Cross Fire: Chapter 1

I WALKED DOWN the pathway, my feet stepping over the big stones and puddles. It had rained a few days earlier, and you could still see the evidence. The rain wasn't pleasant, but it did wipe away my tracks, so I didn't have to worry about somebody following me. Everything seemed so fresh, so peaceful and calm. Almost as if the world wasn't slowly killing itself.

As I continued following the path downward, I glanced up at the sky, and did my best to predict the weather. My best guess was more rain to come, and hoped desperately to find some abandoned house near the area. I pulled out the map I had traded for, and tried to think of where I was. All I knew was that I was somewhere in the area of Oregon, which the first reported state that showed the deadly disease, which caused bombing, which lead to the war starting. That had all happened a few years ago.

As if on cue, I heard a boom, but not from thunder, but the sound of a bomb being dropped. I jumped in surprise, caught unaware by the sudden noise, as I had been under the impression that the bombing had stopped in this area. That was why I came back home, because before that I had experienced what even some of the minor bomb attacks did. I was far enough that I didn't get injured, but close enough to be knocked off my feet.

Scrambling to my feet, I shook myself off, ignoring the tremble in my left leg. By now, bombing didn't even faze my attitude, but my body still reacted to the initial shock, but calmed down after a few minutes. Besides, the bombs helped me decide where to go next; I always went to where the explosion happened, because they had yet to bomb the same place twice. You didn't want to be in their next target zone, or it was goodnight for you. Not many people actually died during an explosives, but every once in awhile you'd find a random body part thrown somewhere. Gruesome, but it was reality.

Slowly, I tracked my way, pacing at a jogging speed. There wasn't much to weigh me down, just the paper map in my pocket, a small radio, a water bottle, my scarce food supply and my gun, which was low on bullets. It wasn't much, but compared to most people, I was off good. The only thing that I wish was better was my radio, which I had to work on for an hour to get to the right station. We were all waiting for the all-clear, that the war was finally over.

We were all still waiting.

A while passed before I started to get to the actual destruction, but there wasn't much left anyway. There was what I believed to be a small fraction of a roof, a plastic blow-up pool and an umbrella that seemed to be in decent shape, so I picked it up, and it wasn't that heavy so I decided to take it with me, in case it started to rain again. Minutes later, this was shown to be a wise choice, as the rain started to grow heavy, and I only had the one jacket left after the other one had been destroyed when it caught on fire. The rain soon became lighter, but then the wind started, and I started to regret the umbrella's usefulness, wishing I could go against my own will and brain and toss the thing.

Finally I reached my chosen destination, and sighed in relief as I caught view of an old concrete building, that appeared to still be standing from where I was, and as I got closer, the better it looked. The door it used to have was blown off, but I could still see the old hinges, though they were difficult to recognize under all the rust and nastiness. Cautiously I grabbed my gun, and did my best to cover my face. If I had found this place, chances were someone else had too, and they could either be violent, sick, or even worse, both.

Quickly I rushed into the building, which appeared to only be the single room. I called out, "Is anyone here?" But there was no response at first, and I almost plopped down in exhaustion when a small voice whimpered, "Here."

In a moment, I had my gun aimed precisely at the person's heart, a trigger away from being shot. When I saw who the perpetrator was, I lowered my gun, my mouth slightly agape. It was only a small child, a young boy who couldn't have been any older than seven. His skin seemed deathly pale, and other signs pointed to the Disease, generation one or two, so it wasn't so serious, but it could still kill a person.

"Oh," I muttered, feeling helpless in the situation. There wasn't anything I could do, but I needed somewhere to stay, and this was the best I was going to get. If I stayed here though, I'd have to feel the guilt every time I saw the child's face. I considered shooting him, just to relieve him of his misery, but before I pull my gun out again, the child spoke.

"My name is Adam," he said, his voice small and fragile. Then I made the mistake at looking at the young boy's eyes, a baby blue, large and desperate. From that moment I knew that I could never harm Adam, even when he would die a slow, painful death.

"Hi," I stated, not returning the favor of my name. Most of the times I tried to stay anonymous for safety reasons, but I doubted Adam was any threat. His worst issue was the Disease, but I had the vaccine for up to Generation Seven.

Not everyone was so lucky.

There was silence for a moment, and then another, and eventually I felt like I was sweating under a giant wool blanket of awkward silence. When it was broken, it was from Adam coughing, and I frowned when I saw the little chunks of who-knew-what on his hand. As I remembered, coughing up chunks was a Generation Five or Six symptom, but if that were true, Adam would barely be able to move, much less waste his energy on something as minor as talking to introduce yourself.

