Authors: Kilayla Pilon
“Map, I think – God dammit!” I stood up and kicked my bag, throwing my hands up in the air, struggling not to curse “What?” Isaac snapped.
“Andy gave me a map,” I groaned, putting my head in my hands.
“You left it on the train, didn’t you?” He remarked, tilting his head backwards and rolling his eyes, clapping his hands in a slow motion. “Good job, Arin. Good job. Ten points to you.”
“Not helping!” I snapped, shoving everything back into my bag, forcing it to close.
“Oh, thank you. I strive to be useless,” Isaac bowed, grinning up at me.
“Shut up,” I snarled, flinging the
bag over my shoulder and storming away from him, chewing on my lip. I looked around at the platform, noticing a sign not far on the platform to my left, the words long faded and scratched off.
We walked in silence for less than a minute when we came to a
position where another set of train tracks came up beside us and merge into the ones we trailed. I looked forwards, gazing at the long stretch of track ahead of us. Isaac tapped my shoulder then, and I turned to look at him.
“Hey, Arin, remember that thing
about cars?” He said, glancing down at me, raising an eyebrow.
“No, not at all,” I stated, scowling up at him. “Why?”
“Well,” he pointed to an area behind us. I spun around to face the direction he was pointing and my jaw would have hit the floor should it have been possible.
“No way,” I breathed, flexing my fingers as the urge to bolt forwards began to course through my body. Before us, a good twenty feet at least, was a long line of dead trees, some uprooted and others just hanging on. A thin layer of wh
ite snow in front of the line of trees was a large slab of pavement with worn out pale, chipped yellow paint lines that we could just make out in the darkness. Sitting in the parking lot was a four wheeled, small car with a few severe dents along the side doors and back.
“Hope she works,” Isaac interjected, drawing me from my observations as he clung to my arm and began running forwards, this time dragging me behind him. I stumbled at first, my feet struggling to keep up with his long, quick strides. It did
n’t help that he was quite a bit taller than me.
“Yeah,” I breathe, my legs aching as they half-dragged themselves along the ground. It wasn’t long, maybe half a minute, before we came to the car. There was another car further in the parking lot, but it wa
s missing a tire and looked like someone had taken a tire iron to it.
“Do you know how to work her?” Isaac asked, glancing back at me as I stood, bent over beside him, heaving for breath. He wore a sneer on his face, arms crossed. “Eh, short stack?”
“Don’t. Call. Me. That,” I growled between breaths. “And how the hell do you expect me to work a car?” I stood up straight, inhaling a deep breath, my nose whistling.
“Don’t call the birds now,” he snorted, kicking the tire of the car. “I think I can work her, i
t shouldn’t be too hard.” Isaac shrugged, moving towards the front of the car and throwing open the driver side door. It let out a loud screech in protest, the both of us cringing in response.
“Old and whiny,” I chuckled, eying the vehicle. It didn’t click in my mind how easy we had found a car in the condition it was in. I was too excited to have found something more than dirt since the train. “Isaac?”
“Muh?” he leaned out of the car, peering at me with a raised eyebrow, his eyes glinting.
“If this thing works, how are we going to get up to Cobalt without a map?” I asked, chewing on my lip. I hadn’t realized, in the joy, that it wouldn’t be easy to get where we were going if we had no idea how t
o get there.
“Map,” a scruffy voice echoed, “I got a map for you.” I jumped, shoving off the vehicle and stepping backwards, gaze darting as I looked everywhere for the voice to no avail.
“I know my way there, map or no map,” chimed a high, nasally voice. I turned around to see two people, an old man wearing a ripped, tattered and torn blue cardigan, baggy old khakis and a smirk on his face and a tall, young-looking woman with short black hair in a heavy navy jacket and too-tight jeans.
