Alienated and Dying

We alienated ourselves from the help of the others, the other planets. Now orange fog looms over the surface of the earth. The air is dusty, and the humans are in hiding. A few days remain before we burn; before the earth dies.

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1. Alienated and Dying

           "Check the food in sector five. Don’t want her to die in there,” Barked a man from outside my cell. I quickly shuffled into the corner of my metal room.  Every time I moved a stray nail from the floor would tear my pale skin. A gleaming line of silver sealed the wound as I watched a metal plate slide under the door.  Onion soup, and a stale piece of bread. Again.              

         I only pecked at it; my mind was too focused on other things. When will they get here? It’s been nearly a year since my arrival, how long till they will arrive? As far as I can tell, I was the only one in this prison. My limbs ache from being in this cramped area. If only I could walk. If only I could get out of this place. I want to see the blue sky again.  The one I had seen before my arrival. The one that was now only a distant memory.            

        The shuffling of the guard at my door interrupts my thoughts. He's humming something vaguely familiar.  A song I used to hear the soldiers sing outside my cell before the day started. Then one day, when the ground shook and the seas crashed onto land, nobody sang it anymore. I could tell by the low murmur of his voice that he would be killed if he sang it aloud. Pulling the words from my mind, I softly whispered the words to myself.  As the words tumbled through my lips a flame of hope seem to ignite in my soul.

 

"Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming-"

 

           “Quiet!” He growled. My jaw snapped shut at the command, and he stopped humming. My muscles began to scream at me again, and this time, I spoke for them.

      The guard’s name rolled off my tongue as I asked, “Mason, Could I please take a walk? With you of course, not alone.” My voice shook, and my lips trembled as I waited for the response.          

             He sighed, “Get up.” I recognized a hint of pity in his harsh voice and something more that I could not discern. He shouldn't let me out, but he is kind. I struggled to my feet, sliding my hands against the wall for support. The heavy lock of my cell was lifted, and I immediately fell forward. “Whoa there.” He said as he guided me to my feet. My knees locked together and I fumbled into his arms.           

             “Sorry.” I mumbled ashamed. My thin frame was hidden underneath the baggy clothes. I looked up to his face. His jaw was squared off, and outlined with a thin layer of facial hair. He looked young. About nineteen, a year or two older than me I guessed, my age had long since been forgotten.           

              He clamped cuffs around my wrists and, in a movement that was took me off guard, gave my hand a gentle squeeze.  The moment was almost imperceptible, but it awakened a feeling deep inside me that was better left alone.  He walked at my side. I glanced at the men with rifles propped on their shoulders. Their faces were blank, as if they were made of stone, and they were lined up ready to shoot if I made a move. Tinted glasses shielded their eyes, and it was impossible to tell if they were looking at me. “What’s my name?” the question escaped from my mouth before I could stop it. Mason looked forward and thought for a moment, as if he didn’t want to say anything.

            “You don’t have one.” He finally said.            

            “Why am I here?” I retorted indignantly as my strength buoyed. The words from the song raced across my mind.           

            “That information is classified. I couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to.” He seemed uncomfortable with me asking such questions, but I didn’t care.             

            “I want go outside, just for a moment. I want to feel the sun on my skin,”  A sigh escaped his narrow lips, and he nodded.

           My hands clasped into fists as we approached the huge door. My body was eager to feel the air and sun sink into my skin. My heart began to pound against my ribs, and it felt as if it would burst right out of my chest. “Open the gates.” Demanded my guard.

           “Thank you.”             

            “I wouldn’t say that yet,” He replied.

He thrust the doors open allowing an orange glow to flood through. Because I hadn’t seen the sun since I was locked up in here, it took awhile for my eyes to adjust to the blinding light. I ambled forward and walked onto what seemed to be a balcony. My eyes were longing to look out onto the vast plains and forests, to hear the sound of birds chirping, to feel free again. I wanted to be free again.

           My heart dropped as if it were a brick. Warmth flooded into my eyes and fogged my vision. Dirty clouds floated above, but they weren’t clouds, they were smoke from buildings engulfed with flames. Surrounding me were ramshackle buildings and dilapidated towers. The sky was a dull orange; the color of sickness. Dust hung thick in the air, causing me to choke on my tears. An unanticipated feeling of regret came over me, I missed my dark cell, and I wished I had just dreamed of the outside. “C’mon, lets get you back to the cell.” Said my guard as he grabbed my arm. I shoved him away, which caused the men at the door to ready their guns.

