Previously on Five Seconds: On Parker's journey back to Vancouver, he sees trucks headed for Aunty’s cabin. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make it back in time, and he and Andy get captured and sent back to Vancouver. Aunty gets murdered on her front porch.
What happened to Newt? Is he taken by the guards to a different truck, or hiding in the woods?Click To Reveal Results
I looked into my reflection on the surface of the puddle, wiping the vomit from my mouth. If I still had emotions I'd be horrified by the person looking back at me. But I wasn't. Maybe I was frightened, but there wasn't enough feeling left in me to be horrified.
I was pale, my hair disheveled. My eyes were sunken, and my lips stood out like blood on white linen. But that wasn't it. That wasn't what scared me.
It wasn't the absence of light in my eyes, or the absence of love, or the absence of life that scared me the most; it was the absence of me.
The pain came in waves.
It was there almost the whole truck ride from home. And maybe once we reached Abbotsford the wave of pain I had been riding on had crashed and feelings had ceased to exist. And I had stayed numb and empty through to when we were thrown into the massive halls under the Vancouver Convention Centre. It wasn’t until I had found a spot on the ground, surrounded by all the members of the VCC, had the wave surged again.
The second day was orientation. Me, Parker, and several others followed a soldier through the complex halls of the convention centre. He had something to say about every line of architecture, every room, every stairwell. I didn’t pay attention to a single thing he said, though, because my mind was elsewhere.
My mind was still replaying the bullet going through Aunty’s brain. The tall coniferous trees that blurred by on the way back to Vancouver. And the way we passed by my old beat up truck, stuck forever on the highway like it was nothing.
I threw up a lot that night.
Today was day three, and we were already on our first mission.
There was no snow in Vancouver. Just wetness. It was in the air and charged down my throat like tiny icicles. It was on the concrete. It hadn’t rained since we had arrived, yet somehow the concrete was still always wet. My bones were wet and chilled. My clothing, my skin.
There was no break from it.
But at least there was a break from the pain. Even if the break was just walking around in a catatonic state, it was better than the noose that tethered me down. The damned hurt that made it hard to breathe in the morning. The damned grief that made me stuff a fist in my mouth at night so no one could hear.
It was painful and it was rotten, and a lack of any sort of emotion was so much better than the God-forsaken pain.
They tried their best to shuffle us around in the back of pickup trucks, but the damage was still too great to reach some areas, so we had to travel the rest of the way on foot. Picking our way over bricks that lay scattered across the road like the aftermath of some controlled explosion on a movie set. There was a stretch limo cut in half by another car.
Just married read the cracked windshield.
Our job now was to remove all the dead bodies, and lay them in the trucks so disease wouldn’t spread.
I was more than willing to go through the motions, because if I didn’t do anything, if I just stood still, I was afraid I too would become one of the bodies that were to be packed away.
I moved away from my puddle of vomit and joined Parker again on the street.
“Any bodies over there?” he asked.
I shook my head, hoping it didn’t look like I just puked a bunch of stomach acid and the three grapes I had this morning.
Back to the nothing. Away from the pain.
Parker muttered something about Gastown as we carried the first body away.
I was like a radio, caught between two stations. Every so often, that dial would shift, and I would hear snippets of conversation, and feel mass amounts of grief. So I tried to ride the wave of nothing, instead of another wave of pain.
White noise was good. White noise replaced the visions of Aunty. And the sounds of that gunshot. And the smell of the cookies we had baked.
“Andy!” a voice called in the distance. Instantly I was sucked back into reality. And it wasn’t a good feeling.
I looked up and into Parker’s eyes.
“Hello? Are you paying attention to what I’m saying?” he asked.
The pain crashed down onto my shoulders, and it took everything I had not to collapse to the ground. “Sorry?” I muttered – I wasn’t quite sure if a sound had actually come out of my throat, or if the actual thought process of the word sorry had made the sound of boulders rubbing against each other.
“You don’t have to do this,” Parker said. “I’m sure if you explained to them what happened, they would give you a break.”
I waved him off and continued on to the next body.
“Andy, are you sure you want to be surrounded by all of these corpses? Especially after…”
The look I gave him was enough for him to shut that big horse mouth of his.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked hesitantly.
I took a deep breath. “No Parker,” I warned. “Because as soon as I say it, it becomes real.” My voice wavered. “And once it becomes real, I’m afraid I will break, and I will never be able to rebuild myself. I’m not ready to face it yet.”
Thankfully, those words shut him up for awhile, and I was able to return to the numbing silence that was now my new home.
