She loved it and felt as if she could watch it as it was happening. She released a breath she'd been holding for no reason and felt able to move on with her day.
Bailey grabbed her boots from the mat beside the door and then laced them up. She then grabbed her backpack from the hook and put her water bottle in it. She grabbed a couple of carrots and also put those in her backpack. She grabbed a long blade and put it in its sheath on her thigh. Bailey twisted her hair into a knot on the top of her head and placed a baseball cap on her head to protect her face from the sun. Her skin had become well-tanned from the Georgia sun but she still took precautions. She slipped her backpack onto her back then opened the door. A faint breeze rustled the few strands of hair that had fallen from her bun. She tucked the strands behind her ear then set off towards the hills.
Bailey was searching for footing on the side of a rocky hill. She had already fallen once and had a scrape that extended down the back of her left calf. It was dripping a small trickle of blood that was beginning to reach into her boot. Her thirst and hunger were nagging at her body as she slowly ran out of energy. She was panting but she had already set a goal to reach the top of the hill before she could rest. She used her strength to pull herself up the hill. Small pebbles and rocks slid down the slope around her yet she continued on. She grabbed a small tree truck beside her and used it to hoist herself up. Bailey was almost to the top and her lungs were screaming for a break now. She used her remaining energy to climb the rest of the way. When she reached the top, Bailey collapsed to the ground and pulled out her water bottle. She quenched her thirst then pulled out one of her carrots. She was satisfied by its juicy crunch. She sat back and set her skin absorb the sun.
There was a crunch of noise beside Bailey as she lay back with her eyes closed. She opened her eyes and tried to identify the noise. It was a doe in the trees far in front of her. It was frozen with its eyes upon her. If she had a bow and arrows, she and Sam could have fresh meat, but she didn't. She laid back and closed her eyes again. Bailey caught the scent of outdoors as it blew past her and rustled the leaves around her. She ran her fingers through the grass around her and grabbed a small stick. She held it with both of her hands and felt its rough and uneven bark. She peeled the bark away to feel a smooth inside. Bailey realized that she this stick reminded her of people and the bonds you make with people. How people are hidden behind a mask but then as you peel their mask away you see their true self. Bailey snapped the twig in two and tossed them behind her. She relaxed once more and felt the warmth of the sun in her bones.
Birds sang their songs high up in the trees and squirrels ran through the leaves. The clouds drifted and wind rattled through the tree branches. Bailey reached out for her backpack. She pulled it close to her and grabbed another carrot from inside along with a new novel. This novel was about a group of people who were magic. It told of their struggles as they developed their powers. It wasn't a very well written novel but Bailey really like the plotline. She put down the book once she had gotten about half way through and got up and walked around. She had partially recovered from her trying hike up the hill. She walked around on the top of the hill. She came across a simple lake that was about the size of their large farmhouse. She peeled off her shoes and socks and draped her legs into the water. The water came up to around her calf and was a little warm. Bailey leaned back onto her elbows and enjoyed the water. The world moved around her, but she just sat back and enjoyed it all.
Bailey pulled her feet out of the water and dried them off. She slipped on her socks and then her leather combat boots. She was in the middle of lacing up her right boot when there was a crunching noise behind her. She decided that it was too loud to be a deer or rodent so she decided it was probably an undead. She stood up and slowly looked to where the noise was coming from. It was off in the distance behind a tree. It was definitely a human being but she couldn't tell the gender. Bailey turned and started to run back to the house being as quiet as possible. She cleared the trees and started taking the easy route downhill. It took her around twenty minutes before she finally reached the familiar trench and fence surrounding their house. She pulled open the door and called out for Sam, who she found upstairs with her nose stuck in an old and fraying leather journal. "Sam…" Sam looked up from her reading.
"Sam… someone was out there. I saw an undead, I think."
Sam raised an eyebrow at her. "You think?"
"Well I didn't exactly see them up close, I kind of ran away…"
"Oh. How far away were you?"