“Who are you?” I sai
d, hesitant as I leaned back against the car, grabbing for my bow. Isaac backed out of the car, turning to face the duo as well. As his gaze landed on them, his eyes widened with what could only be one realization; he recognized them, I could see it in the way his eyes darted between the two of them, mouth parted just enough to reveal his tongue, sticking through his teeth, his fingers twitching.
“Got to help you two young ones out, right Isaac? Can’t let her get away, after all, and a few hours with her tr
apped in the trunk o’ that car…” The old man grinned, revealing a mouth full of about three separate teeth. I gagged.
“Neil,” Isaac broke in, crossing his arms. “What are you doing here? How did you get here?”
“Already said, helping out you two. She grew up real pretty, eh Jessica?” The old man, Neil, turned to look over at the ebony haired woman.
“Sure,” she shrugged, shoving her hands in her pockets. “And it’s Jess, old man.”
“Whatever,” he grunted, spinning to face the two of us. “Well!
What are we wait
ing for? Get that car started, I’m sure she’s working – I already hot-wire her earlier, after all.”
“What do you mean?” Isaac said, glancing back at the car with a wary gaze.
“Are you deaf, boy?” Neil snorted. “I topped her up with a little gas a while back and got her working. What, you just expect a car in
good condition like that to just be sittin’ here?”
“Maybe they’re dumber than we thought,” Jess chided.
I listened to the conversation, standing and keeping my mouth closed. I gawked at Isaac, begging
him for an explanation, searching his gaze. He refused to look at me, a frown plastered to his face.
“Arin, you’re being very quiet,” Jess said, raising an eyebrow and facing me. She took a few steps towards me and I flattened myself against the car, glowe
ring at her.
“How do you know my name?” I hissed in response.
“All of His Children do! Did Isaac not tell you where he was taking you?” Jess glanced at Isaac, turning her head and staring at him with a questioning gaze.
“We’re going to a colony up in Cobal
t,” I stated. “Who are His
Children? Who is He?”
“So you don’t know the people up there, then?” Jess took another step towards me and I reached for my bow, grabbing onto the curved wood and holding on to it with an iron grip. She grinned, eying my movement.
“They are people who will keep us safe,” I responded, narrowing my eyes.
“Aw, he takes after his Dad, doesn’t he? Great at lying, it explains why you’re going with him without a fight.” Jess turned to
Neil and then to Isaac. “Where is the old bastard, anyway?”
“None of your business,” Isaac spat. He looked at me, mouthing an apology. I looked at him, desperate for answers I knew he wasn’t going to give me. Not yet, anyway.
“Get that car started, boy!” N
eil said, hobbling towards us. “The sooner we get to Cobalt, the sooner the ritual can take place.”
“It’ll take hours by car,” Isaac responded his voice low as he tightened his fists, leaning against the car, glowering at the ground.
“This boy’s a damn genius,” snorted Neil, rolling his eyes. Jess chuckled. “See and here I thought we would teleport there. God you are one stupid twit. We’re driving down to the airport; I got an airplane set up there to take us up north.”
“Isaac,” I whispered, trying to make
sense of the events taking place, but all I could feel was a mass wave of confusion and terror washing over me.
“I should have realized. So many of us out looking for you, there was no way I could get you up there without running into some others.” Isaac e
xhaled, shaking his head and pushing away from the car door, hopping into the driver’s seat. A soft sizzling sound followed his entrance, and the car roared to life, the engine growling as it sat, idle. I jumped away from the vehicle, a shiver running down my spine. Neil approached the car with ease, hopping into the passenger seat and slamming the door behind him.
“Let’s go,” Jess demanded, grabbing me from behind and moving to pick me up.
“No,” I blurted, twisting away from her grip. I stared her down as she reached behind her, crooking her arm and pulling up. She looked me dead in the eye and lifted a gun – pointing it at me.
“Let’s go. I won’t say it again,” Jess barked, taking a step towards me.
“Why would you bother shooting me if you need me alive?” I questioned, glowering up at her.
