The pipes in this dingy basement make funny noises sometimes. I've gotten used to them at this point. I know what they sound like. But it doesn't make it any easier to sleep.
It doesn't mean that I wouldn't jump at every noise regardless.
There was only one tiny window in that basement, but the glass had been painted over. I could never tell what time of day it was. Or if it was daytime at all. I suppose I could have broken it open, but I was terrified that the noise would bring 'them' back.
How long had I been down here?
The battery in my cell phone died the morning after I came down here to hide. I've been a bit lost ever since.
I was still clutching a rifle in my arms. Always close by. Always ready. I had never fired a gun in my life before. Never even held one, to be honest. Now, all of a sudden, I can't sleep without one.
I rolled over onto my back, tossing my one lone blanket off of my shoulders as I attempted to sit up straight and rub the 'sleep' out of my eyes. I can't believe how easily I was able to adjust to laying on the hard basement floor. Perhaps it was the hidden alcohol stash that I found down there that helped me relax. I can remember when the very idea of drinking that stuff would have made me gag. Now? I don't think I can really imagine me sleeping without that either.
I stood up on shaky legs and stretched my arms out over my head. I didn't bother dusting myself off anymore. What would be the point?
I can still feel that jittery flutter of hysteria in the pit of my stomach. It never goes away. Sometimes...when I'm bored...I begin to cry. I don't really feel the emotion inside, as I've become so detached from feeling much of anything anymore. But the tears create a ticklish sensation as they crawl down my cheeks. I hear myself sniffling through it, feeling the wetness on the back of my hand as I wipe the offending droplets away. I don't give into it. That inner panic and my questioning rational mind seem to be hunting one another inside of me. I'm afraid what'll happen to me when they become one and the same. I may just lose myself...permanently.
I found a box full of Eddie's old toys in a box down here a while back. I thought it funny that he had so many coloring books when he was a kid. You'd think he was obsessed with them or something. I was glad to discover a box of discolored crayons off to the side, however. I started trying to keep track of time. It wasn't easy though. The only real sensory clues that I had to go by were my uneven sleep patterns. I figured...I'd mark every extended sleep session would count as one day. And I could only determine longer sleep sessions by judging how I felt when I woke up. How rested I was. Sometimes I try to sleep, but only get a few minutes rest at a time. I hear a bump upstairs, or a distant scream from outside...and I'm wide awake again. The deprivation does catch up to me every now and then, however...and I feel like I sleep for twelve hours straight. Those are the ones I mark off on the page. Those are the ones that count.
Let's see...five, ten, fifteen, twenty...twenty five...forty. Today makes forty. Forty days spent all alone in this dingy basement. It might be less, it might more. Like I said, I have no way of knowing. I've been cut off.
I took a moment to listen to the silence upstairs. Making sure that it was really silence, and not a trick. I hold my breath. I steady my heartbeat. I stretch out with my senses and I don't move an inch.
No noises. No growls. No shuffled footsteps.
Ok, the coast is clear.
That's the only time that I turn on the light in the basement. I have to make sure that it's safe first. I think they can see light. Even if it's just under the crack of the door. I covered the bottom of that door weeks ago, but I didn't want to chance even a sliver of light getting out.
Sometimes I hear them walking around the house. They don't always stay long, but both the front and back doors were ripped off of the hinges during the massacre, so there's nothing to stop those things from wandering in whenever they feel like it.
I hear their footsteps on the floorboards above. Draaaaaggggg, step! Draaaaaggggg, step! Something about their movement is so unnatural. It's not human. You can just hear it in the sound of their staggered stomping. Every time I heard one of them milling around the house, an ice cold shiver went up my spine, and my nerves wound themselves up tight enough to snap. I've been clutching this rifle in my hand so hard and for so long that it's sometimes difficult to uncurl my fingers from the barrel. I have to flex and stretch them out, my joints popping as my white knuckled grip attempted to release it. And even when I put the gun down...I was never more than a step away from it. Just in case.
