Chapter 16: A Harsh Reality

Carolina closed her work locker for the day and let her hair down. The day was over and the night festivities were just beginning. She zipped up her jacked and watched some fog escape her mouth. It really has been getting cooler around here lately. Who knows, it may snow soon. She watched Madison talking with a few co-workers and she approached them with a welcoming smile. "Anyone up for a drink tonight?"

They all looked her way with their mouths dropped open. One of the women leaned in close as she shook Carolina. "A- Are you okay Carolina? Do you have a fever or something?"

"No, why?"

"You never suggest these types of things," another co-worker professed while imagining certain situations in his head. "Who are you and what have you done with Carolina?!"

"Calm down will you all?" Carolina lowered her head with a sigh. "Even I want to sometimes let loose and go do these things. It's nothing to get so worked up over."

"Y- Yeah, you are right," another spoke up and took her up on her offer. Soon the whole gang followed them to their local bar and made themselves comfortable. Madison looked around the table and turned to Carolina. "But I gotta say, even I was surprised to hear the invitation from you."

"It's not that big of a deal Madison," she answered with a smile. Carolina picked up her mug of beer and chugged it all down sending a shiver down the men's spine. A formidable foe has appeared! They all pondered and not wanting to be outdone, they all took up their drinks and chugged them down. Much to the amusement of the women, some men were already out of the ring from just one chug.

"Tag in, tag in!" one of the male co-workers comically shouted as his stomach and throat ached. One of the juniors from work clapped the worker's hand and promised. "I will get them for you, don't you worry. I have faith in my drinking powers!"

Drinking powers? The hell is up with that? She pondered with an enjoyable smile. One of the co-workers looked towards the television which played the news and let out a grumble. "Anyone catch the new statements the government was releasing regarding the terrorist activities?"

"The one where the government vowed to do something?" asked another co-worker and received confirmation. "Yeah, this time they apparently promised to try harder in getting the anti-terrorists legislations pushed through."

"Hah hah hah! Give me a break, legislative talk should be a thing of the past now. This crap has been going on for long enough! When the government stops being pussies and does something of value, let me know."

"That is true, they have been saying things like this for years," said another co-worker as she placed down her drink and ran her finger along the top of the glass. "Now is the time for firm action. But then again, I suppose we are partially to blame for this situation as well."

"What do you mean?" an intrigued Carolina questioned. "How can you, part of the general population be at fault for this?"

"In recent years, the government had held an election to determine the outcome of certain privacy intrusive legislations. Loving our privacy as we do, we voted against the regulations that allowed some public wide and private surveillance. What this meant was that the government now has less eyes on the ground than before and the terrorists can move around more freely."

"Maybe we are to blame, but the government is equally at fault," one of their co-workers slammed their mug on the table already drunk. "As long as they keep on bending to the whims of the protestors so easily, they will never have control of the power they possess!"

That is true. Carolina finished her drink and felt her senses beginning to dull. I am already starting to get drunk? That right there is a terrifying difference between canned beer and bar beer. This is such an overwhelming feeling. She called for the waiter and asked for the bill, and so did the rest figuring it be best they get home to sleep this off. They soon left the bar and split off into various smaller groups. They all headed in the general direction of their homes.

Carolina looked at the group of three men behind her, one of whom was Madison. He still seemed to have a balanced head about him. He was however surprised by Carolina's next suggestion, but at the same time very cautious. "How about we take Mayfair Street on the way home?"

"What's wrong with the normal route?" Madison quickly asked as if to try and put a nail on the suggestion. Carolina let out a goofy smile. "You know, it's a scenic route so I thought it may be fun."

"She has a point boss," one of the young men leaned on the other for support. "Plus, we aren't exactly in a hurry now are we?"

Madison didn't like this one bit. But reluctantly he agreed to not create too much of a commotion. They walked a few blocks and finally entered Mayfair Street. She walked towards a familiar Café name. This is it, the café that assassin suggested. She stopped in her tracks halting the others behind her. So something is supposed to happen here. What will it be assassin?

"Is something wrong?" Madison leaned in close to a dazed out Carolina. She was shaken out of her deep thoughts and looked at the worried faces behind her. "Sorry, I was just lost deep in thought is all. Nothing is wr-"

Her eyes widened. Madison followed her gaze and his mouth dropped open at the vehicle nearing them. The others looked from their two co-workers to the truck questionably. It was a supply truck! Madison moved quickly for the two in front of him and shouted to those behind him. "Get down!"

