The dumpster burst behind me, the heat wave close on my back, fiery wings wrapping around me. Chunks of flaming garbage streamed past, falling stars in the black alley.
I gripped the pistol tighter until my fingers stung with pins and needles as I ran. Out of the alleyway, back into the madness. The burning cars and store fronts, blazing cocktails rupturing and spewing glass and flame like urban phoenixes. Riot police and mob yelling, gunfire cracking from all around. Yellow, orange, and red, dancing against swaths of black and gray, angry color scorching the innocent night.
“Hey!” a masked man yelled ahead of me, gesturing with a handgun in my direction.
I didn’t hesitate, raising my own weapon and pressing the trigger twice. He dropped, screaming, pistol slipping from his grasp and clattering on the asphalt.
Handy. I snatched up the gun and sprinted on, past the box truck laying on its side in the middle of the road, cargo strewn out behind it like entrails. Fire leaped from its charred sides, reaching toward anything near it. I tucked the new weapon into my waistband as I dodged a woman grasping for me from a small group of rioters exiting through the broken window of a storefront. Black masks obscured the lower half of their faces, eyes burning with fury, drunk on the chaos and anarchy of the moment.
The mask obscuring my own face was beginning to strangle my breath. I wanted so badly to tear it off, to let myself breathe. But that would have been a terrible idea. I can’t be recognizable. You’re eye color is recognizable enough—don’t put your face out their too.
I kept on, making sure to concentrate on staying light on my feet. Just a little farther, and I’ll be out of this mess. Though suppressed at the moment, fear hid in the back of my mind, whispering that I wouldn’t make it.
I ducked into a side street, darkness hungrily swallowing up the dancing light of a thousand fires burning on the main road. A man lay propped against a brick wall on one side of the narrow road. Blood streamed down the side of his head. His eyes, yellowed and bloodshot, followed me as I dashed past. I didn’t have time to avoid puddles. Water splashed over my shoes, soaking my feet and shins.
Yellow-orange erupted in front of me as I ran from the side street, glass and heat bursting away from where the gasoline-filled jar had shattered. Bullets whizzed past my head, striking the brick wall beside me.
“Get him!” the men called, popping off more rounds in my direction.
I dove and rolled. Hard, warm, gritty ground scraped against my bare arms. Bringing my gun around as rounds cracked by, I fired. Once, twice, three times, five times. Three men dropped, yelling and clutching their wounds. The fourth, armed with a crowbar, ran the opposite direction in terror.
They’re gonna leave without you. Squeezing the thought back into my stomach, I shoved myself to my feet and hurried on. Left, right, left, right, straight for three blocks. Past shattered glass, bodies writhing on the streets and sidewalks. Past flaming vehicles with their waves of heat, roving gangs of degenerate scum, and police lines firing tear gas into mobs a hundred times their number.
There it was, a few hundred yards away. Rising above the smoking city, the burned-out cathedral’s blackened steeple stabbed into the smoky, red-orange sky. Above it hovered Aegis’ APC, blue jets aimed downward, guns firing into the streets beneath. Three drones whizzed from her angular sides as I got closer.
Blood and asphalt sprayed from the bullet’s impact, dropping the man jumping from an alley at me. The drone turned, weapon firing another round at a man, clutching a rifle, rushing down the street at me. Empty shells clattered on the pavement, dropping from the drones as they fired again and again on nearby rioters.
The personnel carrier descended slowly, bullets ricocheting off its armored hide. Her guns barked back, cannons blasting away at buildings, autocannons sweeping the streets.
I was close now, perhaps a hundred yards or so away. But the carrier was drawing an increasing amount of attention from the rioters. Staying close to the ground for much longer was too dangerous.
She dove out of nowhere, tackling me to the pavement. I saw stars when my chin hit the ground, pain shooting up into the top of my skull. My palms scraped against the road as I tried to roll over under her.
