changed chap 3 a bit with Ted. Same as before Please rate and review.
I stood outside the video game store, head right up against the glass, my breath fogging it while I looked longingly inside. How could I ever get this incredibly popular game that all of my friends have but I couldn't even come close to affording myself? I turned all of my pockets inside out, hoping that by some miracle I might have had some loose change in them, even though I just knew that I didn't.
When I proved myself correct, I sighed, stuck my hands deep inside my pockets and I was just about to head home when I heard a gruff, raspy voice yell out, "Hey kid!"
I swivelled my head to the other side of the street, which was where the voice came from. Sitting on a bench with peeling green paint was an old man in a ratty old dust jacket, wearing a loose checked red and green shirt underneath and dirty jeans which may have once been blue with holes in them at the knees. He had sunken cheeks with deep shadows around his eyes and he was puffing on a cigarette. There was a box on the bench next to him.
I looked wearily at him and asked, "You talking to me?"
"No, I'm talking to the Invisible Man," the old man said sarcastically. "Get over here, boy. I want to talk to you."
I took a few tentative steps towards him.
"Come on, boy, hurry up. I won't bite, even if I could."
Put at ease a bit by the old man's jokes, I took the last few steps towards him.
"There you go boyo. See, I'm not so scary. Want a smoke?" he asked me, holding out the nearly empty packet to me.
"Uh, no thanks," I said, eyeing the packet with distaste.
"Pity," the old man said, exhaling a breath full of smoke. "You don't know what you're missing."
"I think I do," I replied. "Now, tell me, why did you want to talk to me?"
"I saw you over there," the old man said, indicating the space in front of the video game store, "and, unless I missed my guess, I'll say that you want a game there, maybe one that all of your friends have, but you're a bit strapped for cash. So, tell me, am I right or am I right?"
I just stood there, flabbergasted. Eventually, I asked, "Yeah. How did you know that?"
The old man just laughed. "Anyone with half a brain and a pair of eyes could have guessed that, boyo," he explained with tears in his eyes. "Here you are, standing outside of a video game store and turning all of you pockets inside out without finding even so much as a dust mite; it's pretty obvious that you don't have much money."
"Yeah, so what?" I said defensively. "So what if we don't have much money? So what if we don't have enough to pay the bills, or the rent, or enough for food? Huh, huh! What's wrong with that!
" I didn't realise that I was talking louder and louder while getting in the old man's face during my little rant until the end.
"Whoa, easy there, tiger," the old man said soothingly, gently pushing me back. "I didn't mean anything bad by it. In fact, that's why I wanted to talk to you."
"Oh," I said, the wind taken out of my sails.
"Yeah," the old man said, taking a wallet out from an inside pocket of his jacket. "I wanted to offer you some money for that game. So, how much is it? Fifty dollars? Sixty?"
"Thanks," I said, waving his hand away, "but no thanks. I'm not some charity case. I don't accept handouts."
"Handouts?" the old man said, incredulously. "Charity case? Boyo, I don't think that you're either of those things. Now, tell me, how much is that game?"
"I said no," I said, starting to get annoyed now. "I'm not going to take your bloody money. I'm not like that. I have to earn it."
"Alright then," the old man said, exasperated. "This is how you can earn the money. You're going to take it, buy that game and use anything that's left over to help your family and your mother. Now, I ask again, how much is the game?"
"Fifty dollars," I said grudgingly.
The old man pulled a roll of hundred dollar bills out of his wallet and started counting them off. He pulled off one bill and gave the rest to me. I just stared at it-- I'd never seen so much money in all my life.
"Why are you giving me so much?" I asked the old man, curious.
"I'm just an old man who got a lot of money and did a lot of bad things," he sighed. "I just want to put some things right. That's not wrong, is it?"
"Uh, no, I guess not," I said hesitantly, surprised at his answer.
The old man snubbed his cigarette out and got up and went to leave. "Oh, one more thing," he said just before he left. "Look after your mother, Eric. She's going to need you." Then he left.
