Chuck has given us Sub-Genre Tango... that is: 20 gengres and we pick two to mix together. I picked out Parallel Universe and either Magical Realism or Body Horror (to me tattooing is painful... and changes things about the body). I'm not sure which one the second I've chosen is, but the story just flowed today.
I arrived at school on Monday, and the place seemed half-empty. I wondered why, went to class and found that our teacher hadn’t shown up for work – so the Principal took the roll call for home room.
That wasn’t all.
Our Science teacher subbed most of our classes. Mr. Berville was great. He knew the work well, but stumbled on Theatre and read from the class notes most of the time.
He seemed scared about something – unsettled – and we all noticed it, even though he tried to hide it.
At lunch-time, the cafeteria was almost empty. Most of the food wasn’t eaten; and I don’t mean at the counter. We all got our food, went and sat down then realised exactly who was missing from our group of friends – and from the school. Missy wasn’t here, neither was Anthony, Frederick or Ben. All three of them went to church on a regular basis. I did the only thing I could think of and stood on the table and looked around to see exactly who was missing: the Christian group who normally sat in the corner, the Mormons, the kids who were picked on for being Geeks (and now we know weren’t) were all missing. They made up about a third of the population of those who ate lunch here all the time.
The sports kids were gone – they always prayed to God for a win before games (whodathunkit that would work?). Some of the teachers who would normally tell me off for standing on the table, and some of the kitchen staff weren’t here either.
I got off the table and sat in my chair, “This isn’t looking good.” I looked at the remaining two people in my group: Chris and Lydia.
Chris looked around, “No… something’s up and I’m not getting a good feeling about it, either.” He looked at his tray filled with food and pushed it away, “I’m so stressed out and I’m not hungry.”
Lydia glanced around, “Nobody is… we all know something is going on, but we’re not sure what.”
“All the religious freaks aren’t here.” He said.
Leaning forwards, I lowered my voice, “Right now, saying that isn’t a good thing.”
He nodded, “I’m sorry. Just freaked right out.”
“Join the club.” I sighed.
By Wednesday, half my neighbourhood was empty. Mum and Dad didn’t want me going to school. Let’s face it, I didn’t want to go either. So, we decided to leave town and packed what we could live with into the RV that day and planned to leave that night.
At 2am, I was woken by Dad in the dark. His hand was over my mouth as I heard a noise outside my door. He had carried me to my wardrobe and closed the door fully.
“Brie, ya Mum’s been killed by them.” His whispered news rendered me silent in more ways than one. I didn’t want to believe him… but I had to. I also had to stay silent to live. Moving in closer into the flannel of his pajamas, we heard them kick in my bedroom door and ransack my room; only to find nothing and leave. I hadn’t realised it until Dad turned on a flashlight, but I had been crying.
The dawn’s light showed us how much the world had changed within four days. The place we called home since I was four years old had been destroyed by what was known as The Mark. This was a group of people who went out looking for people like us – people left behind – to join them. We learned this as we had breakfast with a neighbour up around the corner who had also saved most of his family; like Dad did. But we had to get out of this town.
That didn’t work.
We left town and found that this population problem had crossed state lines. So, we started to pull over on the side of the interstate and decided to have a chat with him about what to do.
Dad looked at me before he got out of the RV, “I have a feeling he’s not being truthful to us about something – he’s holding something back.”
“So, what’s the plan?” I asked.
“When I get out, you keep the engine running with your foot on the pedal.” He said, “If…” Dad took my hands as tears filled his eyes, “Brie, if he shoots me, you get your butt out of here. You have a full tank of fuel, and I have put an extra tank in the back. There’s your Aunt Clara’s place we talked about going to a few years ago.”
I looked up, “I’ll go there.”
“Don’t stop for anyone!” he closed the door and I moved over into his seat, shifted it so I could reach the pedals and kept the engine running.
Mr. Bridges – the neighbour – stepped out of his RV started talking to Dad, pulled a gun and shot him! Before Dad hit the ground, I had the RV out on to the highway again.
As Dad told me, I didn’t stop for anyone. Not one hitch-hiker, nobody who looked like a cop. I shoved through road blocks with people shooting at the RV and I made it up into the mountains of Colorado to my Aunt Clara’s place.
She was so reclusive that people had to press a buzzer at the gates of her property to get in. I did that and her voice came over the intercom: “Get the fuck away from my property, you ass-fuckin’-wipe!”
“Aunt Clara, it’s me, Brie… please, let me in.” I started to cry as I hadn’t talked to anyone in eight hours and there were no radio stations anymore.
“Oh my dear sweet child.”
She came running out of the house to the gate and pulled it opened let me through with the RV, then closed it immediately, locking it up again before she rushed up to the driver’s side door and waiting for me to get out.
I climbed down and we embraced crying, “They’re all dead… Mum and Dad… it’s been horrible.”
“I know.” She said, “I have been talking to people over the two-way and Ham radio. It’s not looking good out there.” She looked the RV over and noticed some holes in the size of bullets in the side a smashed window, “You drove through a few road blocks and around some crazy people, I see.”
“I ran over them. They had guns.” Fresh tears filled my eyes, “I’m so tired.”
“Come on.” She wrapped her arm around my shoulders, “You need three things: a shower, something to eat and a good sleep; in that order.”
We were going well for a while, Aunt Clara and me. They didn’t find us for a while. We unpacked the RV and hid it around the back of her property (and I didn’t know she owned so much land until now) to let it rot in a large barn she had at the back of the place.
One night we were enjoying the lovely Summer sunset when a person showed at the gate, begging to be let in. We refused them entry, and they pulled out a gun, shot the intercom and the padlocks on the gate and all the electronic controls that held that gate in place, and the damned thing rolled open. We pulled the shutters down on the inside, of the house, turned off the power and gas and grabbed our bags.
Yes, we were hoping to go on a hiking trip the next day. But having the packs ready was just something we had done that afternoon. We grabbed them and headed out the back, only to be pushed back inside by two men with guns.
“Dammit.” Aunt Clara muttered.
“You two were difficult to find.” The man said as he laid his weapon on the kitchen table, “Now, why were you hiding?”
“We want to be left alone.” I said.
“No such thing.” He snapped at me, “And you ran over my son, little girl, so you’re evil to the marrow.”
“Evil? Your men were trying to kill her?” My Aunt took a step towards the man, but I touched her arm and she turned, “What Brie? You’re going to let them treat us like shit in my own house?”
I sighed, “I’m done running. We’re trapped, have been for a long time. I just want to know why they were after us.”
“You have to get the mark put onto you.” He looked beyond my shoulder and a man pulled out a metal briefcase, placed it on the table, opened it and found it had the trappings of a tattoo artist’s kit.”
“What is the meaning of this?” Aunt Clara asked.
“Don’t know you?” The man laughed, “There’s been an Apocalypse. God took the people he loved back home and left Lucifer’s Army here on Earth to kill each other… if you don’t carry the mark, we kill you.”
The tattoo artist looked from Aunt Clara to me, “Or we recruit you.” He pulled on a set of black gloves after setting up his gear and taking a seat, “And after seeing how you handled that RV, young lady, we want you on our team… you old lady, you’ve been out of our reach for so long, you’re valuable too. Her family is dead, she needs somebody in her corner.” He took my hand with a pen in his hand, “Sit down, so I can get this right.”
“Do I have a choice?”
He looked up from my hand, “No.”