I shut my locker with a huge smile on my face. I don't why but I had a good feeling about today. Maybe I was finally going to get a good grade in my math class or History wouldn't bore me to death. Being a sophomore put a lot of stress on my shoulders. I can't even begin to imagine how senior year will go. I'll die in a pile of book work, I'm telling you. My friends told me I was too much of a bookworm, too trapped in the fantasy worlds I escaped to in the novels. I didn't care. What was so bad about reading? Mom always told me it helps the imagination. I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked beside me in surprise. Whoever it was certainly startled me. I swear I jumped over a foot high.
"Lana!" I laughed, punching my friend in the arm. "You scared me half to death, man."
She squeezed my shoulder and began walking me to Math class. The bell had rung but I didn't hear it. I was zoning out again, I guess.
"Maybe if you weren't daydreaming, you would've heard me calling your name, Vanessa." Lana said, pinching my cheek.
Math went by pretty quickly for once and my notions were correct. I definitely did get a passing grade on my quiz and I almost literally jumped for joy. Lana always reminded me that I was one hell of an optimist. Put me in a room with my worst enemies and I'll keep a big smile on my face, trying to figure out how to make them friends. She said it was a gift from the heavens. What a bunch of bologna.
History was next, unfortunately. We had a long lecture ahead for Genghis Khan, one of the Mongolians or something. I never paid much attention in History since I got the notes from Lana later. I don't know how she can possibly stay awake in a class where even the most sugar-high kid in the world would drop dead. Maybe that was her gift from the heavens. I snickered at the idea as I took my normal seat. Lana sat on my right and Robert, one of my buddies from Science, on my left. I had a few other friends in this class. What, did you think I only had two friends? I wasn't Miss Popularity or anything but I made friends easily enough. Just be nice, momma always told me. I spotted Matt, one of the football players, staring at Mr. Teasdale with dead eyes as the man droned on and on about this Khan guy. I could easily understand why.
"Now when this killing started," I yawned, twitching in my seat when Robert pinched me. I hope he was just trying to keep me awake. "It would last for days, weeks, even months. And it went on, until the young son of the Khan asked his father that the last creature alive would be…" Mr. Teasdale slowed down, which was strange.
He began walking toward the windows at the back of the classroom. My eyes followed him, as did everyone else's. I couldn't hear him talk anymore when I saw the parachutes. I looked over at Lana, who gave me a confused shrug. Her lips started moving but I couldn't hear anything. Was she even talking? I heard Matt make a few comments about the paratroopers looking pretty damn cool. I squinted and tried hard to see it, but to me there just wasn't anything cool about it. My leg started trembling and I couldn't tell if it was just involuntary or because I was scared. Robert made a suggestion for Mr. Teasdale to do something about it. The man nodded and walked outside, leaving us. I was a worried mess. Maybe it was just nothing. Maybe they were just U.S paratroopers that were training and got blown off-course. Yeah, that was probably it. My good feelings about today faded away fairly quickly. Lana dragged me up from my chair to watch from the windows at the back of the classroom. I watched as Mr. Teasdale walked cautiously toward the paratroopers, who were now getting guns. I swallowed back a lump in my throat and before I could even blink, my History teacher was down on the ground with blood from bullet holes staining his shirt. I was in a daze. Am I dreaming? I felt someone pull me down and when I came to, I realized it was Aardvark. I looked for Lana in the few bodies strewn halfway out of the classroom through the windows. My breakfast could barely stay down as I recognized the pink, bloodstained jacket she wore that day.
My legs wouldn't let me move properly. I mentally screamed at myself to run and never look back but a part of me wanted to grab Lana. Aardvark wouldn't let go of my arm and dragged me out of the building from the front entrance. He yelled at me, begging me to cooperate and move. I suddenly took in everything that was happening and some sort of adrenaline rush took over me. I regained control of my legs and ran alongside my friend, who tossed me over to the most snot-nosed kid in the school. But I took Daryl's hand anyway and pulled myself into the bed of a rusted, blue pickup truck. Matt managed to make it in through the front and ride shotgun. Didn't Matt's older brother drive this car? I couldn't remember. We grabbed and pulled Aardvark and some other kid into the bed as we drove past him and swerved away from the massacre.
Everything was blurry and my face was hot. Was I crying? I couldn't feel the tears stream but my hand was wet when I pulled it away from wiping my face. I couldn't help but think about Lana. She was the only friend I've known since grade school. We were so close, like sisters, and now she was gone. How was I going to deal with that? I grabbed the side of the bed, suddenly overwhelmed by car sickness, and emptied my stomach. I think I might have hit a few soldiers with half-digested eggs and toast. I wiped my mouth and quickly crawled back, squeezing into a space between Robert and Aardvark. I guess I was still crying since my face was still hot. My hands were numb and all I could hear was the sound of bullets ripping through air and missing us only by a few inches or feet. We roared through town, Matt's older brother, Jed, probably stomping on the gas. A man who I could only recognize by the blur of his face, screamed for Aardvark. He was being held back by soldiers when we went by.
"Papa!" Danny, who was the kid I couldn't recognize earlier, grabbed Aardvark by the jacket and tried pulling him down. "Papa! That's my dad!" The truck didn't slow down, even when he tried to jump out of the bed. Danny held Aardvark back and pulled him down to keep from getting hit by stray bullets.
