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Authors: Kilayla Pilon

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BOOK: The Prophet's Daughter
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“What’s, uh, what’s a movie?” Isaac questioned, chewing on his lip. We seemed to share the very same habit when we were embarrassed or nervous or experiencing any feeling. I did it all the time; I hadn’t noticed it with him before.

“It was this thing,” I paused, wringing my fingers together as I scoured my memories, trying to remember what a movie was. “A bunch of people would get around and play different characters and tell stories that way, and then it would be shown to people on a big screen that they had to pay to look at,” I answered, hoping I hadn’t given him the wrong information.

“That sounds amazing,” he said, a look of awe playing its way onto his face. “It was a whole different world back then.”

“I like to think that someday the world will be like that again.” I stretched my arms, crossing my legs as I moved my foot to scratch my ankle and glanced at Isaac. “It makes it easier to keep going, like there is a point to living like this, you know?”

“Yeah,” whispered Isaac, turning his head away from
me, gaze towards the cart. He looked down at his hand, twirling whatever he had pulled out of his pocket in his fingers.

“Isaac?” I started, my gaze shifting to my feet as I spoke. “I’m sorry if I shouldn’t ask, but I just wanted to know… what happened to
your Mum?” I shifted, sitting up and looking across at him as he moved to face me, his hand clenching into a fist and his body tensing to the point where his shoulders seemed to rise a few inches. We stared at each other for a long moment, the only sound our breathing and the crackle of the burning fire before he relaxed and lowered his shoulders, unclenching his fist.

“She died when I was a kid, she got sick; Dad never said what it was, but I’m pretty sure she caught the thing that killed us all.” He paus
ed, clearing his throat. “I didn’t really know her, I was four or so when she died, but my father loved her.” He sighed and gave a little shrug, setting his hands down on his legs. “Dad misses her a lot, though.”

“Do you know what the disease was? Or what
the symptoms were? My parents didn’t talk about it,” I asked, rubbing the back of my neck. It was nice to be having a conversation like this – to speak with someone who wasn’t old and trying to hide the past from me. It wasn’t a very cheery topic, but we had to learn – and if we had to do it by sharing what little we knew? That was that.

“Yeah, it was… It was strange, to say the least,” He snorted. “A lot of people got sick really fast, within days it killed a lot of people. Dad told me that people went ins
ane when they got it, attacked people – my Aunt attacked her own children, from what he said - and those who they didn’t kill wound up sick like them. It’s weird, you know?” He moved his arms, gesturing towards the ground. “We're left with decay and remnants of a time that's long died because of some weird disease that spread faster than...” He paused, blinking as a blank look crossed his face. “I don’t know anything that spreads fast.” Isaac’s voice was soft as he spoke, as if he was speaking to himself rather than filling me on what my parents had never really wanted to explain.

“Are there any other people who are sick?” I persisted. I needed to know more, I had to know what had happened; I wanted to know why we were stuck in a living hell.

“Yeah, sometimes we do run into someone who caught it somehow, but it’s not like it used to be – it’s not so easy to find and infect people or to catch it. Dad says it happened everywhere, too. The America’s, Europe, Asia, it was just everywhere. He thought it was a nightmare when he first heard about it, I don’t blame him – the way he talks about his childhood and his old friends…He said in the first week, one billion people died alone, and the few years after too everyone just dropped like flies. He told me how he can still see all the corpses, the millions of dead bodies lining the streets, his neighbors…” Isaac shivered, closing his eyes. “I assume you know the rest,” he finished and shook his head, eyes remaining closed as he swallowed hard, grabbing for a water bottle.

“You remember the riots too, huh?” I broke in, grabbing a stick and poking at the dwindling fire, moving around the ashen branches.

“Yeah, it wasn’t too bad where I grew up, but it was still there. Now we just have to worry about hunger, savage animals, bandits,

where we’re going to sleep… Stuff like that.”

“Raiders,” I hissed, jabbing the fire a little too hard.

“Raiders,” echoed Isaac blinking. “I don’t think I’ve heard of them.”

“Murderers,” I coughed as a plume of smoke rushed towards me. “The people who killed my parents, the,” I croaked, “the people who are looking for me.”

“Oh,” Isaac said, with a brief nod of his head. Silence followed his acknowledgment of my words, drawing out for some time even after the two of us had finished eating our meal.
My stomach rumbled, unsatisfied and hoping for more food. I sighed and closed my eyes, tilting my head back, listening to the dull crackle of the fire, the chirping of the crickets echoing around us.

“I’m going to go head to bed now.” Isaac’s voice tore m
e from my peaceful state, drawing me to look up at him.

“I’ll head to bed soon, too,” I breathed, turning my gaze to the fire pit.

