After my speech the guys settled down some. Most of them found a spot on the ground and fell asleep pretty quickly – but a few of the older kids found a spot further away from the rest of us, sitting in a huddled circle.
Since I found that I wasn’t able to sleep I slowly made my way over clutching my arms around myself to try to keep the warmth in, coming to sit behind one of the girls I still couldn’t remember. None of them even glanced in my direction, instead they where furiously concentrating on the ground beneath them, where line after line of song verse had been written as best as they could.
One of the girls smiled, before her voice filled the area. She was singing – something I hadn’t heard at all at Haven. After a few words the rest of the crowd began to join in, the harmony filled my ears and I sat in stunned silence.
Where did they learn this?
I wondered to myself briefly, and the girl in front of me wriggled slightly, letting me see the words more clearly. I couldn’t bring myself to sing, but I felt like I had read the words before, heard this song before. I started humming under my breath as my eyes closed.
My mother was sitting beside my bed when I was a young girl of only seven or eight. I had asked her to sing to me after having a terrifying nightmare. She came in, tucked me into bed, sat in her chair and sung me to sleep with the exact same lullaby the people around me were singing.
I shook my head to dispel the memory, rubbing my arms and standing up, giving a slight wave before I moved back to where Kaysee was waiting for me. She glanced up at me, before looking in the direction of the singers.
“You know, you taught them that song.” She informed me, and I nodded slowly – I didn’t remember teaching them, but I remembered the song.
“So what did we do to the ground around Haven?” I asked her, watching as she moved around, messing with her fingers before lifting her face to meet mine.
“We figured out a way to kill the grass around the compound – that way we always knew where it was. One of the boys Dave almost lost his leg after he was bitten, but it is helped us ever since.”
I turned towards where Haven would be, but in the darkness I could barely see two feet in front of me.
“Why did I send you?” I asked her in a much quieter voice.
“You didn’t trust anyone else to send back reliable information. You trusted that I could take care of myself….” Kaysee’s voice became too quiet to hear, and I nodded slowly.
“And after a week without communication from you I decided to leave…and these guys just let me?” I asked, eyeing the sleeping people closest to us.
K shook her head and I waited for an explanation. It took her a few minutes of starting and stopping before she finally took a deep breath and told me about how I came to be in Haven.
“It wasn’t that simple. You’re our leader and we trust you, but everyone here knew how close we are and they didn’t want you to put yourself at risk just for me. But you told them that every single one of us is important and that you would be willing to risk your life for any of them, and after that, though they tried to stop you, you wouldn’t listen.” Kaysee shrugged, but I could tell she was deeply moved by the fact that I had come for her, and I knew in that instant that she would do the same thing for me.
I turned onto my back, staring at the night sky as the sounds of my mother’s lullaby again filled my ear. I closed my eyes, resisting the urge to hum or sing or cry. I tried to steady my breathing, but a single sob escaped my lips. K moved slightly, and I held my breath, waiting until the movement subsided and her breathing evened out to reveal she had fallen asleep.
I turned over, burying my face into the shirt bag I was using as a pillow. The tears in my eyes finally spilled over, soiling the last clean clothes I had. I closed my eyes forcibly slowing my breathing, making myself thing of the things I wanted to dream about.
A lone figure stood before me with hands clasped behind their back. Short cropped blond hair revealed that I was looking at a man. He turned towards me, though he didn’t look directly at me which was annoying. The man was dressed in business attire with a sticking black suit paired with a crisp white shirt and bowtie.
The man crossed the room which I assumed to be his office, though I couldn’t see it very clearly, he sat at a small circular table, placing his hands on the wooden surface, he turned his eyes on me expectantly, and I crossed the room quickly to sit opposite him, folding my hands in my lap.
“Lilly...” The man started before stopping again, running a hand through his strawberry blond coloured hair.
“Do you remember what Gran used to say?” He asked, with a hint of a smile playing on his lips, but I shook my head no, causing him to frown slightly, as though I was some miscreant child who was being defiant on purpose.
“She used to say that you and I have to stick together, that we’d do good things if we had each other.” His voice broke on the last word and my eyes finally lifted to meet his.
He sighed deeply, his eyes dropping to the table as he fiddled with the plain gold wedding band around his finger – a nervous habit he had never gotten rid of.
