Previously on Five Seconds: Andy discovers that the crazies are planning something drastic, and has to decide whether to risk her life and try to stop them or run. After spending the night alone, she once again finds Parker in a cold Safeway.
What do Parker and Andy do? Try and rescue the people from the crazies, or escape while they still have their lives?Click To Reveal Results
I lay on the floor, staring up at the cedar planks of the ceiling. Nothing but a mind-numbing pain keeps me company. It has been five days since the fire. They are all gone – forever taken. How am I supposed to continue on with this sadness? This hopelessness?
I'm shaking. It won't stop. The pain is still growing - to the point where it could kill. But I know that wont happen. I'll be stuck on this earth forever with my heart missing; forever haunted with the unbearable pain of my family's death.
An iron fist clenches me heart. They left me.
I can't bear the pain.
But there is no fight left in me. The grief threatens to take me under and I let it. I let the pain take me. Soon it too will take my life, and I can be with my family again.
Something dark and floppy moves in the corner of my vision. I flick my eye, and see a small puppy bounding towards me. It buries its head in my neck, and I push it away, trying to make sense of the stranger.
A body appears next to mine. Aunty.
I roll my head opposite the puppy and stare into the sad brown eyes of Aunty. Worry is etched across her brow.
The puppy pounces on her, and she welcomes it much more warmly than I did.
“Someone in town had a litter, and I couldn’t resist it,” she explains. “He’s a Newfoundland. Supposed to grow to the size of a small donkey.”
The puppy wrestled with her fingers.
“I’m not so sure about that statement, though. Or rather, I don’t want to believe it. Donkeys are rather large, and will break my couch for sure.”
Aunty was just mumbling words to keep the silence at bay. Things weren’t quite as lonely when sound broke through the bubble of grief surrounding me, and I think Aunty had the same feelings.
The unnamed puppy gets bored with Aunty’s fingers, and moves on to me. I run my hand over his soft head. He was brand new to the world, and had entered a very dark and cold corner of it, but somehow, he still found something to keep his tail wagging.
“It doesn’t make sense,” I muttered. “None of it.”
Aunty knows what I was talking about. “I agree. And maybe we try to make sense out of it; maybe we don’t, and we spare ourselves from madness. Because what's done is done. No amount of anything will bring a person back to life. Maybe there’s something to learn from this. Maybe we just need to hold each other until things are okay again. Maybe a dog will make it better. Or maybe time will do it all right.”
I embrace the puppy tight, hoping I can squeeze some of its happiness into me.
10 days before
We found Yohan and the Crazie we had captured with Sam a few days after the incident. Yohan had a nasty burn scar all up his arm, and was missing his left eyebrow. Sam’s hair was considerably shorter. Somehow, they had escaped the explosion.
We found Kevin the next day.
We now sat huddled in the cold Safeway while Christmas music played from a battery powered speaker.
“What if we wired bombs all through the Tomb and blew it up?” Kevin suggested.
Parker and I had relayed the new information we had discovered to them, and were now discussing the best solution. There was no doubt that we wouldn’t try to rescue Leena after we found Sam.
“Oh so now you’re on the Crazies side?” I interjected.
“Well we wouldn’t be in this situation if the government actually did something,” he snapped.
Back before we got attacked by the Crazies on Robson, the Crazie we had captured had spilt it all to Yohan and Sam in the jeep. According to Armin the Crazie, the Crazies were just a group of people that wanted a better life, and their antics just escalated with the earthquake.
I took that with a grain of salt.
Others did not.
“Andy, I know we can’t trust Armin completely, but it makes sense what he said,” Parker reminded me. “And don’t forget about their brain thing that Kevin was talking about.”
The ‘id’. Your instinct. Everyone’s got messed up after the earthquake.
“Right, but we weren’t living under a completely corrupt government.”
“Andy,” Kevin sighed. “Do we have to go over this again? If our government wasn’t so corrupt, we wouldn’t be in this situation. It would have all been fixed a long time ago.”
“Aunty would still be alive,” Parker whispered.
Grief struck me with those words, but I kept it at bay.
“Okay, so what’s five people going to do against everyone else?” I asked. “We have no numbers. No weapons. We have nothing. We’re in a war and no one’s on our side.”
“Well, Armin said they were going to meet up in front of the Tomb,” Yohan stated.
