At The Bottom - Brand New
“Shut up!” Henley snarled quickly, thrashing her hand out and smacked Pete on the lips, “Shut the hell up now.”
Pete glared fiercely but did not speak.
“Now, listen to me and listen to me carefully. These Snipers are not the things you see in the movies. They aren’t even like the ones that you saw before. Not anymore. Pete, people can get weapons anywhere. How many people did you know with MK-47s? Shotguns? Molotov Cocktails, for God’s sake? ” Henley paused, letting her rhetorical question sink in.
“The people I know, the one’s I’ve seen? Go through those like candy, anyone can find them, anyone, anywhere. Selling on the streets, in vans, in dark alleys. These people are scavengers. They shoot to kill and take what you have. Using it for today, so they’ll die tomorrow. No one here wants to kill…well, no. Everyone shoots to kill. But somewhere, there’s humanity.” Henley smirked, “well…not always.”
“Cut this ominous bullshit.” Pete sneered, “How the hell do we get out of here?”
“Simple.” Henley said, eyes trailing from Pete’s face to the rooftops and then to the manhole in the street, “We just have to make it from this spot to that manhole with no guns, one sickie and one rookie. Oh and it would be in our best interest not to be shot. There is no play shooting here. They’ll blow your brains out.”
“Oh yeah, because that sounds fucking doable”
Henley smirked, “You obviously didn’t hear me correctly, I said one rookie. Not two. I’ve lived out here far longer than you have and I don’t plan on being killed. Not yet. As long as you do exactly as I say, we’ll all get out of here alive.”
Henley moved her hand away from Pete’s face, once sure that he wouldn’t start yelling again, and started fiddling in her pockets, a slight glow spread over her haggard cheeks and her eyes glinted with contentment.
“You see kiddies, there’s two things that you never leave home without: Cash and Flash grenades.”
Pete looked away nervously, situating PJ better against him as her head slumped to the side.
Henley chuckled, “You have no idea what a flash grenade is, do you?”
Pete shook his head but then looked up defiantly with a slightly arrogant tone in his voice, “Sorry, I wasn’t trained to be a solider when I was a child. I didn’t go to Murder 101 either.”
Henley raised an eyebrow condescendingly, “That’s obvious, especially since Flash grenades don’t kill people.”
“But it’s a grenade and—“
“No. It creates a big force and a bright flash that temporarily shock, blind, deafen and disorient them…Now, listen to me. I’ve only got one grenade left. One. But there are two snipers up there.” Henley pointed the adjacent building and then the opposite one. :As soon as this grenade gets in the air, there’s going to be a hail of bullets.”
Hey, remember me? The bitch who passed out? Yeah, still alive here. And kinda wishing someone would hurry the fuck and notice it to. Too bad no one seems to care enough though. Too fucking bad.
You know what sucks more than being capture by humans? Not being able to move, see or communicate—at all.
All I know is that my body decided to fuck up at exactly the wrong time. How anti-climatic is this? This was supposed to be my road to redemption.
But what am I reduced to?
A fucking paraplegic vegetable. That’s what. Sounds like a shit-load of Karma just started to pile up on my back—fun.
Honestly, what did I ever do to God? Except not believe in him.
But tons of people don’t do that. So what made me so fucking special to have God stand over me alone with a magnifying glass.
So hear that God? I’m fucking on to you.
I hate this though, mainly for the loss of…control. Yeah, I can say this because no one can hear me. I know my fears, my limitations.
My greatest fear.
There’s nothing but death to look forward to in the future. That’s why I aim so hard to avoid it. To put it off for just one more day. Sacrifice others for myself.
That’s nothing new.
But control…control is also a factor.
I can’t control death or time or anything that’s relative.
And in this particular situation, I can’t even control my own body. At one time, I had to control my thoughts lest they controlled for me.
I hate the feeling of complete…forced trust engulfing me. When I have no other choice but to put my life in the hands of an insignificant slimeball.
I hate that I let this...girl touch me.
Pete, I can handle, he I understand.
He would die for me within the second. Would throw his body over mine for the any bullet.
I know this.
So in some twisted way, I have an ally in him.
A servant, if you will.
I can vaguely tell the difference in when someone picks me up and whom. Only vaguely, I can sense the differences in the bodies.
With Pete, I’m calmer.
With this fucking foreigner, I’m on edge. Flaming with hate.
At the idea that she’s looking at me, touching me, holding me.
I trust Pete, not with my life, but with his own. That he will do anything for me. But he’s an idiot.
We all know that.
So naïve, idiot Pe te doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. He doesn’t know whether or not this fucking foreigner is trying to kill us all. Idiot.
I count the footsteps they take into certain death. Pete’s and my own by default. With no control over myself, what protection does that give me?
I just hope I live long enough to pull through this.
Whenever I wake up…
But until then…I’ll wait.
Listening and waiting. Until I wake up.
“A hail of bullets you say…sounds dangerous.” Pete said obviously, “How long do you think it’ll take to get that manhole cover off?”
"About thirty seconds.”
“And how long do you think it’ll take for them to start shooting?”
“Yeah,” Henley said rolling her eyes mockingly, “Oh.”
“Shit,” Pete muttered, looking from his limp sister to his new companion, “Okay, so did you want to carry PJ or not?”
Henley ignored him, her interests were not in the girl but in getting the two living people out of to safety. Any deadweight was just that—dead. In her eyes.
“How well can you aim?”
“ Um, somewhat well…“
“Ever shot a gun?”
