Shay hated math, and if there was any time for her to do math or enjoy it, it wasn't now. Only, for some reason, it brought her comfort. As soon as her and Carson passed the line of police cars, she had paused and done a head count of the people the officers were shooting at. Five. She'd counted five heads, which meant nobody was dead. She felt a calm rush over her, knowing she'd lost none of her friends.
However, she hadn't lost any yet. The gunfire was getting heavier, and the shots were getting more accurate. More explosions rocked the ground, setting fire to cars on the street and buildings. People were darting across the street now to their cars, turning the engines on, and speeding off towards the bridge directly in front of them.
Shay ran forwards, directing herself towards Marena, who was hiding behind a car. Shay heard the gunshots, but she kept pushing herself. She couldn't think. Her body wouldn't let her. It knew she needed to focus and just let the adrenaline and instinct pilot her, because if Shay thought, she would think too much. Before she knew it there would be a bullet in her or a grenade inches away.
Shay ducked down and slide the past few feet to behind the car. It burned again, a white hot searing pain ripping up through her arm, making her cry out in pain. She had forgotten temporarily about the injury she had on her arm, and of course, she slid on it. She felt more skin being burned away on the asphalt as she slowed to a stop besides Marena.
Shay stopped sliding and rolled onto her back. The asphalt was warm, and the warmth spread up her back, momentarily soothing her. She tried to not focus on the blinding pain in her arm, but she couldn't. As she lay there breathing heavily on the asphalt, she cast her eyes up to the sky. The thick gray clouds were becoming darker as smoke, thick and black, billowed up to mix with the clouds. She choked as she tasted the reek of it in the air.
Shay heard Marena whisper quietly, but then trail off. Shay sat up and gazed around behind the shiny brown car for her friend. After a few seconds she found Marena, crouched on her bare knees, head pressed up against the rear door of the car. Shay was silent as she thought she heard a small whimper on the wind. Sure enough, even over the noise of the gunfire, she heard it again.
Shay trailed off when she realized the whimpers were coming from her best friend. She shuffled on her knees closer to Marena and the car. Marena did not raise her head. Shay cast her eyes over the car. When she noticed what was wrong, she felt her heart sink.
On Marena's left hand, two of her fingers, her pinky and the finger beside it, were jammed in the door. Shay could see Marena was lightly tugging on her arm, but the fingers would not budge. Just as the sight of it Shay cringed.
"Can you get it out?" Shay asked worriedly.
Marena raised her hand. Her thin dirty blonde hair was shrouding over her face. Shay reached forwards and brushed a few hairs out so she could see Marena better. All she could see in her eyes was pain.
Shay didn't even bother to question it. She knew Marena wasn't lying. She could hear her short gasps of pain every time she tried to pull her fingers out of the door.
"Carson!" Shay screamed at the top of her lungs. He was the only person she could honestly think of right now who might have any idea what to do. There was a little nagging voice inside of Shay's head though, and it was saying she just wanted to make sure he was still alive. Still breathing. Not lying somewhere in the street, bleeding, dead, or blown sky high.
"Right behind you."
Shay felt a wave of comfort and relief wash over her when she heard the voice she'd heard so many times before. She turned around and saw him staring there, the apocalypse-like sky a frame of gray behind him.
He must have followed Shay like he was her shadow. She couldn't blame them though. She felt stupid for letting him out of her sight. In a situation like this, who wouldn't follow their special someone like that? If she was going to die, she would want him to be there, and vise versa.
"Do you have any ideas?" Shay asked, staring into Carson's eyes. She heard Marena's whimper get louder behind her turned back and knew they had to get her fingers out soon.
"Shay, behind you!" Marena's warning scream ripped Shay out of focus on Carson. She whirled around in the blink of an eye and heard a metallic ping on the hard asphalt. Her eyes darted around, feeling a new rush of adrenaline, when she saw it. A grenade, gleaming as it struck the asphalt then bounced up again. Shay could feel her heart literally stop dead in her chest. The grenade was too far in the air for her to reach.
"Carson!" Once again she screamed his name, the name she'd spoken so many times before, yet it felt alien to say it like this, in panic. She tried to choke out her words of warning, but her fear choked her out. Instead she just pointed to the sky, where the grenade was still turning in the air.