Unless he was getting medication. That wouldn't make sense though, you don't exactly just find that great of medication lying around or falling from the sky. Someone would have to get it for you, and it wouldn't be anywhere near cheap. That's how I got all my supplies, from trading the last of my medication. It was the only thing my parents left me with, and since I already had the vaccine, they were worthless, until I discovered that people were desperate for something to stall the Disease.

"Who's helping you?" I ask softly, tracing a line on the ground, the dirt parting at my finger's touch. Adam stared sadly at the door entrance, before coughing again, then wiping the blood away from his mouth with his sleeve jacket, that looked worse than the one that I burnt to shreds. It just reminded me how our world was crumbling apart, and soon we'd all be dead, and before that we would just parish away in pain and misery.

"No one," the boy spat, and walked out, but his eyes didn't read anger, but wistfulness. Some one did provide him, but why was he upset? I glanced to where he had been sitting, already missing the company. Then I noticed the tally marks on the wall, a bunch of groups of five, except the bottom group, which there were over ten tallies.

"Oh," I muttered, than repeated, multiple times. His family, or whoever was helping him, abandoned him, left him there to die. I tried to feel anger, but I just feel empathy, understanding why it happened. A person's care could only go so far, before you had to cut the cord. Even the closest of families split, to save their own lives. It was cruel, but necessary. You could only go so far.

Keeping the gun by my side, I slowly crept out of the shelter, keeping both eyes open, wide. Who knew, maybe Adam was just a kid looking to rob me of all my supplies, and had a giant boulder to smash my brains out, and he was just waiting for me.

Then again, I've been wrong before.

"Adam?" I whispered, I'm not sure why, this entire area was supposedly vacant. Again though, as stated previously, I've been wrong before, multiple times actually. I thought I'd be reunited with my parents within less than a year, yet it has been thrice that amount. Every single country was against each other though, accusations continued to fly everywhere. No one knew who to blame, but when the Disease started to spread everywhere, that was like a huge bomb of chaos, landing down on the people. With no one to point the finger at, the finger multiplied, and pointed just about everywhere. No where was safe these days, we just all learned to despise each other for our own safety.

I continued to call out Adam's name, but it soon became obvious that he'd already ran off, or he was choosing the ignore me. Either way, I knew I needed to return to the shelter, because large raindrops began to fall again, splashing down as if the sky were crying. I didn't blame the sky, I'd be crying too if I hadn't already used all my tears up along time ago.

For a moment I just stood there in the rain, appreciating the beauty of letting everything just wash away. If only life were so easy.

Gathering my dignity, I hurried back into the building, smelling faintly of wet dog, a rather repelling odor. My jacket had gotten slightly wet, so I laid it flat on the floor so it could dry, I prepared myself for a cold night. Hopefully I wouldn't catch a cold, even though it'd be rather amusing if you looked at it right, catching a plain cold but not a deadly disease.

The night passed surprisingly quickly, though it probably had something to do with the fact that I had actually obtained some sleep that night. It had rained all night apparently, as I could smell the musty dew smell that came from nightly rain. It made me wonder of Adam, and if he even made it through the night. Global warming had been disproved long ago, and the nights had been colder than ever, cold enough that if it began to rain, you could be done for. That was why finding shelter was so important, and some people would even fight to the death for a place that could keep you dry.

Peeking outside, I saw that it wasn't early in the morning, about mid-afternoon. When I went to grab for my gun though, I started to panic-it wasn't there. No matter how much I looked, my gun was missing, not in my usual grasp. My thoughts immediately went to Adam, and I knew I had just been robbed, the little thief! I should've known better to let my guard down that easily!

For a moment I just sat there, thinking of what to do. At first I considered if Adam was just waiting for me outside , ready to shoot me with my gun, but then realized that if he wanted me dead, he could've just shot me when he stole my gun in the first place. That relaxed me slightly, but I still felt edgy without my finger a second away from a trigger, a second away from ending someone's life before they ended mine.

When I searched my other possessions, I discovered that everything else was still there, but that makes sense, since everything else was of lower value. The umbrella had small shoe marks on it, just the right size for child. It looked like he paced for awhile, I could tell by the multiple mud tracks that continuously overlapped.

I hoped he felt guilty for stealing my gun.

That was all I did for awhile, smiling wickedly at an innocent child's guilt, and picturing all the ways he could die, while I would find my gun at the same time. My illogical realities didn't matter though; Adam was sick, and without any medication, he'd be dead soon.

