Disclaimer: Not mine.
The Persephone Project
It was like a mushroom in the distance. A mushroom of smoke and sand. It kept expanding and expanding until it was an ocean in the horizon.
The sea of smoke and sand engulfed them.
Tsuna lifted his arms to curl over his head as his crouched body tried to dig deeper into the ground. Through it all, a long continuous wailing pierced the air. He felt the pressure pushing his small body backwards, his feet making little grooves into the ground. He'd already closed his eyes against the turmoil and the screaming and the desperation.
Through it all, a long continuous cry resounded in the courtyard.
He started to realize he was the only one screaming. His hearing had closed as well. The other figures that had been with him, the whole entire crowd that had been called to the courtyard, they had all been swallowed by the fog of the explosion. He couldn't hear them anymore. He couldn't…do anything except huddle into himself as the sandpaper storm bruised his bare arms and drove him even further backwards.
His mouth closed against the onslaught and it cut short the hoarse voice and then his mind closed the door.
And just as suddenly, it stopped.
Gentle breezes began blowing again, the world picking up its pieces. And in the courtyard where there had been almost thirty people gathered to run and defy the law, now stood underneath the weight of a layer of sand and corpses. Granules of sand danced on the flesh that had tried to claw out.
The dogtag wrapped around a visible wrist clinked in the silence of the aftermath.
Past Four Days…
They had all barricaded themselves in the main building of the town hall. Outside, they could hear the slow determined scratchings of nails against wall. They would not get in. They would not get in. Tsuna repeated this mantra to himself while he clutched the rifle given to him by the newly elected scavenger scout, Longchamp. He'd laughed, grinned a little too wide, as he'd patted Tsuna's head while he shoved the gun into younger boy's trembling hands. Then he'd given Tsuna one of his lucky dogtags that he often hung around his neck.
It had a smiley face etched on. He'd wrapped it several times around his thin wrist. He really didn't like how sweaty it smelled.
Now, they were all watching Hana fiddling with the radio. They were waiting.
It crackled to life, "—emergency alert to the citizens, barricade yourselves in any way you can. The military units will be coming in to evacuate any of the remaining survivors in sectors nine, ten, and eleven. To the survivors in these areas, you are advised to stay on the roofs with as much supplies as you can carry. You will be much easier to see and rescue by the air units. We repeat, emergency alert—"
Tsuna rubbed the dogtag for luck and hope as the scratches underneath his fingerless leather gloves burned.
Luckily, this building was four floors tall. And they had locked every window and door possible in the place. Now, on the roof, under the blaring hot sun, they could look out and see the crowd of mottled gray bodies that surrounded their building. Tsuna resolutely looked at the horizon and avoided looking down on the writhing mass of dead bodies walking. They were dead. Dead. Dead. They weren't…real. She wouldn't be there. She wouldn't be because she was real, real in his mind, real in his memories as he watched her tap his nose in a mother's teasing. She wouldn't be down there with the unreal…things. He silently wondered where she was. Then he shrugged and figured she'd be with Iemitsu and Fuuta.
He avoided the question of why he wasn't with them.
He looked at the plump white clouds and avoided the scene on the ground where in desperation, three of them had ripped chunks of flesh from the arms of one of theirs and proceeded to stuff it down their faces with every enjoyment of eating rare steak after a famine. He'd known one of the three back when she'd…been alive. She'd been his geometry teacher who'd had an acerbic tone but had always made time to tutor him after class. When he'd passed his final exam by the skin of his teeth, she'd given him a bar of chocolate as congratulations. Now, the hunger had taken her. Now she wasn't real.
Tsuna rubbed nervously on the dogtag. He'd been stationed here, on the northeastern corner of the roof while a few of the others guarded different points on the roof. The others were making plans, in case…the military failed. He fingered the smile on the tag. His shift would be over in another hour or so. Really, he could take it. He could endure it. Even with this terrible consuming quiet in the landscape. Even with the upturned gray faces looking expectantly at them.
Their victim hadn't even screamed or fought back.
Several helicopters had come to sector eleven for them on the third day. They were taken to sector thirteen for temporary lodgings. There, the sergeant of their Rescue Operation told them they would be given medical check-ups for any contamination and if found clean would be given vaccines against the plague. Tsuna couldn't help but rub the dogtag even more when the sergeant said nothing about what happened to the…infected. The small scratches underneath his black gloves burned even now.
They were herded to one of the many large white tents all surrounded by one main electrical fence that reached up to twelve feet. Tsuna couldn't help but notice that there were dozens of cameras situated everywhere but very few actual guards who were armed to the teeth and kept a blank face at them.
This tent had a large symbol stitched onto its side, a circle with a dozen vertical lines inside with a horizontal line that cut through them in the middle. It looked like a logo of something but the sergeant didn't comment on it and Tsuna also ignored it, even when his neck felt cold with goosebumps.
Inside, three men in full white chemical protection suits shepherded them to the foldable chairs to wait. They were given forms to identify themselves to the government. And Tsuna wrote down what he could remember: name, address, age, no he couldn't really remember his social security number, telephone number, next of kin…
Shrugging he wrote down Nana, Fuuta, and Iemitsu Sawada.
Then Contact Information of Next of Kin came and he paused again. They'd left, hadn't they…? He listed Escaped.
When that was done and the forms were handed to one of the three men in white, they were given numbers and each would be individually called to a smaller partition of the tent for the check-up.
It burned hotter and Tsuna ignored it.
He wondered if he could run.
They'd taken away his gloves. And they'd seen it, the burning stigma. The scratches on his knuckles, deep white against the creamy skin.
They'd strapped a red hospital bracelet on him that said Infected.
One of them, a kindly looking old man peering at him through the gas mask, had let him have the dogtag secretly. The rest of his clothes had been burned. He didn't really care. They hadn't been his.
Longchamp had waved goodbye at him, arm a little too jerky, smile a little too wide again. He'd been wearing a clear plastic hospital bracelet.
Tsuna was then hustled off to a tent nearer the edge of the fence. In it, there were other people, like him, survivors with red bracelets. He couldn't help but notice that a lot more guards were around this area.
That night of the third day, an uprising was being planned.
The kindly looking old man, one of the white ones, had come in late at night with food and news. On the fourth day, they would be tossed out of the fenced area to the mercy of the…gray ones. The other healthy patients had already been transported to the safe sectors.
He'd also brought in vaccination shots. He wasn't sure if they would work on people already infected.
He explained to them that they needed to go to the courtyard tomorrow, the one in the middle of all of the tents. The guards had dwindled as a large number of them were escorting the healthy. He said to them, he could drug the remaining soldiers asleep. All they had to do was be at the courtyard tomorrow and they could then take one of the large army trucks to these coordinates, there's a hospital there, privately owned, which is damnably safe from the government, and he handed them a map with a line of red on it. The trucks are usually packed with supplies already, he informed them, so they could traverse that distance without much trouble.
It had gone off without a hitch.
Except for the mushroom that bloomed in the distance.