I moved over to the big freezer in the basement and used a finger to test the hamburger meat that I took out the night before. Or the day before. Or maybe it was just a couple of hours ago. God, I wish I knew how long I had been down here. The meat was soft on the outside, but still had a rock hard, icy, center that hadn't really thawed out yet. Lifting up the freezer door, I noticed that my lucky stash of food was getting low. Had it not been for Eddie's parents keeping a surplus of deeply frozen meats and left overs down here, I'm sure that I would have starved to death by now. My only source of water came from a half rusted faucet that was mostly just used to empty the laundry machine and to fill up the occasional mop bucket. I was fortunate to find an old hot plate in one of Eddie's mother's boxes labeled 'College'. Not much in there, but it was enough to cook a little something every now and then. None of it tasted very good, considering that I was hardly a self sufficient cook, and didn't have anything to season stuff with if I had been. But I think I made out ok, considering the circumstances.
Forty whole days, and I still tip toe around the basement as if it all happened yesterday. When I close my eyes...it's like I can still hear the screaming. Still feel the building chaos all around me. Until the night of that damn party, the most blood I had ever seen was from a few self inflicted paper cuts and a freakish nosebleed that I got at Summer Camp one year when I was ten. That night...I saw something different. Something my brain simply wasn't prepared for.
I try not to think about it...but when you've only got silence and boredom to entertain you...thinking about it is pretty much all you can do.
"Hold on, Walter...I'll be right back..." Jason said. I hear it echoing through the rest of the frightened whispers in the back of my mind.
"Actually, my name is..." But before I could finish, he was rushing back into the kitchen from the backdoor. "...Walker."
I stood out on that back porch, wishing I had the courage to say something to him. Wishing that I could just randomly shout my feelings at him and put an end to this endless waiting! Even if he rejected me outright, it would be better than spending another few weeks not knowing how Jason felt about me. I guess I just needed to figure out whether I was wasting my time or not. You know?
I remember hearing more noise coming from the front of the house. It seemed to be escalating rather quickly. And then there was the sound of glass breaking and furniture being knocked over inside the house. I frowned up my face a little bit, figuring that a couple of high strung jocks had gotten into a fist fight over their favorite football team or something. I was annoyed in the beginning. But then I saw more of the high school kids from the backyard racing towards the front of the house.
They looked worried. Maybe even scared.
At this point, I had to put my heart soaked feelings aside for a moment and find out what the hell was going on. I moved towards the back door, but before I can even reach for the handle, I saw a 17 year old blond girl come charging out of it, top speed! The door almost hit me in the face, and I felt a warm splash of liquid hit my left arm! I was SOOOOO mad! My initial thought was that some dumb bitch had been overdoing it with the drinking and ran outside to puke over the railing of the back porch because she couldn't get to the bathroom in time. I swear, if she had barfed all over me on the ONE night that I was planning to talk to Jason about how much I liked him, I was going to fucking STRANGLE her!
But...as I looked over at her with eyes of disgust...I noticed that something was...wrong.
She was crying her eyes out, holding the side of her neck as she stumbled out into the backyard. Was she...? Was she bleeding?
I found myself more fascinated than shocked. I watched as a fountain of blood poured out of her neck and began to drench her pink shirt in a liquid that looked more purple than red. I watched her spin around and fall to the ground, with a few friends hurrying over to help her out.
It was then that I looked down at my arm.
My eyes widened.
She didn't puke on me. It was blood. It was all BLOOD!
My heart began to pound in my chest as I looked at the thick liquid with terrified eyes! And that's when the window right next to me was suddenly shattered into a million pieces, with people practically diving through the shards of broken glass to get out of that house as fast as they could!
My knees went weak from the sudden fright, and I instinctually sank down to the porch, covering my ears with both hands and slamming my eyes shut as hordes of people came pouring out of the back of the house. I could hear all kinds of yelling around me, and when I opened my eyes again, I saw a bunch of kids bleeding heavily over everything they touched. It was as if someone had ripped a giant HOLE in them! I didn't understand. I couldn't comprehend what was going on.
