"What the hell are we supposed to do now!" I screamed angrily, startling my younger sister, January.
She started to whimper. Which pissed me off even more. How could they just leave me, a fifteen year old girl, with her eleven year old sister in the middle of an abandoned parking lot with nothing but a few necessities, a useless Book of Illnesses and some stupid small box that we were supposed to keep at all times. Yeah, thanks Mom and Dad. January continued to make little fearful sobs.
"Would you stop that!" I shouted at her. She frowned at me. I looked at the run down grocery store that we had been abandoned at. It didn't look promising, but it was all we had. I exhaled. Trying to calm myself. The only way to survive was to think things through. Maybe we could take shelter in the store. It's bound to have some food and other supplies in it, unless They raided it already. I sat down, pretending to be taking note of our supplies, but I was really just attempting to distract myself so I wouldn't burst into tears along with January.
Nowadays, it seemed like we were always running but getting nowhere. We ran all throughout my childhood and now we were running again. How jacked up. Well, I guess everything has been jacked up since the government fell. My father used to tell me that there used to be a great president who had control of the land. He was a kind leader and was leading the world to greatness. But then They attacked.
'They' are a group of people who have made it their goals to keep the government under. The world is a scary place now. With everything in disarray it takes all you have to survive. And without order, there is no law. Without law, there are no consequences. Without consequences, life is a living hell.
I used to think my parents where the usual middle class couple from Brooklyn. I was wrong. I think back to the day that all organization fell and suddenly armies of Them raided people's homes, taking their food and supplies and then shooting down entire families in the streets. Being a modest, well fed seven year old, never exposed to any warfare, I was terrified. My parents grabbed my younger sister and I and took off. But I remember clearly, as we drove away in our red pick-up, my mother opening the sunroof, pulling out a machine gun, and blowing the faces off of the evil army. Shortly after, the army was running after us shooting, I was told to get down, but at the last minute I saw my father pulling the ring out of a grenade with his teeth and throwing out the window, all the while still driving. I never looked at my parents the same again. They were realtors from Brooklyn! Were they? Apparently not.
Now, eight years later, we were running again. I assumed we were going too another base. My parents belong to an alliance, made years ago, to protect the people. Before They had attacked, my parents and a group of highly undercover people around the world had been searching for Samil Asling, the leader of them. They had come so close, then suddenly the government fell and Samil Asling looked at this as a chance to attack. I have spent years at alliance bases, assisting however I could. I looked out the window of our truck. Wherever we were, it was green. It seemed like we were in some kind of small town, suburb area. Not like any of the other towns we had been to when we had visited a base camp.
The truck drove speedily along the bumpy, uneven road. We were probably some of the only people that used a car anymore. So we were the only people on the road. People didn't need cars, because they didn't really need to go anywhere. No one had jobs anymore. Money was worth nothing. Everyone's job was to keep quiet, protect himself or herself, and survive. And you didn't necessarily need a car for that.
We passed old boarded up homes and trashed little shops. Most of the windows were shattered. Which meant scavengers had broken in for supplies or They had raided this area. The town didn't seem like another base camp. And surprisingly, we pulled into a parking lot of a grocery store. The windows had been smashed and it looked like the store hadn't been touched in years. On the top of the building there was a sign that read, "Peggy's". Why had we stopped at this run down store?
"What are we doing here?" My sister asked.
My father sighed. "Dropping you off. It's getting too dangerous. I don't want to lose you two."
"So, instead you're abandoning us." January whimpered.
"We've been through dangerous situations forever. Why are you suddenly so concerned?" I said suspiciously.
My mother shook her head. "Just trust us. You will be safe here."
"Trust us." My father said calmly. I softened.
"Scarlett, take care of January." My mother instructed me, sternly. Her olive face was sad and her green eyes were hard. Her long brown hair was swept up in a ponytail. She gave us a stiff hug and kissed us both on the head. My dad leaned over from the driver's seat and hugged us too. His kind blue eyes were filled with worry and his unkempt blond hair was hanging in his eyes. "We love you guys so much."