           “What happened? I've only been locked away for about a year! What happened to all the trees, and, and the blue skies?” The string of questions shot from my lips aiming their assault at Mason.  

           “There’s a lot you need to know. Follow me.” he whispered under his breath. He looked at the other soldiers with caution.

          My bare feet moved soundlessly on the ground as I followed him to the cafeteria. “Wait here.” He said while sitting me down at a lonely table. Moments later he returned with a tray of new foods. Delicious foods, the kind I would dream about. At first I wondered if he would get in trouble for feeding me a meal that was meant for the guards and officials, but he only nodded signaling that it was okay. It was hard to eat with the tight cuffs around my wrists, but I was grateful that I wasn’t eating stale bread again.

           I tried hard not to drown out the sound of the Mason’s voice with my chewing, but it was difficult. He leaned in on his elbows. The serious look on his face caused my chewing to stop.  His eyes burned into mine, until I felt guilty for ignoring him.

             “Okay,” I said while swallowing my last bite.

            “This may be hard for you to understand, but you’re not…” he shifted in his chair uncomfortably. My heart stopped, and I knew what he was about to say.

             A harsh noise vibrated my body, and cut off his words. “Lockdown! It’s an invasion!” screamed one of the commanders. “They’re here for that!” he snarled in my direction. Guilt fled though my body. Red lights flashed against the wall, which caused my head to spin. Men shuffled from place to place readying their weapons in all the confusion. My guard stayed with me, his eyes staring into mine. He was not angry, and I don’t know why.

           His callused hand encircled my arm. He jerked me forward, “Follow me.” Our feet pounded against the metal that reflected the red flashing lights. He led me down the halls until I was in a familiar corridor. He paused for a moment, and fumbled with his keys. Once he had found what he was looking for, he inserted a key into the lock around my handcuffs. The metal clanked against the floor, and my wrists sighed with relief as the blood began to flow again. One of his hands was wrapped around mine, the other resting on a pistol. The alarm rang in my ears, and sent fear racing through my veins. He weaved me through a maze of scattering men toward a heavy door. “Open the door!” Mason demanded. His voice strained. I was surprised somebody opened it; it must have been all the confusion that caused him to unbolt it.

           “Don’t you leave, Mason!” scolded a man from behind. He readied his weapon and aimed it at my guard, Mason. I caught glimpse of the man’s face when the red lights flashed. A thin white beard framed his chiseled features, and his eyebrows knitted together forming wrinkles on his forehead. “Don’t you leave,” he repeated as his jaw jabbed forward.  I could tell he was trying hard to contain his anger.

           Mason drew his gun; his hands steady as he aimed back at his commander. I looked to him, his nostrils flared wildly. I felt a cool breeze tickle my skin as we backed against the opening gate. “One more step, and I’ll shoot!” the commander warned as he clicked the bullet into place.

           Mason’s hand slammed my shoulders back, and pushed me out of the door. My body fell back against the cold concrete as the sun returned bringing it’s momentary blindness. Just as the world around me began to appear the ringing sound of a gunshot fired off. Then another sounded off in return. I jerk to my feet at the sound. An unfamiliar feeling of panic crept in as Mason stumbled toward me, cradling his shoulder. I ran to his aid, and wrapped my arm around his waist and rested my hand on his wounded shoulder. The warm blood slipped through my fingers as I guided him down the steps leading into the city. The wound throbbed violently against my hand.

           “You’ve killed us all! You fool, Mason! You killed the Earth!” cried the commander between the coughs of blood. He lay on his back, cradling his stomach. “She will be the death of us!”

          "No, we brought this death upon ourselves," Mason responded.  His words were snuffed out by the thick smoke that rose from the smouldering ground.

           My eyes trained on the commander’s for a moment, and then Mason broke my focus. “Go.” He mumbled. Lights above the building where I had been kept flashed violently. The dense smoke made it impossible to identify the origin of the flashing lights, but I knew who it was. Who else could it be? I heard thumping in the air, it was so powerful, that it took all my strength not to fall.

         Finally, they had come for me.  The realization left me with feelings that were now engaged in a battle for my heart.   

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