Chapter 10A Chapter by Domenic Luciani
Another longer one, but there's a lot of action and the story begins to hift dramatically, so I think it's appropriate.
As he stepped out into the cool spring air, Beck could not help but feel claustrophobic.
It was the people: they were everywhere, all around him. His life had been so simple, so easy, and now he felt like even the simplest tasks were mind-numbingly complicated, like walking out onto the sidewalk and trying to keep a straight face. It was impossibly difficult.
He walked with carefully measured strides. Tyler and Sam followed closely behind. Nobody spared him a passing glance, but all the same he felt there were eyes all around him, focusing in on him. He tried desperately to remind himself that his anxiety was misplaced, and he should instead be thinking towards the future. It was not working at all; in fact he was feeling worse with every passing minute. Every step he took towards the wall was another into a black void of uncertainty that threatened to consume the three of them whole.
Tyler didn’t know anything and neither did Sam. He had roused them early in the morning and told them to get everything they needed and to put it into a satchel that Tyler now carried across his shoulder. When they asked him why they had to leave, he made something up. He told them he had seen a news report that the police had discovered who was behind the bombing of the MedTech laboratory and the ship disaster. It only made sense that they would be there in a matter of hours once everything was figured out. He would keep from Tyler what he had seen in the bathroom last night for as long as he could. Forever, if it was possible. Tyler would probably say he was hallucinating, and maybe he actually was, but the last thing he wanted was for his own son to think he had gone crazy. As for Sam, Beck wasn’t entirely sure where she fit into his sentiments. She was stronger than Tyler was, and in a pinch he would have to rely on her to get Tyler to safety. But then again, she came from a different world than they did"somewhere beyond the city. She had never discussed the details of it, and Beck had never been keen on asking, but now he wished he had. She might have been able to tell him what to expect once (or rather if) they got away. Whether or not she was trustworthy aside, Beck liked her well enough, even though she could be brash on subjects he wasn’t used to being openly discussed. He also didn’t care for her profanities that she would toss around when she spoke. He half wished Tyler wasn’t so impressionable.
There was movement, and his eyes flickered around like a startled animal, searching every face in the crowd for the glint of a police helmet. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realized it was only someone wearing a black fedora. Thankfully, his escape was, so far, proceeding unhindered. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen a single officer since the night Duncan was killed and his ship blown up. The police force didn’t see a whole lot of real action, but they weren’t untrained. He couldn’t help but wonder how it was that they had gone unnoticed all this time. It was almost as if they were letting him escape. Beck discarded the thought, not wishing to add another dosage of paranoia to his already crippling anxiety.
Thankfully, something began to happen that took his mind off of the police officers, if only for a moment. He wasn’t sure if he was really seeing it or if his eyes were going bad but he could swear he saw a fog blurring out the tops of the skyscrapers above him. Slowly, he lowered his gaze, blinked his eyes a few times, then raised them back towards the sky and sure enough; the very tips of the taller buildings were being whited out. Beck kept on walking, but couldn’t help looking upwards every once in a while and noticing the fog creeping was down towards them.
“Dad, do you see that?” Tyler said, pulling closer to his father.
“Yeah,” Beck said. “Don’t stop, just keep walking.”
They weren’t the only ones who had noticed it. Dozens of people stopped dead in the street to look up. The reaction spread like wildfire through dry leaves and soon Beck and the kids were the only ones still moving. Everyone else stood frozen, transfixed on the pearly oddity descending rapidly upon them. A few people even took out cell phones and started taking pictures.
Beck rushed them to a nearby coffee shop. They had about an hour until four o’clock, and with all the people standing stock still, the three of them would stand out way too much. No, it was better that they lie low until people started moving again. He picked a table in the far corner of the room and quietly took a seat. Tyler sat across from him, and Sam sat on Beck’s left. From where they were, they could keep an eye on everyone else in the shop. Beck tried to catch anyone’s eye to see if they’d been recognized, but they were all too distracted on the event outside. Most people got up and walked out to get a better look and after a few minutes, only a handful were left.
Beck watched curiously as the people outside were swallowed up by the dense fog. He wondered if he would be able to find his way to the gate through this.
