Tag Archives: dystopian

Diaspora: The Scattered (Section Four)

The forest had lost all of the appeal that it had had the night before.  The shine that had been there when I had been on the hunt, the magic, had dissipated into the air along with the smoke.  

“We should stay along the river,” I said quietly.  “Most societies build close to a water source.  If we are going to find another Enclave, that’s where it would be.”

“She’s right,” Four agreed, trudging on ahead.

We got to the water’s edge, close to where I had hidden the doe much earlier that morning.  I bent down and splashed the cool water on my face, wiping off some of the grime from the fire.  The grime of death.

“Are you okay now?” Ven asked.

I shrugged.  “As okay as I can be, I suppose.  I thought that Nine and I would always look after each other.  I thought that she would always be there for me.  And now she’s gone, and it’s all my fault….and I have to find her.”

“We will,” he said, taking up my hand that wasn’t holding the bow.  “We’ll find both of them.”

“How can you be so sure?”  We trailed down the path after Four, hand in hand.  

“I just am.  Sometimes, I just know things.  This is one of those things.  I know that we’re going to find them.”

Somewhere far in the distance, the sounds of bird calls drifted down to us through the trees.  “We should catch something to eat,” Four said, slowing down.  He pointed at the bow.  “Are you any good with that thing?”

I remembered the doe.  “I killed a deer earlier.  I hid it in the rocks up ahead, because it was too huge to haul back by myself.  That’s where I was when….”  I couldn’t finish the thought.

“Well I would say good for you….under any other circumstances….but….” Ven stammered.

“I know,” I said.  “But if it can help us now….”

The three of us crept towards the rocks and peered behind them.  The doe was still there, stuffed into the makeshift hiding place.  Four took a step back.  “I’m going to start a fire.  Ven, do you have a knife?”

Ven nodded.

“Good,” replied Four. He knelt on the ground and swept together a pile of leaves, sifting through them to make sure that they were all dry.  Producing a lighter from his back pocket, he struck it until there was a flame and then set the pile ablaze.  “Hand me a couple of rocks,” he ordered, pointing at the pile.  

Ven and I scrambled around, bringing him a pile of smaller stones from around the base of the outcropping.  He used them to make a ring around the flames, trapping them in one area.

Standing up, he brushed his hands together.  “Now, let’s go get that deer.”

*

We walked for three days along the river before we saw any signs of other civilizations.  The first thing that I spotted, from a distance, was their fire.  “Ven,” I whispered, tugging on his sleeve.  “Look!”  I pointed in the direction of the flames.

Four and Ven both stopped dead in their tracks.  “Fire,” Ven said.

“Friendly fire, or enemy fire?” asked Four at exactly the same time.

I pushed ahead of both of them, exasperated.  “Come on, guys.  Let’s just go check it out.”

I was the first of the three of us to step out of the cover of the forest, and I was met with a knife directly in my face for my trouble.  A little boy, no more than five or six, held a knife above his head pointed right at my face.  “State your business here,” he whispered.

I heard Four draw his own knife out of its sheath somewhere behind me.  “Don’t hurt her. We’re from Enclave number seventeen,” he told the boy.  “We’ve been compromised, and we’re seeking shelter.”

The boy lowered the knife slightly.  “What sort of compromise?”

“We were invaded,” Four replied.  “They took two women and killed everyone else.  We escaped and came in search of help.”

The boy dropped the knife altogether.  “I can take you to our leader.  He’s my dad.”

When Four didn’t respond, I said, “That would be really great of you if you could help us out.”

The boy stepped back slightly and indicated that we should follow him.  “Welcome to Enclave Five.”

As we moved forward into their complex, it occurred to me that I had never really given much ponderence to the existence of other Enclaves like ours.  I knew that they had to be out there, that we couldn’t be the only ones.  But to actually see another society was mildly jarring.  

The door to the complex was amazing–two giant slabs of ornately carved stone that swung outward when the little boy pressed his thumb onto some sort of touch screen device on the wall.  

“Whoa,” Ven said, watching the doors slide apart.

The little boy did not reply, but rather pushed through and kept on walking.  As we moved down the corridor, the people that we passed acknowledged the little boy by way of bowing in his general direction–and there seemed to be a great deal more people than had been at our Enclave.  The fact that his father was the Enclave leader would make him very important.  We reached yet another beautifully carved door, and the little boy raised one hand and gave it a single knock.

“Come in,” came the voice from within.

The boy swung the door open.  It was much lighter than the main doors had seemed to be.  A man was seated at the desk, rifling through some papers by the light of a lantern.  “Father,” the boy said, “These people are from Enclave seventeen.  They seek our assistance.”  The way that he talked so formally made him sound much older that he actually was.  He sounded nothing like I thought a little boy of his age should sound, like he was a forty year old in a five year old’s body.

