Sector 9

What would you do if you found out your whole life was a lie?

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5. Chapter 5: Maddy

May 27th

 

I never knew that people could make a home in the ground. But, in The Wander, it seemed that people only lived in the ground, or in a tree. Each house was marked with a black button and a small black pipe that stuck up out of the ground, which Jared called a periscope. Each periscope had a little silver number engraved into it’s side. The entranced to the houses were almost invisible, but if I looked close, I could see a seam in the ground were the doors ended. They seemed to be camouflaged to blend in with the ground almost perfectly.

 When we had walked past almost 5 of these, Jared paused, bent over, and pressed the button near a sandy patch of dry dirt.

Almost instantly, the door to the bunker burst open, and the oddest looking human I have ever seen dove out, scrabbling in the dirt until it stood on it’s bare feet. For a moment, my blood chilled, thinking that the beast I had seen in the hollow block almost 10 days ago had returned, for this being had a similar wild look in it’s eye It was distinctly male, but it’s skin was paler than any Sectorist I had ever seen, let alone the Wanderers that I had observed so far. His eyes were pure black, like he didn't have an iris, and his hair was jet black as well. He stood at an angle, hunched over. The skin of his face looked almost like it had been stretched to it’s max, and I could almost imagine that he was a skeleton.

“Octavian,” grunted Jared, looking slightly nauseated. “Newcomers. This is Maddy, Donovan, Zoe and James. Clothe them and let them pick something out from the arsenal. Then take them to Maggie. That is all.” Without saying goodbye, Jared turned on his heel and practically ran away from us. I turned to look at Octavian, seeing Zoe duck behind Donovan in the corner of my eye.

Octavian smiled, but it looked more like all the muscles in his face were clenched at once.

“Come on in.” He cackled, dropping onto all fours and scuttling back into the hole in the ground. I looked at it apprehensively.

“I suppose we better go. Wait until I tell you it’s safe to come down,” Said James, stepping forward and sliding down into the hole in the ground, being swallowed by foul smelling darkness.

“It’s good!” Called James after a few seconds delay. I stepped in after him, scooting down the narrow, damp shoot until I fell onto the hard, dry ground.

Though Octavian’s hovel was underground, it wasn't nearly as disgusting as I imagined it to be. The walls were lined with grey cobblestone, and the floor with smooth concrete. There was a fireplace built into the walls, where ashes lay smeared the floor, and fish bones scattered the ground near it. Octavian seemed to have built himself a nest of blankets and rags in the corner nearest us, and next to his “bed” was a simple wooden door. Octavian himself stood in the center of the room, grinning from ear to ear at us, holding a bright flashlight.

“Welcome to my humble abode.” He said. His glinting black eyes flickered among our faces. “Hmm. Interesting. Veeerrrryy interesting,” He giggled to himself. He turned away from us, holding something in his hands and stroking it. “I’m sure they will be most entertaining.”

“Excuse me,” Said Zoe in a bold voice. “What’s ‘interesting’?” Octavian turned back to us, holding a large black dagger in his hand. It was clear that he had been running it along his hand, for a series of small red cuts made a spiderweb on his hands.

 “Oh, I’m sure you will find out in due time. Now, let's change you out of those drab outfits. Follow me.” He shot to the door, slipping inside. We followed him inside, to a brightly lit room of large size, filled on all four walls with an assortment of clothes, save for one spot where yet another door stood.

“Take your pick. You girls can change out in the main living space. Boys, change in the armory. I have to run to the warehouse to grab you guys some things. I will return shortly.” At that, Octavian slithered out of the room, and we heard the main door slam shut.

I had never had more fun in my life, and we all soon forgot how everyone in The Wander seemed to be exceptionally intrigued by James.. I dug through all the clothes on the wall, trying on things for the heck of it. I had the most fun with James, making him try on the brightest colors I could find. It was almost frustrating that he still looked good in whatever I put him in. Eventually I confirmed that he looked best in a blue button up shirt that he pushed halfway up his arms and blue jeans. He also picked out a black jacket made of leather.

    Zoe picked out a pair of cutoff shorts and a yellow shirt that complimented her hair. She accessorized with a crown of yellow flowers, draped around her forehead. Donovan now donned a red flannel shirt and jeans. I had the hardest time picking out my clothes, but eventually I made a decision.

    I had never felt more comfortable. I wore a pair of jeans with rips on them that, somehow, looked amazing. I picked out a grey short sleeve shirt out of habit, but, to be fair, it was a little bit darker than Insist usually wore, about the same shade as my eyes. I wore a pair of black sneakers, a black portable holo around my wrist, and a black bandana tied around my head to keep my hair down. Over that I slipped a jacket of black leather like James’s. We stood, admiring each other's outfits, until Octavian returned, holding four backpacks.

    “Splendid!” He giggled giddily, clapping his hands. “Weapon time! Into the next room!” He charged through the next door, and we followed, almost as excited as he was. This new room was slightly smaller than the room where we got our clothes, but it had a stairway that went back up to the surface in it. On it’s shelves, an assortment of objects I had never seen before were assembled. Some of them resembled guns, some looked like the knives we used in our kitchens but much much longer, and some of them I had no idea what to call them.

    “Take your pick. We can go test them out in the arena upstairs. I have to run to the warehouse again. I will be faster this time, so have haste. You still have to meet with Maggie before you can catch some shuteye.” Octavian scrambled up the stairs on his hands and feet, leaving us once again.

    “Wow… I’ve never even seen most of these,” Murmured Donovan, picking up a box labeled “explosive”. “Does anyone know what explosive means?”