Traffic seemed to stop. The cars were automatic, so the fog wouldn’t affect them directly, but in the confusion there would almost certainly be people wandering into the streets. Beck was glad they had stopped, but also worried. He was sure that at the first sign of trouble, people would panic and then there would be chaos. People weren’t used to something like this, and he was sure that their peace of mind was dangling by a thread.
He looked at his watch regularly and waited for five o’clock to roll around. A waitress took notice of them finally after staring dazedly out the window for ten minutes and walked up to them.
“Can I get you something?”
Beck was about to say no but then thought better of it. It would look suspicious for them to linger around a coffee shop and not order anything, so he told her to bring them three cappuccinos. The waitress nodded then hurried off, pausing midstride to look out the window again.
Beck looked at his watch again. It was ten minutes to five. He motioned for to Tyler and Sam to leave and they walked out. The waitress came back out carrying their order and saw that they were gone. She frowned and returned to the kitchen.
Walking through the fog was a surreal experience. The crowds, once as thick and organized as an army regiment, were scattered and hazy. Like Beck had figured, a fair number of figures were loitering around in the middle of the street. Until he got closer to them, they were little more than dark shapes against a white canvas, almost like specters; the hairs on the back of his neck stood up at the thought. He felt inside his jacket pocket for the formula For some reason, touching the glass cylinder set his mind at ease.
With just over a minute to spare, Beck could make out the towering black rectangle of the wall, with two spires about twenty feet apart marking the gate. His heart began to beat fast and his palms started to sweat. What now?
He wondered if Sarah had caused the fog"could she do that?"and intended for them to slip out under its cover.
Tyler increased his stride to match Beck’s. “Dad, what are we doing?” he asked worriedly.
Beck looked at him, not sure of what to say. He was still wrestling with the concept of his own plan, and feared that if he explained it, it would sound completely implausible. He had to keep up the ruse that he knew exactly what he was doing, so he gave his son the most confidant look he could muster and said, “Don’t worry, and just trust me. I know what I’m doing.” It was a complete lie, of course, but Beck winked and hoped he had sold it.
Tyler still looked confused. “Let’s hope it works out this time.”
Beck could not agree more. He kept a wary eye on the gate and waited until he could see the faint outlines of the police officers patrolling it.
There were more than usual: at least a dozen that he could count. His breathing felt more labored and panic was rising like a geyser in his chest. Had they known he was coming? It didn’t matter he thought. They were out of options; forward was the only way to go. Beck forced himself to keep walking, hoping desperately for a miracle. God knows he needed one.
Charles Davis had spent the past three days making the explosives. He had skipped work and ignored his constantly ringing phone. None of it mattered to him anymore. None of it even seemed real. On the last day he had shown up for work, he had operated his normal shift, and worked diligently as he always did. When the day was over, however, he waited until he was the last one left in the building, then crept down the stairs to the storeroom in the basement. He had brought with him, three duffle bags and loaded all three with as many explosives as he could carry, and when the bags were full, he had shoved some more down the front of his pants and tightened his belt to hold them in place.
It struck him as he was leaving the building that the smallest spark or flame would send him and most likely half the city block into a fiery inferno. He tried to block the image from his mind, reminding himself to just be a little more cautious than usual. Everything would work out just fine.
He shifted his pants. The dynamite sticks were particularly uncomfortable to walk with. He wished the woman in the red dress had given him an easier job to do, or at least better directions. Blowing a hole through the city wall would not be as easy as tossing the explosives into a pile and running off with a detonator. It would take careful precision and application. Luckily, Charles was trained and figured if he could knock out a building in twenty seconds, he could crack a hole in the wall the size of a man in five.
As he walked, he tried to recall her instructions. Initially he had accepted her request without hesitation, but once he had woken up, reality seeped in and he could see the repercussions of what he was about to do. It was an act of complete and undeniable treason, and if he were caught, he would either be put away for the rest of his life or killed on the spot. Still, he never once had second thoughts about it, even before she had assured him that he would not get caught. She would protect him.
How could a dream protect him? He hadn’t the slightest idea, but then again he could not have cared less. The world he wanted to become a part of was worth everything, even his life.