I just stared after him, wondering how he knew my name. Shrugging it off, I turned to leave as well, when I glanced at the bench and saw that he left his box behind. I went back over to it, curious. I'm sure he won't mind if I opened it, I thought. I pulled back the lid of the cardboard box and saw a round object, about the size of a basketball, with blue lights blinking on and off all around it.
I picked it up wondering what it was when, suddenly, the lights started to blink faster and faster until they were an almost continuous stream of light.
Guessing what was about to happen, I yelled, "Oh, NO!" and was about to stuff the sphere back into its box. Before I could though, everything disappeared in a flash of blinding blue light..
Six months later
I could feel the wind tear through my hair as I leapt from one rooftop to another, easily making jumps that would have petrified me a few weeks ago, mainly because I know I would be okay if I fell. My older brother, Gareth, barely keeping pace beside me as we raced towards the park for the supply drop, our Mum and younger brother already there, having left earlier than us. "Come on, Gareth, keep up!" I yell across to him, pulling ahead of him with a burst of speed. "We're going to be late!"
"I'm not the one who waited until the last possible moment to leave!" Gareth shoots back, trying his best to keep up. "If you recall, I wanted to leave earlier with Mum and Lewis, but no, you just had to find your pistol before we left. If you were organised like me, you wouldn't have needed to find it."
"I had to find it. It's not safe out there anymore, Gare, not after the Event and the quarantine happened," I yell behind me as I continued to pull ahead.
"You don't think I know that? Why do you think I wanted to leave earlier with Mum and that? And stop calling me Gare! You know I hate that. Call me Gareth."
"Gare, Gare, Gare," I taunt him between giggles. To my delight, I heard him growl in frustration as I left him in my dust.
Eventually, we reach a building, which is about seven stories high, overlooking the park. In the middle of the park is a faded, mangled, moss covered statue-- that has been damaged and neglected since the Event-- that is a bit smaller than the building I am on, but still easily dwarfing the large crowd that has gathered around it. Directly across from the building I am on is one which is bigger than ours, the face of it dominated by a massive TV screen that has been blank since soon after the quarantine began. At the edges of the park are small smatterings of trees--which mark the borders of the park-- that have grown wild since the Event, with no one to look after them. Scattered throughout the park are small benches where people would have relaxed before the Event and the Reapers took over. Surrounding the park are roads that are littered with cars, abandoned where they sat when their owners, and eventually the district, ran out of fuel to feed them.
It looks like most of the four-hundred-something people remaining in district has arrived at the park, waiting for the supply drop.
Gareth finally caught up with me, saying, "Don't... call me... Gare," between gasps of air, bent over with his hands on his knees.
"Gare," I say again, just to annoy him. He tried to punch me but I easily dodged it.
"You done?" he asked me, still gasping.
"For now," I said with a smirk.
"Good. Now, let's head down there."
"Hold up," I say noticing, out of the corner of my eye, groups of black clothed bodies emerging from the trees as I looked for Mum in the crowd--Reapers.
"What?" Gareth asks me, not yet noticing the Reapers spreading out and surrounding the crowd.
"Look," I say, pointing out the groups of Reapers slowly creeping into the crowd, the people too busy looking up at the sky, waiting for the supply drop that is due soon to notice them. Gareth's eyes were slowly widening in fear as he realises what this means.
"Mum," he whispers in terror, scared for her and Lewis, who are blissfully unaware of the danger they and everyone else in the park are in. "We have to warn her," he says, ready to run down there to help them.
"Wait," I say, grasping Gareth's arm, before he can bolt down. "What about everyone else? We can't just leave them to the mercy of the Reapers. Who knows what they would do to the crowd?"
"Screw them," Gareth says, his voice catching, tears in his eyes. "They can all go to hell for all I care. Mum and Lewis are the only ones that are important. Damn the rest, damn them."