The girl couldn’t have been much older than me—maybe eighteen, at the oldest. Fury blazed in her eyes, fists raining down blow after blow at my head and neck.
Barely, I blocked her strikes, searching for a weapon—she was too close to me for the drones to risk a shot. The gun in my hand had been thrown out of reach when I fell, but my second firearm dug into the small of my back.
I punched her square in the face. She screamed and cursed, blood streaming from her nose as she fell backward. The girl returned with an even faster rain of blows, catching me a few times in my face, before I could hit her again. “Die, you golden-eyed freak!” She screamed.
A solid connection with the side of her face sent her sprawling off me, dazed for a second. Rage took over, boiling up inside my chest. These people—no, these animals—had terrorized the country for long enough. They’d burned and looted across the nation, completely disregarding the lives of those around them. These animals didn’t care for anyone but themselves and their selfish, slanted agendas.
In their eyes, we were inferior. We were the animals, carrying a stained bloodline from a race of beings they despised. They were terrified of us, terrified we’d rise up and become their oppressors. Terrified of the power people like me held. Terrified of my golden eyes.
It was them who should have been purged from the face of the earth with extreme prejudice, them who should have been hunted down and killed, them who should have had to live in constant fear. Not me. Not my family. At least most of the nation saw us as just other humans, albeit unique, who still had a life. A life with value—a priceless human life. Not some dark group of sleeper agents for foreign governments or sadistic terrorists. Or telepaths destined to become Nazis bent on extermination and world domination.
I was atop her in an instant, knees pinning her arms to the ground, fists raining down blow after blow. She cried out, dark red liquid streaming from her mouth and nose.
The legislation she and other anarchists protested would bring equality—true equality—and protection under law for telepaths and Peace Keeper descendants alike. It must have been nice for someone like her, who never had to fear being slaughtered with her family in the middle of the night by a gang hunting down telepaths with golden eyes. Must’ve been nice sleeping in peace at night, worried only about your crush not texting you back, or a test at school the next day.
I grit my teeth so hard my jaw hurt. Strike after strike blasted through her week attempts to block them with her arms. Patches of black and purple were already spreading around her eyes and cheeks. Much of her face was no longer visible beneath broken skin and streaming blood.
“Alix, let’s go—leave her!” Taz directed through a loudspeaker attached to one of the drones circling overhead. “We’re getting called back to base, the drones are almost out of ammo, and we’ve gotta pull out—there’s a lot of idiots with heavy weapons headed our way. The carrier’s a sitting duck.”
“Fine.” I stood up, the girl groaning beneath me. My vision blackened for a moment. I swayed on my feet as I tried to move, still dizzy from the hits to my head.
Shouts of “Kill him!” echoed down the narrow street, sending more rioters dashing my direction. Bullets streamed from the drones, empty shell casings dropping onto the ground.
I staggered toward the rescuing carrier, brain finally clearing. Spots still danced in my vision. Definitely have a concussion.
Chink, chink, chink. The last spent cartridge dropped from one drone, then another, and another.
"Alix, run!” Taz commanded. “Go! Come on, man, get to the carrier!”
Retrieving the gun from the small of my back, I pulled back the slide. Golden brass glinted in the flickering light. Perfect.
I turned, weapon raised. Bullets whistled past my face and torso as I returned fire, dropping the leader of the charge. The metal bat he wielded clanged against the asphalt. I fired again and again, dropping four more, all the while stepping quickly backward toward the carrier and the deafening roar of its engines and autocannons.
The last man dropped to his knees, a knife slipping from his hands, blood streaming from two bullet wounds in his chest.
The girl forced herself up onto all fours, spitting blood. A hateful gaze seared into my soul as she struggled to her feet. Crimson streams covered her face and neck, more spattered across her arms and ripped T-shirt.
I let my weapon fall, halting my retreat to the APC. Which of us is more wrong? No, no—they started this.
With a cry of rage, she sprang at me. The battered girl halved the distance between us in a second.
You people will never learn. I raised my gun and pulled the trigger.