“Arin,” Isaac huffed, sounding hesitant to speak as he stood up, taking a few steps away.

“Isaac,” I didn’t take my gaze off
of the dying flame in front of me.

“Thanks for talking to me.” With those words uttered faster than a speeding bullet, he shuffled off, ducking into his tent before I had the chance to respond. I smiled – perhaps Seth was right, he just needed to get used
to my presence and he would warm up to me. I hoped so; I’d enjoyed talking with him, too.

I wonder what Mum would say if she saw me now,
I thought.
Traveling with two strangers to who knows where.

I sat, staring at the fire as time seemed to evaporate before me, my eyes beginning to droop until I lay my head against my knees. The fire died down to nothing more than a few smoldering embers, and I stamped them out before heading over to the tent that
Isaac had set out for me.

A small mewl caught my attention and I turned around to see a small kitten with brown fur coming towards me. I stared at it, unsure of what to do, even after it pressed up against me, rubbing my legs – I could feel the vibrations
of its purrs against my calf.

“Hi little guy,” I murmured, glancing over at Isaac’s tent before I picked up the kitten, holding it in my arms. It didn’t protest and instead curled up in my arms, touching its nose to my chin, purring.

I carried the kitten into the tent, crawling onto the makeshift bed Isaac had made up with my foam and the spaceship patterned blanket from the house. The kittens head shot up at the sound, ears perked and pupils round. It stretched its maw open, yawning, before bounding out of my arms and clambering over towards the blankets, pressing against fluffiest parts.

“Come on little guy, time for bed,” I murmured, zipping the tent closed, leaving it open at the bottom. I stared at the small gap, hand hovering on the zipper.
No, other animals could get in. I’ll let him out in the morning.

Pulling the zipper so that not even a fly could squirm its way into the tent, I huffed and dragged myself over towards the blankets. The kitten squeaked at the movement, jumping up and scrambling towa
rds me, burying itself against my chest. I laughed and ran my fingers through its fur, surprised at how tame the small kitten was – he must have been young, he was just about the length of my foot.

“I’ll call you Jumper,” I sighed, laying my head against t
he pillow, listening to the crickets outside and closed my eyes. “We’ll see what to do with you tomorrow.”

Chapter 5

Thunder rumbled above, sounding every few moments. I sat up, pulling the blanket off and shot towards the mouth of the tent. Jumper’s eyes flung open with a start, jumping up and letting out a loud wail of surprise.

“Sorry, buddy,” I gasped, scooping up the little guy in my arms. He crawled into my shirt; ears pinned to his skull as I zipped open the tent and poked my head outside, looking up
. Darkness greeted me, the sky covered in rolling dark clouds. Somewhere to the east of us, a flock of ravens called out, loud and raucous.

“Crap,” I grumbled, pushing out of the tent with Jumper burying deeper into my shirt, clinging on to my shirt with h
is claws. Isaac’s tent was open, the door unzipped and I could see he wasn’t inside by the lack of movement and shadows being cast against the side.

“Dad,” Isaac’s voice carried toward me and I scanned the area for him. He was leaning into the cart, his to
rso hidden from view. “Dad, please…” Desperation was clear in his voice.

“Isaac?” I called, hesitant as I approached him.

“Arin, he hasn’t woken up,” Isaac whispered, his voice tight. “There’s so much blood.” I could see the alarm, the intense fear he felt bubbling inside of him, sparkling in his wide green eyes, and I wished I could do something, anything to comfort him, but there was not a thing I could do. I wasn’t going to fill his head with reassuring lies that his father was going to wake up, that the wounded man was going to be fine when it was obvious that he wasn’t that he was wounded far beyond anything I knew how to fix. I just hoped the bandage would be enough to keep infection away until we could figure out what it was we were going to do – and if there was anything we could do.

“Is he breathing?” I said after a long while, leaning in to look at the man. Jumper hissed, squirming and scattering out of my shirt, thumping against the ground and skittering towards the fire pit, ears pinned to his sku
ll and pupils dilated.

“What the hell is that?” Isaac asked, spinning around to look at the outraged feline.

“Jumper, I found him last night,” I answered, shaking my head and turning back to Seth. “Leave him be for now, we’ll talk about him after.” I leaned towards the man, silent, trying to listen to his breathing.

I noticed it, and heard it – his breathing was
quick and ragged, a scratchy sound emanating from him with each weak rise and fall of his chest. I stepped backwards, shaking my head, chewing on my lip. I could taste blood.

“Isaac, he doesn’t sound good and I don’t know what to do. I’m not a doctor,” I s
tated, putting my hands up in front of me. “My hands are tied. I wish they weren’t and I wish I knew what I could do, believe me, but I don’t.”

