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This story was inspired by my English teacher, Mr. Wright. He taught me everything I know about writing.
A young lab worker sat at his computer. He typed a couple of keys in and pressed enter. When the computer responded to his command, he was confused by what he saw. He called over his superior, who looked over his shoulder at the screen.
“That’s impossible.” He muttered, confused. “How could they have lived?”
I woke up cold. My feet and fingers were easily the coldest, but it was basically all around me. I pushed my face in the rug I was laying on, and tried to pull the blanket closer to me, but that didn’t help at all. There was only one way to bring the feeling back to my fingers. I reached over my baby brother Jakob, who was sleeping by my side and reached for my younger sister Ada, putting my ice-cold fingers on her neck. I watched through half-opened eyes as she snapped awake, and leapt away from me and onto her feet.
“What the heck was that? I was asleep! You practically killed me from the shock!” she shrieked at me.
“I’m cold.” I replied sleepily.
“Well that sucks, doesn’t it?” she snapped and yanked the blanket off of Jakob and me.
Jakob burst out crying, so I grabbed him and bounced him on my knee to calm him down. I knew that that was coming, and I knew what came after. We both looked over to our parent’s bed on the other side of our hut. They were starting to stir. They were usually irritated when we woke them up in the morning. I looked over to Ada and gave her a quick nod. She hurried over to the fire place in the middle of the room. I had Jakob in one arm, and winced as I grabbed some firewood from by the door with my other hand. The prickly feeling from the bark was always the worst first thing in the morning. I took care not to get bark in the hand-woven rugs that covered the floor. When bark got in the rug, it was nearly impossible to get out, and it was agitating to walk on with bare feet. I carefully placed the logs in the fireplace. Ada looked for live embers from the night before, and when she found one, she gently blew on it, and fed it kindling. We fed the fire until it was strong, and then we moved the logs over so that they would catch. By the time my parents got up we had a good fire going.
“Well you’re up early. I’m sure that there’s absolutely no reason for that, and you just decided to make the fire too, huh?” Mama said with a warning undertone. We both knew to watch our step for the rest of the morning. Mama was as quick as a whip, and we both knew she knew what was going on.
Mama and Papa cooked a breakfast while Ada and I rolled up our bed and stowed it in the corner. The hut was a circle about thirty feet wide and six feet tall in the center. It was made of leather and wood. The wooden poles that held it up were worn smooth around the bottom from constant contact, but nearer to the top it was covered in splinters. Right after the hut was built it had smelled terrible from the fat rubbed on the outside to make it water resistant. I don’t know if the smell was gone, or if I had just gotten used to it. The floor was covered in rugs, except a foot around the fireplace where the floor was left bare. On either side of the door were the two beds, the parents and the children’s with the feet facing the door. The beds were little more than permanent bed-rolls. Above our bed was my hunting equipment.
After breakfast I put on an extra layer and my over-coat before slinging on the quiver of arrows and strapping on my spear. I tucked my knife into my belt, and started to tug on my boots when Mama said something that made me freeze.
“I want you to take Ada with you today.”
“What? She can’t hunt; she’ll just get in the way, and scare off anything that we can eat.” I pleaded, hoping she would take back her request, though I knew that eventually I would be required to take her, I didn’t want it to be today.
“Joachim has taught her well, and even if you don’t catch anything, we have plenty of storage that can last us a few days if we need to.” She replied. Ada stood a few feet away, pretending not to be eavesdropping, but everyone knew that she was.
Joachim was our neighbor. He taught all of the younger children how to throw a spear, shoot a bow, and use a knife. Everyone gave him a little meat in return for his services. He had been teaching the children how to hunt for years, and I remembered him teaching me how to set my sights when shooting.
“Fine, I’ll take her.” Ada squealed and jumped up and down in excitement. Then she stopped and smoothed her face over and calmed down. I snorted at her attempt to look more mature. “Here, put this on.” I said and handed her an overcoat. “Where’s your spear? Is it at Joachim’s place?
“No, Mama had me bring it home yesterday so I could use it today.” Ada responded, trying to keep the excitement from her voice. I threw an annoyed look at Mama, and finished getting Ada and myself ready.
We walked across the snow to the edge of the village together, where we met up with my friends and hunting partners Mattias and Isa. Isa was my best friend. We played together all the time when we were little. The first time I had gone hunting was with Isa and her older brother. Mattias had joined us a couple of months later. I had secretly had a crush on Mattias. It wasn’t as bad now, but I still liked him as more than a friend. Mattias was, thankfully, oblivious to it all.
