of the madness started,” Adriana spoke up. She had a sing-song type of voice and it was quite lovely, whereas Kyler had a deeper kind of voice.
“Well if you would all like to join us, do you think we can collect what we can for food from here? We are running kind of low back home.”
“If you’re running low now, how can you continue feeding everybody when we join the group?” Mya asked smartly.
“We have fresh vegetables and fruit beginning to grow on the island, and we bake our own bread. We will have plenty of food,” I reassured them. They grabbed some bags that they had in the back and we all began to throw food into our separate bags. When we were finished, I told everybody to follow me as I opened the door slightly to peek outside. I didn’t even get to look around before I was yanked out of the store and brought to the ground. I was about to take aim and shoot at the mutant above me before I saw a knife go through his chest from the back. I threw him off of me before he could fall on me and saw Jackson standing there with his hand out. “Thanks,” I whispered. “Let’s go.”
We headed silently back to the boat and we all boarded it with our bags. Blaine started up the boat and we left shore. “How far away is this island?” Kyler asked.
“It’s not too far, we’ve never actually time it before,” Blaine answered. We all sat down in a seat and when we arrived back at the island, everybody came outside to help with whatever we needed help with. They stopped short once they saw that we weren’t alone/
“We found the survivors in town,” I said. “This is Kyler, Adriana, Mya, and Erik, they are now part of our group. We also brought back quite a bit of food.” I then introduced the rest of our group and then told them about sick Jake back in the house. Everybody shook hands before we carried our bags into the house and to the kitchen. As we started to put the food away, I looked down at Erik and said, “If you’d like, a boy your age named Jake is in the room right down the hall watching a movie if you want to go watch it with him. He’s not sick anymore, so it’s okay to go hang out with him.” Erik gave me a small smile and headed to Jake’s room and shut the door.
“He’s not a very shy kid is he?” I asked Adriana who was right next to me.
“No, he definitely isn’t,” she said with a laugh. Once all of the food was put where it belonged, I began to show the new group members around the house and told them about the different chores that we had around the house. They seemed to have no objection; I think that they’re going to fit in well here.
“However, there is one problem. I am going to have to put Jake elsewhere so you guys can have his room because there are no other rooms available.”
“I have a better plan. How about we let the two boys share the blue room and then Mya, Adriana, and myself with sleep on a couch or the floor in the great room upstairs?”
“I’m sure that won’t be comfortable though.”
“Anything will be more comfortable than sleeping on a grocery store floor,” Adriana said laughing.
I shrugged and said, “Alright, whichever you guys prefer. If you guys would like, you can settle yourselves in, I think supper will be finished soon if you’d like to join us.”
“We would love to,” Kyler said.
“Well I will see you guys soon.” I walked into our room to find Jackson sprawled out on the bed in all of his clothes. “What are you doing?” I asked with a laugh.
“I’m so beat today and I don’t know why.”
“You better not be getting sick as well.” I sat him up and got behind him to start rubbing his shoulders and his back.
“No, I’m not getting sick, just one of those days you know?”
“I understand, I have those days as well where you just want to lay in bed all day.”
“Exactly, it’s a day just like one of those.”
I leaned around him to kiss his cheek. “Well then why don’t you lay here and sleep then? I will be down after supper and after I shower.” Right after I said that, I began to hear a boat approaching the island. Jackson and I both ran up the stairs just as everybody was running for the door. I stopped them and said, “Everybody grab your weapons, somebody could’ve been watching us from the city and may be coming to take what we have. I’ve seen it happen before in front of my own eyes. However, it also could be more survivors coming to join us. Either way, take caution and ready your weapons.” Jackson and I each stood on a side of the door, peeking out of the little glass window as everybody else stayed ready behind us. I watched as the boat took dock and two people stepped out of the boat. They began to walk towards the house. Once they got close enough to identify, I nearly dropped my weapon to the ground. I threw the door open, nearly smacking Jackson with it as I ran out the door and into the woman’s arms.
“Oh my God Sadie! You guys are alive! But how?!” She hugged me back tightly just as everybody else was running out to greet them as well. Laila and Liam were the most excited, they actually began to cry to see their loved ones who they thought were dead come back. Everybody was just overjoyed.
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“How did you guys get out of there alive?” I asked once we were all inside eating.
“It is a very long story for another day,” Ryder replied with a small laugh.
“It was very tough, but we made it. I just wish I wouldn’t have lost your dogtag,” Sadie said sadly touching her empty neck sadly.
“That reminds me!” I pulled the necklace from my pocket and handed it over to her. “I kept it in my pocket for good luck once I thought the worst had happened.”
“I thought that I lost it forever!” She exclaimed as she took it from my hand. “Now I just need to fix it. Thank you.”
I looked around at everybody in the kitchen. Jackson, Myles,
Blaine, Callie, Lacey, Jake, Liam, Laila, Ryder, Sadie, Kyler, Adriana, Mya, and Erik, all amazing people and everybody was back together. The group felt whole again. Our group was going to continue to strive and rescue other survivors for many years yet to come. Our group was the start to a new beginning within the world.



