I felt lucky that I didn’t see any bodies in the Screen room. The couch were I had sat with Ori was overturned. The screens were smashed and bloody handprints covered the walls, but no one was dead in this room. I almost wanted to kiss the ground.
I was moving less cautiously now, fearing the sight of the dead more than the wrath of the living. I slowly opened my mother’s bedroom door. Her medical wires and tubes were all removed, ripped from her body, a white corpse under bloodstained sheets. I hoped that they shot her first, before they removed her wires, but I remembered her coughing and yelling, and I closed her door, never stepping inside.
My dad had been in the kitchen, and I’d seen blood on the kitchen window. I went there next, carrying some unacknowledged but certainly present thread of hope that he was wearing a bulletproof vest and that he was still alive. He knew he was in danger. I knew he would be wearing his vest!
I flew to the kitchen past the wreckage of the house, grateful that I didn’t see Gia’s body on the way.
But he was very dead. They shot him four times, once in the head. A bulletproof vest would have made little difference. I dared to approach him. I checked for a pulse on his bloody neck, but it was no use. My shoes slipped on the sticky blood. My quivering fingers unbuttoned part of his shirt and suddenly I hated him. He hadn’t even been wearing it. He wasn’t even wearing his bulletproof vest.
Now all that was left was Gia. I was amazed at my coldness. Since descending the tree fort, I had been calculating and observant, remarkably distant. In fact, I saw the bodies of my mom and dad but I had only wanted to cry about the vest. Now I knew I had to find Gia, and I was not crying. I was composed.
As I walked again through the Screen room my shoes left bloody prints on the floor. If someone was waiting for me in the house this would lead him right to me, but at that point I didn’t care. I was barely thinking.
I went to my room first. Everything had been turned over. Clearly they’d been looking for me and my brother. I saw our escape packs lined up there on the floor. I wanted to spit on them. They’d done nobody any good.
Gia’s room was in the same condition as mine, completely destroyed. I was glad I did not see her corpse, but it occurred to me that nothing would stop these monsters from kidnapping Gia, and horrible images of what they might do to a fifteen-year-old girl whirred through my mind. I couldn’t decide if I would rather she were dead.
The intruders had wrecked the entire house. There were bullet holes in every cushion and wall, but I saw none of Gia’s blood. I checked her room again and slid my fingers across the necklace she’d proudly shown to Dad just hours before.
A shot blasted through the room. I screamed. I backed up to the wall. I knew a gun had fired in this room.
“Arcana?” a little voice whispered from under the overturned mattress.
My breath stopped. Now I began to cry, afraid to cry, afraid to hope. “Gia? Is that you?”
Gia slowly crawled out from under the mattress, carrying an ancient revolver in her hand. Her eye sockets looked almost purple. She dragged out her legs to reveal that one had been shot in the calf.
I didn’t wait any longer. She dropped the gun and I ran to her. I hugged her to my chest and kissed her head and face. We didn’t even speak. We just sat and cried.
Gia looked up intently after just a moment. “Arcana, we have to get out of here. They were looking for us: me, you, and Ori. I stayed hidden, and they didn’t know they shot me through the mattress, but I saw them. At first I assumed they were Suprema, like Dad’s been telling us, but they were wearing National uniforms. They were wearing the Seal, Arcana! They came to kill Dad!”
“I know, Gia,” I said.
“But they’re determined to get us! We have to escape and not talk to anyone. They need the whole family dead so it’ll look like Suprema. We need to get out!”
I took a sheet and hastily wrapped Gia’s leg. I helped her hobble to our packs, which she saw with surprise, then admiration, and finally disappointment, realizing Dad had not trusted her with preparing their escape. We began to leave but I decided at the last moment to check my parents’ room for Dad’s packs. They would probably be helpful. I shielded my eyes from my mother’s bed and stuffed the contents of Dad’s bag into mine. Mom’s bag was just a wad of medical wires, so we left it behind.
“Ori!” I whispered loudly below the tree fort. I waited a moment. “Ori!”
I climbed up. He wasn’t there.
It occurred to me suddenly that when he heard the shot he must have gone to the Mayerson’s. I told this to Gia.
“If they communicate to the Police…” Gia began in a panic.
“We’ll just get him quickly,” I said, but before we could move at all the sirens blared. The National Autos would soon arrive.
Gia could only hobble, really, because her leg was injured, but she picked up a stick to help her walk. There was a small patch of woods behind our house but beyond that were more developments. I hadn’t considered how many streets we’d have to pass in order to get Outside, how many people might report us. It might take a month just to escape the City boundaries. In my mind I had a vague idea of following Dad’s plan, but I knew even then that it was a stupid idea. Even then I knew that all of Dad’s plans had relied on his survival.
But I couldn’t think of that now. It was the only plan I had to go by, and now we needed Ori, and he was trapped next door.
“Gia,” I said quickly, “give me the gun. You can’t run with that leg so I’ll get Ori. You go through the woods as fast as you can and then pass as many streets and houses as you can. We’ll meet you, Gia.”
Gia hesitated, but the sirens made her decision. She handed me the revolver and I sprinted to the neighbor’s house. The Autos were approaching rapidly. Why did they come now for Ori, and not to investigate the gunshots at home? I swallowed, painfully hating the betrayal of the state. The Autos parked in front of the house.
I didn’t wait for the Mayersons to open their back door. I barged right in and saw Ori and Mr. and Mrs. Mayerson standing desperately around a Communicator.
“Arcana!” Ori shouted, running to me with open arms.
The Police knocked on the front door. I grabbed Ori’s wrist and we bolted out the back.
“Wait! Stop!” Mr. Mayerson’s voice quickly caught my ear.
I heard their front door open and Mrs. Mayerson wailed, “They’re running out the back!”
The Police started after us.