I grabbed onto the ankles of another body, Parker grabbed the arms. I noticed that he averted looking at the woman’s face. In fact, he averted looking at all the faces.
But I didn’t. This was someone’s daughter. Someone’s sister. Someone’s mother. And how dare they be forgotten.
They were people too. And they needed to be remembered.
There was more to that, but I couldn’t finish it.
I was worried about her. That person helping me lift bodies into trucks, that seemed to stare at each body as if she was making sure it wasn’t her own, was not the same girl who bumped into me on that beach so many years ago.
The wildness in her eyes was gone. And it was replaced by nothing. There was nothing to the poor girl. Her shoulders slumped; her skin was grey. I was afraid that if I looked away, Andy would get lost in all the corpses, and she would become one.
She was the strong one. She was the one that fought tooth and nail to get us back to her Aunty’s home. The one that never gave up. Who kept burning brightly in all of this darkness. It frightened me to no end that that warrior was gone.
I didn’t know if she was going to ever come back.
We came across the Old Spaghetti Factory in our travels. The front had collapsed, but there was still a way in. I pulled my shirt over my nose. A pungent smell drifted from the shadows beneath the restaurant. I really hoped that the smell was rotten food and not rotting people.
I kept my eyes on the ground, careful of where I stepped. I didn’t want to risk rolling my ankle for some mangled corpses.
“Think there’s people in there?” I asked.
And, not that I expected one, Andy gave me no answer.
I crouched low to look into the darkness, but couldn’t see anything. If I had a flashlight, I’d be able to see better. I stood up and turned.
“Andy, you got a light?”
Again, no response. But, hanging off her belt, was a little flashlight that had been provided on orientation day. Yes, I had lost my flashlight in less than a day, but I was more than certain I had left it back at the convention centre.
I took a step forward and tripped over something. I landed hard into the rubble of the building. I cursed under my breath. Luckily I hadn’t sprained my ankle, but I turned back to whatever it was I had tripped on to curse loudly at it.
It was a hand. The rest of the corpse was under the building, in the darkness I had just checked.
I grimaced. This was a nasty job, handling the dead.
I climbed to my feet and paid more attention to the ground I was stepping on. Bruised knees and bruised egos were enough to handle. I didn’t need nasty cuts that could easily get infected by all the nastiness we were dealing with. And, I doubted they would let me sit out if I did anything less than tear my ACL and MCL and whatever the hell else.
It wasn’t until I made it to Andy, did the reality of that corpse’s hand sink in.
I flicked my head to look back at it.
But it was gone.
We stood on the roof of the warehouse, surveying the angry grey sea in the distance. A gull drifted lazily in the sky, a shadow against the low clouds. Whitecaps dotted the water like mountain tops, precariously balancing until the weight of the world became too much, and toppled over much like an avalanche.
Icy water lapped at the harbour, the strength of the previous tsunami nothing but a distant memory.
Because of the toppled towers, you could see forever in each direction. To the east was Gastown and the port where they used to ship supplies once was. To the west was where the Harbour Centre used to stand tall and proud as part of the Vancouver skyline. But the beast toppled over in the earthquake and left us with a perfect view of the Vancouver Convention Centre – better known as the New Legislature of British Columbia.
Because the old one, that was once located in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, had ceased to exist. The whole island had been wiped out.
We liked to call this New Legislature, the Tomb.
Because all the people they stole to be part of the VCC were locked inside away from life, from family, from their homes. Stored in massive cold concrete halls. And the corpses too were locked somewhere in there. It was where the living turned into the dead. Where the hopes and dreams of people were shattered.
While we were here busy fighting to stay alive on the streets and in this warehouse, the premier and her cabinet were staying high and dry inside their pretty little building that somehow managed to stay afloat during the earthquake and tsunami. Yes, while we had cardboard boxes and soggy bills that would never be sent, they had cozy theatres and grass on their roof. They could stand on one of the many balconies inside the place and stare down at the giant rotating globe as if they ruled the world. As if they had it in the palms of their grubby hands.
“The government is still on the channels. Continuingly asking for volunteers to ‘clean up’ the city,” Sam reported. “We all know what that means.”
Since it happened really the government had been taking in people to do their dirty work while they sat idly by. They advertised it as cleaning the city, and to the blind eye, it’d look like they were doing a wonderful job of putting people back on their feet. Like we were finding the bodies of the missing people. Reuniting families. Making life good again. The community working together as a whole. And maybe that was what we were doing for a while, but that was before the crazies broke out.