Her face paled with shock and pain, screaming mouth agape but silent. Her steps halted. She wobbled, tears streaming down her bloodied face. Panting and coughing up blood, she struggled to reach me.
I fired another round, this time into her leg.
With a scream, she dropped to the red-spattered road. Arms flailing, she scrabbled at the pavement, still trying desperately to reach me.
She’ll live. But did you make her hatred worse? Confrontation like this always makes things worse. Chaos breeds chaos, bloodshed creates bloodshed.
I left her and ran the remaining few yards to the carrier. The APC’s iron side slid open, jets firing to lift her, as I dove inside. Glancing over my shoulder, I watched the girl reach out for me, fury replacing the pain in her cries and curses. Hatred, all the way to the last. Stupid. But are we really that different?
You know what inspires shame? A random college playlist of songs illegally downloaded from Kazaa (remember P2P, old folks)? And I do not mean because of the intellectual property theft, because fuck the man - I feel younger just saying that, seeing as I sort of am the man now - but because Nickelback just started playing. For my penance, I am writing till the song ends.
The thing is, "Leader of Man," "Breathe," and "How You Remind Me" are not inherently terrible songs; it's just that once the latter was released, they never wrote another song again that wasn't a clone. I fondly remember paying $10 to see them in concert at the college across the street.
There ain't no shame like nostalgia shame.
And now onto "Popular" by Nada Surf... and my pile of grading...
Pen to the Paper 16
The audience couldn't believe their eyes. I had recently done some renovating of Pen to the Paper Arena, so that now, if I wanted, the top could open. So, roof agape, everyone stared in awe as the sleigh led by nine reindeer descended. Rudolph's nose glowed faintly.
"Ho, ho, ho!" Santa called as he pulled to a halt on stage. "Merry Pen to the Paper 16! And to all, a good show!"
"HELLO!" I called, jumping out of Santa's bag, doing a triple back flip, and landing on stage. "Okay, that went way better than it did in rehearsal, and I'm excited."
The crowd cheered as I bowed, acknowledging the absolute awesomeness of my stunt. "Guess what, guys? It's a new month, which means a new Pen to the Paper. So what are you guys still doing here!? Go! Start writing something!"
The stage opened up under my feet and I plummeted thirty feet down the elevator shaft. Santa whipped his reins, and his sleigh took off out of the arena, the roof snapping shut just as he left.
The feather mattress that I fell on top of did not break the fall as well as I hoped it would. Nursing my elbow, I rolled off of the platform once it had finished moving downward.
"You alright?" Nick asked, helping me to my feet.
"Wrong arm! Wrong arm!" I yelled as he pulled me up by my left arm. "Actually, I think you undis--reloc--erm. You popped my dislocated shoulder back into place."
"I know," Nick said, head buried into a bucket. "I heard."
Once he was finished losing his breakfast, he asked, "Hey, so how did you get the reindeer to fly like that?"
"I told you, I hired Santa for the day. Told me he wasn't busy."
Nick scratched his head as I walked out of the dressing room.
Chasing The Birds We Made
She stared at me through her wide red rimmed eyes, unblinked, adorned by dark black circles stretched in perfect curves underneath. Her hair was unkempt, her dress torn, her skin all wrinkled and tattered. Those stationary irises looked at me as if engrossed by something inches behind my skull. I forced a smile and clutched her hand, my thumb rubbing her phalanges. Her cracked lips slightly opened to reveal her yellowish brown decaying teeth that crammed inside like émigrés in the last train. Her expression displayed no emotion at all, trying to convey the buried truth of pain untold. Her pale cheeks navigated in to divulge her classic dimples that talked of those days when none of us would have imagined her to become a sick seed growing in the dark.
"Seriously, you don't want me to walk you home?” I asked, standing on my knees, pushing the wisps of ebony hair behind her ears.
“Ah, darling, I’ve been in this shit for three years. I can manage,” she said, brushing my hand aside, her eyes glassy with morphine.