“Because you don’t have an overwhelming amount of choices now do you? If you don’t come, I’ll shoot you in the foot, or maybe in your leg.” Jess pointed to the gun to my lower half and I cringed, taking a step back. “Now,
don’t make me say it again.”
“No,” I stated, my voice firm as I lunged for her. She didn’t have time to point the gun as I tackled her to the ground. She let out a cry of surprise and the car doors flung open, but I didn’t bother to look away. I was too bu
sy wrestling for the gun.
“You stupid little brat!” Jess screeched as I grabbed onto her arm with my teeth, digging into her flesh. I growled and yanked my head backwards, causing pain to shoot up her arm. The gun clattered to the ground and I released my
grip, scrabbling towards it.
“Arin!” Isaac called and, in a moment of distraction, I looked up at him. Jess grabbed me and yanked me too my feet, putting a hand over my mouth and digging her arm into my stomach.
“She’s like her cow of a mother,” spat the woman, shoving her knee against my thigh. I jerked away from her, trying hard to break free of her grip. “Weak.”
“Arin, please,” Isaac pleaded, taking a step towards me. Neil remained, leaning against the trunk of the car, watching with disdain and slight a
musement, shown by the twitch of his mouth. “Jess, don’t underestimate her. She’s not as weak as you think.”
“You lied to me,” I tried to shout, but Jess’s hand muffled my words and she laughed at Isaac’s statement.
“Yeah, sure, she’s strong and yet here I am with her at my mercy,” Jess chuckled, squeezing her hand tight around my mouth, digging her nails into my cheeks. I cringed as the pain began to radiate through my face and, without thinking, I stuck out my tongue and ran it along her hand. It tasted like blood and dirt.
“Oh, that’s disgusting!” Jess cried, releasing me and stepping backwards, wiping her hands on her shirt. I flung my leg, kicking her and turned around, shoving her chest. She stumbled backwards, her feet tangling as she lost her balance
. I watched as she fell backwards, I saw the rock before her head connected – I did nothing to stop it.
A loud, sickening crack echoed around us. Blood began to pool beneath Jess’s head, her face locked in an expression of surprise. I stared at the body, t
he blood, the lack of any movement.
“Oh my God,” I whispered, bile rising into my throat. I swallowed hard and put my hand to my mouth, shaking my head. “Oh my God.”
“Jess!” The old man cried, taking a step forwards before thinking better of it and remaining against the trunk, glaring at me with an expression of pure hatred. The snow began to pick up then, the wind howling around us.
I turned towards Isaac and he watched me, eyes sad. I glared at
him, feeling a burning rage toiling in my stomach. I bent down and grabbed the gun, not taking my eyes off the pair for a second.
“I’m all you have, Arin,” Isaac warned, putting his hands up.
“Why are you doing this?” I barked, pointing the gun at Isaac and glancing over Neil, who had sunk to his knees and was staring at
Jess’s still form. “I have no one, not anymore.”
“I don’t have a choice, you need to understand that.”
“There’s always a choice!” I stormed, putting my hand on the trigger.
“No, not for me there isn’t. I don’t have anyone else, Arin. I have the other disciples; I have to do what the Prophet wants.” Isaac stared at me, his eyes beginning to water. I looked down at his hands, unable to bear the pain written all over his face. “I’m sorry.”
The Prophet? Disciples? Who the heck are they?” I asked my voice sharp and demanding. “Don’t spout your pathetic apologies to me.”
“He’s your father, your real father. The disciples are his followers, my brothers and sisters, Raiders as you called them.” H
is answer was slow, his wording careful.
“My father is dead,” I spat, having to show great restraint not to charge at him. “Your ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ killed him.”
“Arin, tell me, how much do you know about your mother and father from before?”
“I know t
hey met when Mum was in High School, I know that he got her pregnant with me when she was seventeen. I know that she had me just months before the outbreak,” I answered, staring at Isaac, curious about why he would ask. Every part of me screamed to attack, to kill - to make him pay.