“And what, use their numbers to storm the building?”
“I can hear you saying my name,” he called from the corner of the store where we tied him up.
“Turn the music up,” I said to Sam, who was sitting next to the speaker.
“Well who says we have to wait till the 24th?” Sam said a little quieter. “Let’s go now, and rescue my sister.”
No one objected.
“Okay so that’s an option. We go in and rescue the people who were captured by the Crazies,” I summarized. “But what about the others? And the government? We can’t keep hiding forever.”
“What if we don’t rescue Leena?” Kevin suggested.
“No. Absolutely not,” Sam stated.
Kevin held up his hands. “Let me finish. What if we communicated with Leena, and she got all the people that can be trusted in on the plan, and then on the 24th, when they go to meet up with the government, the trusted people attack the crazies?”
“Sounds dangerous,” Parker said.
“You’re on the right track there,” I said slowly. All eyes turned to me. “It makes sense. Why risk our lives and only save Leena, if all we’ll do is return to being street rats? If we can somehow communicate a plan to her, and get people on our side, maybe we can end this nightmare for good.”
“In the end it might not work, but what’s there to return to after it all?” Sam said. “Might as well die trying then rust out in the streets.”
“So how do we do this?” Parker asked.
5 days until
Yohan, Armin and I made our way up the dark street. Despite the heavy coats on our backs, the cold still seeped through to our bones. This plan was a long shot, but if we were able to communicate with Leena, all would be good.
We were turning ourselves into the Crazies, so we could tell Leena the news without rising any suspicion. It was hard to trust Armin, but Yohan seemed to be doing a pretty good job of making him cooperate. Once we entered that building, we wouldn’t come out again. Until the 24th – if we got lucky.
“Don’t make me regret saving you from that explosion,” Yohan warned him.
We paused in the shadows of the rubble adjacent from the Orpheum.
“Tell it to us again,” I ordered.
Armin sighed. “They’re keeping everyone in the hall. There are guards at every door, and those who cannot complete missions, get thrown into the dressing rooms underneath.”
“And they’re not gonna ambush us as soon as we get within five feet?” Yohan checked.
“No, they see me and it’s fine.”
“And how can we trust that you’re not going to rat us out?” I asked.
Yohan shifted on his feet and Armin flinched. “I won't. I swear.”
“Then let’s go.”
We made it about seven steps into the street before a weighted net was thrown at us.
The net wrapped around us, and tore us off our feet. I slammed heavily into the ground, and struggled to get my breath back.
“Are you kidding me?” Yohan grunted. “How the hell did they get a stupid weighted net!”
“Hey! You guys, it’s me! Armin,” he called. “Let me go it’s me!”
Air gushed into my lungs and I took greedy gulps.
“Shut it Armin. Do you want to make things worse?” Yohan growled. “Help me get this thing untangled.”
We struggled at the net. It seemed the more we shifted and fought its bindings, the more tangled we got. The wires of the net dug into my fingers as I tugged.
The sound of a gun cocking made us pause.
“Move and we shoot,” a gruff voice said.
“Wait, wait. It’s me, it’s Armin. I’m one of you.”
The stranger barked at two others out of our vision. “Load them up. Get ‘em inside.”
The plan wasn’t exactly going the way we hoped, but we were in.
“This sucks,” Sam said.
“Tell me about it,” I replied.
“I can’t handle this. I’m dying inside.”
“Yea, I know.”
“I hate this.”
We were sitting in the Safeway, doing nothing but worry. We should’ve been preparing, making our friends job a little easier. But we just sat. Waiting for the next five days to pass. Parker, Yohan, and Armin had ventured to the Orpheum about an hour ago. Maybe we were sitting here waiting for the sounds of the plan going horribly wrong.
Maybe we were waiting for a miracle.
“I can’t stand sitting here,” Sam droned.
“I know,” I stated.
“How did Leena sit there all those times we went on missions without her?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I guess she trusted that time would bring you back.”
“It’d be nice if time moved a little faster.”
“We’ll get there when we get there,” I said.
“I won’t be able to sleep. Ever.”
“Sleep will make time move faster.”
“Of course it will. The one thing I can’t do is what will make the one thing I want happen.”
I pulled my blanket a little tighter around myself. “My aunt always said that time would be my best friend.”