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JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This book has 10 comments.


on Feb. 12 2014 at 10:39 pm
kcasey95 SILVER, Grantsburg, Wisconsin
6 articles 6 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything happens for a reason

Thank you very much and I hope that you have the time to finish reading it eventually (:

on Jan. 3 2014 at 11:43 pm
ImAKeeper SILVER, Missouri City, Texas
6 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."- William Ernest Henley

Sorry, I only got to read the first chapter but from what I read, this is incredible. I love the way that you start off with some action to keep the reader hooked and the fact that you don't throw a whole bunch of information into the reader's face-- you let the reader adjust to whatever's going on in the story. So basically you showed and not told. Haha I don't even know if that makes sense but that's a pretty amazing thing to be capable of in my eyes.  Just from the first chapter, I can tell this is going to be a great novel. I can't wait to read more of it! (:

on Nov. 29 2013 at 8:56 pm
kcasey95 SILVER, Grantsburg, Wisconsin
6 articles 6 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything happens for a reason

Thank you very much (: and no rush

Blynn SILVER said...
on Nov. 29 2013 at 11:44 am
Blynn SILVER, Waco, Texas
9 articles 0 photos 97 comments
Hey! I didnt have time to read the whole thing but from what I read I think it sounds relly good! I read the summary and I think the story sounds promising (: Someday when I have time I plan to read over the whole thing! Good job

on Nov. 22 2013 at 12:21 am
kcasey95 SILVER, Grantsburg, Wisconsin
6 articles 6 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything happens for a reason

I am tryng my best to keep it at a good speed (:

on Nov. 21 2013 at 3:30 pm
TheUtopianWriter SILVER, Hays, Kansas
8 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge"
~ Albert Einstein

Take your time though :)

on Nov. 12 2013 at 5:49 pm
kcasey95 SILVER, Grantsburg, Wisconsin
6 articles 6 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything happens for a reason

Thank you!

on Nov. 12 2013 at 4:48 pm
vegetariangirl, Hamilton, Ohio
0 articles 0 photos 92 comments

Favorite Quote:
Being normal is boring - Marilyn Monroe
You only live once -?
A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit -Richard Bach

I think it is good. When I saw the word mutant, I was like OMG mutants, X-men, and tons of Marvel stuff!!.

on Oct. 20 2013 at 1:20 pm
kcasey95 SILVER, Grantsburg, Wisconsin
6 articles 6 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything happens for a reason

Thank you! No, this is far from all of it! There is a lot more to go. As I write a chapter, I add it onto here, so please just keep checking back and I will try to write faster to keep up with the readers (:

on Oct. 19 2013 at 1:34 pm
Hey, this is really good! It's well written and I love the characters. Is this all there is or are you working on more of it? :)




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