“See ya then,” she said, one hand, working on the wheelchair, the other waving to me. I hesitated, then finally raised my hand. This wasn't the girl I grew up with. This was not the June I knew. She inched down the sidewalk, using her hands to turn the wheel and propel the wheelchair that encased her twisted torso and a pair of bell bottoms covering what remained of her crippled legs. A few people on the street collided with her vehicle, but she never seemed to care at all. She heard, saw, felt nothing. It was as if the whole planet moved in turbo speed whilst the world of her own was put on a pause.
A few feet before her way, she could see a beauteous little girl, walking on the pavement, holding her mother’s hand. A red ribbon, matching her tiny boots, was tied around her flaxen hair in a cute hippie style. June smiled, her dimple smile as she moved past her.
“Mama, is dat a helicotter o’er there?” she asked, her forefinger pointing to the skies where a mini chopper came flying through a clump of white cotton clouds. June’s heart skipped a beat and she stopped moving for a while.
“Jessica?” she called out my name just to check if I was still there. She opened her mouth again, trying to call a bit louder, but before she could finish the first syllable, I dashed across the sidewalk, almost tripping, and pushed the wheelchair in supersonic speed.
“It’s going this way!” I shouted into her ears, turning the wheelchair right in the bend which led to the next street.
“Jesus, Jess! What on earth are you doing?” she panicked, her bony fingers curling around the handlebars, holding them firmly. “The people, they're looking at us!”
She spat out words in the air, her brain unable to process the current situation. You could count all my thirty two teeth in that cheshire smile that was plastered on my face.
“Do you mind?” I yelled, speeding up my pace, my head rolling up and down, fighting in this quandary on whether to follow the helicopter or to focus on the road.
“Well, not really,” she mumbled, slowly loosening her grip and tilted her head up to get a good look of the flying chopper we were following. We were close; in fact, we were ahead of them. “But seriously, how old are you? Five?”
I shook my head, letting out ripples of laughter blend in the air and replied, my lungs expanding, my legs moving like pistons as I roared up and down the sidewalk. “Darling, I don’t care if I am five or forty five. Aeroplanes and helicopters, they're my thing.”
She closed her eyes and spread her arms in the air, allowing the hasty wind to entangle her thick black hair. She then opened her eyes which now saw nothing but the endless skies of clear blue to realise that it was the helicopter that was now following us.
“Jess,” she cried as fresh pails of tears rolled down her cheeks. “I am flying! I am flying!” This was exactly what I wanted. This was the June I wanted to see.
I came to a halt at the junction where humongous vehicles usually moved on the main roads on a typical Sunday morning.
“I am Jessica and this is my friend June!” I shouted at the skies, looking at the direction of the chopper, my hands cupped around my mouth.
“Don’t forget us!” June shouted too, playing her part as the word ‘us’ came reverberating back. The chopper flew past us as we watched it go in silence with a childish gleam of achieving something big surfaced on our faces. We waved to the skies maniacally as if burning fires were crawling over our calves. We then looked at each other and moved our hands in rapid circular motions like a spinning top, making sounds of toco-toco-toco, trying to imitate the helicopter.
I sat on the road of tarmac, my hands stretched back for support, laughing out heartily. Pearls of sweat surfaced on June’s forehead as she brought forward her shoulder to rub them away with her sleeve.
“It was flying so low!” I cried, bending my knees up and wrapping my arms around them.
“I know!” she squeaked back, running her tongue over her lips. The pale cheeks had turned ripe red and the queasy expression had long disappeared.
“You know what?” I said, looking into her eyes. “Perhaps, I should do this.”
“Ah Jess, it’s alright. You don’t have to walk me home,” she said as her glabella sunk in to create tiny little lines that grew out to be furrows in her forehead.
“Oh yes, of course, I am not going to walk you home,” I said, standing on my feet, stretching my knees and dusting off my harems. I rubbed my palms together and clicked my tongue, winking my left eye. This was definitely going to my diary.
