A Lost Scream

In my English II class we were to write a short story, Ive had multiple comments on the story and I wouldn't mind a bit more feed back. It takes place in post apocalyptic America (of course) and an older brother and his sister are out trying to survive. However their trip to the next settlement takes a turn for the worse.

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1. A lost scream

A Lost Scream

“Come along Isabella.”

“But why?  We’ve been going at this pace since dawn.”

Acelin sighs and slows his steady trot to a slow walk. Isabella stumbles next to him, pressing her hand to the cramp on her side and trying to massage her legs with the other as her brother holds his hands to the eastern skyline, measuring how many hours it’s been since they set out on their leg breaking journey.

“Well?” Isabella asks in an inquisitive manner.

“Couple of hours,” Acelin grunts as he lies down on the soft, plush green grass. Isabella repeats what Acelin does.

“Good Lord!” she exclaims, double checking. “I’m sure four hours isn’t ‘a couple of hours.’ Let’s rest before we continue to the settlement.”

Ever since the “Last War” civilization as we know it was destroyed. The “Last War” was a war that involved all of the countries, WWIII, Asia against Europe and North America (Allied Forces), with Africa and South America split. After six months of war, famine, and a huge amount of casualties, the Allied Forces made a virus that was the “Humane” way to kill the opposition without any more deaths of their own soldiers. The virus was supposed to shut down the brain immediately, killing everyone who was within the bombs blast radius. However, people were corrupt and told the Asian Federation of their plan and blue prints, and when the Allied Forces fired their missile, the Asian Federation responded likewise. That’s how their parents died. They were on vacation in Washington D.C., Acelin and Isabella stayed home due the fact that Isabella was sick. Now, years later, the survivors have straggled together and made fenced in settlements.

Acelin smiles to himself pleased that Isabella had them stop and rest. As he lies in the grass, rubbing his legs, he can almost hear the sounds of a distant memory, the kind of memory that hardly ever comes around in times like his sister and him are living in. He takes a deep breath of the cool, moist air and sighs. A short ways away he can hear his sister humming softly to her-self, a song that dated back to the 1860s. It was a beautiful song that their mother sang to them.

He jolts awake suddenly. The sound of his sisters humming has stopped to be replaced by her deep, steady breathing of sleep, and he realizes that he, as well his sister, had fallen asleep. "Not good, not good," Acelin begins to mumble to himself. There were worse things in these woods other than that of feral beasts, and it was a miracle that they weren't taken in their sleep. No, Acelin stopped believing in miracles after the Last War. 

What woke me up? He almost wonders aloud. Acelin begins to dismiss him waking up as an instinct that was late coming; then he remembers, a giggle, a high pitched giggle. Year’s back that wouldn’t be something to be afraid of, however times were different and any sound like that should be taken seriously. He stumbles to his feet and slowly, carefully draws his P220 pistol, the one he had scavenged from a house years back. Scanning the area he looks at the situation and sees his sister slumped up against a tree, she had presumably tried to keep watch but fell asleep. At least she tried, he thinks. The soft cool breeze tugs a strand of loose hair from her blonde braid. 

He scanned the forest and heard a small, silent giggle in the trees to his left. He turns slowly to his left, side stepping slightly so as to stand between the lingering giggle and his sister.

“Hello?” Acelin calls in a voice just above a whisper, raising his pistol in his aggressive firing stand that he was widely known for.

“Hello?” the high voice mimicked in a soft voice. “Hello? Hello? HelloHelloHELLO!” She screams the last word so that he jumps.

“Just calm down. Take it easy,” Acelin says slowly and deliberately, trying to placate the crazy. He had only encountered a few of what the people in the surrounding country side called crazies. He was told by many people that they were to be dealt with quickly and swiftly, with no hesitation, and with no remorse; however, Acelin felt he could reach out to them, Acelin wanted to reach out to them. He never was able to save one. 

"Please, I can help you, I can take care of you." Acelin says very quietly. The crazy wails out a loud keening sound, then starts a deep growl that quickly escalates into a snarl that puts Acelins teeth on edge.

