Years after the government configure the Party of the Old Power-middle and lower-class citizens are in shambles. Capital keeps you alive-if your pockets are thirsty, you are hunted, exterminated like mice polluting food reserves. Cities are leveled, making way for the Party blueprints, women of the correct foundation enslaved as reproductive machines. Soft vibrations ride the wind in murmurs of revolution, pleading the hunted to remain alive with intentions of assembling an army of rebellion against the Old Power.
The wall held me before we crumbled to the floor together. Fragmented pieces of drywall showering me in white dust. I watch the scene unravel like a silent movie. Ringing steals the volume from a woman’s scream as she cradles a tarnished body in her arms. Flesh-colored tears run over her drywalled face. People are clutching their heads under tables, their faces distorted in fear. The floor is a circus of red splattered potatoes and powdered slices of broken glass. The outer wall of the rations building now divulges a pale blue sky outside.
Warmth from my forehead provokes my hand to jerk up, revealing blood that slips down my fingertips. The rest of the world loses focus as I contemplate the thick liquid running off my hand. It drips to the floor as the sound of the world slams into my consciousness. Screams shred through the silent ringing-ripping my attention back to life. Rapid gunfire echos desperate cries in the distance. The ground underneath vibrates as I peel myself from the wall to slither under the nearest table-shards of glass scraping the floor as I move.
A young girl cries silently over her mother’s body. Blood cakes her shirt and forearms. The locket she wears around her neck drips crimson as a heart torn to shreds. Coughing to locate my voice, “What’s your name?” I choke out-attempting to strike the panic from my words. Wide muddy eyes find mine before the child wipes at her nose, leaving a smear of maroon across her upper lip.
“Lexi,” She murmurs.
Cringing, I pull myself up-eyes tightly fastened with pain. Adjusting my left leg commands a cry from my throat. The girl called Lexi eyes me through her silent tears keeping her body protectively over her mother’s. The sound of bullets exploding from automatic rifles causes a blooming paranoia. I begin to explore my damaged leg-with trembling fingers, to disturb a large piece of glass thoroughly invading my calf. Visions of the room around me spot-violently as oxygen becomes challenging to attain. Nothing but the pounding of my heart upon a bruised ribcage or the intense pain gnawing at my leg inhabits my brain-moving with urgency to remove the purple-stained iceberg. The more time spent wanting to pass out, the closer I am to the probability of getting caught in a rainstorm of bullets. Swallowing once, twice, a third time struggling to push back the vomit rising in my throat. Fingertips slip over the glass before finding enough grip to remove it. Drool mixed with vomit drips from my mouth instantaneously as I watch the stained glass fall to the floor through pooled eyes, huffing small bursts of breath before convincing myself of not going into shock.
“Okay,” My voice shakes out in hums. Eliminating my tattered outer layer, I persuade my quivering hands to rip a long piece of cloth from it. Inhaling sharply, I secure the fabric taut around the sputtering crimson stream flowing from my calf.
A body contorts-vigorously as bullets penetrate flesh before collapsing heavy to the ground, prompting me to seize Lexi by the shirt-hauling the young girl up. We struggle-she jerks back to stay with her mother as more bullets sizzle through the air around us. I have half a thought to leave her behind before red pockets develop in the forehead and throat of the woman cradling death in her arms. The crimson waterfalls pour over her paleness in a lifetime of seconds before her thudding body smacks the floor-defeated in a cloud of white dust. The struggle is gone from Lexi as we run to the back of the building, searching for an emergency exit. Screams erupt behind us with the Old Power’s approach before unnaturally coming to an end.
We dump ourselves out into the blazing sunshine, crashing knees on the pavement from fighting with the door. Lexi pushes at the crease under my shoulder, attempting to help me to my feet. Her face wild with fear, her body moving in convulsions-urging me forward. Staggering our way across the street before we fall behind another obliterated wall. Adrenaline attacking my body-numbing me as I look back in the direction of the rations building. I flinch lower, seeking asylum from the ruined wall. Men dressed in black padded suits, their eyes replaced by burnt orange reflective goggles, and oxygen masks dripping from their mouths release bullets onto the panicked rush of people trying to escape. Shells bounce off the pavement, twinkling in the sunlight. Shoulders are thrown back slightly from the power of each bullet’s journey to pinpoint death. Men with guns slack at their sides, checking for survivors among the fallen, ripping the remains of weathered banners reading “People for Equality” off the sides of buildings.
Placing a hand on Lexi’s head, I shove her closer to the ground. My breath pushes dampness at the wall inches from my face. In the near distance, black tanks ripple over the fallen people in unstoppable waves-crushing their bones to dust, firing themselves into what remained of our civilization, chunks of building rain down from above. I gape as a large mass of second-story splinters onto the heads of a fleeing crowd. Exterminating any chance of escape, terminating their flee upon impact.