Over the few days after he stole the explosives, he had grown to hate the city. He stared at it from his window, like a caged beast glaring at its applauding audience. He took careful measurements of different chemicals from the explosives he had collected to make more specific bombs. These would have a much more focused explosion, which would be necessary for penetrating the ten feet of steel that made up the wall. It was difficult though. He had always had the liberty to use as much explosives as he needed to complete a job, but that was when he had an organized group and a clear area. Here, there might be people, and even if he hated the city, he could not find it within himself to endanger the lives of innocent civilians.
He would have to be very careful.
When the time finally came, Charles was ready. He had his duffle bags all loaded, and even dressed in better clothes than he usually wore. It was just a spur of the moment.
It occurred to him that, if not for the dream and the woman in the red dress, Charles might have been walking to work right about now. He might have been in the elevator, riding up to his floor, or greeting his assistant, or buying a coffee, or reading the paper, or visiting a site, or, or, or. The list seemed endless.
And then another thing occurred to Charles Davis: he was invariably happy that he was not doing any of these things. In fact, he would never have to go to work again.
As he walked along the sidewalk carrying three duffle bags of high-power explosives, Charles realized that he could not have been more content with himself.
When the fog began to descend, Charles was already nearing the wall. He counted fifteen yards to the left of the gate and mentally drew a red X over where he would need to place the explosives. When he got there, the fog had become so thick that he could not see another person near him. Perfect, he thought giddily. The fog not only concealed him completely, but it also confirmed that his dreams had been real. The woman in the red dress was real.
He set the bags down and removed a handful of explosives. They were about the same size and shape as dynamite sticks, except blue and wrapped in a flame-retardant tarp. When Charles unraveled the tarp, the explosives were coated in a sticky substance allowing them to stick to any material"in this case, the wall.
Charles stuck three explosives to the wall and glanced around to make sure no one was in sight. The dense blanket of fog was working perfectly; in this haze, you would have to have been almost nose-to-nose with him to get a good look at his face. He quickly set up the rest, ran a wire through all of them and hooked a charge up to the end of it. Once more, he looked around to make sure he had gone unnoticed. He had, and now it was time to finish the job.
First double checking to make sure the detonator was in his front pocket, Charles walked back into the thickening mist, wondering how this would all turn out.
Once he was, as he judged, a safe distance away, he took out the detonator and gazed at it. An odd feeling was welling up inside of him. It wasn’t doubt; definitely not doubt . . . maybe sentimentalism. He figured that must be it: he wanted to savor this moment. This detonator is the key to the birdcage that holds us all captive, he thought wisely. Time to set everyone free.
He clicked the button.
Over the confusion and noise of the next thirty seconds, one thing remained obstinately clear to him. He had used too much explosive.
What Charles had originally intended to do, was blow a neat hole in the wall that a man could comfortably fit through. What he had gotten was a cataclysmic blast, the force of which had knocked him off his feet as well as everyone around him. The sound was deafening, like a firecracker going off right inside your eardrum. The fog had seemed so impenetrable only a moment ago, but now it was whisked away as if it was nothing more than a few particles of dust, and revealed the full extent of the damage he had caused. Fire and smoke billowed out of a charred mess of twisted metal and cracked concrete about five meters wide. An entire section of the wall seemed to have completely evaporated. The massive fissure gave a clear view of the grassy fields outside the wall.
The police officers who had been standing by the gate were frantic. Some rushed over to inspect the damage, but others were able to discern that it was out of their control. They were calling in for someone to rope off the scene and estimate how long and how much it would take to repair the damage. Ironically, they would probably be calling Charles’ firm. He imagined his assistant’s phone ringing, but she would have to tell them he had not shown for work in three days.
A moment of panic spawned inside Charles’ heart, but it was quickly washed away by sheer joy. He had done it, actually done it! To the confusion of everyone around him, Charles started to laugh. He laughed until he cried, and he had never in his life felt so exhilarated.
People began to approach him to see if he was alright, but Charles was gone. The fog had recovered, and it was rolling swiftly back over the city, and even Charles’ handiwork was covered up. Unless you had seen or heard it happen, you might not have known anything had happened at all.
Beck stood up and brushed the bits of gravel off his backside. The explosion had caught him by surprise and sent him flying backwards into the street. Tyler was already on his feet and helping up Sam.
