Now here's part 12! For those of you who aren't up to date, here's the PAGE where you can read the story in its entirety.
Memoirs From the End of the World
The girls left the bedroom so Peter could get his rest.
Though it made little sense, the similarity between his name and her brother Pete’s name made her shiver. She knew it was ridiculous, but the odd feeling stuck with her all the same. People were bound to occasionally have the same name, and just because someone happened to share a name with her deceased brother didn’t mean they were alike in any other way. Yet, the knowledge that she’d have to use that name when the little boy woke up didn’t settle well with her. She voiced none of these concerns, though. Sheera’s story was far more important at the moment.
“We set up camp outside the city, and we even grew food in gardens, and the adults hunted,” Sheera continued once they reached the living room. She smiled, though her eyes were already damp with the impending tears. “Life outside the city was better than here, because we didn’t have to worry about patrols as much, though my parents were still super protective.”
“How did you even get out of the city?” RC asked. From what she knew, each road leading to the country was heavily guarded with patrols and artillery. No one was allowed to travel outside the city. The official reservation included the city plus several surrounding towns. Residents from these other towns were only brought in when it was their turn to breed, and after their term of service, they were shipped back out. By keeping the communities as separate as possible, the overlords made it more difficult to pool resources.
“My father worked for the city before the aliens came. He knew about a series of tunnels that were dug out by a local cult that believe World War III was coming. They planned to live underground. The aliens don’t seem to know about the tunnels.” Sheera looked wistful. “Secrets like that can be worth everything.”
That much was true. Secrets, food, and water. The only currency worth a damn to their survival. Her mind ran ahead to the possibilities. So far, she’d struggled for basic sustenance, but the hope of getting outside the city beckoned. There would be no way they could make it outside the official reservation boundary, but if they could find the right secluded place, they might actually be able to make a go of it for awhile. It certainly sounded better than keeping up with the same old routine.
Then an obvious, sinking reality hit her. “If you had it so good out there, why are you here?” RC asked.
“There were fewer patrols, yes, but only if you didn’t accidentally wander too close to a main road. A bunch of us snuck out one night to have a look around. We were sick of being so careful all the time, and we thought we could handle it.” Sheera’s shoulders started to shake. “It turns out we couldn’t. We were rounded up by a couple of soldiers when we strayed too close to the old highway. If that was all it was . . . it would have been better.”
RC felt awkward as she watched Sheera shrink in on herself in response to what must have been a powerful memory. Uncertain what to do, she guided the girl to the couch and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders. “What happened?”
Sheera wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. “Someone must have woken up and realized that we were gone. My dad and several other adults caught up to us as we were being forced into the van. They tried to fight, but they didn’t have any weapons. The soldiers killed them all within seconds. I saw my dad die, and I couldn’t do anything!” Then, with that admission behind her, she broke down completely. Sobs wracked her wiry body.
“I know it’s hard,” RC said softly. “I saw my brother die, too. They’re hoping these things will break us, that we’ll stop fighting to avoid the pain. No matter how much it hurts, we can’t give up. If we do, they win.”
Now Sheera studied RC’s face for several long moments. “You sound a lot like my mother.”
This admission threw RC off more than anything. She shook her head. “I’m no mother, but I do the best I can.”
“When we got back to the city, we were put in an orphanage. Since my sister was old enough to be a breeder, they sent her straight to the facility.”
“I call it a meat locker,” RC interjected. “You know, because people are treated like animals there.”
Sheera nodded. “That makes sense. Once my sister and another older boy from our group were taken away, our new caretakers said we were programmed with dangerous ideas by our parents. That’s why we had to be kept apart from the other children in town. They made us admit that our parents were traitors. When one boy refused, a caretaker shot him.” She lay back against the arm of the couch as she spoke, the exhaustion of reliving this nightmare having visibly robbed her of her strength. “After awhile, several of us escaped. We just couldn’t take it anymore. Then Peter and I got caught. I have no idea where the rest of our group is by now.”
“Why don’t you get some sleep? There’s nothing else we can do about finding your friends right now. I’ll be awake to keep an eye on things, so you don’t have to worry.”
Though it took almost an hour, the girl managed to relax enough to finally fall asleep. RC understood the apprehension. Being older, she accepted responsibility for Peter’s safety. Probably for several of the other children as well. Sleeping felt dangerous. Even irresponsible.
RC waited anxiously for Alyx and Ollie to return. They had a lot to discuss.
Go to Entry #13
Go to Entry #13