I was actually turning on my laptop when I heard this helicopter and jumped out of my room to watch it. That was when this idea crossed my mind. I have my Economics exam the day after, but I know very well that if I don’t write this down now, I am never going to write this in the near future. We can deal with the exam later, this is what matters right now. So here we are! Hope you all like it ^-^ And I better get back to studying!
Journal entry #100
Today wasn't much different from the past two months. I've been finding my way on nuts, berries, and the few wild animals I find. I hope someday someone will find me on this forsaken island. If starvation or thirst won't kill me, maybe loneliness will. As far I as I know, I'm the only survivor of the shipwreck. The only person to have survived the thrashing ocean waters.
Of all the days I wrote on page after page in a couple journals, I don't know why I decided today I would share some of the story of the nightmare I will never forget. A box of empty journals, pens, pencils, and books washed ashore with me. The journals were dry, well most of them. I let the others dry for days, in the baking sand and scorching sun. The books.. well, they didn't really survive the salty waters. The pages were soggy, words bled everywhere. Useless. I let them dry and ripped pages, using them for the fire. One other box washed ashore, with some salvageable food. Barely enough to last me the first couple days. After the first day, of hunting the island's beach, I decided to make camp. I gathered branches, sticks, leaves, grass, anything –– and made a tent. A shelter to keep me safe. In the brush there are berries and nuts. Sometimes I find a lizard, frog, or small animal. Then I bake it over my fire. I eat, write, sleep, hunt, and repeat. Day after day, night after night. Week after week and month after month. It's the same. The same grueling days, the same loneliness, boredom, and heat.
Perhaps, because I'm bored. No one to talk to, no one to look at. Just the ocean, the sky, and the never-ending sun. If I hadn't built a little covered area under the trees, I might have shriveled into a raisin by now. Thankfully, I found a fresh spring of cold water, saving myself from dehydration or salt-water. This island is full of new discoveries. Yet, I still don't know what life is beyond the few chirping birds and waving trees. Should I look for more life? What if there are cannibals, ready to devour me? What if there are wild beasts, ready to take me down? The fear I allowed to build inside my mind, keeps me from going on into the depths of this unknown island.
Loneliness. Boredom. Probably one of the things I dreaded most in life. Really, you don't know what it's like to be lonely, until you've experienced it. All I can think of to keep myself company, is making up small stories. Or.. telling my life stories in these journals. Why should I? Maybe it'd be better to bury myself in the sand and lay there, dying. No one will come after me. I'm no princess nor queen, why should anyone look for me? I'm just a lowly girl, from a poor family. Her father decided one day, he could gather enough money to let her explore the world. No one knows what happened. No one cares. No one.
Journal entry #101
This is the second entry for today. My fire is built, the flames licking the air. In the hottest of the day, I sit in the shade and write, bored. Sometimes I sleep. In the dimming evening light, I write. The moon shines so brightly some nights, I'm able to write thoughts at any time.
What if someone finds these journals? Maybe I could bury them. In the hope, someone will come after me. If I'm long gone, by either starvation, loneliness, or whatever creatures live past this beach; they'll find this. At least they might find out who I am. Maybe shed some light on my family.. share the news with them. Perhaps, I should stop wishing. This island is in the middle of the ocean. If help were to arrive, it could take months –– who am I kidding? It's been months already. Maybe it'll take years. Hopefully, I'll be alive; maybe thin and scraggly, but alive when help finally arrives for me.
As I stare at the journal and the fire glimmers, the screams of everyone on the ship haunt me. I have nightmares at least once a week. Maybe more. I don't even know what day it is. I lost track ages ago. I only hope the other passengers found help, if any survived. It would have been better to die in the ocean's waves, or receive help while half-alive, then have to live on an island. Where there is no life and each passing day is the same. Maybe one day, I'll build a raft, and float out of here. Then again, maybe it's just my mental state, wishing such things. I fear I won't survive on the food that's here. I already got sick from some of the foreign berries. Maybe I should find new ones... better looking ones.