“Okay, Sixty Three,” he said.  “I’ll take it from here.”  He waved a hand towards the door as a ways of dismissing his son.

Sixty Three…that meant that he was the sixty third person born into the Enclave.  Our Enclave had had all of twenty people, and most of them were not yet of adult age.  Sixty three….that seemed unfathomable.  

“Have a seat,” the man said, waving at the stone bench that was in front of his desk.  “My name is One,” he introduced himself, “and I am the leader of Enclave five.  You are…?”

I spoke up first.  “I am Thirteen, and this is Four and Eleven,” I replied, pointing to each of them respectively.  

“What can we do for you?”  One’s tone was not impolite, but it also lacked any signs of warmth or friendship.

“We are seeking assistance,” Four piped in.  “Our Enclave has been destroyed by the Others.  They kidnapped two of our citizens, and slaughtered everybody else.  We want to try and get our people back; we want to try and save them.”

One thought for a second before responding, “That’s preposterous.  You have no hope of fighting back against them on your own.”

“That is why we’ve come to you,” Four said quietly, with the slightest bow of his head.  “You hold the resources that we now lack.”

“What makes you think that we’ll help you?”

“Because they’re people too.  Just like you.  We are all people,” I replied.

He took another moment before asking, “Who are these people, that they are so important to you?”

“My wife,” Four replied.

“And my….sort of mother.  It’s complicated,” I added.

One sighed.  “It is not our policy to get involved in matters with the Others if we can possibly avoid it.  It’s how we manage to stay so prosperous.”

“We were prosperous too,” I argued.  “We stayed out of the way of the Others.  We didn’t get involved.”

“Thirteen,” Ven said softly, laying a hand on my shoulder.

“No!” I snapped, shoving his hand away.  “This isn’t right!”  To One I added, “It isn’t right for you not to help us.”

“We can provide you food, shelter, and resources,” he told us.  “But beyond that, we can not afford to get involved.  You are welcome to anything here.  But we will not go with you.  We can not afford to take that risk.”

“Let’s just go have a meal and think about what we’re going to next,” Four said quietly.  “We may as well take advantage of what they will offer us.”

One snapped his fingers over his head and whistled.  “Sixty Three!”

The little boy came scurrying back in from the corridor.  “Yes, Father?”

“Would you be so kind as to show these fine warriors to the dining area?”

“Certainly, Father.”  He pointed back the way we had come.  “Come, follow me.”

As we walked down the corridor, we took in the scene around us.  “This is an artist’s Enclave,” Ven said, pointing at one of the many paintings that lined the walls.  “The artwork is so beautiful.  I’ll bet they make all of their money in trade.  That’s how they have so many people.  They never really have to go outside their walls.”

Sixty Three pointed up ahead.  “That painting is one of mine.”

We came to a stop in front of it.  “This is amazing,” I told him.  I was struck by the fact that he was so young and was fulfilling the needs of his society already, while I was several years older than him and had yet to fulfill mine.  

“It will be quite valuable.  Father says that it could fetch at least six head of deer.”

“Wow,” Ven murmured.  “That’s more than I bag in a week.”

We followed Sixty Three through a doorway and into what was obviously the dining room.  “Oh my,” I exclaimed, taking in the scene.  The walls were lined with gas powered lanterns, and there was a plethora of different types of food in a buffet-like arrangement in the center of the room.  

“That is an amazing amount of food,” Four agreed.  

The three of us loaded up our plates with as much food as we dared, and then settled in at one of the great stone tables.  I took a bite of the meat.  It could almost be called delicate, it was so delectable after days of eating almost nothing.  It melted right in my mouth.  “This is delicious,” I mumbled around my mouthful of goodness.

“Some sort of lamb, I think,” Ven responded around his own mouthful.  “It’s amazing.”

We remained silent for the rest of the meal, chewing with earnest.  When I had finished, I laid my fork down across my plate and stared at the guys.  “What are we going to do now?  How are we going to get them back?”

“Maybe we should just take whatever we can get from here and head out after them,” Four said.  “This might be the only society we find.  And we don’t want to head too far in the wrong direction.”

Ven looked down at his plate and mumbled something that I couldn’t quite make out.

“What?” I asked.

“I said, maybe we should just stay here,” he repeated.  “I mean, they have it good here.  And what’s the point?  They’re probably already dead.”

I burst into tears and shoved back from the table, away from both of them.  “How could you say that?  How could you even think it?  Sure, maybe they are gone.  But we don’t know that.  We won’t know anything unless we go looking.”

“I just….I don’t know if it’s worth it.  I don’t know if it’s worth the risk,” Ven stammered.

“You’re just saying that because you didn’t lose anyone!  Just because nobody that you loved is gone, you think that you can just say whatever you want.  Well, you can’t.  It isn’t fair.”  I pushed the chair back and stood up.  “If you can’t see that, you might as well just stay here, and we can go on without you.”