It took me a moment to regain the use of my legs again, and I felt myself trembling as I struggled to get to my feet again. I was trapped between the flow of people racing out the back door, and the flow of people climbing through that broken window. I decided to take my chances with the door.
I was never really all that big, so the older kids pushed me around pretty easily. The only thing that kept them from knocking me clear off of my feet was the fact that I was being pushed back and forth in opposite directions before I could completely fall over. I was somehow able to slip my way inside as the back of the house emptied out. "EDDIE???" I shouted, but I doubt he'd be able to hear me over all of this ruckus.
I squeezed my way through the hallway, but there were so many people trying to get by at once that I was pressed up against the wall, their panicked clogging of the area nearly pushing the air out of my lungs until I couldn't breathe! I was stuck. Unable to move. People were stepping all over my feet, elbows and shoulders bruising me as the whole free for all became a selfish dash for their own survival. I saw a girl fall forward, and the people just trampled all over her as though she didn't even matter! I watched her curl up into a tight ball as the crowd stumbled right over her and kept running!
"EDDIE??? Eddie, where ARE you???" I screamed. I screamed so loud that my young voice cracked and began to burn from the strain I put on it. I was so LOST! So SCARED!
Sometimes, when I'm drifting off to sleep...I can still hear that scream echoing in my thoughts. Even now. Forty days later.
I quietly stepped around the basement, still feeling a little groggy but I think the rumble in my stomach was going to keep me awake until I satisfied the urge to eat something. I rinsed my hands off in the sink before peeling away the softer outside of the icy ball of meat so I'd have enough to make myself a hamburger. I checked the bread again today. Before there were just a few moldy spots on the crust. Spots that I could easily peel off and eat what was left. But now even the middle of every slice was turning green. I should have kept it refrigerated. It doesn't make bread invincible, but I might have kept it for another week. At least, I'm assuming that's how it goes.
The hard frozen center, I wrapped back up to put in the freezer for another day. When I lifted the door up, I think I raised my arm too high. A pinch of pain ran through me as I held my side, rubbing my fingers over the rather large scar running across my ribs, just under my arm. Shit! It seems like the ache just pinches me for no other reason than to remind me that it's there. It's gotten to be an annoyance.
I turned the hot plate on and put the meat on top of it. I wish I had brought my cell phone charger. I might have been able to call for help. Or at least know what day it was.
I stared at the meat as the warming surface caused a small trickle of blood to veer off to the side of the small pan and puddle there. As I waited for things to get going, my half awake mind began to remember. Always replaying the events of that night. Always wondering what I might have done differently.
"EDDIE!!! Where ARE you???" I shouted! The teenagers surrounding me were so much bigger than me! I was getting tossed around like a rag doll in the center of all that madness! "Let me THROUGH!!!" I screamed as loud as I could, but no one could hear my immature voice over everybody elses. I pushed and pushed with all of my might, and eventually got around the corner, leading to Eddie's dining room. I rushed to duck down under his dining room table and hid out there for a few seconds so I could catch my breath. All I saw was running legs going past me. Everyone screaming as though Satan himself had manifested himself right outside on the front lawn.
I was still wheezing for breath when I heard people jumping on top of the table that I was hiding under. A few more teens scooted underneath as well, some of them covered in the blood of their fellow students. There were so many that they eventually began to force me out! The pushed my smaller body further and further back, with me not having enough weight to push them back.
"HEY!!! Stop it!!! Quit pushing!!!" I said, but more and more people kept scampering under the same table and more kept jumping up and running over it. "KNOCK IT OFF!!!" Just then, someone fell back on top of me, knocking me flat on my belly! A razor sharp pain ran through me! Followed by a wetness that quickly spread through my shirt. I had two people on top of me, still kicking and screaming, pinning me to the floor! Grinding that stabbing pain right into my ribs. And then...'something' grabbed one of the girls on top of me and dragged her out from under the table! I heard a blood curdling shriek as watched her legs begin to violently shake, and a shower of red plasma spilled out over the tops of her glaring white sneakers.