I stare in shock at my brother, not believing what I'm hearing from him. "How can you say that?" I say softly, after I found my voice. "How can you be so cold, Gareth? How can you just leave the rest of those people to the mercy of the Reapers? How?"
"I only care about my family. As far as I'm concerned, that's you, Mum and Lewis. No one else matters."
"Okay, I get that. But look, look at the crowd. Tell me, can you see where Mum and Lewis are?" I wait while he scans the crowd for them and when he looks back at me, the look on his face explains it all. "Exactly, you can't," I say, triumphant. "So you'll have to search through the crowd to find them, yeah?"
Gareth nods, waiting to see what I'm getting at.
"So, as you look for them, warn the rest about the Reapers and tell them to get ready to fight. As you--"
"Wait, hold up," Gareth interrupts me. "You want them to fight?"
"Uh, yeah. What's wrong with that?"
Gareth sighs heavily. "The people down there won't want to fight, Eric. They can't fight. Not against the Reapers. They're too scared of them to fight back, too broken to fight. They'll never go along with it."
"You're wrong, Gareth. Look at the crowd down there. They outnumber the Reapers. We can beat them and seriously hurt the Reapers at the same time.
"It still won't work, because those people don't have the courage to fight."
"Ah, but what if we give them the courage?"
"What the hell are you going on about? How would we give them the courage?"
"Look, you are partially right. They won't fight. But, if someone else throws the first punch, the rest will join in."
"How can you be so sure they'll join in?"
I smiled grimly. "I'm not. But what other chance do we have?"
"Fine," Gareth sighed glumly, defeated. "I must be crazy to be agreeing to this, but tell me. What's this great plan of yours?"
"Okay, so you go down there, tell some people about the Reapers, get ready to fight, wait for the signal and pass it on. Got it?"
"Got it. But what's the signal?"
"You'll know it when you see it. Now get going," I say, giving Gareth a gentle push forwards. "Once you get down there, you'll only have a minute to spread the word. That should be enough time."
I watch as Gareth disappears over the edge of the building. "Wait," I call out when only his head visible. He pauses looking at me expectantly. "Stay safe," I say.
"Only if you do," he replies. Then he was gone.
I watch as Gareth enters the park and gets swallowed up by the crowd. I count in my head to one minute and then I back up to the opposite side of the roof, take a deep breath and run as hard as I can. When I reach the edge, I launch myself as hard as I can and let out a massive yell on my way down. Landing just inside the park I sent dirt flying everywhere. Without pausing, I take my pistol out and run at the crowd, searching for Reapers within the crowd as I go. When I get one in my sights, I fire, feeling the gun recoil in my hand as the report rang out. The Reaper goes down with a cry. I quickly aim for another one before they can understand what's happening and shoot with the same results. I do this another twelve times until I've spent the magazine and reached the crowd. By this time, they've reacted and, with help from my brother, subdued the remaining Reapers.
I look around the park, which has Reapers covered in their own blood lying on the ground, either dead or dying. Some Reapers have fled, while others have surrendered, having been surrounded by the angry crowd. The Reapers won't get any sympathy from them, not after everything they've done to them.
Scooping up some of the guns from the fallen Reapers, I thrust them into the arms of the people surrounding some of the captured Reapers. "Make sure they don't get away," I say. "If they try to run, you know what to do."
"With pleasure," one of them says, looking at the Reapers with a wicked glint in his eyes.
"Only if they try to escape," I clarify. The man's face falls.
"What should we do with the dead ones," someone else calls out.
"Build a funeral pyre and burn them," I say.
I pick up another gun, an AK-47, for myself and sling it across my back while looking for my brother. I find him and the rest of my family at the foot of the statue. "Did you like my signal?" I ask, embracing him, swept up in the afterglow of the battle.
"Liked it? I loved it!" he beamed at me. "When you jumped, the Reapers had no idea what was happening, which gave us the opportunity we needed to get the jump on them. I still can't believe it worked."
"It's like I said. Once someone else throws the first punch, the rest joins in. Now, did anyone get hurt?"