When I said that, Four stood up too.  “Let’s go for a walk,” he told me.  To Ven, he said, “Think about it, brother.  Just think about it.”

Ven rested his chin in his hands, and Four and I turned and walked back out of the dining area.  We walked back into the corridor with all of the paintings, and stayed silent for several minutes.  Four broke the quiet by saying, “He’s just a kid.”

“So am I,” I spat.

“True that,” Four acknowledged. “But I believe that you’re much stronger than Eleven.  You’re stronger than anyone has given you credit for.”

“Thanks,” I said, “I think…”

He nodded, and we kept on walking until we reached a large area that appeared to be for some sort of training.  “This must be their area like our arena.”

“Yes,” he agreed.  “So much is the same, yet, so much is radically different.”

“My father says you can have anything you want,” said Sixty Three from behind us.  I hadn’t realized that he was following along.  “You can use any of our weapons.”

I walked up to the weapons rack and fingered an absolutely beautiful bow, carved out of some sort of red wood. “This is exquisite,” I said.

Four hefted a spear, tossing it up lightly to test it’s weight in his hand.  “I guess the arts thing carries over into crafting,” he responded offhandedly.  Taking another step forward, he came to a selection of gun weaponry.  “Oh my.”

“Have you ever fired one before?” asked Sixty Three.  When Four and both shook our heads no, he added, “It is quite simple, actually.  Much simpler than using a bow.”

I hugged my chosen bow protectively to my chest while still deciding which arrows to select for to fill the holder on my back.  “I like my bow.  Thanks though.”

Four, however, ran a hand over the guns with interest.  “Would you show me?” he asked the boy.  

Sixty Three nodded eagerly.  He picked up the gun.  “You put the magazine in here,” he said, loading the weapon.  Once it’s loaded, you point, click off the safety, and shoot.”

A loud booming sound echoed through the chamber, and the middle of a target some 500 feet away ripped to shreds.  “Whoa,” murmured Four. “That is somewhat awesome.”

“Somewhat?” I laughed, raising my eyebrows.  “More than somewhat.  Pretty damn cool.”

Sixty Three pushed something on the gun that made a long red beam appear out of nowhere.  “And this,” he said, “helps you aim if you don’t know how. You point the dot where you want the bullet to land, and then you shoot.  Easy.”

“Can I try it?” asked Four.  I could practically see the drool coming out of his mouth.

Sixty Three carefully passed him the gun.  I watched in awe as he leveled the red dot carefully at the target and then pulled the trigger. The momentum of the bullet blew the gun back against him slightly, and the bullet struck slightly off target.

“You have to account for the recoil,” Sixty Three explained.  “Make sure that you have a really strong grip.  Aim a tad lower.”

Four tried again and hit dead on in the center.  He stared down at the gun. “This little tool is quite amazing.  Why did we never have these?”

Nine would smack me if she knew I was even thinking about this, I thought to myself.  But she would want me to help her even if it was dangerous.  Wouldn’t she?  After a moment of thinking, I replied, “Personally, I think I still like the bow better.”  I hoisted it to loaded position, putting an arrow into nocks, and then raised it.  Aiming for the bullet hole that Four had left in the target, I drew back the string and let the arrow sail right through the hole and skid to the floor below.

“You’re quite good,” Sixty Three told me.

“I had very good teachers,” I replied nostalgically, suddenly wishing that Ven was with us.  To Four I asked, “Are you actually going to use that thing?”

He shrugged nonchalantly.  “I don’t see why not.  I mean, they have them.  Sort of gives them an unfair advantage if we don’t.”

“You’ll need this.”  Sixty Three pressed a box in Four’s hand.  “Ammo.”  At Four’s quizzical expression, he clarified, “Bullets.”

Four nodded.  “Got it.”

“Now,” the boy asked, “would like to spend the night?  We can give you beds for the evening.  Or you can move out now.  Whichever you prefer.”

Four and I exchanged a glance.  “I would rather enjoy sleeping in an actual bed.  It’s been a few days.”

“Me too, I suppose.  Lets do it.”

Sixty Three led us each to our own rooms.  Everything in mine was very plush, and I found that I didn’t really care anymore where Ven had decided to go.  I hadn’t realized that there were such radical differences in between Enclaves.  At home, in Enclave seventeen, my bed had been made of mostly stone.  Here, the beds were made of material that I had never seen before–both hard and soft at the same time.  There was a base of wood supporting the giant rectangle of strange fabric, and then a wide myriad of blankets and sheets draped across the top.  I changed into the clothes that had been laid out, feeling guilty at laying on the nice clean bed being as dirty as I probably was.  Crawling under the covers, I was passed out cold before another thought had the chance to cross my mind.