I finally found a way to crawl out from under the mass of people in my hiding spot! My arm! Oh God, my ribs! I got out from under that table just as a few more teens attempted to jump on top of it. Suddenly, with a crash, the table legs gave way and fell in on itself, crushing the people below!
I was heaving for breath, and grabbed my side. My shirt was wet, and there was a severe stinging sensation in my side. It wasn't until my eyes began to water from the smell that I realized the cologne bottle in my pocket had been smashed! Most of the wetness I felt was cologne and not blood...but I could feel the wounds from having shards of glass digging into me anyway! I was sure that I was bleeding.
Holding my side, I hurried through the mass of people running for cover...and I couldn't BELIEVE what I was seeing with my own eyes! There were people in the house that didn't belong there. People I had never seen before. With read, sullen eyes and dingy teeth. Their faces splashed with blood...and chunks of meat dripping from their open jaws, held together with long strings of torn flesh. Were they...were they eating people???
They were EATING people!
I wanted to run screaming from the room, but I was held still for a brief moment of disbelief. Perhaps, even fascination.
The only thing that snapped me out of it was the sound of my best friend shouting in the living room!
I ran in to see Eddie and his brother Mike holding the front door shut! Or at least trying to. The door was being pushed open by what seemed like an entire army of people, with bloodstained fingers and hands reaching through the small part of they door they kept pushing open. "EDDIE!!!"
He looked at me while pressing his back and shoulders against the door, straining with all his might to keep it from springing open and letting even more of those things inside! "WALKER!!! Dude, come help us!!!" He shouted back, and I hurried forward to add my measly bit of weight to the effort. I could feel them pushing from the other side. Growling, snarling, hissing at us from behind that door. Tears ran out of my eyes as I dug my heels into the floor and felt the door being forced open anyway! I gritted my teeth and used every last bit of strength that I could, but it was no use! Eddie, Michael, and I, grunted and strained, but that door was coming open no matter HOW hard we tried to push it closed!
What were just hands and fingers before were now whole arms and shoulders! And I felt a few of them smearing blood on my face as they reached inside, tugging and ripping the collar of my shirt, pulling my hair!
We soon realized that our current plan of action was in vain, and Michael yelled at us, "GO UPSTAIRS!!! NOW!!! DO IT!!!"
"What's happening???" I cried.
Suddenly, Eddie gave me a nod, and we both bolted towards the steps through the agitated swarm of teenagers, skipping two at a time as we tried to get to safety! But halfway up, my side began to burn and bleed with even greater ferocity! I had to stop. The pain was almost too much for me to bear. I thought I was going to literally pass out from it!
Eddie reached the top of the stairs just as the front door burst open and those monsters flooded the living room all at once. "What are you doing? Walker, COME ON!!!" Eddie shouted down to me. But by the time I looked up at him, there was somebody walking up behind him.
"EDDIE, BEHIND YOU!!!"
Eddie turned around just in time to see two or three of those...those things reaching out for him. With a scream, he tried to push them back, and was forced into one of the upstairs bedrooms. He slammed the door shut and locked it, leaving them to pound away at it while I was left all alone on the steps.
I saw a few more start coming towards me from upstairs. but when I turned around, there more coming at me from downstairs as well. I was trapped between them!
I saw Michael using whatever he could to swing and fight off the horde or creatures in the living room, but there were just too many of them for Michael to take on all at once. I watched as he made the mistake of being backed up against the living room window. It was instantly shattered from the outside, and a cluster of reaching hands took hold of Michael and dragged him, screaming, out into the front yard!
I could hear his cries of anguish outside, and then noticed a series of bright lights and sirens coming from out front. Hollered orders from police officers rang out before I heard the loud 'crackle' of gunfire into the masses. But I don't think it did much good. The police seemed to be under attack as well.