"Love you too." We both said.
"We will be back for you as soon as we can." He said.
"When will that be?" I asked.
He didn't answer. He rushed us out of the car, shut the door, and drove away. We watched them go. Not really knowing what to do. We stood there for a while after they were out of sight. It was strangely silent. Creepy. A bird broke the silence by cawing. Suddenly, the sadness left and I felt the bitter feeling of abandonment. Fury welled up inside me. How could they just leave us all alone like this? And here we were. Standing alone. I let my anger out by yelling and cursing.
After I was done having my fit and when January had composed herself I was ready to move. "Let's check it out." I nodded at the store.
I reached in our bag and felt around for the box to make sure it was there. My hand touched something metal and hard. I grabbed it and pulled it out. It was a simple black handgun. At least that was a plus. I put it back in and zipped up the bag.
I slung the bag over my shoulder and headed towards the store, January followed behind hesitantly. The only sound was our boots against the pavement. I took a better look at the store. The windows had newspaper that covered the inside so you couldn't see in. The doors were weird for grocery store doors; they were green with small windows that were also covered in newspaper from the inside. The whole store looked like it hadn't been used in forever.
We got to the door and I took a breath. I wasn't exactly sure what could be behind the doors. But I was hoping it wasn't bad. I grabbed the handle and slowly pulled open the door. It surprisingly opened easily. We walked in hesitantly. There were shelves on both sides of the store. It was a surprisingly spacious. And to my relief the shelves were stocked with various food items. The checks out stands were straight ahead of us. The lights were off and it was quiet. But suddenly, that changed.
Flashlights abruptly flashed in our eyes and people started shouting. I felt my sister latch on to my side. Figures pointed guns at us. I raised my hands above my head.
"Hey! Hey! What is this?" I shouted. I couldn't make out their faces because of the blinding light. Was it a group of Them? Were they going to capture us and slowly torture us into telling them whatever we knew? Someone came closer so that they blocked out the glare. To my astonishment, he was just a kid, probably sixteen or so. He had blond curly hair and small blue eyes. He was tall and husky. He wore cargo pants with a white tee shirt that showed off his muscular arms.
"Who are you?" He asked pointing his gun at us.
"Uh..." I said. I wasn't sure if he was one of Them or not. So I didn't know what to say. If it was them they'd kill us once they found out we were alliance kids. But why would They have this kid as the leader or negotiator or whatever he was supposed to be?
Or was this supposed to happen? Was this our parents' plan? To drop us off at a store full of deranged kids with guns?
"Do have a box?" He asked hesitantly. At first I was confused. A box? What the hell is he talking about? Then I remembered the box my parents had given us to keep. Maybe he was on our side. I decided to take a very risky chance.
"Yes…" I cautiously reached for the bag. I paused when everyone cocked their guns and stepped forward.
"Did I give the friggen signal? No! Jesus, people would you wait?" Ordered the boy then nodded to me to go on. I unzipped our duffel bag and reached down under all our stuff. I felt the box and pulled it up. I slowly put the box on the floor and pushed it towards the boy with my foot. He picked it up, looked at it, then waved off the gunmen.
They all lowered their weapons and turned off the flashlights. I could see the rest now. Kids of all ages seemed to be there. The youngest kids being about six to the oldest being probably seventeen. Was this some sort of weird orphanage for lunatics?
The curly haired boy half smiled. "Welcome. Names?" He said all of a sudden calm.
"Scarlett." I replied, still tense.
"January?" My sister said, questioningly.
Everyone seemed to just go off and do his or her own thing again. Like something like this happened everyday. Maybe it did.
"Uh," I said confused. "Can you tell me what's going on, exactly?"
"Well, all of us," He motioned to everyone around him. "We're all alliance brats. Dumped here by our parents for protection. Just like you."
"So this is like a sanctuary?" I asked sarcastically.
" You could say that," He winked. "My name's Maddox."
"Nice to meet you?" I muttered, still ruffled by the sudden change in atmosphere.
"Ash'll show you girls around." He said. He signaled to a group of kids.