There's something that howls in the night, I always crouch closer to the fire, afraid to leave it. When it's light, I gather as much wood as possible. The darkness is full of unknown creatures. I'd rather stay close to something I can feel safe. The darkness haunts me, it tries to smother the light I have left. The light I try so hard to keep alive. It's dying, slowly, but it is.
There's something creeping close by, I can feel it. A twig just snapped. It would be a shame to stop writing now. Perhaps... wait! There's a shadow! It's... a... human..? No! Wait! It's gone. Phew! That was close. I'll write faster, in case this.. this human or creature decides to take me.
Whoever finds these journals, if anyone does.. please give my love to my mother and father. I regret not being able to tell them how much I cared about them. I was a foolish girl, desperate for adventure. Where did that get me? Lost. Lost in the middle of an island, where loneliness will be my death.
A Bit of a Twist
Sit down and write without planning?
hmm, you'd have to feel inspired for somthing like that.
I'm not an inspiring person, or maybe its the fact that inspiration is fleeting
sorta like a stray cat.
A poem comes to mind filled with rhythm and rhyme, but then i realized and said aloud to the empty four walls of my house "ah yes, i forgot i am incapable of writing poetry with a simple rhyme scheme." And so she turnd her once impeccably uninspiring poem about insparation into a prose about irony and wishful thinking. "How unfortunate" she sighed.
Your breath is heavy as you climb the steps, socks muffling the sound of pattering feet. You climb up to the catwalk above the stage, with a view of the boisterous crowd. But they can't see you. As you reach the top, you walk clear to the center and turn on the spotlight. As it flickers to life, you point it directly to the stage, where someone should be standing. The audience hushes, awaiting the appearance of their star. you unclip the microphone from your belt, and take a deep breath.
"Ladies, gentlemen, people of hopefully all 18+ ages..."
The crowd cheers. You almost smile.
"I have something very special planned for you tonight. This is something that I have been planning for a very long time, and am very excited to finally become reality. "
Again. Cheering. Some look around for you, but they can't see you in the dark catwalk.
" I want you to know that I love you all and that everything that I've achieved is because of you. I wouldn't be anywhere if not for each and every one of you. I'd like you now to reach under your seats. Inside, you will find a sum. Do with this what you'd like. A Christmas gift from me to you."
You pause, hearing a mixture of responses. Gasps, laughter, crying. You have given away your entire fortune, and there's no going back. You wait for silence. You reach into your pocket, and pull out a small remote. When you click it, a spotlight shines on you. The crowd cheers and a tear falls down your face.
"Thank you all so very much."
Then you climb up the railing, spread your arms, and fall.
I was there when you died. I suppose you wouldn't know that. It was my first concert, and I had saved up for a whole year to get a good ticket. I was determined to pay myself. I was only 14. I was in the front rows, but I had never seen so many people in one place. When you began talking, I was so excited. You were my hero. But then the money. I had opened the envelope under my seat to find a $180,000 check, but I was confused. Then I looked up. My breath caught in my throat.
You fell. Suddenly the stadium was screaming, a cacophony of voices. I watched you hit the stage. I almost vomited right there. Some did. When we were escorted out of the stadium, it smelled of rotting food and blood. Everyone was either sobbing or shell-shocked. I was silent, eyed wide, tears drying on my cheeks. I wasn't prepared for this.
You were on headlines all week. Some said you died instantly, some said that you made it to the hospital. Some said it was a hoax to get out of the spotlight. Some said it was an accident. But it wasn't a hoax. It wasn't a mistake. I knew it.
Because you were my brother.