Henley sighed exasperatedly, clearly frustrated from Pete’ lack of experience, “Water guns don’t count.”
Pete paused, “Well then no.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You’ve never stolen a gun before? Just to see how it worked? Never played with one left around the house? Never almost shot someone’s face off?”
Flashes of a drunken night with Chris and a game of Russian Roulette flashed through his mind, but he pushed them aside. “No, actually I left all the psychotic urges to the serial killers, thanks for asking though. What are you going to ask next? Did I go out killing woodland animals for the sake of it? What kind of psychotic fucker do you take me for?”
“The kind of who needs to get over his fucking self and deal with it. No one’s comparing golden childhoods and no one even cares about that anymore. If you didn’t steal, sell drugs or guns then you were the deprived child. Sorry Wentz, wake up and smell the sulfur flames of hell. You’re not in Wilmette anymore. Let’s go.”
Fear bubbling in the pit of his stomach, boiling over like never before, stifling the air in his lungs. Each breath felt like jagged pieces of glass scraping against his esophagus.
Pete swallowed hard pressing this down. Only for slight bile to rise up only to choke it back down. There’s nothing like this horror that must be endured.
“You ready?” Henley asked pulling out the gun and checking it for bullets.
Taking a deep breath, Pete situated PJ securely in his arms, “Hail of bullets?”
“Bring the rain, then.”
Without another second’s notice, Henley pulled the plug and hurled the grenade into the air leading to a massive explosion.
White light spread through the air along with fog, dust and mild debris.
“GO!” Henley screamed.
Pete took off blindly with PJ nestled into his chest, his arm protecting her head from danger. Holding her like he would his own child, protecting her with his life. Loose rocks and concrete from the crumbling buildings impaled his back but his adrenaline was too high to notice the blood seeping through his shirt.
Too high for the back pain to get to him, for his side to give out as he kept running to the manhole.
The only thing in the world was PJ and safety.
Not the sound of bullets raging through the air. Splitting his eardrums. Not Henley’s screams of “GO! GO! GO!”
Not the sounds of sirens or distant yells.
In Pete’s mind, there was silence.
At least until he reached the manhole. Then sound came crashing down around him.
The bellows, the fear that pulsated throughout his body, his shaking legs that collapsed under his own weight rather than PJ’s.
He dropped to his knees in front of the manhole and tossed PJ down in front of him, throwing his body atop hers to protect it from bullets. Preferring rounds of bullets to empty into his spine that his baby sister’s stomach.
He pushed at the manhole, gripping him with the nubs of his fingernails, scraping against the edges, unable to open.
Desperate now that the fog was dissipating Henley seemed to join his side, gun thrashing wildly in every direction, shooting into nothingness for fear of a sneak attack.
“Hurry the fuck up, Wentz! We don’t have all day!”
“I can’t open this!” Pete cried desperately, fear erupting in his stomach. The feeling of ice dropping in his stomach like hail falling down on a town stricken by fear of a tornado.
“ Wentz, take a deep breath and DO IT!”
Pete’s hands were shaking desperately, PJ’s heaving body, gasping for small breaths under his chest, the sounds of bullets, the guilt that weighed heavily upon them…
Time once again stood still as Henley continued screaming, “GO WENTZ! OPEN THE DAMN THING!” but the screams fell on deaf ears.
A sickening crack of falling concrete chunks filled Pete’s ears. His back already pummeled with bruises, the new bits of rock seemed embedded themselves through the rips in his shirt caused tortured gasps of pain to escape his lips.
Henley continued pulling the trigger, over and over repeatedly until nothing but a distant clicking remained, a warning that all bullets were gone.
“No.” Henley muttered angrily, “Fuck no.”
Pete’s fingers weakly trying prying away the manhole. The sounds of bullets completely stopped.
Henley looked around nervously, “No.”
No smoke. No bullets. No snipers.
“ Wentz,” Henley’s voice was now in a whisper, “Wentz open the damn hole. Open that fucking hole or we’re dead.”
Pete’s fingers kept slipping off the sides unable to pull it open, “Please, please, please” He kept muttering to himself. “Please, please, please.”
Failure. Death. Humiliation. Rejection.
“No, no. no. Please, please.” Pete repeated, the nails of his fingers cut from sharp rock edges and tearing them against the manhole cover.
Henley looked around, her eyes filled with such fear that it was written deep in her soul. Tossing down her weapon, she fell to her knees ripping open the manhole with Pete’s help. Strength and vigor, along with the penetrating fear got the manhole open.
“Go!” Henley whispered harshly.
“No, help me put PJ in!”
“Damn it Pete, leave her!”
“NO!” He screamed back, rolling from atop her and pushing her down the manhole himself, a sickening thump resonating to the surface as he peered over.
“Fucking happy now?!” Henley snarled, “Now hurry u—“
A series of shots rang out.
Pete, tilted his head to the side, only to see Henley slump over on top of him. Dead.
Six shots to the head. Blood fell like a thick puddle onto Pete’s hair, entwining his sweat-soaked, tearstained face. Sliding down his cheeks.
Without a second thought, Pete climbed in, grabbing hold of the manhole cover and slamming it down on top of himself as he fell inside, shots of both wood and lead ricocheted off the manhole, but one grazed his upper arm. He screamed out in pain.
Wounded and afraid. Pete dropped inside. Crumbling onto the floor, sobbing as he reached for PJ’s body. Rocking back and forth. He was supposed to protect her.
But who would protect him?
This world was not for him.