Route 24 (an excerpt)

22 Aug

By Zoe Knight
9th Grade

We stood facing each other, a chance meeting on abandoned streets of the future Denver. Our group outnumbered the Valla by at least six to one. But were numbers enough?  Was this even chance? The air was damp with the coming rain, sticking to our skin in a sheen of sweat.

The Valla wore red robes that reached the ground, both male and female. Attached to their belts, on the right side, a gamma blaster sat in each holster. Every one of them was bald, all with red star tattoos across their foreheads. They were all tall and slender; their hands with one extra joint per finger. Their breathing was in unison, a unit of people.

We on the other hand, were an assortment of beings. Machines and people, our only similarity to each other was the ash grey jumpsuits we sported, the bullet proof fabric a firm, interlocking material that had become like a second skin. Helmets were securely fastened beneath our chins. We held tightly to our weapons, everything from ancient machine guns to the newest radiation-ray firearms. Our breathing was a symphony.

The Valla’s leader stepped forward, a muscled man with dark skin. Our group shifted with unease as Lady Frost stepped forward to meet him. The Valla stayed still, not even blinking.

“Greetings,” the Valla man said. His voice was rich and layered with secrets, like a cake.

“Greetings,” Lady Frost responded, her voice even and cool.

“We suggest you surrender, before this becomes a place of slaughter,” he said.

Lady Frost quirked an eyebrow. It wasn’t really a suggestion. It was a command. One we would ignore. I shifted from foot to foot, catching a whiff of the stench of rotting bodies that surrounded the Valla. I nearly gagged as it hit me full force. Others around me winced, but stayed still. I began breathing through my mouth. Mott shot me a nervous smile from his place next to me, his hands sweaty on his shooter.

“We will not surrender today,” she countered, her voice strong.

The Valla man nodded respectfully. “So be it.” Lady Frost stepped back, as did he, disappearing into the group of Valla. We prepared to fight.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with doubt. This wasn’t my battle. I was not from this time, this place of horror and destruction. My lunar cycle was almost over. My portal would open soon. I could go back to what was left of a normal life. That suddenly was so appealing, I nearly collapsed in relief. I didn’t have to fight. I didn’t have to die. I planned, my mind moving faster and faster. I will leave when the fighting starts. I will flee from this battle. I will watch, but I will not participate. That was what I was always good at, wasn’t it? Sitting on the sidelines in my social life, being the one who laughed, not the one who made the jokes. Going out of my way to dress in the current fashions only so I wouldn’t become a trendsetter. I was a follower, an observer. Nothing more. I waited.

The Valla raised their weapons. We raised ours. And as we ran forward to meet them, with war cries and shouts for loved ones, I shoved my gun at Mott.

“I’m sorry. This isn’t my fight,” I whispered to him, and I left.

“Selena!” he shouted behind me, wanting me to stop. I didn’t stop, I didn’t turn around, and I didn’t go back. I wove through bodies, and hit the pavement as bullets flew overhead, moving away from the cries and screams of slaughter. And then I broke free of the crowd, and ran. I ran until I could no longer hear the battle, until the only things left of that scene were my memories. And I collapsed in a heap of sorrow.

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