The sharp crack of a gunshot cuts off the scream abruptly and she falls back, a bullet wound in her head producing a thick, dark red substance oozing down the side of her face.

“What was that?!” yells a startled Isabella, jerking awake and falling to the sound at the loud crack of the gunshot.

“Up!” Acelin says urgently, “Let’s go. We have to get out of here before more come to us.” Isabella gets to her feet groggily.

“With haste!”

“Fine,” Isabella mumbles.

They set off in a quick trot and came to a stream hours later. Panting, they take large gulps of water.

“How far away are we?” Isabella asks.

“I don’t know, miles away, we should be safe,” Acelin says, though his voice doesn’t have as much conviction as he wanted it to. The truth was, on their run he heard the sound of hound dogs baying in the distance, a sound that showed that someone was looking for them. Someone sane. That was the part that worried Acelin more than the crazies chasing them. He heard from many settlements of the area that there are people who capture travelers and throw them into a makeshift “Coliseum.” Making them fight against local animals such as panthers, bobcats, and sometimes bears. However, sometimes if they think the captured people are just good enough, they’ll throw the involuntary warrior against one of the infected. Then bets are made, on who would win, how fast it would be over. They call the place the “Carnival.”

“Are you ready?” Acelin asks Isabella.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Isabella replies.

“Let’s go.”

They set out on a brisk jog. Nothing out of the ordinary seemed to happen on their run except for the occasional baying in the distance. He thought perhaps they were hunters on a hunt for coons, however he knew that the chances of that were slim to none. Minutes turned into hours as they varied their speeds to conserve energy, when finally the sound Acelin was afraid of the most reached his ears.

He quickened his pace as the sound of two, maybe three hounds were heard a short way behind them. Isabella also heard the hounds and pressed herself to the max. However, it was for naught, the hounds behind them burst through the brush. As the sound of Isabella’s startled scream ripped through the air, Acelin turned with his pistol in hand and shot a nasty beast with a snarl. For the second time that day the sound of a bullet finding its mark made its sound.

A second dog, this one a German Shepard, came into the small clearing, this one assessing its prey. Acelin gave it no time for assessment and shot the animal in the head. The animal didn’t even let out a yelp as it fell limp on the ground.

A sudden scream rent the air. Acelin, rightly fearing for the worse, turned, the gun already raised in an aiming position. What Acelin saw made his blood boil, a sight that tore his heart in two. A greasy man, who wore clothes that looked like they use to belong to a police officer, had a hold of Isabella with a hunk of Isabella’s hair in his hand, a 1911 pistol in the other pointing at her leg.

“Drop the gun, or your little friend here won’t be standing anymore,” says the man, his voice as greasy as his looks.

“Why not kill me?” Isabella asks through gritted teeth.

“Know when your time to talk is,” says the man with a smirk, “and besides what’s the fun in that? My way you have a chance in the pits, your way none of us have any fun. Now drop the gun, boy.”

Acelin complies unwillingly as another man enters the clearing, having a Rottweiler on a chain, the dog nearly dragging his master to get at Acelin.

“Well, well, look at what we have here,” says the man holding on to the dog. “These two look like they would last at least a day in the pits.” This only confirms Acelin’s thoughts earlier in day; they were working for the Carnival.

“Please, let us go,” Isabella pleads, “We’re headed to one of the settlement and we don’t mean any harm. Please.” The last word came out into a sob that shattered Acelin’s heart. Rage rose in Acelin, his blood a system of lava streams that burn his insides. No one can make my sister cry. You will pay for this!

“What did I say about knowing your place!” says the man holding on to Isabella, his question more of a statement. He spins her around and gives her a sharp back hand, strong enough to make her cry out as she hits the ground. Acelin’s rage turns into a state of fury as he sees his sister hit the ground. He loses all thought as adrenaline and instict take control of him as he sees a red hand mark covering the entire side of his precious gems face. Without knowing what he was doing he was already on his feet drawing his knife. He is on top of the man before he could react and with a straggled yelp the greasy man finds himself in a losing position. Acelin raises the knife for a killing blow but he finds himself in extreme pain as the Rottweiler pounces on Acelin, the owner having released the leash. The world is a Van Gogh of yellows, blues, and greens as Acelin struggles against the dog while they are both rolling down the small clearing’s slope.