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Diaspora: The Scattered (Section Three)

I crouched down behind a tree, clutching my bow tightly against my chest.  How had this happened?  When had it happened?  I hadn’t been gone that long; it didn’t make any sense.  I took a single step forward, leaning out from behind the cover of the tree to see if I could make anything out.

A hand snaked out from behind me and covered my mouth before I could make a sound, dragging me back behind the tree and into the cover of the bushes.  I lashed out, the bow falling to the ground as I flailed with fists and kicked out with my feet, trying to score a blow against any exposed part of my assailant’s body.

“Knock it OFF!” a voice hissed.  “It’s me.  Quit it and be quiet!”

Recognizing Ven’s voice, I relaxed into his grasp.

“Are you okay now?” he whispered, so quietly that I could barely make out the words.  “If you aren’t going to scream, I’ll let you go.”

I nodded mutely, and he released me at once.

“Thank GOD you’re okay, Thirteen,” Ven hissed.  “I thought that you were still inside.”

“What happened?” I asked, pulling at his arm.  “We have to go back. We have to–”

“What we have to do is go,” he interrupted, turning me in the other direction, away from the Enclave.  “We have to go now.”

“No!” I cried.  “I’m not leaving!  I have to go back; I have to get in there!  Nine is inside!”

“We are going,” he ordered, tightening down so hard on my arm that it was sure to leave a bruise and hauling me further into the bushes.  “We have to get away before they find us.”

There was a loud booming sound somewhere behind us, and I peered back through the leaves to see more smoke billowing out of the door closest to us.  A man dressed all in black stumbled out of a new opening in the wall, then turned around to pull another man through the opening. They came spilling out, one after the other, and I had never seen any of them before.

“Who are they?” I whispered to Ven.

He held a finger to his lips to tell me to be quiet, and drew me further back into the brush.  His arm around me was confusing—I was scared, but at the same time I liked the way that it made me feel.  I liked the way that he made me feel.

The men trailed away in the other direction, disappearing under the cover of the forest’s trees.  I sat back against Ven for a moment, stunned into silence.  “What now?” I whispered, overwhelmed by the sheer number of intruders I had just seen flee into the woods.  “Do you think they’re all gone?”  I looked over my shoulder at him in time to see him shrug.

“I have no earthly idea,” he replied.

“I want to go back.  I want to go inside.”

“Let’s just wait a minute and see if any more come out.”

“How many WERE there?” I asked, aghast.

He shook his head.  “I don’t know.  There were so many.”

“What happened?” I asked again.

He sighed.  After a moment, he said, “We were eating breakfast.  They ran out of plates on the line, and I offered to go get some more.  I was in the supply room when they busted in.  I wanted to help; I wanted to do something.  But I heard what sounded like guns, a noise I haven’t heard since before the Great War.  And so I chickened out.  I dropped the plates and slipped out of the closet, and I ran.  I ran and I got out as soon as I could.  And then I found you. And here we are.”

“Here we are,” I repeated after him.  A few minutes later I whispered, “Do you think that it’s okay to go in now?”

“No one has come out,” he murmured.  “Which means they’re either hurt or hiding.  Or…”

“Don’t,” I said.  “Don’t even finish that thought.  And don’t be such a bloody coward.  We have to go back.”

I shrugged my way out of his grasp and pushed back through the brush towards the Enclave.  A few seconds later, he followed me.

“What are you going to do if you go in there?”

“I won’t know until I go in,” I told him, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

I walked down the path until I was up against the wall, and I tried to peer in through the hole.  I couldn’t see anything but smoke piles of crumbled brick.  No source of the fire, and no people.  I pulled back from the hole and followed Ven as he crept straight in through the door.

Reaching behind me, I clutched the bow and drew it forward, putting it to the ready just in case.  “Do you see anything?” I hissed.  “Anyone?”

“No,” he replied.  “Nothing yet.”

With my bow forward, I drew up beside him.  “Let’s go to where you saw everyone last.  Where you were eating.”

We moved down the hall together silently, stopped outside of the room.  The smoke was so thick that I had a hard time making anything out.  Before I could step into the room, Ven held out an arm and pushed me back.  “Don’t,” he choked out.  “Don’t go in there.”

“Why?” I asked.  “What is it?  What’s in there?”

His voice shook as he answered, “No one.  Not anymore.”

“What?” I cried out, pushing past him and into the eating area.

One, the leader of the Enclave, was slumped over in his seat, a single bullet wound right between his eyes.  His wife was on the ground next to him, and she had fared no better.  There were bodies all over, at every single table.  Men, women.  Children.

It felt like someone had taken my lungs and squeezed all of the air out of them.  A single tear trickled down my cheek as I whispered, “They’re dead.  Everyone here is dead.”

“Let’s go,” Ven said, resting a hand on my shoulder.

“What if Nine is here?  I have to know.”

“She isn’t here,” a voice came from behind an overturned table.  Slowly, carefully, Four stood up from within his makeshift hiding place.  “When they came, she wasn’t here.”

