I watch the sun rise over Alysium with my back slumped against the cracked exterior of the Alysi Library. I’ve always loved sunrises. For just a few minutes of the day, the sky is a canvas covered in a blend of reds and oranges, with the most salient point being the glorious sun – the facilitator of life. The rise of the sun signals the beginning of a new day and therefore, new possibilities.
But now, the beauty of the sunrise is tainted. The reds and oranges simply become a backdrop to the crumbling skyscrapers that line the city. The sun continues to shed its light onto the world, but its brightness is diminished by the impending darkness. How unfair life is – it takes and takes and takes until you are stripped of everything you know and love. Because losing my parents, my home and my community isn’t enough. The Gods must take away the simple pleasure of witnessing the beginning of a new day.
I scan my surroundings for black masses – a newly formed habit – before nudging Phelix’s shoulders.
“Another minute,” he mumbles, before rolling onto his left side.
His reaction is so normal that a small smile tugs at my lips. But the moment is short-lived. My eyes land on Phelix’s index finger on the pistol and I’m reminded of our plans and what we decided was the best course of action for today.
I nudge him again with a bit more force.
His groan is muffled by his hands as they slide down his face.
I nudge him again with my pistol.
He looks over his shoulder with a smirk before laying his head back on the floor.
“This time, I’m going to do it with the safety off,” I warn with an edge to my voice.
“At least then I’ll be able to rest in peace.”
“You’ve got to be fu – “
“Alright, I’m getting up! Honestly, Andrea we have time,” Phelix protests, stretching his arms out and then resting one on my shoulder.
I let out a sigh. “Time is something no one can take for granted right now.”
He meets my gaze with an apologetic smile before pulling out the map of Alysium. We look at it together, scanning the overview of the city and the few details we managed to overhear from conversations between our parents. It’s hardly anything impressive. We only have a general assumption of where the particular groups could be gathering but we don’t know which streets to avoid or if any of the mapped buildings even exist anymore. Our plan is flawed and based on hypotheticals and assumptions.
Phelix glances at his watch.
I throw my backpack over my shoulders and tuck the pistol in the waistband of my tights so that my shirt covers it. I then slide my pocket knife into my right boot and Phelix does the same. He lifts his eyebrows and his eyes hold a question that I answer with a curt nod and a wry smile.
Today, Phelix and I are going to find the Impartials.
We don’t make it very far and a part of me isn’t even surprised. If anything, I’m surprised we lasted this long.
For an hour, we walked along the familiar streets of our town, Atara, filling our stomachs with a bland muesli bar and an apple. We kept note of which buildings still stood, and raided deserted warehouses for food and anything that could pass as a weapon. I noted the lack of people on the streets, and Phelix pointed out the shadows that flickered across the walls of houses. We were minutes away from what we assumed was the meeting point for members of the Impartials, an abandoned parking lot teetering on the boundary of the town.
And that was as far as we made it.
I remember a few things before the light was replaced by an edging darkness. From the corner of my eye, I caught glimpses of four individuals emerging from the shadows, hands outstretched towards us, eyebrows drawn in concentration. I remember Phelix’s hand tightening around my arm, drawing me closer towards him as if proximity was enough to ward off something far bigger than humanity. He spoke, but I did not hear. My concentration was on the four figures – two boys and two girls, I realised – and the shadows that seeped from their fingertips. The only thought running through my mind as I collapsed on the concrete ground was how only Phelix and I could set out looking for a group of Impartials and end up in the hands of Iniquities.
The strongest memory would not be of how my lungs burned as I choked on the darkness, how overwhelming and suffocating the black haze was, and how it induced feelings of despair and anger.
No, the strongest memory that would always remain in the back of my mind would be how a part of me had welcomed it.