I don't know why you did it. I doubt I'll ever know. You were always so happy. I remember playing with you by the lake when we were kids. It was just us. I was your little brother, and you were my hero. Sometimes I think I understand why you jumped. Once in a while, I think about trying to see you again, but then I think, 'He wouldn't want that for me. He'd want me to live a good life.' And I've been trying. I swear, I have been. But I don't know if I can do it anymore, but I keep going because of you! And sometimes, you make me so angry. I wish I could see you, just so I could punch you in the face, because I hate how much I love you. I hate how much influence you have on me. I hate that you left me. You left me alone. How can I still love you after all you've done?
I'm sorry. Maybe you really were suffering, and I was just too stupid to see it. Maybe I could have done something. In some ways, it seems so much like something you would do. One final prank. Going out with a bang. But that doesn't change how much I miss you, Bro. It's been nearly ten years, and I miss you more than anything else. And someday, I'll see you again, I promise. Oh, and Abby is two now. She loves hearing stories about her uncle! I wish you could have met her and Gloria. You would love them.
I know I tell you all of this every time I visit, but it's all I have. I brought flowers, too. I hope you like them.
See you soon,
It's hard not to see life as a narrative, which makes me feel like I'm doing everything wrong. Do you ever feel like you've got nothing to contribute? Like even your best efforts aren't enough to scratch the surface of your own misery, let alone the problems of the outside world?
This may come off as dark or brooding, maybe a little defeated, I don't know.
I don't understand how everyone isn't in despair all of the time. How people can live 30, 40, 50, 80 years on this earth and still find some motivation or reason to wake up every morning. What keeps people from falling to their knees and crying
"I've had enough" before committing to addiction or death?
This is true, thick, unexplainable misery. And the fucked up thing is that, outside of the death of my Dad, my life should be a privileged romp through professionalism and intelligence. And so I feel wrong for being miserable.
Maybe I'm not eating right, maybe not moving enough, maybe nicotine withdrawal, maybe disconnection from God, maybe grief, maybe I'm not where I'm supposed to be, maybe lack of discipline, maybe I have no passion, maybe I'm depressed, maybe I need meds, maybe it's other people, maybe it's not my fault, maybe I am genuinely worthless.
I noticed today that with the exception of 2020, I remember feeling justified in the proclamation that "this has been the worst year of my life" every year, since I was in middle school. Does that say something? I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I'm also sure that this isn't everyone's experience.
Are some people meant to bear the most misery? Is that how we achieve compassion on a societal level? With little landmines of broken lives trying to make themselves and the world better without actually seeing the progress, just so that they just keep doing it? Keep trying to improve, and make better, and be kind, and avoid pain, and stay alive.
I dunno, it's just a bad day I guess. Not too much else to say about it.
"She's gone. We should go too."
"But... we can't. We can't just leave her like this... we can't le... her pixels, on the floor, we have to... burn...oh, it burns. Rob, it burns, it burns, it burns..."
Trisk and Rob helped their friend stand up. His limbs were shaking badly, his face covered with luminous tears as he cried over his sister's death. "It's too late now, Kylen. You did all you could: you literally gave up a leg for Zora. Now it's time to move on, you do not want to follow her path now."
"But don't you see?" Kylen cried, turning his anguished face to Trisk's. "Zora's the one who always follows me! She does everything I do after I've done it first, she's followed me everywhere since we were progys, I even told her ten minutes ago that she would be fine! AND NOW LOOK AT HER..." He bit his knuckle, moaning in despair.
"Hey, hey, hey. Sshh mate, they'll hear us!"
"We HAVE to get out of here!" Trisk whispered fiercely.
"I did everything first..." Kylen mumbled. He hung limply between Trisk and Rob. They held his arms, otherwise he would collapse. The pain of losing his sister and his leg within seconds was enough to get anybody down, and Trisk found herself blinking away tears of her own.
"I did everything first... except derezz. Zora derezzed before me. Why did I let it happen? Why didn't I try harder... she followed... I could have... but Zora..."
Kylen trailed off like before, but Rob sensed a tensing in the arm that he held. He caught Trisk's eye and jerked his head backward, communicating that they needed to get out of the area quickly. Trisk saw and nodded, but then Kylen resumed speaking coherently.
