So Long As We Keep Our Bodies Numb We're Safe - Midtown
“Who?” Henley asked confused.
“My sister, Oh fuck I left her…”
“You can’t afford to leave people alone. You can’t survive out here on your own. You travel vith a pack. You’re fresh meat by yourself.”
“Fresh meat?” Pete asked confused, quickly leading Henley to the spot where PJ resided, “What do you mean?”
“Scavengers, cannibals…” she paused, looking at Pete’s light green complexion, “I know this is a lot to process, but Wentz…you were safer in that Facility then you ever will be here.”
Pete pushed aside the cardboard, digging toward his sister’s limp body. The rising sun beginning to burn is body. He sighed with sweet relief as he saw her small frame rising and falling, a great burden lifted from his chest.
“Is this what the Wentz family has been reduced to?” Henley said dejectedly.
“Unfortunately,” Pete picked her up, and situated her in arms, but almost dropped her as a particularly sharp, stabbing pain, entered his side.
Henley caught the lower half of her and silently took her away from Pete, holding her cautiously in her arms, almost with some sort of detachment. Pushing her away subconsciously.
Pete laughed humorlessly, “What does the Wentz name have to do with anything. I’m not my father. Or my grandfather.”
“There are stories...” Henley shifted her weight on her heels and continued sharply, “We should start getting to a...”
“What’s wrong?” Pete asked quickly, sensing danger himself.
Henley’s voice was gruff, “Where is the rest of your family?”
It took Pete a second to remember that there was more in this world that just PJ, his eyes widened a bit as he responded anxiously, “I don’t know…they couldn’t be far off...I—” He went started to run back to the main street but Henley halted him with her voice.
“We stick to small streets from now on.”
“Are they important?”
“They’re my family!” Pete said exasperatedly.
Henley repeated the question, “You don’t seem to understand, Wentz. This world is different. Family means nothing anymore. Are they important? Do they possess any type of skills?”
“I…I don’t know.” Pete said wracking his brains, “PJ was always the curious one, she would pick up a book and read about things just to know them…just to…” Pete saw himself drifting and came back on track, “I don’t know about Tabatha…Patrick was always smart about things and Joe would be good for old history.”
“History is unimportant.”
“Uh…well, I guess we don’t really…” Pete paused, realizing what he was saying and gritting his teeth as he spat out, “They are my family and they are important to me. I want to go back for them.” Pete was stubborn and filled with conviction as he continued, “I’ve known them all my life! I’ve already had to leave my best friend behind; And I’ll be damned if I’m leaving them as well!”
"Well, you’ll just be damned then. Look around you! Do you know where you are? You have to forget your old lives! Forget your dreams, forget your aspirations, forget your hopes. From here on out, survival is as good as it gets!"
“Survival isn’t good enough for me.”
“Well deal with it.” Henley said harshly, “What is wrong with this Wentz?” Henley asked, referring to the girl in her arms, “Is she sick?”
“I…I think so but I’m not exactly sure what happened. She started swaying a bit, pass out.”
“It’s never just ‘swaying’.” Henley said shortly, “We’ll need to get to the Fallout shelter. I know a medic there, or at least, I used to know one. God knows if he’s still alive or not.”
Fallout Shelter. Oh the irony.
“Fallout shelter? Aren’t those for…”
“Nuclear Warfare?” Henley snorted, “What do you think has been going on here? What do you think they’ve been dropping? Kittens? Of course this is a nuclear war! This is total war, Wentz. Everyone is a target.”
Henley nodded her head in the opposite direction and Pete looked back toward the silent, still main streets, with a solemn and forlorn expression.
“Do we really need to get out of here?” Pete asked quietly, still staring out into the street.
“It’s your sister or the others.” Henley said sadly, her voice softening, “You have to choose. We can spend hours wandering these streets, hoping not to get shot…or worse.”
“This isn’t some after school special, Wentz. This is life. A life filled with pain. Pain that will push you to the brink of destruction, pain that will have you begging for a death that you will not be granted.” Henley’s eyes were hard and hallow, “You will be forced to do things that if you think about for too long, it’ll drive you mad. Humanity is dead.”
“It will never be dead.”
Henley shook her head; some lessons have to be learned firsthand.
Pete stared out into the street, murmuring to himself “It will never be dead.” He nodded sadly and began walking in the opposite direction, further into the shadows, “I choose my sister then.”
Henley lead the way through the dark silent streets, occasionally adjusting the girl in her arms. Pete often caught her looking down at her, glaring.
“What’s wrong?” Pete said angrily, not liking the cruel look that she was giving PJ.
“Nothing,” Henley said roughly, hacking out the word and then cleared her throat, “Nothing, just nothing.”
The siren seemed to grow quieter as they keep close to the darker sides of the city, the burning sensation that plagued not just Pete, but all vampires caught in sunlight was slowly waning. This was causing Pete to remember a few of his earlier questions now that the pain let his mind focus on more than his aching skin, “You said something about…a war?”