Shay watched as Carson turned his head up. He saw the grenade and took a few steps. It was as if time slowed down as she watched him step towards the grenade instead of away from it like every logical person would do. She watched with horror as he caught it in his hand.
Carson froze. He didn't do anything. He just stood there, a literal time bomb in his hand. Shay froze. She didn't know what to do. By the time she got it out of his hands, they'd be ashes. She had to think of something to tell him, but it felt like her lips were glued, and her mind was in a fog of fear. Then, just like a burst of lightning, it struck her.
"Carson, it's just like dodgeball!" She screamed at the top of her lungs. Carson looked down at her, and she saw the understanding in his eyes. He reached his arm back and chucked it out over the roof of the car. She felt the ground shake as the explosion meant for them blew a hole in the street.
That sentence brought back so many memories. Four years ago, that was what that was a reference too. The sixth grade dodge ball game their middle school held.
There was more than one hundred sixth graders on each side, both sides equally lusting to win. All of them were forced to lie down on the wooden gym floor, feet pressed up against the back wall. Of course there was like three rows of them, though. Shay remembered some weird kid's shoes had been shoved in her face. There was two old "kick me" sticky notes and mud (at least she hoped) wedged in between the shoe lines.
Then the whistle blew. She darted off, but once she saw how many jocks were on the other side, instantly retreated back. Wham. Her friend, John, hit her hard in the leg. Shay angrily stormed to the bench, where only a few others were sitting.
Only, back then, she hadn't been looking at Carson, even though he was hard to miss. Shorter, and wearing his stupid neon green shirt and neon green and black shorts, he looked even worse than a sore thumb. Shay was ignoring him though, her eyes were on Hudson, the guy she liked at the time. He was just as athletic and, in her opinion, cuter than Carson. Only he was just standing back there, talking to other people then running his own way. Carson, however, was up in front, throwing hard. Shay watched him for a few second then snorted in disgust.
"Scoot down," her friend Maria ordered as she sat down on the wooden bleachers. Shay obliged and scooted down a little. Her and Maria sat and talked for a little while before suddenly, Carson ran past the bench. Maria, who was his friend started screaming for him to get the backboard. He caught some kid's ball, but didn't even try to hit the backboard. Instead he threw it and nailed Ty Mills, the most popular sixth grader.
"Hit the backboard Neon Boy!" Shay yelled from the bleachers in a mocking tone. He looked over at her and gave her a glare. Shay smirked back at him. Carson then threw the ball at some weird kid on the side. Shay rolled her eyes, thinking nothing but negative things.
Eventually, somebody did hit the backboard. Her team flooded back out from the bleachers, but instantly a lot were on the bench again. The other team was killing them. There were hardly any balls, and a swarm of kids would fight on the floor for one ball. Shay often got into these, but never emerged with the rubber ball. Eventually, her team was up to the fourth row on the bleachers. It as looking pretty bleak.
Finally, there was a ball in her hands. She was aiming for who to throw at when someone blocked her way. Sweat dripping down his forehead, face red with effort. Carson.
"Can I have the ball?" he asked, holding his hand out in front of him like he was already expecting the ball. Shay almost laughed.
"No." She said blankly, then scooted over, readjusting to try to get John.
"Please! I'll get someone out for you? Who do you want me to get out?" Carson begged, getting up in Shay's face about it.
It was a good offer. Shay hated some on the people of the other team, like the slut of the grade Shelli. She sighed and rolled her eyes, no idea why in all hell she was giving the ball to him.
"Get Shelli," she ordered, then dropped the ball into his hand. He didn't even say thanks. Shay rolled her eyes and darted to another mob fighting over a ball, hoping she'd be lucky enough to get one.
Eventually, she did get her ball, but it wasn't exactly how she planned. Only four people were left on her side, and eight on the other. It came down to Kelsee, Brita, Shay, and Carson. Meanwhile, nearly all the toughest jocks remained in on the other side. Her team was screeching for them to hit the backboard, but their only worry was to take out the opponents.
John and Ty threw at the same time. Shay dodged, just barley, but the ball went and hit Kelsee in the leg. She screamed and then laughed, dramatically walking to the bleachers. Carson caught Ty's ball, which was a miracle.
