Crumbling Earth

While we all go about living our lives, a small group hold, possibly, the most important information in the world. The Earth is crumbling.

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5. Chapter 5

Teachers, I confess. I never did take warnings well, she mused internally. Once again, Kailen was in the library - and not just to peel off another layer of dust. Although it seemed to be part of the deal as she plonked down at a table loaded with her stolen property, unearthing a thin sheen of particles. She wafted the air to the tune of a cough and lifted the cover with one finger. There really should be a pack of gloves for this stuff.

"Then again, that means nothing," Kailen huffed. Her shadow rippled with the movement - the lack of light cast a wave of darkness over the vast hall. "And I thought 9am in Miroria was miserable."

 

As unusual as heavy reading was for the teenager, certain times were exempt from such a rule. And, after very little thought, she reasoned that her predicament definitely qualified.

Besides, there's no 'awesome barbie' here to laugh. And another piece of half-gibberish sailed through her mind. You never know, they might've started dyeing their hair black. How else would Trecia stay so...normal? she theorised, finding the section of the fairly aged text that she'd been investigating with Grey just as she began to backtrack from finding an answer to creating a question. A yawn pulled at the curves of her lips - the sound blocked out an ominous creak.

 

"Some didn't get enough sleep," a voice from the doorway scoffed. Kailen turned and let out a breath she didn't even realise she was holding.

"Thank god it's you. If you were Mr Perfect or his big sister, I'd give you a piece of my mind... I still might." She eyed him meaningfully. "I can go wherever I want."

"Note to self: don't question Kailen when she chooses the wrong universe again," he jabbed. He carried the look that - to her - said both 'eureka' and 'this is pure sarcasm' at once.

"Oh, shut up. We woke up here. Talking of here - if I'm out of bounds, why are you here?" She raised a quizzical eyebrow. Instead of swallowing or shuffling from one foot to another, Grey just drew up to his full height.

"Trecia asked me to find you. I thought you'd be in the library, especially after what you found out yesterday," he said, his image debatably marred by the poker face he upheld. Although, his companion was more interested in the mention of who had sent him.

"Ugh. She has you wrapped around her little finger already," she grunted. "It's always 'Trecia this, Trecia that' and I'm getting tired of it..."

"No offence, but - you're getting tired? I'm tired of all this arguing. We've got to stick together here. And at least try to get on with the locals," Grey threw sharply back.

"Only if we don't follow your definition of 'getting on'. And, on the subject of sticking together, I need you to help me find something. More stuff about this...universe," she grimaced, pressing her index finger into the page with little thought for the fragile paper. Grey snatched the book from her in a hopeless attempt to staunch her foul mood.

 

"What do you want to find out?" he asked as his eyes darted down to the writing. Puffing his cheeks out, he snapped it closed.

"I don't know. More about what this place is, what happened. Even if it is another universe they'll still have disaster relief. If they don't, they're more stupid than I thought." Kailen sniffed, watching Grey as he slid the battered volume onto the table in front of her.

"Really? Do you honestly think they'll keep all that stuff in plain sight? Everyone probably knew anyway. There'd be no need to write it down," he reminded her. "But, fine, I'll look around for a while. If you do too."

"Let's get to work, then," Kailen replied. She rocked to her feet and ambled off without a second word wasted on her friend.

Women. He stared after her, before deciding to amend his statement. Women from my universe. Damn, that's going to get confusing.

 

Gasping in another rush of thin oxygen, he made for the other side of hall in a bid to make the 'search together' part as much of a weak description as possible. He stepped over a fallen wooden chair and poked his head into the cubby hole created by the corner bookshelves. Flimsy copies were stuffed into the bookshelves, some looking ready to tumble from their perch. He picked some up and scanned the cover. Meanwhile, his brunette partner perused an isle swallowed by shade. Here, however, the books were few and far between. The scent of publishings old and new filled her nostrils, alongside something else. She clenched her facial muscles, making a conscious effort to breathe through her mouth; it was vile. Loathed to touch the items for fear of encountering the source (which was likely to be twice as putrid), she settled for browsing the titles of those whose spines faced her.

 

"Bedtime tales? How the hell did that get there?" With finger and thumb, she seized the suitably belittled child's book and slung it over her shoulder. Her fingers contracted into a fist and, as it rebounded, collided with the shelf. Concerns of whatever filth she'd just welcomed into her body disappeared as pain zipped up her hand, eliciting an abrupt, very vocal response. A sprinkling of something rained down onto her crown. Equipping her pain-free arm to shield her vision, she glanced up.