Although mostly unharmed, Beck felt dizzy and the only sound he could hear was the ringing in his ears. He staggered over to Tyler and made sure his son was okay. Sam had the beginning of a bruise on her cheek, but other than that, they were all fine, shell-shocked and confused, but fine. Beck’s head was swimming and the ground felt uneven. He could feel nausea coming on, but he swallowed hard, took some deep breaths, and tried to ignore it.
In a brief moment of panic, he felt inside his pocket again for the formula, fearing it might have been damaged, but the cylinder was intact. He was lucky the blast had thrown him onto his back and not his front.
In no way had he expected something like this. Of course, he had not known what to expect from Sarah, if anything at all, and he had no way to know that it even was her who had caused it. It was a gut feeling though, that somehow, someway, she had made this happen. The details, he could figure out later when there was time.
They were trying to get their bearings, but Beck quickly realized there was no time. The explosion had peeled back the mist and made them visible to the dozen or so police officers standing around the gate. Even with a pounding headache, Beck forced his mind to focus. In a split second, he mentally measured the distance to the fissure in the wall, then he judged how fast the police could move in their clunky suits of armor. Not fast, but then again they were closer to the wall than Beck was, plus they would likely have tasers; the kind with wires that shoot out. Beck had never seen those in action before, so he had no idea what their range might be.
He decided that there was no time to think it through. Every moment he spent considering the alternatives was time for the police to figure out what had happened, to notice them. Beck twisted around, considering only for a moment to turn back and head for safety, but the moment passed.
Instead, he looked his son in the eye and told him to run.
Tyler didn’t hesitate. He grabbed Sam, who was still dazed, and made a mad dash for the fissure. Beck started off with him, but started to feel lightheaded halfway there. Not good, he thought. Only one police officer was looking their way, so they weren’t in terrible danger yet, but Beck felt a stitch developing in his chest and it hurt to breathe. He looked up and saw Tyler thirty yards ahead. He was nearly there, and Sam was no in the lead. She must have gotten her bearings, because she hopped over the large pieces of rubble like they were nothing. Tyler had to move as fast as he could just to keep pace.
Beck, meanwhile, was slowing down. He couldn’t catch his breath and his legs were on fire. Tyler was at the top of the largest piece of rubble when he looked back and saw his father stumbling along. By then, the police were catching on to what was happening and they were rushing in. Sam disappeared from view in one well-executed leap, but Tyler made to turn back; his eyes wide with panic.
Beck considered his options, quickly coming to one conclusion: that he was not going to make it. As fine as he had felt lying around the apartment all day, he was still very sick, and his body wasn’t coping with the stress and exertion well. He entered a coughing fit and could feel blood bubbling up in his breath. He collapsed to the ground.
Tyler was scrambling back through a thicket of twisted metal, but Beck waved to stop him. One of the police officers was next to him, pulling him up off the ground and leading him away, but Beck wrenched himself free as soon as he found the strength, and removed the formula from his pocket.
In retrospect he should have just given the formula to Tyler before they left. He should have seen this moment coming. But he hadn’t, and he cursed himself for it.
Beck didn’t have a strong throwing arm. Still, he lobbed the glass vial as high and as hard as his weakened body could, and hoped that he didn’t miss completely.
He missed, but not by a terribly large margin. Tyler managed to dive and swat at it in midair. It landed with a sickening thud and Beck feared for a moment that it had broken, but Tyler stood up, holding it in his hand, intact.
As the police hauled him away, Beck kept yelling at his son to run, to do what he said, to leave him. He wasn’t important now anyways. But Tyler stood still for a good long while. He held the vial in his hand and kept looking down at it, then at his father, and then back to the vial. He didn’t know what to do.
“Dad!” he yelled. “Dad!” but he had no idea what to say. No words of comfort for either himself or his father came. He choked on his words as tears filled his eyes and his shoulders slumped in hopelessness.
Beck kept telling him to run, because he simply had nothing else to say. How could he say that things would be alright, when they clearly weren’t? But in a moment, he didn’t have to consider it. There was a sharp jab in his side and enough volts of electricity to knock a healthy man twice Beck’s size out. His eyes rolled back into his head and he never saw what became of his son.