"They're a few cuts and bruises, but no fatalities."
"Good," I say in a sigh of relief. "I don't know what I would've done with myself if someone got hurt because of me."
"They knew what they were getting into."
"Yeah, but I'll still feel bad about it."
"Don't. Hey, I see you got a new toy," Gareth says, indicating my new gun.
"What, this? The Reaper won't be missing it," I say with a chuckle.
I quickly pull Gareth aside. "Hey, how's Mum and Lewis doing," I ask him quietly, not wanting them to hear. "They're not too shaken up from the battle, are they?"
"You kiddin'? I had to hold Mum back from the fight and Lewis was laughing his head off through the entire thing. They're fine."
Just then, I noticed something. Everyone seems to be staring at us. "Uh, Gareth?"
"Is it just me or is everyone looking at us?"
"They're not looking at us," Gareth begins.
"Good," I breathe.
"They're looking at you."
"Me? Why me? Why not someone else?"
"Because you're the one who led them against the Reapers today. Without you, they never would have had the courage to fight back. That's why."
"But why are they still looking at me now?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
I shake my head.
"They want you to give a speech!"
My skin went pale and blood ran cold at those seven dreadful words. "No!" I say adamantly. "No, no, no way am I giving a speech. You know how much I hate public speaking."
"Yeah, well, I'm not giving you a choice," Gareth says with a smirk that I don't like the look of. Before I can stop him, he yells out to the crowd, "Who wants to hear this guy give a speech?" while pointing at me. Yeah, I really don't like that smirk.
The crowd roar their approval, chanting "Speech, speech, speech!"
"There's no backing out now," Gareth whispers in my ear as he pushes me forward.
"I hate you so much right now."
"Yeah, payback's a bitch, ain't it?"
Nervously, I climb up onto the pedestal of the statue as a makeshift stage and face the crowd. "Uh, hey everyone," I nervously say once they've quietened down. "My name's Eric Landfield and I'm fifteen. This is my older brother Gare"--he reaches up and punches me in the leg as I hide a smile--"who's nineteen, my Mum and little brother who's one. Now, let's move onto the Reapers, I guess. First of all, we should confiscate their weapons, yeah?" I wait as the guards surrounding them do that. "Next, move them into one big group so that they're easier to keep track of." Again, I wait as they move all of the small groups of Reapers into one big group. "Good. Now, what should we do with them?" I ask everyone.
"Kill 'em!" I hear the trigger happy man shout. Others roar their agreement.
"Lock them up," I hear someone else say. This suggestion is met with less enthusiasm.
"Let them go," yet another one says. This option is met with scorn.
"Alright!" I shout, getting the crowds' attention again. "Lets' put it to a vote. Who wants to kill them?" Instantly, nearly half of the crowds' hands shoot up. "Who wants to lock them up?" This time, only about a third of the crowds' hands went up. "Who wants to let them go?" Only one hand went up, which was quickly put down again. "Okay. I think it's pretty obvious which option won. Guards, are you ready?"
They all scream, "Yes!"
"Right! But before you shoot them though, pull back their hoods. I want to see their faces before they die." One of the guards step towards the nearest Reaper and yanks his hood back, stumbling away when he sees what was hidden by it. From my vantage point, I could see that the Reaper's head was completely covered by a thick, black, tar like goo substance: everything except for his eyes, nose and mouth. His eyes were utterly blank, like there was no one home. The guard quickly pulled another Reaper's hood back only to see the same thing. All of the Reapers had the same black goo on covering their heads. "What the..." I begin to say but quickly change to, "guards: don't fire." They all turn to look at me. "We can't kill them now," I explain to the people below me. "We need to figure out what this stuff is and where it came from. Obviously, it controls people. These Reapers didn't know what they were doing when they attacked. We need to lock them up until we can work this out. How agrees with me?" This time, every last hand shoots up. "Okay then. Does anyone know a place to lock them up?"