The Disease was properly called Tossum Mortem, based on the Italian words tosse morte, which is roughly translated to "coughed death", though everyone these days just referred to it as the Disease or TM plus the number of the generation it was. Adam probably had TM2, one of the weaker versions of the Disease. Not enough to kill a full-grown adult, but just perfect for killing a kid like Adam.

Suddenly there was a loud boom outside, and I frowned in confusion. Another bomb seemed illogical, they had just recently bombed here, didn't they? My only guess was that it was another country, and they were just unaware that this place had already been blown to smithereens. All that was left were sturdy structures and some old house frames. Even most of the plants had disappeared, as they had been destroyed along with everything else.

There was no other choice-I had to start hiking it again. I was reluctant to leave such a nice spot, but I'd rather do that than get blown to pieces. The last time a bomb went off in a populated spot, I saw the results, and I don't think I'll ever recover from that.

When I checked outside, it was surprisingly warm, so I swung my jacket over my shoulder instead. The dampness gave me a slight chill, but for the first time for awhile, the weather didn't disagree with me. It was so perfect that I even started to walk with more of a hop, and started to whistle an unfamiliar tune. You could still smell the bomb slightly, but I chose to ignore it.

That was my mistake.

I continued walking along, glancing over my shoulder every once in awhile, but no one was in sight. In a way I was somewhat disappointed; if I saw Adam I'd attack and take claim of my gun again. My fingers still yearned to grip my gun once more, and they actually trembled slightly.

Lady Luck must've been bored that day, because she actually decided to shine down on me. I tripped, and landed face first on the ground. That wasn't the lucky part, that was just my pure skills. When I looked to see what I tripped on, I saw my gun, and I picked it up in the palm of my hand. It was lighter than usual, and my heart sunk. When I checked my suspicions were confirmed; a bullet was missing from the magazine. Taking a deep breath, I counted to ten before shouting out foul words that would not be wise to repeat. There was only two things on my mind.

One, Adam, the butt face, used one of my precious bullets.

Two, someone had been shot. For a moment I considered the amusing situation of Adam's suicide, but then realized that his body would still be there, because I seriously doubted that he was such a terrible shot that he could miss his heart-brain-whatever-while the barrel would have only been centimeters away. No, Adam killed someone, or at least shot at them, I knew it. At the moment I was just glad that there was even remaining bullets for me to use in case I saw Adam, so I could get me some revenge.

"Do I get a thanks?"

Not even second passed before I had nailed the voice to the ground, my knee holding them down while I placed the gun barrel at their throat: a perfect kill shot. I scowled at Adam as I clicked the safety off, and I gave a menacing glare before I shot him. Or at least attempted to. I just didn't get how murderers did it, looking into their victim's eyes right before they killed them. It was to much for me, so instead I settled for kicking him in the ribs, knocking his breath away. Then I took my gun and started heading straight forward-where that would take me I had no idea, I just needed to get somewhere.

"Hey!" I heard Adam shout behind me, but I quickened my pace, staring down at my abnormally large feet so I would be less likely to trip. The last thing I felt like handing out was my thanks, right next to apologies, though hearing one would've been nice right then.

"What do you want, Kid?" I asked, already exasperated. Even in a time like that, I hated little kids, especially blond ones, like Adam. I wasn't sure why-heck, I'm still not sure why-but I suppose it had to do something to do with the fact that they looked so innocent and perfect, and it reminded me of how screwed our world was. Or I was really weird; maybe a little bit of both. Either way, as adorable as Adam could've been, I still hated him.

"Unless you have a reasonable explanation and apology, you better back away, Kid," I said gruffly, scowling at Adam, scowling at the world. It was just like we were all just waiting to die, and the worst part was, there was nothing else to do but wait, and wait some more. It was amazing how quickly that became tiring. But when it's your only option, you can't be very picky, I found that out quickly.

"Well I'm in luck then," Adam chirped nervously, fingering the hem of his coat. "I have not only a reasonable explanation, but a fabulous argument to go along with it." For the first time, I realized that Adam talked more like someone my age then his own, like he had been taught from day 1 how to speak maturely. Even though I was at least a few years older then Adam, I often slacked off on my grammar and vocabulary. Then again, I was-am-as stupid as heck, and was often the girl at school babbling on about her foot hurted.

That was one pro of having a war. No school, no torture, no learning useless things. If they had really wanted to prepare us for life, they would've taught us simpler things, like how to shoot someones head off with a gun.