Tyler saw them electrocute his father, and then watched as his body went limp and they dragged him away. The police were now coming for him, but with all their armor, they were not nearly as nimble as he was. The fog was rolling back in as well, and Tyler ducked beneath the piles of still-warm scrap metal.
He tried to find his way back to the fissure, but the fog was disorienting and tears were blurring his vision even more. He kept bumping into things and tripping. One moment, Sam was next to him, helping him to his feet and pulling him along, and the next she was gone. Tyler was suddenly fearful that she had abandoned him as well. He glared at the vial still clutched tightly in his hand and wondered what could be so important about it. A hand shot out and grabbed his shoulder, and it wasn’t Sam. Tyler spun around and saw his scared reflection in the police officer’s shiny black helmet.
He threw the hand away and punched at the helmet angrily, not thinking things through. He yelled in agony as his knuckles collided with unyielding metal and thought he might have broken his hand. Still, he kicked at the officer who attempted to pull him to the ground and hold him still. He thrashed and tackled the officer, but he was only hurting himself. The officer probably couldn’t feel a thing.
Suddenly, the officer went limp and all of his weight collapsed onto Tyler who had been beneath him. The body was pulled off and someone helped him up. It was Sam. She took him by the arm and shook him a little.
“You okay?” she asked.
“I thought you left,” Tyler said, almost hysterically. He wiped the tears from his eyes and sniffled.
“I considered it,” she said nonchalantly. “But I owe your dad a favor, so…”
Tyler desperately hoped she was joking. He looked up quickly as the sound of heavy footsteps filled the air. They didn’t have much time.
“Quick, come on, this way,” Sam said, pulling him along.
Tyler assumed Sam knew the way, because he sure as hell didn’t. The mist was impregnable. He had to forget about his father for the moment in order to focus on navigating the field of debris. It was hazardous, and occasionally they had to double back because the police were roaming around looking for them. More and more were joining the search.
Tyler was exhausted and his legs would not move as quickly as he needed them to. He could not jump over the larger boulders anymore; instead he had to climb over them, crawling on his hands and knees at times. Sam kept tugging him, but he had a feeling her resolve for staying with him was dwindling. He couldn’t blame her, either.
Breathless and sweating, Tyler trudged through the rest of the maze and nearly hurled himself out through the fissure. He hadn’t seen it coming: one moment, he was a second away from collapsing, and the next he smelled dry air and could feel sunlight on his face. It was then that his legs nearly gave out and he tumbled down a steep grassy knoll. Sam was already at the bottom, and he could now clearly see the panic on her face. It must have reflected his own, and he took account of how wide his eyes had gotten, and how quick his heartbeat was. He forced himself to take slow, deep breaths and calm down.
Remembering that they weren’t out of the woods just yet, his eyes darted back the way he had came. The fissure was about ten feet up, at the top of the slope. Smoke still wafted upwards, thick and dark against the pale white mist. They had bought themselves a moment, but only a moment. He stood up quickly, feeling his legs burn in complaint.
“Tyler, look over there!” Sam called to him.
Tyler turned toward where she was pointing and saw a glimpse of hope. The abandoned wreckage that surrounded the city for a dozen miles was dead ahead of them. He saw that they might be able to hide in there, but then remembered that the gated community was on the other side, farther out. Maybe they could make it there. Or maybe they could find the car and drive away, but then again, a car would be noticed straight away. They would not get far at all.
In any case, the wreckage was their best bet. Tyler bit his lip and worked a steady jog over to it. He waved to Sam to go on ahead. If worst came to worst, at least one of them could make it to safety, and he could see where he was going now. Sam nodded hesitantly and shot off at a full sprint. She was a tiny figure in the distance before long.
Tyler had to walk sometimes. He was only thirty yards away, but his lungs weren’t holding air and his legs were swollen from overexertion. The only thing that kept him going was methodically counting down the distance until he would be behind the first burned out building"a kiosk or something that might have once distributed maps or brochures. Once he was there, he could stop for a while and take breather. He couldn’t even see Sam anymore, and wondered if she was still running, or if she had stopped and was waiting for him somewhere. Either way, from where he was to the kiosk, he was on his own.