I looked over as a tall guy with unkempt blond hair and gorgeous blue eyes jogged over. My heart did a little jump. I hadn't seen a cute guy my age in years. I suddenly wished my ragged jeans and beaten leather jacket had been washed recently and that my long blond hair had been brushed out so it didn't look so nasty. This was the first time I had felt embarrassed of the way I looked.
"Hey. Sorry for the scare. Gotta be careful when those assholes are patrolling the area every night." Ash smiled. His voice was cool and super hot.
"Oh yeah its fine." I smiled back. Cautiously feeling giddy.
"Anyway, I'll show you around here." He smiled back. I studied him. He was wearing an old blue jacket that made his eyes seem impossibly bluer. He had a black T-shirt underneath and worn jeans. He wore black high tops that were ripped almost to shreds and barely hanging on. It was hard to keep my eyes off him. I suddenly snapped out of my dreamy trance when a thin girl with small, cat-like eyes walked up. She didn't look at all happy to see me.
"Hey Ash," She cooed, ignoring me. "What are you doing?" She had black hair that was pulled up into a ponytail. She wore a tight polo that looked uncomfortable with jeans and flats.
"I'm showing these girls around." He told her.
She looked at me and grimaced. She huffed and said. "Well, how about I show them around."
"Well, I was already kinda going to." Ash said. Did I hear disappointment in his voice?
"No, you probably have something better to do." The girl said. I fought the urge to tell her to piss off and let him show me the hell around. I wanted people to like me here. I'd never been around anyone my age.
He turned to me. "You guys gonna be okay?" He asked. I nodded, slightly solemn and he left.
"I'm Rozlyn," She spat. "Follow me."
I followed her, towing January behind me. We walked over to some shelves on the left side.
"This is where we store the food. Never take any without asking. We have breakfast at exactly seven every morning, lunch is at twelve, and dinner is at six. If you miss it, no food." She pointed to the right side. "Over there are any other nonfood items you need. Like, first aid kits, flashlights, whatever." She walked to the other side of the shelves. There were bathroom doors with a 'womens' sign and a 'mens' sign. "These are obviously the bathrooms. We go on runs to an old gym a block away every other day. That's where we take showers. If you want a shower, it's at six in the morning. And it looks like you need one." She snickered. I rolled my eyes.
She walked to the back of the store where it had been cleared and a ton of tents were set up and scattered everywhere. Some kids were going in and out of them carrying different things. "These are the living areas. We have a tent for you two, but you have to set it up yourself." She grabbed a tent bag out of a pile and shoved it at me.
"Uh, thanks." I said.
She turned to leave then stopped. "Oh," She smirked at me. "You better stay away from Ash. He's off limits."
"Wouldn't think of it." I smirked back at her. She turned and walked away.
"What a bitch." I muttered to January. She nodded agreeing. I found an open spot on the edge of all the tents. I knelled down and opened the tent bag. I pulled out all the parts, trying to figure it all out. There was also a simple clock inside. We started to put the tent together. January talked while we worked.
"I don't like it here. We probably shouldn't be here." She said.
"Well, you'll have to learn to like it. We have everything we need here."
"But you always said we were better off on our own…It's that guy isn't it? He's why you want to stay. You know Rozlyn said he'soff limits."
"Kid, since when is anyone the boss of me? And he is not the reason. We have everything we need to survive here, that's the reason." Why was January being so impossible about this? This was good for us it wasn't about Ash. It was about survival. We finished up our tent and stored our bag and new clock inside.
"I'm going to go look around and find us some sleeping bags or something." I said to January. I stepped over the tents and items that lay all over the floor to get to the left side of the store. Rozlyn hadn't even shown us that part at all. I rounded a corner of a wall of shelves. On the other side was another open space like the living area. But the space was filled with couches, chairs, and beanbags. There were also shelves with books, games, and an old radio. I can't remember the last time I saw a radio. I walked over to it and turned it on. All I heard was static. I rotated the dial. But still, I heard nothing.
"You won't get anything on that," Said a voice. I jumped and turned around. It was Ash. "Stations haven't played it years."