“Well where IS she?” I cried.  “Why isn’t she here?  We have to FIND her!”  Pushing away from the men, I tucked the bow under my arm and took off down the corridor at as fast of a clip as I could in the smoky darkness.

“Thirteen, wait!” Ven called after me.  “Stop!”

I pounded down the hallway until I reached our room, wrenching around the corner and falling down to my knees.  She wasn’t there.  She wasn’t under the bed, she wasn’t in the closet.  She wasn’t anywhere in the room.

I struck my fists against the concrete floor in frustration.  I had left her.  I had had something to prove, and I left.  And then everything fell apart.  The entire world had disintegrated.

“Thirteen,” Ven whispered, grabbing my fists before they could hit the concrete again.  “Stop.  Just stop.  This isn’t helping anybody.”

“It’s all my fault,” I moaned, sinking back onto my butt.  I remembered sitting in the same place less than a day earlier, watching Nine folding the laundry.  “This is all my fault.”

“How do you figure?” he asked gently.  “You weren’t even here.”

“Exactly,” I answered grimly.

“You couldn’t have stopped them,” he told me.  “There was nothing that you could have done.”

That didn’t make me feel any better.  “I have to find her.  I have to know whether or not she’s okay.”

“I think they took her.”  Four came up behind us.  “I think they took Nine and Six.”

“Your wife?” I asked, looking over at him.

He nodded.  “There was commotion in the hall. I heard women’s voice.  And I haven’t seen them.  So I think….”  His voice trailed off.

“What do we do?” Ven asked.  “Do you think we could go after them by ourselves?  There were so many. What’s our best bet?”

Four held his hands out helplessly.  “I would say that our best bet is to strike out and try and find the next Enclave.  See if they have men to help us.  We can’t compete against their arsenal, or their power.  Not by ourselves.  It would be more dangerous to the girls.”

“But what if something happens before we get there?  What if they kill them?”

“What if we rush after them now and we get killed ourselves?  Who’s going to help them then?”

I shook my head. After a moment I sighed, “So, where do we go?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he shrugged.  “I suppose that any direction we head in we’re bound to run in to something eventually.  Question is whether that something will be good or bad.”

“Guys, we should get out of here,” Ven said.  “This place is a loss.  It’s going to crumble down around us.”

I accepted the hand that he offered and let him help me to my feet. Reaching back down, I scooped up the bow and clutched it to my chest.  “Fine then.  Let’s get out of here.”  All that I knew was that I had to find her.

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Diaspora: The Scattered (Section Two)

“I’m ready,” I informed Nine, leaning against the door frame.  “I was practicing in the arena again today, with the targets.  I’m definitely ready.” 

“I disagree,” she replied without looking up from the laundry that she was folding.  

“You haven’t even seen me!” I protested.  “Ven agrees with me!  He says that I’m ready for anything.”

Nine slammed a shirt down on top of the pile before looking up at me.  “Ven would say anything just to be with you.  You know that that man adores you.”

I shook my head.  “I have no idea what you mean.”

She laughed, “Thirteen, he has a ridiculous crush on you.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Think what you want.  But we’re just friends.”

“Okay,” she nodded, obviously not meaning it.  She sank back so that she was sitting next to the clothes instead of kneeling.  “So, tell me about your target shooting today.  Stationary?”

I shook my head.  “No.  Well, I mean, I did those too.  But I can hit dead center in the middle of the moving targets.  I could kill any animal.  You just have to give me the chance to try.  If I’m going to change things, if I’m going to go out and help and make things better, then I have to just do it.  You have let me.  There are no fairy tale godmothers in this world who are going to come and save us.  We have to provide for ourselves.”

“You have a very mature outlook for someone your age.”

“You aren’t that much older than me,” I reminded her, as I did on a regular basis.  

“Point taken,” she responded.  “I could watch you,” she murmured.  “I guess.  See what you can do.  Once I recommend you…” Her voice trailed off.

“Then I’d be a provider.”

“I don’t see why not.”

“Can we go now?”  I could barely stop myself from bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet like a little kid in the candy store.  

“How about tomorrow morning instead?  I’m really tired.”

“Come on,” I whined.  “Please?”

With a smile she reached under the bed and dragged her shoes out.  “I suppose,” she replied.

“Okay, lets go!” I exclaimed a bit to excitedly.  I yanked Nine to her feet the instant that she had gotten her shoes on.  Before she could change her mind, I hauled her out into the corridor and dragged her towards the arena.  

When we arrived, I grabbed my chosen bow and arrows while she messed around with some of the targets.  “There,” she pointed, indicating a stationary target about two hundred feet away.  “Try that one first.”

“Easy,” I replied, loading the arrow and sending it flying without much thought.  It landed a hair off center, but still extremely close.  I had been a little too cocky.

“Not bad,” Nine acknowledged.

