World of Radiation

Blood and Dirt

Continued from ‘Alone

Her rocking back and forth ceases. Yet, she continues to hold me against her, her grip loosening every so often like she’s losing energy. She loses energy while the screams and shouts rattle against the walls of the houses surrounding us. They echo. They grate on my ears. They attack me from every angle, but I’m numb to them now.

The agonized shouts and anguished screams no longer ring through the air. Rather angered grunts and revenge-hungry hollers fill the space. There’s no longer the sound of crumpling bodies or heavy footsteps. It’s as if the fighting has died away. But the riot hasn’t. What’s going on?

Lifting my head from the woman’s chest, she doesn’t move. Her hands slide to the ground. They plop in the dirt with tiny clouds of dust while her head tips to the side. I glance at her. The restless, ragged breath rises her chest. Sleeping.

I peel myself from her lap to watch her a moment. She doesn’t move. She sleeps like she hasn’t slept in days and I can’t help but wonder who she is and what’s happened to her over the past few days. Where’s her family? Why’d she save me?

The noise rises to a new level. My heart lurches. So does my curiosity. It snags my heels and shuffles my feet forward against the dry, cracked ground. It draws me through the winding paths of this section of the city, a section I’ve never seen before, but that doesn’t matter. The sound swells before me. It guides me towards the chaos.

I emerge from the narrow walkway into the large open space from earlier. Bodies scatter the ground.

Tears pool in the corners of my eyes.

Legs kink forward at the knees.

I gasp.

Arms bleed profusely. The dark liquid pools in the dirt like thick, black water.

My stomach heaves. One hand snags my shirt over my belly, trying to push down the sensation.

Heads loll and angle the wrong way.

My hand clasps over my mouth, but my eyes won’t look away.

Moans of pain emit from some of the fallen, but most splay lifelessly. Two of the lifeless stand in powder-blue uniforms. The air adaptations.

A dark emotion swirls within me. It pushes down the nausea, but anger churns there instead. A deep-rooted hatred and… glee. I swallow hard at my own horrible thoughts and drag my attention away.

Those alive gather on the side of the open ground nearest the wall. Yet, they don’t move through. They stand against it, bashing their fists and kicking the thick stone with all their might. Why? Why don’t they walk through the opening?

My feet drag me a ways into the clearing to better see the wall. I make sure not to step on or near any of the dead or dying, their bodies and cries stirring my tears again. I inhale sharply. My fists clench my shirt, wrapping the material around my tiny hands when I realize why no one moves back into the other part of the city.

The opening in the wall’s gone. But how?!

I flash my gaze up and down the wall, searching for the opening. Maybe I misplaced it. Maybe it’s farther down, but no one moves for an opening. They stand against the wall. Those in front continue to bash their fists into the stone like that’ll help, but those on the outsides face away from the wall.

Their eyes lock on the houses surrounding the clearing. Shaking their arms out, some slam their palms into the parched earth while others stomp their feet. The ground shakes. It vibrates underneath me.

I stumble sideways, barely catching myself. My arms swing wide to hold my balance.

Creaking sounds behind me.

Turning slowly, the metal roof of the house beside me groans. The peak of the roof peels away from the house. Stone crumbles off the edges, shattering against the ground.

I step back.

The metal roof curls down the side as if it were a piece of cloth being rolled up and not a piece of metal.

The vibrating of the ground builds, traveling up my legs. The sensation numbs my feet. I shake them out to regain feeling until the coiled metal snaps off the house with a deafening crunch, flying towards me. Stone sprays in every direction.

I duck against the shivering earth. Metal slams into the ground with the impact of an earthquake before dragging towards the wall. Crunching of metal on stone dashes against my ears.

Peaking through my arms, metal chunks fly at the stone wall, chipping only tiny pieces away. The rest remains securely between us and the rest of the city. Yet, the adaptations don’t stop their thunderous stomping and clapping. The rumbling of the earth doesn’t cease.

More rooftops rip off houses. The metal gouges deep crevices in the ground as the adaptations drag it towards the wall. Beside me sits one such gouge. Nearly three feet across and two feet deep, it destroys the clearing and more and more decorate the once smooth ground.

My arms shake as I push off the ground. My hand slides through a thick, warm puddle. I yank it away. Red colors my hand, dripping in splotches on the parched earth.

Gasping, I streak my hand through the dirt, trying to wipe the blood away, but it doesn’t release. It just collects dust until my hand vanishes beneath the blood and dirt.

Next Installment: Sealed

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