Bailey thought for a moment, "A mile and a half maybe."
"Okay, so it's all okay then?"
Bailey nodded then left Sam to her reading, still slightly shaken up by the encounter. Bailey took a moment to stretch out since she was feeling stiff and tense. The stretching helped a little so she went to go make some tea. She boiled the water and placed her hands about the pot. She got a little too close and accidently touched the metal. It burned her hand and she cursed loudly because of the pain. She shook her hand out trying to not focus on the pain. There was a curving red line across the inside of her right palm. It started to swell up at she looked at it. Bailey got a cloth and poured some cold water on it. She dabbed around the burn gently and tried not to address the pain. She went to the closet and carefully wrapped her hand in gauze. She finished making her tea and then sat in the library and drank it. She opened up a book of poetry then started to read.
Those who have lived a good life do not fear death, but meet it calmly and even long for it in thefaceof great suffering. But those who do not have a peaceful conscience dread death as though life means nothing but physical torment. The challenge is to live our life so that we will be prepared for death when it comes.
Bailey wished she could share the quote with Essie. It was such a simple quote that she felt Essie would enjoy. The book didn't say who the quote was by but Bailey spent a large amount of time just thinking about it and what it truly means.
Sam was painting in her room and Bailey was putting together some food when there was a large bolt of lightning outside the window. Since it was nighttime the bolt looked even more brilliant than normal. Rain started to pour down in massive sheets and was pounding on the roof. It was so loud that both girls were distracted from what they were doing. Sam came running down the stairs to see Bailey peering out the window. "It's crazy out there!" Sam yelled to Bailey.
"I know! It just came out of nowhere!"
"Well I guess we could use a good rain."
Bailey shrugged. "But that depends on how much rain is considered a good rain."
"That's true, but our garden wasn't getting enough water so this is good."
Bailey grabbed her knife from her pocket. "Sam, look at the words on the handle."
Sam took the blade from Bailey and looked at the words engraved into it. "Oh my gosh. When did you see this?"
"Just yesterday. I was holding it and just looking at it and I saw them written there. It's the blade I got from the people when I was dropped off."
"I thought it may be. Bailey, this is crazy! What are we going to do now?!"
"Go south, maybe?"
"But what if it's a trick and they're testing you…"
Sam's idea made sense but Bailey wasn't sure. "I don't think so because this was the first item I got so they needed to give me something to work off of and this is it. But I guess I'm not positive."
"I'm going to trust you on this because you're smarter in this situation than me and I you know more about this whole thing."
"But I'm not sure I'm entirely ready to leave yet. I really love it here!"
Sam rolled her eyes. "Yeah, let's just stay in a beautiful house because we love it even though we're in the middle of an apocalypse and you're a kid genius or something and your boss is telling you how to get out…"
"Okay, I see your point now. When should we leave?"
"I'd say two or three days because we need to pack everything up before we leave."
"Okay," Bailey said, scared to figure out how their lives were going to change.
The rain continued to attack the world around the girls as they started to set out cans and bottles of water. Sam went into the basement and came up with two journals. "I found these and they're really interesting." She explained to Bailey. Bailey pulled out a dozen or so knives and swords of different lengths and laid them on the kitchen table. She then went and pulled out the three guns she had. Bailey vaguely remembered how to shoot a gun. She was pretty sure she had been taught as a self-defense mechanism when she was younger. She slid a few of the swords into their specially made sheaths and slid the smaller knifes into thigh holsters and small scabbards. She gave herself a pair of daggers and a long sword that had a slight curve to it and then set out a sword and a sharp knife for Sam that had length as well and weight. Bailey put her personal knife in her pile as well and left the guns in a stack to be loaded into the truck. Sam pulled out the four backpacks they had and loaded one up with canned food, another with water bottles, and another with medical supplies, and the last with odd things she and Bailey had wanted to take with them. After they had packed all the necessities, Sam called it a night and both the girls then went to their mattresses.
