CHAPTER 9

Clay

Chaotic. That's the only way to describe the scene. Bodies were spread out over the entire Vault. Gun shots were fired both close-by and farther away. People were shouting, but I couldn't recognize their voices. Good or bad? Luckily the smokescreen had faded, so it was easier to see if you were shooting friend or foe. Or at least, it should've been. So many people were speeding by, it was hard to tell who's who.

I tried to keep my eyes on Nelson, but lost him in the crowd pretty quickly, so now I was just making my way to the hospital.

Surely my mom would be there.

The hospital looked like it had been hit by a storm. Desks and chairs had been pushed over, first aid kits lay plundered and broken on the floor. What had once been examining tables, now looked more like scrap metal with their bent legs. What the hell happened? Raids had never been this bad before.

I stomped out some papers that were burning when I noticed an arm lying lifeless underneath some filing cabinets. Their iron drawers hung open: confidential patient files now spread throughout the room.

It's funny how a part of me wanted to read them. I used to try to pick the locks, but never could. Now they called to me, promising distraction from this horrible situation.

Coming closer, I noticed that the arm definitely belonged to a woman: it was too slim and hairless to belong to a man.

With a deep breath I steadied myself and lifted the cabinet, causing the drawers to fall out with an ear blowing noise. Out of shock, I dropped the cabinet and it crashed on top of the woman again, breaking her bones from the impact. But before my hands slid off the edges, I caught a glimpse of her head: she was bald. Nobody – man or woman – in our Vault was bald.

Horrified, I found myself smiling. Smiling that this woman got what she deserved. That it wasn't my mom.

I spat on her arm and watched as my saliva slowly dripped down her arm until it was blended with her blood. That didn't seem enough, so I kicked it. And again. And again. Until I eventually found myself stomping on her arm, like I did before with the burning files, only more aggressively.

Each time I heard another crack, I stomped a little louder. Until a loud gunshot pulled me back to reality.

I hadn't realized how much time had passed, or how relatively quiet it had become.

I stopped and looked at the barely recognizable arm and suddenly felt sick. Maiming was for Raiders, not for me. Without looking back, I hurried to the hallway.

What I saw there would forever be etched into my brain. As if capture by a camera: the image on a loop.

My mom's green eyes, wide from shock and confusion. Her small lips parted, breath escaping. Something dropping out of her hand – a weapon? No, a Stimpack. Her body collapsing to the wall beside her and eventually to the floor, leaving a smear of blood against the wall. And a woman running past me. A woman with purple spiked hair and a distinctive scar on her cheek.

Body on auto-pilot, I lifted my right arm and fired my rifle, the impact smacking my hand against the doorpost, causing my rifle to fall.

Then I screamed and ran after her, into the uncertainty of the Wastelands.