Huh? Where did that come from? Her eyes strained. Darkness masked most of the objects above the top shelf of the bookcases but the ledge - whether it was meant to be a shelf or something she didn't quite have the imagination figure out - was effortlessly spotted. It protruded from the wall almost a foot above the top of the bookshelf, its shape distorted by an object balanced on the edge. Well, well, well. 'They won't keep all that stuff in plain sight', eh?

 

"Now, how to get up there..." She did a double take and remembered who had accompanied her on the search. Peering round the wood, she confirmed (fortunately) that he was still enveloped in reading material. Her foot nudged a book to the side and she stretched to grip the top of the shelves, scrambling up onto it. Knelt up on the quivering object, she reached out and stuffed the object hurriedly into her pocket without sparing it her usual drill of analysis. Then the sound of a gentle breeze hit her ears - she looked up and her eyes fell on an open, yet shattered window with a wide sill. "Hmm..."

Kailen shot one last glance back at Grey, who was still engrossed, before she placed the ball of her foot on the ledge and imitated a frog as she catapulted herself towards the sill. As the wall grew closer, her lids clamped tight over her eyes to bury the horror in them.

 

When the blow didn't come, she opened them a fraction. She was practically sat with her legs dangling down the side of the building, facing down upon another open window. On other side? Trecia and her 'little family'.

 

 

Xander dragged a hand across his brow. If he had to pick one word to describe the discussion, it'd be tedious. The black-haired teenager quarrelled fiercely with her younger brother, eyes alive and livid. Naid only glared back, steadfast and nonplussed. Despite being entirely satisfied with sitting that argument one out, Xander decided to run intervention when Trecia clenched her fists and held them at shoulder height.

 

"That's enough," he announced, stepping forward. "If you two kill each other, and I don't doubt you will, you're getting buried in our little landfill."

"You wouldn't dare." Naid gasped. Xander pinched the bridge of his nose, unsure whether to be relieved that they'd been shocked into silence or if he'd be speaking too soon.

"So, we know her last name's Port," Trecia began, slightly less incensed. "But that doesn't mean we have to rush in with all guns blazing. Kailen might not think much of us but it doesn't mean that we should start acting like barbarians."

"If anyone's a barbarian, it's her mother." Naid gave an exasperated shake of the head. "And don't pretend you knew all along, either of you."

"Naid has a point, Xander. Even if he was only one when the whole thing happened. She dealt the last blow to an already beaten and bruised world just by coming here. And it took people days and days to figure it out," she told the oldest of them, suddenly solemn. Xander turned away from the two sincere-looking adolescents and meandered slowly over to the window, absorbing the cool air.

"As much as I don't want to talk about it, we've got to. I say we wait," Xander told them with his back still turned, holding up a hand to silence any protests. "But watch. I won't let history repeat itself, okay?"

"If it does, you're on your own," Trecia said, met with an eye roll from Naid. "Now, baby brother, Xan, I have papers to sort. Out, both of you."

 

Naid shuffled from the room and left the door open behind him. As Trecia moved over to the jumbled pile that was her papers, Xander cast her a fleeting look before he too made his exit. He'd practically seen her grow up and, while some of it was distorted by the final years of his own maturation, it struck him as ironic that they were the ones still alive, still clinging on. And that their threat seemed to repeatedly re-emerge over time, on this occasion as a pair of clueless children. It was still a reincarnation to him.

 

 

The women whimpered into the brick wall beside her, legs splayed across the concrete of the alleyway. She could smell burning somewhere and felt that she really ought to be more distressed by it. But the ride to that universe had been draining. Wet ground chafed her calf, filling her nostrils with a new sodden scent. The events of a few moments ago had stunned her into silence but, with the anarchy out on the streets, nobody seemed to be able to tell the difference. One couple poked their heads into the dark passage, looking at her as if she was stupid when they saw her just sitting there. And that was the way it continued for time she couldn't even measure.

 

"Hello?" Her neck jolted upright to look her guest in the eye. He was tall, well-built and youth shone through his very skin. Rain had ruined whatever hairstyle he'd had but she didn't care.

"Help. Help, I'm hurt," she croaked out, realising the dryness that had invaded her throat. He approached, almost fearless.

"I'm Xander," he told her gently, taking hold of her arms, "what's yours?"

"M-my name?" she stuttered. He nodded slowly. "My name's Marie."

"Oh, hello Marie..." he trailed off then glanced back at her. He didn't know her surname. Their precious body heat mingled as he tugged her to her feet. "Marie what?"

"Marie Port."

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