“You know I’m trying my hardest don’t you Lilly bear?” He asked, using the old affectionate nickname like he did when I was young.
“I know dad.” I tried to put on a brave smile, but it turned out as more of a grimace and he reached forward placing his hand over mine.
“We can do it Lilly. I know we can, we’re so close. We’re just missing the last element.” His voice turned frustrated and I shook my head – he always said he was so close, but we both knew nothing had changed since they figured out the previous part of the equation.
The man rose, crossing over to the whiteboard, writing up in his messy writing the formula I had seen only twice – the same one I knew was going to turn up again as soon as he had started talking about ‘finding a cure.’
I felt my face pale – even though I knew it would be this didn’t mean I didn’t have hope that it wouldn’t be something different. I stood, my chair scraping against the floor and I turned to walk out of the room, only to find there was no door.
“What’s wrong Lilly?” My father asked from behind me, placing a hand on my shoulder and forcibly turning me around.
“…Nothing.” I answered slowly, and he made a face, his nails digging into my flesh.
“Don’t be dishonest; is there something you want to tell me?” He asked, eyes searching mine for the answer I knew I needed to give.
“Fluorine. You should add fluorine.”
As the words left my mouth the dream memory dissolved, leaving me to face the saturated shirt I had been using as a pillow. The light from the sun was just beginning to touch the ground around us. Some of the older kids had already stirred, walking from person to person waking them individually. The younger kids sat with old raggedy toys clutched to their chest as they rubbed their eyes, and just seeing them made my heart hurt.
We’re all they have left.
The though bounded through my mind as I stared at them and I knew I had to do something for them, find a way to fix the problem I seemed to have created.
I walked over to Kaysee waiting a moment as she seemed distracted by something in the distance I couldn’t quiet see.
“Do we have a plan at all?” I asked her, guilt coursing through me as she jumped slightly, turning towards me with an injured expression on her face.
“No, we don’t.” Kaysee said simply and I frowned, turning around in a slight circle.
“Do we know what happened to the adults?” I asked her, making sure my voice was low enough that no one else could hear.
Kaysee eyed me carefully, and I had the strangest feeling as though this would be the moment that defined us – that defined our relationship, and the way the rebels would move forward from this point.
“We think their being held somewhere to the North of Haven.” I nodded slowly, turning to assess the area around Haven, using my hand to block out the suns light.
Behind the dying grass that signified the beginning and end of Haven’s underground compound mountains sat in the distance – giant and unmoving with random drops of what looked like meters but I knew would be thousands. I pointed out the area to Kaysee, and she squinted before nodding slowly.
“What about the Beauty?” She asked, and I turned, raising an eyebrow.
“Beauty is what we Rebel’s have called the mountain – cause we figure it would be a beauty to climb.”
I laughed for a moment before it hit me – no-one would climb a mountain that looked like that.
No-one sane at least – but no-one would expect us to look there.
“I have a plan.” The words caused Kaysee to straighten up automatically – her eyes inconceivably wary.
“Do I want to know?” She asked, and I simply shook my head – it was better if I told everyone at once instead of having to repeat myself over and over again.
Kaysee sighed, dipping to pick up her shirt bag and walking towards one of the four wheelers – dumping it in the back. I stared at the Beauty a sense of foreboding leapt through my body from head to toe and I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself. I turned back to the group of people who were beginning to converse with one another, slowly trying making their way towards the vehicles.
Selene made her way over with a strange look in her eyes, shoving her hands in the front pockets of her pants.
“You can ride with me if you want” She suggested, a hint of a smile playing at the corner of her lips and I nodded, following her to the last of the four wheelers which was painted a deep purple colour.
I smiled, shaking my head before climbing onto the seat behind her.
“I would suggest holding on.” Selene said, and I wrapped my arms around her middle.
The sound of the engine filled my ears, and before I even realised what was going on my hair was flying behind me and we were practically flying through the area. I laughed – but the sound was ripped away into the wind before it could even reach the ears of Selene.
I saw the town a few moments before we entered it. It wasn’t anything pretty – but there was enough. A plot of land was currently being used to grow vegetables, and there were several large cabins sat in a semi circle and I assumed that was where most of the children slept. There was a shed like building next to the last cabin and we pulled up outside it, waiting a few moments while one of the boys with long blond hair grabbed out his eye and threw open the door, revealing a slope into an underground storage area.