“It’s my worst enemy right now.”
And it was mine as well. Time was taking it’s sweet, sweet time erasing Aunty from my mind and my dreams. The pain of losing her was still there. The gaping hole in my heart hadn’t shrunken.
“But, time is still ticking. The world hasn’t stopped spinning. December 24th will get here when it gets here. And when it does, we’ll be prepared. We’ll be okay.”
“We should’ve sent them out later. So many things could happen between now and that day.”
Kevin was sitting across from us, tinkering at some project in his hands. “What do we rely on. Science? The patterns of history? There’s so many variables. Our hypothesis could be way off and we wouldn’t even know until it’s too late.”
“Thanks, Kevin,” Sam stated.
I leaned my head back and buried my hands in my dog’s fur. “Time is our only constant tonight, so we rely on time to do whatever it has to do. We’re going to get to the 24th. We’re going to be okay. Maybe not tonight, but soon. Soon we’ll be okay.”
Today was the day. The day we either died or were born.
We sat in the rubble of the surrounding buildings, and waited for them to come. We didn’t know what time they would arrive, so we arrived before the sun rose, and did our best to not freeze to death.
But perhaps the government had the same thoughts, because they soon began filing out of the building like ants. They stopped their advance before the steps leading down to the rest of the world, and I could spot hidden soldiers up on the grassy knolls of the roof.
“Are they going to mow them all down with guns?” Sam whispered.
“It’s possible,” Kevin stated.
“Leena better make it out safe,” Sam said.
Parker had better too. He could certainly be a pain in the ass sometimes, but he proved a valuable friend.
Dawn hadn’t even broken when the Crazies came marching in.
They came with torches and make shift weapons made out the rubble of the city streets. Several had guns. There was no distinct leader.
I searched the mob for Parker, but I couldn’t see him.
“Where’s Leena? I can’t see her, where is she?” Sam questioned. “Where is my sister?”
They marched on, closer and closer with each second that seemed to tick by too fast. “Parker, where are you?” I murmured. I tried to recall what he had been wearing when they left.
“The plan didn’t work. They were killed. Oh god, my sister is dead!” Sam was nearing hysterics.
I smacked her upside the head.
“Calm down Sam. We don’t know anything yet.”
The Crazies paused their advance twenty or so meters from the steps of the Tomb.
The Premier was standing next to her guards on the steps. She lifted a megaphone to her mouth.
But before she could say a word, a single shot rang through the streets, and she collapsed to the ground.
And then pandemonium erupted. The soldiers began firing at the Crazies, while they began rushing the steps and attacking the front line. Way in the back of the mob, I could see the group attacking itself.
A small victory ran through my body. They had done it. They had broken through and passed the message along to the others.
“What do we do!” Sam screamed over the noise.
“Stay low!” I ordered. Our poorly thought out plan had just commenced, but the battle hadn’t ceased.
My eyes scanned the scene, and stopped when I saw movement from where the premier had collapsed. She was getting up. She hadn’t been shot. The Crazie had missed.
I rushed over, staying low. She was the premier of British Columbia after all. She still had some power to her name.
“Hey!” I called to her. “Hey! Don’t just run away, do something! You’re the freaking leader of the whole damn province. They’re just people. You can’t murder them all!”
But before I could see if she turned to my voice or ran inside the building, a burning pain erupted in the back of my thigh. I collapsed to the ground, wreathing in pain. I fingered the area and immediately regretted it, when my fingers touched a hot sticky area. I screamed out in pain and my vision went white.
I had been shot in the leg.
My brain went foggy, and I so desperately wanted to sleep for a few moments, but I knew I was still vulnerable out here on the steps. I pulled myself away, and slumped behind a pillar.
My eyes watered from the shards of pain ripping up my leg. I knew I had to put pressure on the bleeding, but it hurt too much to touch it. The sounds of the battle began to fade as the roar of blood in my ears grew. Stars danced in my vision, and the edges of my vision grew dark.
The voices were like shadows. They weren’t solid enough to understand, and seemed to pass through each other without resistance. It was like I was swimming through them. A milky substance somewhere between dreams and reality.
It was a familiar bark that woke me.
I tore my eyes open, expecting the worst. But instead, I was in a small tent, on some sort of cot, and a warm blanket over me. I tested moving my leg, and the pain was considerably less. I moved to a sitting position, swinging my legs to the ground, and waited for the muddiness of my brain to fade.