"Why keep it?"
"Gives them hope," He smiled. This made my heart flutter. "That one day, voices will be coming through it one day, telling us that everything is okay and we can come out of hiding." I smiled back.
"I'll be waiting for that day." I laughed. "Do you think it'll ever go back…to how it was before?"
"I don't bother thinking like that. Nothing comes from thinking it, you have to do something to have something happen," He replied. I noticed he had been sorting through things, obviously organizing. "I do miss it though. How it was."
"What I really miss is the noise. I know that sounds weird but I miss the sounds of people, machines, and music. Now, it's too quiet." I whispered to him.
"I've got something for you," He replied, smiling. "It might not be completely what you're looking for but it's something." He walked over to a shelf and reached up to the top shelf and pulled off a portable CD player, a pair of headphones, and a stack of discs. He shuffled through the CD's and finally found two he wanted. He put one of the desired discs in the player. He handed me the player and the other CD.
"Listen to them later." He smiled. He smiled a lot. I liked that,
"How long have you been here?" I asked him abruptly.
"A year." He replied.
"How's that been?"
"I get by. It's kind of lonely." He half smiled.
"But this place is packed with kids. And what about Rozlyn?"
"What about her?"
"Aren't you guys...together?" I asked curiously.
"No. She's been trying for as long as we've known each other. But she's not really...my type."
I hid my smirk by saying, "So what are you doing?"
"Right now I'm working."
"Your working?" I asked.
"Yeah, we have jobs around here. There are the people who go out on raids, people who stock the shelves, people who wash clothes, and a bunch of other stuff."
"What do you do?"
"I'm a Raider," He smiled mischievously. Seemed to me like that job had its perks. "But right now I'm covering for someone in stocking."
"What does Maddox do?" I asked.
"He's the leader. You know, the captain."
"How was that decided?"
"He was the first one to get here. Four years ago. No one really decided, he just assumed the role. Someone had to be in charge around here. If no one was in charge well, you know what would happen." I think of the deterioration of our world, because of people's refusal to take charge.
"Was he alone?"
"You ask a lot of questions, Scarlett." He laughed. I blush when he said my name.
"Sorry. I'm just really curiously" I replied honestly. "How does a pack of kids survive alone over four years?" Just then a boy with a brown ponytail came up.
"Ash, we have to do an emergency raid. Surina's getting really sick. We need more meds." The boy said.
"Okay lets go," He turned to me. "See you soon, Scarlett." Then he was off with ponytail kid. I remembered then that I had set out to find some sleeping bags. I left the living area still feeling the tingly feeling Ash made me feel.
It was almost time for dinner when Maddox came to tell January and me about the night protocol.
"At nine exactly, you have to get ready for bed and do everything you need to. You'll have an hour. Then at ten sharp, everyone is in their tents, lights out, and be as quiet as possible. Because They scope out our area every night at around ten. Got it?" Maddox said seriously.
"We understand." I nodded.
"Good. Is there anything else I can do for you?" He asked with a wink.
"Nope. Thanks for taking us in. Oh, and is there any jobs I can do?" I asked casually.
"Well, do you have any medical experience? Because we are in desperate need of doctors." He looked at me with pleading eyes. I thought back to the minimal training my parents had given us and to the many times I had treated my family and sometimes assisted in emergencies at bases. I suddenly remembered the Book of Illnesses in our bag. It listed symptoms and ways to treat diseases. I could be a doctor if they needed one so badly.
"Actually, yes. I guess I have some experienced."
"Great! Thank you! You start tomorrow! The medical area is in the old employee lounge." He turned and left. There is an awful lot of trust through this society. Even towards new comers like us. Not that we are untrustworthy, but others could be. You can barely trust yourself these days. When we first got here there was no interrogation or anything. That isn't safe. The only thing they had for proof was our box. I guess apparently those were hard to come by.
Dinner was held at the front by the door, in front of the checkout stands. There were two big shipping boxes that had been pushed together to create a long table. They had a bunch of different mismatched chairs. Different food items were laid out on the makeshift table people began to take their seats started to eat. Maddox waved January and me over to where he sat. Rozlyn was also there, right across from Maddox. I reluctantly went over to them.