The guys stored the bikes while I waited outside near the second last cabin, watching as the youngest children came out of their cabins, all eager to see me again.
“Lilly!” One of the girls squealed excitedly, coming to hug around my waist.
“Hey Morgan” I smiled, hugging her back before spotting the rest of the older kids.
I waved at her before sprinting towards the guys; giving Kaysee a brief thumbs up before addressing the rest of them.
“We need to call a meeting.” I chose the words carefully to insinuate I actually understood how meetings where called or constructed.
They all looked at each other before shrugging, making their way passed the shed and towards an area where large logs had been placed in a circle with a fire pit in the middle. Everyone took their seats in a fairly ordered way and I had the feeling as though they had been assigned seats.
“So what’s up boss?” Selene asked, leaning her elbows on her knees.
I took a deep breath, stuffing my hands in my pockets so that I wouldn’t use them while I talked.
“We need to split up into three groups – the youngest of us will stay here and prepare an underground bunker of sorts, one will head to the North of Haven to search for the remaining adults and the last will stage a direct attack on Haven.”
As I finished an argument broke out about how we would determine who would get to go on what mission – they had inkling that the last mission was the most dangerous – in the sense that it was probably suicidal.
“Look, we’ll decide this the one fashioned way. I’ll ask for volunteers, and after that, we’ll draw straws or something.” I said rolling my eyes.
Everyone seemed to calm down immensely after that and I asked for a list of people in or little town of Helf.
“Okay, so anyone under eleven can stay here and organise the underground bunker in the shed.” Everyone seemed to agree with this easily; though I had a feeling the hard part was yet to come.
“So who wants to climb the mountain with me?” Kaysee asked outright, surging some of the tougher guys to volunteer – to prove that if she could do it, so could they.
As I ticked off the names of those who had already volunteered or who I had assigned a mission I came to realise we had an odd number of older children – even splitting into three groups we would have remainders. I glanced at the remaining kids and I almost hated myself for asking them for volunteers, but I knew it was something that had to be done.
“I’m going in the third group.” I insinuated clearly, and though the statement got a few wary looks, no-one disagreed out loud, though I was sure later that night they would fight to find someone to keep me here.
I’m not some child they need to keep safe.
After I volunteered Grant stood, nodding in my direction.
“I’ll go with you” He said, his eyes flashing towards Selene, who had gone pale and started to shake and I knew she was worried for him.
Grant walked over to her, offering him her hand. She stood slowly, water welled in her eyes though she had a determined look in her eyes, and Grant hooked her hand through his elbow leading her away from the rest of us and towards one of the cabins. Selene turned to look at us for a moment, her mouth opening as though she wanted to say something before she decided the better of it, letting Grant lead her away.
The kids were silent for a moment - Grant and Selene had kept their relationship a secret for months, and now everyone knew, and they all had their own assessment of what it meant. For me, it revealed that both of them thought that no-one going on my mission was coming back, and they were determined to make the most of his remaining time.
I cleared my throat, and the attention swirled back to me after a few more moments of staring at the cabin where no-one else would go that night.
“Anyone else?” I asked, locking eyes with the rest of the older kids.
A few stood, nodding in my direction before wondering off on their own or in small groups – all contemplating the meaning of life, or determining who their meagre possessions would be given to if they didn’t come back.
Only one person was left sitting on the logs in front of me, and Kaysee was smiling from ear-to-ear like the crazy person she was.
“That’s one hell of a plan.” She stated and I nodded, my lips stretching into a smile before beginning to laugh – tears flowing down my face as my mind really began to understand the consequences of what I was doing.
Kaysee moved and put an arm over my shoulders, rubbing my arm with a confused look on her face – as though she wasn’t sure whether she too should laugh or cry. I shook off Kaysee’s hand and stood, though the sun was still high in the air everyone was beyond tired.
“Can you go around and make sure the eleven year olds know what they are doing when we leave?” I asked her, and she nodded, stuffing her hands in her pockets and walking towards one of the cabins situated in the middle of the semi-circle.