A young man puts his hand up. "I know of a building a few blocks over that's pretty secure. It's only got one door, no windows and a big basement."
"Alright. Pick up a weapon and after the supply drop, lead the guards there. Where is it anyway? It should have been here by now." Just as I say this, I hear the low buzzing sound of the supply plane. "Speak of the devil," I chuckle as I trace the plans path over the city. At each of the four islands that make up the city, we see a crate get thrown out of it, free-fall for a while before the parachute deploys, allowing the crate to land softly. When it's our turn, we see the supply crate come out directly over the park and fall until the parachute opens up and coast towards a clear spot. Suddenly, a gust of wind blows the crate towards the statue, the parachute getting tangled up in it at the top, too high for anyone to climb up safely. Nearly anyone, that is.
"Okay," I sigh. "While I climb up there, I want everyone who doesn't already have a weapon of some kind to grab one and, when the crate comes down, whoever grabs their stuff first to switch with the guards."
I turn and start climbing my way up the statue.
When I reach the top of the statue, where the parachute snagged, I realised that I forgot one very important thing--I didn't bring a knife to cut the lines of the parachute. Oh, well, I think, nothing I can do about it now. I look to see if I can untangle the lines from the statue and just let it drop the rest of the way, but they are so twisted up that I can't tell the lines apart from each other.
I climb down to where the crate is hanging and see that the lines are tied onto a curved iron bar that's been hammered into the top of the crate. I think about trying to untie it, but then I risk falling. I see if there's a way to remove the iron bar, but again, I can't get a grip on it without the risk of falling. Oh, stuff it, I think, deciding to just break the top of the crate of. I grab onto the statue with both of my hands, pull my knees up to my chest and kick as hard as I can at the crate. The whole crate shakes and wobbles, but holds. I do it again and I hear the wood crack, but it still holds. One more time, I think. One more time should do it. I kick at it one last time and the top the crate breaks off with a loud, satisfying snap, to land down below me in one piece, minus the top.
From here I can see bottled water, cans of food, first aid kits and various other things that we need to survive. I didn't bother to tell them what to do once the create comes down, mainly because we've been doing it for long enough to know what to do--grab a few cans of food, enough bottles of water to last until the next week, plus whatever medical stuff we might need to survive until the next weekly one. Everyone knows not to take more than they need: those who try to will be outed immediately and will end up walking away with less than everyone else.
I swing myself forwards, let go of the statue and land softly beside the crate with everyone's eyes on me, no one believing that I made the jump without breaking my legs. I'm just about to tell them to grab some supplies when someone yells, "Look!" while pointing up at the huge television screen. I turn and on the screen that has suddenly come alive I see... myself.
It's me in front of the video game store that was near my school before the Event destroyed it and everything else in a six block radius. I realise that it's a recording and the time in the top right-hand corner shows that it was the day of the Event. It clearly shows accepting a roll of notes from someone that's been blacked out before that person leaves. It than shows me opening a package on the bench behind on-screen me and taking out this strange sphere thing before the video cuts out. It plays twice more before the screen goes dark again. Shocked silence follows as everyone realises what it means.
Gareth is the first to break the silence. "Eric. Did you... did you cause the Event?" he asks me hesitantly.
"No!" I immediately replay. Even though I can't remember the faintest detail from that day, I'm convinced that I would never do anything like that, especially for money. But then I start to doubt it. They did find me at ground zero after all, smack in the middle of the crater formed by the explosion. Did I do it? I ask myself, but I shake the doubt off. Even if I would do--and that's a big if-- I wouldn't do it if there was even the slightest chance that my family would get hurt.
The crowd doesn't seem to think so though. The trigger-happy man approaches me and clocks me over the head with the butt of his gun. "My wife died in that explosion," he growls out between clenched teeth at me, but loud enough for everyone to hear.
My brother shoves him back, trying to protect me. "Back off!" he snarls. "Don't forget who saved you from the Reapers. Without him, more of you would have died."