“I could do better,” I said, loading another arrow.  I let this one fly, and it landed dead on in the center.

Nine nodded her approval.  “Very nicely done.  How about a moving target?  A rabbit’s pace?”

I loaded another arrow, holding the bow at the ready.  “There,” she pointed to a target out in the shooting field.  “Remember to shoot where the animal will be, not where the animal is.  Anticipate it’s movements.  Sense it, and–“

“I know,” I interrupted.  “I can do it.”

“I’m just trying to be helpful.”

I raised the bow, tracking the target back and forth and counting down in my head.  I aimed for where I expected it to end up, let the arrow go….and missed.

Nine patted me gently on the back.  “That’s okay,” she said. “Maybe next time.  We can try again in a few months.”

“No!” I insisted, pushing her away.  “I can do it.”  I loaded yet another arrow and aimed again at the still moving target.  This time when I fire, I hit it close to where the hindquarters would have been on a live animal.

“That’s not going to kill anything,” Nine said in an extremely non helpful manner.  “That’s only going to wound it and make it more accessible for some other predator to eat.  And waste an arrow.  You aren’t ready.”

“You didn’t see me earlier,” I muttered, lowering the bow but still clutching it tightly in my hands.  “I’m really good.  I know I am.”

“Let’s just see, okay?  Practice for a few months more and then maybe we can try again.  How does that sound?”

“I hate you!” I screamed.  “Why can’t you just believe in me?”  I stormed out of the arena, the bow still wrapped up in my tightly wound fingers.  I could do it.  I would show her.  I would show everyone. Flying down the corridor and around the corner, I clutched the bow tightly to my chest and slipped into a maintenance closet as Nine’s footsteps followed after me.  

“Thirteen,” she called after me.  “Wait!  Let’s talk about this.  Don’t run away!”

I held my breathe.  Her footsteps paused for a second outside the door, but then she kept going.  I waited a few minutes and then quietly pushed the door opened and tiptoed towards the main door.  Ten steps.  Nine.  Eight.  Seven.  Six.  Five. Four.  Three.  Two.  One.  

I pushed open the door, and I was outside.  As it shut behind me, I became acutely aware of how quiet it was outside the walls.  Quiet, and dark.  I moved to the side, keeping one hand pressed lightly against the Enclave wall.  But after a moment, as my eyes began to adjust to the lack of light, I realized that it wasn’t really quiet at all.  The noise was just a different type than I was used to.  And the darkness was a different type too.  There was no sun, it was late at night.  No candles, no gas lanterns.  Only the moon and the stars.  It was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen.

My eyes had adjusted enough that I was able to move forward, and I felt the leaves of the trees and brush sweeping against my face as the forest absorbed me into its clutches.  Rushing water was ahead of me, alerting me to my location.  The water came from the river we used to route water into the Enclave.  If I stayed along it, I could  find my way both in and out of the forest without getting lost.  And if I stood in the water, I would be harder for the animals to smell.  At least, I was fairly certain of that last point.  

A squirrel darted across my path, and I jumped into the air and almost dropped the bow.  Exasperated with myself, I rolled my eyes and shook it off.  I was never going to catch anything if I was afraid of a tiny squirrel that was more terrified of me than I was of it.  I was also never going to catch anything in the dark.  I stumbled forward for a long time, until I could no longer feel my feet because they were so sore.  I felt my way along through the trees until I found a large outcropping of rocks, and I slipped in between them and waited for the sunrise.  

It seemed like I waited forever, but in reality, it couldn’t have really been too long.  The sun gradually rose above the horizon, and beams of light crept through the trees and illuminated the carpet of the forest floor surrounding the rocks.  I crept to the edge of the river and bent down to splash some water on my face before going back to pick up the bow.  No one had come looking for me yet.  Apart from Nine, no one had probably even noticed my absence.  And that was fine with me.  I would show them all when I came back with game to feed them for a week.  Maybe even more.

I licked my finger to make it wet and then held it out, testing for the direction of the wind.  I turned so that the wind wouldn’t carry my scent and started to walk forwardly stealthily.  It didn’t take long before I saw a doe leaning forward to fetch a drink from the river.  I stepped backward carefully until I was pressed up against a tree, and the doe remained unaware of my presence.  Slowly, carefully, I drew an arrow from the satchel on my back and loaded it onto the bow.  Quietly, so as not to frighten the doe, I drew back on the string and then let the arrow fly.  It struck the doe right in the side of the neck, and from the amount of blood it seemed to have perfectly struck the artery.  

I took a single step forward and watched as the deer fell to its knees, struggling to keep the grin off of my face.  Coming out of the shadows, I watched as its eyes closed.  I was overcome in a moment of sadness for the life that was lost, but only for a moment.  It was a beautiful thing, the cycle that kept the entire world moving forward.  It wasn’t a kill just to kill.  It was a kill to save other lives.  That made it okay.