As I saw monsters closing in on me from both sides, I knew that I had no choice but to jump over the side of the railing to save myself. I was pretty high up! Looking down, my stomach tied itself into a tight knot as I tried to quickly muster up the courage to make the leap of faith. Then...just as their reaching hands and gnashed teeth were close enough to touch me, I swung my leg over the side and let myself fall over!
One of the hands grabbed me by the shirt and held me there in mid air, refusing to let me go. I squirmed and wiggled, trying to get it to let me go, the collar nearly choking me around the throat as it held me suspended above the chaos below. But finally, after hitting its hands and worming my way out of its grip, it let me drop down onto a small table beneath me. I fell pretty hard, twisting my ankle and nearly crippling myself in the fray!
I was able to drag myself forward a few feet, heading towards the basement door. Most people look at it in the middle of the hallway and think it's a closet, but it's not. I knew better. I remembered from when Eddie and I used to look at his father's old dirty magazines down there together.
So I moved as fast as my sore body would allow, and then opened it up and pulled myself inside. I was quick to lock it and forced myself up onto my knees to hold it shut with both hands as the insanity continued outside. I could hear soooo many screams! So many gunshot! So many unheard cries for help! But I held that door closed with both hands!
The cut in my side felt as though I was being RIPPED open from the inside....but I STILL held that door closed!
Tears ran down my face in buckets! What happened to Eddie? Is Michael ok? Where's Jason??? Oh God, what happened to Jason? What about my MOM? Is my MOM ok??? Why is this happening? WHY???
"I wanna go home..." I whimpered to myself, sniffling as the horrors outside continued to rage on. "I just wanna go home..."
And it was there I stayed. All alone in that basement...listening to the house party getting savagely mauled by whatever those damn things were. I can remember trying my best to shut it all out. Listening to the madness quiet itself into a few dull murmurs...a few last gasps of breath. I can remember my pants getting soaked as a thick puddle of blood began to spread out underneath the door. I can remember the sickening sounds of those ghouls munching on human flesh...only to go looking for more.
it took me hours to stop crying. Even longer before my breathing returned to normal. I was afraid that my sniffling would let those things know I was down here. Afraid that the stinging aroma of this entire bottle of spray cologne on my clothes would alert them to my presence in the house.
But they never came for me. Not the teenagers, not the monsters, not the police officers outside...the world slowed down to eventual silence...and I've been locked down here ever since.
It was a day later when my phone battery was running on its last legs. I tried to call the police, I tried to call my MOM...but all of the lines were busy. I got no answer, no matter how many times I tried. The whole city must have been under siege for the airwaves to be that tied up for that long. I attempted to get on YouTube or read the news reports on what was happening, but that only drained my battery twice as fast as before. I thought it might be better to wait out the emergency and try again later.
But later never came.
The phone lines never went live again. And I only had a few minutes left to make my cries for help count for something.
So...still shivering, still in pain, still shuffling around on a twisted ankle...I took my phone out, and I tried to see if maybe Eddie was still locked in the upstairs bedroom the same way that I had locked myself away in the basement.
No response. I waited for about fifteen minutes...then tried again...
My blood seemed to turn cold as I was forced to consider the possibility that there may be no 'Eddie' left to answer me. That maybe...my best friend in the whole world...was gone.
My phone fizzled out and went dead the same night. No way to know what was going on outside, no way for the outside to know what was going on in this basement. The only thing separating me from possibly being devoured alive...was the old wood of that basement door...and a lock that I prayed would hold itself together forever.
The sizzle of the meat in front of me woke me out of my trance, and I tried to shake myself free of it. God forbid, I were to lose it now.
I flipped it over, getting hungrier as I smelled it cooking. And that's when I heard it.
Immediately, almost as if I had rehearsed it a hundred times before...I yanked the hotplate plug out of the socket by pulling on the cord, shut off all the lights and took hold of my rifle...scrambling to hide in an extra dark corner under the steps!