I snatch Lexi under the arm, half dragging her in the opposite direction of the Old Power. My face felt wet, no deciphering whether blood was leaking from a wounded forehead or tears were tumbling from my eyes. Lexi’s small-repetitive cries dance over the sounds of destruction: frantic screams of anguish from people acknowledging their lives were ending. She faints abruptly, wrenching me unexpectedly toward the ground, hesitating slightly before shoveling the child into my arms. The added weight of her body being too much for my leg to bear. Grinding teeth, I continue toward the nearest building seeking its protection, dragging my leg behind me, sobs breaking violently from my chest. Scattered people race forward on either side of us, some making it further than the unfortunate bodies sagging to the pavement like rag dolls, crimson spraying from their bullet wounds. A few more feet, we would make it to our destination, a door in the wall. Screaming through the pain, I adjust Lexi in my arms to push through the last few feet.
Locking us behind the door in shadows-the noise outside was muffled by the thick wall. Fire consumes my calf-radiating up my left side. As my chest tugs at the air-oxygen meet my lungs in stabbing pain, now is the worst time for a panic attack. Lexi stares with her pale awareness-blood crusted under her chin, down her neck, and forearms. She wants to speak but cannot find the words. We have infiltrated the middle of a dark stairwell split into rising or falling stairs-hyper-aware that our time is running out. The Old Power outside undoubtedly saw us come in here and would be shoving through the door at my back any second, hunting us until no one remained.
“Up,” I urge, signaling for Lexi to take the lead, following behind her with less momentum, placing all my weight on the railing. As we pass the first landing, the urgent rattling of the door causes my eyes to widen in panic. I feel my heart stop for a whole second before shoving Lexi up the remaining stairs-pressuring her to continue before I, myself-cower in the opposite direction. Disappearing down a small hallway as the door ruptures open, I catch a glimpse of the dark-suited man moving into the building through the cleavage in the stairs. I attempt to inhale-exhale sparingly, keeping hidden while shifting farther into the wall, hoping to cast myself deep enough in the shadows. Movement propels my head-whipping to the side discovering, a mother clasping two children under protective arms-her eyes begging for my mercy. A male figure stands close with his finger pressed firmly against lips stoned-faced, eyes threatening a worse fate than the barrel of a gun if I were to reveal his family.
Joints trembling uncontrollably, I ball my fingers into fists, digging nails into sweaty palms, hoping to steal back focus. I ache to stay hidden. Abruptly, I come to the sinking realization that the toes feel sticky and cold in my left shoe. Silent screaming explodes through my brain as the unwelcome truth of my saturated leg induces an instant string of panicked-voiceless cursing. Blood continues to pool around my heel-applying pressure causes blood to seep through the mesh siding of my shoe like a sponge releasing water. Eyes fixed on a still shimmering footprint a few inches from me-then there is another. My skull lightly thumps the wall as I panic, involuntary tears sweeping through dirt-ridden cheeks.
The hunter at the door takes notice of the fresh crimson prints leading to his prey. Hyperventilation crawls near as I glance at the family. Pinched face contorts inward with the decision I was to make, them or me. Sobs fracture my chest, propelling me to waver forward. Clutching at my heart through my shirt, wishing to prolong its inevitable stillness, I step closer to the stairs. Even if I am only a disturbance enabling the others to scatter safely, at least I’ll die a martyr.
“Here,” I cry out softly at first, then louder to fake courage, “I am here. End my life already-I am tired of living in this pathetic waste of a country.”
Limping down a few steps, I slide my right shoulder along the wall for support. The demon is there, darkness except for the reflective orange-his rifle directed to my forehead. Time is murdered in our face-off, the dark nightmare looking up to me from four steps below. Disdain painting creases on my face. I would not gamble on a glance back to verify the escape of either family or child. Choosing instead to replay the catastrophe those men of the Old Power dropped upon my people like missiles. I feel my soul peeling away from my body, surrendering to perfect bliss-inhaling to take my final step forward just as sizzling cracks through the stillness between us. Instinctively, I slip to a crouch shielding my head with a single arm. My heart continues to beat ferociously in my chest as I stare at the fallen monster below me.
Perplexed, I detect the family man standing with his gun still half-raised in the air-visible to me through slits in the stairs. We stand there as seconds count on, harmonious shoulders rising with each deepened breath.
“Where did you get that?” The question drips from my mouth with fresh sobs-laced with the possibility of life meandering forward. I watch the man lower his seditious weapon through rectangles of vision.
"Does it matter?” He throws his hypothetical words at me before turning to tend to his own.
I search the spiral overhead, Lexi's head suddenly protrudes through railings on the top level, causing a meager laugh to rattle my body, relaxing upon the wall of the stairwell to catch my breath. Echos of a disintegrating World float to us from outside-momentarily the illusion of life has found us.