There was noise from behind him and he turned to look. At least one police officer had made it through and was descending the hill. Tyler hoped he hadn’t been seen, and willed his body to pick up the pace. The kiosk was a tiny matchbox of a building, tilted heavily to the side and with all the windows smashed out. Tyler dove behind it, then thought better and climbed carefully through one of the empty window frames. The floor was littered with pamphlets with all sorts of pictures on them, but he couldn’t stop to look at them. He took cover behind the counter, crouching into the fetal position with his back against the wall. Catching his breath and relaxing his muscles, Tyler tried to get comfortable. If he was going to be laying there for a while, he didn’t want to be in an awkward position.
Tyler held his breath. He had just heard the crunch of heavy footsteps walking on broken glass not ten feet away. Then he heard it again and again. There were at least seven officers walking slowly by the kiosk. He could tell from their footsteps when they paused and when they kept going. The seconds went by agonizingly slowly and all Tyler could think of was how very badly he needed to go to the bathroom. He had no idea what it was about fear that riled up his digestive system, but it was terribly inconvenient.
Luckily, the officers passed him by. He could sense their footsteps growing fainter in the distance. Now he was worried about Sam. If she had kept running, she might be okay, but if she had stopped to catch her breath, she might not see them coming. He slipped out of his hiding place and crawled to the window with the best view. The officers were nowhere to be seen.
Very carefully, Tyler climbed back out through the window trying not to put his hands near the broken glass which seemed to be everywhere. He systematically made his way deeper into the abandoned town, never staying out in the open for more than a few seconds. He passed by a few tiny duplexes as well as three restaurants, a barber shop, and a delicatessen; he could only tell by the signs because, for the most part, there was nothing left but a few concrete foundations and metal supports. Most of the buildings, he noticed, looked as if they had been burned down. Indeed some of the ashes still blew in the soft breeze.
He froze next to what must have once been a bar and held his breath: he could have sworn he heard someone call his name. He waited, listening for it again, but he didn’t hear anything. Still, he could not ignore the possibility that Sam had called out to him, so he guessed the direction he had heard his name being called from and went off.
His method of taking cover was quickly becoming less effective as he neared the center of town. The streets became wider and empty. Tyler emerged from an alleyway onto a main street. A few burned out cars were clustered in a heap on a far curb. An enormous crumbling building, which took up nearly an entire block, stood at the far end of a square. The building had a wide set of stairs that led up to a row of tall pillars. At the top was a glass dome, but half of it had caved in, and the statue that once adorned the top was in pieces in the street.
He was about to venture out towards it, thinking that maybe Sam was hiding out in the building, but stopped short. Officers were walking out of an alley parallel to his. Tyler crouched low against the building next to him and watched the officers carefully. They didn’t have Sam with them or anything, so he assumed they hadn’t found her yet.
The officers walked into the square, slowly making their way along. They had their clubs held out as if to attack on sight. Tyler wasn’t sure if they really would, but he was not about to give them the benefit of the doubt.
They stopped in the middle of the square. One seemed to pull something off of his belt. Tyler was too far away to tell for sure what it was, but it must have been a radio or something because the officer put the device to his ear. Tyler thought he could hear distant voices but, once again, he was too far away. He wanted to get in closer to hear what they were saying, but he didn’t dare move a muscle. Whatever they were talking about, it wasn’t likely to be worth the risk of being seen.
Tyler breathed a sigh of relief when the officers turned around and headed back the way they came. He waited five minutes though, just to be sure. His legs hurt when he ran, but it wasn’t the same burning feeling he had felt earlier. He could work with this.
The square was completely empty and so far as he could tell, the police were long gone. He walked up the steps and opened the first door. The lobby was impassible: the roof had caved in and you couldn’t walk three feet into the building. Tyler quickly decided that Sam was not here.
He looked around, trying to spot another obvious landmark, or someplace Sam was bound to head for, but he couldn’t see anything but miles and miles of ruined buildings, and then the tiny black strip of the wall that stretched wide across the horizon. What was he doing here? He should have been at home, arguing with his father for the sake of it, or in school taking notes and doing homework.
