There were rumors that it’s coming, the end of the world. We had ten years of peace, or that is what we fooled ourselves into believing. I was one of those tricked into thinking that we were safe, that our lives would be forever easier, and I no longer had to look over my shoulder waiting for imminent death.
Boy, was I wrong.
Sitting outside on the porch my body lurched for the ground at the sound of gunshots ringing through the air. The sound was deafening, the smell of smoke burned my nostrils and my eyes watered. A knot formed in my stomach and my throat, making it impossible to voice the words that I wanted. Braxton, run.
I didn’t know why my concern was more for him than myself. Maybe because I had years of practice with self-defense and training that my grandmother, Ainsley told me never to speak about.
I was special, treated with a drug that had given me abilities, and with that came responsibility to keep the world a safer place. A tamer place.
Lying across from me with his mop of dark hair and matching dark eyes, he looked afraid. There was a pool of blood against the cement and crimson stained his shirt. “Oh my—” the words didn’t follow as I gasped, out of breath. My stomach ached with nausea and the world around me spun violently out of control.
The men with vehicles, the ones firing bullets turned the corner, their wheels squealed and the smell of burned rubber mixed into the air with smoke. Within seconds they drove away after splattering a mess against our home, our village, killing our people. I didn’t have to ask who they were. There had been posters of the Anti-Establishment or the A.E. a closed fist their symbol on the bright orange and yellow papers hung in alleys and on street posts. The same orange fist was visibly marked on the side of their doors, their vehicles military grade. They grew stronger every day.
I swallowed the bile and tried not to worry about my own safety or myself. Braxton bled all over the concrete and the men that did this were gone. They were nothing more than cowards, shooting and running, leaving our people to die.
There was no one for me to call or shout out to for help. Our nearest neighbor wasn’t exactly friendly. They were an A.E. sympathizer. I didn’t dare look to see if bullets grazed their windows or door. I didn’t have time to survey the damage outside of what was right in front of me: Braxton.
“We need to get you inside,” I reached for Braxton’s arms, hoping that I could assist him and bring him into the cottage to treat his injuries. He bled from his chest or maybe his stomach, I couldn’t tell without raising his shirt where the bullet had entered his body. Blood seeped everywhere. The hospital was too far and likely the A.E. waited outside, prepared to shoot anyone looking for assistance.
The world had changed and not for the better.
He grunted, the pain etched in the corner of his eyes as he squinted and grimaced, attempting to stand on his feet. Sweat beaded his brow and dripped down his forehead as his skin turned ghastly.
A loud hum roared from down the block. They were coming back, probably with reinforcements.
“Inside, now!” My heart pumped as I bolted upwards, guiding Braxton off the cement and toward the front door. The doorknob wasn’t locked but it did get hit with a bullet, making it inoperable. I inwardly cursed, using my shoulder as I pushed with my weight, attempting to break the handle free and force the door open.
It didn’t budge.
The engine of the approaching vehicle grew louder and with it shouts and screams. This time not from bullets but something vile. A woman’s cry for help from down the block. I glanced over my shoulder and could see the men dragging her by her hair. Her face was covered in a smear of blood. Had they shot her or was it when they approached and beaten her into submission? She kicked and screamed, refusing to do as told. Two other men grabbed her by the legs, their hands rough as they lifted her with ease and carried her away from her house. My hands trembled. I was running out of time.
Braxton was without words, his breathing heavy, slightly erratic as he stood and swayed, leaning against the door, his eyes shut.
Hang in there. I didn’t have the strength to voice what I was thinking. It took every ounce of energy to open the damned door.
I had but one chance, one quick moment. With Braxton soon to lose consciousness and the A.E. on our tails, there was little time left. I stared at the broken door handle, my blue eyes focused on the nuts and bolts, the screw that was jammed making the handle not turn and the door remained locked. Turn. It was a simple task but with the adrenaline coursing through me, my hands trembled and my stomach in knots, I had difficulty concentrating.
Olivia taught me so much about the abilities that I had from the injection of Mindonsiphan. She also made it quite clear that I was never to use those powers again. Not after the A.E. began their hunt for adroits, humans that were gifted from the effects of Mindonsiphan. The Anti-Establishment had named us and turned us into scapegoats, blaming us for the actions of our country.