When I finally caught my breath, I ran a hand through my hair. Oh my god. We were just out of town, going down the highway. Jed had slowed down but was still speeding. Aardvark, Danny, Robert, Daryl and I were squeezed tight into the bed. I tried to keep myself as close to the side as possible, just in case my stomach didn't cooperate. I squinted, the sun glaring into my eyes.
"Oh my god. Oh my god." I managed to whisper to myself. "I need a smoke."
Mom would always tell me smoking was bad for my health. I didn't smoke regularly, just when things were stressing me out. I put a hand on my forehead and tried to pray. I wanted to go back home and hope my parents were still alive. It seemed as though I was a zombie when Robert wouldn't stop yelling 'dad'. I couldn't process anything very well today. Was I going through shock? Great, I wanted to be a nurse and I couldn't even diagnose myself. Robert swung himself out of the bed when we arrived to Morris Market on the highway and grabbed onto his dad. He was talking so fast and nervously, overlapping his father's questions. I felt dizzy just hearing him. I jumped out of the bed, steadying myself. Jed stepped out of the driver's seat and walked in front of the truck.
"We're heading to mountains. We're getting out of here."
The mountains? Was he crazy? I shook my head and cleared my mind.
"I heard some of them speaking in Spanish, Mr. Morris." My tongue was luckily deciding not to get twisted and make me trip over my words.
I didn't want to hear anything else. God why? Why Calumet? Why couldn't it have been somewhere else, like Canada? I desperately wanted to get out of this as quickly as I got into it. I took a step back when an explosion went off in town, bumping against the back of the truck.
"Boys," Mr. Morris was obviously not referring to me. Maybe he was. I don't know. "I want you to get in there and get sleeping bags and food."
I didn't even want to wait. I ran inside and grabbed everything I could find. Right then, it didn't matter to me if it was perishable or not. Sleeping bags, cans of soup, hunting knives, soda cans, and just about everything else went through my fingers to the boys. They carried most of it and placed it on the bed of the truck. Without thinking, I grabbed some feminine items and stuffed them into a backpack I had grabbed. A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. When I walked out of the shop in a hurry, Danny pulled me down. I trembled, wondering what sort of trouble was hunting us now. I watched as a helicopter flew by. I bit down on my lip, tasting metal.
"Is it ours?" Mr. Morris asked. All of us were thinking the exact same question.
A few agonizing seconds passed and we boarded the truck. Jed, Daryl, and Matt got into the front, giving the rest of us some room for the supplies in the bed. Robert exchanged a rather heartfelt goodbye with his dad and I couldn't help but get tears in my eyes. I wish I had a chance to say a last goodbye to my parents.
"I'll take care of him." I heard Jed say. I hope he takes care of all of us.
"Now, don't come back here. No matter what you see or hear, don't come back. I'll come and get you soon enough."
What if soon enough was too far away? Would we be dead by then? Jed sped down the dirt highway, where we went over a good share of potholes. I held a rifle in my fingers. It would be the first time I ever held a gun and was ready to shoot anyone who dared try to harm us. I breathed through my mouth in small and quick inhales and long, satisfying exhales. Robert seemed heartbroken, Danny was freaking out, and Aardvark was pointing a shotgun over the roof of the truck. He was keeping an eye out for any trouble before the rest of us saw it. I couldn't even process what was happening when the truck took a sharp turn and caused me to involuntarily jump clean out of my spot and land right on top of Robert's back. I couldn't care less about myself; I just hope I didn't crush the poor guy's back. I rolled off when the truck bounced again, this time landing on my own back as a mini-explosion happened right next to us. The truck rolled to a stop when the smoke engulfed us. I coughed and waved it away.
"It's a helicopter!"
There was a helicopter and you wouldn't believe the joy we experienced when we figured out it was ours. It destroyed the roadblock and all we did was cheer. I think the initial shock was beginning to wear out at this point. Jed drove us deeper into the fields until we finally were forced to stop. I heard something about the radiator. Danny and Matt were watching as Jed checked under the hood. Daryl was standing on the other side of the truck. I stayed in the bed of the truck, leaning over the side as Robert stood beside me on the ground, looking through binoculars and Aardvark stood with a shotgun in hand. I don't even know what he was looking for. Helicopters, maybe? I sighed. If Lana were here, she would've made everything better. She was even better than I was at cheering people up. In a sudden bout of I don't know what; I grabbed the binoculars from Robert.
"Hey!" He protested.
I took a ten second look through them, trying to find anything that could possibly help us. When I found nothing, I tossed them back to Robert. He grimaced at me. Robbie was always a weird kid. He was nice and tolerable but he had a thing for blood and gore. I think his parents let him watch too many horror movies as a kid.
"You look like a zombie." Robert gestured at my face, snickering.
I was about to snap at him but my mind automatically soothed me. I had the gift of immense patience and I could put up with anything unless it went on for way too long. I forced a smile but didn't say a word. I figured silence was golden. Robert got annoyed fairly quickly, and I just happened to notice how pretty his eyes got when a hint of anger crossed by them.
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