What the hell had happened?
My bag was right beside my bed, and all my clothing was the same, although new sweat pants adjourned my legs.
I took a deep sobering breath, prepared myself for the worst, and stood up. Once again stars danced in my vision, but the pain in my leg was manageable. I stooped low to grab my bag, then limped to the door.
Once outside the tent, things just grew weirder. Tents were set up everywhere, and people with red crosses on their arms were tending to people. But the strangest thing of all was the heat on my face. I looked up to the sky, and saw endless blue.
“Andy!” a familiar voice called.
I flicked my eyes over to where my dog and my friend were standing, blocked by a burly man with the same cross on his arm.
Parker came bounding up and scooped me into his arms. “Thank god you’re alive. They wouldn’t let me see you. Can you believe that?”
“What happened?” I asked. “How long was I out?”
“They’re grabbing a wheel chair for you. I’ll explain in a second.”
The burly man from before handed parker the chair, and he set it down on the uneven ground. Parker helped me into it.
He began pushing me, heading towards a less crowded section. Newt followed beside us.
“What happened?” I asked again. “Where did everybody go?”
“Somewhere in the middle of the pandemonium more people came in. Another military of peace keepers. From other parts of Canada. Apparently they were the help that was supposed to arrive three months ago.”
We traveled slowly along a path next to the ocean. I breathed in the crisp briny air.
“They cleared the area in a matter of minutes. Arrested who needed to be arrested, and then medics began pouring in to help the injured. You were out for a day.”
“A full day?” I exclaimed, nearly hopping out of the chair.
“Yea, I wouldn’t have thought much of it if you had been shot somewhere worse. Like your chest or something. But no. A bullet to the leg and all of a sudden you need to sleep for a day and get all the special attention.”
A small smile grew on my lips. “So what now?” I asked.
“It’s over now. The battle to survive is over. Maybe we just heal from here. Take a nice long vacation somewhere warm. I found a sign by the way. On the fence just outside the convention centre. My family is here Andy. Somewhere they’re safe.”
The words pained my heart, but I was happy Parker wasn’t so alone in this world.
“Everyone is alive, by the way. Even Armin. He was pretty pissed the Crazies locked him away with us, and switched sides unceremoniously. Say, you got any water in that bag of yours? It’s hard to get stuff around here when you’re perfect,” Parker gloated.
The smile on my face grew. It was nice to listen to his cheeky ramblings again.
I reached into my bag, and blindly searched for the bottle I had. My fingers closed around a cylinder, but it wasn’t a bottle. It was a candle.
I brought it out and stared hard at it. So many memories. So much grief.
I bit my lip hard and reached into the bag again, but not for the water. Instead I searched for a lighter I had found in a corner of a hardware store. I brought it out and flicked it on. The flame rose high and gave off a minuscule amount of heat. I brought it to the wick of the candle and lit it up.
I cradled the glowing candle in my lap.
I reached out and rested one hand on Newt who wined at the familiar scent, and stared at the flame as the scent of the candle and the memories it held spread through the air.
A rare warm breeze from the lower half of the world blew through the streets, and for a moment I could feel Aunty resting her head on my shoulders.
I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of happier days. It seemed there was no more happiness or love in the world anymore. But here, with my dog and a candle that brought all the things home held… Perhaps a day with love and happiness and peace was out there. And sitting here, with my dog, and a friend who went through hell and back with me and didn’t leave – we were going to get there someday.
I didn't know when that someday would come, but it was going to. I had to hold onto a hope that someday things would be okay.
Because things were better now than they were when I lost my whole family. Things were better now than when I watched that bullet enter Aunty’s brain.
She wasn’t here anymore to hug me when the world dragged my shoulders down. She wasn’t here to feed me her wisdom when I had bad luck with friends.
But she was still here in my heart and in this candle. And I would do everything in my power to keep her memory alive.
Parker rested his hand on my shoulder. I clasped it with mine.
“I think I’m ready now Parker,” I breathed. “I’m ready to say goodbye.”
Time was going to heal us and the world.
After everything that happened, we were going to be okay.
And with my dog by my side, my friend at my back, and the sun on my face, I leaned back and let time do its thing.
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.