Henley sighed heavily, “Yeah, can’t feel it? It’s everywhere.”
“Yes…well, no. In the…air. The temperature. Can’t you tell the difference? The world is…over.”
“It can’t be over, we’ve still got America and—”
“There is no more America.”
Pete stopped, dumbstruck, “Then where are—”
“There’s no more anything. No more Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe. There’s no more borders. Government has fallen globally. Nationalism is a damn evil word. It’s part of the reason we got ourselves fucked in this situation. When people care more about their own kind then others when races, religions, towns, countries, band together in their own little sects, they build up their walls, create their prejudices.”
Pete shook his head but Henley quickly chastised him for it, “Don’t you pretend to be innocent. You’ve done it to. You all have, you...vampires.” Henley spat out the word angrily, “You act like you don’t harbor ill wills for other breeds. All vampires do. It’s ingrained in them. So keep your shit empathy to yourself.”
Henley paused for a second, her face falling sympathetically, “Wentz, you’ve got to understand. Civilization has fallen. I’ve got to blame someone.”
“So you blame the vampires?” Pete sneered.
“I place blame where it lies.”
“Where do you fit into this? Where do I by chance? I sure as hell didn’t drop any bombs.” Pete said angrily.
“You didn’t have to. Passive Resistance works as well. The world could not handle the…stress of vampires and other creatures. We all panicked. Some joined in the torture, others turned a blind eye. You and I…we looked the other way.” Henley shook her head, lifted up PJ’s body up a little to motion toward their surroundings, “And look what happened.”
“Wait,” Pete said flustered, “Explain this, all of this, I don’t fucking understand anything.”
“Do you even remember how you got here? How they took you?”
Pete breathed in deeply, trying to keep up with Henley’s rising pace, “Of course I do, it’s one of those things you never forget. One of those things that you can see so clearly it’s like…it’s like you can remember the color of the walls, every word people said to you, what clothes they were wearing. I remember everything.”
“Then tell me what you know and I’ll explain as best as I can, we get more news in other facilities.”
Pete rubbed his arm as he spoke quietly, almost whispering his story that he never imagined he’d live to tell another person,
“Throughout the day, I saw some…strange people. It was almost like…some sort of invasion. There were people dressed…funnily. All through the underground, not completely odd just, more people in…uniforms. I didn’t pay any attention to it, but I noticed groups sort of huddling together. Talking amongst themselves in those voices, you know the ones where everyone else seems to be listening? Glancing over their shoulders all the time, they all seemed really jumpy. But then, there were others. People in normal clothes, I’ve seen them before. Played shows and gone to school with many of them. They all seemed…different.”
“Of course, everyone had been noticing the new signs all over the place but I hadn’t been surprised to see more peace posters all over the place. Is that how it started? Peace?” Pete trailed off and then picked back up after a few seconds, “I went into the office and the security were running around like they just didn’t know what to do anymore. Everything was so hush-hush. I had no influence in the office yet, I just started working at my desk job a month prior, fresh out of school after taking a leisurely time off. Everyone did in those days, no one had any need for work. There were no problems.”
Henley grabbed Pete arm to stop him from crossing through one alley and pulled him down one to the left instead, dipping into between cramped buildings to get to their destination, wherever that may be.
“I ignored most of the people, I was curious, but nothing seemed to out of place. When I got to my desk, everything seemed in disarray, there were people in black suits storming all over the place, rooting through files and had people pushed against the wall. I was shocked, to say the least, nothing like this had happened before, everything seemed so surreal.”
Pete trailed off, envisioning the chaos, enhanced by his imagination, boosted by his fear, “I followed the directions they gave me as one man pushed me to the ground, and said, “Name?” in a gruff voice. I told him who I was and asked what he was doing. But he ignored me, instead, he clipped something on my finger, pulled at the buttons of my shirt and slapped something on my chest. It melted in like fire, like acid even.”
“What vas it?” Henley asked quietly, moving even faster but not giving any specific reason as to why. Dodging between dumpsters and peering out over the sides of them, stepping in puddles of water that sizzled mysteriously.
For a second, Pete didn’t think that it was water at all.
“My number,” Pete muttered, “The number that they brand us with, our trademark, our new names. They started herding us all like cattle out of the ministry. Sometimes, in this silence, in any silence, if I listen hard enough, I can hear the sniper rifles going off as they shot down others. If I squint hard enough, I can see them perched on the rooftops, like gargoyles. They killed all who tried to resist. I saw more people than I ever wish to see, being shot before my eyes. Between theirs. I saw the lights go out in a way that the guns never could achieve. I saw them die in ways worse that torture. I saw so many friends, so many people that I wish I said hello to in the elevator. So many people…”
Henley shushed Pete quietly as she passed PJ over to him quickly, dumping the girl in his arms as she peered into the street, her eyes darting from the rooftops to the shadowy corners, much like the ones they were in, “You know those snipers that you were talking about?”
“Well, they’re everywhere. Including here.”
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