"Go on and sit. Since you don't really know anyone. You can sit with us." Maddox grinned.
"Thanks." I replied, eying Rozlyn. She scowled at me when I sat down next to her boldly. My sister sat next to me. Across, next to Maddox sat a black haired boy with short, spiky hair and hazel eyes. He wore glasses and a Metallica T-shirt. On the other side of Maddox was a small Asian girl with short black hair in pigtails. She wore a colorful striped long sleeved shirt. On the other side of her, a bushy brown haired boy had his arm slung around her shoulders. He had brown eyes and a darker complexion. He wore an unbuttoned plaid shirt over a white t-shirt. On the other side of Rozlyn was an African American girl with her hair in a high bun. She wore similar clothes to Rozlyn.
"Well, everyone, you know Scarlett and January from this afternoon's scare." Maddox said. They all chuckled.
"I'm Cosmo." Said the boy with glasses.
"My name's Molli." The Asian girl basically sang. "I'm sure we'll be great friends!"
"And I'm Gregorio. But you can just call me Greg." The brown haired kid kissed Molli on the cheek and she giggled. I nodded and looked over at the girl with the bun next to Rozlyn.
She rolled her eyes. "I'm Zurri," She said reluctantly. "And personally, I don't think we need any more people here we already have a ton. More people means less things for all of us." She gestured to all the others at the table. There must have been forty other kids or so. Maddox shook his head and gave Zurri a don't-be-such-a-bitch-in-front-of-the-newbies look.
"Where's Magenta?" He asked.
"There." Molli pointed at a tall, thin fiery red haired girl coming over to us. She was dressed in black and wore combat boots. She came over and sat next to January. Magenta patted her on the back.
"Hey kid. Sorry for the freak out today. Gotta be on guard ya know." She smiled. She leaned over to me and shook my hand. "I'm Magenta."
"Scarlett." I replied. Happy, she was so friendly. I looked at the assortment of packaged foods strewn across the table. I picked at a warm packaged burrito while Maddox talked to me.
"So, my sister Surina and I were the first people here," He continued. "My parents had explained I was going to be the head of the alliance kid protection agency. So I waited. It was pretty terrifying. I was only twelve and my sister was only four. So she wasn't much company. But I got by. Magenta was the next person to come. But that was months after I had come. I was alone forever, though. Protecting my little sister was all I could think about. It was good to have Magenta with me, though." He blushed slightly, which made me curious.
"Who came next?" I asked, eating.
"Jaeger. You might have seen him around with Ash. They're good friends. Blond guy with a ponytail and an earring." He explained. Ponytail guy, so that's who he is.
"Anyway next was Rozlyn," He half smiled at her. "Then Ash, Zurri, Cosmo, Molli, and then Greg. Everyone else came after them, slowly but surely. But all eight of us were alone for a long time. We all know each other best." I nodded. I was suddenly feeling out of place. "Our current doctor came next actually, which reminds me, Scarlett has volunteered to be our new doctor."
"Wow, no one's volunteered to be a doctor since…" Molli looked at everyone and the looks they gave her made her snap her mouth shut.
"Well, we only have one doctor, Kaylori. But she's a little," Magenta paused, contemplating what to say. "She's scarred. I guess you could say. You'll be working with her, though."
"I've been working with Kaylori," Says Maddox. "I guess I've been the…therapist around here. People come to me for advice or just to talk. Kaylori has been through a lot. She's a little off her rocker."
"Who is she?" I asked looking around the table crowded with kids.
"Kaylori doesn't eat with us. She won't even come out of the doctor's tent. She only leaves to go to the bathroom and shower. She doesn't like to be around much people. Just the sick ones." Cosmo says to me.
