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Raea Mae - Chapter 2
I don't know how I coped with Papa's absence. I didn't really. It's not something you can get over. And Mommas death didn't help much either. Crushed, she was.
But I'm not ready to talk about that yet.
Instead, I shall tell you of a happier time in my already broken, painful life.
As I was saying beforehand, no one cared that a seven year old was walking unaccompanied down the street. It was uncommon by this time, something that would be seen as preposterous if it didn't occur.
Nonetheless, I was still frightened to death. It had been a week since Momma died – I'd grabbed everything that I could and set out to the city for the first time in my life – and I'd been spending my nights sleeping in dark corners, hiding from humanity as best as I could.
I saw my first other human, in real life that wasn't Momma or Papa, on the second day of my life alone. She was an elderly woman, in what must have been her late fifties, and she was sitting on a bench, staring down at the ground, her face turning to ashes before my very eyes. She was dying; I could tell that by looking at her. Her eyes were sunk in, and the grey hair was falling from her face right before me, falling to soft puddles at her feet.
I remember that I stepped towards her, intrigued with these strange creature. Of course I'd seen elderly on TV before, but I'd never seen one right in front of me, in the real flesh. Did the all look like this, or was this woman just a rarity? I was eager to know.
She glanced up at me at my approach. Her eyes were a soft green, but they were full of so much pain that I gasped, stepping away from her. “Child.” She'd whispered, her voice hoarse and croaky, as if it were taking every ounce of her energy to utter the simplest word. “Child, what do you want?”
I just stared at her, unsure of what to say. She stared back, analysing me, curiosity brimming in her green eyes. “You look like my...granddaughter. Cilly...her name was. Such a...pretty thing. 'cept she had...green eyes like me, not silver eyes...like you. Strange they is.” Each word was clearly a huge effort on her part, and I couldn’t stop myself from sitting beside her, bewildered with what was wrong with this woman. Why was she out here all alone?
“Where is Cilly?” I asked her, looking around me. But there was no use. Nothing was here, only the rubble of the buildings. There wasn't another human in sight. Unless they were hiding in the shadows. Papa used to tell me that humans hid in the shadows a lot. Disguise he called it.
“She's...dead, child. As dead...as dust. They...took her. Left me...I no use.” She cast her eyes down, a deep frown taking over her sagged face. I wanted to comfort her, but I was too scared to touch her, frightened that any contact with this woman would give me the same disease.
“Who took her?”
Her face curls up into a mask of disgust. “President Cruz...his army child. They are...coming. You...aren't...safe.” Her breaths were coming out slower now, more ragged and taut than before.
“I don't know what to do.” I admit in a small voice. “Momma and Papa are dead. Where am I supposed to go?”
“Who knows...child? We're all...lost.” She closes her eyes, leaning her head back against the bench.
She died that night. I lay by her side, needing the comfort of another human to help me feel safe. But when I woke up, the pain had left her eyes, and there was only relief there now. She was in a better place. I closed her eyes for her, not wanting her to see this cruel world anymore before I yet again set off on my own.
I didn't even know her name.
I left that same day, my mind full of the dead lady, who couldn't tell me where to go. I didn't see another human for the next few days; I only saw the occasional dead bodies lying in the roads, paths. They were everywhere.
After a couple of weeks, it became apparent that I had no idea where to go. I had bumped into a few more humans on my journey – but none of them spoke to me. They stared. Everyone stared. Some stared at me, their eyes feral and dangerous – I tended to rush past these eyes. Others were merely intrigued, and I wondered that if like me, they rarely laid eyes upon over humans. Nonetheless, I was interested by each and every one of them. No matter if they were dangerous looking or just lost souls, I would analyse every feature, comparing the faces. Everyone was different. Different ages, hair colours, eyes. I was amazed as to how every human I stumbled upon could look insanely opposite to another human.
I was also starving. All I'd been able to snag from the house was a few water bottles and a loaf of bread. The bread was down to the last few slices and my water was barely existent any more. I was beginning to grow worried. How long could I survive like this?
My answer came that very night.
I no longer had any recollection of the dates, days or times anymore. After two weeks of walking by myself, stuff like that seemed like nonsense. I know that Momma would be really disappointed if she knew that I was thinking like this; back at home she'd always kept a calendar on the wall in the kitchen, to ensure that Papa and I never forgot the days. She used to think it was important. I can't imagine why.
With barely and food and water left, I fell asleep feeling terrified. Would I die out here alone? The thought was horrifying to me.
I was in an abandoned house – it was raining outside, so I certainly didn't want to get caught out in the cold. Getting ill in a world like this was something you really didn't want to happen.
It was at some point in the night that I heard the movement from downstairs and the sound of a man muttering. I was sat upright in seconds, every cell in my body wide awake; alert, and ready to defend myself if needs be.