The door handle took longer than it should to budge. My skills were quite rusty and had Olivia not made me fearful of using my talents, I would have been stronger.
“Adelaide,” Braxton’s voice was like honey, his muffled murmur of how he said my name. He sounded sleepy which made me even more frantic as I refused to meet his stare. My focus was solely on the lock. I heard the click and though I’m not sure it was loud enough for the average person to hear, I knew that it was open. With a slight shove the door gave and I guided Braxton inside. Had I unlocked it with my mind?
“Quick, we don’t have much time.” The roar of the engine outside hummed to life as the men drove down the block toward our house. I shut the door but not before they parked out front. We were screwed. There was no time to run and I couldn’t leave Braxton.
“Hide,” Braxton said. His voice rough and dry, his lips parched as blood dripped onto the wood floor.
“I’m not leaving you.” I didn’t care what he said or thought, if anyone had a chance of protecting themselves from the A.E., I was that person. The only problem was, Braxton had no idea of my abilities, and I wasn’t sure I had the strength or the knowledge to remember how to save both of us.
We didn’t make it but a few feet into the house when the front door came tumbling forward, a rush of four men dressed in black, with helmets and shields covering their faces, armor against their chests protecting them from assault forced their way into my home. Black machine guns were nestled in their gloved hands, pointed at the two of us. They towered above us, making us feel small and inadequate. We had no weapons, only ourselves to use and I wasn’t sure that I could fight off four men alone.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and inhaled a shaky breath. Run. I wished for the briefest of moments that Braxton could hear my thoughts. It was a rare chance that he had been given Mindonsiphan. Not once had he displayed any abilities or told me of his powers. Then again, I hadn’t exactly opened up to him about what I used to be capable of either. Didn’t everyone keep some secrets? Wasn’t it better that way?
“Get out of here!” Braxton said, shouting at the men as he leaned against the kitchen table. He was unsteady at best, probably attempting to hide his injury that was blatant for all to see. Were they after both of us? I had only seen them drag the woman from the down street, but that hadn’t meant they wouldn’t have abducted anyone else in the home as well. Had she been alone?
My eyes darted past the front door. There was no chance I could escape through the conventional method. The windows were locked and our backdoor was too far, yet my only choice. I turned and ran, my legs pumping as I tore through the air, trying to move faster than humanly possible. My calves instantly ached with a fierce burn. My hope was that with the Mindonsiphan I could bend time, move before the men could catch up to me.
A shot of pain seared against my neck, pinching my skin, traveling down to my toes and through my fingers, tingling and forcing me to slowly collapse onto the ground. Paralyzed. I wasn’t lucky enough to make the Mindonsiphan work inside of my body. I had failed Braxton and I’d ruined my one chance at survival. The A.E. were men not to be messed with, they were fierce, dangerous, and without regard for human life.
“No!” Braxton shouted and though I could hear him wrestling the men, trying to protect me, it was no use. His injuries would make it impossible for him to save me. It would take more than a miracle to escape and as I lay on the ground, the image playing out in slow motion, all I could do was watch the unthinkable.
My lips moved, my voice not yet gone but the rest of me was like lead, unable to lift my arms or legs. “I love you.” I didn’t care who heard my declaration of affection for Braxton. I needed him to know that my feelings for him weren’t solely friendship. We had never crossed that line, but I had loved him. Had he loved me in return?
My eyes were heavy and it felt as though they had been weighted, making it impossible to keep them open. Unable to fight the men, no matter how hard I tried, they lifted me with ease and carried me to their truck outside.
“It’s worse than we thought with this one,” a gruff male voice said.
I couldn’t speak, even if I wanted to.
“Love.” A second voice followed suit and snorted, sounding rather disgusted. “This is why we have to act quickly. Women are susceptible to the adroit influence. There is no place for love in our world. It destroys society.”
The squeak of a door interrupted their discussion. I assumed they were opening the back of their truck. Were there others that had been subdued as well? My eyes would not open, but I continued to hear every word spoken. Did they know I could hear what they said?
“She’s pretty and young, probably fertile. I’d bet my rent she gets sent to the camps.”
“At least she’s not adroit,” the other man said, his voice gruff and raspy. “That’d be a death sentence.”