Acelin swipes with his knife at the animal as he receives more damage than he’s giving out. Then, finally, their roll comes to a stop with Acelin on top. He quickly swipes his knife across the animal’s throat. The dead animal covering him,  Acelin turns with a murderous glare to face the two men, only to find the biggest of them, the one who came in with the dog, directly behind him. He had a look of complete hatred on his face and that was the last thing Acelin saw as the big man brought his brutish fist on Acelin’s head.

                                                                             ----------

A rush of cold water slams into Acelin like a bag of cinder-blocks. He jolts awake sputtering and shivering from the cold.

“Welcome, Acelin, I’m glad you could make it,” Acelin places the chuckling voice to belong with the man who had found them first in the clearing. “You might already know where you are. Your sister definitely does, she went to the pits and fought a bull. Of course, we felt sorry for her, so we gave her a lead pipe to fight with.”

Acelin finally finds his voice after the horrifying image of Isabella getting gorge by an eight hundred pound bull runs through his mind. “Did she survive,” he asks in a wary voice, already expecting the worst.

The man laughs in his greasy voice, “Yeah, surprisingly enough, yeah. I would give you a play by play review, but it seems as you have a game in say, oh, ten minutes.”

He felt the bonds on his hands being cut away, the man obviously not worried about his hands getting cut, and waited for the man to come around front to cut the rope holding his feet together. A big burly man came around front and Acelin recognized him as being the owner to the Rottweiler he had killed. With the bonds on his feet being cut Acelin kicks out as hard as his destroyed body could manage. The blow grazes off the knee of the dog handler, not enough to break, but enough to bruise. The repercussion of this incident earned him another blow to the head that gave him black splotches and left spark flies buzzing. Acelin was blind folded with a musty smelling rag and was roughly directed to his next location after he was freed.

In what seemed like only seconds Acelin found himself outside, the blinding sun flaring his vision so that he immediately shut them back.

“Good luck,” says his escort as he walks off back through the door.

"I don't believe in luck," Acelin says in a low rumble. What am I up against, Acelin thinks, dreading the worst. He hears the sound of laughing and jeering and looks up to see that he’s surrounded by people in makeshift stands, erected from what looked like pipes and rotting wood. The people sitting on the rotten wood had looks of all kinds. From high class, sitting in the best seats, to the obvious lower class, sitting in the worst seats possible. The “arena” looks to be dug into the ground about five feet and has spikes coming out of the walls, presumably to keep "contestants from running away.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” says a loud voice, “welcome to the CARNIVAL!” The announcer yells the last word and the stands go wild. “I’m sure you all remember the girl who fought the bull?” the crowd gets louder still, “how would you like to see her older brother?” The stands go crazy with excitement and Acelin almost worries that the place will fall down from the sheer volume of all of the voices. “Release the Panther!”

The crowd screams their approval as a trap door to Acelins right opens and he squares his body to the door, then a large cat leaps up onto the dry dust. The panther moved as shadow in the dark, its lank figure prowling with the experience of a hunter, death was the colour of this demons fur, an endless void where Acelin knew he would spend his damnation; cold and dark with no light to guide his way to salvation. With a yowl the panther pounces and with a startled yell Acelin receives the full weight of the panther. Falling back he feels the panthers claws tear at him, gouging long and deep marks all over his body. Acelin flips the cat over him and the giant cat clumsily rolls to his feet with a hiss.

Acelin evaluates his situation to notice that the cat, now prowling to and fro, is almost all the way in middle of the small arena. He risks a quick glance behind him and sees that the spiked wall is an easy arms reach behind him. Acelin comes up with a plan, a plan that is perhaps suicidal, but a plan non-the-less.

“Here Kitty Kitty,” Acelin says in a mocking voice. Please let this work, he thinks to himself as the Panther, picking up on his insult, hisses and crouches for an attack. The Panthers back legs tensed for the attack and then, with a growl, it leapt forward for a killing blow. Acelin had other plans. He dives to the side and rolls out into a crouch to see if his plan had been followed through and to his grand excitement it had worked. The large cat was impaled as he had hoped, the momentum from its powerful spring forward sealing his fate. The three foot spike had entered the beast through its abdominal area and exited through its spinal chord. 