He desperately wanted his father to be there with him. No matter how crazy he seemed sometimes, at least Beck had given them a direction to head in. Right now, Tyler just felt hopelessly lost. He was still just a kid; it wasn’t like he was familiar with making difficult decisions. Everything had always been linear, ‘do this and then do that’, but now it was hide and run and think and look and survive. Nothing had even remotely prepared him for this.
He wondered what they were doing to his father right now, but tried to push the thought out of his mind. There would be a time and a place later to mourn for his father, but now was not that time. His situation was too precarious to delve into that now.
Tyler sat down on the top step of the building utterly confused. A million opportunities and none of them were any good. He could wait here for Sam to find him (if she was even looking for him), or he could look for her. The town was so big though, how could he ever find her in all of this?
He looked up at the great wall of the city and wondered what would happen if he just walked in and pretended nothing had ever happened. Would they leave him be? Probably not. He glanced down at the vial in his hand and noticed a hairline crack in the glass. None of the pink liquid had spilled out, but he would have to be very careful with it from now on.
Looking back up at the wall, Tyler noticed a dozen tiny black dots rising quickly from the city. His heart nearly stopped. Helicopters.
“Oh man,” he said, standing up. “Sam! Sam!”
Tyler ran down the stairs and raced off in a random direction, calling out to Sam as loudly as he could. He heard her voice somewhere far off and headed in that direction.
Off the main street, the ground became uneven and hazardous again. Tyler tripped and twisted his ankle when his foot fell through the floor of a bombed-out duplex. He pulled it out and kept going, though at half pace and limping badly.
He could hear the helicopters growing closer and knew that if he didn’t find solid cover soon, he was done for. Suddenly, Sam appeared next to him, though the look in her eyes suggested she had not expected to find him. It took her a moment to recognize him, and then relief washed over her. She had been looking for him. For some reason, Tyler was not only grateful for it, but happy that he mattered to her.
She took note of his twisted ankle and gave him her shoulder to lean on. Together they half walked, half hobbled to an old school building not far from where they were. Not thirty seconds later, three helicopters zoomed over them. Sam eased him down into a chair in the lobby then went off on her own to find something to wrap his ankle with.
To his shock and surprise, she did not come back alone. A young man, older than Tyler, maybe around twenty, with a strong muscular build and dark skin, was with her. Tyler had never seen a man like him before: in the city, everyone’s skin color was the same, but this man was different. He had not expected to encounter anyone else out here either, but then he remembered Sam had mentioned that there were other people out here. He had forgotten.
Despite his apprehension towards the dark-skinned stranger, Tyler could not help but be fascinated. He introduced himself as Matteo and gave Tyler a warm smile. Matteo inspected Tyler’s ankle, delicately rubbing the swollen area with worn hands and then helped him to stand. He was solid and Tyler allowed Matteo to half carry him up the stairs to what must have been a classroom once. Desks were pushed up against the walls and mattresses were laid down in no particular order. Matteo set him down on one of them and then left the room.
There were other people there as well: some old and some young, with all different skin colors and hair colors and builds. Everyone was dirty, and Tyler could only imagine what they had all been through. They looked in on him from the doorways, probably as apprehensive of him as he was of them.
He gave the vial to Sam who put it in her pocket. She pulled up a chair and sat down beside him.
“How did we do?” he asked.
“All things considered, I don’t think we did too bad,” she answered tiredly.
Tyler suddenly felt exhausted. His energy was spent and all he wanted to do was fall asleep and never wake up.
Sam noticed. “You should get some sleep.”
Tyler wanted to cry, but for the sake of looking like a wuss in front of Sam and all the other strangers he would undoubtedly have to get to know when he woke up, he took a deep breath and held back.
Matteo came back accompanied by an elderly woman with grey hair came in wearing a tattered shawl and ripped jeans. She looked Tyler over, and then took out a roll of bandage tape and some sort of metal brace. Tyler was awake while she put on the bandages, but he was so tired he couldn’t even feel the pain and he passed out before she even put the brace on.
© 2012 Domenic Luciani
Added on April 2, 2012
Last Updated on April 2, 2012
Forest of Men
AboutThat is my real name, and that is really me in the picture. Like Patrick says, I'm not in the witness protection program. I mostly write books and stories. I like fantasy, or fiction, but if.. more..