This is how I'd been raised since I was little. Papa had taught me how to defend myself since the day I started walking. It's a vital gift in this present time. If you don't know how to fight, then you have no hope against other humans. Because now, humans are the enemy.
I cautiously make my way out of the room that I'd been sleeping in, standing at the top of the pitch black landing, looking for my intruder with just my ears.
I can hear him breathing. It's heavy, harsh even. Not like the old lady on the bench, who was strained and dying. No, this man is angry. I can tell that. He breaths the same way Papa used to if I'd get too close to the fence.
I was suddenly scared.
Pushing my fear aside as much as I can, I creep back into the room, grabbing a metal object that I can't identify in the dark. Keeping my steps so light that not even a small door mouse would be able to detect it, I make my way back to the staircase to find that the breathing has disappeared. My breath hitches. Where has he gone?
I make my way downstairs, each tentative step careful and delicate, in my anxious attempt to ensure that I remain unnoticed by the intruder.
I reach the bottom of the staircase, and listen once again. My ears cannot pick up and sound. The air is dead; vacant.
I let out a breath of relief, thinking that the man has left. But then a hand roughly snatches my ankle from beneath me, sending me flying so that I land flat out on my face. A scream of pain sounds through me, and I am thrashing instantly, hearing Papa's voice in my head; make sure you get away, Raea. Always get away.
“Stand still, girl!” His voice bellows, and I hear the insanity behind him. He is a broken man. Momma has always told me about broken men; the ones that lose everything and can't cope anymore. This...this anger that lives inside this man must be because he is broken.
And if he is broken, then I have no hope. The broken are the most dangerous.
“Please, please don't hurt me.” I whisper, the plea in my voice clear.
He laughs darkly, without any humour, it's more of a cough really. I wonder if he even knows how to laugh anymore. Not many people do. Even up to last few months of Papa living with us, none of us really laughed. There is no happiness left in this world, and without any happiness, how can laughter exist?
“It's been so long since I've eaten girl. So damn long. I'm starving. So hungry. Hungry. Hungry.”
He starts muttering random words, dragging me over to the wall where he throws me to the ground, and pulls out a torch from his pocket. His face shines in the dark and I flinch at the sight of him.
His cheeks are sunk in so deep that I can clearly see his bones; the skin on his face is rotting, looking as if it is going to trickle to the ground in seconds. His eyes are a dark green, but they are wild, like the eyes you'd expect to see of a wild animal that hasn't eaten in weeks. The look of hunger shines in his eyes, and he watches me like a vulture. He licks his lips, exposing a few black teeth that cling to his gums with lost hope, knowing that there fall will be inevitable.
He leans towards me, sniffing my hair while I stay upright, pressed as close as I can get to the wall, my back stiff as I watch him carefully, not knowing what I'll do if he tries to attack me. He may be starving, but it doesn't mean that he's going to be weaker than a seven year old girl.
“You're going to taste good, girl. Good. Good. Good.”
“What's your name?” I blurt out, in the desperate attempt to stop him as he reaches into his pocket, pulling out a gleaming knife. Everything within me freezes at the object; it is a sign of my upcoming death, no doubt. But I don't move. I return my eyes to his face, hoping to see some humanity in him.
There is none.
He is an animal now, and this is the food chain.
“Jon. Jon. Jon.” He answers anyway, saying it as if it is a song, as he rubs his thumb up and down his thumb like he would caress a lover. “Jon. Jon. Jon.”
“Jon.” I say, trying out his name carefully on my tongue. My voice comes out hoarse, and I try to keep it under control, not wanting him to know that I am currently petrified. “Please don't hurt me. Please.”
“Jon. Jon. Jon.” He whispers.
His eyes close briefly, and for a second I think that he is recalling a memory that will bring him back. I naively hope that his eyes will open, and he will transform back into the kind man that I assume he was before. He would apologise for being so horrible, and we would go our separate ways.
Why was I such an idiot?
“All gone. Gone. Gone. Gone.” He murmurs, before grabbing my face in his hands. His eyes turn a deadly black, and he is suddenly slicing my face, my arms, my legs; every piece of skin that he can pierce with his knife. I am screeching, begging for him to stop, knowing in my heart that this death is going to be painful and slow.
I wish he would hurry up.
The sound of a shotgun, causes me to open my eyes, to find Jon sitting before me, his black eyes empty, motionless. Dead. He falls forward, all blood leaving his face as he crumples at my feet, a gaping hole in his back. I glance up in the darkness, feeling unconsciousness about to take over as I meet eyes with a pair of soft green eyes, a complete opposite to the deadly eyes that were sitting before me.
Friend or foe?
I have no chance to answer my own question.
Gone. Gone. Gone.