"And what would that be?" I sighed, wishing that I could just snap my fingers and make Adam disappear. There was the possibility of me outrunning him if I started to sprint, but I was honestly feeling too lazy at the moment to do so. Another option was knocking him unconscious for a few moments, maybe if I was lucky a few years. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't even pretend that those were actual options, I was too curious of Adam's answer. Fortunately, it wasn't curiosity that killed the cat, it was stupidity.

"I needed your weapon for important business," he stated, "which I cannot share with you at the moment," he added quickly, looking almost scared, when truthfully, the kid was creeping me out slightly. He looked like a little kid, he sounded like a little kid but did he act like one?

The obvious answer to that question was, no.

"Where's the fabulous argument?" I asked Adam, trying to hide the smugness from my voice, which I did well, but I couldn't keep the smile from creeping up on my face. Even if he did sound thirty years older than me, I could still kick his butt, and would definitely enjoy it too.

"This," he replied, and before I could react, he stole my gun from me. Again. If they could have just taught me in school about how to prevent this sort of situation instead of babbling on about the area of a circle, I wouldn't be in this mess!

"You, my enemy, are an evil, evil child," I chided, tapping my foot impatiently, "but I really need my gun back." I held out my palm so Adam could return it, but I just stood there stupidly for a few moments before slumping my shoulders tiredly, knowing that what stood before me was not going to be an easy task.

"Fine, be that way." I faked a dramatic sigh, then pretended to turn around, and then snapped back, snatching my gun, but I fell a few feet short, and I face-planted into the coziness of the dirt ground.

"It amazes me how much stupider your generation is than mine," Adam commented, and even though my face was still having a staring contest with the dirt, I knew he was looking in disgust. Part of me wondered if the kid was even sick, and he was just tricking me, as he was an obviously better actor than I was.

"I'm not old!" I complained, proving my point by jumping to my feet without using my arms at all. I failed to mention that my back was killing me, but it wasn't important anyway.

"Please, you're just fooling yourself," Adam said, shaking his head. Idiot.

"At least I'm not the one apologizing right before stealing someones gun for the second time," I spat, five seconds away from attacking Adam, and if I died, kudos to him.

"You actually have a valid point there," Adam said, scrunching his nose in confusion, as if me saying something that made sense was illogical. Who knew buttfaces came in all size and ages.

"Catch." That was the only word I caught before I watched my gun fly behind me, and the blur of Adam running away. At least I knew trying to run off would have been pointless-that boy was way to fast, especially for a sick person-in question. I stared for a moment at the empty spot before hearing the crash, and remembered my gun.

"I thought I'd never see you again," I mumbled when I palmed my weapon, only half-joking. There was no way I was letting some punk ever get hold of my gun again.

"Let's go," I said, then pausing for moment, comprehending that I was speaking to my weapon. For a moment I smiled, recalling a past memory, but then frowned at how something happy as that would never happen again, I was all alone. My parents were off in some fancy-schmany lab, my brother was gone, and my aunt I used to live with died of Tossum Mortem around a year ago, and I had been alone ever since.

For the longest time, I had suicidal thoughts, but I never could go through with it; I was to much of a survivor. Everyone else was gone to me, it was my job to live on in their honor. Once I was reunited with my parents, I was going to live happily ever after, shooting people with my gun, eating ice-cream, and all that fun stuff that your average family would do.

With my dignity in tact, I headed off once more, to the area of no where, half expecting a bomb to drop on me any minute. With all the random bombing happening, I figured it was only a matter of time before I became part of the destruction. It wasn't like I was smart enough to make a diagram of the place so I could try to find a pattern in the bombing. That would take time, time spent wasted.

Then again, maybe, just maybe, if I had wasted that time, I would've been able to know a few moments earlier when to duck out of the way as the third bomb came crashing down, close enough I was knocked over, and went unconscious.

I suppose it was a bit my fault.

There was whispers around me, rapid whispers that I could barely make out. My eyes refused to open more than a sliver, so it was like looking through paper cuts. I tried my best to make out my surroundings, but everything was made of black shadows, loud black shadows that gave me headaches, massive ones. When I tried to speak, so strange gurgling sound emanated from my throat, and the people-or at least I was pretty sure that was what they were-glanced at me curiously, briefly pausing their talk-a-thon.

"She's awake," someone said, but it sounded to me like they were muffling their voice with a pillow, yet it sounded like they were speaking into a microphone at the same time. Either way it felt like someone was taking a hammer to my skull.

"Not for long," someone else muttered, seeming father away, more towards the back. Soft music started playing in the background, and I started nodding off again, the only thing I became of us where my gun was...

And I made sure I had a firm grip on it, just in case.