My right foot goes numb. I look down and see the red gash poking through the gaping hole in my jeans. My heart beat quickens and I can just see the blood begin to flow out more rapidly. I feel faint. I slide down and sit, every movement of my leg exaggerated by the pain. My eyes tear up and I cannot see for the umpteenth time of the day. I slowly reach down and gingerly dab the wound with my finger and can just feel the pain flowering. I wonder vaguely how I managed to carry Felicia all this way. But the blood seems to tell me that it came at a cost. I strip my sweater off then proceed to pull off my shirt. I slip back into my sweater and tie my shirt around my thigh tightly.
“You alright, Kevin?” Gabe asks coming to kneel next to me. I shakily relax against the tree and look at our group. We gained a few students. I don’t where from or how but here they are.
“Yeah...” He nods and sits next to me. The group all sits. They stare off at the sky and trees and shrubbery and their own hands. Dead silence. I set my head back against the trunk and close my eyes.
“What do we do?” A small voice asks. Almost a whisper. Yet in this silence it could have been a yell. I jump and many stir. Their eyes open wide and bodys jerk. They look wild and scared. PTSD. I think with a shake.
A moment goes by and no one responds.
“What do we do?” They ask again. I look at her. Grace. A slight figure that joined us during the run. Probably.
“We go back,” Megan states firmly. All eyes turn to her. Grace nods.
“No.” I hear myself say. It surprises me. All eyes on me.
“We can’t just leave them!” She yells. Actually yells. I think of Will. My resolve snaps but with it goes my power to speak. I try to shake my head to let her know I agree but I am powerless. I try to move, cry out, anything! But can only sit there and watch as they all stare at me with their dead empty eyes. Can not another speak up? Can they do something other than stare?
“You’re right,” She says suddenly looking at her feet before sitting down with a ‘huff’. My body relaxes. I look from face to face wondering if they saw what happened to me. Wondering if they saw that I had no control over myself and do not know what just happened.
“Then what do we do?” Back to that question. Why that question? Why always that question? Are there not plenty of other questions in life! Or at least another to ask? Another who may have answers?
“I don’t know,” I mutter through a scratchy throat. “Leave, call our parents?” I suggest lamely. Some blink back their look of lostness and reach for their phones. Remembering that they have them for the first time.
“Don’t call the police,” I say suddenly. My mouth is moving faster than my brain. It’s a muddle of thoughts and feelings and memories and abscence thereof. Everyone stops and looks at me again.
“Why?” Someone asks. Names are no longer relevent. We are all just another human being trying to see the light of tomorrow. I shrug.
“Those were U.S. soldiers,” Caden speaks up for the first time. All eyes on him. Mine included. I wonder if mine are as empty as theirs. “If the army is on it then couldn’t the police be?” He asks shakily. I remember I have a dad. I have a soldier dad. Soldier.... What does he do? I wonder. Was he a soldier? Would he do something like this? I can feel the adrenaline leaving my body and the aches and pains of the day catching up. I forget and remember and forget within an instant. He was SF. Is SF. What does SF mean?
“Look!” Someone says hurriedly from the edge of the treeline that looks out into the open field where the basketball court sits. West of the main building and North of the huts. South of the trees. And between the trees and the court sits a road. A road now full of armored personnal carriers, humvees, and ambulances. The closest ambulance driver gets out of it (a man in a full MP unifrom) and leaves the vehicle running as he talks to a nearby soldier. But the student, Jiavanni as it turns out, is pointing to the basketball court where the men are rounding up the students into groups. We watch as one tries to run away and is shot in the back without a second’s hesitation. I watch as the blood gushes from the wound and he tries to crawl away. Everyone ignores him. He will not survive the wound even if he does crawl away. I don’t allow myself to look at his face. I don’t allow myself to recognize him. Someone behind me pukes.
“Can anyone here drive?” I ask suddenly. I know the safest way out of this.
“I mean, I can but...” Caden volunteers. I don’t look at him. I don’t let his doubt fuel my own.
“Alright, that ambulance can’t be any different.”
“My parents won’t pick up,” Someone chokes out from behind me. I turn to look at Grace as she lets out a sob. The tears start to run down her face. Then she lets out a cry. I think of the sound. I step forward and in one swift movement have my hand wrapped around her mouth and my mouth by her ear. The explosion of adrenaline and sudden anger almost too much for me.
She freezes. No one breathes. It subsides. I was harsh and rough. My knuckles are white. My face red. I can’t see through the blood pumping through my head. I pull my hand away with a jerk and take a shaky step back.
“I... I’m...” We all stand in a moment of scared silence.
“I’ll grab Felicia,” Megan volunteers.
“So we all go at once?” Caden asks eyeing the driver. I shrug, the moment moving on buy my brain still frazzled. “Alright, let’s do it. Megan, you say go.” All eyes move to Megan as she lifts the undoubtedly heavy Felicia onto her own slim and tall frame.
“Okay I’m ready,” She states taking a few weak steps toward us.
“I got it,” Rippy states, another who joined us during the run. He steps forward. He’s a short and well muscled individual. Five six and a hundred and thirty pounds. Muscle. He’s not defined but he’s big. At least one of the largest in muscles of us. He wouldn’t have any trouble with Felicia. How convenient. Megan passes her on without complaint.
“I’m ready,” Rippy states. I look at him and what I see scares me. The socially awekward and unsure, depressed teenage boy is all focus. His eyes are a light blue but now can only be seen as the darkest of blacks. His blonde hair makes it look as if his head were on fire with concentration. His face set and emotionless in such a way that makes me believe he could kill a man without a second thought. Would kill a man without a second thought. He takes point of the group.
“Let’s go.” His voice is cold.