“There has to be something we can do,” Isaac spat, shoving me out of the way. “There has to be.” He moved his ha
nd towards his father, resting his palm on the man’s limp arm, eyes darting back and forth, searching.

“Isaac, I wish I knew what I - what
we -
could do,” I repeated, exhaling a heavy, frustrated breath. I glanced up at Isaac, turning my gaze to his hand grasping his father’s arm. It reminded me so much of my mother and how I had clung to her for the night, crying myself to sleep.

I turned away, tears springing to my eyes, a lump forming in my throat, making it hard to even bring in a single breath. I miss
ed her; I could feel it in my bones and the churning in my stomach at the realization that she wouldn’t be there to comfort me if Seth didn’t make it. I could never describe, never word just how much I yearned for the presence of my mother and father. I didn’t want Isaac to feel the same way; I doubted he could handle the loss.

Isaac turned to me with tears in his eyes as he let out a cry of surprise, pushing away from the cart in a sudden, rushed movement, pulling his arm to his side. Wide eyed, the both o
f us pivoted to see Seth’s hand clenching into a fist, a low groan escaping his mouth.

“Dad?” whispered Isaac, taking a step towards his father. My heart fluttered with excitement and I followed him. In response to the
soft whisper the boy had emitted, Seth shot up fast, eyes snapping open. Jumper let out a screech of fury, skittering backwards, back arched and fur bristling.

“Seth,” I began, reaching towards him. “You can’t move so fast, you’ll tear your wounds open aga
in.” Isaac and I shared a glance, both of us stepping towards the man, preparing to lower him onto his back. However, as each of our gazes moved to look into the unfocused, bloodshot eyes of the wounded man, it was obvious that something was amiss.

I peer
ed at his side, cringing. His abdominal wound had begun to bleed again and the soiled bandage had become useless, the crusted brown blood being overcome by a flow of crimson. There was nothing I could do, not if he had reopened the gash in his stomach; he had lost too much blood as it was and the chances of him surviving had been slim enough before.

Seth turned to me and narrowed his eyes, a low guttural growl emanating from deep within him. He stretched his mouth open,
releasing a horrid, ear-splitting scream that held a rage that had never before pierced my ears. He lunged towards the two of us, becoming entangled in the plastic wrapping that had been above him. Howls of rage echoed throughout the air and he began thrashing in desperation to remove the plastic encasement, blood smearing against the tarp.

“Isaac! Get your gun!” I cried, turning to stare at the wide eyed boy who stared in horror at the man before us. “Isaac!” His gaze shifted at me, then back to his father, mouth agape as he stared. He blink
ed, taking a step towards me, before he shot off towards his tent, stumbling along the way.

Please find it, please,
I begged, turning back to Seth. I cried out in surprise as he lumbered towards me, the plastic covering smeared with blood and tossed to the ground. Jumper let out a wail of terror and took off like a lightning bolt into my tent. I didn’t have enough time to take in everything that was going on, for within a moment the man was lunging at me, his weight shoving me towards the ground.

We both s
macked against the ground, a loud
thump
echoing. All of the air within my seemed to leave within a moment and I lay against the ground, gasping for breath. Seth lay on top of me, ragged breathing hot against my face.  I pressed my fists against his chest, closing my eyes as I felt his hands grasping for my hair, and shoved – to no avail. He was in too strong of a rage to focus on what he was doing and far too heavy for me to shove on my own.

Panic tore through me like a tidal wave, my breath catching in my
lungs, every part of my growing limp. I looked around me, trying to see Isaac or anything that I could use to help me out of the situation I was in – but there was nothing, no weapons, nothing. A pinching pain stung in my stomach and I swallowed the overwhelming urge to vomit tingling in every vein in my body.

“Isaac!” I screamed, squirming and pressing my legs against Seth’s abdomen and pushing. I couldn’t get him off me – he was far
too big and stood at least half a foot taller than I did, and he was half a dead weight, trying to crawl off of me himself to no avail. Blood oozed from his wound, coating my leg – I could feel my foot sinking in to the gaping lesion, the warmth of his body obvious. I felt bile rise to my throat, swallowing hard to keep myself from vomiting. I had to get him off me.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Three gun shots rang out and the flailing, growling man on top of me went limp, blood splattering against my face. I froze and screwed my eyes shut, my body tensing in shock, mouth gaping open. I lay; chest heaving, unable to move. I didn’t have the guts to open my eyes until after Seth’s weight began to move off of me, the warmth of his body gone in an instant – and I was glad to be rid of it.

“Oh, God,” I groaned, pushing away from the corpse of t
he older man as Isaac pushed him off of me with his foot. Three bullet sized holes, a dribble of blood accompanying each one, protruded from the side of Seth’s head, patterned in a slight triangle. I turned away; my throat and chest constricting as I felt the urge to vomit overwhelm me.