The cheering and jeering that went on throughout the whole fight abruptly stops, only to be replaced with a roar of enthusiasm louder than the initial one. With a shudder Acelin realizes that his death would have been greeted with the same cheers.

“Congratulations!” the announcer says in the megaphone, “you live to fight another day.”

Acelin's vision turns dark as the same musty blindfold covers his face. This time he doesn't have the energy to resist and lets the two men drag him from his first battle. 

                                                                             ----------

He wakes the next morning to another bucket of ice cold water.

“Wake up sleeping beauty, you’ve got another fight today.” The same who escorted him to and from the arena yesterday was the man with the bucket.

“Where is my sister?” Acelin demands forcefully, “When can I see her?”

“You’ll be able to see her today….. If you win the match of course,” the man says with a sneer. He approaches Acelin and roughly yanks him up off the ground. “Let’s go,” he says, “we’ll get you some weapons for this one.” With that Acelin was shoved out of the door.

For the second time that week Acelin found himself being dragged to the arena. However this time it was different. He wore armour that resembled the gladiator’s amour of the old times and the helmet that he wore was what was known as the sugerloaf helm, a barrel helmet of the medieval ages that came to a shallow point at the top. Immediately the crowds roared as he was shoved through the door without any kind of gentalness. The sun was setting on the western horizon and multiple torches were lit to light the arena.

“And for your final event of the night!” the announcer screamed above the sound of yelling, “two survivors that have survived for the past week in our glorious Carnival will be facing each other, a fight to the death. I know, I know, there have been many, which is why we are accepting bets as to who these two people are.”

Acelin is repulsed by knowledge of the fact that all of these fights are being bet on. The distant door opens to reveal a gladiator dressed a lot like him, and sees that his opponent has a sword also like his, a gladious. This is overkill, he thinks to himself.

“Begin!” the announcer screams. Acelin almost has a thought of letting his opponent win, but then he thinks of his sister. What would she think of him if he were to let this person win? That was the thought that drove him to win.  The battle was fierce, him receiving multiple cuts and wounds and him dishing them out, each wound receiving a cheer from the crowd. The night came to drive the sun away so that they were fighting in the torches light, until, finally, he notices his enemy lower his guard from fatigue. Acelin lunges forward to take an advantage of it and finally gets the killing blow, a stab though the abdomen. With a scream his enemy falls to the ground as Acelin withdraws his sword.

There is uproar of pleasure as Acelin withdraws his helmet and raises both, his sword and his helm, above his head. The cheering grows in amplitude, however, Acelin hears a sound over the roar that shatters his heart and makes his blood boil at the same time.

“Bubba?” his slain opponent gasps.

“No! NO! This isn’t happening! Please, Lord tell me it isn’t so!” The cheering stops as they hear his anguished cries. Acelin drops to his knees and carefully takes off the helmet to see blonde hair tumble out, the same hair he had always brushed when the world made sense.

“I’m sorry,” Acelin says to his sister through a stream of tears, “I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” says his sister, her face wet with perspiration and tears, “you... didn’t... know.” She coughs up blood and it dribbles down her chin. Acelin wipes it away with a gentle thumb. The stadium that was once loud was now silent, and murmurs of what happened rippled through the stands.

“Bubba?”

“Yes?” Acelin leans down closer to hear what she had to say.

“I love you Bubba,” she says with a sob that results in fit of coughing.

“I love you too,” Acelin says with a racking sob as Isabella draws her last, rattling breath.

The crowd is now completely silent. “ARE YOU HAPPY?!” Acelin screams after he closes his sisters eyes, “ARE YOU HAPPY?!” Acelin screams again with more force. What has happened finally sinks in with the crowd and murmurs of protest turns into of screams of defiance.

“WHY?!” Acelin screams, the sound of his wail into night tears out of his throat, a scream that ends spittle flying out of his mouth, infused with droplets of red from a torn throat. A scream that is lost as a riot ensues in the stands.

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