Eventually, Brita went out, and five of the other team. It was down to Shay and Carson for their team, which was incredibly awkward, and there were still four others to take out. Shay picked up a ball from on the floor and threw it. It hit the guy in the shoulder and he stormed off angrily. Two to three. She could hear her team chanting faintly in the background for her to hit the backboard, but it was drowned out by a wave of something she hadn't felt before. It was like she was driven to throw the ball at Carson and get him out, and take the show for herself, but she kept her eye on the last three. It was focus… something she didn't feel that much in middle school.
Then, it slowed down. Someone threw a ball really hard straight for Carson, who wasn't paying attention. He's better than me, Shay thought as she watched the ball hurtle towards him. If it was just her by herself her team would be screwed. They'd lose, and her pride would be tarnished. People would hold it against her forever. If Carson went on, he'd win. Shay knew he would. She felt stupid thinking about someone she absolutely despised that way, but she knew it was the truth.
So Shay propelled herself off of the floor, her only instinct was to jump. She flew in front of him and took the ball. She impacted on the wooden floor and felt herself skid, sliding to a stop. It hurt when she hit the floor, her arm digging into her side and legs smacking the floor. She was expecting to get out, but she felt something rubbery clasped tightly against her chest. It was the ball. She'd caught it.
Shay stood up, legs still a little wobbly, and pointed at the guy who threw it. She held his ball in the air and smirked. He angrily stormed off the gym floor. Even teams now, Shay thought. They had a better chance.
Carson was just standing there, staring at her. Shay didn't make eye contact with him; just nodded, knowing he was watching her. They both had a ball in their hands. Together, they threw. Shay didn't know if it was accuracy or just sheer luck, but both the balls got the other two out. The two people stormed off, and Shay felt the world fade out again. Her team roared off the benched and flooded around them, cheering her name and Carson's, but all she could see was him. This time they made eye contact, and didn't move. They just stared. Later, they would get the title of the dodge ball king and queen, even if they weren't dating. To much of the school, they still absolutely hated each other.
Shay felt the ground shake, and heard a loud gasp. She turned around to Marena again. She had freed her hand. Shay didn't want to know how, but her fingers looked disgusting. They were all purple and blue, bloody, and swollen. Shay felt sick to her stomach, but didn't say anything. She extended her hand to her best friend, who, using her good hand, took Shay's and regained her footing.
Marena was grasping her other hand by the wrist, her eyes just staring in blank horror at her nasty fingers. She could hear her sharp breathes of pain and decided not to do anything. They couldn't go to a hospital here. Everybody in this city was out to kill them now.
Suddenly, gunfire ripped through the air and the windows behind them shattered. Shay and Marena screamed and fell to the ground, instinctively covering their heads. Carson had vanished around the car, out in the street again. After what seemed like an eternity, the gunfire stopped. The warm pavement felt soothing against her stomach. She wanted to just lie there forever, undiscovered behind the car, safe and sound with Marena. She knew that couldn't happen though. Eventually they'd find them and kill them. They had to get over that bridge and out of the city.
Shay heard a momentary pause in the chaos and shot up, taking Marena with her. She heard Marena screech with surprise behind her, but she took off from the shelter of the car. When she got out in the street she realized how far behind they all were. The others had made it to the base of the bridge now, but the police were still down here.
"Hey, over there!" Shay heard someone yell and instantly took off. It sounded like a cop. She turned her head to see Marena burning pavement behind her, and quickly passing Shay. She was pushing herself as fast as she could, knowing they'd start shooting again at any moment. She could feel that pain in her side begin to make itself known, the needles of pain beginning to stab into her side. Shay took a sharp intake of breathe but kept running.
The seconds raced by as she ran to the base of the bridge. Her legs felt like lead after the long sprint, and the cops hadn't even fired a single bullet or thrown one grenade. She felt stupid, bolting off like that and nothing even happened.
She looked up to see Katrina, who was staring into her eyes. A thin line of blood was trickling down Katrina's face and dirt and grime was smeared all over. Shay just nodded and lowered her head so she was facing the black asphalt. She couldn't look them in the eyes. For some reason she thought this was her fault. She and Carson had been the ones to run away, and they had just followed like they always do. It was her fault.
She felt a horrible, kicking pain in her stomach as the realization struck her like lightning. Shay stood back up, but didn't even cast her eyes towards any of her friends. Instead, her eyes fell upon what was before them on the bridge, and she felt her heart drop to her feet. As far as she could see, cars were jammed, bumper to bumper, all trying to leave the city. And not a single one was moving. That was when the gunfire echoed through the burning city again.