Little British Girl...

- Decide where you belong -

In a world split into two zones, north and south live separately. The sole-superpower, America in the north, and every other country lives in the south. Trespassing is punishable by death.
When Elia, a British citizen, wakes up in the northern zone she is forced to trust local cop Daniel to keep her safe. With no memory of how Elia came to the north, and no recollection of why, she and Daniel decide to try and figure it all out. But along the way secrets are uncovered, allies are made, and Elia begins to play dangerous games, with tragic costs.

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9. Chapter 9

I’ve never felt more filthy. I’m sat on the coach that will take me to my final destination, gazing out of the window watching the scenery whizz by, hoping that the air conditioning hides my stench. I haven’t showered in three days. This is the fourth coach I’ve caught. I took two to get out of california, sleeping at a cheap hotel for a night in between, and then a further one which took me a small way, where I again slept in a budget hotel. I couldn’t afford en suite rooms and the communal showers were so dirty I didn’t dare use them. It doesn’t help that the seats on these coaches are coated in dust, which I know all too well is partially made up of dead skin cells, so I’m sitting on other people’s dead flakey skin. This ‘A’ better be worth it.

I’ve done a lot of thinking over these past few days about A. I’m not too sure about gender, but i imagine someone quite similar to Daniel. An old school friend perhaps? Maybe a teacher or an ex-boss? They’d need to be quite high up in either politics or police to be able to get me back home, but not too high up, or else they’d turn me in. In fact, they’d have to be either extremely kind-hearted or slightly insane to agree to help me, most likely both. They might not even know I’m coming. What do I do then? Daniel told me not to let them turn me away, but how can I stop them from doing so? I’m as helpless as when I first came here.

The coach pulls up at a new stop, and a whole new load of people get on. I avoid eye contact, hoping I might be able to sit alone for the rest of the journey. I was stuck next to a sweaty smelly pig of a man on the second coach...it’s not true what they say, breathing through your mouth doesn’t help at all. As more and more people get on it occurs to me that the coach will be full to capacity, there is no way I’ll be sat alone.

Sure enough, a man in his late-twenties takes the seat to my left.

“Hey, I’m Jackson” he introduces himself. Why does he have to introduce himself? Why can’t we just spend the journey in awkward peaceful silence?

“Ellie.” I keep my tone formal, trying to send him a hint.

“Where are you off to Ellie?” He continues to talk to me despite my cold vibes. I continue to look out of the window, not meeting his gaze, and I hunch up a bit to close of my posture.

“Yuma, Arizona.” I keep my replies brief.

“Nice,” I can see him smirking in the corner of my eye, “I’m goin’ all the way to Tucson. I’m visiting family you see, my ma’s gettin’ old…” I stop drown out of the conversation, glad that he is no longer asking me questions. I always take a little longer to reply than most people, it’s because of the fake accent, I can’t think about the reply and the voice at the same time. “Wow...check that out.” I look up, he is pointing to the TV screen at the front of the bus. I lean forwards to get a better view. It’s just the news, what’s so special about that? After all, Jackson doesn’t seem to be someone who gets excited about the news. Then the image changes to a picture, a headshot...of Daniel.

His right eye is outlined with black and dark purple, like ink has splurged out of his eyeball. His cheeks are tinted green with gruesome bruises that almost seem to glow, and he has a badly stitched up cut across his left eyebrow. His face hangs, like a scarf on a coat stand, as if there is no energy left inside him to hold it up. I know you’re not supposed to smile in headshots, but Daniel’s expression makes it seem as if he will never smile again. I have to look down again after seeing the picture, because is Jackson sees me crying he might get suspicious, but I can still hear the reporter.

“Local cop Daniel Sanders has been arrested and will face trial for charges of breaking the first law. It is said he has been housing a British citizen for over two weeks. If this is found to be true, Mr Sanders will face at very least a life-sentence.”

“That’s messed up.” I hear Jackson murmur.

“I know right, he didn’t really do much wrong.” I agree, my face still down.

“No, I mean he’s messed up. That chick could be a terrorist for all we know! Idiot…” He trails off. I start crying violently then, unable to stop myself.

People over here are paranoid.

That really is the only explanation. It’s paranoia that infects them, that creeps its way unnoticed into their bloodstream like a tiny little air bubble, blocking the blood flow to their unbeating hearts. Like a current it electrifies them, raising their arms up so their fingers point at the unfortunate scapegoat, and fueling their every step as they chase after to so called ‘terrorists’ who don’t fit their idea of perfect.

Paranoia; The weapon that destroys both sides.

I don’t talk to Jackson for the rest of the journey, which only lasts another five hours or so, and I am glad to see the back of him when I at last vacate the coach.

Yuma is stunning. It’s what California would be like if it had half the shops, factories, and other various industrial buildings. It’s got enough shops around to keep it going, but enough scenery to keep it interesting. There are flowers here I’ve never seen in the south, and the ground is a chalky brown colour. Everywhere I look there is orange and green, the two colours merging to create beautiful horizon. It’s so...different. So hot, so dry, so foreign, so breathtaking. I think, if I had been born a few generations earlier back when their was no north and south, that I would have definitely been a traveller. It is sights like this that almost make me not want to leave, almost.

I soon get to business, asking various passers by where I might find ‘Willowbridge House’, but no-one seems to know anything. I ask one elderly man, who tells me,

“That place ain’t been open for years...what do you want with it? If you ask me you might as well go home.” He doesn’t tell me where it is however, only that no-one under the age of eighty will know where to find it.

As the day goes on I become more and more frustrated. I am boiling hot, sweating buckets, and running around like a mad-woman. I only have enough money to buy one bottle of water and a packet of crisps for lunch, and the crips are so salty that the water disappears down my throat in the blink of an eye. With no cash, no food, and no water, I am done for if I cannot find this place.

I begin to walk slower, all my energy slowly draining away. I stop asking strangers, no hope left inside me. I wander around aimlessly, breathing through my nose to stop me from noticing my dry throat. I am so out of it that I don’t notice the rubble in my path, I end up flat on my face, wondering if it is worth getting back up again. As I get to my knees, I notice something on the ground. An old dusty sign with the letters ‘bridge’ just about visible. I pick it up, dust it off, and smile. ‘Willowbridge’ is written clear as day, with an arrow pointing left. I throw the old sign back down in the dirt, and jolt up, walking quickly in the direction the sign was indicating. After five minutes, I come to an abandoned streets.

There are only a couple of semi-detached houses, which clearly haven’t been lived in in ages, and the street-lamps aren’t lit even though it’s dark now. Clearly this place doesn’t get much attention. At the end there’s a huge building, barely still standing, with a sign ‘Willowbridge House’ hanging on its hinges above the entrance. Is this seriously where Daniel sent me?

Hesitantly, I walk up to the front door, and find the intercom. Praying that it still works, I press the button.

“Hello?” I am relieved to hear a man’s voice come through the speaker.

“Hey,” I speak in my american accent, “I’m looking for A”.

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