Sam couldn't sleep. She didn't feel ready to leave but she knew that they needed to. She got up and walked into the library. The rain had slowed and was not a gentle patter but left large puddles of mud and swampy ground outside. There was an occasional rumble of thunder or bolt of lightning, but aside from that the night was calm. Sam pulled a book of the shelf and read over it without absorbing much. She enjoyed the silence in the house as well as the full moon that dimly lit the room. Sam had pulled her blanket off of her mattress and now had it draped around her. She rested her head on the cold glass of the window and enjoyed the nature outside while being warm and dry inside. Suddenly there was a large strike of lightning that illuminated the entire sky as well as the ground and felt as if it shook the ground. Sam was scared from the unexpected bolt and flinched from it. Far outside she thought she saw a silhouette of a woman but she wasn't sure. She moved into a chair that was in the shadows of the room because it felt more secure. Sam wrapped her blanket tightly around her and shifted herself to become more comfortable.
Sam was beginning to doze off in her chair when the front door quietly clicked open. Sam bolted awake and remembered that she had forgotten to bolt the door. She mentally yelled at herself for her stupidity and slowly stood up. She followed the shadow person as they went to the kitchen. Sam grabbed her curved sword from the table and unsheathed it. She was amazed at the fact that Bailey was able to sleep through this. The intruder must've heard Sam unsheathing her sword because she swung around. Sam held her sword at the ready, able to take a swing and take a swipe to the person's neck at a moment's notice. As the person swung around Sam tensed up her muscles and time started to slow down. A mass of hair swung around and Sam identified the intruder as female. There was a rumble of thunder outside that seemed to last half a second but also a hundred at the same time. Sam looked at the person's face and froze in her tracks. She lost her grip on her sword and it clashed to the ground. The world around her started to blur but she didn't quite fall unconscious. She slid to the ground and silent tears started to stream from her eyes.
Sam looked at the scene set out in front of her but her mind was caught in the past; memories of her and Essie running around doing crazy things and just being themselves. Essie would throw her head back and laugh which would make Sam laugh too. They would then get sucked into a laughing fit. Essie was standing in front of her. This Essie was different. She wasn't quite undead but she looked as if she were almost. Her skin had gone from an olive to a pale, ghostly white. Her eyes still were stunningly blue yet they were ringed with the milky white of the undead'. She looked uncomfortable in her own skin. Parts of her were still the same, though. Her hair still hung down to her waist in the same straight and glossy way as always. Her weight was shifted the same way it always had been; onto the right side of her body. She still looked as if she had the same confidence to her. Essie looked as if she was barely hanging on to sanity and she looked as if she were fighting to hold on to it. A flicker of recognition flashed across Essie's face as the sanity slow seemed to come back to her. She took in a breath as if it was her first and she sat down in one of the chairs surrounding the table. "What's happing to me?" She whispered just barely loud enough for Sam to hear.
Sam was caught off guard. Had Essie not had control over herself? She took up and walked over to the table. She pulled out a chair directly across from Essie and sat in it. She gathered herself and found the small sliver of confidence she had in herself and tried to act calm. "You tell me. What's the last thing you remember?"
Essie searched through her mind for an answer. She remembered having meetings with everyone in the in between world, but she chose not to tell Sam about that right now. "I remember running through the grass. I think it was the first time in a while that I was able to feel things. Like the grass beneath my feet or the branches rubbing against my skin."
"Do you remember everything after that up to now?"
Essie shook her head. "Not really. It's the first thing I remember after the incident happened and I can't remember anything between now and then."
"Maybe I should get Bailey. She may know what's going on."
"That's not a bad idea, why don't you."
Sam disappeared from her stop in front of her and went off into the living room. While she was gone Essie worked on composing herself. Questions burned at her. How did I get here? Am I okay? Are Bailey and Sam doing okay? What happened to me? Why can't I remember anything? Was I not in control of myself? Am I human? If not, what am I? The questions frustrated Essie because she had no answer to them.