I was faced with the conundrum of how to return my kill to the Enclave.  She was quite large for a doe.  I didn’t have any rope, just the bow and arrows.  I grabbed her by the hooves and dragged away from the river bank, but I only made it so far as the outcropping of rocks before I had to stop moving.  She was too heavy for me to take home alone, but if I went back to the Enclave and found Ven, I could get him to come back with me and tie the deer up properly so that we could return with it.

Pushing the deer back as closely to the rocks as I could manage on my own, hoping no other predators would get at her before I made it back, I made my way to the river’s edge and followed it back in the direction I had come.  I smelled smoke in the distance, carried to me on the very wind that I had been trying to avoid.  Someone had lit a fire.  I couldn’t see the smoke from under the cover of the trees, but it had to be a pretty large fire if I could smell it all the way out in the forest.  My pace quickened, my steps covering double the length they had previously.

When I came around the last bend in the river, the truth became blatantly apparent.  The Enclave was on fire.

 

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Diaspora: The Scattered (Section One)

(This takes place sixteen years after the prologue: https://girlinterrupted28.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/diaspora-the-scattered-prologue/)

Sixteen years later

I sank into the giant stone that served as a chair, relishing the cool feeling through my clothing.  I had just finished seventeen laps around the Enclave, and my entire body felt as if it had taken a beating.  But I was fit.  I was ready.  For what, I wasn’t sure.  But when it came, I was ready.

“Thirteen?  Where are you?”  Nine popped into the open doorway.  “Where have you been?”

I shrugged.  “I went for a run.  Not much else to do around here.  At least not today.”

“A run?  Where?”

“Just around the Enclave, not outside.  So don’t worry.  Which is not to say I didn’t want to go outside, because I definitely did.  Do,” I amended at the last second.

“Soon,” she replied, taking off her shoes and coat and shoving them under the cot that was directly across from mine.

My life was odd.  Even I didn’t fully understand it sometimes.   Nine wasn’t my mother, but she was a mother figure to me even though we were fairly close in age.  I let her tell me what to do.  I had never met my mother.  From the stories I had heard from Nine, she had died having me, and Nine had saved my life even though she was just a kid herself.  She brought me back to the Enclave.  In essence, I had no real family, at least not physically.  But everyone in the Enclave knew everyone else, and we had all bonded together as a unit of sorts.

Seventeen years ago, there was a Great War. Nobody even really remembers what exactly started it.  One country had nuclear weapons, the United States felt threatened and went after them, and….Well, the United States as it was in the year 2012 no longer exists.  Power is a rarity. I was four years old before I saw my first electrically lit room.  When people, when we, want things now, we have to work for them.

After the Great War, the nation had a massive shift in the way that citizens were classified.  There was the Enclave, where I lived.  We were the center of our society.  We had most of the resources, like food, water, and shelter, and we were very strong.  We worked together, and we worked very hard for all of the things we had.  Then there were the people who lived underground.  They didn’t want to participate in the organized ways of the Enclave, and chose to live out lives in wanting rather than the little bit of comfort offered within the Enclave walls.  The division didn’t make much sense, that people would choose to be below rather than above.  But we left each other alone.

Outside of the Enclave walls was a different picture.  That was where the savages lived, the Others.  They didn’t work with anyone; they were only out for themselves.  If someone got in the way of that….if someone interfered, well, that was it for that someone.  It was best to avoid the Others, to stay within the walls.  Though some people could acquire training to go outside, to be able to hunt and kill the animals that would feed the Enclave.  They were the providers.

I really wanted to be a provider.  Not just for the killing, because I wasn’t really that big of a fan of that.  For me, it was all in the getting out.  The pay off was in getting to actually see the world, really see it.

“Where did you go?” Nine asked.

I shrugged, getting up only to flop down again and drape myself across my tattered green cot. “I was just thinking….”

“About?”

“I think I’m ready.”

“For what?”

I hesitated for a moment before replying, “To be a provider.”

Nine looked me up and down.  “I don’t know.  I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“I’ve been practicing really hard with the targets,” I insisted.  “I can hit them dead in the center every time.  The instructor says I’m the best up and coming he has seen with a bow and arrow in a long time, and–”

“Thirteen–” she interrupted.

“No, really,” I pleaded.  “I know I could do it.”

The dinner gong rang somewhere off in the distance, signaling that it was time to eat and effectively putting an end to our discussion.  I got up without waiting for Nine to put her shoes on and drifted away down the corridor.

When I entered the hall where we gathered to eat, the line had already begun forming.  I grabbed a bowl and stood behind the last person, quietly waiting my turn.  He turned around and greeted me with a sly smile.

“Hello, Ven,” I smiled back.  Ven’s real name was Eleven, but he hated it and insisted that it sounded too much like a girl’s name.  He was a provider, and I aspired to be like him.  But I never let him know it.  The admiration would be too much for his ego.

