by Emerys Grey
Aimee is taken hostage by an Ayakashi Warlord and plunged into an unbelievable adventure.
Chapter 2 - Abandoned
Dedicated to Brooke, may your sweet character and strength take you to greatness.
Aimee screamed and rocketed up in bed. Her stomach convulsed almost immediately. She twisted to the side, reaching blindly for the trash bin by the side of the bed. Most of her small supper made it inside.
Thank god for small favors.
She shook and wiped her mouth with a hand. The sweat coating her body chilled in the cool air, making her shiver. Her body flushed hot then cold as she hung her head over the side of the bed and panted.
“Oh my god.” She groaned.
Jeez, she hated these dreams.
She’d dreamed about bloodshed several times before. It had been horrible. But watching somebody actually get cooked alive and eaten, “What the fuck?”
She rubbed the grit out of her eyes and wished she could just hole up in her apartment with a fuzzy blanket and a tub of ice cream. She felt like she’d been run over by the H -Trac. Her head throbbed and sharp aches shot down her neck, a steady pain pooling at the base of her head.
She jumped almost a foot in the air as her alarm finally went off. It blared right next to her head, turning the headache into a splitting pain.
Aimee slammed a hand at it blindly, pressing the other against her aching head. Why the hell didn’t you go off sooner! Stupid thing.
Her random flapping knocked the poor alarm clock off the table. It jerked on its cord, the bottom cracking and breaking off. It hung, swaying a few inches above the wreckage.
Aimee blinked at the ruins of one of the few things she’d been able to bring with her from her life before.
Damn it. She winced and stood up carefully.
There was no saving it. Sadness, even over something as sentimental as an old alarm clock, pricked at her. Lips thinning, she stood and placed it neatly in the trash.
She’d have to find another one tonight.
She stumbled to the bathroom.
Her apartment was one big room with weird faded blue-green walls left by the previous tenants. The cheap paint was already pealing, the walls pitted from ill repair. The scared wood floors were dark and a tiny kitchen with aging appliances sat in one corner. There was a small tan couch and coffee table she’d gotten secondhand near the front door. Her bed sat in a nook facing the kitchen with an old computer stand she’d found in the trash acting as a nightstand. The door to the bathroom was between the “living room” and kitchen.
She grabbed one of the little bottles of orange juice she’d brought home from work yesterday. The aged fridge was mostly empty. Aside from the rice, cereal, and pop corn, almost all the food she’d been able to get had been expired food from work.
Since the government had abandoned this district two years ago most grocery stores had been spottily stocked at best. Only three gas stations were left and only the larger restaurants and business where still open.
Those businesses had been forced to make deals with the U.S. military in order to get what few shipments they could through. And with her small income Aimee could only buy the basics, maybe splurge once or twice a month on something expensive like treats or eating out.
With no one else to turn to, the gangs had taken over. Despite the higher prices they charged they’d been able to get regular shipments in when no one else could.
They made deals with business owners, bought or started many stores and business people needed to survive, and gave jobs to anyone who asked. When many of the apartment building owners had abandoned their residents, turning their utilities off and abandoning them the same as the government, the gangs had bought the buildings. The rent was high but even Aimee could find something affordable.
They even started a police force when crimes and looting went wild. They were made up of mostly residents who’d needed a job and suited the position. While they were forced to turn a blind eye to the gangs wrong-doings, they kept the peace and looked out for the residents well enough.
The only area the gangs didn’t rule was Uptown. It was largely a residential area with restaurants and entertainment centers. Most of its population had been retired or extremely wealthy. They were largely arrogant and considered themselves above the residents in the Lower Town.
Many of the old Uptown residents had joined together to form the Alliance. They pooled their wealth and resources and ran Uptown.
It still looked much the same as it did before. Clean streets and window fronts, all the street lights and lamps worked, manicured landscaping, and even decorations put up on holidays. Most of the restaurants, stores, and even the movie theater were kept running exactly the same as before.
Whether through money or under-the-table deals with friends outside the blockade they’d been able to keep much the same life as before. They had their own private police force — stoic and obvious mercenaries brought in from who knew where. Aimee often wondered how so many had made it past the barricades. They protected only the Uptown residents and enforced only one simple rule: the gangs stayed out of Uptown, and workers were allowed to pass between the Lower Town and Uptown in peace.
That was the only reason Aimee hadn’t had to join a gang for a job. Two years ago she’d been in college, working part time at a coffee house in Uptown. It was a large enough chain and favorited enough amongst the residents that they’d managed to keep it open. The company sent them shipments weekly, most of which made it through, and paid them in cash hidden in those shipments. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to live on.
Aimee twisted the top off the orange juice and gulped it down in one slow go. She ignored the view outside the widow as she let the early morning sunlight warm her skin.
When the dimensions had fallen, entire cities and parts of continents had been crushed by parts of the Ayakashi Territories that had fallen from their dimension into Earth’s. Millions of lives had been lost, governments and countries destroyed.
The mix of high rises, historical brownstones and houses, mansions, other buildings, and parks she loved now looked bleak and abandoned. Blackened, broken wreckage surrounded the tall white walls of the Ayakashi city of Warlord Ayakoma Akio just three miles away. Many of the remaining parks had been turned into cemeteries for those whose bodies had been found or died in the coming months. None of the people who’d been in the areas where the Ayakashi Territories appeared had ever been found.
Aimee hated it.
When the dimensions had Fallen, the U.S. government had almost immediately abandoned the city. They’d raised barricades and fences. Armed soldiers shot anyone attempting to cross. Sealing them inside for the “protection of the rest of America”.
Thankfully, Warlord Ayakoma Akio had no desire to rule or enslave the humans surrounding his Territory. Unlike most of his brethren, who’d immediately stomped out the human governments and killed or enslaved the surrounding populations — some even eating them like cattle —, he ignored them.
He’d been in polite if useless negotiations with the U.S. government since The Fall.
News reports showed the U.S. ambassadors and negotiators as inept idiots. Aimee had to wonder how much of the U.S. government was left if these were the best they could send for negotiations.
Ayakoma always looked disinterested and remote.
She’d seen his image a few times on the news. Pale hair and hard, angular features, he looked like a cold winter or river god in beautifully colored kimonos or hakamas and armor. He never interacted with humans outside the U.S.’ negotiators. Seeming to disdain them.
It was a blessing as much as a curse. Aimee and the other District residents didn’t have to worry about being killed or eaten. But they’d also be left to starve or freeze to death before the American government opened the blockade to save them.