Since we couldn’t talk when we were hunting, we had gotten used to reading each other’s eyes and expressions. Isa glanced at Ada, and then looked at me with an expression of exasperation. She knew we were not going to get anything, but knew that Ada had to be taught. Mattias looked at Ada with a cheerful look on his face. He thought Ada was adorable.
Word had gotten out that they had lived, not only lived, but had prospered. Their posterity was still alive. A woman woke early to the sound of protest in the streets. She got up quietly, so she didn’t wake her husband, and went to the window. Bands of protesters filled the streets. They were demanding the death of the survivors. There was only one way to keep the peace, and she knew that she couldn’t let it happen.
When we got back, Mama had already pulled out the dried meat, and had cooked a flatbread for us. I felt irked that she hadn’t even given us the benefit of the doubt that we had caught anything. Feeling something was off, I looked around the hut.
“Where’s Papa?” I asked, realizing he was missing.
“He’s in the back room, sick. Josefine said she has never seen anything like it, but it has already swept through the village.” Mama answered
Josefine lived across the village. She was an old woman, and had seen every sickness, ailment and injury there ever was. The back room was where we went if we were sick. The idea was to keep everyone else from getting sick. I wasn’t sure if it actually worked, everyone seemed to get sick anyways. A couple hours after dinner Mama started to feel sick too, and went to the back room with Papa. I was worried. Both Mama and Papa were sick. Apparently it had swept throughout the village. When it started to get dark I put Ada and Jakob to bed and cleaned up before I joined them. Ada was scared too, and snuggled close to Jakob and me. In the middle of the night I woke up to the sound of Ada crying. There was a pungent odor in the air. I looked around; Ada had thrown up on the floor.
“Katja, I’m sick. Are we all going to die? Oh Katja, I’m scared.” She wailed.
I was scared too, but I assured Ada that she would be fine, and so would everyone else. I took Ada to the back room, and cleaned up the vomit. I got back in bed with Jakob, and held him close. Normally I would had loved to have this much space to myself, but in the middle of the night, with everyone sick, I just felt lonely and scared.
A doctor looked at all of the injuries from the protestors. Cuts, bruises, even some broken bones. It was bad, but the protests in other areas were much worse. In some places there were reports of knife wounds, gunshots, even one report of a bomb that had gone off. Things were getting out of hand, and there was only one way to pacify the people, and the doctor knew that it wasn’t right. There had to be something he could do to stop it.
The next morning I woke up to Jakob crying. I started to worry that he was sick too. He was only a year and a half old; babies had a hard time throwing sickness off. Then I realized that I was just holding him too tightly. I quickly released him. He pulled himself to his feet, and ran over to our parent’s bed.
“Where Parents?” He signed.
“They’re sick, buddy” I said and signed at the same time.
“Where Ada?” He questioned further.
I sighed. “Ada is sick too”
“I hungry, eat?”
I laughed. It always turned back to food with Jakob. I made us a breakfast, and got dressed. Papa hadn’t eaten anything last night, so I assumed that they wouldn’t need anything to eat. I left some dried meat out in case they were hungry later. I got out Mama’s old baby carrier for Jakob. I put an extra blanket inside, and put in Jakob. Then I wrapped it in more fabric. Jakob might be uncomfortable, but at least he would be warm. I put on my boots, and struggled to pull the carrier onto my back. While standing up, I almost fell backwards, and then almost fell forwards. The weight was uncomfortable and awkward. I walked around the hut a couple of times to get the feel for the extra weight before leaving.
I stepped out of the hut and was stunned. Nobody was outside. Usually at this time in the morning you could hear other families talking as they ate and got ready. There should have been younger people heading out to hunt, and older people walking around the village on errands. There wasn’t a sound to be heard in the entire village. I knew something was wrong. It had to be the sickness that Mama, Papa and Ada had gotten last night. Instead of heading straight out to go hunting I went to Josefine’s hut instead. The village had a spooky feel without any noise in the morning. My breath puffed in steamy clouds in front of me. The only sound I could hear was my feet crunching and my heart pounding.
When I got to Josefine’s hut, I was reluctant to make any noise. I tapped quietly on the pole next to the entrance of her hut, and whispered her name. In the silence, I felt as though everyone could hear me. I slipped inside of her hut. Josefine was lying awake in bed. She looked at me as I came in.
“Josefine, what’s happening? Why is everyone sick?” I whispered to her.
“The sickness first came two days ago. In that time it has spread like lightening. I have never seen anything like it. I don’t have a cure for it.” Josefine croaked in a dry crackly voice.
“The people that got it first, have they gotten over it yet, are they recovering?” I asked, hoping that it would blow over quick. Josefine’s reply killed that hope soon after it was born.