“How’s it going?” he asked, reaching down to the bowl in front of him to ladle out some lovely looking gray substance.

“Great,” I replied.  I indicated the stew with my glance, “Mmm.  Tasty.”

“You’re too young to know what tasty is,” he retorted.

“I’m only two years younger than you!” I protested.

“Exactly.  You weren’t around before.”  He picked up a wooden spoon from the end of the line and moved to go sit at a table.

“Tasty is a freshly killed and roasted rabbit.  Or a deer.  Venison.”  I made a hungry smacking noise with my lips.

He went to go sit down at one of the tables, and I followed shortly after with my own bowl.

“Thirteen here,” he said to other man at the table, Four, “thinks that she would be better served by a freshly killed rabbit than this absolutely delectable stew.”

Four raised an eyebrow in my direction.

“I did NOT say that,” I argued.  “I simply said that I feel like a rabbit would be so much more tasty.  You know what I mean?”

Four stared back at me blankly, his left eyebrow still raised and quivering.  “My wife made this stew.”

“Oh, I…I didn’t mean,” I stammered uncomfortably.

He slapped me on the back.  “I’m kidding.  Just messing with you.”

I, in turn, turned and smacked Ven.  “Really, Ven, really?  Do you always have to try and mess with me?”

He shrugged.  “It breaks up the day.”

I rolled my eyes and shoveled my stew into my mouth. “Do you want to go practice with me later?” I asked Ven around a mouthful of food. “If you have time?”

“What, at targets?” he asked.

I nodded, swallowing another mouthful of stew.

“I guess I could,” he hedged.  “I mean, I don’t know how much time I have tonight.  But I could come for a little while.”

“You make it sound like such an obligation.”  I wasn’t trying to sound pouty, but I’m fairly certain it came across that way.

“I didn’t mean it that way at all.”  We had both finished our meager portions of stew by that point.  He walked back up to the serving area and grabbed two pieces of bread, one for each of us.  “We could go right now.”

“Really?” I asked excitedly, snatching the bread from his outstretched hand.  Then, realized that I sounded like a babbling idiot, I back peddled the excitement down to a “That would be great.”

He shook his head with a grin.  “You are so odd.”

I did a mock bow as we walked out of the eating area.  “Glad to be of service.”

Ven gave me a play shove, sending me across the corridor.  We ripped through our bread as we walked through the Enclave to the target arena.  It was a wide open space containing targets of all different shapes and sizes and types.  You could select a target to do basically anything you wanted–they could be stationary or even move back and forth or up and down.  I went to the weapons rack and selected my usual bow.  It was wooden with silver etchings, and in all of my practicing I had deemed it to be the most accurate.

“You’re going to use that one?” Ven asked, indicating my chosen bow.

I couldn’t tell whether there was a note of disdain or not in his voice.  “Why not?” I asked, feeling insulted.

He gave me another play shove.  “Be confident, Thirteen.  Be confident in your choice.  That’s what I’m trying to tell you.  There’s a reason behind everything.  So when I say, why this bow, for real.  Why this bow?”

I took in the bow again, really feeling the way that in settled in my hands.  “I like the way that it feels in my hands.  I like the lightness of the wood.  And I like how I feel when I hold it.  I like the way that it shoots.  It fits me.”

“Good,” he nodded his approval.  “Me, personally, I prefer the bows that are all metal.  It just feels more solid to me.  But you prefer wooden bows, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Facing the stand still targets, I picked up an arrow and tucked in carefully between the bow and the arrow nocks, which accepted it gracefully.  I drew my arm back, slowly and carefully, to my anchor spot along my chin, and then let the arrow land fly.  It crossed the hundred feet between where I stood and the target like it was nothing and landed square in the middle, vibrating back and forth as it stuck.

“How was that?” I asked Ven.

“Very good,” he nodded his approval.  “Very good indeed.  Try again, and try relaxing your grip on the bow just a smidge.”

I did as he suggested, and though I didn’t think it was possible, the arrow flew into the center of the target even more smoothly than it had before.  “Like that?”

“Exactly.”

I let a few more fly before he stopped me again.  “I have time for one more.  Let’s try a side to side.”

The side to side target was supposed to simulate a ground animal, like a rabbit or a squirrel. With a few presses of the control panel to the side of the weapons rack, Ven called one forward.  It moved back and forth, and I followed it with my eyes, bow at the ready.

“Now, Thirteen, remember.  Shoot where it will be.  Not where it is.  Anticipate the movement, and–”

Before he could finish, I had let the arrow loose.  It landed with a satisfying thwonk in the center of the target, and I lowered the bow.  “Like that?”

He laughed, “You don’t need me anymore, girl.  You have this down all by yourself.  You’re ready.

I beamed with pride;  I was definitely ready.

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