"I think Kaylori is just weak," Rozlyn spat. "I don't care if she had horrible things happen to her, we all have! We aren't all crazy! She's just weak and pathetic. She does more harm than help! She shouldn't live here; she's a threat to our society. She shouldn't be working. I can't believe you let her tend Surina, Maddox! She's unstable!" Rozlyn suddenly turned and stomped away. I sat there in disbelief. Why was Rozlyn attacking such an obviously precarious person? Was she that bitter?
"What's up with her?" I ask. Molli shakes her head and looks down solemnly.
"Excuse me?" Zurri turns to me. "You don't know anything about what she's gone through. You have no right. And Rozlyn is right about Kaylori, she's not to be trusted, especially with our sick and injured. After what she did…so you better shut your mouth asshole." She directed at me, eyes filled with spite. "And Magenta, how dare you even bring up Kaylori!" She stomped after Rozlyn.
"What is going on?" I asked in disbelief. They all just shook their heads.
Maddox just sighs, exasperated. Somewhere, an alarm clock rang. "Alright people," Maddox says addressing the whole colony. "Prep time!" People pushed the makeshift tables to the side of the room and put the unwrapped food items on the shelves. They put trash in a bin in the corner. Maddox explained that this time was entirely for cleaning up and getting ready for bed before lights out at nine. We had an hour. I hadn't realized time had gone by so fast. January and I helped clean up the rest.
They bolted the doors shut at exactly eight-thirty; chain after chain, pressing chairs and other large objects against the door. No one could enter. After we were done cleaning up, everyone went back to their tents and got their things needed for bed. When we got to our tent I grabbed my toothbrush from the bag. I walked to the bathroom nonchalantly, passing kids in sweats and pajamas. I looked down at my dirty clothes. I didn't have much, just two other pairs of pants and shirts. I shrugged. It's not like I change into pajamas every night. I've always slept in my day clothes.
I entered the bathroom and had obviously interrupted a heated conversation between Rozlyn, Zurri, and a tall blond, because they all turned from the mirror to give me death stares. "What are you doing here?" Rozlyn spat, her catlike eyes narrowing even more than usual. I was getting tired of putting up with her crap.
"What's your problem?" I asked. I walked towards a sink next to the trio, but before I got there blond stepped directly in front of me. She was taller than I thought, a whole head taller than I. She looked down at me with small grey eyes, similar to Rozlyn's. I noticed that she was actually wearing makeup. Who had time for that nowadays? Apparently she did. He thick lips curled up in disgust. Rozlyn shooed her away and stepped close to me.
"Right now my problem is you." She said.
I laughed. "Why? Because I'm 'taking your food', 'stealing Ash', or am I just taking up your space? You know what I think; I think your just being a needy bitch and if you can't deal with me then I suggest you leave because I'm not going to."
She seemed shocked and was thinking over what to say. I folded my arms and glared at her. I heard the door open and someone stand by my. I glanced over at Magenta. "Rozlyn just stop." She said. Rozlyn looked like she didn't know what to say so she pointed her nose in the air and led her group of devils out the door.
"Sorry about her. She's always mean." Magenta said.
"Why is she like that?"
Magenta seemed to think for a while. "Well…I guess I'll just tell you. Rozlyn had a little brother. But when he got here he got sick, really sick. Kaylori was working overtime to try and help him but he just wasn't getting better. He died a month after they had got here," She said solemnly. "Rozlyn thinks Kaylori let him die. But there was nothing she could do."
Now I knew why Rozlyn was always so bitter and why she had been so harsh about Kaylori. She was just trying to deal with the pain and the way she dealt with it was by being spiteful.
Magenta seemed to shake off the melancholy feeling and managed to change the subject. "Do you like it here?"
We both moved to the sink to brush our teeth. "We're adjusting. You guys are pretty organized here so I don't have to worry has much about some things. But still…"
"You miss them already, right?" She said through her mouthful of toothpaste.
"Don't worry. Everyone here knows the feeling. It will be alright soon," Magenta said with confidence. She rinsed her mouth and started to leave.
"Hey," I said before she left. I hesitated for a second. I wasn't very good at showing appreciation. "Thanks." I smiled.
She smiled back. "That's what friends are for." She said goodbye and left. It made me happy to think that finally I had a friend.