"Without him, none of us would have died," the man shoots back. "This is all his fault. Without him, the Event wouldn't have happened; the quarantine wouldn't be in place and we would all be alive!"
The crowd behind him cheered, turning against us. Someone picked up a rock and throw it at us, which was quickly followed by another, and another, until there was a hailstorm of objects and insults being thrown at us.
I try to stay calm, yelling out to them to stop while Gareth and I shielded Mum and Lewis from the worst of it. I see a stone fly past us like it was in slow motion and see it strike Lewis on the forehead and open up a wound, blood trickling down into his eyes. His screams rise above those of the crowds' and fill my ears, until I can't hear anything else.
I feel a sudden pressure build up in my head until it felt like it'll burst unless I let it out, like a rushing river relentlessly pounding against a dam wall. Guided by some primal instinct, I open the flood gates in my mind and let the river of energy rush through my body to my raised hands held up in front of me and pushed. Everything and everyone in front of me goes flying backwards, like they were pushed by an invisible force.
I stare at my hands, shocked at what I just did. "What the--?" I whisper to myself. I look over at Gareth. "What's happening to me?" I ask him, scared.
He puts his hand on my shoulder and looks me in the eyes, concern filling his. "I don't know," he says, "but, whatever it is, I promise that we will work through it together."
The crowd has gotten back up and someone yells, "He's a freak!" and starts throwing stones at us again. The hailstorm of objects starts up again, this time with renewed vigour.
I see a few people aim their guns at us and Gareth must have seen to, because he grabs mine and Mum's hands and yells, "Run!" pulling us forwards. He rams into the crowd, bowling everyone in front of him over and creating a path for us. He leads us out of the park and into the streets, taking random turns, trying to lose the crowd that has given chase.
We were running past an alleyway that was steeped in shadows despite the bright day when I felt someone grab me and pull me in. A hand covers my mouth, preventing me from screaming. I struggle and squirm, trying to break free, believing that the crowd has caught up to me. "Stop struggling," I hear a feminine voice whisper in my ear. "We're trying to help." It is then that I actually look around and see the others being held as well, one for Mum and Lewis; one for Gareth. I look out into the street and see myself and my family run past, followed shortly by the crowd.
I turn and look at the girl holding me. "Who are you?" I ask suspiciously.
"Everything will be revealed soon," she says mysteriously, releasing me. "For now, just follow."
She turns and starts climbing up the wall. Mum and Lewis are being helped up by the others. I look at Gareth and shrug. We climb up the wall after them, putting our lives in their hands.
"So, where are we going?" I ask the mystery girl as we sprint across rooftops once again. Gareth is lagging behind with Mum, while I'm following just behind the mystery girl, with the other two bringing up the front and the rear.
"Back to base," she responds without looking back.
"Which is where?"
"You'll find out when we get there." I can hear a smile in her voice.
"Why not just tell me where if we're heading there anyway?"
"Because our leader might not accept you."
"If that's true, than isn't letting us see the way a bit of a risk?"
"How do you know this is the way?"
I have no answer for that. Instead I ask, "So, you're a freak too?" I pause for a moment. "For a lack of a better word, that is," I quickly add, not wanting to offend her.
She laughs at that. "Yes, for a lack of a better word, I'm a freak as well. And, for your information there is a better word for it."
"You'll know after you meet our leader."
Knowing that I won't get an answer for that, I ask, "What's your power? Or can't you tell me that either?"
She laughs again. "That I can tell you. My power is to create illusions."
She sighs. "The ability to make others see what isn't really there."
"Ah. Like when I saw my doppelganger run past."
"Yep, like that."
"What's your name, anyway?"
"Can't tell you that--"
"Hold up," I interrupt her. "Let me guess. You can't tell me that until we meet your leader. Correct?"
"Right on the nose," she laughs.
"In that case, I'll just call you Illusion Girl until I find out what it is."
She laughs again. "Don't," she snorts.
"Would you prefer Ig?"