“Nobody has recovered yet. Nobody seems to be getting better at all.” She answered. “In fact the first people that got the sickness, some of them have died already.
“Died? How many have died?” I asked, scared of the answer
“Six that I know of. People stopped visiting yesterday, when it was clear there was no cure.” She whispered, her voice getting worse. “You need to leave the village, we are all dying, get away from here, maybe, if you are lucky, you have not already gotten it, and can save yourself. You need to leave.
I backed out of Josefine’s hut. In a stupefied blur, I found myself walking back to our hut instead of leaving like I had promised. I tried to justify it with myself. I need to get provisions, a bedroll, something to make a tent out of. But in the back of my mind, I knew that I really didn’t want to leave. When I got back to our hut, I took the pack off my back, and pulled Jakob out, but instead of packing up and leaving, I just crawled into bed. I started to convulse with sobs. I didn’t want to leave. All my good memories came back to me. Playing with Ada when she was just a baby. Sneaking out to meet with Isa in the summer. The first tears priced my eyes. My first day of Practice with Joachim. Meeting Mattias for the first time. Having snow fights with the other kids our age. The tears streamed down my face as I lost control. Giggling with Isa about Mattias. Going on my first Hunt. Looking into Jakob’s eyes when he was just a newborn, they were so bright; he didn’t deserve to die like this. He should be able to grow up. I bolted into a sitting position. Jakob! I wouldn’t let him die as just a baby! He didn’t deserve to die as just a baby, and I knew that I had to do whatever it took to let him grow up. I jumped up, and started to pack up a bag with everything that I thought I would need. I grabbed Jakob from where he had been playing in a corner, and put him in the pack. I surrounded Jakob with everything, hoping to insulate him in case we got stuck in a blizzard. I slipped into the back room to see Mama, Papa and Ada one last time. They all appeared to be sleeping; I refused to thing about the alternative. I stooped down to kiss them all good-bye. I slung the pack on my back, and stepped out of the hut for the last time.
The small group of workers worked as hard as they could. The Government’s plan had already been put into effect. They were working on borrowed time. The survivors were already dying from The Plan, and most were beyond their help. Now they were on a rescue mission, just trying to save whoever they could.
I walked through the woods, numb from the pain that had assaulted me earlier. It didn’t matter if anything could hear me, so I didn’t bother to try to keep quiet. Now all that I cared about was the load on my back that was so precious to me. The wind bit my face, and pushed the wispy strands of my hair around my face.
Suddenly a beacon of light appeared in front of me. A man appeared inside.
“Angels above, save me from the Demon before me!” I screamed, crossing myself and, falling over in my haste to get away.
“Hey, calm down, I’m not a Demon, and I’m not here to hurt you.” The man said quickly, before I could get away. He was tall and strongly built. He looked at me with a stern face, but kind eyes. The man had on a white coat, and a light brown pair of pants on. “I’m here to save you. Has everyone gotten sick?” I nodded. “Yes, that was on purpose, it was to kill everyone. Your ancestors were sent here long ago for punishment for war crimes. Their death was staged as a suicide. Recently your village and its inhabitants were discovered. After lots of protests and debates the Governments have decided to kill you as a simple clean solution. We knew that this wasn’t right, and so I am here to save you. We can’t cure anyone with the disease, though. I’m sorry, but you are the only one that can come.”
“Who were my ancestors? What did they do to deserve something like this? I asked. I couldn’t conceive a crime that would be deserving of death.
“Your ancestors were a man by the name of Adolf Hitler, his wife, a couple of his officers, and their wives. They committed some of the worst crimes in history. I can’t describe them to you now, we don’t have time. Please, you need to come with me.” He pleaded.
Go with him, was he insane? I was not about to go with some guy I’d just met in the middle of the woods. But, I knew that there was no hope left. I would probably wander in the woods until I died, and then Jakob would die. I didn’t know what to do anymore, die with things I knew and loved, or take a chance with a total stranger. For some reason my mind wandered to the stories that I was told when I was little. When the hero was at a crossroads, they always took the unfamiliar road. Then I thought of Jakob. It wasn’t fair to condemn him to death when he hadn’t done anything. If anything, I had to save him. But, Joshua had said that only I could go. What if, for whatever reason, they didn’t want to save Jakob, they only wanted to save me? He hadn’t made any acknowledgement to Jakob’s presence, maybe he didn’t know I had Jakob with me. I could save him!
I nodded “Okay, I will come with you. But only if I get to keep everything that I have with me.”
Joshua smiled and nodded. He held each hand out to me. When I took his hand, light sprang up around me, and I was swept away in limbo.