Isaac stood above me, the gun trembling in his tensed, beat red hands. Tears streamed down his cheeks, but he didn’t make a sound and instead he just stared with his empty green gaze locked on the limp body of his father. Th
under rumbled in the distance.

“Isaac,” I croaked, wracking my brain for any words I could use, but nothing came and I stood staring at him, mouth open and no sound coming out.

“Don’t. Just, just don’t,” he breathed, raising his hand as he spoke, throwing the gun to the ground and storming off. Thunder rumbled, accompanied by a clash of bright lightening. I hadn’t been paying attention to the weather much or seen the approaching gray clouds that hovered above us then. We needed to figure out what the plan was – keep going or wait out the storm. I watched as Isaac disappeared into the trees and sighed, placing my head into my hands.

Leave him, talk to him later.
I doubted he would want to talk about the next, anyway. He would still be hoping his father would walk up behind him, alive and healthy; it would be like that for days. He would be pinching himself, begging to wake up from the nightmare he was living. He needed time and I couldn’t help him until he was ready to move on.

I crawled back to the tent, gree
ted by Jumper within moments of my arrival. The small tabby kitten purred in greeting, rubbing against my legs and crawling onto my stomach as I lay down, running my fingers through his fur. We stayed there for the next few hours, peering outside the tent and watching as the rain poured, turning the dirt around to mud.

“Hope it doesn’t get in here, hey buddy?” I murmured, picking up Jumper and rubbing his head, pressing my face against his fur. It’d be hard to get the cart out of the forest with all the mud
, and that was just assuming it didn’t sink into the mud. I leaned back against the bed and closed my eyes, listening to the wind howling outside along with the pattering of the rain. Isaac still hadn’t returned and my stomach seemed to twist with fear every few minutes.

It wasn’t longer later that the rain had soothed me back to sleep. By the time I woke, it didn’t appear to be raining anymore – the pattering of the rain no longer echoed throughout the tent.

I peered out of the tent, looking up to see the clouds were a paler gray and a few small sections had broken to reveal bright blue sky. The sun, however, was still hidden from view and the wind continued to howl, trees creaking and groaning at the movement. Isaac was nowhere to be seen, but his tent was zipped up and swaying in the wind.

I pushed out of my tent, dragging myself out with Jumper clinging to my arms and testing the ground – it was moist and the ground shifted beneath my feet.  I shuddered, taking small steps
towards his tent, and stood a few steps away from the entrance. He didn’t want to be disturbed, I figured, but we had to talk – we had to decide on what to do next. That was what kept my mind off my parents – where to head next, what to do, and perhaps it would help him keep his mind off of his father.

“Isaac,” I called, waiting. No answer. “Isaac?”

“What do you want, Arin?” Isaac grumbled from inside, his voice low and hard to make out. I had a feeling he’d been crying, not that he would ever admit it.

“We need to talk,” I said, trying to keep my voice monotone.  I didn’t want to order him around, I didn’t want him thinking I didn’t care – but we couldn’t stay there, not with winter on its way. The tents were not proper shelter for cold nights.

“What is it you want to talk about?” His voice was a little louder, as if he knew I hadn’t heard him well before.

“Can you come out?” I asked, biting my lip and staring at the tent entrance. I waited, crossing my arms as he remained silent, not a single word in rep
ly. “Please, Isaac,” I pressed, watching as the tent zipped open the moment I finished saying his name. He climbed halfway out of the tent and glowered up at me, his face red and eyes swollen.

“What do you want?” He grumbled, looking at Jumper, who attempt
ed to leap towards Isaac.

“We need to decide where we’re going next.” I clung onto Jumper, holding tight to him and shaking my head. He mewled in protest.

“Why?” He snorted, shifting so that I could just make out his face through the tent.

“Please look at
me, Isaac,” I said, trying to hold back a sigh.

“Just tell me why.” He didn’t move.

“Because we can’t stay here, we won’t survive,” I said.

“So? It’s not like our survival matters; we all die in the end.” His voice was gruff, and I sighed. Reaching forward
s, I grabbed his shirt and tugged on him.

“Look. At. Me,” I ordered, pressing my lips together.

“Are you going to tell me why it matters?” he spat, his gaze locked on the ground – but at least he was facing me and I could make out most of his features, that was an improvement.

“Look at me, Isaac,” I insisted, reaching towards him and tilting his head upwards. He glared at me, green gaze full of loathing. “Happy?”

“Yes, I am. Now, you need to realize that your father didn’t just do everything he did in his life to keep you safe just for you to quit now that he’s gone. Tell me where you two were heading,” I demanded, crossing my arms.

BOOK: The Prophet's Daughter
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