"Yeah. Igdini. Like Houdini, the famous magician. Just with an Ig instead of a Hou.
"Those are terrible nicknames," she manages to choke out between giggles.
"Do you want me to go back to Illusion Girl, then?"
"Out of those options than, yes, Illusion Girl would be fine."
We travelled the rest of the way in comfortable silence.
Eventually, we reach our destination. It is a massive building that takes up at least a block, is fifteen storeys high at a minimum, with no other buildings in the area being taller than it, and has no windows or doors that I can see; only smooth, thick walls made out of grey stone which are impossible to climb. The building has no roof over it, instead being open to the elements. There's a small, square structure that is built on top of the far wall which looks like a guard tower. The whole thing is a fortress.
"Wow," I say, speechless.
"Yeah, it's pretty impressive, isn't it?" Illusion Girl says, preening like a peacock over it.
"I'll say. But how come I've never seen this before? I mean, it's the biggest thing around."
"You're only seeing it because I want you to see it. If not, it'll look like this." She waves her hand, for theatrics most likely, and the whole building simmers for a moment before it changes appearance to look like a series of dilapidated, low-laying buildings that would have been more at home in the slums. She waves her hand again and it changes back.
"How do we get in?"
"See that?" She points to the guard tower.
"We have someone stationed in there at all times. Whoevers in there will lower a rope for us to climb up."
"Why is this area deserted?"
"When we made this place our home, we blocked off all paths leading into the area except the rooftops, where, as you can see, there's nowhere to hide; so it's impossible to sneak up on us."
Out of questions, I jump off the rooftop, Illusion Girl and her friends copying me, while Mum, Lewis and Gareth took the safer route. Once they caught up, Illusion Girl takes the lead and heads to the wall the guard tower is situated on, where there's a pipe trailing down the wall, with the bottom end curving outwards at about head height and the top end going into the guard tower.
Illusion Girl says into the pipe, "Let the rope down, it's me."
"Hey, sweet lips. What's shaking?" comes the response, rumbling down the pipe.
Illusion Girl winces, clearly recognising the voice. "Hey Ted," she sighs. "Can you please let the rope down?"
"Sure, if you give me a kiss once you get up here." Even through the pipe, I could hear the smile in Ted's voice.
Illusion girl mumbles to herself, "Want to play like that, eh?" To Ted she says sweetly, "Sure, I'll give you a kiss." She pauses for a second before adding in a scream that surely sent the poor guy's ears ringing, "After I shove my hand down your throat, pull your small intestines out and use them to choke the life out of you!"
"Um, uh, no that... that's okay," Ted stutters. "No kiss required, none at all. The rope's coming right now." "Yeah, that's what I thought," she says into the pipe before pushing away and climbing the rope. She pauses a quarter of the way up when she realises we're not following. "You guys coming or what?" she asks, like she didn't lose her cool just before.
Snapping out of my shock I grab onto the rope and say, "Remind me not to piss you off," as I start to climb, the others just below me.
She flashes a smile down to me. "I'm not just a pretty face, you know."
When we reach the top of the wall, I realise just how big the building is for the first time. Before, I only saw it from ground level, but now that I'm looking down on it, I see that it is much bigger than just one block as I first thought. It's so big that not even the Event could have fully destroyed it. In the distance, on the wall opposite to me, I can make out another guard tower, as well as two more stationed on the remaining two walls. The wall I'm standing on is easily wide enough to fit two, maybe three, large bedroom in. There are two parallel walls, which are just as wide as the one I'm standing on, stretching from my wall to the opposite one, as well as another two connecting the other walls, separating the inside of the building into nine, equal sized courtyards, each of them being about the size of a block. The three closest to me have torn up dirt for floors, while the one right in the middle of the base has what looks like a stage.
After I take all of this in, I turn and ask Illusion Girl, "How are we going to get down?"
"Like this," she says, and to my shock, takes a step forwards and drops down. I rush forward and peer over the edge, with Gareth at my side, expecting to see her mangled body splattered on the ground, but there she is, alive and well on the ground, waving up to me. I look at Gareth and he looks at me for a moment before he bursts out laughing.