I spotted a group of the older kids and began making my way over, listening as they all spoke about their favourite memories or favourite foods. I made a face, trying to remember my own favourites, but it seemed that while the code phrase had allowed me access to most of my memories, some of them still remained bared to me.
As the chatter quieted down when I walked up I sighed, taking the opportunity to give them one last instruction.
“We leave the day after tomorrow – so start preparing anything you need.”
The words left them stunned for a few moments before most of them stood, giving the others a forlorn look before beginning a slow journey towards their respective cabins. A few of them remained because what they had to prepare could be done during the day tomorrow – after all, there was only so much you could bring when climbing a mountain.
You should get ready too
My mind reminded me and I sighed deeply, giving a slight wave before jogging towards the cabins, stopping to assess them, wondering which one was mine.
“The one at the beginning is yours.” A voice spoke beside me, and I had to stop myself from jumping. My eyes flashed towards the sound and I relaxed immensely; it was only Grant.
“You took it because you said if Haven was going to come, they’d check every cabin, and if anyone was going to take the risk of being in the first, it may as well be you.”
I shook my head – the person that led these rebels almost didn’t sound like me, I didn’t remember being this self-sacrificing or having this ability to do the right thing, to say the right thing.
I turned to walk away, but Grant’s voice stopped me.
“Thank you.” Grant said, stopping me in my tracks and I looked at him, waiting for more.
“You let Selene and I have time, I know you could have stopped us but you didn’t.” Grant smiled and I was almost glad I was going to be working with him.
I smiled at him, and he shrugged, his eyes finding the girl who waited for him – leaning on one of the cabins with her arms crossed.
“You should go and get ready; we’re leaving early the day after tomorrow.” Grant nodded, shifting his posture and beginning to walk back to Selene, taking her in his arms and holding her close.
I closed my eyes, wishing I could have one last experience of love like that – to be held and know I was going to be missed more than anything else in this world. I shook off the feeling, jobbing up to my cabin and throwing open the door, only slightly concerned about the fact there was no lock.
The room was spacious, but there wasn’t much in it, in the room next to it there was a shower and toilet and I almost drooled at the site of them – quickly closing the front door and stepping into the bathroom. I shoved out of my clothes and stepped into the water shivering at first because it was still cold, but eventually it was hot to the point of almost scalding but I didn’t care.
I stepped out and dried myself thoroughly before going through the draws in the bedroom to find a clean shirt and pants. I sat on the bed, crossing my legs and sifting through the draws finding the possessions I had stored here before getting myself caught.
In the bottom of my underwear draw, two pieces of paper sat, one with feminine handwriting and the other with much more manly, messy writing. The man’s writing reminded me of my father, and I opened it instantly.
We did it! We finally did it, the bosses are very happy with the dementia formula – they say they’re going to put it into implementation later this week.
This means that no-one else will have to suffer the way she did – I promised you that we would fix this, and we have. I know we’re too late for her, but that doesn’t mean we’re too late for someone else’s grandma.
I hope that you will get this wherever you’ve moved to in the last few years – I know you gave up on me, on the promises that I made you – but here it is, I’ve come good on them, and it is all thanks to you.
I love you Lillyanna – please, come home now.
Alex Darnell (your father)
I scrunched the letter in my hand, wishing that I had never read it – my father was a naïve fool who thought he was doing the world a good deed – but he had been too late for my forgiveness. After years of waiting for some miracle cure for dementia, my grandmother died not even remembering her own name.
I glanced at the last letter sighing.
I hope this one is better.
I carefully tore open the envelope, taking the perfectly folded piece of paper and opening it carefully, as though I was afraid it would bite.
Congratulations on finding your rebels. Now it is time to come home to Haven
Though, I have a feeling you’re not so inclined just yet – give me a moment of your time to explain why I think you should come back.
The young lady who hacked into our computers sold you out – explained that J and you had been plotting against us like the disobedient children you are.
And as soon as I asked J about it he denied it off course – but after a severe… talking too, he changed his mind, telling us everything about himself and you. I bet he told us some things you don’t even know about yourself.
Don’t believe me?
J told me to tell you about Morgan – though I have a feeling the name alone should remind you. If not, please, say hello to J’s little sister for me.
Please, don’t be worried for J; he’s just hanging around in a cell.
Just go about your business.
I expect to see you soon Miss Darnell.
Eve of Haven.