Sunny days turned into guns and blood. We became the freedom fighters and did our best to rescue those who had been taken in by the VCC. If the government wanted these people killed, then they should be doing it with their own hands, not ruining the minds of innocent people.
But I guessed mass murder didn’t look well on a resume.
The wind picked up sending a shiver down my spine. I was thankful for the winter jacket I had scavenged from the mall a few days ago. For the first time ever I had been glad they brought in their seasonal clothing so early.
“Word got out they’re sending a team of new recruits to Bloodtown tomorrow morning. Could be worth it.”
“We’ll assess when we get there.”
It was the same as always. We’d prepare for a capture, but wouldn’t fully commit until the very last moment. Sometimes our rescue missions would go well, like the case for Sam and her sister Leena, but other times things didn’t go so well, and we would lose people in the process.
Every mission was a gamble. Would the risk be worth it? The possibility of losing one of ours for a stranger?
And there was always the tiny possibility that the government had caught on, and were setting us up for capture.
Would these newbies, weighed down by exhaustion and grief, be worth it? There was always the question of why that came up when these opportunities arose.
Why should we risk our lives for someone we don’t even know?
What was the point of saving a few people from killing others?
Why not find a comfy spot and let time do its thing?
To some, I would respond with the fact that we saved their ass, now they had to step up and do that too. There was also the fact of rubbing it in the premier’s face. She had sent troops out with guns to patrol the streets, and yet we still managed to sneak about under their noses. She couldn’t morph us into whatever little plan she had in her head. We were not pieces in her game.
We were humans. We were real.
And yet some people still had problems with that ideology, so to that, I kicked them out onto the streets.
I breathed in the winter air. New recruits. But to who.
The world grew brighter for a moment and I looked to the sky in surprise. A patch of clear blue shined through the grey ceiling, casting warmth on my face. Perhaps it was a sign, perhaps it was a coincidence…
Noises grew in the distance and it was time to return to the shadows.
Gastown had been leveled in the earthquake. The old buildings had crumpled like paper or had been flattened by the heavy shipping containers that had once found residence on the train tracks. Cave-like dwellings were now what made up the area. Built by crumbled buildings and shipping containers stacked like dominoes.
When the city was first founded, there was a street in Gastown that had been coined Blood Alley because that was where they performed executions.
But now the area was increasingly becoming know as Bloodtown because that was where the crazies hid. And anyone that was stupid enough to venture into Bloodtown had their blood spilled. Plain and simple.
“I say that one there,” Sam said, handing me the binoculars. “Near the old door to the Spaghetti Factory. The guy with the cheekbones.”
I grasped onto the binoculars to get a better look. He was tall. And quite handsome to be completely honest. Even from this distance, I could see his baby blues and the dark circles that hung below them. There was blood too. On his face, on his clothes. But I couldn’t tell if it was his or someone else’s.
Perhaps he was a fighter.
Because unlike the woman he kept looking at, he still had a life inside of him. He was looking for an escape route. He was looking for a way back to life, out of this graveyard he’d been thrown in.
“The man’s alive. Woman next to him is dead,” I stated. This was protocol. Figuring out if they were worth the investment. Rescuing an alive person was much more rewarding than a dead one. We just didn’t have the resources to take a person in who couldn’t provide.
“Yohan says there’s two more about a block south. Both alive.”
“I’ll be the one to make that call,” I grumbled. “He and his injury need to settle down. He still shouldn’t be out in the field. Clearly, serious damage occurred in his hand.”
“Well if not him, then who?” Sam reasoned. “We’re running out of healthy people.”
I didn’t need to hear that twice. “I know. But just because we’re desperate doesn’t mean I’m not going to make a smart decision. Remember? This man could be a mole. And even if he isn’t, there’s a lot of them rummaging around the buildings like ants. We could be caught by the guards. Or worse, by someone who wants to join us who isn’t worth rescuing.” Sam tried to interrupt, but I continued on. “Furthermore, he could be annoying and try to fight to bring that girl with him. But we can’t take her in. We already have enough people in the warehouse doing shit all.”
“You should let Leena come out. She’d be good at this.”
“Sam, your sister has a broken arm,” I interjected.
“Yeah, but it’s been two months. Don’t you think it should be healed by now?”
I disregarded her.
“Amie, you need the extra help. Don’t you think you’re a little frazzled?”
“Sam, shut up.”
An icy chill sprinted up my spine. I looked to Sam, and her eyes held the same fear that must’ve been in mine.
Because it wasn’t my voice that had just uttered those words.
And it wasn’t anyone that we knew.
Do Amie and Sam take in the new mysterious recruit?
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