"Well, that was unexpected," he says.
"I'll say." We stand there for a moment in silence.
"So," Gareth says, "are you going to follow her?"
"What? Are you crazy? I'll break my neck if I try to do that."
"Yeah, and she's had a lot more practice than me as well."
"So? That doesn't mean you can't do it too."
"Doesn't mean I should either. Besides, how are you and Mum going to get down?"
"Don't worry, we'll be fine." He then puts his hand on my back and pushes.
Taken off guard, I easily topple over the edge. Thinking on--uh, off--my feet, I quickly position myself so that my shoulder hits the ground first, followed by my back as I roll forwards and smoothly end up back on my feet.
"What took you so long?" Illusion Girl asks me with a cheeky smile.
"Oh, shut up," I grunt.
Once everyone had gotten down, with a little help from a rescue trampoline for Gareth, Mum and Lewis, Illusion Girl led us inside and through a corridor made of the same stone as the outside. It twists and turns, with offshoots leading upwards, downwards and to the sides showing up intermittently, has great, solid, wooden doors inserted in both sides of the walls, is wide enough for several people to comfortable walk side by side down it, and bright, fluorescent lights, like the ones you find in schools, line the ceiling, bathing the corridor in harsh, white light. In fact, it's the first sign of electricity I've seen since soon after the quarantine.
"How do you guys still have electricity?" I ask Illusion Girl.
"We have someone who can produce it," she answers. "As his power, I mean. Stay away from wall sockets though--he's a little prankster. He likes to get the new comers."
"Gotcha," I say. "Stay away from wall sockets." We continued the rest of the way in silence.
Eventually, we reach a heavy wooden door flanked by two huge, heavily built guys that looked like they could rip me in half with their bare hands. They raised their assault rifles at us as we approached, but they quickly lowered them, the one on the left clearly recognising Illusion girl because he left his post and knocked her over--like an overenthusiastic puppy jumping on their owner after being left alone all day--and she disappeared into him.
"Hey, Sis," I hear his muffled voice say, "welcome back. What took you so long? You were gone nearly all day. I was starting to get worried."
"Sorry, bro," Illusion Girl says, breaking away from his embrace, "but were ran into some complications at the supply drop. Our source was correct. The Reapers did attack." She then tells him how she was about to intervene when she saw Gareth drop and decided to see how it played out instead. She then told him everything else that happened up until, only leaving out the incident with Ted.
As she was telling them this, I kept on glancing between them, barely believing that they are brother and sister, with Illusion girl being small and petite with long, flowing black hair and Mini Hulk filling half the corridor with his bulk, his head nearly scraping the ceiling, his blonde hair just too long to be called stubble. All he was missing to complete the Hulk look was green skin and purple shorts.
When Illusion Girl finished, Mini Hulk turned and looked at me. "So," he rumbles, "you want to see the boss?"
"I wouldn't say want, but yeah, I'll like to see him, if for nothing else than to just get some answers."
"A simple yes would have done," he sighs, "but whatever. Hand 'em over."
"Um, hand what over?"
"Your weapons," he says, indicating my AK and pistol. "No weapons are allowed inside."
"Oh, those. Sorry, I've become so accustomed to carrying them with me; I completely forgot that I had them. Here." I hand them over and his friend steps away from the door, allowing me to go through. "Thank you. Come on, guys," I say over my shoulder as I move forwards, only to have Mini Hulk block the way.
"Not them," he says. "Just you."
"What?" I say, not believing what I'm hearing. "No way. Either we all go or none of us go."
"Sorry. The boss only wants to see you, no one else."
"Then we're leaving." I turn and start walking away, the others following.
"Wait!" Mini Hulk calls out. "You can go through, all of you," he says, defeated.
I walk back and say, "Thank you," as I go past, Gareth handing over his weapons before we go inside, as one.