    Zoe was studying a curved piece of titanium with a string tied to its two ends. The label next to it read “bow and arrows”. James ran his fingers over the guns, trying to figure out how they worked, and I moved towards the overly long knives. Most of them were labeled to be some kind of sword. My favorites were a set of twin blades, sharper than razors, with silver blades. They had grippy handles that fit great into my hands, and they had a black sheath each, with straps to slide over my back. Their label read “Twin katana blades”.

    “Told ya I would be back in a jiffy!” Shouted a voice, and all of us nearly dropped our weapons in surprise. Octavian stood behind us, a sack over his shoulder. “I see you have selected your weapons. Good. James, grab that box next to where you got your gun. Donovan, I’m afraid explosives aren't a safe choice of weaponry. I suggest nunchucks for a quick looking guy like you.” Octavian shoved two metal batons tied together by a chain into Donovan’s waiting hands. “Come, come! There are weapons to test! Follow me!” Octavian lead us out of his house, and towards yet another aboveground concrete building, though this one was much larger. One by one he demonstrated on a target how to use each of our weapons. Of all of our choices, I figured that I had the easiest one to learn.

    Octavian opened up his bag and gave us each a lightweight black backpack. Each of them had a pair of black sunglasses, a clear glass bottle, a flashlight with rechargeable batteries, a solar power bank, a first aid kit, and a silver hunting knife, which we readily attached to our belts.

    “Lovley,” Said Octavian, after James demonstrated how awful he was at shooting his gun. “C’mon now, it's nearly sunrise. Maggie will probably have a couple beds open for you. Follow me!” Octavian dropped onto all fours again, skittering across the ground at an alarming pace. I was barely able to keep up with him, even with him stopping at regular intervals to catch a bug (or once, a small mouse) and stuff it in his mouth. and when he stopped at a hole in the ground, I gasped with relief. I didn't think I could keep up with him much longer.

    James stood next to me, barely winded. He bent down, pressing the button near the pipe labeled “317”. After a couple of seconds, a little girl opened the trapdoor. Her eyes scanned over Octavian quickly, then she carefully took in me, Zoe, Donovan and James’s face. When she looked at James, her mouth dropped open, and she stared with eyes wide.

    “Julia. We are here to drop the newcomers off to see Maggie. They will need water and bread, and some blankets.” Said Octavian, looking pointedly at her. Julia turned and retreated into the hole, but she never turned her head as she stumbled away. Seconds later, a blonde woman appeared, with her hair in braids and another small child by her side.

    “Alright, Octavian. You did your job. Now get out of here before you give the children nightmares.” She snarled, practically seeping hostility. Octavian snickered, pulling a dagger from his waistband.

    “I would be glad to give them a real nightmare, Maggie,” He growled in a mock-sweet voice. “It would be a shame to waste them on something so boring. A bloodbath is much more entertaining.” Maggie pushed the child behind her, pulling a dull looking kitchen knife from the tan boot she was wearing. She  launched forward, blue eyes fierce and lips drawn back in a snarl.

    James leaped between them, holding his hands above his head and shouting. He stood with his back to Maggie, glaring at Octavian.

    “Oh, please, just let me get one cut in,” Begged Octavian, his eyes glinting. “She could use a scar on that pretty little face.” From the hole, the little boy began to cry. He looked no older than 5. He began to climb out of the hole, a determined expression on his face. I ran towards him, attempting to keep him out of danger, but Octavian was faster, all four legs working overtime, launching him towards the little boy. I dove, landing between them. Octavian screeched in frustration, swinging his knife at my face. I could feel the blade make contact with my face, slicing my cheek. Octavian was still attempting to get at the boy, clawing at me and sitting on my back, but my body was shielding his body. Octavian raised his dagger again, preparing to strike. I closed my eyes, bracing for pain.

    With a mighty roar, Octavian’s weight disappeared from my back.  I opened my eyes to see James with Octavian by the throat. Octavian’s throat gurgled still staring at the boy, his hands clawing at James’s hands around his throat. James released him, dropping him onto his backside. Octavian scrambled to his feet, but before he could come back to me and the boy, James’s fist collided with Octavian's face. Octavian yelped, clutching his eye. He turned, sprinting for the forest beyond the meadow were Maggie’s home was located, yelping like a wounded animal. James took out his gun, firing it, but his shot was lousy, so naturally he missed by at least 10 feet as Octavian fled into the brush.

    Maggie ran towards me, and I rolled off the boy so she could see him. He seemed unscaithed, but he was so terrified he couldn't even cry.

    “Thank you,” She choked to me, cradling the child in her arms as he shivered. “I don't know why Octavian has suddenly become so hostile to everyone. He used to be so much better than that. I never suspected him to become so odd,” I nodded at her. Zoe stood by me, her palms shaking as she fumbled with her first aid kit. “Oh, don't bother with that, dear. I have plenty of that in the house. You never know when you might need that.” She turned her attention to James. “And you,” She said, looking at him. “Tha-”

    The words froze on her lips.

    “Will.” She murmured, so quiet I had to strain to hear her. James cocked his head.

    “Will?” He asked.

    “Will!” Maggie shouted, standing up and rushing towards James. She grabbed his face in her hands. “Will! Come quick!” She ran her fingers all over James’s face, tracing the shape of his eyes and jaw with wonder. I felt something stir in the pit of my stomach, something I didn't have a name for. I heard rapid footsteps, and a boy popped his head out of Maggie’s house. He had soft, brown eyes, light hazelnut hair- he was a mirror image of James.

    “Will,” Breathed Maggie, turning to him. Her hands were still on James’s face. “Your brother has come back.”

 

 

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