Sam appeared in the doorway. "Bailey thinks I'm lying. She won't come."
Essie rolled her eyes; it was typical of Bailey to think that. "Bailey! Come in here and stop being stupid." She tried to say it as normally and casually as she could.
Bailey appeared in the doorway a few moments later. She cautiously approached Essie and Sam. She too pulled out a chair then sat down. "So what's going on here?"
Sam nodded to Essie, "Take it away."
"I remember my life, like all of it. Well, only until I was bitten. I remember slowly sinking away. I kept travelling to these places that I'd never imagined to exist, like the bottom of the ocean or deserted tropical islands. I ended up landing in this world that is called the in between world. I guess it's where you go after the living world and before the dead world, but not everyone goes there. I was just barely aware of my body and you guys treating my body, but I was more focused on my mind."
Essie wasn't sure if she should share her experiences in the in between world. It felt wrong for some reason. She argued with herself for a bit then finally decided to tell them because she felt as if she could trust Bailey with her life and she knew she could trust Sam, plus they had actually saved her life. "I was in the in between world and my dad appeared. We just talked and he explained everything. Then my mom came. And then you, Sam, and finally Bailey came. And, Bailey, I know your story. I know who you are, I can tell you later, though. Then Bailey told me that another door would appear. One would say living world, and the other the dead world. I had to choose between my parents and a world with mystical places and my best friends and getting another chance at living life. The doors would open once every hour for five minutes. They would stay there for six hours and after the sixth hour, something would happen but I never figured out what. It took me a while, but I finally chose this world. I stepped through the door and at first I thought I had been tricked because I just fell. I was falling through darkness. I thought someone had sent me to my death but then I finally landed. I next remember running through the grass and being aware of everything around me. Now, I'm here."
Both Bailey and Sam didn't know what to say. Then Bailey spoke and her voice sounded as if she were half broken and if it belonged to a six-year-old girl. "Who am I…?"
Essie positioned herself and looked to Bailey. "I'll tell you exactly what you told me, word for word. Your name is Bailey Morrison. You're from Vancouver, Canada and you're fifteen soon to be sixteen. You work for a secret service that works on world disasters. You're being tested to see if you're capable of handling extreme conditions and difficult tasks. They wiped your memory when you were was six and then gave you injections that allow you to have an extreme mental capacity as well as accelerated physical capabilities. They told you that if you could successfully complete this mission, you could have your memory back. You were put up for adoption as an infant because your parents didn't have enough money to care for you. The secret service ended up adopting you. That's all that you could remember. But really, Bailey, you're you and that's all that should matter. You're surrounded by people who love and care about you so your past shouldn't matter."
The color was drained from her face. "I'm here as a test?!" She sighed. "I'm sorry, thank you so much, Essie, truly and really."
Essie nodded and waved her away. Sam was looking Essie up and down. "What?" Essie said to Sam, almost snapping it at her.
Sam was taken slightly aback. "Oh, sorry. It's nothing."
Essie squinted slightly, "I don't think so. I think it's something and I want to know." Essie turned to Bailey and raised an eyebrow to her. Bailey just shook her head.
Sam sighed and gave in. "Essie, I know that you're you. That you're mentally the same person you were before. But you're not physically." Sam went into the bathroom and pulled out a mirror. Essie took it from her and held it up to her face. She took it all in at once then piece by piece. She looked partially human and partially monster. Her eyes were all wrong and she looked as if she hadn't slept for days, which she may have not. She sighed and put down the mirror. Sam shook her head, "That's not all." She guided Essie to the full body mirror and turned her around so she could see her bite. Her skin on her body was completely normal except for that surrounding the bite. It had become like the skin of the undead. It was decaying and unnaturally colored. It also looked soft and irritated. Essie left the mirror and went back to her seat. "Does it hurt?" Sam asked her. Essie shook her head. She then looked up to Sam and Bailey.
"Catch me up on what's been happening here."