I silently cursed myself for cooking meat at that particular moment. The smell of it lingered in the air. It was too late to try to get rid of it now.
I held my breath as I sat in the pitch black darkness, listening. Always listening.
I heard more footsteps. Two pair...maybe three. Boots. They sounded 'careful'. Almost as if they were creeping. No dragging limp this time, but I was wary of them nonetheless. I can't afford to trust the movement of these things.
I heard them going all over the house. My heat was pounding in my chest, my tight grip on the gun caused the whole thing to rattle gently in my trembling hands. Don't breathe! Don't you DARE breathe!
Then...I heard a jiggling on the door handle at the top of the basement stairs. Just a turning of the knob at first. Then more force was used. Soon, I heard a shoulder being butted against the door! Again and again and again! I felt tears run out of my eyes as I clutched my rifle and tried to prepare for whatever might come through that door!
More pounding, the sound getting louder as the wood began to splinter. PLEASE let that lock hold strong! Please, God! PLEASE!!!!
I heard the door giving way, and wiped my eyes on the back of my hand as my panic was set free and I raised my rifle, ready to defend myself the only way I knew how. I felt like this was it. I felt like I was about to die.
The door was suddenly KICKED open!
I thought I felt my heart stop! Especially as I heard those boots descending down the basement steps. They're inside! After all this time...they actually got inside!
I raised the rifle and got up on my feet. Just in case I needed to run.
One of the shadowed forms in the basement felt around blindly in the dark, looking for a light switch. I was shaking SO bad!
Hold it steady. Hold it...
The moment that light bulb flared up and I saw my target standing a mere ten feet in front of me, I entered a state of total hysteria.
It looked like...like a soldier. A soldier in camo fatigues with a gun that looked much bigger than mine. Was it a trick? Was it a trap? A disguise, perhaps! Probably a fucking disguise!
The soldier turned around to see me there, pointing my gun directly at him! "WHOAH!!! Hey hey hey...take it easy, kid! Easy!"
I was so rattled, so terrified, that I couldn't lower the gun. I couldn't trust him. My panic wouldn't let me.
"Hey!" The soldier yelled upstairs. "We've got a live one down here!" Then he put his hands in the air, and tried to calm me down by looking me in the eye. "Listen to me, ok...? I'm not gonna hurt ya. We're here to help. Ok?" I didn't say anything. "Do you understand?"
My heart began to flutter out of control, and as soon as I heard more soldiers' footsteps coming down the steps...I totally FREAKED out! All of the horror and carnage I had seen came back to me in a quick series of flashes...and without thinking, I closed my eyes tight....and I pulled the trigger!
I heard the soldier cry out in agony, but the kickback on the little gun felt as though I had been horse kicked in the shoulder! The impact knocked me backwards a few steps and I tripped, falling over an old lawnmower and hitting my head on the wall.
The other soldiers all drew their weapons on me, but they stopped when they saw how young I was. The rushed in to pick me up, and a few others helped their soldier friend up as well. I guess that I had barely grazed his shoulder...but it was enough to draw blood and cause him some significant pain.
My vision was a bit blurry. My thoughts all jumbled. The next few minutes were too surreal for me to get a firm grasp of what was happening. I vaguely remember the soldiers struggling to subdue me as I fought and kicked and even BIT one of them to keep them from dragging me out of that basement! It was the only safety that I had. The only sanctuary that I've known for over a month now. By the time they got me outside, I was too tired to squirm anymore.
It was soooooo blinding.
I don't think that I can ever remember the Sun being so bright.
As my eyes adjusted to the light...I saw a street full of military vehicles, all lined up in a row. From one end of the street to another. Each vehicle looked as though it was full of people. People like me. Traumatized, dirty...with blank stares on their faces. Some of them brutally injured, staring off into space, wearing clothes full of dirt and dried blood.