"What's wrong boss?" one of the men asked in a panic as he was shoved to the ground. The truck drove past them, and nearing an intersection just a few steps away it exploded into many pieces. The supplies all burned away, and the cries of many panicking individuals blurred out the line between chaos and order. Carolina began to feel her head weigh heavy and her mind slowly lose consciousness…

The dampened noises slowly stirred her consciousness awake. Her vision blurred with the orange tinted outlines of flames rising into the sky. The rampaging cries and footsteps of the panicked world around her echoed and burned deep into her mind. Her vision began to clear, and she saw the true reality as it was before her eyes. Madison and her co-workers worked hard on stopping the bleeding of their injured co-worker. He was impaled in the leg by a flying piece of truck's metal. His body acted as a shield for the others in the group much to her horror, but at the same time some relief.

Madison looked back to see Carolina stirred awake and motioned for her to hurry closer. Her eyes widened at the amount of blood their co-worker lost and the gaping slit in his leg. With every ounce of strength that they used in an attempt to stop the blood, more kept on escaping. The crimson red pooled beneath his body leaving him feeling numbed and weakened. Carolina's breathing became heavier as she slowly picked herself up. She looked to see the site of the explosion. The truck was in pieces and in flames. There was no way the driver survived, and beside the truck were several casualties.

Her mouth dropped open at the bloody sight of a few mangled corpses. Dismembered limbs lay bare and still on the ground like an exhibition of shock. She could see many injured trying to drag themselves away from the scene. Even those who had lost a limb to the powerful blast persevered. In the distance, the blurred sirens wailed inching closer by the second. Help was on its way, but help was too late. Carolina could feel her whole body tremble from the impact left on her body. Even behind her co-workers, she could feel the brunt of the explosion. She could only wonder what it would have been like for Madison who protected her with his quick thinking and awareness.

With concise instructions from Madison, Carolina held down the open wound and applied pressure. The co-worker shouted in excruciating pain as he let out every last cuss word he could think of. Madison moved her to the side and ripped pieces of his shirt off to create makeshift bandages. Typing them tightly around the wound he sat back down now praying for the best.

In front of them, Carolina noticed a body move. It was the body of a woman. Beneath that woman, was a small child boy crawling out to the traumatic sight. He sat up and began to shake the woman. "Mommy?"

Carolina's mouth began to tremble at the still sight of the body, and the boy who tried so desperately hard to get a response from his mother. The boy panicked as after a few attempts she wouldn't respond. "Mommy, wake up please!"

His eyes began to water with worry, and his once worried voice began to crack in fear. Carolina pulled herself up even though her legs trembled violently. She walked over to the two to see the boy continue to shake her. The child let out a loud cry. Carolina bent down beside the mother to check her pulse. She immediately retrieved her hand. The mother was dead. Carolina looked at the young boy who looked up at her with eyes of desperation, his spirit felt broken and so did his mind with his mother death forever engraved in his mind. Carolina reached out for the boy and took him into her arms. She smothered his rough hair and repeated that it will be alright. But everyone knew, nothing will be the same again and nothing will be alright. It was one big lie.

Carolina felt pity for the boy, but also the immense sadness of losing a mother. She continued to try and lull the boy's cries as she herself began to tear up. The ambulances and fire trucks finally arrived on the scene giving a sliver of hope to those still alive. The police soon followed after in barricading the scene and getting everyone to safety.

Carolina sat in midst of this newly controlled chaos with the child still in her arms, and his arms tightly wrapped around her. Her maternal instincts took over and she rested her cheek atop his head, warmly speaking to him while keeping herself from falling apart. But even her spirit could only take so much, as soon a single tear escaped her eye. Her mind was on the brink of shattering at the reality it perceived. The peace she knew was nothing more than an empty shell now became clearer than ever before. This trembling fear engraved this picture deep into her mind to haunt her with. She too slowly felt herself losing grip on her sanity.

A/N: Things were going a little too well lately weren't they? Oh well, good things don't always last. I hope you enjoyed that chapter, what did you think about it?

Also, musical suggestion starting from the second last break line (after Carolina loses consciousness): "Mountains" by Message To Bears. Listen to it while imagining the words play out like a film scene or something. It might end up having a greater impact on you as the reader as well. :)

Hopefully you all look forward to the next chapter and the rest of the trilogy following this event.

Catch you all next time!

~ Monty