"Zora derezzed before me... Guys. Zora derezzed before me! No, no, no, I'm not going mad, she WANTED to go before me! And now she's waiting for me, and I have to go to her..."
"Hang on, just hang on, dude!" Rob couldn't believe his ears. "You don't mean you want to... self-rezz?"
"No, Rob, I NEED to self-rezz! Zora still can't take care of herself, I have to go save her! Don't you see? It's the right thing to do!"
"Alright Ky, that's enough," Trisk said firmly. Herself and Rob started pulling Kylen with them.
"NO! NO! WAIT! LET ME GO! YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO!" Kylen screamed. He struggled against them, but the two had firm grips on his arms, and Kylen was already weak from loss of pixels. They dragged him away while he pleaded and wept for them to derezz him. Trisk was crying too, and even stoic Rob's eyes were damp before the rain started. Kylen's last sight of his sister was a little pile of blue pixels and a broken metal disk.
* * * *
"So. The mission. Was it successful?"
The thug kneeling before Char'dn swallowed. Char'dn watched his Adam's Apple bob nervously. "It... it was a success, m'lord."
"Then bring the girl to me."
Mannind gulped again. Lord Char'dn certainly didn't waste his words. "My... my uh, my lord..."
Char'dn straightened visibly. "What have you done?"
"Please... f... forgive me, your, uhh, lordship," Mannind stuttered, clasping his hands fitfully. "I... I... derezzed her."
A collective sigh of astonishment rang through the audience, and Char'dn's eyes opened wide. "Have you forgotten that Zuse wanted her alive?"
"No m'lord, I didn't forget," the big man replied. "She intentionally got in the way of a death throw that was meant for one of the others... her brother, I believe. There was, um, nothing to be done. She was derezzed in seconds."
Char'dn stood up swiftly. His aqua and black robes billowed about him as wind began to blow from some unseen corner. He glided slowly down the steps until he was a pace away from the big assassin. Mannind looked up at the other's face, young but hard as steel, with the flowing black hair and pale skin that marked him as one of the Biyedandar Family. Right now though, the young lord's light face was darkened by rage. It scared Mannind enough to plea for his life.
"Um, sir, please, would you spare me? I, I have a family too, you know: what will happen to my wife and..."
Char'dn gave a sharp nod to the guards, and two lightsticks were shoved through Mannind's chest as he was still speaking. The words turned into an electronic gurgle, and the assassin fell in tiny pieces at Char'dn's feet. The lord glared at the pile of pixels a moment longer, then instructed his servants to grind the assassin's remains into the ground.
Not pausing to enjoy the spectacle, Char'dn threw off his cumbersome robes and raced away, not even bothering to see if his bodyguards could keep up. He sprinted through the rain to where he knew she would be, hoping that he could still give her remains an honourable purge.
Zuse will be very angry when I return without her. I spoke of her so much to him that he thought she could be the one to restore order. I made a mistake, sending someone else, a failed assassin. I should have gone to her myself. Maybe then I could have found her alone and taken her quickly. The Family would have been terribly angry, but that would have been better than derezzation.
He suddenly skidded to a stop, hair soaked, eyes wild. It was too late. The girl's pixels had fallen into a puddle, and most of them had now evaporated. A small, rising puff of steam wafted from the remaining handful of blue pixels. Char'dn fell to his knees on the wet cobblestones, and reached out to touch the broken disk, now dull and blank. Lifeless. Of all the people who might end up dead, she had been perhaps one of the indispensable ones.
Well. She’s gone now, and I should go too. I will need to call the Family and apologize for my failure. And then Zuse will likely have me killed. I deserve it, really. I was too scared to see her again.
Char'dn stood up, still holding the two pieces of the disc. He swallowed, and lifted two fingers of his right hand in a horizontal V sign above his head.
"Goodbye, Zora," he whispered, as her last pixels evaporated.