I just remember feeling as though I was floating on air, the soldiers half carrying me towards the back of one of the trucks. Once my vision began to correct itself, I saw the convoy number printed on the side of the truck they were putting me in. Spray painted in white.
I stared at it for a moment. Coincidence? Or was it a sign from above?
"The house is clear, sir. No more refugees to be found." Said one of the soldiers behind me. I slowly turned to look at the upper floor of the house to see if maybe I could catch sight of Eddie. Maybe waving to me from one of the bedroom windows. But I got nothing.
Everything had been destroyed.
I felt one of the soldiers gently tugging at the rifle I held so closely to my chest. "You won't be needing this, son. It's ok." He pulled, but I pulled back. "Let it go, kid. You're with us now." But the more he pulled, the more I pulled back! Until I started to get angry and tears welled up in my eyes as I began to FIGHT him for it! "Ok! Ok!" He said, finally letting go. "Just...get in the truck. Ok? Let me help you." He reached out for me, but I spun around to turn my back to him, clutching that rifle even harder than before. "I'm not gonna take it from ya. Just want you to be safe. Alright? Nice and easy now."
I climbed in the back and sat on the floor, a bunch of staring eyes watching me as I looked down at my shoes and tried to get used to the idea of being outside again. Fresh air. Sunlight. Other people besides just me...in a dark basement all alone. Had it really been that long.
"Hey, Cooper!" One of the soldiers called out, and I saw the man that I fired the gun at walk over with his arm bandaged and in a sling. "You wanna watch the kid on the way back?"
Cooper looked at him. "Are you being serious right now?"
"He's got a loaded weapon, and he's not letting go."
"You're damned RIGHT he's got a loaded weapon! Or do you not see me bleeding over here?"
The soldier pulled him to the side, but I could still hear them. The same way I trained myself to hear every random shuffle and footstep above me from the depths of that basement. "Look, we need to get back so the next convoy can go out and clear another neighborhood before dark. I don't know what the kid has been through over the past eight weeks or so since everything went South around here...but I can't have him throwing a tantrum and losing his marbles around the other civilians or we're gonna have one HELL of a problem on our hands. you get me?" I saw Cooper roll his eyes and let out a deep sigh. "Look, you found him, he's your pet. Just hop in the back and make sure he doesn't go wild on us until we can get him back to base. That's it. Ok?"
"I didn't sign up for this, you know?" Cooper said.
"Right. Like the rest of us did." The soldier patted Cooper on the soldier, and someone else helped into the back of the truck to sit right across from me. "Let's move out, people! Five minutes!"
I could barely look him in the eye. If anyone so much as tried to touch me, I was going to scream.
"So...you got a name, kid?" He asked.
I didn't answer him. I didn't speak at all. It had been so long since I had been around another human being...I wasn't even sure that I could speak anymore.
"Silent type, huh?" He said, scooting down and getting a bit more comfortable. "I gonna assume that's why you didn't apologize when you SHOT me, huh?" I peeked up into his eyes. Blue. Piercing blue. But then I just directed my gaze back down to my shoes again. "I know that it's gong take you some time to thaw out, bud. I get it. But don't you sweat it, ok? You're in good hands now. We're going to get you out of here, get you a hot shower, get some food into you...better days are coming." I don't know if I wanted him to keep talking, or just leave me alone to my thoughts. The whole convoy was so quiet. So very quiet.
Convoy '31-30'. 3-1-3-0. Double threes, just like Eddie said. Maybe it was lucky after all.
I eventually found the courage to look up at the blue sky above. White clouds. Green trees. Birds. It was almost as if nothing had changed. It was an illusion that I wished I could hold onto. But I knew better. Everything had changed. Everything was over. I was too late. Way too late. My dreams, my desires...everything that I held dear had been fractured and erased in a single night.
"Cheer up, kid. You made it." Cooper said.
Did I? Because, honestly...I'm having trouble remembering who I am anymore.
Look for the NEXT "Shelter" spinoff miniseries to begin on Friday, Feb 12th!